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Ethic. l. x. c. 10.
BOOK God and Providence; and we are as certain these were
his, as we are that we have any books of his. For even
Fr. Patritius himself makes very slight objections Discuss. against them; and the author of the ancient Paraphrase tom. 1.1. iii. upon his Ethics ad Nicomachum (supposed to be An
dronicus Rhodius) is a far better evidence for them;
matter out of doubt; for he thus paraphrases his words: Paraphr. If God doth take care of mankind, kabátep Trãou dokeñ
kai tin ye, as it seems to all, and is true. And not
Let us now compare these sayings with the objec-
1. x. c. 8.
and then God must have a power and will to make and CHAP. order these things as they are, and with a design for the good of the whole. Then it follows, that a Providence, that regards the good of the whole, is agreeable to the Divine Nature; and why not then a particular Providence for the same end? If the same power and wisdom can manage the whole for that end, with regard to particular events, why should that be rejected, and the other allowed ?
All that is pleaded from Aristotle is this: That the Arist. Meknowledge and care of particular things is troublesome 1. xiv.c. g. and uneasy; that the Eternal Being is happy in itself; and it is better not to see and know some things, than to see and know them. But I urge from Aristotle id. Ethic. himself, that he yields that the Divine happiness doth not lie in an unactive state, or such a perpetual sleep as they fancied of Endymion. And what can be more agreeable to Infinite Goodness, than such an activity as employs itself in the care of his creatures ?
But, saith Aristotle, How can God understand Metaphys. any thing below himself? He is a perfect object, and l. xii. c. 5. fit for his own contemplation; and all other things are infinitely below him. If any made the Divine happiness to consist in the knowledge of his creatures, they were extremely mistaken ; but I do not find that Socrates or Plato, who were hearty assertors of Providence, say any thing like it. All that they say is, that God, being infinitely good and wise, takes care of the good of the whole, and especially of those that are good; and if he did not, it must be either from want of power or will; neither of which can be supposed in the Divine nature. And if he wants neither of these, why is it not done? It cannot be said, that Aristotle abso-Id. Rhet, ad lutely denied God's knowledge of all things; for in one place he saith, It is the character of a bad man to sup
Alex, c. 18. 1.
Jd. de Poet.
BOOK pose any thing hidden from God; and in another, that
we attribute to God the knowledge of all things. But it is possible he might be to seek as to the manner of God's knowing all things; as who is not? But if he could not comprehend it, it doth not therefore follow that he denied it. If God, saith he, understands nothing, then he is like one that sleeps ; which is not consistent with that veneration which we owe to God. If he doth understand, and the principal object be without himself, then he is not the best substance himself. But none ever thought, that if there were a God, the principal object of his understanding could be without himself. But what repugnancy is there for Infinite Knowledge to comprehend all things ? And so if there be things without himself, he must know them, or his knowledge cannot be infinite. Could Aristotle imagine that the world, and the order of it, were of his making and contriving, and yet he know nothing beyond himself? Are the several species of things of his ordering and appointing, and yet he not know thein? This is impossible. But Aristotle saith, That his essence, as most perfect, is the most proper object of Divine contemplation; and his understanding is nothing but the understanding of himself: and so, as he expresses it,
his understanding is the understanding of his underScaliger. standing. Wherein, as Scaliger saith, he did apprehend 365.0.7. things supra humanum captum ; and I am apt to think
so too. But our business is not to unfold the mystery of Divine knowledge with respect to itself, but to consider whether it be repugnant to it to know other things. If so, saith Aristotle, there must be a change and motion, but the Divine Essence is always the same. As though an Infinite Mind could not comprehend all things without a change in itself, or such trouble as we find in our gradual perceptions of things; which arises
from our weakness and imperfection. The objection Chap. from the meanness of things is very inconsiderable. For, if they were fit to make up a part of the order of the world, why are they below Divine knowledge and Providence? If God thought fit to make them, why not to preserve them ?
Yes, say they, as to the species he doth, but not as to all the little accidents about them. The schoolmen distinguish in Providence the ratio ordinis from the executio ordinis : the first, they say, is wholly immediate, the other is by subordinate causes, which we call the course of nature, which is no more than the common order which God hath appointed in the world; which generally obtains, but yet so as that there must be a due subordination to the first agent, if he sees cause for particular ends to order things otherwise. And I cannot see any kind of incongruity or repugnancy in such a supposition, because it answers the same ends which the original intention and design of universal Providence doth : as that in the ordinary course of nature, fire burns, i. e. dissolves that contexture of bodies which it meets with ; and this it doth, by virtue of that order of causes and effects which is established by universal Providence. But suppose that there be a stop put to this method by an extraordinary act, for great and wise ends becoming the supreme Governor of the world; why should not this be as agreeable to the design of Providence, as the first appointment of things in the common order was? Why not as well to work miraculous cures at some times, as to leave things to the ordinary methods at other times ? But we must still suppose the ends to be wise, and great, and good, for otherwise they do not reach the general design of Providence; and we mean no other particular Providence, but such as answers the same ge
STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II.
BOOK neral ends which an universal Providence is designed
for. Arist. Mag.
But, saith Aristotle, If we suppose a particular Providence with respect to mankind, then he must give to men here according to their deserts ; which cannot be, since bad men often meet with good fortune ; and therefore God, being Lord over these things, would deal unjustly as a judge, which is not becoming him to do. Here it cannot be denied that Aristotle doth exclude a judicial disposal of these things; for if it were such, his argument must hold: but we distinguish between that and a providential management, in order to the real good of mankind. And I need no other than Aristotle's own arguments in this case : for if a man's real happiness lies in a similitude of the mind to God, how can that be inconsistent with Divine justice to exercise good men here in such a manner as tends most to draw off their minds from these transitory and decaying pleasures ?. And if these things cannot make a man really happy without virtue, which is the great design of his Morals to prove, how is it inconsistent with his justice to let bad men meet with good fortune? For these things can be no demonstrations of the favour or displeasure of God, which himself grants relates most to the inward temper of men's minds. But the real difficulty in this case is a supposition that there is no future state. I confess that Plato clears this matter easily and plainly. A good man, saith he, if he be under poverty, diseases, or other difficulties here, will find these things end in good to him, living or dying; and he makes no question of such a one's happiness in another state. But Aristotle is upon a great reserve as to a future state; and although he asserts the possibility of it sufficiently, from what he saith of the nature of the mind of man, as distinct from the principle