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

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

The Third and Last PART

The Fifth SERMON Preached
September 5. 1692.

Acts XVII. 27.

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.

IN my former Discourses I have endeavour’d to prove, that Human Race was neither (1) from Everlasting without beginning; nor (2) owes its beginning to the Influence of Heavenly 164Bodies; nor (3) to what they call Nature, that is, the necessary and mechanical motions of dead senseless Matter. I procede now to examin the fourth and last Plea of the Enemies to Religion and their own Souls, That Mankind came accidentally into the World, and hath its Life and Motion and Being by mere Chance and Fortune.

We need not much wonder, that this last Opinion should obtain almost universally among the Atheists of these times. For whereas the Other require come small stock of Philosophy to understand or maintain them: This Account is so easy and compendious, that it needs none at all; and consequently is the more proper and agreeable to the great Industry and Capacity of the most numerous Party of them. For what more easy to say, than that all the Bodies of the first Animals and Plants were shuffled into their several Forms and Structures fortuitously, that is, these Atheists know not how, nor will trouble themselves to endeavour to know? For that is the meaning of Chance; and yet this is all, that they 165say, or can say to the great Matter in question. And indeed this little is enough in all reason; and could they impose on the rest of Mankind, as easily as delude themselves, with a notion, That Chance can effect a thing; it would be the most expedite and effectual means to make their Cause victorious over Vertue and Religion. For if you once allow them such an acceptation of Chance, you have precluded your self (they think) from any more reasoning and objecting against them. The Mechanical Atheist, though you grant him his Laws of Mechanism, is nevertheless inextricably puzzled and baffled with the first Formation of Animals: for he must undertake to determine all the various Motions and Figures and Positions and Combinations of his Atoms; and to demonstrate, that such a quantity of Motion impressed upon Particles so shaped and situated, will necessarily range and dispose them into the Form and Frame of an Organical Body: an attempt as difficult and unpromising of success, as if he himself should make the Essay to produce some new Kinds of Animals out of such senseless Materials, or to rebuild 166the moving and living Fabric out of its dust in the grave. But the Atheist, that we are now to deal with, if you do but concede to him, that Fortune may be an Agent; presumes himself safe and invulnerable, secure above the reach of any further disputes. For if you procede to ask questions, and bid him assign the proper Causes and determinate Manner of that fortuitous Formation, you thereby deny him what you granted before, and take away the Very Hypothesis and the Nature of Chance; which supposeth that no certain Cause or Manner of it can possibly be assigned. And as the stupidity of some Libertines, that demand a fight of a Spirit or Humane Soul to convince them of its existence, hath been frequently and deservedly exposed; because whatsoever may be the object of our Sight, must: not be a Soul or Spirit, but an opake Body: so this Atheist would tax us of the like Nonsense and Contradiction; if after he hath named to us Fortune or Chance, we should expos from him any particular and distinct account of the Origin of Mankind. Because it is the very offence and notion 167of his Chance, to be wholly unaccountable: and if an account could be given of it; it would then no longer be Chance but Mechanism, or a necessary production of certain Effects from certain Causes according to the Universal Laws of Motion. Thus we are to know, that if once we admit of Fortune in the Formation of Mankind; there is no further enquiry to be made, no more Difficulties to be solved, and no Account to be demanded. And who then can admire, if the inviting easiness and compendiousness of this Assertion should so dazle the Eyes of our Atheist, that he overlooks those gross Absurdities, that are so conspicuous in it?

(1) For first, if this Atheist would have his Chance or Fortune to be a real and substantial Agent; as the Vulgar seem to have commonly apprehended, some making it a Divinity, others they do not conceive what: he is doubly more stupid and more supinely ignorant than those Vulgar; in that he assumes such a notion of Fortune, as besides its being erroneous, is inconsistent with his Atheism. For since according to the Atheists, the whole Universe is Corpus 168 & inane, Body and nothing else: this Chance, if it do really and physically effect any thing, must it self be Body also. And what a numerous train of Absurdities do attend such an assertion? too visible and obvious to deserve to be here insisted on. For indeed it is no less than flat contradiction to it self. For if this Chance be supposed to be a Body; it must then be a part of the common Mass of Matter: and consequently be subject to the universal and necessary Laws of Motion: and therefore it cannot be Chance, but true Mechanism and Nature.

(2) But secondly, if he forbear to call Chance a real Agent, and is content to have it only a Result or Event; since all Matter or some portion of it may be naturally exempt from those supposed Mechanical Laws, and be endowed with a power of spontaneous or fortuitous Motion; which power, when it is exerted, must produce an Effect properly Casual, and therefore might constitute the first Animate Bodies accidentally, against the supposed natural tendency of the Particles of those Bodies: even this second Affection is contrary to common 169Sense, as well as common Observation: For how can he conceive, that any parcel of dead Matter can spontaneously divert and decline it self from the line of its motion without a new impulse from external Bodies? If it can intrinsically stir it self, and either commence its Motion or alter its course; it must have a principle of self-activity, which is Life and Sense. 107107   Serm. 2.But Sense I have proved formerly to be incompatible with mere Bodies, even those of the most compound and elaborate textures; much more with single Atoms or solid Particles of Matter, that having no intestine motion of Parts are destitute of the first foundation and capacity of Life. And moreover, though these Particles should be supposed to have this internal principle of Sense, it would still be repugnant to the notion of Chance: because their Motions would not then be Casual, but Voluntary; not by Chance, but Choice and Design. And again, we appeal to Observation, whether any Bodies have such a power of fortuitous Motion: we should surely have experiment of it in the effects of Nature and Art: No Body170would retain the same constant and uniform Weight according to its Bulk and Substance; but would vary perpetually, as that spontaneous power of Motion should determine its present tendency. All the various Machines and Utensils would now and then play odd Pranks and Capricio’s quite contrary to their proper Structures and Designs of the Artificers. Whereas on the contrary all Bodies are observed to have always a certain and determinate Motion according to the degrees of their External Impulse, and their inward Principle of Gravitation, and the Resistance of the Bodies they occurr with: which therefore is without Error exactly foreseen and computed by sagacious Artists. And if ever Dead Matter should deviate from this Motion; it could not procede from it self, but a supernatural Agent; and ought not to be called a Chance, but a Miracle.

For Chance is but a mere name, and really Nothing in it self: a Conception of our own Minds, and only a Compendious way of speaking, whereby we would express, That such Effects, as are commonly attributed to Chance, were 171verily produced by their true and proper Causes, but without their designing to produce them. And in any Event called Casual, if you take away the real and physical Causes, there remains nothing, but a simple Negation of the Agents intending such an Event: which Negation being no real Entity, but a Conception only of Man’s Intellect wholly extrinsecal to the Action, can have no title to a share in the production. As in that famous Example (which 108108   Plutarch. περὶ τύχης. Plutarch says, is the only one, where Fortune is related to have done a thing artificially) when a Painter having finiih’d the Picture of a Horse, excepting the loose Froth about his Mouth and his Bridle; and after many unsuccessfuI essays despairing to do that to his satisfaction, in a great rage threw his Spunge at it, all besmear’d, as it was, with the Colours; which fortunately hitting upon the right place, by one bold stroke of Chance most exactly supplied the want of Skill in the Artist: even here it is manifest, that considering the Quantity and Determination of the Motion, that was impressed by the Painter's hand upon 172the Spunge, compounded with the specific Gravity of the Spunge, and resistance of the Air; the Spunge did mechanically and unavoidably move in that particular line of Motion, and so necessarily hit upon that part of the Picture; and all the paint, that it left there, was as certainly placed by true natural Causes, as any one stroke of the Pencil in the whole Piece. So that this strange effect of the Spunge was fortuitous only with respect to the Painter, because he did not design nor foresee such an effect; but in it self and as to its real Causes it was necessary and natural. In a word, the true notion of Fortune (τῆς τύχης) denoteth no more, than the Ignorance of such an event in some Knowing Agent concerned about it. So that it owes its very Being to Human Understanding, and without relation to that is really Nothing. How absurd then and ridiculous is the Atheist, that would make this Fortune the cause of the Formation of Mankind; whereas manifestly there could be no such Thing or Notion in the World as Fortune, till Human Nature was actually formed? It was Man that first made Fortune, and not Fortune that produced 173Man. For since Fortune in its proper acceptation supposeth the Ignorance of something, in a subject capable of Knowledge; if you take away Mankind, such a Notion hath no Existence, neither with relation to Inanimate Bodies that can be conscious of nothing, nor to an Omniscient God, that can be ignorant of nothing. And so likewise the adequate Meaning of Chance (τοῦ Αὐτομάτου) (as it is distinguished from Fortune; in that the latter is understood to befal only Rational Agents, but Chance to be among Inanimate Bodies) is a bare Negation that signifies no more than this, That any Effect among such Bodies ascribed to Chance, is really produced by Physical Agents, according to the established Laws of Motion, but without their Consciousness of concurring to the Production, and without their Intention of such an Effect. So that Chance in its true sense is all one with Nature; and both words are used promiscuously by 109109   Plato X. de Legibus. Πῦρ καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ γῆν καὶ ἀέρα, φύσει πάντα εἶναι καὶ τύχῃ φασίν——ού̓τε διὰ. τινὰ θεὸν, ού̓τὲ διὰ τέχνην, ἀλλά ὃ λέγομεν, φύσει καὶ τύχῃ.. some ancient Writers to express the same thing. And we must be wary, lest we 174 ascribe any real Subsistence or Personality to this Nature or Chance: for it is merely a notional and imaginary thing; an abstract Universal, which is properly Nothing; a Conception of our own making, occasion’d by our reflecting upon the settled Course of things; denoting only thus much, That all those Bodies move and act according to their essential properties and qualities without any consciousness or intention of so doing. So that in this genuine acceptation. of Chance, here is nothing supposed, that can supersede the known Laws of Natural Motion: and thus to attribute the Formation of Mankind to Chance, is all one with the former Atheistical Assertion that ascribes it to Nature or Mechanism: and consequently it hath received a prolix and sufficient Refutation in my preceding Discourse.

(3) But thirdly, ’tis likely that our Atheist may willingly renounce the Doctrine of Chance as a thing differing from Nature, and may ailow it to be the same thing, and that too no real and substantial Agent, but only an absract intellectual Notion: but still he hath another Expedient in reserve, which is 175and safe way between the former rigorous Mechanism and the extravagancies of Fortuitous Motion: viz. That at the Beginning all things (’tis true). proceded necessarily and fatally according to the Mechanical powers and affections of Matter: but nevertheless the several Kinds of Animals were not formed at the first trial and effort without one error or miscarriage; (as strict Mechanism would suppose;) but there was an immense Variety of Ferments and Tumors and Excrescences of the Soil, pregnant and big with 110110   Βουγενῆ ἀνδρόπρωρα Emped.Fœtus’s of all imaginable shapes and structures of Body: Millions of which were utterly uncapable of Life and Motion, being the Molæ, as it were, and the Abortions of Mother Earth: and many of those that had Life and Powers to preserve their own Individuals, yet wanted the due means of Propagation, and therefore could not transmit their Species to the following Ages: and that those few only, that we now find in Being, did happen (for he cannot express it but by the Characters of a Chance) to have all the parts necessary not only for their own Lives, 176 but for the Continuation of their Kinds. This is the favourite Opinion, among the Atheists, and the most plausible of all; by which they think they may elude that most formidable Argument for the Being of God, from the admirable contrivance of Organical Bodies and the exquisite fitness of their several Parts for those Ends and Uses they are put to, and seem to have been designed for. For, say they, since those innumerable Instances of Blunder and Deformity were quickly removed out of Knowledge and Being; it is plain that no Animals ought now to be found, but such as have due Organs necessary for their own nourishment and increase of their Kinds: so that this Boasted Usefulness of Parts, which makes Men attribute their Origination to an intelligent and wise Agent, is really no argument at all: because it follows also from the Atheists Assertion. For since some Animals are actually preserved in Being till now, they must needs all of them have those parts that are of Use and Necessity: but That at first was only a Lucky Hit without Skill or Design, and ever since is a necessary condition of their Continuation. And so 177for instance when they are urged with the admirable Frame and Structure of the Eye; which consists of so great a Variety of Parts, all excellently adapted to the Uses of Vision; that (to omit Mathematical Considerations with relation to Optics) hath its many Coats and Humours transparent and colourless, lest it should tinge and sophisticate the Light that it lets in, by a natural Jaundice; that hath its Pupil so constituted, as to admit of Contraction and Dilatation according to the differing degrees of Light, and the Exigencies of seeing; that hath Eye-lids so commodiously placed, to cleanse the Ball from Dust, to shed necessary moisture upon it through numerous Glandules, and to be drawn over it like a Curtain for the convenience of sleep; that hath a thousand more Beauties in its figure and texture never studied nor admired enough: they will briskly reply, that they willingly concede all that can be laid in the commendation of so noble a member; yet notwithstanding they cannot admit for good reasoning, 111111   Psal. 94. 9.He that formed the Eye, shall not he see? For it was blind Nature 178alone or Matter mechanically moved without consciousness or direction, that made this curious Organ of Vision. For the short of the matter is this: This elegant structure of the Eye is no more than is necessary to Seeing; and this noble faculty of Seeing is no more than is necessary to Life; and consequently is included in the very suppositions of any Animals living and continuing till now; though those be but the very few that at the beginning had the good fortune to have Eyes, among many Millions of Monsters that were destitute of them, 112112   Lucret. Lib. 5.sine vultu cæca reperta, and therefore did fatally perish soon after their Birth. And thus when we insist on other like arguments of Divine Wisdom in the frame of Animate Bodies; as the artificial Volition of many Myriads of Valves, all so situate as to give a free passage to the Blood and other Humors in their due Chanels and Courses, but not permit them to regurgitate and disturb the great Circulation and Oeconomy of Life; as the Spiral, and nor Annulary, Fibres of the Intestines for the better Exercise of their Functions; 179as the provident furnishing of Temporary parts for the Fœtus during the time of gestation, which are afterwards laid aside; as the strange sagacity of little Insects in choosing fit Places for the Exclusion of their Eggs, and for the provision of proper food, when the young ones are hatcht and need it; as the ardent στοργὴ or natural Affection in those Animals, whose off-spring cannot at first procure their own sustenance, but must infallibly perish, if not fed by the Parents; as the untaught instincts and Impress upon every species, directing them without imitation or deliberation to the ready knowledge of proper food, to one and the best way of their preservation and defence, and to the never-failing propagation of their own kind: what-ever Considerations of this nature you propose to this Atheist, as indeed such Instances are innumerable, all evidently setting forth the Almighty’s Wisdom and Goodness to such as are able to judge, and will judge impartially; he hath this one subterfuge from them all, That those things are mistaken for tokens of Skill and Contrivance, though they be but necessary Consequences of the 180present Existence of those Creatures. For he that supposeth any Animals to subsist, doth by that very supposition allow them every Member and Faculty that are necessary to subsistence; such as are those we have just now enumerated. And therefore, unless we can prove a priori and independent of this Usefulness, now that Things are once supposed to have existed and propagated; That among almost infinite Trials and Essays at the beginning of things, among Millions of monstrous Shapes and imperfect Formations, a few such Animals, as now exist, could not possibly be produced; those After-Considerations are of very little moment: because if such Animals could in that way possibly be formed, as might live and move and propagate their Beings; all this admired and applauded Usefulness of their several Fabrics is but a necessary condition and consequence of their Existence and Propagation.

This is the last pretense and sophistry of the Atheists against the Proposition in my Text, That we received our Life and Being from a Divine Wisdom and Power. And as they cannot justly accuse 181me of any ways concealing or balking their grand Objection: so I believe these following Considerations will give them no reason to boast, That it cannot receive a just and satisfactory Answer.

(1) First therefore, we affirm that we can prove and have done it already by arguments à priori (which is the challenge of the Atheists) that these Animals, that now exist, could not possibly have been formed at first by millions of Trials. For since they allow by their very Hypothesis (and without standing to that Courtesy we have proved it before) that there can be no casual or spontaneous Motion of the Particles of Matter: it will follow that every single Monster among so many supposed 113113   Multaque tum tellus etiam Portenta creare, &c. Lucret. 5.Myriads must have been mechanically and necessarily formed according to the known Laws of Motion, and the temperament and quality of the Matter that it was made of. Which is sufficient to evince, that no such Monsters were or could have been formed. For to denominate them even Monsters; they must have had some 182rude kind of Organical Bodies; some Stamina of Life, though never so clumsy; some System of Parts compounded of Solids and Liquids, that executed, though but bunglingly, their peculiar Motions and Functions. But we have lately shewn it impossible for Nature unassisted to constitute such Bodies, whose stricture is against the Law of Specific Gravity. So that she could not make the least endeavour towards the producing of a Monster; or of any thing that hath more Vital and Organical Parts, than we find in a Rock of Marble or a Fountain of Water. And again, though we should not contend with them about their Monsters and Abortions; yet since they suppose even the perfect Animals, that are still in being, to have been formed mechanically among the rest; and only add some millions of Monsters to the reckoning; they are liable to all the Difficulties in the former Explication, and are expresly refuted through the whole preceding Sermon where it is abundantly shown, that a Spontaneous Production is against the Catholic Laws of Motion, and against Matter of Fact; a thing without Example, not only in 183Man and the nobler Animals, but in the Smallest of Insects and the Vilest of Weeds: though the Fertility of the Earth cannot be said to have been impaired since the beginning of the World.

(2) Secondly, we may observe that this Evasion of the Atheist is fitted only to elude such Arguments of Divine Wisdom, as are taken from things Necessary to the conservation of the Animal, as the Faculties of Sight and Motion and Nutrition, and the like; because such Usefulness is indeed included in a general Supposition of the Existence of that Animal: but it miserably fails him against other Reasons from such Members and Powers of the Body, as are not necessary absolutely to Living and Propagating, but only much conduce to our better Subsistence and happier Condition. So the most obvious Contemplation of the frame of our Bodies; as that we all have double Sensories, two Eyes, two Ears, two Nostrils, is an effectual Confutation of this Atheistical Sophism. For a double Organ of these Senses is not at all comprehended in the Notion of bare Existence: one of them being sufficient 184to have preserved Life, and kept up the Species; as common Experience is a witness. Nay even the very Nails of our Fingers are an infallible Token of Design and Contrivance: for they are useful and convenient to give strength and firmness to those Parts in the various Functions they are put to; and to defend the numerous Nerves and Tendons that are under them, which have a most exquisite sense of Pain, and without that native Armour would continually be exposed to it: and yet who will say, that Nails are absolutely necessary to Human Life, and are concluded in the Supposition of Simple Existence? It is manifest therefore, that there was a Contrivance and Foresight of the Usefulness of Nails antecedent to their Formation. For the old stale pretense of the Atheists, 114114   Lucret. lib. 4. Nil ideo quoniam natum est in corpore, ut uti Possemus: sed quod natum est, id procreat usum.That things were first made fortuitously, and afterwards their Usefulness was observ'd or discover’d, can have no place here; unless Nails were either absolutely requisite to the Existence of Mankind, or were found only in some Individuals or some Nations of men, and 185so might be ascribed to necessity upon one account, or to Fortune upon the other. But from the Atheists supposition, That among the infinite Diversity of the first terrestrial Productions, there were Animals of all imaginable shapes and Structures of Body, all of which survived and multiplied, that by reason of their Make and Fabric could possibly do so; it necessarily follows, that we should now have some Nations without Nails upon their Fingers; others with one Eye only as the Poets describe the Cyclopes in Sicily, and the Arimaspi in Scythia; others with one Ear, or one Nostril, or indeed without any Organ of Smelling, because that Sense is not necessary to Man’s subsistence; others destitute of the use of Language, since Mutes also may live: one People would have the Feet of Goats, as the feigned Satyrs and Panisci; another would resemble the Head of Juppiter Ammon, or the horned Statues of Bacchus; the 115115   Plinius & Strabo. Sciapodes, and Enotocætæ; and other monstrous Nations would no longer be Fables, but real instances in Nature: and, in a word, all the ridiculous and 186extravagant shapes that can be imagin’d, all the fancies and whimsies of Poets and Painters and Ægyptian Idolaters, if so be they are consistent with Life and Propagation, would be now actually in Being, if our Atheist’s Notion were true: which therefore may deservedly pass for a mere Dream and an Error: till they please to make new Discoveries in Terra Incognita, and bring along with them some Savages of all these fabulous and monstrous Configurations.

(3) But thirdly, that we may procede yet further with the Atheist, and convince him, that not only his Principle is absurd, but his Consequences also as absurdly deduced from it: we will allow him an uncertain extravagant Chance against the natural Laws of Motion: though not forgetting that that notion hath been refuted before, and therefore this Concession is wholly ex abundanti. I say then, that though there were really such a thing as this Chance or Fortune; yet nevertheless it would be extremely absurd to ascribe the Formation of Humane Bodies to a Cast of this Chance. For let us consider the very 187Bodies themselves. Here are confessedly all the marks and characters of Design in their structure, that can be required, though one suppose a Divine Author had made them; here is nothing in the Work it self, unworthy of so great a Master: here are no internal arguments from the Subject against the truth of that Supposition. Have we then any capacity to judge and distinguish, what is the Effect of Chance, and what is made by Art and Wisdom? When a Medal is dug out of the ground, with some Roman Emperor’s Image upon it, and an Inscription that agrees to his Titles and History, and an Impress upon the Reverie relating to some memorable occurrence in his Life; can we be sure, that this Medal was really coined by an Artificer, or is but a Product of the Soil from whence it was taken, that might casually or naturally receive that texture and figure: as many kinds of Fossils are very odly and elegantly shaped according to the modification of their constituent Salts, or the cavities they were formed in? Is it a matter of doubt and controversie, whether the Pillar of Trajan or Antoninus, 188the Ruins of Persepolis, or the late Temple of Minerva were the Designs and Works of Architecture; or perhaps might originally exist so, or be raised up in an Earthquake by subterraneous Vapour? Do not we all think our Caves infallibly certain, that this or that very commodious House must needs have been built by Humane Art; though perhaps a natural Cave in a Rock may have something not much unlike to Parlors or Chambers? And yet he must be a mere Idiot, that cannot discern more Strokes and Characters of Workmanship in the Structure of an Animal (in an Humane Body especially) than in the most elegant Medal or Edifice in the World. They will believe the first Parents of Mankind to have been fortuitously formed without Wisdom or Art: and that for this lorry reason, Because it is not simply impossible, but that they may have been formed so. And who can demonstrate (if Chance be once admitted of) but that possibly all the Inscriptions and other remains of Antiquity may be mere Lusus Naturæ, and not Works of Human Artifice? If this be good reasoning, let us no longer make 189pretences to Judgment or a faculty of discerning between things Probable and Improbable: for, except flat contradictions, we may upon equal reasons believe all things or nothing at all. And do the Atheists thus argue in common matters of Life? Would they have Mankind lie idle, and lay aside all care of Provisions by Agriculture or commerce; because possibly the Dissolution of the World may happen the next moment? 116116   Lucret. 5. Dictis dabit ipsa fidem res Forsitan, et graviter terrarum motibus orbis Omnia conquassari in parvo tempore cernes.Had Dinocrates really carved Mount Athos, into a Statue of Alexander the Great, and had the memory of the fact been obliterated by some accident; who could afterwards have proved it impossible, but that it might casuaally have been formed so? For every Mountain must have some determinate figure, and why then not a Humane one, as possibly as another? And yet I suppose none could have seriously believ’d so, upon this bare account of Possibility. ’Tis an opinion, that generally obtains among Philosophers, That there is but one Common Matter, which is diversified 190by Accidents, and the same numerical quantity of it by variation of Texture may constitute successively all kinds of Bodies in the World. So that ’tis not absolutely impossible; but that, if you take any other Matter of equal weight and substance with the Body of a Man, you may blend it so long, till it be shuffled into humane shape and an Organical structure. But who is he so abandon’d to sottilh credulity, as to think, upon that Principle, That a clod of Earth in a Sack may ever by eternal shaking receive the Fabric of Man’s Body? And yet this is very near a-kin, nay it is exactly parallel to the reasoning of Atheists about fortuitous Production. If mere Possibility be a good foundation for Belief; even Lucian’s True History may be true upon that account, and 117117   Palæph. Περὶ Απίστων De Incredibilibus.Palæphatus’s Tales may be credible in spite of the Title.

It hath been excellently well urged in this case both by Ancients and Moderns, that to attribute such admirable Structures to blind Fortune or Chance, is no less absurd than to suppose, That if innumerable figures of the XXIV Letters 191be cast abroad at random, they might constitute in due order the whole 118118   Cicero de Natura Deorum, 21. 37.Æneis of Virgil or the Annales of Ennius. Now the Atheists may pretend to elude this Comparison; as if the Case was not fairly stated. For herein we first make an Idea of a particular Poem; and then demand, if Chance can possibly describe That: and so we conceive Man’s Body thus actually formed, and then affirm that it excedes the power of Chance to constitute a Being like That: which, they may say, is to expect Imitation from Chance, and not simple Production. But at the fiat Beginning of things there was no Copy to be followed, nor any præ-existent Form of Humane Bodies to be imitated. So that to put the case fairly, we should strip our minds and fancies from any particular Notion and Idea of a Living Body or a Poem: and then we than understand, that what Shape and Structure soever should be at first casually formed, so that it could live and propagate, might be Man: and whatsoever should result from the strowing of those loose Letters, 192that made any Sense and Measures, might be the Poem we seek for.

To which we reply, That if we should allow them, that there was no præ-existent Idea of Humane Nature, till it was actually formed, (for the Idea of Man in the Divine Intellect must not now be consider’d) yet because they declare, that great Multitudes of each Species of Animals did fortuitously emerge out of the 119119   Lucret. 5. Hinc ubi quæque loci regio opportuna dabatur Crescebant uteri, &c. & ibidem. Inde loci mortalia sæcla creavit, Multa modis multis varia ratione coorta. Soil in distant Countries and Climates; what could that be less than Imitation in blind Chance, to make many Individuals of one Species so exactly alike? Nay though they should now, to cross us and evade the force of the Argument, desert their ancient Doctrine, and derive all sorts of Animals from single Originals of Each kind, which should be the common Parents of all the Race: yet surely even in this account they must necessarily allow Two at least Male and Female, in every Species: which Chance could neither make so very nearly alike, without Copying and Imitation: nor so usefully 193differing, without Contrivance and Wisdom. So that let them take whether they will: If they deduce all Animals from single pairs of a sort; even to make the Second of a Pair, is to write after a Copy; it is, in the former comparison, by the casting of loose Letters to compose the præ-existent particular Poem of Ennius: But if they make numerous Sons and Daughters a Earth among every Species Of Creatures, as all their Authors have supposed; this is not only, as was said before, to believe a Monky may once scribble the Leviathan of Hobbes, but may do the same frequently by an Habitual kind of Chance.

Let us consider, how next to impossible it is that Chance (if there were such a thing) should in such an immense Variety of Parts in an Animal twice hit upon the same Structure, so as to make a Male and Female. Let us resume the former instance of the XXIV Letters thrown at random upon the ground. ’Tis a Mathematical Demonstration, That these XXIV do admit of so many Changes in their order, 120120   Tacquetti Arithmes. cap. de Progressione.may make such a 194long roll of differently ranged Alphabets, not two of which are alike; that they could not all be exhausted, though a Million millions of writers should each write above a thousand Alphabets a-day for the space of a Million millions of years. What strength of Imagination can extend it self to embrace and comprehend such a prodigious Diversity? And it is as infallibly certain, that suppose any particular order of the Alphabet be assigned, and the XXIV Letters be cast at a venture, so as to fall in a Line; it is so many Million of millions odds to one against any single throw, that the assigned Order will not be cast. Let us now suppose, there be only a thousand constituent Members in the Body of a Man, (that we may take few enough) it is plain that the different Position and Situation of these thousand Parts, would make so many differing Compounds and distinct Species of Animals. And if only XXIV parts, as before, may be so multifariously placed and ordered, as to make many Millions of Millions of differing Rows: in the Supposition of a thousand parts, how immense must that capacity of variation 195be? even beyond all thought and denomination, to be expressed only in mute figures, whose multiplied Powers are beyond the narrowness of Language, and drown the Imagination in astonishment and confusion. Especially if we observe, that the Variety of the Alphabet consider’d above, was in mere Longitude only: but the Thousand parts of our Bodies may be Diversified by Situation in all the Dimensions of Solid Bodies: which multiplies all over and over again, and overwhelms the fancy in a new Abyss of unfathomable Number. Now it is demonstratively certain, that it is all this odds to one, against any particular trial, That no one man could by casual production be framed like another; (as the Atheists suppose thousands to be in several regions of the Earth;) and I think ’tis rather more odds than less, that no one Female could be added to a Male; in as much as that most necessary Difference of Sex is a higher token of Divine Wisdom and Skill, above all the power of Fortuitous Hits, than the very Similitude of both Sexes in the other parts of the Body. And again we must consider, that the 196vast imparity of this Odds against the accidental likeness of two Casual Formations is never lessen’d and diminish'd by Trying and Casting. ’Tis above a Hundred to one against any particular throw, That you do not cast any given Set of Faces with four Cubical Dice: because there are so many several Combinations of the six Faces of four Dice. Now after you have cast all the Hundred trials but one: ’tis still as much odds at the last remaining time, as it was at the first. For blind insensible Chance cannot grow cunning by many experiments; neither have the preceding Casts any influence upon those that come after. So that if this Chance of the Atheists should have essayed in vain to make a Species for a Million millions of Ages, ’tis as many Millions odds against that Formation, as it was at the first moment in the beginning of Things. How incredible is it therefore; that it should hit upon two Productions alike, 121121   Lucret. 5. Verum, ut opinor, habet novitatm Summa, reensque Natura est mundi, neque pridem exordia cepit.within so short duration of the world, according to the Doctrine of our Atheists? how much more, that it should do so within 197the compass of a hundred years, and of a small tract of Ground; so that this Male and Female might come together? If any Atheist can be induced to stake his Soul for a wager, against such an inexhaustible disproportion; let him never hereafter accuse others of Easiness and Credulity.

(4) But fourthly, we will still make more ample Concessions, and suppose with the Atheist, that his Chance has actually formed all Animals in their terrestrial Wombs. Let us see now, how he will preserve them to Maturity of Birth. What Climate will he cherish them in, that they be not inevitably destroyed by Moisture or Cold? Where is that æquability of Nine Months warmth to be found? that uniform warmth, which is so necessary even in the incubation of Birds, much more in the time of gestation of Viviparous Animals. I know, his Party have placed this great Scene in 122122   Cesalpin. Berigard.Ægypt, or some where between the two Tropics. Now not to mention the Cool of the Nights, which alone would destroy the Conceptions; ’tis known that all those Countries 198have either incessant Rains every year for whole months together, or are quite laid under water by Floods from the higher Grounds; which would certainly corrupt and putrefy all the teeming Wombs of the Earth, and extinguish the whole brood of Embryons by untimely Abortions.

(5) But fifthly, we will still be more obliging to this Atheist, and grant him his petition, That Nature may bring forth the young Infants vitally into the World. Let us see now what Sustenance, what Nurses he hath provided for them. If we consider the present Constitution of Nature; we must affirm, that most Species must have been lost for want of fostering and feeding. ’Tis a great mistake, that Man only comes weak and helpless into the world: whereas ’tis apparent, that excepting Fish and Insects (and not all of them neither) there are very few or no Creatures, that can provide for themselves at .first without the assistance of Parents. So that unless they suppose Mother Earth to be a great Animal, and to have nurtured up her young Off-spring with a conscious Tenderness and providential 199Care; there is no possible help for it, but they must have been doubly starved both with hunger and cold.

(6) But sixthly, we will be yet more civil to this Atheist, and forgive him this Difficulty also. Let us suppose the first Animals maintain’d themselves with food, though we cannot tell how. But then what security hath he made for the Preservation of Human Race from the Jaws of ravenous Beasts; The Divine Writers have acquainted us, that God at the beginning gave Mankind Dominion (an impressed awe and authority) 123123   Gen. 1. 28.over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth. But in the Atheists Hypothesis there are no imaginable means of Defence. For ’tis manifest, that so many Beasts of Prey, Lions, Tigres, Wolves, and the like, being of the same age with Man, and arriving at the top of their strength in one year or two, must needs have worried and devoured those forlorn Brats of our Atheists even before they were wean’d from the 124124   Lucret. 5.Foramina Terræ, or at least in a short time after: since all the Carnivorous Animals would have multiplied exceedingly 200by several Generations, before those Children that escaped at first, could come to the Age of Puberty. So that Men would always lessen, and their Enemies always encrease.

But some of them will here pretend, that Epicurus was out in this matter; and that they were not born mere Infants out of those Wombs of the Earth; but Men at their full growth, and in the prime of their strength. But I pray what should hinder those grown lusty Infants, from breaking sooner those Membranes that involved them; as the Shell of the Egg is broken by the Bird, and the Amnion by the Fœtus? Were the Membranes so thick and tough, that the Fœtus must stay there, till he had Teeth to eat through them, as young Maggots do through a Gall? But let us answer these Fools according to their Folly. Let us grant, that they were born with Beards, and in the full time of Manhood. They are not yet in a better condition: here are still many Enemies against few, many Species against One; and those Enemies speedily multiplying in the second and third and much lower Generations; whereas the Sons of the First 201Men must have a tedious time of Childhood and Adolescence, before they can either themselves assist their Parents, or encourage them with new hopes of Posterity. And we must consider withal, that (in the potion of Atheism) those Savages were not then, what civilized Mankind is now; but Mutum & turpe pecus, without Language, without mutual Society, without Arms of Offence, without Houses or Fortifications; an obvious and exposed Prey to the ravage of devouring Beasts; a most sorry and miserable Plantation towards the Peopling of a World.

And now that I have followed the Atheists through so many dark mazes of Error and Extravagance: having to my knowledge omitted nothing on their side, that looks like a Difficulty; nor proposed any thing in Reply, but what I my self really believe to be a just and solid Answer: I shall here close up the Apostle’s Argument of the Existence of God from the consideration of Human Nature. And I appeal to all sober and impartial Judges of what hath been deliver’d; Whether those Noble Faculties 202of our Souls may be only a mere Sound and Echo from the clashing of senseless Atoms, or rather indubitably must procede from a Spiritual Substance of a Heavenly and Divine Extraction: whether these admirable Fabrics of our Bodies shall! be ascribed to the fatal Motions or fortuitous Shufflings of blind Matter, or rather beyond controversy to the Wisdom and Contrivance of the Almighty Author of all things, 125125   Isai. 28. 29.Who is wonderful its Counsel, and Excellent in Working. To whom, &c.

203
« Prev Serm. V. 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 |