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Serm. tion of bare possibility beyond the compass of VI. known existence, is a poor refuge, unworthy
of a fair reasoner, when the inquiry is concerning what has actually existed. If it be certain beyond all rational contradiction, that something has existed from everlasting, and there is no difficulty or pretence of argument against the eternity of intelligence, but what is equally against the eternity of any existence whatever ; and if it be also certain, that there is nothing we can discern or fix our thoughts upon in the whole circle of being, but what, in the production and the frame of it, must be attributed to intelligence in the Cause, so that it must be acknowledg'd prior to the whole known universe; the conclusion seems to be very evident that intelligence is absolutely eternal.
Besides, the very fame reasoning which demonstrates that something must have existed from eternity, proves also that understanding is eternal, or without beginning. For as Non-entity could never have produc’d being, so unintelligent Being could never have produc'd understanding. To imagine it, is the same absurdity, as in the other case, to imagine an effect without a cause. And not to insist on this, which yet is very plain to any attentive mind, that to deny intelligence to a
Cause, is really to deny causality or efficiency SERM. altogether, there being properly no cause but VI. a voluntary and designing, that is, an intelligent one; the transition is as great, (and requires no less power to effect it,) from mere senseless inanimate being to intellectual capacities, as from nothing to existence. And Lastly, to deny intelligence to the first Cause, or, which amounts to the same, to say that something unintelligent existed before it, and produc'd it, is to attribute the order and all the appearances of the world to chance, or necessity, or to nothing, if not immediately, yet remotely; that is, to run directly into Atheism, which has been already refuted ; or at least into as great an absurdity as any Atheist has ever yet advanced, namely, that indeed intelligence produc'd the regular system of the universe, but mere hazard or undesigning necessity, as a præ-existent Cause, produc'd intelligence.
Lastly, Theactive intelligence which form’d the world, and still governs it, is seated in one eternal Mind; the effects of it are diffus'd through the whole extent of being; and there is no one appearance in the universal system of nature in which it is not manifested, and which is not under its direction ; but the source is one everlasting spring of thought, one conscious understanding principle. This 6
SERM. I shall take for granted as already prov'd. For
they consis, form’d by his sovereign power and
apprehended no otherwise than as a long con-Serm. tinuance, or as duration in general, which is VI. common to all beings, not distinguished by any
differences in their nature ; it belongs just the same way to the most excellent and the most contemptible of all things. But the idea of eternity, as folely the attribute of one intelligent Being, carries in it what must
appear to our minds grand, and attractive of a special veneration, as shall be afterwards observ'd. In the mean time this leads me to what I propos’d in the next place,
Secondly, To shew what seem to be the most
proper, tho’ they are imperfect conceptions, we can form of the Divine eternity. And First, it includes self-existence, necessary existence, and independence. These are characters of the supreme Being, of which we have very imperfect and inadequate ideas, because there is nothing that we are conscious of in ourselves, nor does any thing appear in the objects we perceive by our senses, and from these sources are deriv'd all the first materials of our knowledge; there is nothing, I say, that we know, which bears the least resemblance to the felf-existence, neceffary existence, and independence of the Deity, or can give us any notion of them. The felf-existence of God is not to be undestood
Serm. in this positive sense, that he produc'd himVI. self, or was the cause of his own being; for
that is evidently an absurdity, supposing him to be both prior and posterior in nature, both cause and effect; but it fignifies, that as he did not arise from nothing, (which is true concerning all beings,) so he was not produc'd by any other, which must be true concerning a being absolutely and in the highest sense eternal. I doubt our understandings do not proceed much farther in distinct and positive knowledge, by adding the character of necefsarily existent, which seems to mean little more than that since the Deity was not caus’d by an external agent, his existence and
perfections could not be hinder'd by any. For as to an antecedent necessity in the nature of the thing, consider'd as a foundation for us to reason upon, inferring from it an apparent impossibility of not being, or that the supposition of non-existence implies an express contradiction; this I'm afraid is, at least not obvious enough to every capacity. Indeed if the impossibility of the Deity's not being, or that the supposition of his non-existence implies an express cortradiction, can be clearly conceived, it puts a speedy end to all controversy with Atheists. But it does not with full and satisfying evidence strike every, even attentive