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BOOK elvau, kai TOū tās drauévelv, TV, ékelvou déanoiv; which hath
– no other cause either of its beginning, or of its being, or continuance, but only his will. Who fully answers, in a philosophical manner, the particular allegations out of Aristotle, concerning the eternity of the world ; his design being, as he saith, to shew u) Katà Tùy duoδεικτικών επιστήμην, καθ' ήν επαγγέλλονται "Ελληνες περί Θεού τε και κτίσεως τους λόγους ποιεϊν, τούτο πεποιηκότας, αλλ' είκασμώ το δοκούν διορισαμένους, that the Greek philosophers, in their discourses concerning God and the creation, were very far from being as good as their word to observe the laws of demonstration ; but instead of them, proceeded only upon opinions and conjectures. And as to this particular of the possibility of another way of production, besides that of generation, he proves it from Aristotle's own opinion, from
the equal necessity of the existence of matter, as of Just. Mart. God. For, saith he, if God can produce any thing
out of matter, which is as necessarily existent as himself, he may produce something out of nothing ; for the same repugnancy that there is in that which is absolutely nothing to be produced, the same must there be in that which is necessarily existent. How then can God produce something out of matter which necessarily exists, and not be able to produce something out of nothing ? For if matter have its original from itself, how can it be subject to the power of another ? And besides, if we acknowledge God to have his being from himself, and on that account attribute infinite power to him, by the same reason we must attribute it to matter. But whatever hath infinite power in itself, hath a power upon something beyond itself; but if God and matter have it both, they can never have power upon each other, or without themselves; which is a far greater absurdity than the mere asserting a
power to produce something out of nothing, which is CHAP. implied in the very notion of infinite power; for if it be confined to any matter, the power is not infinite, because we cannot but conceive the bounds of it; for it extends no farther than matter doth. So that a power of creation is implied in the very notion of a Deity; and therefore it is a mere sophism to argue, because the world could not be generated, therefore it could not be produced, unless any other way of production, but by generation, be proved impossible.
A third false hypothesis they proceeded on was this, VII. That the being of the world was no effect of God's will, but of the necessity of nature. For although the philosophers we now speak of did assert a Deity, which in some sense might be called the cause of the world, yet they withal asserted, that the world was coequal with God himself; and so, though there might be some priority in order of causes between them, yet there was none in order of time or duration, as we see the light, though it flows from the sun, yet the sun is never without light. This Aristotle proves from the necessity of motion and time. For, saith he, whatever is moved, must be moved by something else, and consequently there must be a running in infinitum ; but this runs on a false supposition of the necessity of a continual physical motion in things, which we deny, since God, by his infinite power, may give motion to that which had it not before; and so all that can be proved is the necessity of some first cause, which we assert, but no necessity at all of his continual acting, since he may cause motion when he pleases. And for time continually existing, it denotes nothing real in itself existing, but only our manner of conception of the duration of things, as it is conceived to belong to motion; and so can argue nothing as to the real exist
BOOK ence of things from all eternity. But the latter Plato
nists look upon these as insufficient ways of probation, and therefore argue from those attributes of God, which they conceive most necessary and agreeable to God's nature, and by which the world was produced, if at all; so that by the same arguments whereby we prove that the world was made by God, they prove it to have been from all eternity. It was well and truly said in Plato, in his Timæus, that the goodness of God was the cause of the production of the world; from which speech the more modern Platonists gather a necessity of the world's eternity; for from hence they infer, that since God was always good, he must always have an object to exercise his goodness upon; as the sun disperseth his light as soon as he is himself. True, were God of the nature of the sun, it would be so with him, or were the sun of the nature of God, it would not be so with it. But there is this vast difference between them, that though God be essentially and necessarily good, yet the communications of his goodness are the effects of his will, and not merely of his nature; for, were not the acts of beneficence and good. ness in God the free acts of his will, man must be made as happy as he was capable of being, not only upon his first existence in the world, but as long as it should continue, by mere necessity of nature, without any intervention of the will or actions of men. And so there could be no such difference as that of good and bad men in the world; for, if the lettings forth of God's goodness to the world be so necessary, all men must become necessarily good, if God's goodness be so great as to be able to make men so; which I suppose will not be questioned. By this, then, when we see that the communications of God's goodness to the world are free, and depend upon the eternal coun
sels of his will, which is a depth too great for us to chaP. approach or look into; by what necessity, then, if God be a free agent, and of infinite wisdom as well as goodness, must we either assert the eternity of the world, or fear to deprive God of his essential goodness ? Whereas to make the communications of God's goodness ad extra necessary, and therefore to make the world from eternity, that he might have an object to exercise his goodness on, is to take as much off from the infinite perfection and self-sufficiency of the Divine nature, as it would seem to flatter his goodness. For God cannot be himself without his goodness; and if his goodness cannot be without some creature to shew or display it upon, God cannot be perfect nor happy without his creatures, because these are necessary issues of his goodness; and consequently we make the being of the creatures necessary to his being God, which is the highest derogation from the absolute perfection of the Divine nature. We assert then so much goodness in God, as none can be imagined greater; we assert, that it was the communication of this Divine goodness, which gave being to the world; but withal we acknowledge God to be an agent infinitely wise and free, who dispenseth this goodness of his in such a way and manner as is best pleasing to himself, though ever agreeable to his nature. As God is infinitely good in himself, so whatever he doth is suitable to this nature of his; but the particular determinations of the acts of God's beneficence belong to the will of God, as he is a most free and independent agent; so that goodness, as it imports the necessary rectitude of the Divine nature, implies a perfection inseparable from the true idea of God; but as it is taken for the expressions of Divine bounty to somewhat without, as the object of it, it is not implied in our conception of God, as to his
BOOK nature, but belongs to the free determinations of his
will. We cannot then, neither ought we, to determine any thing concerning the particular ways of God's bounty towards the whole universe, or any part of it, any further than God himself hath declared it to us. Now we see the world exists; we have cause to adore that goodness of God, which not only gave a being to the universe, but continually upholds it, and plentifully provides for the creatures which he hath made in it:
which the heathen was so sensible of, that the Stoic Cicero de in Tully, taking notice of the abundant provision which Nat. Deor.
is made in the world, not only for man's necessity, but for delight and ornament, cries out, Ut interdum pronæa nostra Epicurea fuisse videatur; God's providence doth abundantly exceed man's necessity. We see then from this discourse how unsafe and unsatisfactory (that I may not say bold and presumptuous) those arguments are, which are drawn from a general consideration of the Divine nature and goodness, without regard had to the determinations of his will, as to the existence of things in the world. It cannot certainly then be an argument of any great force with any candid inquirers after truth and reason, which hath been lately pleaded in the behalf of that Pythagorean hypothesis of the preexistence of souls, viz. that if it be good for men's souls to be at all, the sooner they are, the better; but we are most certain that the wisdom and goodness of God will do that which is best; and therefore if they can enjoy themselves before they come into those terrestrial bodies, (it being better for them to enjoy themselves than not, they must be before they come into these bodies. Wherefore the preexistence of souls is a necessary result of the wisdom and goodness of God, who can no more fail to do that which is best, than he can to understand it. I now seriously