The Being of GodMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
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pp. Being of God. We know there was being from eternity and this being must be intelligent, for how does our mind refuse to believe that there should be being from all eternity without its being conscious to itself that it was. That there should be from all eternity and yet nothing know, all that while, that anything is — this is really a contradiction. We may see it to be so though we know not how to express it. For in what respect has anything a being when there is nothing conscious of its being? And in what respect has anything a being that angels nor men nor no created intelligence know nothing of, but only as God knows it to be? Not at all, any more than there are sounds where none hears or colors where none sees. Thus, for instance, supposing a room in which none is, none sees in that room, no created intelligence. The things in the room have no being any other way than only as God is conscious of them, for there is no color, nor any sound, nor any shape, etc. (See M 94.)
27a. God. God is a necessary being because it’s a contradiction to suppose him not to be. A being is a necessary being whose nonentity is a contradiction. We have shown that absolute nothing is the essence of all contradiction. [See Of Being, p.1.] But being in order is all that we call God, who is, and there is none else besides him.
91. Being of God. It is acknowledged by all to be self-evident that nothing can begin to be without cause. Neither can we prove it any other way than by explaining it. When understood, it is a truth that irresistably will have place in the assent. Thus, if we suppose a time wherein there was nothing, a body will not of its own accord begin to be. It is what the understanding abhors, that it should be when there was no manner of reason why it was. So it is equally self-evident that a being cannot begin to be, as to the manner of its being, without a cause, as that when a body has been perfectly at rest that it should begin to move without any reason, either within itself or without. So that, ‘because it so happened’ will not satisfy the mind at all. The mind asks what was the reason. So it is equally self-evident, if equally understood, that there must be a reason why a body should be after this manner and not after another. Thus, if a body is a moving body there must be some reason or cause why it is a moving body, and not a resting body. It must be because of something, otherwise there is something without a cause, as much as when a body starts into being of itself. Supposing there are two globes: the one is a moving globe, the other is resting. The mind asks why the one moves and the other rests. It is natural to the mind to say something is the reason why this body moves and not the other; and if it should be said, no, there is not, nor ever was, any reason or cause why this being should move more than why the other should, the mind immediately returns: If there be no reason why one should move more than the other, why then does one move and the other rest? It abhors the supposition that there is none. So if two bodies are of different figures, there is some reason why this is of this shape and that of the other. So when one body moves with one degree of velocity and another of another, when one body is of one bigness and another of another, when one body moves with one direction and another of another, one rests on this place, another, another. It is exceeding evident that there must be some cause or other for these things. Wherefore now I ask the question of the different bodies in the world: Why is this body in this place and not in any or some other, and why is this body of such dimensions and not of others? Why is this body of this figure and that of that, and why does this move and that rest? Why does this body move with just such a degree of velocity, and why does the planets move west to east and not from east to west? Something must be the reason of it. If it be said it is so because it was so from all eternity, or because there was such a succession of alterations from eternity as to cause it to be so now, how came it to be so from all eternity? If there can be absolutely no reason or cause why it should be so any more than why it should be infinite other ways, then I say it wasn’t so from eternity. And why was there not another succession of alterations from eternity so as to cause another sort of alteration now?
124. Existence of God. There is just the same sort of knowledge of the existence of an universal mind in the world, from the action of the world and what is done that is objected to our senses and that is effected by this mind, as there is of the existence of a particular mind in an human body from the observation of the actions of that in gesture, look, and voice. And there wants nothing but a comprehensive view to take in the various actions in the world and look on them at one glance, and to see them in their mutual respects and relations. And these would as naturally, as quick, and with as little ratiocination, and more assuredly indicate to us an universal mind than human actions do a particular.
125a. Existence of God. It is certain with me that the world exists anew every moment, that the existence of things every moment ceases and is every moment renewed. For instance, in the existence of bodies there has to be resistance or tendency to some place. It is not numerically the same resistance that exists the next moment. It is evident because these existences may be in different places, but yet its existence is continued so far that there is respect had to it in all the future existences. It is evident in all things continually, how past existence cannot be continued so that respect should be had to it otherwise than mentally. If the world this moment should be annihilated so that nothing should really and actually exist any more, the existence of the world could not be continued so that, if another world after a time should be created, that world should exist after this or that manner from respect to the manner of the existence of this, or should be so only because this had been thus or thus. Indeed, we every moment see the same proof of a God as we should have seen if we had seen him create the world at first. It is only this way that respect can be had to existence, distant as to place as well as time. But as much respect is had to distant existence in one sense as in another.
134. Being of God. It is evident that none of the creatures, none of the beings that we behold, are the first principle of their own action, but all alterations follow in a chain from other alterations. Now, therefore, there must necessarily be something in itself active so as that it is the very first beginning of its own actions, or some necessary being that has been the cause of all the rest, which cannot be matter as it does not have the nature of matter.
199. Existence of God. The existence of our own souls, which we know more immediately than anything, is an argument of exceeding glaring evidence for the existence of a God. Our souls were not always, but they are wonderful beings, certainly exceeding in contrivance everything that is seen or can be seen with eyes. They are pieces of workmanship so curious and of such amazing contrivance that their operation infinitely exceeds those of any machines that are seen. Let us consider what has been done and what is daily done by human souls. What strange contrivance is this, to take in the sun, moon, and stars, and the whole universe, and bring all distant things together, and to make past and future things present, to move the body after such a manner, to produce such strange effects on other souls and in the corporeal world! If our souls are material machines, certainly they are so curious that none will deny that they are the effect of contrivance. Let them be created immediately, or let them be by propagation, the contrivance is wonderful. What contrivance is necessary to make such machines that will produce and propagate other such machines in an infinite succession! And if they be not material, whence are they if not from a superior immaterial being? And if we say our souls existed from eternity, who is it orders it so that upon every generation a soul shall be brought and united to such a parcel of matter? Or if we say our souls existed in the bodies from eternity, existing one within another in infinitum, who contrived this matter so?
200. Existence of God. If the atheist will not acknowledge any great order and regularity in the corporeal world, he must acknowledge that there is in spirits, in minds, which will be as much an argument for a contriver as if the contrivance was in bodies. He must acknowledge that reason, wisdom, and contrivance are regular actions. But they are the actions of spirits. Many of the works of men are wonderfully regular, but certainly no more regular than the contrivance that was the author of them. And who made those beings that they should act as regularly as the nicest machines of men? Did such nice beings come into existence by chance or were they not the effect of a superior contrivance?
Corollary. Hence we see that all man’s works and human inventions and artifices are arguments of the existence of God, as well as those that are more immediately the works of God, for they are only the regular actings of God’s works. When we walk in stately cities or admire curious machines and inventions, let us argue the wisdom of God as well as of the immediate contrivers. For those spirits who were the contrivers are the most wonderful contrivances.
267. Existence of God. The mere exertion of a new thought is a certain proof of a God. For certainly there is something that immediately produces and upholds that thought. Here is a new thing, and there is a necessity of a cause. It is not in antecedent thoughts, for they are vanished and gone. They are past, and what is past is not. But if we say it is the substance of the soul, if we mean that there is some substance besides that thought that brings that thought forth, if it be God, I acknowledge it, but if there be meant something else that has no properties, it seems to me absurd. If the removal of all properties, such as extension, solidity, thought, etc., leaves nothing, it seems to me that no substance is anything besides them. For if there be anything besides, there might remain something when these are removed.
268. Existence of God. Innate ideas. That sweet intimation and sort of inward testimony that men have, upon occasion, of the being of a God, and which is in the mind of all men however they may endeavor to root it out, is this: In the first place, the arguing for the being of a God according to the natural powers from everything we are conversant with is short and easy, and what we naturally fall into. And in the next place, it appears decorous and orderly that it should be so, and that natural inclination that persons have to excellence and order does, as it were, prejudice in favor of it. When we suffer great injustice, we look to some superior being to set things to rights, because there is a great resistance of the soul against that sort of indecorum and we do not know how to believe if injustice should be done without ever being mended. It is so abhorrent to nature. So when we have done good or evil, we naturally expect from some superior being reward or punishment. Thirdly, there is a habit of the mind in reasoning. We are wont every day, from our very infancy, to argue causes from effects after the same manner, in general. And we have such a habit that we believe this or that without standing to argue about it. Thus we do in many other cases, and as long as we are thus forced to judge in other things continually, it will return upon us inevitably when we think anything about the being of a God.
269. Existence of God. If we allow generation to be merely mechanically performed, yet that the bodies of men and of all animals and plants should be so contrived that there should spring endless successions of the same kind of like curious frames from them is an exceeding bright argument of a deity.
274. Existence of God. The being of God may be argued from the desirableness and need of it. This we see in all nature everywhere, that great necessities are supplied. We should be miserably off without our light in the night, and we have the moon and stars. In Egypt and India they are very much without rain, and they have the floods of Ganges and Nile and great deserts. In Greenland the sun’s rays are exceeding oblique, and he is above the horizon so much the longer to make it up. Moles have poor eyes, and they have little occasion for them. Beasts are without reason, and they are guided by instinct that supplies its place as well. Men are without natural weapon to fight, and they have reason and hands to make weapons. The young of insects are not able to provide for themselves nor do their dams take care of them, but they, by instinct, are laid where they have their food round about them. Camels are forced, being in dry countries, to go long without water, and they have a large vessel within them which, being filled, supplies them a long time. And so it is in everything. Therefore we cannot think there should be so great and essential and universal and eternal defect that there should be no wise, just, and good being to govern the world, that the miseries amongst reasonable creatures, both through the defect of nature and through wickedness and injustice (which are infinitely more than in all the rest of the creation), can never be relieved.
312. Being of God. If we should suppose that the world is eternal, yet the beauty, contrivance, and useful disposition of the world would not less strongly conclude for the being of an intelligent author. It will appear in this question: Whether or no, if we should see such a poem as Vergil’s Aeneid, it would be any more satisfying to us if we were told that it was from eternity, transcribed from copy to copy (though we supposed that a succession of men had actually existed from eternity), I say, would it be at all more satisfying than if we were told that it was made by the casual failing of ink on paper?
333. Scriptures. Being of God. Christian Religion. The being of God is evident by the Scriptures, and the Scriptures themselves are an evidence of their own divine authority, after the same manner as the existence of a human thinking being is evident by the motions, behavior, and speech of a body of a human form and contexture, and that the body is animated by a rational mind. For we know this no otherwise than by the consistency, harmony, and concurrence of the train of actions and sounds, and that according to all that we can suppose to be in a rational mind. These are a clear evidence of an understanding and design that is the original of those actions. So there is that wondrous universal harmony and consent and concurrence in the Scriptures: such an universal appearance of a wonderful glorious design, such stamps everywhere of exalted and divine wisdom, majesty, and holiness in matter, manner, contexture, and aim — that the evidence is the same that the Scriptures are the word and work of a divine mind to one that is thoroughly acquainted with them, as it is that the words and actions of an understanding man are from a rational mind to one that has, of a long time, been his familiar acquaintance. An infant, when it first comes into the world and sees persons and hears their voices, before it is so much acquainted with their action and voice, before it has so much comprehension of them as to see something of their consistence, harmony, and concurrence, makes no distinction between their bodies and other things, their motion and sounds, and the motions and sounds of inanimate things. But as its comprehension increases, the understanding and design begin to appear. So it is with men that are so little acquainted with the Scriptures, as in infants with the actions of human bodies. They cannot see any evidence of a divine mind as the original of it, because they have not comprehension enough to apprehend the harmony, wisdom, etc.
365. Being of God. The only reason why we are ready to object against the absolute, indivisible, unconditional necessity of God’s being is that we are ready to conceive as if there were some second. We are ready to say, why could not there have been nothing, as if this were a second. But it is because of the miserableness of our conceptions that we are ready to imagine any such supposition. It is but talk whether there be any such supposition or no, except we knew what nothing was. But we cannot have any such knowledge because there is no such thing.
383. Being of God. That the first supreme and universal principle of things from whence results of the being, the nature, the powers and motions, and sweet order of the world is properly an intelligent willing agent such as our souls, only without our imperfections, and not some inconceivable, unintelligent, necessary agent, seems most rational, because of all the beings that we see or know anything of, man’s soul only seems to be the image of that supreme universal principle. These reasons may be given why we should suppose man’s soul to be the image of that first principle. In the first place, it is evidently the most perfect and excellent of all the beings in the lower world. It is very plain that the other creatures are put in subjection to him and made to be subservient to him. It is rational to conclude that the most perfect of things that proceed from this principle should bear most of the image of itself. Second. It is only the soul of man that does as that supreme principle does. This is a principle of action, has a power of motion in itself as that first principle has, and which no unperceiving being in this lower world has. Man’s soul determines things in themselves indifferent, as motion and rest, the direction of motion, etc., as the supreme cause does. Man’s soul has an end in what it does, pursues some good that is the issue of its actions, as the first universal principle does. Man’s soul makes, forms, preserves, disposes, and governs things within its sphere as the first principle does the world. Man’s soul influences the body, continues its nature and powers and constant regular motions and productions, and actuates it as the supreme principle does the universe.
So that if there be anything amongst all the beings that flow from this first principle of all things, that have any sort of resemblance to it or have anything of a shadow of likeness to it, spirits or minds bid abundantly the fairest for it.
587. Being of God. Necessary Existence. God is a necessary being, as it is impossible but that God should exist because there is no other way. There is no second to make a disjunction. There is nothing else supposable. To illustrate this by one of God’s attributes, take eternity. It is absolutely necessary that eternity should be, and it is because there is no other way. To say eternity or not eternity is no disjunction, because there is no such thing to make a proposition about as no eternity. Nor can we, in our minds, make any such supposition as not any eternity. We may seem to make such a supposition in words, but it is no supposition because the words have no sense in thought to answer them. They are words as much without any sense in thought that they should signify as these: a crooked straight line, or a square circle, or a six-angled triangle. If we go to suppose that there is no eternity, it is the same as if we should say or suppose that there never was any such thing as duration, which is a contradiction, for the word ‘never’ implies eternity, and it is the same as to say there never was any such a duration from all eternity. So that in the very doubting the thing we affirm it.
650. Being of God. Necessary Existence. It is from the exceeding imperfect notion that we have of the nature or essence of God, and because we cannot think of it but we must think of it far otherwise than it is, that arises the difficulty in our mind of conceiving of God’s existing without a cause. It is repugnant to the nature of our souls and what our faculties utterly refuse to admit that anything that is capable of being one part of a proper disjunction should exist and be as it is, rather than not exist or exist otherwise, without causes. Our notions we have of the divine nature are so imperfect that our imperfect idea admits of a disjunction, for whatsoever is not absolutely perfect does so. In everything that is imperfect there is dependence or contingent existence implied in the nature of it, and we can conceive of its being a part of a disjunction. There is a ‘thus’ and an ‘otherwise’ in the case. As soon as ever we have descended one step below absolute perfection, possibility ceases to be simple: it divides and becomes manifold. Thus, for instance, we cannot conceive of God without attributing succession to him, but that notion brings along with it contingent existence and introduces with it a manifold possibility. There is nothing that exists in a successive duration but it will necessarily follow from thence that it is entirely possible that it might exist infinite other ways than it does, and that it might not exist at all.
It is a contradiction to suppose that being itself should not be. If anyone says, no, there may be nothing, he supposes at the same time nothing has a being. And indeed nothing, when we speak properly, or when the word has any meaning, i.e., when we speak of nothing in contradiction to some particular being, has truly a being.
749. Being of God. The first cause an intelligent voluntary agent. Nothing can be more plain than that the make and constitution of the world, in all parts of it, is with respect to final causes or with an aim at these and these ends to be obtained. And therefore it seems to be plain that the world must have a cause, and that this cause is an intelligent and voluntary or designing agent.
1. It shows that the world must have an efficient cause, for how can anything but an efficient cause have respect to an end in an effect? If the world be disposed and ordered for an end, then there must have been some being that has disposed and ordered it for that end. Its being ordered for a future end must be from something that has some regard to futurity, or to what as yet is not. For the end is what is not as yet obtained when the disposal first is, but is a consequence of the disposal. It cannot be without any cause or from nothing, for in nothing there can in no respect be any regard or relation to a future thing. It cannot be from the thing itself that is disposed, for the relation to futurity is, by the supposition, the thing that governs the disposal. And therefore the relation or regard to futurity cannot be consequent on the disposed or be from the thing itself disposed. As for instance, the clock’s disposal to tell the hour of the day cannot be from the clock disposed, because a respect to the notification of the hours of the day is supposed to govern the disposal of the clock. The world, therefore, being so disposed that respect is had to final causes or to future good must be from something prior to the world, for any other supposition carries in it a contradiction. To suppose it is from the world itself carries a contradiction. And to suppose that it is from nothing is a contradiction, for it supposes that nothing carries in it some regard or respect or relation to future good to be obtained, so as to govern in the disposal of things in order to that good.
2. It shows that the efficient cause of the world must be an intelligent voluntary agent, for in the first place, by things being disposed to an end, something that is future and that as yet has no actual being has influence and governs in the effect that is produced. For the good that is the final cause as yet is future. But this future thing that has no actual existence yet has a present existence some way or other: otherwise it could have no present influence in any effect at all. For that which in no respect whatsoever is, can in no respect whatsoever have influence in an effect. For it is a contradiction to suppose that that which absolutely and in all respects is not, or is nothing, should have influence or causality, or that mere nothing can do something. But there is no other way that that which has no actual existence can have existence but only by having existence in the understanding or in some idea. For instance, there is no way that things that are first to begin to be the next year can be now, before they begin to be, but by their being foreseen. Therefore, if any cause be now seen acting with evident respect to something that is first to begin to be the next year, so as that its effects shall be disposed in order to it, and the production of that future thing governs in the ordering and disposal of the effect, it argues that that cause is intelligent and that he foresees that future thing, or that it exists already in his idea just as much as if he foretold it. To foretell an event to come is to hold forth those things that are signs conformed to the future event, and by their conformity manifestly show that that future event is present with the efficient of those signs, and that there is an aim or respect of the efficient to the event in directing and ordering and designing those things wherein the sign consists, in conformity to the event signified, and for an end, viz., to signify or give notice of that future event. There is nothing in foretelling events, however particularly or exactly, that manifests intelligence and design any other ways than these two: viz., First. Conforming things present viz., sounds or marks, to things future, and Second. Doing that with a certain design, viz., giving notice. But there is the very same evidence of an intelligent and voluntary agent in ordering and disposing things in conformity to future events, as words, as much in conforming other things, as sounds or marks. Things are so disposed to future ends, so perfectly ordered to bring about such and such necessary and good ends, that there is, as it were, as exact and perfect a conformity, or rather correspondence, between the means and the end as there is between a stamp and the picture that is designed to be stamped with it, or as there is in the types in the press and the impression intended by it, or as there is between the letters and their combinations on paper and the words that are intended should be spoken by him that shall read them.
We may as well and as reasonably suppose that words, yea, a great multitude of them, may be in exact and precise conformity, in innumerable particulars, to something future without understanding, as that a great multitude of things shall be in as exact and particular conformity to future events without understanding. There are two things in foretelling future events that argue intelligence, viz., conformity to something future and design or aim at an end. And there is the same in directing or ordering things for future good or for final causes.
If a cause may conform and direct effects to final causes without understanding, as if it had exceeding great understanding, then there is nothing that we expect of intelligent beings but what we may expect from such an unintelligent cause. For there is nothing whatsoever that we look upon as a sign or mark of intelligence in any being but it is in thus directing and ordering things for final causes. For we can see no signs of intelligence in any but these three, viz., First. That he acts and produces effects. Second. That in acting or producing effects, he shows that things not present in their actual existence are yet some way present with him, as in idea, by a conformity of his acts to things distant or future, as it is in one that conceives of things distant and future. Third. That he acts with design, as aiming at that which is future. But he that evidently acts for final causes does all these things. If a cause without understanding can do all these things, then we may expect that he will do all the acts that intelligent beings do in as great perfection as they, viz., determine between good and bad, reward, punish, instruct, counsel, comfort, give answers, and converse. For all that, in any or all of these things, argues intelligence is a conformity of actions to things absent or future as if present in idea, and acting with design or ends. And though the designs or ends in such a way of acting is exceeding various or manifold, yet the multiplicity and variety of ends argues intelligence no otherwise than as it the more plainly manifests that there is indeed a presence of things absent, as in idea, and that there is indeed an ordering of effects for final causes, as in design. But this is not the thing now in question. But the question is, Whether or no, if it be granted that future things are manifestly so present as if in idea, and they are indeed so ordered for final causes, it argues intelligence? Not but that there is as great an evidence of real intelligence and design in God’s works of creation and providence by multiplicity and variety of good ends evidently aimed at, as there can be in conversing as intelligent beings do.
In an efficient cause disposing things for a final cause, it appears that things not actually in being are present with it, but present with it so as to determine it in acting, just as intelligent beings are determined by choice, and by a wise choice rejecting the bad and choosing the good (and choosing the good with admirable distinction, choosing the best in millions of cases) out of an infinite variety that are equally possible and equally before this cause. It argues perception in the cause that thus selects the best out of infinite numbers in all cases, because it is good that governs the determination of this cause, but things are neither good nor bad but only with relation to perception. There is no other way that a being can exist before its actual proper existence but only by existing in some representation. For if the thing itself is not, nor anything that represents it, then surely it is not at all or in any wise. But there is no representation present with an efficient to make that aim at the thing, represented, as that for which he effects, but an idea — no other representation but a perceived representation. The representation of the future thing aimed at by the first cause is no otherwise present with that first cause, before actual existence, than all other possible beings not actually existing. But only that is selected by the first cause, out of all other possible things, for its goodness, which argues that the first cause perceives the goodness. For goodness has no existence but with relation to perception.
Why should there be a backwardness in us to conceive of this first cause of things as a properly intelligent and voluntary agent, or why should we look upon it as a strange thing that it should be so? Is it because it is a strange thing that there should be any intelligent and voluntary beings at all? If it be so, it argues against the first cause being such a being no otherwise than it argues against there being any such being at all. And if it ben’t forceable against the existence of any such being, then it is not against the first cause being such a being. But we know that there are intelligent and voluntary beings, and that more certainly than we know the existence of any other kind of being, because we know it by our own immediate consciousness. And we that are intelligent and voluntary beings, are the effects of this first cause. It is it that has made us and made us intelligent beings. And why is it more strange that the cause should be intelligent than the effect? Why should it appear strange that the intelligent creatures that it has made are more in his image than any other effects that it has made? We see they are so in its image in all other things far more than any unperceiving beings. They are so in the manner of their acting. The first cause acts from himself, so these act more from themselves than any other beings. The first cause acts for final causes, so do these his creatures and these only. The first cause is chief of all beings, and these intelligent beings that he has made are chief among creatures and so in his image in that respect. And they are next to the first cause, and it is more likely that those effects of the first cause that are nearest to it should be most like it. These intelligent creatures are evidently set over the rest. The rest are put more in subjection to them than to any other and more in their power. In this respect they bear the image of the first cause who has all things under it and in its power.
We have all reason to think that this first cause of all things, that is the cause of all perception and intelligence in the world, is not only not an unintelligent, unknowing, and insensible being, but that he is infinitely the most intelligent and sensible being of all; that he is more perceiving than any; that his perception is so much more sensible and lively and perfect; that created minds are, in comparison of him, like dead, senseless, unperceiving substances; and that he infinitely more exceeds them in the sensibility and life and height (if I may so speak) of his perception than the sun exceeds the planets in the intensive degree of his brightness, as well as the bulk or extent of his shining disk. And as he is more sensible, so he is, as I may express it, more voluntary than created minds. He acts more of himself, infinitely more purely active, and in no respect passive as all created minds are in a great measure passive in their acts of will. And the acts of will are more voluntary. Though there be no proper passions, as in created minds, yet voluntariness is exercised to an infinitely greater height. The divine love, which is the sum of all the exercises of the divine will, is infinitely stronger, more lively, and intense, as not only the light of the sun but his heat is immensely greater than that of the planets whose light and heat is derived from him.
880. Being of God. Concerning the external existence. Concerning that objection against the form of the argument from the order and final causes of things, to prove the being of a God, viz., that this order might happen in an infinite number of changes of the fortuitous positions of the parts of the matter that the universe is composed of, in their endless wanderings in infinite space. To this it may be answered:
1. That matter could not be from eternity of itself without any cause, having no necessary existence or there being no reason, without supposing an efficient cause, why matter should have existence. It is absurd to suppose that anything is and there is absolutely no reason why it is. When there are two parts of a disjunction, one of them will not be and not the other, unless there be some reason why one should be rather than the other. There must be something to preponderate with respect to that part of the disjunction that has prevailed. If one scale of a balance descends and the other ascends, it is a sure evidence that there is a preponderation. There is a reason to be given why God should have a being. The reason is because there is no other way. There is nothing else supposable to be put with the being of God as the other part of the disjunction. If there be, it is absolute and universal nothing. A supposition of something is a supposition of the being of God. It does not only presuppose it but it implies it. It implies it not only consequently but immediately. God is the sum of all being and there is no being without his being. All things are in him, and he in all. But there is no such thing supposable as an absolute universal nothing. We talk nonsense when we suppose any such thing. We deceive ourselves when we think we do in our minds suppose it, or when we imagine we suppose it to be possible. What we do when we go to think of absolute nihility (if I may so speak) is only to remove one thing to make way for and suppose another. In this case there is no such thing as two parts of a disjunction. When we are come to being in general we are come to one single point without a disjunction. Therefore, God is, because there is no other way. God is, because there is nothing else to make a supposition of.
But we know that it is not so with respect to the matter of which the universe is composed. If nothing else can be supposed but the existence of such matter as we find in some places, then why is it not everywhere alike? If this matter can be supposed not to be in such a part of space, then surely it is in the nature of things supposable that it should not be in other parts of space. It is not in itself necessary that there should be matter in other places more than in this place which is empty. If it be in itself necessary that matter should be, why is there no more of it? There is room for a great deal more. Or why is there so much: why is there not less? Surely here is a supposable disjunction: so much or not so much, or so much and more. You have room for infinite different sorts of a disjunction or distribution, all equally supposable, viz., infinite different quantities of matter of which there is no more reason in the thing itself that any one should be rather than any other. Therefore, to suppose that one certain particular of all this infinite number should be and all the rest not be, without any disposing cause, is infinitely absurd. Again, why should the matter that there is be so disposed of as to occupy just such particular parts of space in such a situation and not be disposed in any of the other infinite manners equally supposable? Here again is one particular of an infinite number of particulars, equally supposable, which cannot be without a reason.
By these things it appears that matter is not a thing of necessary existence. Therefore, if matter exists, it exists accidentally without any reason at all, which is absurd. It is absurd to suppose one atom of matter to exist accidentally, to have being and there be no cause for it. Therefore, the absurdity seems to appear still greater that there should be so many millions, such an infinite number of such causeless existences. What we see often come to pass we are more ready to think there is some cause for, than what happens but once.
Again, 2. The objection supposes not only that the matter of which the universe consists could have being from eternity without any cause, but also that it could be in motion from eternity without a cause, which is more palpably absurd. The objection supposes that the numberless parts of matter were in motion from eternity and so have been subject to endless changes in their situation with respect one to another. But it may justly be inquired, What set them in motion, or what caused them to move rather than to stand still? When we see an arrow or a stone flying through the air we conclude, yea we know, that there must be some cause of its motion, and some cause why it flies in such a direction and so swiftly and at such a time. It is plain that the being of matter is not necessary but that the contrary, viz., its not being, is a thing supposable. But it is more plain and manifest to everyone, with less reflection, that it is not necessary that matter should be in motion, that it may be supposed to be still. And it is more palpably manifest still that it is not necessary that matter should move in such a direction and with such a degree of velocity. It is self-evident that matter in itself is indifferent to an infinite number of directions. And therefore, when we see matter actually determined to one particular direction and proceeding on one path out of all the rest of that infinity of paths, it is certain that it is not absolute perfect indifference that thus determines it to one rather than all the rest, but some determining cause. And so it is as plain that matter, if it moves, is in itself no more disposed to move in the degree of velocity that it has than in infinite numbers of other degrees. And therefore there is some cause why it moves in such a degree of velocity.
The unreasonableness of supposing matter and motion (which are not necessary existences) to be from eternity without any cause has been illustrated by the similitude of a chain hung up or hanging down from an infinite height, and we observed the last link was suspended in the air without falling down. We argue that this must be the effect of some cause. The supporting of that link is not of the link itself. For supposing gravity be the nature of the link, then we know that supporting the link is something added besides what is in the link itself, and therefore it must be from some other cause. Now it does not satisfy to say that the preceeding link is the cause of this effect on that, and the next the cause of the support of that, and so on, in infinitum. For still a cause is justly demanded of this effect in the whole infinite chain which has not this effect in itself, because the whole is supposed to have gravity in itself, which is a tendency to descend. The case is exactly parallel, because it is not a thing in dispute whether things that now are or are existing in any part of the infinite extension of things exist of themselves or need a cause as much as the suspension of any one of the links of the chain, for by supposition they both need a cause. For instance, the existence of the present generation of men needs a cause just as much as the suspension of the last link of the chain. For it is not a thing now in dispute whether a generation of men come into being of themselves. And therefore the ascribing the suspension of the last link to the suspension of the foregoing, and this on the next, and so on in infinitum, is just so sufficient to account for the suspension of the whole as to ascribe the existence of the present generation to the preceding, and of that to the preceding, and so on, is to account for the existence of the whole infinite succession. Or it is just the same thing as if (supposing all things by gravitation tended in the same direction) it should be asked what holds up the earth, and it should be answered that it lay on something else, and that on something, and so in infinitum. And yet all those things that lie one upon another by gravitation tend to sink one from under another. And it’s still the same thing if we should suppose the body of the earth to be heaved up contrary to its supposed tendency by gravitation, and it should be solved in the same manner, viz., that it was lifted by something under it, and that by something under that, and so in infinitum. For the holding it up, contrary to its natural tendency, is an effect that needs a cause as much as moving it contrary to its natural tendency. The latter is only the like effect (viz., opposing the natural tendency of the earth) to a further degree. Yea, the atheists do actually solve the existence of the motion of bodies that is observed in the world this very way. For they suppose it is to be accounted for thus: that one body moved another by percussion, and that, another, and so in infinitum. And that so the present motion that is observed in the bodies of the universe is to be accounted for, though there be no reason in the nature of things as they are in themselves why they should move and not be at rest or, if they do move, why they should move in these and those directions and with such degrees of velocity and not in any other of the infinite number of directions or degrees of velocity equally possible.
Now therefore let us a little more particularly consider how unreasonable this is. If there was a row of perfectly elastic bodies of infinite length, and at last at a certain moment that next to us, though till then it had always been at rest, move and of a sudden start forward out of its place, we should conclude that this could not be without a cause. And would it at all satisfy anyone to say that the next to it moved and struck against that, and the preceding struck against that, and so in infinitum? The case is the same if we should suppose a chain infinitely long that had, till this moment, always remained at rest, but now we observe the link next to us starts out of its place, and the reason ascribed should be that the last link was drawn and put in motion by the next, and that by the next, and so in infinitum. And still the case is the same if we should suppose a solid cylinder infinitely long, with one end near to us but protracted to an infinite length from us, and we observe that the end next to us on a sudden moves forward, and it should be asked, what was the cause, and answer should be made that the parts next adjoining to it moved and moved that, and the parts next to that moved that, and so in infinitum. But would it not be reasonable in such a case to ask why the whole moved? And so we should have this reason to conclude that the cylinder had some cause of its motion without itself — that it moved only just at such a moment when there was no more reason in itself that it should move than at any other moment when it was at rest. So it is with respect to an infinite row of bodies: there is no more reason that the motion of the row should be so ordered as to set that next to us in motion just at this moment rather than any other moment. If we should see such a cylinder infinitely long, as we supposed, thus of a sudden put in motion, would not such a motion as plainly show a cause without itself as if we saw a cylinder of a finite length or a short one of two feet long, after it had been at rest, suddenly to start out of its place? By which it appears that it is just so unreasonable to suppose an infinite succession of beings, not existing of themselves, to be without an efficient cause without themselves, as a finite succession.
What we observed just now of the unreasonableness of supposing an infinite row of bodies striking one against another and setting one another in motion without any external cause is applicable, with an exact parity of reason, to a circular row of bodies in motion by percussion — of one of these bodies be observed to move, and it should be inquired why it did so, and it should be said it was moved by the next, and that by the next, and so moved round in infinitum. And the case is still the same if we should suppose one single body in motion from eternity with a particular direction and degree of velocity, and it should be asked why that body was thus moved, and it should be answered that its motion this moment was caused by the motion it had the last moment, and that by the motion it had the preceding moment, and so in infinitum.
The absurdity of an infinite procession of beings having existence without any external cause, by having it one from another when yet no one of them could have it of themselves, or have it by any necessity or reason in the nature of things in themselves considered, will further appear by this: Supposing there had existed an eternal succession of generations of blind men, and the present generation were able to tell the number, magnitude, and position of the stars, and it should be inquired how they came by this knowledge which no one could have of themselves because they were all blind and so all insufficient for such knowledge of themselves, and it should be answered that the present generation were instructed in it by the foregoing, and they had it from the preceding, and so on in infinitum. This is very absurd and foolish and the only reason why it is so is this: because here it is supposed that those successive generations of men are possessed of something that is transmitted from one to another which no one of all the infinite succession are sufficient to obtain of themselves, and yet that they have it without communication from any cause that is sufficient to have it of himself. The case is just the same with respect to existence of this eternal succession of generations of men as it is with respect to this knowledge. For by the supposition no one generation has in itself more sufficiency to obtain existence than a blind man has to obtain that knowledge of himself. Nor is there anything more in the nature of things to direct, or determine, or make necessary such an effect as the existence of such a generation of men than there is to direct and determine such an effect as blind men’s having such ideas. And therefore there is as much necessity that their existence, which is not at all necessary, should have some cause without the whole succession as that such knowledge should have a cause without the whole succession of generations of blind men.
An infinite succession of dependent beings do not only require an external efficiency as much as a finite succession of beings, or a number of beings existing without succession, but it requires a much greater efficacy. For the whole effect, whether it be eternal or a temporary beginning, is dependent on an external efficiency, and the greater the effect is the greater efficiency does it require to produce it. Thus to hold up an infinite chain is required infinitely greater efficiency than to hold up a finite one, so to move a cylinder of infinite length, and so in the supposition of an infinite succession of beings that give existence one to another. The farther we go back, the greater efficiency is required in the cause to give being such an existence and power as that they shall have power to produce others, with power to produce others like them, and so on.
3. If we suppose that both matter and motion might possibly have been from eternity of themselves, yet that will not help the objection that is made against the force of the argument from the order and final causes of things to prove the being of a God. The objection supposes that this order and regularity that is found in the creation may well enough be supposed to happen without any designing, contriving cause once in a whole eternity, in an infinite number of changes of the fortuitous positions of the parts of the matter that the universe is composed of in their endless wanderings in infinite space; and that as it is supposable that the various parts of matter, having so much room or opportunity as there is in an infinite duration to change their situations and come into an infinite number of various forms and contextures, that it is not unreasonable to suppose that they might of themselves jostle into that beautiful, convenient order and wonderful contexture in which they now are, so as to produce such a general frame of the universe: — The heavenly bodies to such forms, in such a system, with such proportion, such motions, and with such properties, and so particularly with those wonderful phenomena of such a mutual regular attraction by some strange, unsearchable mechanism, and such a wonderful thing as the light, with all that is observed of its properties, powers, and effects, and all that belongs to the particular planets, and this earth in particular with its various elements of earth, air, and water, with all their convenient dispositions and phenomena; and also all that belongs to the smaller systems that are the particular parts of the greater and more general systems, such as the bodies of man and the other innumerable kinds of animals, great and small, visible to the naked eye and discernible by the microscope; with the infinite number of vegetables, with such a mechanism or wonderful disposition as that all of them have a power to propagate their species to endless ages. The objection supposes that it is not unreasonable to suppose that the various parts of matter fortuitously existing and fortuitously moving might, in infinite duration, of themselves, without any designing or contriving cause, jumble into such a contexture as this. Not but that it would be very unreasonable to suppose that this should come to pass of itself in a short space of time, but the whole weight of the objection is laid on the infinity of the room or opportunity there is for parts of matter to wander in and come into an infinite variety of positions and contextures.
But if we thoroughly consider the matter, it will appear that whether we suppose an infinite duration or never so short an opportunity, it is very much the same thing as to the present argument. The supposed infinite duration will make but infinitely little difference as to the probability of such an event as the various parts of matter coming of themselves into such an infinitely regular, beautiful, and convenient frame. The difference is so small that it is as nothing, and really worthy of no consideration.
And to avoid absurdity and repeated circumlocutions I would explain in what sense I use the word ‘particle’ in what follows. Hereby I intend the least parcel of matter that is of such a quantity as that its particular position or situation is of any consequence in the frame and system of things, so that its being placed so or otherwise should make some difference worthy to be regarded with respect to the regularity, conveniency, or excellency of the frame, either the general frame or the particular parts in which regularity is in fact observed, as in the bodies of animals, vegetables, etc. Or, in other words, by particle I mean the particular parcels or quantities of matter whose particular and exact positions are actually that wherein that regularity, beauty, and convenience of the frame and composition of the universe that are observed does partly consist, or on which the good ends, that we see are obtained by its disposition and contexture, do partly depend.
Having explained the sense in which I would in this place use the word ‘particle,’ I proceed to observe:
1. If we suppose but two particles in all, and there were some certain positions or distances one from another that was more convenient than any other, supposing that convenient distance to be the length of ten of both their diameters, and suppose, moreover, these two particles from all eternity to be confined to one certain right line of an infinite length, supposing these particles could exist without a cause, and supposing also that they could have motion without a cause, it would be an infinite number to one whether these two particles would lie in that most convenient situation at this time — because there is but one convenient distance and an infinite number of other possible distances in that infinite line, and it is at least a thing as likely never to have been as to have been that these two particles should ever have come to this convenient situation at all at any time throughout all the past eternity. For it is manifest that the whole line that is infinitely extended both ways, and without any beginning or any end, is a length in extension that is equivalent to eternity, that is, an infinite length of duration that is infinitely extended both ways and without beginning or end. And one part of that line taken from any particular point and extended infinitely but one way is a length that proceeds to eternity in parte ante, or past eternity. An eternal duration is an infinite length of single points of duration, joined together and following one another, extended to an infinite length in a manner equivalent to the single points following one another in a right line of infinite length. Now if we should suppose that the two particles that exist in that right line that is infinite both ways might probably, at some moment in the whole infinite duration from eternity to eternity, come into that proposed convenient situation (because in such a duration the two particles might come into all possible situations in that right line, there being as many moments in that infinite duration as there are different parts, and so of situations and distances in that infinite line), if we allow it to be thus more likely than not that, in all eternity without beginning or end, those two particles might come once into that convenient situation, yet if we take but half this duration, viz., only eternity a parte ante, we must suppose the probability not to be more than half so great, and consequently that, at most, the probability of their ever coming into this situation is more than ever equal to that of their not coming into it. Or, in other words, the probability of the affirmative is to that of the negative no more than one to one. (N.B. It alters not the case as to what has been asserted whether we suppose these particles of matter in their motions to observe the laws of motion that now appear to be observed in the universe, and so to move in the same direction perpetually, or no. For if this be supposed, it is at best as probable that these two particles that move in this right line should from eternity move from one another as towards one another, and so still the probability of their never coming into a convenient propinquity is at best as great as the affirmative — as was said before, as one to one. Yet it must be more than so, for the chance is one to one whether the particles will move at all or no, for matter in itself is indifferent to motion or rest, and, if so, the probability of their not coming into the convenient situation is as two to one: but to avoid all occasion for disputes we will suppose it to be as one to one.)
2. Supposing those two particles not to be confined to any certain infinite line but to a certain infinite plane, the probability then is infinitely less than ever those two particles would come into that convenient situation, because an infinite plane contains an infinite number of such lines, as many such lines as that infinite line did points, so that, as before the probability was to the improbability as one to one, so now it is an infinite number to one. Or in other words, though we allow an infinite duration for those two particles to move and wander and change distance, yet confining them to one certain plane it would be infinitely unlikely that ever they should come at all, throughout a whole eternity, into that most convenient distance one from another, or infinitely more likely that they should not, than that they should.
3. Let us suppose these two particles not to be confined either to any certain line or plane, but to have the whole infinite solid to wander in. Then it is infinitely more improbable still that ever they would come throughout eternity once into that convenient situation, because there are an infinite number of infinite planes in an infinite solid, as there are an infinite number of infinite lines in an infinite plane, and an infinite number of points in an infinite line. So that now the degree of improbability of the convenient situation ever happening throughout eternity, beyond the chance there is that ever it would happen, is expressed by an infinite number multiplied by an infinite number to one.
And now if instead of two particles we add a third, and the thing required be that these three come at once into a convenient situation one with another, as that the former two should at some time or other come into that convenient distance before spoken of, and also that this third do, at the same time, be so posited with them as to form such a certain convenient figure as, suppose, an equicrural triangle having one right angle, all these having an infinite solid extension to wander in — this will most prodigiously increase the account and magnify the improbability. For let us suppose the two first particles fixed at their due distances as though each were fastened at the two ends of a rod of a proper length and so to remain fixed throughout eternity waiting for the third to come into its proper point or proper situation with respect to them. Then the remaining thing required is equivalent to the third particle’s coming into a certain individual point in infinite space. And that chance is just the same whether we suppose the point be fixed or moving, because just so much advantage as is gained by its being movable in one way is lost another. The advantage gained is that the points, being movable, may move towards the particle and meet it. But on the contrary, if in its motion it should happen to fly from it, there would be as great a disadvantage. But its motion is just so likely to be from, so as to increase the distance, as towards it so as to approach nearer to it. So that it appears that the coming of the third particle into a due position with the other two that remained fixed at the same distance one from another is equivalent to this third particle’s coming into a certain and fixed point in infinite space. But the improbability that lies against that is to the probability there is for it (as appears by what has already been said) as an infinite number multiplied by an infinite, twice over. For if it were confined to a certain plane that had that fixed point in it, it would be as one infinite number to one. But if it were wandering at liberty in an infinite solid, it is as an infinite number multiplied by an infinite number to one that expresses the improbability of the third particle coming into its due position with them, supposing the others to be fixed at a due position one with another throughout eternity. But if the other two come into their due position but at one point of time in an eternity (supposing that it be certain that it would be once), it is still infinitely more unlikely that the third should come into its due position with them at that individual point of time than if they were so tied together through all eternity, because a whole eternity includes an infinite number of points of time. So that now, upon this supposition, the improbability is expressed as an infinite number multiplied by an infinite number and the product again multiplied by an infinite number to one. Thus the matter would stand on the supposition that it was certain that the two first particles would, some time in eternity, come into their due position one with respect to another. But it has been shown that that is so far from being certain that the degree of improbability of it is expressed by an infinite number of infinite numbers to one, which improbability, if added to the foregoing, it makes still so many more times improbable. So that now the degree of the whole improbability of the three particles ever coming into such a position as to form such an equicrural triangle as has been mentioned is increased by an infinite number of infinite numbers multiplied again by an infinite number, and that again by an infinite number, and this last product still by another infinite — so unlikely is it that but only three particles would ever come into so simple a regularity as this fortuitously, though there should be an whole eternity of opportunity f or it.
It appears, from what has been observed, that the eternity of opportunity makes so little part as to the probability of but three particles coming into so simple a regularity as that of a certain kind of equicrural triangle, that the addition of one single particle to the frame does infinitely more than overbalance it. The improbability of the regular position of the two particles with an eternity of opportunity, as was before observed, is expressed by an infinite once multiplied by an infinite to one. But if we suppose there had been no eternity of opportunity and but one single moment, the opportunity would have been infinitely less still, so that then the improbability would be so added to, that infinites must be multiplied by infinites twice instead of once. But the addition of another particle makes an infinitely greater odds than this, for by this means, instead of multiplying infinite by infinite thrice the multiplication must be made four times.
And in this manner does the system’s becoming more complex increase the improbability. The addition of every single particle that goes to the making up of the regularity or convenience of the system increases the improbability so much that the increase of it is not expressed by multiplying the improbability by an infinite number three times, but by multiplying the improbability by an infinite number, and that product by another infinite, and that product by another infinite. To illustrate this by adding a fourth particle to the three forementioned: I have already showed, if there were but three particles, how great the improbability would be that ever they should come into such a situation one with respect to another as to form a right-angled equicrural triangle. We will now suppose there to be four particles in all, and the thing required be that they should come into such a situation, one with respect to another, as to form an exact square of such a bigness that each of the sides should be equal to the two equal sides of the forementioned equicrural triangle, or (which is the same thing) the thing required is that the three first particles should come at the same moment into the forementioned situation of an equicrural triangle, and also that the fourth should come into that individual point that makes the fourth angle of the square with these three, and also at that individual moment wherein the other three come into their requisite situation. And in order to judge how great the improbability of all this is, we must in the first place consider how great the improbability is that the three first particles should ever come into their requisite situation of such an equicrural triangle, which is necessary in order to there being any such point as the fourth angle of a square with them. But the degree of that improbability we have considered already and shown it to be expressed by the proportion of the product of an infinite number multiplied into itself three times to an unit. This is the degree of improbability of there ever being any such point given as the fourth angle required. But now if we suppose there to be such a point given at some moment in eternity, the additional improbability is of the fourth particle’s coming into that point at that individual moment. If the point was fixed and unmoved, waiting through eternity, it appears by what has already been demonstrated it would be an infinite number multiplied by an infinite number to one whether ever it would come into any fixed individual point at any time through eternity. But as the point is supposed to be given but one moment in eternity, this makes it yet infinitely more improbable. So that the improbability of the fourth particle’s coming into that point at the right time is expressed by an infinite number (which multiplies the preceding), and this multiplied by an infinite number, and that product by an infinite number. And this is the addition of the improbability of the whole system. The preceding improbability is expressed by an infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite, and the additional improbability is first an infinite, which we must conceive of as multiplying the preceding product and then this multiplied by infinite, and this still by infinite so that the whole degree of improbability of the four particles ever happening to be so situated as to make the requisite square at any one time through eternity is expressed by an infinite number X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite to one.
And in like manner the improbability would be increased if we should go on and to the four particles should suppose a fifth to be added at some certain point requisite to make out the regularity, suppose in the center of the square. It will easily appear that the improbability will be increased by multiplying of it by infinites a like number of times. So that the improbability of five particles coming into this or any other determinant regular system, though there be an eternity of opportunity, or the probability of the contrary, is expressed by an infinite number X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite X infinite.
If there be so great an improbability of a regular system so simple, consisting of but five parts, ever coming into existence through the fortuitous wandering of the parts in infinite space, though there be an eternity of opportunity given for it, then how great would be the improbability of so many millions of different parts of matter as must be supposed in so complex a frame as that of an animalcule coming of themselves, or by mere accident, into a situation of such marvelous exactness of contrivance and regularity and such wonderful mechanism, as not only to perform all those functions of life that are performed, but also (which the atheists must suppose) so as to have a power through the mechanism to make other forms like itself, still with a power to make others like them, and so on through thousands of generations? And how great then is the improbability of the whole frame of the universe — its coming into such a regularity as it exists in, containing so many myriads of millions of millions of millions of such animal bodies and also as many if not more bodies of plants, with all that mechanism whence arises all those phenomena that are seen in them, and particularly the like power of producing the species through thousands of generations as in animals, and also many millions of such frames of matter (as the atheists suppose) so curious as to have a power of understanding, remembering, refining, and contriving and performing all the intelligent operations of mankind, with a power of producing the like frames from generation to generation for so many thousand years? Besides, the frame of the world about them every way so wonderfully fitted for their habitation and use, with such a variety of substances, earth, water, air, fire, light, and innumerable others, some of which are of such wonderful form, power, and use, as the water, air, and many others (and especially the use) and all disposed in such a manner, in such parts, situations, and with such motions so excellently insuring all ends — I say how unreasonable will it appear, from what has been observed, to suppose that all this came to pass fortuitously, by mere chance, without any contriving, disposing cause?
It appears from what has been said that the parts of matter wandering in infinite space being supposed to have an eternity of opportunity to get into this regularity makes no odds of any moment or worthy of any consideration as to the improbability of such an event’s ever coming to pass, or the unreasonableness of supposing it any more than if we suppose the opportunity only of a single moment. For it has been demonstrated from things that have been observed that the addition of the minutest particle that goes to the making up the complex frame adds infinitely more to the improbability than an eternity of opportunity diminishes it. So that, if we only suppose the whole frame to be less complex by one single particle than it is, then the infinite opportunity that is in eternity is balanced, and infinitely more than balanced; and it is infinitely less likely that the whole frame, taking in that single particle, should ever exist with an eternity of opportunity than that the frame without that one single particle, as being less complex by one particle, should come into existence with but a single moment’s opportunity. Surely, therefore, the difference that is made in the improbability of the existence of the frame of the universe through a casual concourse of particles by supposing an eternity of opportunity is absolutely of no moment, and worthy of no consideration in the argument between us and atheists.
We have supposed, hitherto, that all the particles that have any existence throughout the whole of infinite space do go to make up the frame of the universe. But if we suppose a surplusage of particles, it will not help the cause of the atheist; for if the supposition of a surplusage of particles seems to give a better chance for such a regular frame to come accidentally into existence through a fortuitous jumbling of particles, and so to lessen the improbability one way, yet it seems as much to increase it another. For let us suppose that, besides the particles that belong to the frame of this universe, the whole of infinite space is possessed by particles as thick, take one part of space with another, as they are in this universe, or that it has as many particles at all parts of space equal to the extent of this universe, take one part with another, as there are particles in the universe, then these two things must come to pass by mere accident: 1. That all those particles of which the universe is constituted should come into such a regular and exact situation as to constitute such a wonderful, infinitely complex, and exact frame as this, and 2. That all the other particles that fill space in general as full as this universe is, all particles that are unserviceable and are not needed to make up the frame, should agree to absent themselves and keep at a distance, to leave so vast a vacuity for the regular frame, and none of them interpose so as to hinder the regularity and beauty and disturb the order of the parts, so that so vast a room should be left and avoided by all irregular particles as much as if they were fenced out — and that although other parts of space, take one with another, are as full of particles as that universe is which has such an immense and, as it were, infinite multitude. And if we suppose there to be a surplusage of particles, but not so many as to fill up space in general so full as this universe is, but elsewhere to be very thin and so therein to be less likely to interpose to disturb the order of this regular frame, it is to be considered that, as on that supposition the probability of disturbing the frame is diminished, so the probability of their helping it by their numbers is as much diminished. So that, whether we suppose the particles to be thick or rare, it comes to the same thing. The thicker they are the less likely it is that they would leave such vast room to be occupied only by regular particles and the more likely to thrust themselves among those that are regularly situated one with respect to another. And the thinner or more rare they are, the less do they, through their multitude, help the chance for the existence of a regular situation of some particles or others. Thick particles, jumbling together without any direction, in some respects tend more to confusion than if they were very rare, as they tend more to intrude and so to disturb and break any regularity that might happen. A multitude of particles, all without rule or direction, tend more to interfere with any regularity of frame, that they are conjoined with or encompass, than a small number.
It is to be considered that the universe is one vast general frame consisting of an innumerable multitude of lesser regular frames. There is a multitude of particular regular frames that constitute the body of an animal — as the frame of the eye, the ear, the lungs, the heart, etc.; and so it also is with the body of a plant — the root, the stem, the leaf, flower, fruit, and seed. And then the innumerable multitude of bodies and plants and animals that live upon earth go to constitute another more general frame, viz., the animate world, and this goes to the constitution of another larger frame together with the habitation provided for it and the many various provisions made in it for their proper abode, life, preservation, nourishment in growth, propagation, increase, motion, mutual subserviency, and all the good they receive and use they are of through the provision of a proper variety of substances and their proper situation, composition, regular motions, and alterations — such as the earth, water, air, wind, sea, springs, rivers, light, heat, cold, vapors, dew, rain, day, night, summer, winter, etc. And the whole frame of this terraqueous globe, with its atmosphere, is a part of another regular frame, viz., the planetary system, and this of another made up of innumerable enlightened systems, each from one fountain of light like the sun, all posited at such a distance one from another as to enlighten and advance one another, and yet not to disturb one another sensibly for 6,000 years.
Now the supposition of infinite space being filled, in general thick with particles wandering at random, though it may seem to lessen the improbability of such a frame coming by chance one way, yet it exceedingly increases it another, for this whole universe is no other than an immense multitude of particular regular systems all with a convenient mutual vicinity and a proper relation and exact situation and commensuration. But now the supposition of infinite space being filled thick with particles all moving without rule or direction does, in a way, vastly increase the improbability of such a multitude of regular frames happening in such a mutual neighborhood and relation. For if certain particles fall into a due situation for one particular regular frame, it is the more likely for the multitude of irregular particles about it that others will interpose among those regularly situated particles to disturb and destroy the harmony. And if there should, notwithstanding the multitude of irregular busy wandering particles, happen to be two systems of particles in a due regular situation, it is still the more likely that other particles will interpose to disturb the order and mutual subserviency, either by intruding among these regular particles or interposing between the two frames: and if we suppose three systems, still the probability is greatly increased.
But how great is the improbability that, in such an universe, numbers of millions of millions of particles in very complex and wonderfully regular frames, which the universe consists of, should all happen at once fortuitously, in a proper and exact proportion and convenient situation and relation, and none of the surplusage of particles with which infinite space is filled should interfere or interpose to disturb the harmony and subserviency, or obscure the beauty — and that although the room be so vast and the opportunity so great?
So that the objection made from the eternity of opportunity against the force of the argument from the wonderful contrivance of the world to prove the being of a God is but a mere amusement. Such order and contrivance plainly shows a contriving and disposing cause and is a demonstration of intelligence and wisdom, whether we suppose an eternity of existence of wandering atoms or no. An infinite length of time has no tendency to alter the case. If we should suppose people traveling in the snow, one after another, thousands in a day for thousands of years together, and all should tread exactly without the least variation in one another’s steps so as, in all this time, to make no beaten path but only steps with the snow not broken between, this is a demonstration of intention, design, and care. Of if we suppose that, in the showers of rain that fall out of the clouds on all the face of the earth for a whole year, the drops should universally fall in order on the ground so as to describe such figures that would be Roman letters in such exact order as to be Vergil’s Aeneid written on every acre of ground all over the world, or so as exactly to write the history of the world and all nations and families in it through all ages without departing from truth in one fact or minutest circumstance — that would distinctly demonstrate a designing cause. Length of time has no tendency at all to produce such an effect of itself. If we multiply years never so much to give large opportunity, it helps not the case without a designing cause. It is no more likely to bring about such a year’s rain as that than if we suppose the opportunity of one year only.
And as that objection against the force of the argument for the being of a God from the order and contrivance of the frame of the universe, viz., that there has been an eternity of opportunity for this to come to pass in, of itself is vain and insignificant — so would it be as vain to say that the world has existed in this regular, beautiful, and convenient frame from eternity. For still continuance shows wisdom and intelligence, and to say that the world exists in such a regular frame because it did so always no more solves the difficulty of its being so without wisdom and intelligence than if there were a blind man that had lived from eternity, and always blind, that was able exactly to describe visible things as if he saw, without ever having been informed as particularly the number and diverse magnitude, position and motion of the stars — and any should ask how he came to know this and it should be answered that there never was a time when he came to know it, for he knew it from eternity and never needed the information of his senses or of his fellow creatures. This is a mere put off and in no wise removes the difficulty, for seeing it is as necessary, in order to his knowing it from eternity, as to his receiving the knowledge of it in time. So the orderly, convenient, and excellent disposing of things in order to obtain good ends is a thing that depends as much on knowledge and understanding as the knowledge of visible things depends on sight, and therefore the former can no more be from eternity without understanding than the latter without sight.
976. Unity of God. Being of God. Unity of the World. The uniformity, concord, and perfect harmony which appears in the constitution and conservation of things, their conspiring to one end, their continuing in the same order and course do plainly declare the unity of God: as the lasting peace of a commonwealth composed of persons different in affection and humor argues one law that regulates and contains them, as the orderly march of an army shows it managed by one conduct; as the uniformity of an house declares it contrived by one architect. (Barrow’s Works, vol. 2, p. 96.) This is most apparent concerning the solar, or our planetary, system. It is plain, it is one system. We will therefore consider the union there is in the whole visible universe or between the fixed stars. And first, I will show wherein there is a manifest agreement between these distant parts of the universe, whereby it is evident that there is oneness in the cause of all. And secondly, I would take notice wherein these distant systems are united one with another, whereby they all become one great system.
I. I would observe wherein there is a manifest and marvelous agreement in those distant parts of the universe whereby it is evident that they agree in their cause. And they do so agree in these following respects:
1. They agree in this, that they all of them are, in comparison of the expanse of the heavens, but little spots or specks separated one from another. Why should it so happen concerning so many millions; and that there should appear no other matter in the universe but what is thus collected? Why should it not have happened as well that one side of the heavens should be all one lurid body, the rest vacant; or one part of the heavens a continued body, another full of spots; or here and there a continuity of matter, and here and there a vacancy; here and there spots of many different kinds, etc. — were it not for some common cause ordering it so that all the bodies that should appear through the immense expanse of the universe should be in such small, compact collections of matter?
2. They not only all agree in this that they are all distinct, compact, and comparatively very small bodies or little particles, but they are also all of them exactly of the same figure, all round. Now whether we suppose that this is owing to the mutual gravitation of their parts or not, it clearly, in either supposition, argues the oneness of the efficient cause. Their being all of a round figure is indeed most probably owing to the mutual gravitation of their parts, for that is evidently the cause of the round figure of all the heavenly bodies near us, as of the earth and all the rest of the planets primary and secondary, and in the sun that is by far the most like the fixed stars of any body near us. It is demonstrable that a mutual gravitation of the parts of matter according to the quantity of matter and the square of distance obtains on all these, and the round figure in all of them appears evidently, in all of them, to be the consequence of this. Therefore, seeing we behold the same effect, the same round figure, in the many millions of heavenly bodies that are far distant, there is all reason to conclude it to be from the same cause. Now in this supposition that such a wondrous power or law should take place everywhere through the whole universe and all the matter that is contained in it in all the innumerable distant systems that are in it, which power is demonstrably not from matter itself but from the established law and continued power of the Creator: — I say this shows the whole corporeal universe to be but one, and that all is created and upheld and governed by the same first cause, and every moment under the influence of the same divine power. But upon the other supposition that no such law obtains in other parts of the universe but only in this solar system, then the universal agreement of the many millions of fixed stars in the same round figure is a clear argument of one common first cause. For if there be no such internal cause or power belonging to the nature of these bodies themselves that should, as it were, naturally incline them to such a figure rather than any other, then it would be a strange thing if any two of them should happen to be of the same figure. For in themselves they must be supposed indifferent to all kinds of possible figures, which are infinite, and therefore are as likely to be in one of all those infinite figures as another. But much more strange would it be that every one of such a vast multitude, not only that are seen with the naked eye but the more and more that are discovered by telescopes, should, without the exception of one, be exactly of the same figure without a common cause.
3. Another remarkable instance of their agreement is their all being perfectly at rest without the least sensible motion or change of their situation from one thousand years to another. Upon whatever supposition we go as the next or immediate reason of this, yet such an agreement in so many millions of such bodies will argue a common cause. If we suppose that the law of gravitation holds throughout the universe, then this is a wonderful thing that they do not run together by virtue of that mutual gravitation, and must be owing to the law of some one common disposer, whether it be by limiting that power and causing that it shall not take place beyond such bounds, lest these distant bodies should disturb one another, or otherwise. For if their gravitation does not reach one another, it must be by an arbitrary limitation contrary to the laws of gravitation in the respective systems. For the grand law is that every part of matter should tend to every other part according to square of distance, however vast the distance is, in proportion to the bigness of those parts. Thus it is demonstrable that the countless parts of the matter of this solar system tend to all other parts, however distant and however small. Thus if we divide the two globes of the earth and sun into never so small parts, parts never so many million times smaller than rays of light, yet it is evident that each of these small parts in the globe of the earth tends to each of these small parts in the globe of the sun according to the square of distance, because it is evident by experience that these two whole globes tend to each other according to the quantity of matter and square of distance. But the whole matter of both globes is made up of these small parts. But these small parts are as far distant one from another, in proportion to their diameters, as the fixed stars are. And the case is exactly the same between two fixed stars as to their situation, proportion, and respect they have one to another, as between two similar parts of this solar system whose distance is in the same proportion to their diameters. But we see that with respect to the one the law of gravitation holds, and if it does not with regard to the other it must be by an arbitrary limiting and cutting off this power at certain limits, contrary to the law that obtains elsewhere, on design. And if there be this arbitrary designed limitation of such a power everywhere at certain limits between so many millions of heavenly bodies to prevent mutual disturbance, this shows a common disposer, and that the whole is regulated by a common wisdom and a common will and a common power that governs everywhere.
Gravitation is a power of that nature that, unless it be arbitrarily limited in some places contrary to its own laws that universally and immutably obtain in other places, must extend itself infinitely, because we see that it in fact does, in some places, extend itself infinitely in the solar system. For the matter of the mutually attracting globes is infinitely divisible, and therefore we may say that there are some parts of matter that are infinitely small in proportion to the distance to which their attraction is extended; but [i.e., for] that attraction may be looked upon as infinitely extended that is extended to a distance that is infinite in proportion to the bigness of the attracting body.
And furthermore, the rest of the fixed stars, upon this supposition of their not being attracted one by another, is a great evidence of the ordering of one common cause. For all allow that matter in itself is indifferent to motion or rest, yea, it is indifferent to rest or any of the infinitely various degrees of motion. Hence, if there appeared but one body suspended in free space in the midst of the expanse of the heavens, it would be a strange thing if that should happen to be in a state of perfect rest. It would be an infinite number to one whether it would or no, because it would be as likely that it would be in either of the infinite number of degrees of motion as at rest. So that a state of rest is to be reckoned but as one state amongst an infinite number of other states to all which the body, in itself, is indifferent and as likely to be in one of them as another. Hence we see nothing in this world or system like every body’s being suspended in free space yet remaining at rest, excepting the sun that is one of the fixed stars. But how can we conceive of so many millions of bodies suspended in the open expanse of the universe, and all of them so fixed in their places that there shall be no sensible motion from one thousand years to another, without the ordering of a voluntary, wise disposer — and that everyone should agree in it — without one common cause?
But upon the supposition that gravitation extends and obtains through the whole universe, acting everywhere by the same laws that are universally and invariably maintained (which is most likely), still the rest of the fixed stars will be an evidence of one common cause that disposes all. Or if we suppose that the fixed stars are placed at so vast a distance one from another that their mutual attraction should disturb them so little that their motion, occasioned hereby, should be so small as not to be discerned by us at this distance in many thousand years, such a disposal everywhere through the whole innumerable multitude of those bodies shows a common care extending through the whole as the cause. Or if we suppose, besides their great distance one from another, such an artful disposal among them that their attractions should balance one another so wonderfully as to, keep all in rest and quietness (which is the most probable supposition of all), this still more evidently and remarkably shows the care, influence, and government of a common cause. Or if, lastly, we suppose these stars to be all fixed in a solid sphere, that shows the universe all to be one building and that it is one architect that has thus built such a bespangled arch or roof to encompass this our system on every side.
4. Another thing wherein they all agree is that they all shine by their own light with an exceeding great and sparkling brightness and luster. Matter does not seem in itself to have any great tendency to this. Here in our world we see very few things that shine by their own light, and those that do, do not shine with one ten-thousandth or millionth part of this brightness — none of them. We see here very few bodies that will of themselves enkindle and burn, and those that do continue so to do but a little while before they go out. But we behold in the heavens, either with naked eyes or glasses, many thousands and millions of bodies all alike in this, all shining with their own light, and shining from age to age, and all shining with a brightness like the light of the sun. This seems to show a common cause.
5. Though there is so vast a number of them and they are so vastly distant one from another, yet all seem remarkably to agree in their internal nature, being replete with a like kind of particles and all agreeing in the laws of the intestine motion and mutual action of their minute parts. This appears because the effects of that intestine motion and mutual action of their minute parts is exactly the same. From that intestine action, they all continually send forth, as it were, an infinite quantity of their minute parts, parts of the same kind, in like manner affecting the organ of our sight and all causing the like sensation in us, and in like manner reflected and refracted by glass, water, and other bodies. They are all emitted in the same manner: all with, as it were, an infinite celerity and in like manner disposed to pierce both transparent bodies and to be absorbed by opaque and dark bodies, and in every respect subject to the same laws with the particles of matter emitted by the sun. Whatever the powers be by which the internal minute parts of the sun act on one another, by which many of these minute parts leap forth to such a distance, if it be a mutual attraction and repulsion, these are most evidently the same powers or the same laws of intestine motion by which the inward parts of the fixed stars act on one another, because the effects are so exactly the same. And the minute parts of these bodies, that by means of that action are emitted, even to such a distance as we are, are still here governed in their motions by just the same laws as the rays of the sun, being reflected and refracted by different degrees of refrangibility, causing the same different colors or sensations in us. This exact agreement of the inward nature which creating power has given all these bodies, and the laws of the motion of their minute parts producing such wonderful effects, is a most remarkable evidence that one common cause has made and does uphold and influence and actuate and govern all. Such an unity of invention and device shows the unity of the causes. Light is a strange work of God. There is nothing in the whole external creation wherein appears a more admirable contrivance than this. It appears to be the same in this solar system and in all those infinitely distant systems.
II. I would observe wherein these distant systems do not only agree together but are united one to another so as to become one great system, which is a further evidence that they all have one cause.
1. The parts of these different systems are communicated to or diffused through each other by the rays of light that are transmitted. Thus I suppose there are beams of light from several millions of fixed stars diffused every moment through every part of this solar system so that there is not a hair’s breadth distance of [i.e., between] some of their beams for one second of time, unless where the beams are intercepted by some opaque body, which is but a very small part of the system. And consequently we may suppose that each star thus diffuses her parts through millions of the systems of other stars.
Now upon a supposition of several gods as the creators of the several systems, then we must suppose that the same gods that made these different stars have clothed them with their light, and have created and do maintain their beams because of their power. Hence, we must either suppose that many millions of gods that are the authors of the diverse systems are present in each system at once and throughout that system, each one, by his powers and energy, accompanying the rays of his own system, maintaining their motion and action in every part of it, every moment — and so, that the god of each distinct system is present every moment by his mighty power and energy throughout every minute part of the systems of millions of other gods, at the same time that these millions of other gods are, all of them, also in like manner present, by a like power and energy, all of them, through every part of each system. Or else we must suppose that all these many millions of gods, though entirely distinct and independent, have by mutual, perfect, and immutable consent, agreed to observe the parts of the systems of the other gods and, at the boundaries of the systems and from these limits to take care of them, and by their power and energy to uphold them and actuate them — both which appears very absurd.
2. The parts of these different systems are not only communicated to and diffused through one another, but act upon one another, and there is a mutual action and reaction between their different blended parts by the same laws of matter and motion. Thus, for instance, the rays of the fixed stars do not only enter this system and are diffused through it, but they act upon the parts of it, and the parts of this react upon them by the laws of this system. So the rays of the fixed stars act on our organs of sight, and so there is action and reaction between them and our air, as appears by the brilliancy of the fixed stars and the refraction of their rays by the atmosphere, and between them and water and glass and other transparent bodies, and also between them and all opaque bodies that do reflect them, as appears by their being enlightened by them in a starlight night. Now how unreasonable it is to suppose any other than that this action and reaction are both by the laws and influence of the same God!
3. These parts of different systems that are continually transmitted into and diffused through each other are liable to be converted into parts of these other systems (as Sir Isaac Newton has shown how rays of light after frequent reflection and refraction do at length cease their motion and do stick to the solid parts of other bodies). And what can be supposed in this case but absurdity in supposing the matter of different systems to be created and upheld by different gods?
4. Ancient observation shows that fixed stars have a great influence upon, and a sort of government over, sublunery things — the weather, and the frame and temperament of the bodies of plants and animals.
These things show that all these different systems take hold of one another and influence and act upon one another as the different wheels of a machine. It is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that all have one maker. Since we see the machine to be one, it is unreasonable to suppose any other than that one and the same artificer made it, and that one and the same owner possesses and takes care of its motions, and not that one made and takes care of one wheel, and another another.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.