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eye (as those who serve God for their own ends, as chap. they say, are apt to have) to reward and punishment. -And I much doubt that good woman whom the story goes of, who in an enthusiastic posture ran up and down the streets with emblems in her hands, fire in the one, as she said, to burn up heaven, and water in the other to quench hell, that men might serve God purely for himself, would, if she had compassed her design, soon have brought proselytes enough to Epicurus; and by burning heaven would have burnt up the cords of religion, and in quenching hell would have extinguished the awe and fear of a Deity in the world. Indeed the incomparable excellency and perfection which is in the Divine nature, to spirits advanced to a noble and generous height in religion, makes them exceedingly value their choice, while they disregard whatever rivals with God for it; but were it not for those magnetical hooks of obedience and eternal interest, there are few would be drawn to a due consideration of, much less a delight in, so amiable and excellent a nature. And it is impossible to conceive why God, in the revelation of his will, should ever so much as mention a future punishment, or promise an eternal reward, were not the consideration of these things the sinews of religion.
Which they, whose design was to undermine the II. very foundations on which all religion was built, understood far better than those weak pretended advancers of religion, who while in such a way they pretend to advance it, do only blow it up. For if men ought not to have an eye and respect to their own future condition, nor serve God on the account of his power to make our souls miserable or happy, much less ought men to serve God with any regard to his Providence; since the matters which Providence is employed about
STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II.
BOOK in this world, are of infinitely less moment than those
which concern our future state. And if we have no eye on Divine Providence in the exercise of religion, we shall scarce be able to understand for what end God should take so much care of mankind, and manifest so much of his goodness to them, were it not to quicken them in their search after him, and excite them to the more cheerful obedience to him. And when once we question to what end God troubles himself with the world, we are come next door to Epicurus, and may in few steps more delight in the flowers of his garden. For this was his strongest plea against Providence, that it was beneath the majesty and excellency of the Divine nature to stoop so low, and trouble himself so far, as to regard what was done on
earth. This being one of his ratæ sententiæ, or unDiog. La- doubted maxims, Το μακάριον και άφθαρτον ούτε αυτό πράγert. l. x.
Mata čxel, ošte äraço napéket, The blessed and immortal
Being neither hath any employment himself, nor trouMax. Tyr. bles himself with others. Which, as Maximus Tyrius Dissert. 29.
well observes, is rather a description of a Sardanapalus than a Deity; nay, of a worse than a Sardanapalus; for he, in the midst of all his softness and effeminacy, would yet entertain some counsels for the safety and good of his empire: but Epicurus’s Deity is of so tender a nature, that the least thought of business would quite spoil his happiness. This opinion of Epicurus made the more raised-spirited moralists so far contemn the unworthy apprehensions which he entertained of the Divine nature, that they degraded him from the very title of a philosopher in it, and ranked him beneath the most fabulous poets, who had written such unworthy things of their gods; as is evident by the censures which Tully, Plutarch, and others, pass upon him for this very opinion. And they tell him, that
Deor. 1. ii.
some of their own men were of a more noble and ex- CHAP. cellent spirit than Epicurus's Deity, who abhorred softness and idleness, and made it their greatest de- Finib. 1. i. light to do good to their countries. But Epicurus
De Nat. must needs make his God of his own humour, (the Plutarch.
"advers. Cousual flattery which men bear to themselves, to think lot. that most excellent which they delight in most,) as Xenophanes was wont to say, that if his horse were to describe a god, it would be with a curled mane, a broad chest, &c. and in every thing like himself. Had Epicurus himself so little of an Athenian in him, as not to make it some part of his delight to understand the affairs of the world? Or at least, did he take no pleasure in the walks of his famous garden, nor to order his trees, and set his flowers, and contrive every thing for his own delight ? Would Epicurus then count this a part of his happiness? And is it inconsistent with the happiness of the Deity to take notice of the world, and order all things in it for his own glory ? Must so excellent a nature as God's was, by his own acknowledgment, be presently tired with business, when the more excellent any nature is, the more active and vigorous it is, the more able to comprehend and dispatch matters of moment, with the least disturbance to itself? Is it a pleasure to a nurse to fill the child with her milk? Doth the sun rejoice to help the world with his constant light? And doth a fountain murmur till it be delivered of its streams which may refresh the ground? And is it no delight to the Divine nature to behold the effects of his goodness upon the world? We see here then the foundation on which Epicurus went, viz. that his God must be like himself, or there must be none; and truly he might more suitably to his principles question his existence, than supposing his existence deny his Provi
BOOK dence on such miserable accounts as these are; which
yet are the chief which either Epicurus or Lucretius could bring against it, from the consideration of the Divine nature.
The which, to any one who considers it, doth necessarily infer a peculiar eye and hand of Providence in the world. For can we imagine that a Being of infinite knowledge should be ignorant of what is done in the world ? and of infinite power, should stand by and leave things to chance and fortune? Which were at first contrived, and brought into being, by the contrivance of his wisdom and exercise of his power. And where the foundation of existence lies wholly and solely in the power of an infinite Being producing, the ground of continuance of that existence must lie in the same power conserving. When men indeed effect any thing, the work may continue, whatever become of him that did it; but the reason of that is, because what man doth is out of matter already existent, and his work is only setting materials together; but now what God effects, he absolutely gives a being to, and therefore its duration depends on his conservation. What is once in its being, I grant, will continue till some greater force than itself put it out of being ; but withal I add, that God's withdrawing his conservation is so great a force, as must needs put that being, which had its existence from his power, out of the condition it was in by it. The light of the sun continues in the air, and as long as the sun communicates it, nothing can extinguish the light but what will put out the sun: but could we suppose the sun to withdraw his beams, what becomes of the light then? This is the case of all beings which come from an infinite power: their subsistence depends on a continual emanation of the same power which gave them being; and when
once this is withdrawn, all those beings which were chap. produced by this power must needs relapse into no- thing. Besides, what dependence is there upon each other in the moments of duration of any created being? The mode of existence in a creature is but contingent and possible; and nothing is implied in the notion of an existent creature beyond mere possibility of existence: what is it then which gives actual existence to it? That cannot be itself, for it would be necessarily existent. If another then gives existence, this existence must wholly depend upon him who gave it; for nothing can continue existence to itself, but what may give it to itself, (for it gives it for the moment it continues it;) and what gives existence to itself must necessarily exist, which is repugnant to the very notion of a created being. So that either we must deny a possibility of non-existence, or annihilation in a creature, which follows upon necessity of existence; or else we must assert that the duration or continuance of a creature in its being doth immediately depend on Divine Providence and conservation; which is with as much reason as frequency said to be a continued creation. But yet further. Was an infinite wisdom and power necessary to put things into that order they are in ? And is not the same necessary for the governing of them? I cannot see any reason to think that the power of matter, when set in motion, should either bring things into that exquisite order and dependence which the parts of the world have upon each other; much less that, by the mere force of that first motion, all things should continue in the state they are in. Perpetual motion is yet one of the desiderata of the world. The most exquisite mechanism cannot put an engine beyond the necessity of being looked after. Can we then think this dull, unactive matter, merely by