« Prev Serm. III. A Confutation of Atheism from the… Next »

A

CONFUTATION
OF
ATHEISM
FROM THE
Structure and Origin of Human Bodies..

PART I.

The Third S E R M O N Preached
May 2. 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.

I Have said enough in my last, to shew the fitness and pertinency of the Apostle’s Discourse to the persons he address’d to: whereby it sufficiently appears that he was no Babler, as some 86of the Athenian Rabble reproached him; not a σπερμολόγος a busy prating Fellow; as in another language they say 8383   Plantus. Virgil. Livius.Sermones serere, and Rumores serere in a like mode of Expression; that he did not talk at random, but was throughly acquainted with the several humours and opinions of his Auditors. And as Moses was learned in all the Wisdom of the Egyptians, so it is manifest from this Chapter alone, if nothing else had been now extant, that St. Paul was a great Master in all the Learning of the Greeks. One thing further I shall observe from the words of the Text, before I enter upon the Subject which I proposed; that it requires Some industry and consideration to find out the Being of God; we must seek the Lord, and feel after him, before we can find him by the Light of Nature. The search indeed is not very tedious nor difficult; He is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our Being. The Consideration of our Mind and Understanding, which is an incorporeal Substance independent from Matter; and the contemplation of 87our own Bodies, which have all the stamps and characters of excellent Contrivance; these alone, though we look upon nothing abroad, do very easily and proximately guide us to the wise Author of all things. But however, as we see in our Text, Some Thoughts and Meditation are necessary to it; and a man may possibly be so stupid, or wilfully ignorant or perverse, as not to have God in all his thoughts, or to say in his heart, There is none. And this being observed, we have an effectual answer to that Cavil of the Atheists; who make it an objection against the Being of God, that they do not discover him without any Application, in spite of their corrupt Wills and debauch’d Understandings. If, say they, such a God as we are told of, had created and formed us, surely he would have left upon our Minds, a native and indeleble Inscription of Himself, whereby we must needs have felt him, even without seeking, and believed in him whether we would or no. So that these Atheists being conscious to themselves, that they are void of such Belief, which (they say) if God was, would actually and necessarily be in 88them, do bring their own wicked Doubting and Denying of God, as Evidence against his Existence; and make their very Infidelity an argument for it self. To which we reply, That God hath endow’d Mankind with Powers and Abilities, which we call natural Light, and Reason, and common Sense; by the due use of which we cannot miss of the Discovery of his Being; and this is sufficient. But as to that original Notion and Proposition, GOD IS, which the Atheist pretends should have been actually imprinted on us, antecedently to all use of our Faculties; we may affirm, that the absence of such a Notion doth not give the least presumption against the truth of Religion: because though God be supposed to be, yet that Notion distinct from our Faculties would not be requisite; nor is it asserted by Religion. First, it would not be requisite; because, without any such primitive Impression, we can easily attain to the knowledge of the Deity by the sole use of our Natural Reason. And again, such an Impression would have render’d the Belief of a God irresistible and necessary, and thereby have bereaved it of all that 89is good and acceptable in it. For as the taking away the Freedom of Human Will, and making us mere Machines under fatal Ties and Impulses, would destroy the very nature of Moral Vertue; so likewise as to Faith, there would be nothing worthy of praise and recompense in it, if there were lest no possibility of Doubting and Denying. And secondly, such a radical Truth, GOD IS, springing up together with the Essence of the Soul, and previous to all other Thoughts, is not asserted by Religion. No such thing, that I know of, is affirmed or suggested by the Scriptures. There are several Topics there used against the Atheism and Idolatry of the Heathens; such as the visible marks of Divine Wisdom and Goodness in the Works of the Creation, the vital Union of Souls with Matter, and the admirable Structure of animate Bodies, and the like. But if our Apostle had asserted such an anticipating Principle engraven upon our Souls before all Exercise of Reason; what did he talk of seeking the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him? since if the knowledge of him was in that manner innate and perpetual, 90there would be no occasion of seeking, nor any hap or hazard in the finding. Such an Inscription would be self evident without Reasoning or Study, and could not fail constantly to exert its Energy in their Minds. What did he talk of the Unknown God, and ignorantly worshiping? when if such an Original Signature were always inherent in their hearts; God could not be unknown to, or ignorantly worship’d by any. That primary Proposition would have been clear, and distinct, and efficacious, and universal in the minds of Men. S. Paul therefore, it appears, had no apprehension of such a First Notion; nor made use of it for an argument; which (since whosoever hath it, must needs know that he hath it) if it be not believed before by the Adversary, is false; and if it be believed, is superfluous; and is of so frail and brittle a texture, that whereas other arguments are not answered by bare denying without contrary Proof, the mere doubting and disbelieving of this must be granted to be ipso facto the breaking and confuting of it. Thus much therefore we have proved against the Atheists; 91that such an original irresistible Notion is neither requisite upon supposition of a Deity, nor is pretended to by Religion; so that neither the Absence of it is any argument against the Being of God, nor a supposed false Assertion of it an objection against the Scripture. ’Tis enough that all are furnish’d with such Natural Powers and Capacities; that if they seriously reflect, if they seek the Lord with meditation and study, they cannot fail of finding and discovering him: whereby God is not left without witness, but the Atheist without excuse. And now I haste to the second Proposition deduced from the Text, and to the Argument of my present Discourse, That the organical Structure of humane 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 powerfull, and beneficent Maker.

First. ’Tis allowed and acknowledged by all parties, that the Bodies of Men and other Animals are excellently well fitted for Life, and Motion, and Sensation; and the several parts of them well adapted and accommodated to their particular 92Functions. The Eye is very proper and meet for seeing, the Tongue for tasting and speaking, the Hand for holding and lifting, and ten thousand Operations beside: and so for the inward Parts; the Lungs are suitable for Respiration, the Stomach for Concoction, the Lacteous Vessels for the Reception of the Chyle, the Heart for the Distribution of the Blood to all the parts of the Body, This is matter of Fact, and beyond all dispute; and in effect is no more than to say, that Animals are Animals; for if they were deprived of these Qualifications, they could not be so. This therefore is not the matter in Question between us and the Atheists: But the Controversy is here. We, when we consider so many constituent parts in the Bodies of Men, all admirably compacted into so noble an Engine; in each of the very Fingers, for example, there are Bones, and Gristles, and Ligaments, and Membranes, and Muscles, and Tendons, and Nerves, and Arteries, and Veins, and Skin, and Cuticle, and Nail; together with Marrow, and Fat, and Blood, and other Nutricious Juices; and all those solid Parts of a determinate 93Size, and Figure, and Texture, and Situation; and each of them made up of Myriads of little Fibres and Filaments, not discoverable by the naked Eye; I say, when we consider how innumerable parts must constitute so small a member, as the Finger, we cannot look upon It or the whole Body, wherein appears so much Fitness, and Use, and Subserviency to infinite Functions, any otherwise than as the effect of Contrivance and Skill, and consequently the Workmanship of a most Intelligent and Beneficent Being. And though now the Propagation of Mankind be in a settled method of Nature, which is the instrument of God: yet we affirm that the first Production of Mankind was by the Immediate Power of the Almighty Author of Nature: and that all succeeding Generations of Men are the Progeny of one primitive Couple. This is a Religious Man’s account of the Frame and Origination of himself. Now the Atheists agree with us, as to the Fitness of Man’s Body and its several Parts to their various Operations and Functions (for that is visible and past all contradiction) but they vehemently oppose, and horribly 94dread the Thought, That this Usefulness of the Parts and the Whole should first arise from Wisdom and Design. So that here will be the point in debate, and the subject of our present Undertaking; Whether this acknowledged Fitness of Humane Bodies must be attributed, as we say, to a wise and good God; or, as the Atheist averr, to dead senseless Matter. They have contrived several tricks and 8484   Μεθοδειας τῆς πλάνης Eph. 4. 14. methods of Deceit, one repugnant to another, to evade (if possible) this most cogent Proof of a Deity; All which I will propose and refute: and I hope to make it appear, that here, as indeed every where, but here certainly, in the great Dramatic Poem of Nature, is, dignus Deo vindice Nodus, a necessity of introducing a God.

And first, I will answer what Exceptions they can have against Our account: and secondly, I will confute all the Reasons and Explications they can give of their Own.

1. First, I will answer what Exceptions they can have against Our account of the Production of Mankind. And they may object, That the Body it self, 95though pretty good in its kind and upon their Hypothesis, nevertheless doth not look like the Workmanship of so great a Master, as is pretended by Us; that infinite Wisdom and Goodness and Power would have bestowed upon us more Senses than five, or at least these five in a much higher Perfection; that we could never have come out of the Hands of the Almighty, so subject to numerous Diseases, so obnoxious to violent Deaths; and at best, of such a short and transitory Life. They can no more ascribe so sorry an Effect to an Omniscient Cause, than some ordinary piece of Clock-work with a very few motions and uses, and those continually out of order, and quickly at an end, to the best Artist of the Age. But to this we reply: First, as to the five Senses, it would be rash indeed to affirm, That God, if he had pleased, could not have endued us with more. But thus much we may averr, That though the Power of God be infinite and perfect yet the Capacities of Matter are within limits and bounds. Why then doth the Atheists suspect that there may possibly be any more ways of Sensation than 96what we have already? Hath he an Idea, or Notion, or Discovery of any more? So fur from that, that he cannot make any addition or progress in those very Senses he hath, further than they themselves have informed him. He cannot imagin one new Colour, or Tast, or Smell, beside those that have actually fallen under his Senses. Much less can he that is destitute of an entire Sense, have any Idea or Representation of it; as one that is born deaf hath no Notion of Sounds; or Blind, of Colours and Light. if then the Atheists can have no Imagination of more Senses than five, why doth he suppose that a Body is capable of more? If we had double or Triple as many, there might still be the same suspicion for a greater number without end; and the Objection therefore in both cases is equally unreasonable and groundless. Secondly, we affirm, that our Senses have that degree of Perfection which is most fit and suitable to our Estate and Condition. For though the Eye were so piercing, as to discry even opake and little Objects some hundreds of Leagues off, even that improvement of our fight would do us little service; 97it would be terminated by neighbouring Hills and Woods; or in the largest and evenest plain by the very convexity of the Earth; unless we could always inhabit the tops of Mountains and Cliffs, of had Wings too to fly aloft, when we had a mind to take a Prospect. And if Mankind had had Wings (as perhaps some extravagant Atheist may think us deficient in that) all the World must have consented to clip them; or else Humane Race had been extinct before this time, nothing upon that supposition being safe from Murder and Rapine: Or if the Eye were so acute, as to rival the finest Microscopes, and to discern the smallest Hair upon the leg of a Gnat, it would be a curse and not a blessing to us; it would make all things appear rugged and deformed; the most finely polish’d Chrystal would be uneven and rough: The sight of our own selves would affright us: The smoothest Skin would be beset all over with ragged Scales, and bristly Hairs. And beside, we could not see at one view above what is now the space of an Inch, and it would take a considerable time to survey the then mountainous bulk of our own Bodies. 98Such a Faculty of sight so disproportion’d to our other Senses and to the Objects about us would be very little better than Blindness it self. And again, God hath furnished us with Invention and Industry, so that by optical Glasses we can more than supply that imaginary defect of our own Eyes, and discover more remote and minute Bodies with that assistance, than perhaps the most whimsical Atheist would desire to do without it. So likewise if our Sense of Hearing were exalted proportionally to the former, what a miserable condition would Mankind be in? What whisper could be low enough, but many would over-hear it? What Affairs, that most require it, could be transacted with secrecy? and whither could we retire from perpetual humming and buzzing? every breath of Wind would incommode and disturb us: we should have no quiet or sleep in the silentest nights and most solitary places; and we must inevitably be struck Deaf or Dead with the noise of a clap of Thunder. And the like inconveniences would follow if the Sense of Feeling was advanced to such a degree as the Atheist requires. How 99could sustain the pressure of our very Cloaths in such a condition; much less carry burthens and provide for conveniences of Life? We could not bear the assault of an Insect, or a Feather, or a puff of Air without pain. There are examples now of wounded persons, that have roared for anguish and torment at the discharge of Ordnance, though at a very great distance; what insupportable torture then should we be under upon alike concussion in the Air, when all the whole Body would have the tenderness of a Wound? In a word, all the Changes and Emendations that the Atheists would make in our Senses, are so far from being Improvements, that they would prove the utter ruin and Extirpation of Mankind.

But perhaps they may have better success in their complaints about the Distempers of the Body and the Shortness of Life. We do not wonder indeed, that the Atheist should lay a mighty stress upon this Objection. For to a man that places all his Happiness in the Indolency and Pleasure of Body, what can be more terrible than Pain or a Fit of Sickness? nothing but Death alone, the most dreadfull thing in the World. 100When an Atheist reflects upon Death, his very Hope is Despair; and ’tis the crown and top of his Wishes, that it may prove his utter Dissolution and Destruction. No question if an Atheist had had the making of himself, he would have framed a Constitution that could have kept pace with his insatiable Lust, been invincible by Gluttony and Intemperance, and have held out vigorous a thousand years in a perpetual Debauch. But we answer; First, in the words of St. Paul: 8585   Rom. 9. 20. Nay, but, O Man, who art thou, that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? We do adore and magnifie his most holy Name for his undeserved Mercy towards us, that he made us the Chief of the visible Creation; and freely acquit his Goodness from any imputation of Unkindness, that he has placed us no higher. Secondly, Religion gives us a very good account of the present Infirmity of our Bodies. Man at his first Origin was a Vessel of Honour, when he came first out of the Hands of the Potter; endued with all imaginable Perfections 101of the Animal Nature; ’till by Disobedience and Sin, Diseases and Death came first into the World. Thirdly, The Distempers of the Body are not so formidable to a Religious Man, as they are to an Atheist: He hath a quite different judgment and apprehension about them: he is willing to believe, that our present condition is better for us in the Issue, than that uninterrupted Health and Security, that the Atheist desires; which would strongly tempt us to forget God and the concerns of a better Life. Whereas now he receives a Fit of Sickness, as the παιδεία τοῦ πατρὸς, the kind Chastisement and Discipline of his Heavenly Father, to wean his Affections from the World, where he is but as on a Journey; and to fix his thoughts and desires on things above, where his Country and his Dwelling is: that where he hath placed his Treasure and Concerns, there his heart may be also. Fourthly, Most of the Distempers that are incident to us are of our own making, the effects of abused Plenty, and Luxury, and must not be charged upon our Maker; who out of the abundant Riches of his Compassion hath provided 102for us store of excellent Medicines, to alleviate in a great measure those very Evils which we bring upon our selves. And now we are come to the last Objection of the Atheist, That Life is too short. Alas for him, what pity ’tis that he cannot wallow immortally in his sensual Pleasures! But if his Life were many whole Ages longer than it is, he would still make the same Complaint, 8686   Lucret. l. 3. Brevis est hic fructus homullis. For Eternity, and that’s the thing he trembles at, is every whit as long, after a thousand years as after fifty. But Religion gives Us a better prospect and makes us look beyond the gloomy Regions of Death with Comfort and Delight: When this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. We are so far from repining at God, that he hath not extended the period of our Lives to the Longevity of the Antediluvians; that we give him thanks for contracting the Days of our Trial, and receiving us more maturely into those Everlasting Habitations above, that he hath prepared for us.

103

And now that I have answer’d all the Atheist’s Exceptions against Our account of the Production of Mankind, I come in the next place to examine all the Reasons and Explications they can give of their own.

The Atheists upon this occasion are divided into Sects, and (which is the mark and character of Error) are at variance and repugnancy with each other and with themselves. Some of them will have Mankind to have been thus from all Eternity. But the rest do not approve of infinite Successions, but are positive for a Beginning; and they also are subdivided into three Parties: the first ascribe the Origin of Men to the Influence of the Stars upon some extraordinary Conjunction or Aspect: Others again reject all Astrology; and some of these mechanically produce Mankind, at the very first Experiment, by the action of the Sun upon duly prepared Matter: but others are of opinion, that after infinite blundering and miscarrying, our Bodies at last came into this Figure by mere Chance and Accident. There's no Atheist in the World, that reasons about his Infidelity (which God knows most 104of them never do) but he takes one of these four Methods. I will refute them every one in the same order that I have named them: the two former in the present Discourse, reserving the others for another occasion.

I. And First, the Opinion of those Atheists that will have Mankind and Other Animals to have subsisted eternally in infinite Generations already past, will be found to be flat Nonsense and Contradiction to it self, and repugnant also to matter of Fact. First, it is contradiction to it self. Infinite Generations of Men (they say) are already past and gone: but whatsoever is now past, was once actually present; so that each of those Infinite Generations was once in its turn actually present: therefore all except One Generation were once future and not in being, which destroys the very supposition: for either that One Generation must it self have been Infinite, which is Nonsense; or it was the Finite Beginning of Infinite Generations between it self and us, that is Infinity terminated at both ends, which is Nonsense as before. Again, Infinite past Generations of Men have been once 105actually present: there may be some one Man suppose then, that was at infinite distance from Us now: therefore that man’s Son likewise, forty years younger suppose than his Father, was either at infinite distance from Us or at finite: if that Son too was at infinite distance from Us, then one Infinite is longer by forty years than another; which is absurd: if at finite, then forty years added to finite makes it infinite, which is as absurd as the other. And again, The number of Men that are already dead and gone is infinite, as they say: but the number of the Eyes of those Men must necessarily be twice as much as that of the Men themselves, and that of the Fingers ten times as much, and that of the Hairs of their Heads thousands of times. So that we have here one Infinite number twice, ten times, and thousands of times as great as another, which is contradiction again. Thus we see it is impossible in it self, that any successive duration should be actually and positively infinite, or have infinite successions already gone and past. Neither can these Difficulties be applied to the Eternal Duration of God Almighty. For though we cannot comprehend 106Eternity and infinity: yet we underhand what they are Not. And something, we are sure, must have Existed from all Eternity; because all things could not emerge and start out of Nothing. So that if this præ-existent Eternity is not compatible with a successive Duration, as we clearly and distinctly perceive that it is not; then it remains, that some Being, though infinitely above our finite comprehensions, must have an identical, invariable Continuance from all Eternity; which Being is no other than God. For as his Nature is perfect and immutable without the least shadow of change; so his Eternal Duration is permanent and indivisible, not measurable by Time and Motion, nor to be computed by number of successive Moments. One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

And Secondly, this Opinion of infinite Generation is repugnant likewise to matter of Fact. ’Tis a Truth beyond opposition, that the universal Species of Mankind hath had a gradual increase, notwithstanding what War, and Famine, and Pestilence, and Floods, and Conflagrations, 107and the Religious Profession of Celibacy, and other Causes, may at certain periods of time have interrupted and retarded it. This is manifest from the History of the Jewish Nation, from the account of the Roman Census, 8787   Vide Observations upon the Bills of Mortality. and Registers of our own Country, where the proportion of Births to Burials is found upon observation to be yearly as Fifty to Forty. Now if Mankind do increase though never so slowly, but one Couple suppose in an Age; ’tis enough to evince the falshood of Infinite Generations already expired. For though an Atheist should contend, that there were ten thousand million couple of Mankind now in being, (that we may allow him multitude enough) ’tis but going back so many Ages, and we descend to a single Original Pair. And ’tis all one in respect of Eternal Duration yet behind, whether we begin the world so many millions of Ages ago, or date it from the late Æra of about Six Thousand years. And moreover this recent beginning of the World is further established from the known Original of Empires and Kingdoms, and the Invention of Arts and 108Sciences: whereas if infinite Ages of Mankind had already preceded, there could nothing have been left to be invented or improved by the successful industry and curiosity of our own. The Circulation of the Blood, and the Weight and Spring of the Air (which is as it were the Vital Pulse and the great Circulation of Nature, and of more importance in all Physiology, than any one Invention since the beginning of Science) had never lain hid so many myriads of Generations, and been reserved for a late happy Discovery by two great Luminaries of this Island. I know the Atheist may endeavour to evade this by supposing, That though Mankind have been from everlasting, and have perpetually encreas’d by generation; yet at certain great periods there may be univerial Deluges, which may not wholly extinguish Mankind (for, they’l say, there is not Water enough in Nature for that) but may cover the Earth to such a Height, that none but a few Mountainers may escape, enough to continue Human Race; and yet being illiterate Rustics (as Mountainers always are) they can preserve no Memoirs of former times, nor propagate 109any Sciences or Arts; and so the World must needs be thought by Posterity to have begun at such periods. But to this I answer, First, That upon this supposition there must have been infinite Deluges already past: for if ever this Atheist admits of a first Deluge, he is in the same noose that he was. For then he must assert, That there were infinite Generations and an infinite increase of Mankind before that first Deluge; and then the Earth could not receive them, but the infinite Bodies of Men must occupy an infinite Space, and then all the Matter of the Universe must be human Body; and many other absurdities will follow, absurdities as infinite, as the Generations he talks of. But if he says, That there have been infinite Deluges heretofore, this is impossibility again; for all that I said before against the Notion of infinite past Generations, is alike applicable to this. Secondly, Such Universal Deluges (since the Deity is now excluded) must be produced in a natural way: and therefore gradually, and not in an instant: and therefore (because the Tops of Mountains, they lay, are never overflown) the civilized People may 110escape thither out of Villages and Cities; and consequently, against the Atheist, Arts, and Sciences, and Histories, may be preserved, and derived to the succeding World. Thirdly, Let us imagine the whole Terraqueous Globe with its Atmosphere about it; What is there here, that can naturally died an Universal Deluge? If you would drown one Country or Continent with Rains and Inundations, you must borrow your Vapour and Water from some other part of the Globe. You can never overflow all at a time. If the Atmosphere it self was reduced into Water, (as some think it possible) it would not make an Orb above 32 foot deep, which would soon be swallowed up by the cavity of the Sea, and the depressed parts of the Earth, and be a very feeble attempt towards an Universal Deluge. But then what immense Weight is there above, that must overcome the expansive force of the Air, and compress it into near the thousandth part of the room that it now takes up? We, that acknowledge a God Almighty, can give an account of one Deluge, by saying it was miraculous; but it would be strange to see an Atheist have recourse 111to a Miracle; and that not once only, but upon infinite occasions. But perhaps they may endeavour to prove the possibility of such a natural Deluge, by borrowing an ingenious Notion, and pretending, That the face of Nature may be now quite changed from what it was; and that formerly the whole Collection of Waters might be an orbicular Abyss, arched over with an exterior Crust or Shell of Earth, and that the breaking and fall of this Crust might naturally make a Deluge. I'll allow the Atheist all the fair play in the world. Let us suppose the Fall of this imaginary Crust. First, It seems to be impossible, but that all the Inhabitants of this Crust must be dash'd to pieces in its Ruins. So that this very Notion brings us to the necessity of a new production of Men; to evade which it is introduced by the Atheist. Again, If such a Crust naturally fell, then it had in its own constitution a tendency towards a Fall; that is, it was more likely and inclinable to fall this thousand years, than the last. But if the Crust was always gradually nearer and nearer to falling; that plainly evinces, that it had not endured eternally 112before it’s Fall. For let them assign any imaginable period for it’s falling, how could it have held out till then (according to the supposition) the unmeasurable duration of infinite Ages before? And again, such a Crust could fall but once; for what Architect can an Atheist suppose, to rebuild a new Arch out of the ruins of the other? But I have shewn before that this Atheist hath need of infinite Deluges to effect his design; and therefore leave him to contrive how to make infinite Crusts one upon the back of another; and now procede to examine in the second place, The Astrological Explication of the Origin of Men.

II. If you ask one of this Party, what Evidence he is able to produce for the truth of his Art, he may perhaps offer some Physical Reasons for a general influence of the Stars upon terrestrial Bodies: but as Astrology is consider’d to be a System of Rules and Propositions, he will not pretend to give any reason of it à priori; but resolves all that into Tradition from the Chaldeans and Egyptians, who first learnt it by long observation, and transmitted it down to Posterity; 113and that now it is daily confirmed by Events; which are experienced to answer the Predictions. This is all that can be said for Astrology as Art. So that the whole Credibility of this Planetary production of Mankind must depend upon Observation. But are they able to shew among all the Remains of the Chaldaic Observations for Four hundred and seventy thousand years (as they pretended) any Tradition of such a Production? So far from that, that the Chaldeans believed the world and mankind to have been from everlasting, which opinion I have refuted before. Neither can the Egyptian Wizards with their long Catalogue of Dynasties, and Observations for innumerable Years, supply the Atheists with one instance of such a Creation. Where are the fragments of Petosiris and Necepso, that may countenance this Assertion? I believe if they had had any example of men born out of the Soil, they would rather have ascribed it to the fruitful Mud of the 8888   So Diodorus Siculus, lib. 1. c. 2. Φασὶ τοίνυν Αἰγόπτιο; κατὰ τὴν ἐξ ἀρχῆς τῶν ὅλων γένεσιν ποώτους τοὺ: ἀνθρώπους γενέα... κατὰ την Αἰγυπτον διά τε τὴν εὐκρασίαν τῆς χώρας, καὶ διὰ τὴν ύσιν τω Νείλου: &c.Nile (as they did the 114breeding of Frogs, and Mice, and Monsters) than to the efficacy of Stars. But with the leave of these Fortune-tellers, did the Stars do this feat once only, which gave beginning to Human Race? or have they frequently done so, and may do it again? If frequently, why is not this Rule deliver’d in Ptolemee and Albumazar? If once only at the beginning, then how came it to be discover’d? Who were there then in the world, to observe the Births of those First Men, and calculate their Nativities, as they sprawl’d out of Ditches? Those Sons of Earth were very wise Children, if they themselves knew, that the Stars were their Fathers. Unless we are to imagine, that they understood the Planets and the Zodiac by instinct, and fell to drawing Schemes of their own Horoscopes, in the same Dust they sprung out of? 8989   Vitruvius, lib. 9. c. 4. Lucret. liIb. 5. Ut Babylonica Chaldæam doctrina, &c. Apuleius de Deo Socratis: Seu illa (Luna) proprio et perpeti fulgore, ut Chaldæi arbitrantur, parte luminis compos, parte altera cassa fulgoris. For my part I can have no great veneration for Chaldaic Antiquity; when I see they could not discover in so many thousand years, that the Moon was an opake Body, and received her Light 115from the Sun. But suppose their Observations had been never so accurate, it could add no Authority to modern Astrology, which is borrowed from the Greeks. ’Tis well known that Berosus, or his Scholars, new modelled and adapted the Babylonian Doctrines to the Græcian Mythology. The supposed Influences of Aries and Taurus for example, have a manifest relation to the Græcian Stories of the Ram that carried Phrixus, and the Bull that carried Europa. Now which of these is the Copy, and which the Original? Were the Fables taken from the Influences, or the Influences from the Fables? the Poetical Fables more ancient than all Records of History; or the Astrological Influences, that were not known to the Greeks till after Alexander the Great? But without question those Fabulous Tales had been many a time told and sung to lull Children asleep, before ever Berosus set up his Intelligence-Office at Cos. And the same may be said of all the other Constellations. First, Poetry had filled the Skies with Asterisms and Histories belonging to them; and then Astrology devises the feigned Virtues and Influences 116of each, from force property of the Image, or Allusion to the Story. And the same trifling futility appears in their XII Signs of the Zodiac, and their mutual Relations and Aspects. Why no more Aspects than diametrically opposite, and such as make æquilateral Figures? Why are the Masculine and Feminine, the Fiery and Airy, and Watry and Earthly Signs all placed at such regular distances? Were the Virtues of the Stars disposed in that order and rank, on purpose only to make a pretty Diagram upon Paper? But the Atheistical Astrologer is doubly pressed with this absurdity. For if there was no Counsel at the making of the world, how came the Asterisms of the same nature and energies to be so harmoniously placed at regular intervals? And how could all the Stars of one Asterism agree and conspire together to constitute an Universal? Why does not every single Star shed a separate influence; and have Aspects with other Stars of their own Constellation? But what need there many words? As if the late Discoveries of the Celestial Bodies had not plainly detected the imposture of Astrology? The Planet Saturn 117is found to have a great Ring that encircles him, and five lesser Planets that move about him, as the Moon doth about the Earth: and Juppiter hath four Satellites, which by their Interposition between him and us make some hundreds of Eclipses every year. Now the whole Tribe of Astrologers, that never dream’d of these Planets, have always declared, that when Juppiter and Saturn come about again to any given Point, they exert (consider’d singly by themselves) the same Influence as before. But ’tis now manifest, that when either of them return to the same point; the Planets about them, that must make up an united influence with them, have a different situation in respect of us and each other, from what they had the time before: and consequently the joint Influence must be perpetually varied, and never be reducible to any Rules and Observations. Or if the influences be conveyed hither distinct, yet sometimes some of the Little Planets will eclipse the Great one at any given point; and by that means intercept and obstruct: the Influence. I cannot now insist on many other Arguments deducible from the late Improvements 118of Astronomy, and the truth of the Copernican System; For if the Earth be not the Centre of the Planetary Motions, what must become then of the present Astrology, which is wholly adapted to that vulgar Hypothesis? And yet nevertheless, when they lay under such wretched mistakes for many Myriads of Years, if we are willing to believe them; they would all along, as now, appeal to Experience and Event for the confirmation of their Doctrines. That’s the invincible Demonstration of the Verity of the Science: And indeed as to their Predictions, I think our Astrologers may assume to themselves that infallible Oracle of Tiresias,

O Laertiade, quicquid dico, aut erit, aut non.

There’s but a true and a false in any telling of Fortune; and a man that never hits on the right side, cannot be called a bad Guesser, but must miss out of design, and be notably skilful at lighting on the wrong. And were there not formerly as great pretensions to it from the superstitious Observation of the Entrails 119of Cows, of the flying of Vulturs, and the pecking of Chickings? Nay, the old Augurs and Soothsayers had better reason to profess the Art of Divining, than the modern Astrological Atheist: for they supposed there were some Dæmons, that directed the Indications. So likewise the Chaldean and Egyptian Astrologers were much more excusable than He. It was the Religion of their Countries to worship the Stars, as we know from unquestionable Authority. 9090   Maimonides More Nevochim De Zabiis & Chaldæis. Plato in Cratylo. Diodorus, lib. 1. cap. 2. Eusebius Demonst. Evangel. lib. 1. c. 6. Φοίνικας τοιγαροῦν καὶ Αἰγυπτίους πρώτους ἁπάντων κατέχει λόγος ἣλιον σα σελήντιτω καὶ ἀστέξας Θεοὺς ἀ...φῆναι They believed them Intelligent Beings, and no other than very Gods; and therefore had some Reason to suspect, that they might govern Human Affairs. The Influence of the Stars was in their apprehensions no let’s than Divine Power. But an Atheist, that believes the Planets to be dark, solid and senseless Bodies, like the brute Earth he treads on; and the Fixt Stars and the Sun to be inanimate Basis of Fire; what Reasons can He advance for the Credit of such Influences? He acknowledgeth nothing besides Matter 120and Motion; so that all that he can conceive to be transmitted hither from the Stars, must needs be perform’d either by Mechanism or Accident; either of which is wholly unaccountable, arid the latter irreconcileable to any Art or System of Science. But if both were allowed the Atheist; yet as to any production of Mankind, they will be again refuted in my following Discourse. I can preserve a due esteem for some great Men of the last Age, before the Mechanical Philosophy was revived, though they were too much addicted to this nugatory Art. When Occult Quality, and Sympathy and Antipathy, were admitted for satisfactory Explications of things, even wise and vertuous Men might swallow down any Opinion that was countenanced by Antiquity. But at this time of day, when all the general powers and capacities of Matter are so clearly understood; must be very ridiculous himself, that doth not deride and explode the antiquated Folly. But we may see the miserable Shifts that some men are put to; when that which was first founded upon, and afterward supported by Idolatry, is now become the 121tottering Sanctuary of Atheism. If the Stars be no Deities, Astrology is groundless: and if the Stars be Deities, why is the Astrologer an Atheist? He may easily be no Christian; and ’tis difficult indeed to be both at once: because, as I have said before, Idolatry is at the bottom; and by submitting Humane Actions and Inclinations to the Influence of the Stars, they destroy the very Essence of Moral Virtue and the Efficacy of Divine Grace: and therefore Astrology was justly condemn’d by the 9191   Concil. Laod. Can. 36. Conc. 6. in Trullo. Can. 61. Cod. Just. lib. 9. tit. 18. Cod. Theodos. l. 9. tit. 16. Βασιλικῶν lib. 60. tit. 39.Ancient Fathers and Christian Emperors. An Astrologer, I say, may very easily be no Christian; he may be an idolater or a Pagan: but I could hardly think Astrology to be compatible with rank Atheism; if I could suppose any great gifts of Nature to be in that person, who is either an Atheist or an Astrologer. But let him be what he will, he is not able to do much hurt by his Reasons and Example. For Religion it self, according to his Principles, is derived from the Stars. 122And he owns, ’tis not any just Exceptions he hath taken against Christianity, but ’tis his Destiny and Fate; ’tis Saturn in the Ninth House and not Judgment and Deliberation, that made him an Atheist.

123
« Prev Serm. III. A Confutation of Atheism from the… 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 |