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Proposition II. There must have existed from eternity one independent being.

II. Proposition II: There must have existed from eternity one independent being. There has existed from eternity,33   The meaning of this proposition, (and all that the argument here requires,) is, that there must needs have always been some independent being, some one at least. To show that there can be no more than one, is not the design of this proposition, but of the seventh. some one unchangeable and independent being. For since something must needs have been from eternity, as has been already proved, and is granted on all hands, either there has always existed some one unchangeable and independent being, from which all other beings that are or ever were in the universe have received their original; or else there has been an infinite succession of changeable and dependent beings, produced one from another, in an endless progression, without any original cause at all. Now this latter supposition is so very absurd, that though all atheism must in its account of most things (as shall be shown hereafter,) terminate in it, yet I think very 11few atheists ever were so weak as openly and directly to defend it; for it is plainly impossible, and contradictory to itself. I shall not argue against it from the supposed impossibility of infinite succession, barely and absolutely considered in itself; for a reason which shall be mentioned hereafter. But, if we consider such an infinite progression, as one entire endless series of dependent beings, it is plain this whole series of beings can have no cause from without, of its existence; because in it are supposed to be included all things that are or ever were in the universe: And it is plain it can have no reason within itself, of its existence; because no one being in this infinite succession is supposed to be self-existent or necessary, (which is the only ground or reason of existence of any thing that can be imagined within the thing itself, as will presently more fully appear,) but every one dependent on the foregoing: and where no part is necessary, it is manifest the whole cannot be necessary: absolute necessity of existence, not being an extrinsic, relative, and accidental denomination, but an inward and essential property of the nature of the thing which so exists. An infinite succession, therefore, of merely dependent beings, without any original independent cause, is a series of beings that has neither necessity, nor cause, nor any reason or ground at all of its existence, either within itself or from without; that is, it is an express contradiction and impossibility; it is a supposing something to be caused, (because it is granted in every one of its stages of succession, not to be necessarily and of itself;) and yet that, in the whole, it is caused absolutely by nothing; which every man knows is a contradiction to imagine done in time; and, because duration in this case makes no difference, it is equally a contradiction to suppose it done from eternity; and, consequently, there must, on the contrary, of necessity, have existed from eternity some one immutable and independent being.

To suppose an infinite succession of changeable 12and dependent beings produced one from another in an endless progression, without any original cause at all, is only44   This matter has been well illustrated by a late able writer.—“Suppose a chain hung down out of the heavens, from an unknown height; and, though every link of it gravitated toward the earth, and what it hung upon was not visible, yet it did not descend, but kept its situation: And, upon this, a question should arise, What supported or kept up this chain? Would it be a sufficient answer to say, that the first or lowest link hung upon the second, or that next above it; the second, or rather the first and second together, upon the third; and so on in infinitum? For, what holds up the whole? A chain of ten links, would fall down, unless something able to bear it hindered: One of twenty, if not stayed by something of a yet greater strength, in proportion to the increase of weight. And therefore one of infinite links, certainly; if not sustained by something infinitely strong, and capable to bear up an infinite weight: And thus it is in a chain of causes and effects, tending, or (as it were) gravitating, towards some end. The last, or lowest, depends, or, (as one may say) is suspended upon the cause above it. This, again, if it be not the first cause, is suspended, as an effect, upon something above it, &c. And if they should be infinite, unless (agreeably to what has been said) there is some cause, upon which all hang or depend, they would be but an infinite effect without an efficient: and to assert there is any such thing, would be as great an absurdity as to say, that a finite or little weight wants something to sustain it, but an infinite one (or the greatest) does not.”—Religion of Nature Delineated, page 67. a driving back from one step to another, and (as it were) removing out of sight, the question concerning the ground or reason of the existence of things. It is in reality, and in point of argument, the very same supposition, as it would be to suppose one continued being, of beginningless and endless duration, neither self-existent and necessary in itself, nor having its existence founded in any self-existent cause; which is directly absurd and contradictory.

Otherwise, thus: Either there has always existed some one unchangeable and independent being, from which all other beings have received their original; or else there has been an infinite succession of changeable and dependent beings, produced one from another, in an endless progression, without any original 13cause at all. According to this latter supposition, there is nothing in the universe self-existent or necessarily-existing: and, if so, then it was originally equally possible, that from eternity there should never have existed any thing at all, as that there should from eternity have existed a succession of changeable and dependent beings: which being supposed, then, what is it that has from eternity determined such a succession of beings to exist, rather than that from eternity there should never have existed any thing at all? Necessity it was not; because it was equally possible, in this supposition, that they should not have existed at all. Chance is nothing but a mere word, without any signification: And other being it is supposed there was none, to determine the existence of these. Their existence, therefore, was determined by nothing; neither by any necessity in the nature of the things themselves, because it is supposed that none of them are self-existent; nor by any other being, because no other is supposed to exist. That is to say; of two equally possible things, (viz. whether any thing or nothing should from eternity have existed,) the one is determined, rather than the other, absolutely by nothing; which is an express contradiction. And, consequently, as before, there must on the contrary, of necessity, have existed, from eternity, some one immutable and independent being, which, what it is, remains in the next place to be inquired.


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