Page images
PDF
EPUB

III.

BOOK nullos Pythagoreos, vim sententiæ non recte assecutos,

putasse, dici etiam illam indeterminatam, et immensam, duitatem, ab una singularitate institutam, recedente a natura sua singularitate, et in duitatis habitum migrante. But however these Pythagoreans might be deceived, who thought the Unity itself became the Deity, yet it is evident by Numenius, that he looked on the undetermined and confused matter to have been coeval with God himself, and not produced by him. And if Numenius be as much to be credited in this, as when he calls Plato Moses Atticus, then the creation of universal matter can be no part of Pythagoras's philosophic cabala. But whatever were the opinions of Plato and Pythagoras concerning the first origin of matter, we are certain that the Stoics generally asserted the improduction of matter, and make that to be as necessary a passive principle for the being of the

world, as God is the active and efficient cause. So Laert. V. Diogenes Laertius reports of the Stoical principles conp. 196.

cerning the origin of the universe: Aokei 8% aútois dpxàs ed. Lond.

19:η είναι των όλων δύο, το ποιούν και το πάσχον' το μεν ούν πάσχον, in Physiol. είναι την άπoιoν ουσίαν την ύλην το δε ποιούν, τον εν αυτή λόγον Sto. 1. i.

Tèv Deóv. They make two principles of the universe, one active, and the other passive; the passive, an essence without quality, called hyle, or confused matter ; the active, the reason which acts on the other, which

is God. These two principles Seneca calls causa et Epist. 65.

materia. Esse vero debet, saith he, aliquid unde fiat;

deinde, a quo fiat; hoc causa est, illud materia. AlIdem Præ- though Seneca seems to make a query of it elsewhere; fat. ad Nat. Quæst. quantum Deus possit: materiam ipse sibi formet, an

8. data utatur ? But Zeno is express in Stobæus, Oủolav είναι την των όντων πάντων πρώτης ύλην, ταύτην δε πάσαν αΐδιον, oŰte Treiw yeyuapéumu ořte énáttw. The first essence of all is matter, which is eternal, and not capable of

Zenon.

Senec.

Stob.Es
Physic.

1 Tim.

accession or diminution. To the same purpose Chal- CHAP.

II. cidius speaks, Stoici ortum sylvæ rejiciunt, quin po-

i ii.. Chalcid. tius ipsam et Deum, duo totius rei sumunt initia ; ich Deum, ut opificem; Sylvam, ut quæ operationi sub-p. 388. jiciatur. Una quidem essentia præditos facientem, et quod fit ac patitur, id corpus esse ; diversa vero virtute, quia faciat, Deum; quia fiat, Sylvam esse.

Having now found out the certain assertors among X. the heathen philosophers of the eternity and improduction of matter as the passive principle of things, we come to examine the reason of this hypothesis, and whether there were foundation enough for this matter to subsist upon to all eternity. It might be sufficient prejudice against this opinion, that it was built on the same infirm conclusions which that of the eternity of the whole world was, viz. that maxim which Lipsius attributes to Democritus, but was embraced by all those philosophers who denied production of matter, μηδέν εκ του μη όντος γίνεσθαι, μηδέ εις το μη όν φθείρεσθαι, that nothing could be produced out of nothing, nor could return into nothing; which, as we have already said, was only taken up from the established order of the universe, and the manner of production of material beings. But this is not all we have to charge this hypothesis with; for,

1. It is repugnant to the natural notion of a Deity, which must imply in it an omnipotent power; for otherwise we degrade him to the imbecility of finite creatures, if he cannot produce any thing which doth not imply a contradiction : but what contradiction is there in this, that God should give a being to that which had none before ? For that is all we understand by creation, viz. the producing of something out of nothing, or which had nothing out of which it was produced. Now what repugnancy is there to any free

BOOK principle of reason, that a power infinite should raise

- an insect into being, without any passive principle out

of which it was caused ? And if an infinite power can do that, it may as well produce the world out of nothing, else the power would not be infinite; for it would have its bounds set, that thus far it could go, and no further. Now if such a power in God implies no contradiction in itself, I say, the asserting the necessary existence of matter implies a contradiction to this power. For, 1. A power to produce something out of nothing would be to no purpose, if a passive principle or preexistent matter be necessary to the production of any thing; and so that Being which hath a power to produce something out of nothing, hath only a power to produce something out of something; which is a plain contradiction. 2. If God hath a power to produce something out of nothing, either this power doth extend to the production of this matter, or not; if it doth, then it depends on him; if not, his power is not infinite, and so the same power is infinite and not infinite; which is another contradiction. So that it is plainly repugnant to the notion of a God, to assert the necessary and eternal existence of matter.

2. If matter be unproduced, then necessary existence must belong to it as well as to God; and if necessary existence belongs to matter, infinite power must belong to it too; for whatever necessarily exists is selforiginated; whatever is self-originated could not by any cause whatsoever be hindered from being; what cannot by any cause be hindered from being, hath infinite power; what hath infinite power may produce any thing, and is God; and so matter cannot be a mere passive principle, but must be an active, and must be God himself, or else there must be more Gods than one. To an argument something of this nature

[ocr errors]

Il.

C. 4.

Hermogenes in Tertullian replies, that matter would CHAP. not lose the name or nature of matter because of its — coeternity with God; neither could it be God merely advers

Tertull. on that account, unless it had other things that were Hermog. agreeable to the nature of God as well as that. But I have already shewed that necessary existence implies other perfections going along with it; which is likewise thus proved by Tertullian in answer to Hermogenes. The reason of the imperfections which are to be seen in any creatures, is from hence, that they derive their beings from a higher cause, who creates them in what order he pleases; but that which hath its original from itself, must on that account want those imperfections which other creatures in the world have; and therefore if necessary existence be of the nature of matter, all other perfections must belong to it too: and so there can be no superiority and inferiority between God and matter, because on both sides there will be necessary existence. Divinitas gradum non habet, Tertull. utpote unica : and so the eternal existence of matter“ is repugnant to the unity of God.

3. It is repugnant to the independency of God; for it makes God subject to matter, and not matter to God. For if God cannot produce any thing without preexistent matter, the matter is necessary to his action, and so God must depend on that which he can do nothing without; and so God's using matter is, as Tertullian speaks, ex necessitate mediocritatis suæ, to help him in the production of things. Nemo non sub- ibid. c. 8. jicitur ei cujus eget, ut possit uti, as he goes on. Thus matter at last is crept above the Deity, that God can do nothing without its aid and concurrence; and so, as Tertullian sharply says, God is beholden to matter for every being known to the world; grande beneficium Deo contulit ut haberet hodie per quem Deus

STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II.

III.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

BOOK cognosceretur, et omnipotens vocaretur; nisi quod jam

-- non omnipotens; si non et hoc potens ex nihilo omnia

proferre. Thus we see how irreconcilable this hypo-
thesis is with these attributes of God.

4. It is repugnant to the immensity of God. For
either God did exist separate from this eternal matter,

or was conjoined with it: if conjoined with it, then Orig. Phi- both made but one being, as Maximus or Origen arloc. c. 24.

gues; if separate from it, then there must be some-
thing between them, and so there will be three real
improduced things. If it be answered that they are
neither conjoined nor separate, but God is in matter as
in his proper place, as the Stoics asserted, it is easily
replied, that either then he is in a part of matter, or
the whole matter; if in a part only, he cannot be im-
mense; if in the whole, as his adequate place, how
could he then ever frame the world? For either he
must then recede from that part in which he was,
and contract himself into a narrower compass, that he
might fashion that part of the world which he was
about, or else he must likewise frame part of himself
with that part of the world which he was then fram-
ing of; which consequence is unavoidable, on the Sto-
ical hypothesis of God's being corporeal, and confined
to the world as his proper place. And so much for
this second hypothesis, concerning the origin of the
universe, which supposeth the eternity of matter as
coexisting with God.

I come now to that which makes most noise in the
world, which is the atomical or Epicurean hypothesis ;
but will appear to be as irrational as either of the fore-
going, as far as it concerns the giving an account of
the origin of the universe. For otherwise supposing a
Deity which produced the world, and put it into the
order it is now in, and supremely governs all things in

XI.

« PreviousContinue »