« VorigeDoorgaan »
Deor. l. ii.
tarch, and others, pass upon him for this very opinion. CHAP. And they tell him, that some of their own men were of a more noble and excellent spirit than Epicurus's Deity, Cicero de who abhorred softness and idleness, and made it their Finib. I. i. greatest delight to do good to their countries. But Epi- De Nat. curus must needs make his God of his own humour, (the
Plutarch. usual flattery which men bear to themselves, to think that advers. Comost excellent which they delight in most,) as Xeno- lot. phanes was wont to say, that if his horse were to describe a God, it would be with a curled mane, a broad chest, &c. and in every thing like himself. Had Epicurus himself so little of an Athenian in him, as not to make it some part of his delight to understand the affairs of the world ? Or at least, did he take no pleasure in the walks of his famous garden, nor to order bis trees, and set his flowers, and contrive every thing for his own delight? Would Epicurus then count this a part of his happiness? And is it inconsistent with the happiness of the Deity to take notice of the world, and order all things in it for his own glory? Must so excellent a nature as God's was, by his own acknowledgment, be presently tired with business, when the more excellent any nature is, the more active and vigorous it is, the more able to comprehend and dispatch matters of moment, with the least disturbance to itself? Is it a pleasure to a nurse to fill the child with her milk? Doth the sun rejoice to help the world with his constant light? And doth a fountain murmur till it be delivered of its streams which may refresh the ground? And is it no delight to the Divine nature to behold the effects of his goodness upon the world ? We see here then the foundation on which Epicurus went, viz. that his God must be like himself, or there must be none; and truly he might more suitably to his principles question his existence, than supposing his existence deny his Providence on such miserable accounts as these are ; which yet are the chief which either Epicurus or Lucretius could bring against it, from the consideration of the Divine nature.
The which, to any one who considers it, doth necessarily infer a peculiar eye and hand of Providence in the world. For can we imagine that a Being of infinite knowledge should be ignorant of what is done in the world? and of infinite power, should stand by and leave things to chance and fortune? Which were at first contrived, and brought into being, by the contrivance of his wisdom and exercise of his power. And where the foundation of
BOOK existence lies wholly and solely in the power of an in
finite Being producing, the ground of continuance of that
them being ; and when once this is withdrawn, all those beings which were produced by this power must needs relapse into nothing. Besides, what dependence is there upon each other in the moments of duration of any created being? The mode of existence in a creature is but contingent and possible; and nothing is implied in the notion of an existent creature beyond mere possibility of existence : what is it then which gives actual existence to it? That cannot be itself, for it would be necessarily existent. If another then gives existence, this existence must wholly depend upon him who gave it; for nothing can continue existence to itself, but what may give it to itself, (for it gives it for the moment it continues it;) and what gives existence to itself must necessarily exist, which is repugnant to the very notion of a created being. So that either we must deny a possibility of non-existence, or annihilation in a creature, which follows upon necessity of existence; or else we must assert that the duration or continuance of a creature in its being doth immediately depend on Divine Providence and conservation; which is with as much reason as frequency said to be a continued creation. But yet further. Was an infinite wisdom and power necessary to put things into that order they are in? And is not the samé necessary for the governing of them? I cannot see any reason to think that the power of matter,
when set in motion, should either bring things into that CHAP. exquisite order and dependence which the parts of the
III. world bave upon each other; much less that, by the mere force of that first motion, all things should continue in the state they are in. Perpetual motion is yet one of the desiderata of the world. The most exquisite mechanism cannot put an engine beyond the necessity of being looked after: Can we then think this dull, unactive matter, merely by the force of its first motion, should be able still to produce the effects which are seen in the world, and to keep it from tumbling, at least by degrees, into its pristine chaos? It was an infinite Power, I grant, which gave that first motion; but that it gave power to continue that motion till the conflagration of the world, remains yet to be proved. Some therefore finding, that, in the present state of the world, matter will not serve for all the noted and common phenomena of the world, have called in the help of a spirit of nature, which may serve instead of a man-midwife to matter, to help her in her production of things: or, as though God had a plurality of worlds to look after, they have taken care to substitute him a vicar in this; which is the spirit of nature. But we had rather believe God himself to be perpetually resident in the world, and that the power which gives life, and being, and motion to every thing in the world, is nothing else but his own Providence; especially since we have learnt from himself, that it is in him we live, and move, and have Acts xvii. our being
28. Thus then we see a necessity of asserting Divine Providence, whether we consider the Divine nature, or the phenomena of the world; but yet the case is not so clear, but there are two grand objections behind, which have been the continual exercise of the wits of inquisitive men almost in all ages of the world. The one concerns the first origin of evil; the other concerns the dispensations of Providence, whence it comes to pass that good men fare so hard in the world, when the bad triumph and flourish. If these two can be cleared with
satisfaction to reason, it will be the highest vindication of Divine Providence, and a great evidence of the divinity of the Scriptures; which give us such clear light and direction in these profound speculations, which the dim reason of man was so much to seek in.
I begin with the origin of evil; for if there be a hand of Providence which orders all things in the world, how comes evil then into it, without God's being the author of
sum, 1. iv. p. 207.
BOOK it? Which is a speculation of as great depth as necessity,
it highly concerning us to entertain the highest apprehensions of God's holiness, and how far he is from being the author of sin; and it is likewise a matter of some difficulty so to explain the origin of evil, as to make it appear that
God is not the author of it. I easily then assent to what Origen Origen saith on this subject, when Celsus, upon some cont. Cel mistaken places of Scripture, had charged the Scripture
with laying the origin of evil upon God; είπερ ούν άλλος τις τόπος των εν ανθρώπους εξετάσεως δεόμενος, δυσθήρατός έστι τη φύσει ημών, εν τούτοις και η των κακών ταχθείη αν γένεσις. If any thing which calls for our enquiry be of difficult investigation, ihat which concerns the origin of evils is such a
thing and as Simplicius well begins his discourse on this Simplic. in subject, σερί της υποσάσεως των κακών ο λόγος μη καλώς διορθωEpictets: θεις, και της περί το θείον ασεβείας αίτιος γέγονε, και της τών ηθών 34. Ed. Sal.
ευαγωγίας τας αρχάς διετάραξε, και πολλαίς και αλύτοις απορίαις ενέβαλε τους μη καλώς αιτιολογούντας αυτήν. The dispute concerning the nature and origin of evil, not being well stated, is the cause of great impiety towards God, and perverts the principles of good life, and involves them in innumerable perplexities, who are not able to give a rational account of it. So much then is it our great concernment to fix on sure grounds in the resolution of this important question; in which I intend not to launch out into the depth and intricacies of it, as it relates to any internal purposes
of God's will, (which is beyond our present scope, but I shall only take that account of it which the Scripture plainly gives in relating the fall of the first man. For the clearing of which I shall proceed in this method :
1. That if the Scriptures be true, God cannot be the atsthor of sin.
2. That the account which the Scripture gives of the origin of evil, doth not charge it upon God.
3. That no account given by philosophers of the origin of evil, is so clear and rational as this is.
4. That the most material circumstances of this account are attested by the Heathens themselves.
1. That if the Scriptures be true, God cannot be the author of sin. For if the Scriptures be true, we are bound without hesitation to yield our assent to them in their plain and direct affirmations; and there can be no ground of suspending assent, as to any thing which pretends to be a Divine truth, but the want of certain evidence whether it be of Divine revelation or no. No doubt it would be one of the most effectual ways to put an end to the
numerous controversies of the Christian world, (especially CHAP. to those bold disputes concerning the method and order of God's decrees,) if the plain and undoubted assertions of Scripture were made the rule and standard whereby we ought to judge of such things as are more obscure and ambiguous. And could men but rest contented with those things which concern their eternal happiness, and the means in order to it, (which on that account are written with all imaginable perspicuity in Scripture,) and the moment of all other controversies be judged by their reference to these, there would be fewer controversies and more Christians in the world. Now there are two grand principles which concern men's eternal condition, of which we have the greatest certainty from Scripture, and on which we may with safety rely, without perplexing our minds about those more nice and subtle speculations, (which it may be are uncapable of all full and particular resolution ;) and those are, That the ruin and destruction of man is wholly from himself ; and, That his salvation is from God alone. If then man's ruin and misery be from himself, which the Scripture doth so much inculcate on all occasions, then without controversy that which is the cause of all the misery of human nature is wholly from himself too, which is sin, So that if the main scope and design of the Scripture be true, God cannot be the author of that, by which (without the intervention of the mercy of God) man's misery unavoidably falls upon him. For with what authority and majesty doth God in the Scripture forbid all manner of sin? With what earnestness and importunity doth he woo the sinner to forsake his sin ? With what loathing and detestation doth he mention sin ? With what justice and severity, doth he punish sin? With what wrath and indignation doth he threaten contumacious sinners? And is it possible (after all this, and much more, recorded in the Scriptures, to express the holiness of God's nature, his hatred of sin, and his appointing a day of judgment for the solemn punishment of sinners) to imagine that the Scriptures do in the least ascribe the origin of evil to God, or make him the author of sin ? Shall not the Judge of all the world do right? Will a God of infinite justice, purity, and holiness, punish the sinner for that which himself was the cause of ? Far be such unworthy thoughts from our apprehensions of a Deity, much more of that God whom we believe to have declared his mind so much to