صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


that there is

Of our Knowledge of the Existence of a God. § 1. Though God has given us no in

We are canate ideas of himself; though he has pable of stamped no original characters on our

knowing minds, wherein we may read his being; certainly yet having furnished us with those fa

a God. culties our minds are endowed with, he hath not left himself without witness : since we have sense, perception, and reason, and cannot want a clear proof of him, as long as we carry ourselves about us. Nor can we justly complain of our ignorance in this great point, since he has so plentifully provided us with the means to discover and know him, so far as is necessary to the end of our being, and the great concernment of our happiness. But though this be the most obvious truth that reason discovers; and though its evidence be (if I mistake not) equal to mathematical certainty: yet it requires thought and attention, and the mind must apply itself to a regular deduction of it from some part of our intuitive knowledge, or else we shall be as uncertain and ignorant of this as of other propositions, which are in themselves capable of clear demonstration. To show therefore that we are capable of knowing, i. e. being certain that there is a God, and how we may come by this certainty, I think we need go no farther than ourselves, and that undoubted knowledge we have of our own existence.

$ 2. I think it is beyond question, that man has a clear idea of his own being; he Man knows

that he himknows certainly he exists, and that he is something. He that can doubt, whether he be any thing or no, I speak not to, no more than I would argue with pure nothing, or endeavour to convince non-entity that it were something. If any

self is.



one pretends to be so sceptical as to deny his own existence (for really to doubt of it is manifestly impossible), let him for me enjoy his beloved happiness of being nothing, until hunger, or some other pain, convince him of the contrary. This then, I think, I may take for a truth, which everyone's certain knowledge assures him of, beyond the liberty of doubting, viz. that he is something that actually exists. He knows $ 3. In the next place, man knows by also that no- an intuitive certainty, that bare nothing thing cannot

can no more produce any real being than produce a being,

it can be equal to two right angles. If a

man knows not that non-entity, or the something absence of all being, cannot be equal to eternal.

two right angles, it is impossible he should know any demonstration in Euclid. If therefore we know there is some real being, and that nonentity cannot produce any real being, it is an evident demonstration, that from eternity there has been something; since what was not from eternity had a beginning; and what had a beginning must be produced by something else. That eternal

§ 4. Next, it is evident, that what had being must its being and beginning from another,

must also have all that which is in, and powerful.

belongs to its being, from another too. All the powers it has must be owing to, and received from, the same source.

This eternal source then of all being must also be the source and original of all power; and so this eternal being must be also the most powerful.

§ 5. Again, a man finds in himself perAnd most knowing

ception and knowledge. We have then

got one step farther; and we are certain now, that there is not only some being, but some knowing intelligent being in the world.

There was a time, then, when there was no knowing being, and when knowledge began to be; or else there has been also a knowing being from eternity. If it

be most

be said, there was a time when no being had any knowledge, when that eternal being was void of all understanding; I reply, that then it was impossible there should ever have been any knowledge: it being as impossible that things wholly void of knowledge, and operating blindly, and without any perception, should produce a knowing being, as it is impossible that a triangle should make itself three angles bigger than two right ones. For it is as repugnant to the idea of senseless matter, that it should put into itself sense, perception, and knowledge, as it is repugnant to the idea of a triangle, that it should put into itself greater angles than two right ones. $ 6. Thus from the consideration of

And thereourselves, and what we infallibly find in

fore God. our own constitutions, our reason leads us to the knowledge of this certain and evident truth, that there is an eternal, most powerful, and most knowing being; which whether any one will please to call God, it matters not. The thing is evident, and from this idea, duly considered, will easily be deduced all those other attributes which we ought to ascribe to this eternal being. If nevertheless any one should be found so senselessly arrogant as to suppose man alone knowing and wise, but yet the product of mere ignorance and chance; and that all the rest of the universe acted only by that blind hap-hazard ;-I shall leave with him that very rational and emphatical rebuke of Tully, 1. ii. De Leg. to be considered at his leisure: “What can be more sillily arrogant and misbecoming, than for a man to think that he has a mind and understanding in him, but yet in all the universe beside there is no such thing? Or that those things, which with the utmost stretch of his reason he can scarce comprehend, should be moved and managed without any reason at all ? Quid est enim verius, quam neminem esse oportere tam stulte arrogantem, ut in se mentem et rationem putet inesse, in cælo mundoque non putet? Aut ea quæ

[ocr errors]


vix summa ingenii ratione comprehendat, nulla ratione moveri putet?”

From what has been said, it is plain to me, we have a more certain knowledge of the existence of a God, than of any thing our senses have not immediately discovered to us. Nay, I presume I may say, that we more certainly know that there is a God, than that there is any thing else without us.

When I say we know, I mean there is such a knowledge within our reach, which we cannot miss, if we will but apply our minds to that, as we do to several other inquiries. Our idea of $ 7. How far the idea of a most perfect a most per- being, which a man may frame in his fect being

mind, does or does not prove the existence not the sole proof of a

of a God, I will not here examine. For God. in the different make of men's tempers and application of their thoughts, some arguments prevail more on one, and some on another, for the confirmation of the same truth. But yet, I think, this I may say, that it is an ill way of establishing this truth, and silencing atheists, to lay the whole stress of so important a point as this upon that sole foundation; and take some men's having that idea of God in their minds (for it is evident some men have none, and some worse than none, and the most very different) for the only proof of a deity: and out of an over-fondness of that darling invention cashier, or at least endeavour to invalidate all other arguments, and forbid us to hearken to those proofs, as being weak or fallacious, which our own existence and the sensible parts of the universe offer so clearly and cogently to our thoughts, that I deem it impossible for a considering man to withstand them. For I judge it as certain and clear a truth, as can any where be delivered, that the invisible things of God are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead. Though our own being furnishes us, as I have shown, with an evident and incontestable



[ocr errors]


proof of a deity,—and I believe nobody can avoid the cogency of it, who will but as carefully attend to it, as to any other demonstration of so many parts ;-yet this being so fundamental a truth, and of that consequence, that all religion and genuine morality depend thereon, I doubt not but I shall be forgiven by my reader, if I go over some parts of this argument again, and enlarge a little more upon them.

$ 8. There is no truth more evident, Something than that something must be from eter- from eternity. I never yet heard of any one so un- nity. reasonable, or that could suppose so manifest a contradiction, as a time wherein there was perfectly nothing: this being of all absurdities the greatest, to imagine that pure nothing, the perfect negation and absence of all beings, should ever produce any real existence.

It being then unavoidable for all rational creatures to conclude, that something has existed from eternity; let us next see what kind of thing that must be.

$ 9. There are but two sorts of beings Two sorts of in the world, that man knows or con- beings, ceives,

cogitative First, such as are purely material, with- and incogiout sense, perception, or thought, as the clippings of our beards, and parings of our nails.

Secondly, sensible, thinking, perceiving beings, such as we find ourselves to be, which, if you please, we will hereafter call cogitative and incogitative beings; which to our present purpose, if for nothing else, are, perhaps, better terms than material and immaterial. $ 10. If then there must be something

Incogitaeternal, let us see what sort of being it tive being must be. And to that, it is very obvious to reason, that it must necessarily be a

gitative. cogitative being. For it is as impossible to conceive, that ever bare incogitative matter should produce a thinking intelligent being, as that nothing should of itself produce matter. Let us suppose any


cannot produce a co

« السابقةمتابعة »