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The Nature, Possibility and Truth, of a particular Providence set forth.
PSALM CXIII. 5. Who is like unto the Lord our God, who hath his Dvelling to high; and yet
humbleth himself to behold the Things that are in Heaven and Earth?
*T is one great Recommendation of the Serm. V.
Sacred Writings, that they have ex
pressed themselves with more Justness of Thought concerning the Nature of God, than
any other Compositions whatever. What the Vanity of Science, falsely so called, has ascribed to Nature, or to second Causes, exclufvely of the First, is by them resolved into the immediate Will and Providence of God. This is the truest Philosophy, as well as the best Divinity. For what is Nature? is it an understanding Being ? or is it not? If it be not, how can an unde
SERM. V. figning Being produce plain Notices of Con
trivance and Dehyn? If it be an Understanding Being, who acts throughout the Universe; then it is that great Being, whom we call God. For Nature, Necessity, and Chance, mere Phantoms, which have no Reason, Wisdom, or Power, cannot act, with the utmost Exactness of Wisdom, powerfully, incessantly, and every where. And here I would observe, that no Words are more undetermined in their Signification, than those, which pass
, current in common Conversation. We never question, but that we clearly undersiand Terms, which are daily in use, and familiar to us: Whereas those Words are often mere Sounds, without Sense, or any settled Sgnification. Thus few seem to know (though it is the only clear and determinate Meaning of it) that Nature in this Case means nothing, but the constant and sated Operation of God upon Matter.
We have no less Reason to beg our daily Bread of Almighty God, than the Israelites had to pray for their Sustenance, when they were fed with Manna from Heaven, For that a Handful of Corn should multiply to a prodigious Degree, and that the Fields
should stand so thick with Corn, that they serm. V. should laugh and fing, must be ascribed to God; as well as that the Food of Angels was given from above to the Israelites : Because a regular, confiant and uniform Effect, in which there are evident Traces of Wisdom and Benevolence, stands as much in need of the Operation of a wise and benevolent Being, equal to the Effect, to produce it constantly at set Times and Seasons; as an occasional, infrequent and extraordinary Phænomenon does to produce it now and then, when an extraordinary Occasion offers.
The Generation of a human Body in the ordinary Way is no more to be accounted for by the Laws of Mechanism, than the Raising of a dead Body from the Grave : And the only assignable Motive, why we attribute the latter to the immediate Agency of God, and not the former ; is that the latter is an unusual Operation of the Deity. If we saw Bodies commonly rise from the Grave, as we do Corn from Seed sown in the Earth ; we should endeavour to explain this Effect, just as we do the other, from philosophical Causes exclusive of the First*. • See Dr. Clarke's Reply to Leibnitz, Page 351.
SERM. V. No Beings, but what have Life and
Sense, can, in Propriety of Speech, be termed Causes: All other Things, being dead and unactive, are only like Tools in the Hand of a Workman: And whatever we ascribe to Matter a pasive Being, must be resolved into his Will, who useth Matter as an Instrument. Can Matter, which resists every Change of State, effect what it refifts, not only move itself, but change its Motion from a straight to a circular one, and give itself a new Direction; as the Planets must do to describe their Orbits round the Sun ?
But I need not insist upon this Point any longer. For to deny a Providence in general, is, in effect, to deny a God. If there be a God invested with the Attributes of infinite Power, Wisdom and Goodness; Providence is nothing but the Exercise of those Attributes, viz. his Wisdom, Power and Goodness on the Creation in general. It cannot be supposed, that he will let those Attributes lie dormant in Him in a State of Inaction, without exerting them at all.
A general Providence then must be granted : But a particular Providence is clogged with some Difficulties. I shall therefore, to remove them,