« EdellinenJatka »
I Believe in God,
THE BEING OF GOD PROVED FROM
PSALM XIX.-VERSES 3. 4.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard : their line (or rather, according to the LXX,* their voice) is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
THE psalmist doth in this place observe and affirm (very plainly) the universality of religion; that all nations did conspire in acknowleging a divinity, and ascribing thereto the framing and conservation of the heavens. He supposes the heavens to speak an universal language, heard and understood by all people, therein glorifying God and declaring him their Maker.
On which supposition I purpose now to ground an argument, to prove (that which formerly by several other kinds of discourse I have endeavored to evince) that great fundamental truth concerning the existence of God, that is, of one incomprehensibly excellent Being, the Maker and Governor of all things.
The argument (to be short) is that (as Lactantius speaks†) universal and unanimous testimony of people and nations, through all courses of time, who (otherwise differing in lan+ Lact. i. 2.
קום instead of קולם Who read *
guage, custom, and conceit) only have agreed in this one matter of opinion. This testimony, in itself simply taken, hath indeed (according to the rules of reason and judgments of wise men) no small force; but seems to have much greater, if we consider the source, whatever that could be, whence it was derived. As to the thing absolutely taken, Aristotle thus ranks the degrees of probability: what seems true to some wise men is somewhat probable; what seems to the most or to all wise men, is very probable; what most men, both wise and unwise, assent unto, doth still more resemble truth; but what men generally consent in hath the highest probability, and approaches near to demonstrable truth; so near, that it may pass for ridiculous arrogance and self-conceitedness, or for intolerable obstinacy and perverseness, to deny it. A man,' saith the philosopher, may assume what seems true to the wise, if it do not contradict the common opinion of men ;'* no man's wisdom (he supposes) sufficient to balance the general authority of men. Iudeed, when extravagant wits, and pretenders to wisdom, (or to an extraordinary reach in knowlege,) shall assert things evidently repugnant to sense or reason; that snow and coal have the like appearance, (as did Anaxagoras;) that all motion is impossible, (as Zeno;) that contradictory propositions may be consistent, (as Heraclitus;) we may add to those instances, that all things in nature proceeded from chance, (as Epicurus and his followers;) what other means have we, (since no principles can be more evident than such propositions as they reject) to confute them, or to decide the cause, than making appeal to the common sentiments of mankind? which if they decline, what have we more to do than to laugh at or pity them? however, surely, he needs to have a very strong and very clear reason to show, who dares to withstand the common suffrage of mankind, and to challenge all the world of mistake. Now somewhat to enforce this discourse; but more to evidence the matter of fact on which it is grounded, and withal to make good that confirmation thereof, which was intimated; I shall allege some few testimonies of ancient philosophers, (that is, of witnesses in this cause most impartial and unsuspected,) se
* Top. i. 8.
lected out of innumerable others extant and obvious, serving the same purpose: We are wont to attribute much,' saith Seneca, 'to what all men presume; it is an argument with us of truth, that any thing seems true to all; as that there be gods we hence collect, for that all men have engrafted in them an opinion concerning gods; neither is there any nation so void of laws, or good manners, that it doth not believe there are some gods;' so doth he assert the matter of fact, and argue from it. The like doth Cicero in many places, sometimes in the person of his dialo gists, sometimes according to his own sense; pressing this argument as very weighty. This,' saith he, in his Tusculan Questions, seems a most firm thing, which is alleged, why we should believe gods to be, because no nation is so fierce, no man so wild, whose mind an opinion concerning gods hath not imbued; many think amiss concerning gods, for that uses to proceed from bad custom, but all do however conceive a Divine power and nature to exist-Now in all things the consent of all nations is to be supposed a law of nature.' We shall have other occasion to cite divers places out of Plato and Aristotle, confirming the same thing; I shall now only add these pregnant words of Maximus Tyrius: In such a quarrelling, and tumult, and jangling, (about other matters of opinion,) you may see this one by common accord acknowleged law and speech, that there is one God, the King and Father of all; and many gods, children of God, and ruling together with him: this the Greek says, and this the Barbarian says; the inhabiter of the continent, and the islander; the wise and the unwise do say the same.'‡
Thus it appears, by testimony abundantly sufficient, (to which also all histories ancient and modern do agree,) that our conclusion hath been the catholic and current doctrine of all times and of all places; so that who denies assent thereto, is beyond measure paradoxical, and belongs to a sect very thin and weak; is in opinion what a monster is in nature, a thing
* Sen. Epist. cxvii. vid. de Benef. iv. 4. + Tusc. i. p. 299.
Diss. i. p. 5.
Vid. de Nat. Deor. i. pag. 22. et ii. pag. 53.
extraordinary and uncouth; as a lion without courage, an ox without horns, a bird without wings, (as the philosopher speaks;) a thing which seldom haps to be, and that never without some great error or defect,*
But if, as surely he will, our haughty adversary shall refute the verdict of this grand jury, we may assert its authority, not only as competent in itself, but as more considerable in respect to the causes whence it proceeded, or from the manner by which this general consent can be conceived to have been produced and propagated among men. That men should thus conspire in opinion must needs proceed either, 1. from hence, that such an opinion was by way of natural light or instinct (as the first most evident principles of science are conceived to be, or as the most effectual propensions toward good are) implanted in man's nature; thus. Cicero and other philosophers suppose it to have come in him it is thus said, and argued : 'Since not by any institution, or custom, or law, this opinion is established, and among all, without exception, a firm consent doth abide, it is necessary there should be gods; we having implanted, or rather inbred notions concerning them; but about whatever men naturally do agree, that must needs be true: we must therefore confess there are gods.'+ Thus doth he draw this opinion from original light of nature. Or, 2. it may come from a common inclination in man's soul naturally disposing every man to entertain this opinion, whenever it is propounded, as there is in our eyes a natural readiness to perceive the light, whenever it shines before us; thus others explain the rise thereof, as Julian particularly: 'We all,' saith he, 'without being taught, (without any painful or long instruction,) are persuaded that a divinity exists; and to regard it, and to have, we may suppose, a speedy tendency (or recourse) thereto; being in such manner disposed thereto in our souls, as things endued with the faculty of seeing are to the light :' the same similitude is, as I remember, used by Plato to the same purpose. Or, 3. it may come hence, that some very prevalent reason (obvious to all
* Diss. i. p. 16 Ælian. Var. ii. 31.
↑ De Nat. Deor. i. pag. 22. vid. ii. de Nat. Deor. 53. 57, &c. Jul. ad Heraclitum.
men, even to the most rude and barbarous, and flowing from common principles or notions of truth) did beget this agreement in them thus Plutarch* derives it from men's common observations of the stars' constant order and motion; so St. Paul also seems to imply the knowlege of God manifest to all men from the creation of the world, and the works of God visible therein; and here (in this 19th Psalm) the prophet may seem to intend the same, although it be not certain he does; for that general acknowlegement and glorifying of God as maker of the heavens, which he avouches, may be understood as well the consequence as the cause of this religious opinion. Or, 4. it might from some common fountain of instruction (from one ancient master, or one primitive tradition) be conveyed, as from one common head or source, into many particular conduits. Thus the author of the book de Mundo (dedicated to Alexander) seems to deduce it: It is an ancient saying,' says he, ' and running in the race of all men, that from God all things, and by God all things were constituted, and do consist.' The like Aristotlet himself implies in a notable place, which we shall afterward have occasion to produce.
No other way beside one of these can we (following experience or reason) imagine, by which any opinion or practice should prevail generally among men, who otherwise are so apt to differ and assent in judgment about things. And be it any one or more of these ways that this opinion became so universally instilled into men's minds, our argument will thereby gain weight and force: if we assign or acknowlege any of the two first ways, we do in effect yield the question; and grant it unreasonable to deny our conclusion: if nature forcibly drives men, or strongly draws men into this persuasion, (nature, which always we find in her notions and in her instincts very sincere and faithful, not only to ourselves, but to all other creatures,) how vain an extravagancy will it then be to oppose it? also, if we grant that plain reason, apparent to the generality of men, hath moved them to consent herein, do we not therefore, by dissenting from it, renounce common sense, and confess ourselves unreasonable? but if we say that it did arise in the last
* Plut. de Plac. i. 6.
+ Cap. 6.
+ Metaph. xii. 8.