Page images
PDF
EPUB

II.

. Coinm.

arose that strong presumption among them, which CHAP. hath been so taken for granted, that it hath been looked on as a common notion of human nature, viz. ex nihilo nihil fit, which was the main argument used Vid. Laert.

in Vit. De by them to prove the eternity of the world, and by mocriti. others, to prove the preexistence of matter. So Ocellus argues against both the dissolution and production of the world, from this principle: If the world be dissolved, saith he, it must either be irou eis òv, eis to un öv, either into that which is, or into that which is not. It cannot be dissolved into that which is, because then the universe cannot be destroyed; for that which is, is either the universe, or a part of it: neither can it be dissolved into that which is not, dyńxavov ydp to Öv Ocellus LuATOTENéo Dar ek twv un outwv, ñ eis min öv åvaruoñvar, for it ea. is impossible that a thing should be made out of that which is not, or be dissolved into nothing. And Ari- Aristot. stotle somewhere tells us, that it is a principle which all the writers of Natural Philosophy are agreed in, (περί γάρ ταύτης ομογνωμονούσι της δόξης άπαντες οι περί της púrews,) which is ék Övtwv yiveobou ádúvatov, that it is impossible for any thing to come out of nothing. But now when we observe upon what grounds this principle was took up by these philosophers, we have no reason to admit of it as an universal standard of nature. For we find by these naturalists, who thus asserted this principle, that when they go about to prove it, it is only from the course of generations in the world, or from the works of art, both which suppose matter preexistent; and from these short collections they form this universal maxim. And from hence, when they discoursed of the manner whereby God did produce the world, their imaginations ran presently upon that which the Epicurean in Tully inquires after, Cicero de Quæ molitio? Quæ ferramenta ? Qui vectes ? Que

“ 1. i. c. 19.

Nat. Deor.

III.

1. ii.

BOOK machinæ ? Qui ministri tanti muneris fuerunt? They

apprehend God only as an artificer, that contrives the world first into a platform, and then useth instruments to erect it; and consequently still suppose the matter

ready for him to work upon. So true is that of BalCicero de bus in Tully, when he comes to discourse of the naNat. Deor.

ture of God; In quo nihil est difficilius quam a consuetudine oculorum aciem mentis abducere, nothing is more difficult than to abstract our minds from the ohservations of this visible world, when we seek to apprehend the nature of the Deity. Thus we see upon what general grounds the philosophers proceeded, and from what they took them, and how insufficient any collections from the present order of the universe are to determine any thing concerning its production by. For supposing a production of the world, several things must of necessity be supposed in it different from what the present order of the world is; and it is an unreasonable thing to argue from a thing when it is in its greatest perfection, to what must always have been in the same thing; for by this means we must condemn many things for falsities which are apparently true, and believe many others to be true which are appa

rently false. For which Maimonides useth an excelMaimon. lent similitude. Suppose, saith he, one of exquisite More Nev. natural parts, whose mother dies as soon as he is born, 1. ii. C. 17. Kar Wo ?

and his father brings him up in an island, where he may have no society with mankind till he be grown up to years of understanding, and that he never saw any female of either man or beast; suppose now this person to inquire of the first man he speaks with, how men are born, and how they come into the world ? The other tells him, that every man is bred in the womb of one of the same kind with ourselves, thus and thus formed ; and that while we are in the womb,

II.

we have a very little body, and there move and are CHAP. nourished; and we grow up by little and little till we come to such a bigness, and then we come forth into the world, and yet grow still till we come to such a proportion as we are of. Here presently this young man stops him, and inquires, when we were thus little in the womb, and did live, move, and grow, did we not eat and drink, and breathe at our mouth and nostrils as we do now? Did we not ease nature as we do now? If it be answered him, No, then he presently is ready to deny it, and offers to bring demonstrations that it was utterly impossible that it should be so. For, saith he, if either of us cease breathing but for an hour, our motion and life is gone : how is it then possible for one of us, though never so little, to live and move in the womb for so many months, when it is so close, and shut up, and in the middle of the body? If one of us, saith he, should swallow a little bird, it would presently die as soon as it came into the stomach; how much more if it were in the belly? If we should be but for few days without eating and drinking, we could not live; how can a child then continue so many months without it? Again ; if one doth eat, and not void the excrement of what he eats, he will be killed with it in few days; how can it possibly be otherwise with a child ? If it be replied, that there is a passage open in the belly, at which the child receives his nourishment, he will presently say that it is as impossible as the other; for if our bellies were so open, we should be quickly destroyed. And again, if the child hath all its limbs perfect and sound, how comes it not to open its eyes, use the feet, mouth, and hards, as we do? And so concludes it impossible that man should ever be born after this manner. Much after this way, saith that excellent author, do

STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II.

III.

BOOK Aristotle and others argue against the production of

the world ; for if the world were produced, say they, it must have been thus and thus; and it is impossible that it should have been so. Why? Because we see things are otherwise now in the world. Which how infirm a way of arguing, it appears from the consideration of the former similitude, in which the arguments are as strong to prove the impossibility of that which we know to be true, as in the case about which we dispute.

And this now leads us to the second false hypothesis, which the opinion of the world's eternity was founded on, which is, That there is no other way of production but by generation. Most of the arguments which are used by Ocellus and Aristotle against the production of the world, run upon this supposition,

that it must be generated, as we see things are in the Ocell. Luc. world. So Ocellus argues, mãv te Yevéoews ápxinu einna Tomm. φος, και διαλύσεως οφείλον κοινωνήσαι, δύο επιδέχεται μεταβο

λάς μίαν μεν την από μείονος επί το μείζον, και την από του χείρονος επί το βέλτιον" καλείται δε το μεν άφ' ούπερ αν αρξηται μεταβάλλειν, γένεσις" το δε εις και αφικνείται, ακμή δευτέραν δε την από του μείζονος επί το μείον, και την από του βελτίoνος επί το χείρον το δε συμπέρασμα της μεταβολής ταύτης óvouácetat plopè kai diá,vous. Every thing that comes into being, and is subject to dissolution, hath two observable mutations in it: the one is whereby it grows from less to greater, and from worse to better; and this is called generation, and the height of this mutation, perfection. The other begins from better to worse, and from bigger to less; and the conclusion of this is corruption and dissolution. But now, saith he, if the world had a beginning, there would be such a mutation in it; and it would have grown by degrees greater, till it had come to its perfection, and from

p. 8.

II.

thence it would sensibly decay till it came to dissolu- CHAP. tion: but nobody hath ever observed such a mutation in the world, neither is there any appearance of it; αλλ' αεί κατά τ' αυτό και ωσαύτως διατελεί και ίσον όμοιον αυτό éavtoữ: but the world is semper idem; it varies not, nor alters any thing from itself. For which he particularly instanceth in the courses, symmetries, figures, positions, intervals, proportions of motion which are in the world; which things are all capable of such a mutation : yet we see no such thing in the universe : from whence he infers that the universe was always, and will be, as it is. Upon the same principle doth Aristotle dispute for the eternity of the world, from the nature of his materia prima; because if the first matter were generated, it must be generated of other matter, and so in infinitum ; and so he argues from the nature of the heavens, that they are not capable of generation and corruption as other bodies are. All which arguments signify no more than this, that the world was not generated as plants or animals are; and who ever, right in his wits, asserted that it was? But do any of these arguments prove it impossible that God, having infinite power, should produce the universe after another way, than any of those things are produced in, which we observe in the world? For we assert an infinite and eternal Being, which was the efficient cause of the world, who by his omnipotent power produced it out of nothing, and continues it in its being; which is well expressed by the author of the Refutation of Aristotle, in Justin Martyr's works. We assert, saith he, one God who is eternal himself, Aristot.

Dogmat. that hath nothing else coequal with himself, neither by Coufut. in way of subjection or opposition, whose power is so great that nothing can hinder it; by which power he produced the world, dpxiv YOUTOS TOũ cival, kai ToŨ Ti

ed. Par.

« PreviousContinue »