Page images
PDF
EPUB

1.

[ocr errors]

e

health ; to get as much wealth as will make his condi- CHAP. tion easy. Thus far then we find that mankind may propose ends to themselves; and that there are things which have a tendency to them; and that it is very becoming in them to use those means in order to their ends. Why then may not the wise Creator of the world appoint proper ends and means to mankind, as to their conveniences and future happiness ? What repugnancy is there in this, more than in the former case ? All that he can say is, That mankind finding something very ibid. Ethic.

par.i. p. 34. useful to them, as eyes for seeing, teeth for eating, herbs and animals for nourishment, the sun to give light, the sea to breed fish, &c. and because they are so useful to them, conclude that there was a Being above them, which prepared all these things for them. And what absurdity is there in so doing? What geometrical demonstration is there that these things all came together so of themselves, without any intelligent Agent? All that he saith is, That they, considering them as means, could not believe that they made themselves; but because they were wont to provide things for their own use, they supposed or believed some free Agent, which ordered all these things for them. And from hence they, judging all by themselves, concluded that God ordered all these things for their use, to oblige mankind to him, that they might honour and serve him ; and so, under a pretence of doing honour to God, they fell into superstition, and were so bent upon final causes, till at last they made God no wiser than themselves. Is not all this demonstration? They must think very meanly indeed of the understandings of men, that can think they will be satisfied with such accounts as these. We find he grants eyes fitted for sight, teeth for eating, &c. And why, I pray, may we not in reason conclude that they were designed for

BOOK that use ? He finds some things to cavil at, about un

seasonable weather, earthquakes, diseases, &c. (which are consistent with the general ends of Providence ;) but he hath nothing to say, as to his former instances, why we should not believe we had eyes to see with, or ears to hear with, or teeth to eat with. But if these things were given for those uses and no other, doth not this prove particular ends of Providence with respect to mankind ? What, if men do provide means for their ends, is it an argument of folly or wisdom so to do? If it be wisdom to act for an end, and folly to act for none, why may we not suppose an infinitely wise Being to act for ends agreeable to himself? Not for mean, foolish, sordid ends, but such as become the great Creator, and wise Governor, and bountiful Benefactor to mankind. And what is there unbecoming our idea of God in these relations? Is it then unfit for a wise Creator, and Governor, and Benefactor, to bestow on mankind such things as tend to the use and good of his creatures, or to take care of their welfare, so as to furnish us with such organs of our senses, such faculties of our minds, as may make use of the many conveniences which we have about us for our comfortable subsistence, and our cheerful service of so great, and so good, and so liberal a Benefactor ? Can this be called superstition, to serve and adore him? Is this making God like to ourselves, when we acknowledge the infinite distance between him and us, and serve him with devoạt reverence and godly fear? Far be it from us to think so meanly of him, as to attribute the least degree of our passions and weaknesses to him. We know he could not be God, if he were not infinitely above our thoughts as well as our services; but if he please to be so kind to us, to give us so many reasons to love and serve him, is it fit for his creatures to despise his service,

II.

[ocr errors]

on pretence that he is above it? Superstition is a fool- CHAP. ish thing, because it comes from mean apprehensions — of God; but true religion is a wise and agreeable thing, because it flows from a due sense of a Divine Majesty, and a tender regard to his honour. And whatever men pretend as to philosophy and demonstration, there are none that really want sense and understanding so much, as those who despise religion under the name of superstition. We cannot deny that there is too much of it in the world; but as God remains the same notwithstanding the follies of mankind, so religion is as just and reasonable a thing as ever, although superstition hath brought so much dishonour upon it.

The next thing is to shew, that final causes are repugnant to the nature of things. This is to the purpose indeed, if he can make it out. As to his argument from the necessity of all things, that must be referred to its due time; because it is not proved, but supposed. But here we are to consider how final causes do so lamentably pervert the order of nature. They make, saith he, the cause to be the effect, and the effect to be the cause; and that which was first in nature to be the last; and make the most perfect Being to be the most imperfect. These are sad consequences, if they hold. The two former he passes over, as he had reason, and fixes on the last, that they overthrow the Divine perfection; and he needs no more, if he can make this out. But how? If God works for an end, then he must want that which he works for. Is this the demonstrating ethics in a geometrical way? A father, out of kindness to his son, designs to advance him in the world, and furnishes him with all necessary means to that end. Doth this argue weakness and indigency, or only kindness and good-will to his son ? If there may be a design of doing good to others, with

BOOK regard to their welfare, and many means used to that

- end, what want doth this argue? But rather it flows

from abundant goodness; and the more perfect any being is, the greater is the beneficence and readiness to do good to others : and one would think men did not want geometry to know this. But, saith he, God did not do this for their sakes, but his own; his own glory is the end of all. But if the glory of God be most advanced by the good of his creatures, how can these two be separated from each other? Men may make a distinction by metaphysical speculation: but if his glory be advanced by their good, there can be no real distinction between them; for both are carried on by the same thing.

After these faint attempts, our geometrician falls to ignorance of causes, (of which I have said so much already ;) and from thence, he saith, comes men's admiration of the fabric of man's body, because they know not the causes of it. And did our philosopher know the mechanical causes of all the parts of it? What pity it is we had not seen them, instead of these loose and idle discourses; for I can call them no other, when there is so much blustering talk about geometry, and so very little appearance of true reason. But, saith he, very sensibly, The world looks upon a man as a very dangerous heretic, and impious person, if he gives an account of natural causes, and takes away their ignorance. I see no such great danger from his knowledge, whatever there be from his impiety; for he hath shewed much more cause for us to wonder at one than at the other. But the impiety of his system must be considered in its proper place.

The last thing he saith as to causes is, That mankind being persuaded that all things were made for them, they set an esteem upon such things as they

II.

found most useful, and measured the value of things CHAP. by their agreeableness to themselves. From hence came the difference of good and evil, orderly and confused, hot and cold, beautiful and deformed; and, because they imagined themselves free, thence came praise and dishonour, fault and merit. And what tended to health or the worship of God, they called good, and the contrary evil; what suited to their imagination they called order; what did not, confusion, What was agreeable to their senses they called beautiful, sweet, pleasant; and the contrary to what was not; and attributed their modes of sensation to the things themselves. And men judge of things by their different imaginations; and from thence come such great differences among mankind about good and evil, order and confusion; all which come from men's following imagination, and not reason. This is the substance of what he saith : which in short takes away all the real difference between good and evil, and makes good to be a mere effect of men's imaginations, from respect to their own conveniency, or what they call the honour of God; and evil what is repugnant to them. But how comes this to follow from final causes? Yes, saith he, since all things are made for them, therefore good and evil are to be taken with respect to them. This is a very weak foundation to build this doctrine upon. For things are not therefore said to be morally good, because they are useful to mankind; but that implies only a natural fitness for such purposes, which is quite another thing from moral goodness; and it is strange our philosophers should not discern the difference. For is there no measure of good and evil among mankind with respect to one another? If the good and evil of things did depend upon final causes, with respect to mankind in general, then there could be no such thing in regard to each other; for these final

« PreviousContinue »