« PreviousContinue »
PROP: infinite things in infinite manners, is certainly true; IX
but that it must always actually do so, by an absolute necessity of nature, without any power of choice, either as to time or manner or circumstances, does by no means follow from the perfection of its nature, unless it be first supposed to be a necessary agent; and also, that in mere necessity there must be all (or can be any) variety. Both which suppositions are the very question begged that was to be proved. The second argument, is ( if possible ) still weaker: for how does it follow, if God, according to his eternal unerring purpose and infinite wisdom, produces different things at different times, and in different manners, that, therefore, the will and nature of God is changeable ? It might exactly as well be argued, that if God (according to Spinoza's supposition, does always necessarily produce all possible differences and varieties of things, therefore his will and nature is always necessarily infinitely various, unequal, and dissimilar to itself. And as to the third argument, (which is mere metaphysical trifling,) it is just such reasoning as if a man should argue, that if all possible (eternal] duration be not always actually exhausted, it never can be all exhausted; and that therefore so the eternity of God is taken away; which sort of arguing every one at first sight discerns the weakness of.
But whatever the arguments were, and if they were never so much more plausible than they really are, yet the assertion itself, viz. that no thing, or mode of existence of any thing, could possibly have been made in any respect different from what it actually is; is so palpably absurd and false, so contradictory to experience and the nature of things, and to the most obvious and common reason of mankind ; that of itself it immediately, and upon the first hearing, sufficiently confutes any principle of which it is a consequence. For all things in the world appear plainly to be the most arbitrary that can be imagined ; and to be wholly the effects not
of necessity, but of wisdom and choice. A necessi- PROP. ty indeed of fitness ; that is, that things couid not have been otherwise than they are, without diminishing the beauty, order, and well-being of the whole; there may be, and ( as far as we can apprehend) there certainly is. But this is so far from serving our adversaries' purpose, that, on the contrary, it is a direct demonstration that all things were made and ordered by a free and wise agent. That, therefore, which I affirm, contradictory to Spinoza's assertion, is, that there is not the least appearance of an absolute necessity of nature, (so as that any variation would imply a contradiction,) in any of these things. Motion itself, and all its quantities and directions, with the laws of gravitation, are entirely arbitrary ; and might possibly have been altogether different from what they now are. The number and motion of the heavenly bodies have no manner of necessity in the nature of the things themselves. The number of the planets might have been greater or less. Their motion upon their own axes might have been in any proportion swifter or slower then it now is. And the direction of all their progressive motions, both of the primary and secondary planets, uniformly from west to east, (when by the motion of comets* it appears there was no ne. cessity but that they might as easily have moved in all imaginable transverse directions,) is an evident proof that these things are solely the effect of wisdom and choice. There is not the least appearance of necessity, but that all these things might possibly have been infinitely varied from their present constitution : and (as the late improvements in astrono
* Nam dum cometæ moventur in orbibus valde eccentricis, una dique ; et quoquoversum in omnes cæli partes ; utique nullo modo fieri potuit ut cæco fato tribuendum sit; quod planetæ in orbi. bus concentricis motu consimili ferantur eodem omnes.--Tam mi. ram uniformitatem in planetarum systemate, necessario fatendum est intelligentia et consilio fuisse effectam.--Newton. Optic. page
PROP. my discover), they are actually liable to very great
changes. Every thing upon earth is still more evidently arbitrary ; and plainly the product, not of necessity, but will. What absolute necessity for just such a number of species of animals or plants ? or who, without blushing, dare affirm,* that neither the form, nor order, nor any the minutest circumstance or mode of existence of any of these things could possibly have been in the least diversified by the supreme cause?
To give but one instance. In all the greater species of animals, where was the necessity for that conformityf we observe in the number and likeness of all their principal members ? and how would it have been a contradiction to suppose any or all of them varied from what they now are? To suppose indeed the continuance of such monsters, as Lucretius imagines to have perished for want of their prin. cipal organs of life, is really a contradiction. But how would it have been a contradiction for a whole species of horses or oxen to have subsisted with six legs or four eyes ? But it is a shame to insist longer upon so plain an argument.
It might have been objected with much more plausibleness, that the supreme cause cannot be free, because he must needs do always what is best in t'ie whole. But this would not at all serve Spinoza's purpose. For this is a necessity, not of nature and fate, but of fitness and wisdom; a necessity, consistent with the greatest freedom and most perfect choice. For the only foundation of this necessity is such an unalterable rectitude of will, and perfection of wisdom, as makes it impossible for a wise being to resolve to act foolishly; or for a nature infinitely
* Res nullo alio modo, neque alio ordine, a Deo produci potue. runt, quam productæ sunt.-Spinoza, ut supra.
+ Idemque dici possit de uniformitate illa, quæ est in corporibus animalium, viz. necessario fatendum est intelligentia et consilio fuisse effectam. Newlon. Optic. page 346.
good, to choose to do what is evil: Of which I shall PROP. have occasion to speak more hereafter, when I come to deduce the moral attributes of God.
3dly, If there be any final cause, of any thing in the same the universe, then the supreme cause is not a ne- proved cessary but a free agent. This consequence also, final Spinoza acknowledges to be unvoidable: And there causes. fore he has no other way left, but, with a strange confidence, to expose all final causes," as the fictions of ignorant and superstitious men: and to laught at those who are so foolish and childish as to fancy that eyes were designed and fitted to see with, teeth to chew with, food to be eaten for nourishment, the sun to give light, &c. I suppose it will not be thought, that when once a man comes to this, he is to be disputed with any longer. Whoever pleases, may, for satisfaction on this head, consult Galen de Usu Partium, Tully de Natura Deorum, Mr Boyle of Final Causes, and Mr Ray of the Wisdom of God in the Creation. I shall only observe this one thing; that the larger the improvements and discoveries are, which are daily made in astronomy and natural philosophy, the more clearly is this question continually determined, to the shame and confusion of atheists.
4thly. If the supreme cause be a mere necessary From the agent, it is impossible any effect or product of that fipiteness cause should be finite. For since that which acts beings. necessarily, cannot govern or direct its own actions, but must necessarily produce whatever can be the effect or product of its nature, it is plain, every effect of such an infinite uniform nature acting everywhere
* Naturam finem nullum sibi præfixum habere ; et omnes causas finales, nibil nisi humana esse figmenta. — Appendix ad prop.
36. + Oculos ad videndum, dentes ad masticandum, herbas et animantia ad alimentum, solem ad illuminandum, mare ad alendum pisces, &c.-Ibid.
Nullas unquam rationes circa res naturales a fine, quem Deus aut natura in iis faciendis sibi proposuit, desumemus.-Cartes. Princip. par. 1. $ 28.
PROP. necessarily alike, must of necessity be immense, or
infinite in extension : and so no creature in the uni. verse could possibly be finite; which is infinitely absurd and contrary to experience. Spinoza, to shuffle off this absurdity, expresses the consequence of his doctrine thus :* that, from the necessity of the divine nature, infinite things (meaning infinite in number,) in infinite manners must needs follow. But whoever reads his demonstration of this
propo sition, can hardly fail to observe, (if he be at all used · to such speculations,) that if it proved any thing at all
, it would equally prove, that from the necessity of the divine nature, only infinite things (meaning infinite in extension) can possibly arise ; which demonstration alone is a sufficient confutation of the opinion it was designed to establish.
5thly. If the supreme cause be not a free and vothe impos- luntary agent, then in every effect, (for instance, sibility of an infinite in motion,) there must have been a progression of
causes in infinitum, without any original cause at all. For if there be no liberty anywhere, then there is no agent; no cause, mover, principle, or beginning of motion anywhere. Every thing in the universe must be passive, and nothing active; every thing moved, and no mover: every thing effect, and nothing cause. Spinozaindeed, (as has been already observed, refers all things to the necessity of the divine nature, as their real cause and original; but this is mere jar. gon, and words without any signification; and will not at all help him over the present difficulty. For, if by things existing through the necessity of the divine nature, he means absolutely a necessity of existence, so as to make the world and every thing in it self-existent, then it follows (as I have before shown) that it must be a contradiction in terms, to suppose motion, &c. not to exist, which Spinoza himself is ashamed to assert. But if, therefore, by the
succession of causes.
• Ex necessitate divinæ naturæ infinita infinitis modis seque debent. Et hic. par. 1. prop. 16.