« ForrigeFortsæt »
PROP. an infinite surface, and an infinite surface than space
infinite in all dimensions :) All metaphysical difficulties, I say, arising from false suppositions of this kind, ought to be esteemed vain and of no force. Again : it is in like manner demonstrable, that quantity is infinitely divisible: All the objections therefore raised, by supposing the sums total of all infinities to be equal, when in disparate parts they manifestly are not so; and by comparing the imaginary equality or inequality of the number of the parts of unequal quantities, whose parts have really no number at all, they all having parts without number; ought to be looked upon as weak and altogether inconclusive : To ask whether the parts of unequal quantities be equal in number or not, when they have no number at all, being the same thing as to ask whether two lines drawn from differently distant points, and each of them continued infinitely, be equal in length or not, that is, whether they end together, when neither of them have any end at all.
II. There has existed from eternity,* some one must have unchangeable and independent being. For since from eter- something must needs have been from eternity, as nity one in. has been already proved, and is granted on all hands, dependent either there has always existed some one unchangebeing.
able and independent being, from which all other beings that are or ever were in the universe have re. ceived their original ; or else there has been an infinite sụccession of changeable and dependent beings, produced one from another, in an endless progression, without any original cause at all. Now this latter supposition is so very absurd, that though all atheism must in its account of most things (as shall be shown hereafter,) terminate in it, yet I think very
• The meaning of this proposition, (and all that the argument here requires,) is, that there must needs have always been some independent being, some one at least. To show that there can be no more than one, is not the design of this proposition, but of the seventh.
few atheists ever were so weak as openly and direct- PROP. ly to defend it; for it is plainly impossible, and contradictory to itself. I shall not argue against it from the supposed impossibility of infinite succession, barely and absolutely considered in itself; for a reason which shall be mentioned hereafter. But, if we consider such an infinite progression, as one entire endless series of dependent beings, it is plain this whole series of beings can have no cause from without, of its existence; because in it are supposed to be included all things that are or ever were in the universe: And it is plain it can have no reason within itself, of its existence; because no one being in this infinite succession is supposed to be self-existent or necessary, (which is the only ground or reason of existence of any thing that can be imagined within the thing itself, as will presently more fully appear,) but every one dependent on the foregoing : and where no part is necessary, it is manifest the whole cannot be necessary : absolute necessity of existence, not being an extrinsic, relative, and accidental denomi.. nation, but an inward and essential property of the nature of the thing which so exists. An infinite suc. cession, therefore, of merely dependent beings, without any original independent cause, is a series of beings that has neither necessity, nor cause, nor any reason or ground at all of its existence, either within itself or from without; that is, it is an express contradiction and impossibility ; it is a supposing something to be caused, (because it is granted in every one of its stages of succession, not to be necessarily and of itself;) and yet that, in the whole, it is caused absolutely by nothing ; which every man knows is a contradiction to imagine done in time; and, because duration in this case makes no difference, it is equally a contradiction to suppose it done from eternity; and, consequently, there must, on the contrary, of necessity, have existed from eternity some one immutable and independent being.
To suppose an infinite succession of changeable
PROP. and dependent beings produced one from another in
an endless progression, without any original cause at all, is only* a driving back from one step to another, and (as it were) removing out of sight, the question concerning the ground or reason of the existence of things. It is in reality, and in point of argument, the very same supposition, as it would be to suppose one continued being, of beginningless and endless duration, neither self-existent and necessary in itself, nor having its existence founded in any self-existent cause ; which is directly absurd and contradictory.
Otherwise, thus : Either there has always existed some one unchangeable and independent being, from which all other beings have received their original; or else there has been an infinite succession of changeable and dependent beings, produced one from another, in an endless progression, without any ori
* This matter has been well illustrated by a late able writer. “ Suppose a chain hung down out of the heavens, from an unknown height; and, though every link of it gravitated toward the earth, and what it hung upon was not visible, yet it did not descend, but kept its situation : And, upon this, a question should arise, What supported or kept up this chain ? Would it be a sufficient answer to say, that the first or lowest link hung upon the second, or that next above it; the second, or rather the first and second together, upon the third ; and so on in infinitum ? For, what holds up the whole? A chain of ten links, would fall down, unless something able to bear it hindered : One of twenty, if not stayed by something of a yet greater strength, in proportion to the increase of weight. And therefore one of infinite links, certainly ; if not sustained by something infinitely strong, and capable to bear up an infinite weight : And thus it is in a chain of causes and effects, tending, or (as it were) gravitating, towards some end. The last, or lowest, depends, or, (as one may say) is suspended upon the cause above it. This, again, if it be not the first cause, is suspended, as an effect, upon something above it, &c. And if they should be infinite, unless (agreeably to what has been said) there is some cause, upon which all hang or depend, they would be but an infinite effect without an efficient : and to assert there is any such thing, would be as great an absurdity as to say, that a finite or little weight wants something to sustain it, but an infinite one (or the greatest) does not."-Religion of Nature Delineated, page 67.
ginal cause at all. According to this latter supposi. PROP. tion, there is nothing in the universe self-existent or necessarily-existing : and, if so, then it was originally equally possible, that from eternity there should never have existed any thing at all, as that there should from eternity have existed a succession of changeable and dependent beings : which being supposed, then, what is it that has from eternity determined such a succession of beings to exist, rather than that from eternity there should never have existed any thing at all? Necessity it was not; because it was equally possible, in this supposition, that they should not have existed at all. Chance is nothing but a mere word, without any signification : And other being it is supposed there was none, to determine the existence of these. Their existence, therefore, was determined by nothing ; neither by any necessity in the nature of the things themselves, because it is supposed that none of them are self-ex. istent; nor by any other being, because no other is supposed to exist. That is to say; of two equally possible things, (viz. whether any thing or nothing should from eternity have existed,) the one is determined, rather than the other, absolutely by nothing; which is an express contradiction. And, consequently, as before, there must on the contrary, of necessity, have existed, from eternity, some one immutable and independent being, which, what it is, remains in the next place to be inquired.
III. That unchangeable and independent Being, The one which has existed from eternity, without any exter- ent Being nal cause of its existence, must be self-existent, that must be is, necessarily existing. For whatever exists, must
existing either have come into being out of nothing, absolutely without cause ; or it must have been produced by some external cause; or it must be self-existent. Now, to arise out of nothing, absolutely without any cause, has been already shown to be a plain contradiction. To have been produced by some ex
PROP. ternal cause, cannot possibly be true of every thing;
but something must have existed eternally and independently, as has likewise been shown already. It remains, therefore, that that being which has existed independently from eternity must of necessity be self-existent. Now, to be self-existent is not to be produced by itself; for that is an express contradiction. But it is, (which is the only idea we can frame of self-existence; and without which, the word seems to have no signification at all ;) it is, I say, to exist by an absolute necessity originally in the na.. ture of the thing itself : And this necessity must be antecedent; not, indeed, in time, to the existence of the being itself, because that is eternal; but it must be anteccdent in the natural order of our ideas, to our supposition of its being; that is, this necessity must not barely be consequent upon our supposition of the existence of such a being ; (for then it would not be a necessity absolutely such in itself, nor be the ground or foundation of the existence of any thing, being on the contrary only a consequent of it;) but it must antecedently force itself upon us, whether we will or no, even when we are endea.. vouring to suppose that no such being exists. For example : when we are endeavouring to suppose, that there is no being in the universe that exists ne
cessarily, we always find in our minds, (besides the Page 10, foregoing demonstration of something being self
existent, from the impossibility of every thing's being dependent ;) we always find in our minds, I say, some ideas, as of infinity and eternity; which to remove, that is, to suppose that there is no being, no substance in the universe, to which these attributes or modes of existence are necessarily inherent, is a contradiction in the very terms. For modes and attributes exist only by the existence of the substance to which they belong. Now, he that can suppose eternity and immensity (and consequently the substance by whose existence these modes or attributes exist,) removed out of the universe, may, if