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upon the fide of virtue; and there would still be reason to fear that vice and irregularity would end ill. This alone would be enough to keep wise and confiderate beings to their duty, as far as known. But our condition is very different; and our knowledge of all neceffary truth sufficiently clear, extensive and certain.
SECT. I. The Being and Attributes of God established as the Founa
dation of Morality. TOTHING is more indisputable than that some
thing now exifls. Every person may say to himfelf, “ I certainly exist : for I feel that I exist. And “I could neither feel that I exift, nor be deceived in
imagining it, if I was nothing. If, therefore, I exist, " the next question is, How I came to be?” Whatever exists, muft owe its being, and the particular circumstances of it, to some cause prior to itself, unless it exifts necessarily. For a being to exist necessarily, is to exist so as that it was impoffible for that being not to have existed, and that the fuppofition of its not existing should imply a direct contradiction in terms. Let any person try to conceive of space and duration as annihilated, or not existing, and he will find it impossible, and that they will still return upon his mind in spite of all his efforts to the contrary. Such an existence therefore is necessary, of which there is no other account to be given, than that it is the nature of the thing to exist; and this account is fully satisfying to the mind.
Whatever difficulty we may find in conceiving of the particular modus of a neceffary existence; an existence which always was, and could not but be; always continuing, but which never had a beginning; as all the difficulty of such conceptions evidently arises from the narrowness of our finite and limited minds, and as our reason forces us upon granting the reality and necesfity of them, it would be contradicting the most irresistible convictions of our reason to dispute them; and it is indeed out of our power to dispute them.
To have recourse to an infinite succession of dependent causes, produced by one another from eternity, and to give that as an account of the existence of the world, will give no fatisfaction to the mind, but will confound it with an infinite absurdity. For if it be ab urd to at. tempt to conceive of one single dependent being, produced without a cause, or existing without being brought into existence by some pre-existing cause, it is infinitely more so to try to conceive of an infinite series of dependent beings existing without being produced by any original and uncreated cause; as it would be more shocking to talk of a thousand links of a chain hanging upon nothing, than of one.
That the material world is not the first cause, is evident; because the first cause, existing neceflarily, without which necellity he could not poflibly exist as a first cause, must be absolutely perfect, unchangeable, and every where the same, of which afterwards. This we fee is by no means to be affirmed of the material world; its form, motion, and substance, bcing endlessly various, and subject to perpetual change. That nothing material could have been the necessarily existent first cause is evident, because we know, that all material substances consist of a number of unconnected and separable particles; which would give, not one, but a number of first causes, which is a palpable absurdity. And that the first cause cannot be one single indivitible atoin is plain, because the first cause, being neceifarily exiftent, niuit be equally necessary throughout infinite space.
That chance, which is only a word, not a real being, should be the cause of the existence of the world, is the same as saying, that nothing is the cause of its exiitence, or that it neither exifts neceffarily, nor was produced by that which exists necessarily, and therefore does not exist at all. Therefore, after fuppofing ever so long a series of beings producing one another, we must at last have recourse to some First Cause of all, himself uncauled, existing necessarily, or so, as that the supposition of his not existing would imply a contradiction. This firit cause we call God.
The first caufe must of necellity be one, in the most pure, simple, and indivisible manner. For the. tirit
cause must exist necessarily, that is, it is a direct absurdity to say, that something now exists, and yet there is no original first cause of existence. Now, when to avoid this absurdity, we have admitted one independent, neceflarily existent first cause, if we afterwards proceed to admit another first cause, or number of first caufes, we shall find, that all but one are fuperfluous. Because one is fuflicient to account for the existence of all things. And as it will evidently be no contradiction to suppose any one out of a plurality not to exist, fince one alone is sufficient; it follows, that there can be but one single firit cause.
Befides, it will be made evident by and by, that the first cause must be absolutely perfect in every possible, respect, and in every poflible degree. Now that which ingrofles and swallows up into itself all poslible perfection, or rather is itself absolute perfection, can be but one; because there can be but one absolute Whole of perfection.
We may possibly, through inattention, commit mistakes with respects to what are, or are not, perfections fit to be ascribed to the first cause, as some of the Heathens were absurd enough to ascribe even to their supreme deity, attributes which ought rather to be termed vices than virtues. But we can never mistake in ascrie bing to the Supreme Being all possible, real, and confiftent perfections. For a Being, who exists naturally and neceffarily, must of necessity exist in an infinite and unbounded manner, the ground of his existence being alike in all monents of duration, and all points of space. Whatever exists naturally and necessarily in the East, must of course exist naturally and necessarily in the West, in the South, and in the North, above and below, in former, present, and in future times. Whatever exists in this manner, exists in a perfect manner, Whatever exits in a perfect manner, in respect of extent and duration, must evidently be perfect in every other respect, of which its nature is capable. For the whole idea of such a Being is by the supposition natural and necessary ; a partial neceility being an evident absurdity. That the first cause therefore should be deficient in any one perfection consistent with the nature of fucia
a Being as we must conclude the first cause to be, is as evident a contradiction as to say, that the first cause may naturally and necessarily exist in the East, and not in the West, at present, but not in time past or to come. For fuppofe it were argued, that the first cause may not be infinite, for example, in wisdom; I ask firit, Whether wisdom can be said to be a property unsuitable to the idea of the first cause? This will hardly be ; pretended. No one can imagine it would be a more proper idea of the first caule, to think of him as of a Being utterly void of intelligence, than as infinite in knowledge. It is evident, that of two beings, otherwise alike, but one of which was wholly void of intelligence, and the other poflefled of it; the latter would be more perfect than the former, by the difference of the whole amount of the intelligence he potrefled. On the other hand, of two beings otherwife alike, but one of which laboured under a vicious inclination, which occafioned a deviation from, or deficiency of moral perfection, and the other was wholly clear of such imperfection, the latter would be a more perfect nature than the former, by the difference of the whole amount of such negative quantity, or deficiency. Which shews the necessity of ascribing to the Supreme Being every possible real perfection, and the absurdity of supposing the smallest imperfection or deficiency to be in his nature.
If it be evident then that wisdom, in any the lowest degree, is an attribute fit to be ascribed to the firit cause, and if whatever is in the first cause, is in him naturally and necessarily, that is, could not but have been in him, it is obvious, that such an attribute cannot be in him in any limited degree, any more than he can naturally and necessarily exist in one point of space, and not through all. It is an evident contradiction to suppose the firit cause existing naturally and necessarily, and yet limited, either as to his exiflence or perfections; because it is plain, there can be nothing to limit them, which is the same as saying, that they mult be unlimited. Farther, whatever is in the nature or efsence of the first cause, must be in him naturally and
neceffarily; that is, is an effential attribute of his nature, or could not but have been in his nature; for if it had been postible that his nature could have been without any particular attribute, it certainly would, by the very fuppofition. Now, whatever is neceflarily an attribute of Deity, is Deity. And limited Deity is a contradiction as much as limited infinity. For iofinity is unbounded, knowledge is unbounded, power is unbounded, goodness is unbounded. These and the rest are the peceffa:y attributes of Deity. And as they are in him, they together form the idea of supreme Deity. The Dity, or first cause, mult therefore be poffed of every posible perfection in an infinite degree, all thote perfections being naturally infinite, and there being nothing to limit the Deity, or his perfections.
We cannot therefore avoid concluding, that the first cause is poilefied of infinite intelligence, or knowledge, that his infinite mind is a treasure of an infinity of of trutlis, that he has ever had at all moments from all eternity, and ever will to all eternity have in his view, and in actual contemplation, all things that ever have existed, that do now, or ever thall exist, throughout infinite space and duration, with all their connections, re, lations, dependences, gradations, proportions, differences, contrafts, causes, effects, and all circumstances of all kinds, with the ideas of all things which are merely poslible, or whose existence does not imply a contradiction, though they have nei'er actually existed, with all their possible relations, connections, and cira cumsances, whose idea is conceivable. In one word, the Divine mind must comprehend all things that by their nature are capable of being knowror conceived.
From the same necessary connection between the infiniiy of the first cause in one particular, and in all, we cannot avoid concluding, that he must be infinite in goodness; it being self-evident, that goodness or benevolence must in any state of things be a perfection, and the want of any degree of it a deficiency. To be infinite in goodnes, is to poffefs such benevolence of nature, as no conceivable or poflible measure of goodnefs can excecd, or which can never be satisfied with