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Proposition III. The one independent Being must be necessarily existing.

Proposition III: The one independent Being must be necessarily existing. III. That unchangeable and independent Being, which has existed from eternity, without any external cause of its existence, must be self-existent, that is, necessarily existing. For whatever exists, must either have come into being out of nothing, absolutely without cause; or it must have been produced by some external cause; or it must be self-existent. Now, to arise out of nothing, absolutely without any cause, has been already shown to be a plain contradiction. To have been produced by some external 14cause, cannot possibly be true of every thing; but something must have existed eternally and independently, as has likewise been shown already. It remains, therefore, that that being which has existed independently from eternity must of necessity be self-existent. Now, to be self-existent is not to be produced by itself; for that is an express contradiction. But it is, (which is the only idea we can frame of self-existence; and without which, the word seems to have no signification at all;) it is, I say, to exist by an absolute necessity originally in the nature of the thing itself: And this necessity must be antecedent; not, indeed, in time, to the existence of the being itself, because that is eternal; but it must be antecedent in the natural order of our ideas, to our supposition of its being; that is, this necessity must not barely be consequent upon our supposition of the existence of such a being; (for then it would not be a necessity absolutely such in itself, nor be the ground or foundation of the existence of any thing, being on the contrary only a consequent of it;) but it must antecedently force itself upon us, whether we will or no, even when we are endeavouring to suppose that no such being exists. For example: when we are endeavouring to suppose, that there is no being in the universe that exists necessarily, we always find in our minds, Page 10, &c. (besides the foregoing demonstration of something being self-existent, from the impossibility of every thing’s being dependent;) we always find in our minds, I say, some ideas, as of infinity and eternity; which to remove, that is, to suppose that there is no being, no substance in the universe, to which these attributes or modes of existence are necessarily inherent, is a contradiction in the very terms. For modes and attributes exist only by the existence of the substance to which they belong. Now, he that can suppose eternity and immensity (and consequently the substance by whose existence these modes or attributes exist,) removed out of the universe, may, if 15he please, as easily remove the relation of equality between twice two and four.

That to suppose immensity removed out of the universe, or not necessarily eternal, is an express contradiction; is intuitively evident to every one who attends to his own ideas, and considers the essential nature of things. To suppose55   Moveantur partes spatii de locis suis, et movebuntur (ut ita dicam) de seipsis.Newton. Princip. lib. I. Schol. ad Definit. 8. any part of space removed, is to suppose it removed from and out of itself: and to suppose the whole to be taken away, is supposing it to be taken away from itself, that is, to be taken away while it still remains; which is a contradiction in terms. There is no obscurity in this argument but what arises to those who think immense space to be absolutely nothing: which notion is itself likewise an express contradiction; for nothing is that which has no properties or modes whatsoever; that is to say, it is that of which nothing can truly be affirmed, and of which every thing can truly be denied; which is not the case of immensity or space.

From this third proposition it follows,

1st, That the only true idea of a self-existent or The true notion of self existence. Pages 10 and 14. necessarily-existing being, is the idea of a being, the supposition of whose not-existing is an express contradiction. For since it is absolutely impossible but there must be somewhat self-existent; that is, which exists by the necessity of its own nature; it is plain that that necessity cannot be a necessity consequent upon any foregoing supposition, (because nothing can be antecedent to that which is self-existent, no not its own will, so as to be the cause or ground of its own existence,) but it must be a necessity absolutely such in its own nature. Now, a necessity, not relatively or consequentially, but absolutely such in its own nature, is nothing else but its being a plain impossibility or implying a contradiction to suppose the contrary. For instance; the relation of equality 16between twice two and four is an absolute necessity only because it is an immediate contradiction in terms to suppose them unequal. This is the only idea we can frame of an absolute necessity; and to use the word in any other sense seems to be using it without any signification at all.

If any one now asks, what sort of idea the idea of that being is, the supposition of whose not-existing is thus an express contradiction; I answer, it is the first and simplest idea we can possibly frame; an idea necessarily and essentially included or presupposed, as a sine qua non, in every other idea whatsoever; an idea, which (unless we forbear thinking at all) we cannot possibly extirpate or remove out of our minds; of a most simple being, absolutely eternal and infinite, original and independent. For, that he who supposes there is no original independent being in the universe, supposes a contradiction, has been shown already. And that he who supposes there may possibly be no eternal and infinite being in the universe supposes likewise a contradiction, is evident from hence; (besides that these two attributes do necessarily follow from self-originate independent existence, as shall be shown hereafter;) that when he has done his utmost, in endeavouring to imagine that no such being exists, he cannot avoid imagining an eternal and infinite66   See the Answer to a Seventh Letter, at the end of this Book. nothing; that is, he will imagine eternity and immensity removed out of the universe, and yet that at the same time they still continue there; as has been above77   Page 15. distinctly explained.

This The error of the Cartesians. argument the Cartesians, who supposed the idea of immensity to be the idea of matter, have been greatly perplexed with. For, (however in words they have contradicted themselves, yet in reality) they have more easily been driven to that most intolerable 17absurdity of asserting matter88   Puto implicare contradictionem, ut mundus sit finitus: i. e. I think it implies a contradiction for the world to be finite.—Cartes. Epist. 69. primæ partis.
   And his follower Mr. Regis, Mais peutê tre (saith he) que je raisonne mal, &c. i. e. But perhaps I argue ill, when I conclude that the property my idea hath to represent extension, [that is, in the sense of the Cartesians, matter,] comes from extension itself as its cause. For, what hinders me from believing that if this property comes not from myself, yet at least it may come from some spirit [or being] superior to me, which produces in me the idea of extension, though extension does not actually exist? Yet when I consider the thing attentively, I find that my conclusion is good; and that no spirit [or being] how excellent soever, can cause the idea which I have of extension to represent to me extension rather than any thing else, if extension does not actually exist; because if he should do so, the idea which I should then have of extension would not be a representation of extension, but a representation of nothing; which is impossible.

   But it may be I still deceive myself, when I say that the idea I have of extension supposes an object actually existing. For it seems that I have ideas, which do not suppose any object: I have, for example, the idea of an enchanted castle; though no such thing really exists. Yet when I consider the difficulty still more attentively, I find there is this difference between the idea of extension, and that of an enchanted castle, that the first, being natural, that is, independent on my will, supposes an object which is necessarily such as it represents, whereas the other, being artificial, supposes indeed an object, but it is not necessary that that object be absolutely such as the idea represents, because my will can add to that object, or diminish from it, as it pleases, as I have before said, and as shall be proved hereafter, when I come to treat of the origin of ideas.—Regis Metaphys. lib. I. par. 1. cap. 3.
to be a necessary being; than being able to remove out of their minds the idea of immensity, as existing necessarily and inseparably from eternity. Which absurdity and inextricable perplexity of theirs, in respect of the idea of immensity, shows that they found that indeed to be necessary and impossible to be removed; but, in respect of matter, it was only a perverse applying an idea to an object, whereto it noways belongs; for, that it is indeed absolutely impossible and contradictory to suppose matter necessarily-existing, shall be demonstrated presently.

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2dly. Nothing so certain as the existence of a supreme independent cause. From hence it follows, that there is no man whatsoever, who makes any use of his reason, but may easily become more certain of the being of a supreme independent cause, than he can be of any thing else besides his own existence; for how much thought soever it may require to demonstrate the other attributes of such a being, as it may do to demonstrate the greatest mathematical certainties, (of which more hereafter,) yet, as to its existence, that there is somewhat eternal, infinite, and self-existing, which must be the cause and origin of all other things; this is one of the first and most natural conclusions that any man, who thinks at all, can frame in his mind: and no man can any more doubt of this, than he can doubt whether twice two be equal to four.—It is impossible, indeed, a man may in some sense be ignorant of this first and plain truth, by being utterly stupid, and not thinking at all; (for though it is absolutely impossible for him to imagine the contrary, yet he may possibly neglect to conceive this: though no man can possibly think that twice two is not four, yet he may possibly be stupid, and never have thought at all whether it be so or not.) But this I say: there is no man, who thinks or reasons at all, but may easily become more certain, that there is something eternal, infinite, and self-existing, than he can be certain of any thing else.

3dly. Of the idea of God, including self-existence. Hence we may observe, that our first certainty of the existence of God does not arise from this, that in the idea our minds frame of him, (or rather in the definition that we make of the word God, as signifying a being of all possible perfections,) we include self-existence; but from hence, that it is demonstrable both negatively, that neither can all things possibly have arisen out of nothing, nor can they have depended one on another in an endless succession; and also positively, that there is something in the universe, actually existing without us, the supposition of whose not-existing plainly implies a contradiction. The argument which has by 19some been drawn from our including self-existence in the idea of God, or our comprehending it in the definition or notion we frame of him, has this obscurity and defect in it: that it seems to extend only to the nominal idea or mere definition of a self-existent being, and does not with a sufficiently evident connexion refer and apply that general nominal idea, definition, or notion which we frame in our own mind, to any real particular being actually existing without us. For it is not satisfactory, that I have in my mind an idea of the proposition; there exists a being indued with all possible perfections; or, there is a self-existent being. But I must also have some idea of the thing. I must have an idea of something actually existing without me. And I must see wherein consists the absolute impossibility of removing that idea, and consequently of supposing the non-existence of the thing, before I can be satisfied, from that idea, that the thing actually exists. The bare having an idea of the proposition there is a self-existent being, proves indeed the thing not to be impossible; (for of an impossible proposition there can be no idea;) but that it actually is, cannot be proved from the idea; unless the certainty of the actual existence of a necessarily-existing being follows from the possibility of the existence of such a being; which that it does in this particular case, many learned men have indeed thought; and their subtile arguings upon this head are sufficient to raise a cloud not very easy to be seen through. But it is a much clearer and more convincing way of arguing, to demonstrate that there does actually exist without us a being, whose existence is necessary and of itself; by shewing the evident contradiction contained in the contrary supposition, (as I have before done,) and at the same time the absolute impossibility of destroying or removing some ideas, as of eternity and immensity, which therefore must needs be modes or attributes of a necessary being actually existing. For if I have 20in my mind an idea of a thing, and cannot possibly in my imagination take away the idea of that thing as actually existing, any more than I can change or take away the idea of the equality of twice two to four; the certainty of the existence of that thing is the same, and stands on the same foundation as the certainty of the other relation. For the relation of equality between twice two and four has no other certainty but this; that I cannot, without a contradiction, change or take away the idea of that relation. We are certain, therefore, of the being of a supreme independent cause; because it is strictly demonstrable, that there is something in the universe actually existing without us, the supposition of whose not-existing plainly implies a contradiction.

Some writers have contended,99   See the Answer to a Seventh Letter at the end of this book. that it is preposterous to inquire in this manner at all into the ground or reason of the existence of the first cause: because evidently the first cause can have nothing prior to it, and consequently must needs (they think) exist absolutely without any cause at all. That the first cause can have no other being prior to it, to be the cause of its existence, is indeed self-evident. But if originally, absolutely, and antecedently to all supposition of existence, there be no necessary ground or reason why the first cause does exist, rather than not exist; if the first cause can rightly and truly be affirmed to exist, absolutely without any ground or reason of existence at all, it will unavoidably follow, by the same argument, that it may as well cease likewise to exist, without any ground or reason of ceasing to exist: which is absurd. The truth therefore plainly is: Whatever is the true reason, why the first cause can never possibly cease to exist, the same is, and originally and always was, the true reason why it always did and cannot but exist: that is, it is the true ground and reason of its existence.

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4thly. From hence it follows, that the material That the material world cannot possibly be the self-existent being. world cannot possibly be the first and original being, uncreated, independent, and of itself eternal. For since it hath been already demonstrated, that whatever being hath existed from eternity, independent, and without any external cause of its existence, must be self-existent; and that whatever is self-existent, must exist necessarily by an absolute necessity in the nature of the thing itself. It follows evidently, that unless the material world exists necessarily by an absolute necessity in its own nature, so as that it must be an express contradiction to suppose it not to exist, it cannot be independent, and of itself eternal. Now that the material world does not exist thus necessarily, is very evident. For absolute necessity of existing, and a possibility of not existing, being contradictory ideas, it is manifest the material world cannot exist necessarily, if without a contradiction we can conceive it either not to be, or to be in any respect otherwise than it now is; than which, nothing is more easy. For whether we consider the form of the world, with the disposition and motion of its parts, or whether we consider the matter of it, as such, without respect to its present form, every thing in it,—both the whole and every one of its parts, their situation and motion, the form and also the matter, are the most arbitrary and dependent things, and the farthest removed from necessity, that can possibly be imagined. A necessity indeed of fitness, that is, a necessity that things should be as they are, in order to the well-being of the whole, there may be in all these things: but an absolute necessity of nature in any of them, (which is what the atheist must maintain,) there is not the least appearance of. If any man will say in this sense, (as every atheist must do,) either that the form of the world, or at least the matter and motion of it, is necessary, nothing can possibly be invented more absurd.

If he says, that the particular form is necessary; 22that is, The form of the world not necessary. that the world, and all things that are therein, exist by necessity of nature, he must affirm it to be a contradiction to suppose that any part of the world can be in any respect otherwise than it now is. It must be a contradiction in terms, to suppose more or fewer stars, more or fewer planets, or to suppose their size, figure, or motion different from what it now is; or to suppose more or fewer plants and animals upon earth, or the present ones of different shape and bigness from what they now are. In all which things there is the greatest arbitrariness, in respect of power and possibility, that can be imagined; however necessary any of them may be, in respect of wisdom, and preservation of the beauty and order of the whole.

If Nor its motion. the atheist will say, that the motion in general of all matter is necessary, it follows that it must be a contradiction in terms to suppose any matter to be at rest; which is so absurd and ridiculous, that I think hardly any atheists, either ancient or modern, have presumed directly to suppose it.

One late author1010   Mr Toland, Letter III. indeed has ventured to assert, and pretended to prove, that motion (that is, the conatusto motion, the tendency to move, the power or force that produces actual motion,) is essential to all matter. But how philosophically, may appear from this one consideration: The essential tendency to motion, of every one, or of any one particle of matter in this author’s imaginary infinite plenum, must be either a tendency to move some one determinate way at once, or to move every way at once. A tendency to move some one determinate way cannot be essential to any particle of matter, but must arise from some external cause; because there is nothing in the pretended necessary nature of any particle to determine its motion necessarily and essentially one way rather than another. And a tendency 23or conatus equally to move every way at once, is either an absolute contradiction, or at least could produce nothing in matter but an eternal rest of all and every one of its parts.

If the atheist will suppose motion necessary and essential to some matter, but not to all, the same absurdity, as to the determination of motion, still follows; and now he moreover supposes an absolute necessity not universal; that is, that it shall be a contradiction to suppose some certain matter at rest though at the same time some other matter actually be at rest.

If Nor the bare matter. he only affirms bare matter to be necessary then, besides the extreme folly of attributing motion and the form of the world to chance, (which senseless opinion I think all atheists have now given up; and therefore I shall not think myself obliged to take any notice of it in the sequel of this discourse;) it may be demonstrated, by many arguments drawn from the nature and affections of the thing itself, that matter is not a necessary being. For instance, thus: Tangibility, or resistance, (which is what mathematicians very properly call vis inertiæ, is essential to matter; otherwise the word matter will have no determinate signification. Tangibility, therefore, or resistance, belonging to all matter, it follows evidently, that, if all space were filled with matter, the resistance of all fluids (for the resistance of the parts of hard bodies arises from another cause,) would necessarily be equal. For greater or less degrees of fineness or subtilty can in this case make no difference; because the smaller or finer the parts of the fluid are, wherewith any particular space is filled, the greater in proportion is the number of the parts; and consequently the resistance still always equal. But experience shows, on the contrary, that the resistance of all fluids is not equal; there being large spaces in which no sensible resistance at all is made to the swiftest and most lasting motion of the solidest bodies. Therefore all space is not filled with 24matter; but, of necessary consequence, there must be a vacuum.

Or thus. It appears from experiments of falling bodies, and from experiments of pendulums, which (being of equal lengths and unequal gravities,) vibrate in equal times; that all bodies whatsoever, in spaces void of sensible resistance, fall from the same height with equal velocities. Now, it is evident, that whatever force causes unequal bodies to move with equal velocities, must be proportional to the quantities of the bodies moved. The power of gravity therefore in all bodies, is, (at equal distances, suppose from the centre of the earth,) proportional to the quantity of matter contained in each body. For if, in a pendulum, there were any matter that did not gravitate proportionally to its quantity, the vis inertiæ of that matter would retard the motion of the rest, so as soon to be discovered in pendulums of equal lengths and unequal gravities in spaces void of sensible resistance. Gravity, therefore, is in all bodies1111   Neutoni Princip. Philosoph. edit. 1ma. p. 304. edit. 2da. p. 272. edit. 3tia. p. 294. proportional to the quantity of their matter. And consequently, all bodies not being equally heavy, it follows again necessarily, that there must be a vacuum.1212   Neutoni Princip. Philosoph. edit. 1ma. p. 411. edit. 2da, p. 368.

Now, if there be a vacuum, it follows plainly, that matter is not a necessary being. For if a vacuum actually be, then it is evidently more than possible for matter not to be. If an atheist will yet assert, that matter may be necessary, though not necessary to be everywhere, I answer, this is an express contradiction: for absolute necessity is absolute necessity everywhere alike. And if it be no impossibility for matter to be absent from one place, it is no impossibility (absolutely in the nature of the thing; for no relative or consequential necessity can have any room in this argument,) it is no absolute impossibility, I 25say, in the nature of the thing, that matter should be absent from any other place, or from every place.

Spinoza, Spinoza’s opinion confuted. the most celebrated patron of atheism in our time, who taught that there is no difference of substances,1313   Una substantia non potest produci ab alia substantia. Et hi par. 1. prop. 6.
   Omnis substantia est necessaria infinita. Ibid. prop. 8.

   Ad naturam substantiæ pertinet existere. Ibid. prop. 7.
but that the whole and every part of the material world is a necessarily-existing being, and that there is no other God but the universe;1414   Præter Deum nulla dari neque concipi potest substantia. Ibid. prop. 14. that he might seemingly avoid the manifold absurdities of that opinion, endeavours by an ambiguity of expression, in the progress of his discourse, to elude the arguments by which he foresaw his assertion would be confuted. For, having first plainly asserted, that all substance is necessarily-existing,1515   Ad naturam substantiæ pertinet existere. Prop. 7. he would afterward seem to explain it away, by asserting, that the reason why every thing exists necessarily,1616   Res, nullo alio modo, neque alio ordine, a Deo produci potuerunt quam productæ sunt. Prop. 33.
   Ex necessitate Divinæ Naturæ, infinita infinitis modis (hoc est, omnia quæ sub intellectum infinitum cadere possunt,) sequi debent. Prop 16.
and could not possibly have been in any respect different from what it now is, is because every thing flows from the necessity of the divine nature. By which, if the unwary reader understands, that he means things are therefore necessarily such as they are, because infinite wisdom and goodness could not possibly make things but in that order which is fittest and wisest in the whole, he is very much mistaken: for such a necessity is not a natural, but only a moral and consequential necessity, and directly contrary to the author’s true intention. Further, if the reader hereby understands, that God was determined, not by a necessity of wisdom and goodness, but by a mere natural necessity, exclusive of will and choice, 26to make all things just as they now are; neither is this the whole of Spinoza’s meaning: for this, as absurd as it is, is still supposing God as a substance distinct from the material world; which he expressly denies.1717   Locis supra citatis. Nay, further, if any one thinks his meaning to be, that all substances in the world are only modifications of the divine essence, neither is this all; for thus God may still be supposed as an agent, acting upon himself at least, and manifesting himself in different manners, according to his own will; which Spinoza expressly denies.1818   Deum non operari ex libertate voluntatis. Prop. 32. corol. 1. et scholium ad prop. 17. But his true meaning, therefore, however darkly and ambiguously he sometimes speaks, must be this; and if he means any thing at all consistent with himself, can be no other than this: that, since it is absolutely1919   Una substantia non potest produci ab alia substantia. Prop. 6. impossible for any thing to be created or produced by another; and2020   Res, nullo alio modo, neque alio ordine, a Deo produci potuerunt quam productæ sunt. Prop. 33. also absolutely impossible for God to have caused any thing to be in any respect different from what it now is; every thing that exists, must needs be so a part2121   Præter Deum nulla dari, neque concipi potest substantia. Prop. 14. of the divine substance, not as a modification caused in it by any2222   Deum non operari ex libertate voluntatis. Prop. 32. corol. 1. will or good-pleasure, or wisdom in the whole, but as of absolute necessity in itself, with respect to the manner2323   Nullo alio modo, neque ordine, &c. of the existence of each part, no less than with respect to the self-existence of the whole. Thus the opinion of Spinoza, when expressed plainly and consistently, comes evidently to this; that the material world, and every part of it, with the order and manner of being of each part, is the only self-existent, or necessarily-existing being. And now, consequently, he must of necessity affirm all the conclusions which I have before 27shown to follow demonstrably from that opinion. He cannot possibly avoid affirming, that it is a contradiction, (not to the perfections of God, for that is mere senseless cant and amusement in him who maintains that there is but one substance in the universe; but he must affirm that it is in itself and in terms a contradiction,) for any thing to be, or to be imagined, in any respect otherwise than it now is. He must say it is a contradiction, to suppose the number, or figure, or order of the several parts of the world, could possibly have been different from what they now are. He must say, motion is necessarily of itself, and consequently that it is a contradiction in terms to suppose any matter to be at rest; or else he must affirm, (which is rather the more absurd of the two, as may appear from what has been already said in proof of the second general head of this discourse;2424   Corpus motum, vel quiescens, ad motum vel quietem determinari debuit ab alio corpore, quod etiam ad motum vel quietum determinatum fuit ab alio, et illud iterum ab alio, et sic in infinitum. Par. II. prop. 13. lemma 3. and yet he has chosen to affirm it;) that motion, as a dependent being, has been eternally communicated from one piece of matter to another, without having at all any original cause of its being, either within itself or from without, which, with other the like consequences touching the necessity of the existence of things, (the very mention of which is a sufficient confutation of any opinion they follow from,) do, as I have said, unavoidably follow from the fore-mentioned opinion of Spinoza. And consequently, that opinion, viz. that the universe, or whole world, is the self-existent or necessarily-existing being, is demonstrated to be false.

I have, in this attempt to show that the material world cannot possibly be the first and original being, uncreated, independent, and self-existent, designedly omitted the argument usually drawn from the supposed absolute impossibility, in the nature of the thing itself, of the world’s being eternal, or having 28existed through an infinite succession of time; and this I have done for the two following reasons.

1st. Of the opinion concerning the eternity of the world. Because the question between us and the atheists is not whether the world can possibly have been eternal, but whether it can possibly be the original, independent self-existing being?—which is a very different question. For many, who have affirmed the one, have still utterly denied the other. And almost all the ancient philosophers, that held the eternity of the world, in whose authority and reasons our modern atheists do so greatly boast and triumph, defended that their opinion by such arguments as show plainly that they did by no means thereby intend to assert that the material world was the original, independent, self-existing being, in opposition to the belief of the existence of a supreme all-governing mind, which is the notion of God. So that the deniers of the being of God have no manner of advantage from that opinion of the eternity of the world, even supposing it could not be disproved. Almost all the old philosophers, I say, who held the eternity of the world, did not thereby mean (at least their arguments do not tend to prove) that it was independent and self-existent; but their arguments are wholly levelled, either to prove barely that something must needs be eternal, and that the universe could not possibly arise out of nothing absolutely and without cause; which is all that Ocellus Lucanus’s arguments amount to: or else that the world is an eternal and necessary effect, flowing from the essential and immutable energy of the divine nature; which seems to have been Aristotle’s opinion: or else that the world is an eternal voluntary emanation from the all-wise and supreme cause; which was the opinion of many of Plato’s followers. None of which opinions or arguments will in the least help out our modern atheists; who would exclude supreme mind and intelligence out of the universe. For, however the opinion of the eternity of the world is really inconsistent with the belief of its being created in time, 29yet so long as the defenders of that opinion either did not think it inconsistent with the belief of the world’s being the effect and work of an eternal, all-wise, and all-powerful mind; or at least could defend that opinion by such arguments only as did not in the least prove the self-existence or independency of the world, but most of them rather quite the contrary; it is with the greatest injustice and unreasonableness in the world, that modern atheists (to whose purpose the eternity or non-eternity of the world would signify nothing, unless at the same time the existence and sovereignty of eternal intelligence or mind were likewise disproved,) pretend either the authority or the reasons of these men to be on their side.

Ocellus Lucanus, one of the ancientest asserters of the eternity of the world, (whose antiquity and authority2525   Oracles of Reason; Letter to Mr Gildon, p. 216. Mr Blunt opposes to that of Moses,) in delivering his opinion, speaks, indeed, like one that believed the material world to be self-existent; asserting,2626   Ἀγέννητον τὸ πᾶν καὶ ἀνώλεθρον.
   Ἄναρχον καὶ ἀτελέυτήιον.

   Κόσμος ἀυτὸς ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ ἀϊδιός ἐστι καὶ αὐτοτελὴς, καὶ διαμένων τὸν πάντα ἀιῶνα.

   Ἀεὶ ὄντος τοῦ κέσμου, ἀναγκαῖον καὶ τὰ μέρη αὐτοῦ συνυπάρχειν. Λέγω δε μέρη οὐρανὸν, γὴν, &c. Ocell. Lucan. Περὶ τῆς οῦ παντὸς φύσεως.
that it is utterly incapable either of generation or corruption, of beginning or end; that it is of itself eternal and perfect, and permanent for ever, and that the frame and parts of the world must needs be eternal as well as the substance and matter of the whole. But when he comes to produce his arguments or reasons for his opinion, they are either so very absurd and ridiculous, that even any atheist in this age ought to be ashamed to repeat them; as when he attempts to prove2727   Τὸ ἄναρχον καὶ ἀτελέυτητον οῦ σχήματος καὶ τῆς κιήσεως πιστουται, διότι ἀγεννητος ὁ κέσμος καὶ ἄφθαρτος ἥτε γὰρ τοῦ σχήματος ἰδέα, κύκλος οὗτος δὲ πάντοθεν ἱσος καὶ ὅμοιος, διόπερ ἄναρχος καὶ ἀτελεύτηἢος, ἥ τε τῆς κινήσεως, &c. Ibid.
   Thus translated: Nay, that the figure, motion, &c. thereof, are without beginning and end; thereby it plainly appears, that the world admitteth neither production nor dissolution. For the figure is spherical, and consequently on every side equal, and therefore without beginning or ending. Also the motion is circular, &c. Oracles of Reason, p. 215.
that the world must needs be 30eternal, without beginning or end, because both its figure and motion are a circle, which has neither beginning nor end: or else they are such arguments as prove only, what no man ever really denied, viz. that something must needs be eternal, because it is impossible for every thing to arise out of nothing, or to fall into nothing; as when he says2828   Ἀγεννητὸν τὸ πᾶν.—ἐξ οὖ γὰρ γέγονεν, ἐκεῖνο πρῶτον τοῦ παντός ἐστι.—Τό γέ δὲ πᾶν γενόμενον σῦν πᾶσι γὶνεται, καὶ τοῦτο γε δὲ ἀδύνατον—Ἐκτὸς γὰρ τοῦ Παντὸς, οὐδέν. Ocell. Ibid. that the world must have been eternal, because it is a contradiction for the universe to have had a beginning, since, if it had a beginning, it must have been caused by some other thing, and then it is not the universe. To which one argument all that he says in his whole book is plainly reducible. So that it is evident all that he really proves, is only this: that there must needs be an eternal being in the universe; and not, that matter is self-existent, in opposition to intelligence and mind. For, all that he asserts about the absolute necessity of the order and parts of the world, is confessedly most ridiculous; not at all proved by the arguments he alleges; and in some passages of this very book, as well as in other fragments, he himself supposes, and is forced expressly to confess, that, however eternal and necessary every thing in the world be imagined to be, yet even that necessity must flow from an eternal and intelligent mind,2929    Τὸ ἀεικὶνητον θείον μεν, καὶ λόγον ἔχον καὶ ἔμφρον. Ocell. Luc. de Leg. Fragm. the necessary perfections of whose nature are the cause3030   Συνέχει τὸν κόσμον ἁρμονὶα. Ταύτης δ᾽ ἀὶτιος ὁ ΘεόςIbid. ) of the harmony 31and beauty of the world, and particularly of men’s having3131   Τὰς δυνάμεις καὶ τά Ὄργανα καὶ τὰς ὁρέξεις ὐπὸ Θεοῦ δεδομένας, ἀνθρώπως, οὐχ ἡδονῆς ἕνεκα δεδόςθαι συμβέβηκεν, ἀλλα, &c. Idem, Περὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς φύσεως. faculties, organs of sense, appetites, &c. fitted even to final causes.

Aristotle, likewise, was a great asserter indeed of the eternity of the world; but not in opposition to the belief of the being, or of the power, wisdom, or goodness of God. On the contrary, he for no other reason asserted the world to be eternal, but because he fancied that such an effect must needs eternally proceed from such an eternal cause. And so far was he from teaching that matter is the first and original cause of all things, that, on the contrary, he everywhere expressly describes God to be an intelligent being;3232   Νοῦς. incorporeal;3333   Θεόν ἀςώματον ἀπέφηνς. Diog. in Vita Aristol. the first mover of all things,3434   Τὸ πρῶτον κινοῦν, ἀκὶνητον. Aristot. Metaph. himself immoveable; and affirms, that3535   Εἰ μὴ ἔσται παρὰ τὰ ἀιςθητὰ ἄλλα, οὖκ ἔσται ἀρχὴ καὶ τάξις, ἀλλ᾽ ἀεὶ τ8ῆς ἀρχης ἀρχη. Ibid if there were nothing but matter in the world, there would be no original cause, but an infinite progression of causes, which is absurd.

As to those philosophers who taught plainly and expressly that matter was not only eternal, but also self-existent and entirely independent, co-existing from eternity with God, independently, as a second principle, I have already shown the impossibility of this opinion, at the entrance upon the present head of discourse, where I proved that matter could not possibly be self-existent: and I shall further demonstrate it to be false, when I come to prove the unity of the self-existent being.

Plato, whatever his opinion was about the original matter, very largely and fully declares his sentiments about the formation of the world, viz. that it was composed and framed by an intelligent and wise God. And there is no one of all the ancient philosophers, 32who does in all his writings speak so excellently and worthily3636   Ὁ πωητὴς καὶ πατὴρτοῦδε τοῦ πάντος
   Ὁ γῆν, οὐρανὸν, καὶ Θεοὺς, καὶ π8άντα τὰ ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ τὰ ἐν ἄδου καὶ ὐπὸ γῆς ἕἅπαντα ἐργασάμενος. De Republ. lib. 10.
as he, concerning the nature and attributes of God. Yet as to the time of the world’s beginning to be formed, he seems to make it indefinite, when he says3737   Πᾶσα ἀνάγκη τόνδε κόσμον, εἰκόνα τινὸς εἶναι. Plato in Timæo. Which words being very imperfect in our copies of the original, are thus rendered by Cicero: Si ergo generatus [est mundus;] ad id effectus est, quod ratione sapientiaque comprehenditur, atque immutabili æternitate continetur. Ex quo efficitur, ut sit necesse hunc quem cernimus mundum, simulacrum æternum esse alicujus æterni. Cic. de Univers. the world must needs be an eternal resemblance of the eternal idea. At least his followers afterward so understood and explained it, as if, by the creation of the world, was not to be understood a creation in time;3838   Νοῦν πρὸ κόσοου εἶναι, οὐχ ὡς χρόνῳ πρότερον αὐτοῦ ὄντα, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ὁ κόσμος παρὰ νοῦ ἐστὶ, φὐσει πρότερος ἐκεὶνος καὶ ἄιτιον τούτου. Plotinus.
   Qui autem a Deo quidem factum fatentur, non tamen eum volunt temporis habere, sed suæ creationis initium; ut, modo quodam vix intelligibili, semper sit factus. Augustin. de Civit. Dei, lib. 11. cap. 4.

   De mundo, et de his quos in mundo deos a Deo factos scribit Plato, apertissime dicit eos esse cæpisse, et habere initium.—Verum id quomodo intelligant, invenerunt [Platonici;] non esse hoc videlicet temporis, sed substitutionis initium. Ibid. lib. 10. cap. 31.

   Sed mundum quidem fuisse semper, philosophia auctor est; conditore quidem Deo, sed non ex tempore. Macrob. in Somn. Scip. lib. 2. cap. 10.
but only an order of nature, causality and dependence, that is, that the will of God, and his power of acting, being necessarily as eternal as his essence,3939   Καὶ ἐι βούλει, παραδεὶγματι σί τι9νη τῶν γνωρίμων ξεναγήσσ πρὸς τὸ ζητέυενον· φασὶ γὰρ ὅτι καθ8άπερ ἄιτιον τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἑκάστου σκιᾶς γὶνεται· ὁμόχρονος δὲτῷ σώματι ἡ σκιὰ, καὶ οὐχ ὁμότιμος· οὕτω δὴ καὶ ὅδε ὁ κόσμος παρακολουθημά ἐστι τῷ Θεοῦ ἀιτίο9υ ὄντος αὐτῷ τοῦ εἶναι, κ9αὶ συναϊδιός ἐστι τῷ Θεῷ, οὐκέτι δέ καὶ ὁμότιμος. Zachariæ Scholast. Disputat.
   Sicut enim, inquiunt [Platonici,] si pes ex æternitate semper fuisset in pulvere, semper ei subesset vestigium; quod tamen vestigium a calcante factum nemo dubitaret; nec alterum altero prius esset quamvis alterum ab altero factum esset: Sic, inquiunt, et mundus atque; in illo dii creati, et semper fuerunt, semper existente qui fecit; et tamen facti sunt.—Augustin de Civitate Dei. lib. 10. cap. 31.
the effects of that will and 33power might be supposed coeval to the will and power themselves; in the same manner as light would eternally proceed from the sun, or a shadow from the interposed body, or an impression from an imposed seal, if the respective causes of these effects were supposed eternal.

From all which, it plainly appears how little reason modern atheists have to boast either of the authority or reasons of those ancient philosophers who held the eternity of the world. For since these men neither proved, nor attempted to prove, that the material world was original to itself, independent or self-existing, but only that it was an eternal effect of an eternal cause, which is God, it is evident that this their opinion, even supposing it could by no means be refuted, could afford no manner of advantage to the cause of atheists in our days, who, excluding supreme mind and intelligence out of the universe, would make mere matter and necessity the original and eternal cause of all things.

2dly. The other reason why (in this attempt to prove that the material world cannot possibly be the first and original being, uncreated, independent and self-existent,) I have omitted the argument usually drawn from the supposed absolute impossibility of the world’s being eternal, or having existed through an infinite succession of time,—is, because that argument can never be so stated as to be of any use in convincing or affecting the mind of an atheist, who must not be supposed to come prepared beforehand with any transcendent idea of the eternity of God. For since an atheist cannot be supposed to believe the nice and subtile (and indeed unintelligible) distinctions of the schools, it is impossible by this argument so to disprove the possibility of the eternity of the world, but that an atheist will understand it to prove equally against the possibility of any thing’s being eternal; and, consequently, that it proves nothing at all, but is only a difficulty arising from our not being able to comprehend adequately the 34notion of eternity. That the material world is not self-existent or necessarily-existing, but the product of some distinct superior agent, may (as I have already shown) be strictly demonstrated by bare reason against the most obstinate atheist in the world. But the time when the world was created, or whether its creation was, properly speaking, in time, is not so easy to demonstrate strictly by bare reason, (as appears from the opinions of many of the ancient philosophers concerning that matter;) but the proof of it can be taken only from revelation. To endeavour to prove, that there cannot possibly be any such thing as infinite time or space, from the impossibility of an addition4040   Cudworth’s System, p. 643. of finite parts ever composing or exhausting an infinite; or from the imaginary inequality of the number of years, days, and hours, that would be contained in the one; or of the miles, yards, and feet, that would be contained in the other; is supposing infinites to be made up of numbers of finites; that is, it is supposing finite quantities to be aliquot or constituent parts of infinite; when indeed they are not so, but do all equally, whether great or small, whether many or few, bear the very same proportion to an infinite, as mathematical points do to a line, or lines to a superficies, or as moments do to time; that is, none at all. So that, to argue absolutely against the possibility of infinite space or time, merely from the imaginary inequality of the numbers of their finite parts, which are not properly constituent parts, but mere nothings in proportion,—is the very same thing as it would be to argue against the possibility of the existence of any determinate finite quantity, from the imaginary equality or inequality of the number of the mathematical lines and points contained therein; when indeed neither the one nor the other have (in propriety of speech) any number at all, but they are absolutely without number: neither can any given number or 35quantity be any aliquot or constituent part of infinite, or be compared at all with it, or bear any kind of proportion to it; or be the foundation of any argument in any question concerning it.


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