« Prev Serm. II. Matter and Motion cannot think: or A… Next »

Matter and Motion cannot think:

OR, A
CONFUTATION
OF
ATHEISM
FROM THE
Faculties of the Soul.

The Second SERMON Preached
April 4. 1692.

Acts XVII. 27.

That they should seek the Lord, if happily they might feel after him, and find him; though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we Live, and Move, and have our Being.

THESE words are a part of that Discourse which St. Paul had at Athens. He had not been long in that inquisitive and pragmatical City, but we find him 5050   Acts 17. 18.encountered by the Epicureans 46 and Stoics, two sorts of people that were very ill qualified for the Christian Faith: the one by reason of their Carnal Affections, either believing no God at all, or that he was like unto themselves, dissolv’d in 5151   Ἀεργὸν καὶ ἀμελές.Laziness and Ease; the other out of Spiritual Pride presuming to assert, that 5252   Arriani Epictet. l. 1. c. 12. Ὥς κατάγε τὸν λόγον, οὐδὲ χειρων το Θεῶν, οὐὐδὲ μικρότερος. Seneca Ep. 53. Est aliquid quo sapiens antecedat Deum: ille natura beneficio, non suo sapiens est.a Wise Mau of their Sect was equal, and in some cases superior to the Majesty of God himself. These men 5353   V. 19.corrupted through Philosophy and vain deceit, took our Apostle, and carried him unto Areopagus, (a place in the City, whither was the greatest resort of Travellers and Strangers, of the gravest Citizens and Magistrates, of their Orators and Philosophers;) to give an account of himself and the new Doctrine that he spoke of 5454   V. 20.For, say they, thou bringest strange things to our ears; we would know therefore what these things mean. The Apostle, who was to speak to such a promiscuous Assembly, has with most admirable Prudence and Art, so accommodated 47his Discourse, that every branch and member of it is directly opposed to a known Error and Prejudice of some Party of his Hearers. I will beg leave to be the more prolix in explaining the whole; because it will be a ground and introduction not only to this present, but some other subsequent Discourses.

From the Inscription of an Altar to the Unknown God, which is mentioned by Heathen Authors, 5555   Lucianus in Philopat. Philostrat. de vita Apol. l. 6. c. 2. Pausan. in Eliacis.Lucian, Philostratus, and others, he takes occasion (v. 24.) to declare unto them, that God that made the World and all things therein. This first Doctrine, though admitted by many of his Auditors, is directly both against Epicureans, that ascribed the Origin and Frame of the World not to the Power of God, but the fortuitous concourse of Atoms; and Peripatetics, that supposed all things to have been eternally, as they now are, and never to have been made at all, either by the Deity or without him. Which God, says he, 5656   V. 25.seeing that he is Lord of Heaven and Earth, dwelleth not in the Temples made with hands, 48 neither is worshipped with men’s hands as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all Life and Breath and all things. This is opposed to the Civil and Vulgar Religion of Athens, which furnish’d and serv’d the Deity with Temples and Sacrifices, as if he had really needed Habitation and Sustenance. And that the common Heathens had such mean apprehensions about the Indigency of their Gods, appears plainly, to name no more, from Aristophanes’s Plutus, and the Dialogues of Lucian. But the Philosophers were not concern’d in this point: all Parties and Sects, even the 5757   Lucret. 2. Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri. Epicureans themselves, did maintain (τὸ αὐταρκὲς) the self-sufficiency of the God-head: and seldom or never sacrificed at all, unless in compliance and condescension to the custom of their Country. There’s a very remarkable passage in Tertullian’s Apology, 5858   Tertul. Apolog. cap. 46. Quis enim Philosophum sacrificare compellit? Quinimmo et deos vestros palam destruunt, et superstitiones vestras commentariis quoque accusant.Who forces a Philosopher to sacrifice, &c.? It appears from thence, that the Philosophers, no less than the 49Christians, neglected the Pagan Worship and Sacrifices; though what was conniv’d at in the one, was made highly penal and capital in the other. 5959   V. 26.And hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the Earth; and hath determin’d the times before appointed, and the bound of their habitation. This Doctrine about the beginning of Humane Race, though agreeable enough to the Platonists and Stoics, is apparently levell’d against the Epicureans and Aristotelians; one of whom produced their Primitive Men from meer Accident or Mechanism; the other denied that Man had any beginning at all, but had eternally continued thus by Succession and Propagation. Neither were the Commonalty of Athens unconcern’d in this point. For although, as we learn from 6060   Isocrates in Pangeg. Demosth. in Epitaph. Cic. Or. pro Placco. Euripides, &c.Isocrates, Demosthenes and others of their Countrymen, they professed themselves to be αὐτόχθοιες, Aborigines, not transplanted by Colonies or otherwise from any Foreign Nation, but born out of their own Soil in Attica, and had the same Earth for their 50Parent, their Nurse, and their Country; and though some perhaps might believe, 6161   Diog. Laert. in Præf.that all the rest of Mankind were derived from Them, and so might apply and interpret the Words of the Apostle to this foolish Tradition: yet that conceit of deriving the whole Race of Men from the Aborigines of Attica was entertain’d but by a few; for they generally allowed that the 6262   Thucyd. lib. 6. Herodot. &c.Egyptians and Sicilians, and some others were Aborigines also, as well as themselves. Then follow the words of the Text, 6363   V. 27, 28.That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him; though he be not far from every one of us. For in him we Live, and Move, and have our Being. And this he confirms by the Authority of a Writer that lived above 300 years before; As certain also of your own Poets have said, For we are also his Off-spring. This indeed was no Argument to the 6464   Plutarch. de Aud. Poet. & contra Colot.Epicurean Auditors; who undervalued all Argument from Authority, and especially from the Poets. Their Master 51Epicurus had boasted, 6565   Laert. in vita Epicuri.that in all his Writings he had not cited one single Authority out of any Book whatsoever. And the Poets they particularly hated; because on all occasions they introduced the Ministry of the Gods, and taught the separate Existence of humane Souls. But it was of great weight and moment to the Common People, who held the Poets in mighty esteem and veneration, and used them as their Masters of Morality and Religion. And the other Sects too of Philosophers did frequently adorn and confirm their Discourses by Citations out of Poets. 6666   V. 29.For as much then as we are the off-spring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto Gold or Silver, or Stone graven by art or man’s device. This is directly levell’d against the gross Idolatry of the Vulgar, (for the Philosophers are not concern’d in it) that believed the very Statues of Gold and Silver and other Materials, to be God, and terminated their Prayers in those Images; as I might shew from many passages of Scripture, from the Apologies of the Primitive Christians, and the Heathen Writers 52themselves. 6767   V. 30, 31.And the times of this ignorance God winked at, (the meaning of which is, as upon a like occasion the fame Apostle hath expressed it, that 6868   Act. 14. 16. in times past he suffer'd all Nations to walk in their own ways) but now commandeth every one to repent; Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Hitherto the Aponte had never contradicted all his Audience at once: though at every part of his Discourse 16me of them might be mealy, yet others were of his side, and all along a moderate silence and attention was observed; because every Point was agreeable to the notions of the greater Party. But when they heard of the Resurrection of the Dead, the interruption and clamor became universal: so that here the Apostle was obliged to break off, and 6969   V. 33.depart from among them. What could be the reason of this general dissent from the notion of the Resurrection, since almost all of them 53believed the Immortality of the Soul? St. Chrysostom hath a conceit, that the Athenians took Ἀνάστασις (the original word for Resurrection) to be preached to them as a Goddess, and in this fancy he is follow’d by some of the Moderns. The ground of the conjecture is the 18th verse of this Chapter, where some said, What will this Babler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange Gods, (ξένων δαιμονίων, strange Deities, which comprehends both Sexes) because he preached unto them, Ἰησοῦν καὶ τὴν Ἀνάστασιν, Jesus and the Resurrection.. Now, say they, it could not be said Deities in the plural number, unless it be supposed that Ἀνάστασις is a Goddess, as well as Jesus a God. But we know, such a permutation of Number is frequent in all Languages. We have another example of it in the very Text, 7070   V. 28. As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his Off-spring. And yet the Apostle meant only one, 7171   Arati Phœn. v. 5. Πάντη δὲ Διὸς κεχρήμετα πάντες, Τοῦ γὰρ ὃν γένος ἐσμέν.Aratus the Cilician, his Countryman, in whose Astronomical Poem this passage is now extant. So 54that although he preached to the Athenians Jesus alone, yet by a common mode of Speech he might be called, a setter forth of strange Gods. ’Tis my opinion, that the general distaste and clamour proceeded from a mistake about the nature of the Christian Resurrection. The word Resurrection (ἀναστήσασθαι and ἀνάστασις) was well enough known amongst the Athenians, as appears at this time from 7272   Hom. Il. w. 551. Ο̡δέ μιν ἀνστήσεις &c. Æsch. Eumen. 655. Ἀ̓νδρὸς δ᾽ ἐπειδὰν αἷμ᾽ ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις, Ἅπαξ θανόντος οὔτις ἔστ᾽ ἀνάστασις. Soph. Electra, 136. Ἀλλ᾽ οὔτοι τόν γ᾽ ἐξ ἀΐδα παγκοίνου λίμνας πατέρ᾽ ἀνστάσεις, οὔτε γόοισιν, οὐ λιτ...ῖς. Homer, Æschylus and Sophocles; they could hardly then possibly imagin it to signify a Goddess. But then it always denoted a returning from the State of the Dead to this present World, to eat and drink and converse upon Earth, and so after another period of Life to die again as before. And Festus a Roman seems to have had the same apprehensions about it. For when he declares the case of St. Paul his Prisoner to King Agrippa, he tells him, That the Accusation was only about certain questions of the Jewish Superstition; and 7373   Acts 25.19.of one Jesus which was dead, 55whom Paul affirmed to be alive. So that when the Athenians heard him mention the Resurrection of the Dead, which according to their acceptation of the word was a contradiction to common Sense, and to the Experience of all Places and Ages; they had no patience to give any longer attention. His 7474   Luke 24. 11. words seemed to them as idle tales, as the first news of our Saviour's Resurrection did to the Apostles themselves. All interrupted and mocked him, except a few, that seem to have understood him aright, which said they would hear him again of this matter. Just as when our Saviour said in an Allegorical and Mystical sense, 7575   John 6. 53.Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his Blood, ye have no life in you; the Hearers understood him literally and grosly. 7676   V. 60.The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his Flesh to eat; this is a hard saying, who can hear it? 7777   V. 66.And from that time many of his Disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

I have now gone through this excellent Discourse of the Apostle, in which 56many most important Truths are clearly and succinctly deliver’d; such as the Existence, the Spirituality, and All-sufficiency of God, the Creation of the World, the Origination of Mankind from one common flock according to the History of Moses, the Divine Providence in over-ruling all Nations and People, the new Doctrine of Repentance by the preaching of the Gospel, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the appointed Day of an universal Judgment. To all which particulars by God's Permission and Assistance I shall say something in due time. But at present I have confined my self to that near and internal and convincing Argument of the Being of God, which we have from Human Nature it self; and which appears to be principally here recommended by St. Paul in the words of the Text, That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. For in him (that is, by his power) we live, and move, and have our being.

The Proposition, which I shall speak to, from this Text is this: That the very Life and Vital Motion and the Formal 57Essence and Nature of Man is wholly owing to the power of God: and that the consideration of our Selves, of our own Souls and Bodies, doth directly and nearly conduct us to the acknowledgment of his Existence. And,

1. I shall prove, That there is an immaterial Substance in us, which we call Soul and Spirit, essentially distinct from our Bodies: and that this Spirit doth necessarily evince the Existence of a Supreme and Spiritual Being. And,

2. That the Organical Structure of Human Bodies, whereby they are fitted to live and move and be vitally informed by the Soul, is unquestionably the workmanship of a most wise and powerful and beneficent Maker. But I will reserve this latter part for the next opportunity; and my present undertaking shall be this, To evince the Being of God from the consideration of Human Souls.

(1.) And first, I say, there is an immaterial Substance in us, which we call Soul, essentially distinct from our Bodies. I shall lay it down as self-evident, That there is something in our Composition, that thinks and apprehends, and reflects 58and deliberates; that determines and doubts, consents and denies; that wills, and demurrs, and resolves, and chooses, and rejects; that receives various sensations and impressions from external objects, and produces voluntary motions of several parts of our Bodies. This every man is conscious of; neither can any one be so Sceptical as to doubt of or deny it: that very doubting or denying being part of what I would suppose, and including several of the rest in their Idea’s and Notions. And in the next place ’tis as self-evident, that these Faculties and Operations of Thinking, and Willing, and Perceiving, must proceed from something or other as their efficient Cause: meer Nothing being never able to produce any thing at all. So that if these powers of Cogitation, and Volition, and Sensation, are neither inherent in Matter as such, nor producible in Matter by any motion and modification of it; it necessarily follows that they proceed from some cogitative Substance, some incorporeal Inhabitant within us, which we call Spirit and Soul.

59

(1.) But first, these Faculties of Sensation and Preception are not inherent in Matter as such. For if it were so; what monstrous absurdities would follow? Every Stock and Stone would be a percipient and rational Creature. We should have as much feeling upon clipping a Hair of the Head, as upon pricking a Nerve. Or rather, as Men, that is, as a complex Being compounded of many vital parts, we should have no feeling nor perception at all. For every single Atom of our Bodies would be a distinct Animal, endued with self-consciousness and personal Sensation of its own. And a great number of such living and thinking Particles could not possibly by their mutual contact and pressing and striking compose one greater individual Animal, with one Mind and Understanding, and a vital Consension of the whole Body: any more than a swarm of Bees, or a crowd of Men and Women can be conceived to make up one particular Living Creature compounded and constituted of the aggregate of them all.

(2.) It remains therefore, secondly, that seeing Matter in general, as Matter, 60has not any Sensation or Thought; if it have them at all, they must be the result of some Modification of it: it must acquire them by some Organical Disposition; by such and such determinate Motions, by the action and passion of one particle upon another. And this is the Opinion of every Atheist and counterfeit Deist of these times; that believes there is no Substance but Matter, and excludes all incorporeal Nature out of the number of Beings.

Now to give a clear and full confutation of this Atheistical Assertion, I will proceed in this method.

1. First I will give a true Notion and Idea of Matter; whereby it will again appear that it has no inherent Faculty of Sense and Perception.

2. I will prove, that no particular sort of Matter, as the Brain and Animal Spirits, hath any power of Sense and Perception.

3.1 will shew, that Motion in general superadded to Matter cannot produce any Sense and Perception.

4. I will demonstrate that no particular sort of Motion, as of the Animal 61Spirits through Muscles and Nerves, can beget Sense and Perception.

5. I will evince, that no Action and Passion of the Animal Spirits, one Particle upon another, can create any Sense and Perception.

6. I will answer the Atheist’s Argument of matter of Fact and Experience in brute Beasts; which, say they, are allowed to be meer Matter, and yet have some degree of Sense and Perception.

And first I will give a true Notion. and Idea of Matter; whereby it will appear that it has no inherent Faculty of Sense and Perception. And I will offer no other, but what all competent Judges, and even Atheists themselves do allow of; and which being part of the Epicurean and Democritean Philosophy is providentially one of the best Antidotes against their other impious Opinions: as the Oil of Scorpions is said to be against the poison of their Stings. When we frame in our minds any notion of Matter, we conceive nothing else but Extension and Bulk; which is impenetrable and divisible and passive; by which three properties is 62understood, that any particular quantity of Matter doth hinder all other from intruding into its place, till it self be removed out of it; that it may be divided and broken into numerous parts of different sizes and figures, which by various ranging and disposing may produce an immense diversity of Surfaces and Textures; that if it once be bereaved of Motion, it cannot of it self acquire it again, but it either must be impell’d by some other Body from without, or, (say we, though not the Atheist) be intrinsecally moved by an immaterial self-active Substance, that can penetrate and pervade it. Wherefore in the whole Nature and Idea of Matter, we have nothing but Substance with Magnitude, and Figure, and Situation, and a capacity of being moved and divided. So that no parts of Matter consider’d by themselves, are either hot or cold, either white or black, either bitter or sweet, or betwixt those extremes. All the various mixtures and Conjugations of Atoms do beget nothing but new inward Texture, and alteration of Surface. No sensible Qualities, as Light and Colour, and Hear, and Sound, can be subsistent 63in the Bodies themselves absolutely consider’d, without a relation to our Eyes, and Ears, and other Organs of Sense. These Qualities are only the effects of our Sensation, which arise from the different motions upon our Nerves from objects without, according to their various modification and position. For example, when pellucid colourless Glass, or Water, by being beaten into powder or froth, do acquire a very intense whiteness; what can we imagine to be produced in the Glass or Water, but a new disposition of parts? Nay an object under the self-same disposition and modification, when ’tis viewed by us under differing proportions, doth represent very differing colours, without any change at all in it self. For that very same opake and white Powder of Glass, when ’tis seen thro’ a good Microscope, doth exhibit all its little fragments pellucid and colourless; as the whole appear’d to the naked eye, before it was pounded. So that Whiteness, and Redness, and Coldness, and the like, are only Idea’s and Vital Passions in Us that see and feel: but can no more be conceived to be real and distinct Qualities in the Bodies them-selves; 64than Roses or Honey can be thought to smell or taste their own Sweetness, or an Organ be conscious of its Music, or Gun-powder of its Flashing and Noise.

Thus far then we have proved, and ’tis agreed on all hands, that in our conception of any quantity of Body, there is nothing but Figure and Site, and a Capacity of Motion. Which Motion, if it be actually excited in it, doth only cause a new Order and Contexture of parts: so that all the Idea’s of sensible Qualities are not inherent in the inanimate Bodies; but are the Effects of their Motion upon our Nerves: and sympathetical and vital Passions produced within our selves.

2. Our second enquiry must be; what it is in the constitution and composition of a Man that hath the Faculty of receiving such Idea’s and Passions. Let us carry in our minds this true notion of Body in general, and apply it to our own Substance; and observe what prerogatives this Rational Machine (as the Atheists would make us to be) can challenge above other parcels of Matter. We observe then in this understanding 65piece of Clock-work; that this Body, as well as other senseless Matter, has colour, and warmth, and softness, and the like. But we have proved it before, and ’tis acknowleged; that there Qualities are not subsistent in those Bodies, but are Idea’s and Sensations begotten in something else. So that ’tis not Blood and Bones, that can be conscious of their own hardness or redness: and we are still to seek for something else in our Frame and Make, that must receive there impressions. Will they say that there Idea’s are performed by the Brain? But the difficulty returns upon them again: for we perceive that the like qualities of softness, whiteness and warmth, do belong to the Brain it self; and since the Brain is but Body, those Qualities (as we have shewn) cannot be inherent in It, but are the Sensations of some other Substance without it. It cannot be the Brain then, which imagins those qualities to be in it self.

But they may say., ’tis not the Gross Substance of the Brain that causes Perception; but the Animal Spirits, that have their residence there; which are void of sensible qualities, because they 66never fall under our Senses by reason of their minuteness. But we conceive, by our Reason, though we cannot see them with our Eyes, that every one of these also hath a determinate figure: they are Spheres, or Cubes, or Pyramids, or Cones, or of come shape or other that is irregular and nameless: and all these are but Modes and Affections of Magnitude; and the Idea’s of such Modes can no more be subsistent in the Atoms so modified, than the Idea of Redness was just now found to be inherent in the Blood, or that of Whiteness in the Brain. And what relation or affinity is there between a minute Body and Cogitation, any more than the greatest? Is a small drop of Rain any wiser than the Ocean? or do we grind inanimate Corn into living and rational Meal? my very Nails, or my Hair, or the Horns and Hoofs of a Beast may bid as fair for Understanding and Sense, as the finest Animal Spirits of the Brain.

3. But Thirdly, they will say, ’tis not the Bulk and Substance of the Animal Spirits, but their Motion and Agility, that produces Cogitation and 67Sense. If then Motion in general or any degree of its velocity can beget Cogitation; surely a Ship under sail must be a very intelligent Creature; though while she lies at Anchor, those Faculties be asleep: some cold Water or Ice may be phlegmatic and senseless; but when it boils in a Kettle, it has wonderfull Heats of Thinking and Ebullitions of Fancy. Nay the whole corporeal Mass, all the brute and limpid Matter of the Universe must upon these terms be allowed to have Life and Understanding: since there is nothing that we know of, in a state of absolute Rest. Those things that seem to be at rest upon the surface of the Earth, are daily wheel'd about its Axis, and yearly about the Sun with a prodigious swiftness.

4. But Fourthly, they will say, ’tis not Motion in general, that can do there feats of Sensation and Perception; but a particular sort of it in an Organized Body through the determinate Roads and Channels of Muscles and Nerves. But, I pray, among all the kinds of Motion, whether straight or circular, or parabolical or in what 68curve they please; what pretense can one make to Thinking and Liberty of Will, more than another? Why do not these persons make a Diagram of these cogitative Lines and Angles; and demonstrate their properties of Perception and Appetite, as plainly as we know the other properties of Triangles and Circles? But how little can any Motion, either circular or other, contribute to the production of Thought? No such circular Motion of an Atom can be all of it existent at once; it must needs be made gradually and successively both as to place and time: for Body cannot at the same instant be in more places than one. So that at any instant of time the moving Atom is but in one single point of the Line. Therefore all its Motion but in that one point is either future or past; and no other parts are coexistent or contemporary with it. Now what is not present, is nothing at all, and can be the efficient of nothing. If Motion then be the cause of Thought; Thought must be produced by one single Point of Motion, a Point with relation to time as well as to place. And such a Point to our Conceptions 69is almost equivalent to Permanency and Rest, or at least to any other Point of any Motion whatsoever. What then is become of the privilege of that organical Motion of the Animal Spirits above any other? Again, we have shown, that this circular and other Motion is but the successive Flux of an Atom, and is never existent together; and indeed is a pure Ens Rationis, an operation of the Soul, which considering past motion and future, and recollecting the whole by the Memory and Fancy, calls this by one denomination and that by another. How then can that Motion be the efficient of Thought, which is evidently the Effect and the Product of it?

5. But Fifthly, they will say farther, (which is their last refuge) that ’tis not Motion alone, or under this or that Denomination, that produceth Cogitation; but when it falls out that numerous Particles of Matter, aptly disposed and directed, do interfere in their Motions, and strike and knock one another; this is it which begets our Sensation. All the active power and vigour of the Mind, our Faculties of Reason, Imagination 70and Will are the wonderfull result of this mutual Occurse, this Pulsion and Repercussion of Atoms. Just as we experience it in the Flint and the Steel; you may move them apart as long as you please, to very little purpose: but ’tis the Hitting and Collision of them that must make them strike Fire. You may remember I have proved before, that Light and Heat, and the rest of those Qualities, are not such Idea’s in the Bodies, as we perceive in our Selves. So that this smiting of the Steel with the Flint doth only make a Comminution, and a very rapid Whirling and Melting of some Particles: but that Idea of Flame is wholly in Us. But what a strange and miraculous thing should we count it, if the Flint and the Steel, instead of a few Sparks, should chance to strike out Definitions and Syllogisms? And yet it’s altogether as reasonable, as this sottish opinion of the Atheists; That dead senseless Atoms can ever justle and knock one another into Life and Understanding. All that can be effected by such encounters of Atoms, is either the imparting or receiving of Motion, or a new 71determination and direction of its Course. Matter, when it acts upon Matter, can communicate nothing but Motion; and that we have shew'd before to be utterly unable to produce those Sensations. And again, how can that Concussion of Atoms be capable of begetting those internal and vital Affections, that selfconsciousness and those other Powers and Energies that we feel in our Minds: seeing they only strike upon the outward Surfaces; they cannot inwardly pervade one another: they cannot have any penetration of Dimensions and Conjunction of Substance. But, it may be, these Atoms of theirs may have Sense and Perception in them, but they are refractary and sullen; and therefore, like Men of the same Tempers, must be bang'd and buffeted into Reason. And indeed that way of Argumentation would be most proper and effectual upon these Atheistical Atomists themselves. 'Tis a vigorous Execution of good Laws, and not rational Discourses only, either neglected or not understood, that must reclaim the profaneness of those perverse and unreasonable Men. For what can be said more to such persons, that are 72either so disingenuous or so stupid, as to profess to believe, That all the natural Powers and acquired Habits of the Mind, that penetrating Understanding and accurate Judgment, that strength of Memory and readiness of Wit, that Liberality and Justice and Prudence and Magnanimity, that Charity and Beneficence to Mankind, that ingenuous Fear and awfull Love of God, that comprehensive Knowledge of the Histories and Languages of so many Nations, that experienced Insight into the works and wonders of Nature, that rich Vein of Poetry and inexhausted Fountain of Eloquence, those lofty flights of Thought and almost intuitive Perceptions of abstruse Notions, those exalted Discoveries of Mathematical Theorems and Divine Contemplations; all the admirable Endowments and Capacities of humane Nature, which we sometimes see actually existent in one and the same Person, can procede from the blind shuffling and casual clashing of Atoms. I could as easily take up with that senseless assertion of the 7878   Seneca Ep. 113. Plutarch. de Contrad. Stoic.Stoics, That Vertues and Vices and Sciences and Arts, and Fancies 73and Passions and Appetites are all of them real Bodies and distinct Animals; as with this of the Atheist, That they can all be derived from the Power of mere Bodies. ’Tis utterly incredible and impossible; and we cannot without indignation go about to refute such an absurd imagination, such a gross contradiction to unprejudiced Reason. And yet if the Atheists had not been driven from all their posts and their subterfuges; if we had not pursued their Atoms through all their turnings and windings, their cells and recesses, their interferings and justlings; they would boast, that they could not be answer’d; and make a mighty flutter and triumph.

Nay though they are so miserably confounded and baffled, and can offer no further explication of the Cause and the Manner; yet they will, Sixthly, urge matter of Fact and Experience, that mere Body may produce Cogitation and Sense. For, say they, do but observe the actions of some Brutes, how nearly they approach to human Reason, and visibly discover some glimpses of Understanding: and if that be performed by the pure Mechanism of their Bodies (as 74many do allow, who yet believe the Being of God, and an immaterial Spirit in Man) then ’tis but raising our Conceptions, and supposing Mankind to be Engines of a finer Make and Contexture, and the business is done. I must confess, that the Cartesians and some others, men that have given no occasion to be suspected of Irreligion, have asserted that Brutes are meer Machines and Automata. I cannot now engage in the Controversy, neither is there any necessity to do so; for Religion is not endanger’d by either opinion. If Brutes be said to have Sense and Immaterial Souls; what need we be concern’d, whether those Souls shall be immortal, or annihilated at the time of Death. This objection supposes the Being of God; and He will do all things for the wisest and best ends. Or if Brutes be supposed to be bare Engins and Machines; I admire and adore the divine Artifice and Skill in such a wonderful contrivance. But I shall deny then that they have any Reason or Sense, if they be nothing but Matter. Omnipotence it self cannot create cogitative Body. And ’tis not any imperfection in the power of God, but an incapacity in the 75Subject; The Idea’s of Matter and Thought are absolutely incompatible. And this the Cartesians themselves do allow. Do but convince Them, that Brutes have the least participation of Thought, or Will, or Appetite, or Sensation, or Fancy; and they’l readily retract their Opinion. For none but besotted Atheists, do join the two Notions together, and believe Brutes to be rational or sensitive Machines. They are either the one or the other; either endued with Sense and some glimmering. Rays of Reason from a higher Principle than Matter; or (as the Cartesians say) they are purely Body, void of all Sensation and Life: and like the Idols of the Gentiles, they have eyes and see not; ears, and hear not; noses, and smell not; they eat without hunger, and drink without thirst, and howl without pain. They perform the outward material actions; but they have no inward Self-consciousness, nor any more Perception of what they do or suffer, than a Looking-Glass has of the Objects it reflects, or the Index of a Watch of the Hour it points to. And as one of those Watches, when it was first presented to 76the Emperor of China, was taken there for an Animal: so on the contrary, our Cartesians take brute Animals for a sort of Watches. For considering the infinite distance betwixt the poor mortal Artist, and the Almighty Opificer; the few Wheels and Motions of a Watch, and the innumerable Springs and Organs in the Bodies of Brutes; they may affirm (as they think, without either absurdity or impiety) that they are nothing but moving Automata, as the fabulous 7979   Vide Zenobium &c Suidam in Δαιδάλου ποιήματα & Scholiastem Eurip. Hecubæ V. 838.Statues of Dædalus, bereaved of all true life, and vital Sensation; which never act spontaneously and freely, but as Watches must be wound up to set them a going; so Their Motions also are excited and inhibited, are moderated and managed by the Objects without them.

(2.) And now that I have gone through the six parts that I proposed, and sufficiently shewn that Sense and Perception can never be the product of any kind of Matter and Motion; it remains therefore, that it must necessarily 77procede from some Incorporeal Substance within us. And though we cannot conceive the manner of the Soul’s Action and Passion; nor what hold it can lay on the Body, when it voluntarily moves it: yet we are as certain, that it doth so, as of any Mathematical Truth whatsoever; or at least of such as are proved from the Impossibility or Absurdity of the Contrary, a way of Proof that is allowed for infallible Demonstration. Why one motion of the Body begets an Idea of Pleasure in the Mind, another an Idea of Pain; why such a disposition of the Body induces Sleep, another disturbs all the operations of the Soul, and occasions a Lethargy or Frenzy; this Knowledge exceeds our narrow Faculties, and is out of the reach of our discovery. I discern some excellent Final causes of such a vital Conjunction of Body and Soul; but the instrumental I know not, nor what invisible Bands and Fetters unite them together. I resolve all that into the sole Pleasure and Fiat of our Omnipotent Creator: whose Existence (which is my last Point) is so plainly and nearly deducible from the established proof of an Immaterial Soul; 78that no wonder the resolved Atheists do so labour and bestir themselves to fetch Sense and Perception out of the Power of Matter. I will dispatch it in three words. For since we have shewn, that there is an Incorporeal Substance within us: whence did that proceed, and how came it into Being? It did not exist from all Eternity, that's too absurd to be supposed; nor could it come out of nothing into Being without an Efficient Cause. Something therefore must have created our Souls out of Nothing; and that Something (since nothing can give more than it has) must it self have all the Perfections, that it hath given to Them. There is therefore an immaterial and intelligent Being, that created our Souls: which Being was either eternal it self, or created immediately or ultimately by some other Eternal, that has all those Perfections. There is therefore Originally an Eternal, immaterial, Intelligent Creator; all which together are the Attributes of God alone.

And now that I have finished all the parts, which I proposed to discourse of; I will conclude all with a short application 79to the Atheists. And I would advise them as a Friend, to leave off this dabbling and smattering in Philosophy, this shuffling and cutting with Atoms. It never succeded well with them, and they always come off with the loss. Their old Master Epicurus seems to have had his Brains so muddled and confounded with them, that he scarce ever kept in the right way; though the main Maxim of his Philosophy was to trust to his Senses, and follow his Nose. 8080   Epicurus apud Laert. Lucret. l. 5. Cicero de Fin. l. 1, Acad. l. 2.I will not take notice of his doting conceit, that the Sun and Moon are no bigger, than they appear to the Eye, a foot or half a yard over; and that the Stars are no larger than so many Glowworms. But let us see how he manages his Atoms, those Almighty Tools that do every thing of themselves without the help of a Workman. 8181   Lucret. l. 2. Cic. de Fato & de Nat. Deorum Plutarch, &c. When the Atoms (says he) descend in infinite space (very ingeniously spoken, to make High and Low in Infinity) they do not fall plumb down, but decline a little from the Perpendicular, either obliquely or in 80a Curve: and this Declination (says he) from the direct Line is the cause of our Liberty of Will. But, I say, this Declination of Atoms in their Descent, was it self either necessary or voluntary. If it was necessary, how then could that Necessity ever beget Liberty? if it was voluntary, then Atoms had that power of Volition before: and what becomes then of the Epicurean Doctrine of the fortuitous Production of Worlds? The whole business is Contradiction and ridiculous Nonsense. ’Tis as if one should say, that a Bowl equally poized, and thrown upon a plain and smooth Bowling Green, will run necessarily and fatally in a direct Motion: but if it be made with a Byas, that may decline it a little from a straight Line, it may acquire by that Motion a Liberty of Will, and so run spontaneously to the Jack. It would behoove the Atheists to give over such trifling as this, and resume the old solid way of confuting Religion. They should deny the Being of the Soul, because they cannot see it. This would be an invincible Argument against us: for we can never exhibit it to their Touch, nor expose it to their View; 81nor shew them the Colour and Complexion of a Soul. They should dispute, as a bold Brother of theirs did; That he was sure there was no God, because (says he) if there was one, he would have struck me to Hell with Thunder and Lightning, that have so reviled and blasphemed him. This would be an Objection indeed. Alas, all that we could answer, is in the next words to the Text, That God hath appointed a day in which he will judge all the world in Righteousness, and that the Goodness and Forbearance, and Long-suffering of God, which are some of his Attributes, and Essential Perfections of his Being, ought not to be abused and perverted into arguments against his Being. But if this will not do, we must yield our selves overcome: for we neither can, nor desire to command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them; and give them such experimental Conviction of the Existence of God. So that they ought to take these Methods, if they would successfully attack Religion. But if they will still be medling with Atoms, be hammering and squeezing Understanding out of them; I would 82advise them to make use of their own Understandings for the Instance. Nothing, in my opinion could run us down, more effectually than that. For we readily allow, that if any Understanding can possibly be produced by such clashing of senseless Atoms; ’tis that of an Atheist, that hath the fairest Pretensions and the best Title to it. We know, it is the Fool, that hath said in his heart, there is no God. And ’tis no less a Truth than a Paradox, That there are no greater Fools than Atheistical Wits; and none so credulous as Infidels. No Article of Religion, though as demonstrable as the Nature of the thing can admit, hath credibility enough for them. And yet these same cautious and quick sighted Gentlemen can wink and swallow down this sottish Opinion about Percipient Atoms, which excedes in Incredibility all the Fictions of Æsop’s Fables. For is it not every whit as likely or more, that Cocks and Bulls might discourse, and Hinds and Panthers hold Conferences about Religion, as that Atoms can do so? that Atoms can invent Arts and Sciences, can institute Society and Government, can make Leagues and 83Confederacies, can devise Methods of Peace and Stratagems of War? And moreover, the Modestly of Mythology deserves to be commended, the Scenes there are laid at a distance; ’Tis once upon a time, in the Days of Yore, and in the Land of Utopia, there was a Dialogue between an Oak and a Cedar: whereas the Atheist is so impudently silly, as to bring the Farce of his Atoms upon the Theatre of the present Age; to make dull senseless Matter transact all public and private Affairs, by Sea and by Land, in Houses of Parliament, and Closets of Princes. Can any Credulity be comparable to this? If a Man should affirm, that an Ape casually meeting with Pen, Ink, and Paper, and falling to scribble, did happen to write exactly the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbs; Would an Atheist believe such a story? and yet he can easily digest as incredible as that; that the innumerable Members of a Human Body, which in the style of the Scripture 8282   Psal. 139. 16.are all written in the Book of God, and may admit of almost infinite Variations and Transpositions above the xxiv Letters of the Alphabet, were at 84first fortuitously scribled, and by mere accident compacted into this beautiful, and noble, and most wonderfully useful Frame, which we now see it carry. But this will be the Argument of my next Discourse, which is the second Proposition drawn from the Text, That the Admirable Structure of Human Bodies, whereby they are fitted to live and move, and be vitally informed by the Soul, is unquestionably the Workmanship of a most wise and powerful and beneficent Maker: To which Almighty Creator, together with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all Honour and Glory and Majesty and Power both now and from henceforth evermore. Amen.

85
« Prev Serm. II. Matter and Motion cannot think: or A… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |