Imágenes de páginas

INTRO. himself delivered concerning things that were to

happen after, and by the testimony of his followers, which in all its circumstances was the most credible, certain, and convincing evidence, that was ever given to any matter of fact in the world.

XV. And lastly, that they who will not, by such arguments and proofs as these, be convinced of the truth and certainty of the Christian religion, and be persuaded to make it the rule and guide of all their actions, would not be convinced, (so far as to influence their hearts, and reform their lives,) by any other evidence whatsoever; no, not though one should rise on purpose from the dead to endeavour

to convince them. Of the se

I might here, before I enter upon the particular veral sorts proof of these several propositions, justly be allowed

to premise, that, having now to deal with another sort of men than those against whom my former discourse was directed, and being consequently in some parts of this treatise to make use of some other kinds of arguments than those which the nature of that discourse permitted and required, the same demonstrative force of reasoning, and even mathematical certainty, which in the main argument was there easy to be obtained, ought not here to be expected; but that such moral evidence, or mixed proofs, from circumstances and testimony, as most matters of fact are only capable of, and wise and honest men are always satisfied with, ought to be accounted sufficient in the present case :

Because all the principles indeed upon which atheists attempt to build their schemes, are such as may, by plain force of reason, and undeniably demonstrative argumentations, be reduced to express and direct contradictions. But deists pretend to own all the principles of reason, and would be thought to deny nothing but what depends entirely on testimony and evidence of matter of fact, which they think they can easily evade.

But, if we examine things to the bottom, we shall

find that the matter does not in reality lie here. For INTRO. I believe there are in the world, at least in any part of the world where the Christian religion is in any tolerable purity professed, very few such deists as will truly stand to all the principles of unprejudiced reason, and sincerely, both in profession and practice, own all the obligations of natural religion, and yet oppose Christianity merely upon account of their not being satisfied with the strength of the evidence of matter of fact. A constant and sincere observance of all the laws of reason and obligations of natural religion, will unavoidably lead a man to Christianity, if Christianity be fairly proposed to him in its natural simplicity and he has due opportunities of examining things and will steadily pursue the consequences of his own principles. And all others, who pretend to be deists without coming up to this, can have no fixed and settled principles at all, upon which they can either argue or act consistently, but must of necessity sink into downright atheism, (and consequently fall under the force of the former arguments,) as may appear by considering the several sorts of them.

1. Some men would be thought to be deists, be- of the first cause they pretend to believe the existence of an sort of deeternal, infinite, independent, intelligent being; and, of Provito avoid the name of Epicurean atheists, teach also dence. that this supreme being made the world: though* at

* Omnis enim per se divům natura necesse est Immortali ævo summa cum pace

Semota a nostris rebus, sejunctaque longe.
Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis,
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil, indiga nostri,
Nec bene promeritis capitur, nec tangitur ira. Lucret. lib. 1.

Το μακάριον και άφθαρτον, έτε αυτό πράγματα έχει, έτε άλλο παρέχει
WOTE őre ágyais, óre zágios ouvéyeraı.- Laert. in Vita Epicuri.

Nor is the doctrine of those modern philosophers much different, who ascribe every thing to matter and motion, exclusive of final causes, and speak of God as an intelligentia supramundana ; which is the very cant of Epicurus and Lucretius.

INTRO. the same time they agree with the Epicureans in this,

that they fancy God does not at all concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to, or care of, what is done therein. But if we examine things duly, this opinion must unavoidably terminate in absolute atheism. For though to imagine that God, at the creation of the world, or at the formation of any particular part of it, could (if he had pleased,) by his infinite wisdom, foresight, and unerring design, have originally so ordered, disposed, and adapted all the springs and series of future necessary and unintelligent causes, that, without the immediate interposition of his almighty power upon every particular occasion, they should regularly, by virtue of that original disposition, have produced effects worthy to proceed from the direction and government of infinite wisdom : though this, I say, may possibly by very nice and abstract reasoning be reconcileable with a firm belief both of the being and attributes of God, and also with a consistent notion even of providence itself; yet to fancy that God originally created a certain quantity of matter and motion, and left them to frame a world at adventures, without any determinate and particular view, design, or direction; this can no way be defended consistently, but must of necessity recur to downright atheism, as I shall show presently, after I have made only this one observation, that as that opinion is impious in itself, so the late improvements in mathematics and natural philosophy have discovered that, as things now are, that scheme is plainly false and impossible in fact. For, not to say, that, seeing matter is utterly incapable of obeying any laws, the very original laws of motion themselves cannot continue to take place but by something superior to matter, continually exerting on it a certain force of power according to such certain and determinate laws ; it is now evident, beyond question, that the bodies of all plants and animals, much the most considerable parts of the world, could not possibly have

been formed by mere matter, according to any gen- INTRO. eral laws of motion. And not only so, but that most universal principle of gravitation itself, the spring of almost all the great and regular inanimate motions in the world, answering (as I hinted in my former discourse,) not at all to the surfaces of bodies, (by which alone they can act one upon another,) but entirely to their solid content; cannot possibly be the result of any motion originally impressed on matter, but must of necessity be caused (either immediately or mediately) by something which penetrates the very solid substance of all bodies, and continually puts forth in them a force or power entirely different from that by which matter acts on matter : Which is, by the way, an evident demonstration, not only of the world's being made originally by a supreme intelligent cause, but moreover that it depends every moment on some superior being, for the preservation of its frame; and that all the great motions in it are caused by some immaterial power, not having originally impressed a certain quantity of motion upon matter, but perpetually and actually exerting itself every moment in every part of the world. Which preserving and governing power, whether it be immediately the power and action of the same supreme cause that created the world, of him without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, and with whom the very hairs of our head are all numbered ; or whether it be the action of some subordinate instruments appointed by him to direct and preside respectively over certain parts thereof; does either way equally give us a very noble idea of providence. Those men, indeed, who, merely through a certain vanity of philosophising, have been tempted to embrace that other opinion, of all things being produced and continued only by a certain quantity of motion, originally impressed on matter without any determinate design or direction, and left to itself to form a world at adventures ; those men, I say, who, merely through a vanity of philosophising, have been

INTRO. tempted to embrace that opinion, without attend

ing whither it would lead them, ought not, indeed, to be directly charged with all the consequences of it. But it is certain, that many, under that cover, have really been atheists; and the opinion itself (as I before said) leads necessarily, and by unavoidable consequence, to plain atheism. For if God be an all-powerful, omnipresent, intelligent, wise, and free being, (as it hath been before demonstrated that he necessarily is), he cannot possibly but know, at all times and in all places, every thing that is ; and foreknow what at all times and in all places it is fittest and wisest slíould be.; and have perfect power, without the least labour, difficulty, or opposition, to order and bring to pass what he so judges fit to be accomplished: and consequently it is impossible but he must actually direct and appoint* every particular thing and circumstance that is in the world, or ever shall be, excepting only what by his own pleasure he puts under the power and choice of subordi. nate free agents. If, therefore, God does not concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to what is done therein, it will follow that he is not an omnipresent, all-powerful, intelligent and wise being; and, consequently, that he is not at

Wherefore the opinion of this sort of deists stands not upon any certain consistent principles, but leads unavoidably to downright atheism ; and, however in words they may confess a God, yet in reality and in truth they deny bim.

If, to avoid this, they will own God's government affairs not and providence over the greater and more considerthe regard able parts of the world, but deny his inspection and of Provi. regard to human affairs here upon earth, as being

too minute and small for the supreme governor of




* Quo confesso, confitendum est eorum consilio mundum administrari.-Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. 2.

+ Epicurum verbis reliquisse Deos, re sustulisse.-Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. 2.

« AnteriorContinuar »