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Some further Objections against the moral Necessity of God's
The author last cited, as has been observed, owns that God, being perfectly wise, will constantly and certainly choose what appears most fit, where there is a superior fitness and goodness in things; and that it is not possible for him to do otherwise. So that it is, in effect, confessed that in those things where there is any real preferableness, it is no dishonour, nothing in any respect unworthy of God, for him to act from Necessity; notwithstanding all that can be objected from the agreement of such a Necessity with the fate of the Stoicks, and the Necessity maintained by Mr. Hobbes. From which it will follow, that if in all the different things among which God chooses, there were evermore a superior fitness or preferableness on one side, then it would be no dishonour, or any thing unbecoming, for God's will to be necessarily determined in every thing. And if this be allowed, it is giving up entirely the argument from the unsuitableness of such a Necessity to the liberty, supremacy, independence, and glory of the Divine Being; and resting the whole weight of the affair on the decision of another point wholly diverse ; viz. Whether it be so indeed, that in all the various possible things, objects of his choice, there is not evermore a preferableness in one thing above another. This is denied by this author ; who supposes that, in many instances between two or more possible things which come within the view of the Divine Mind, there is a perfect indifference and equality, as to fitness or tendency, to attain any good end which God can have in view, or to answer any of his designs. Now, therefore, I would consider whether this be evident.
The arguments brought to prove this, are of two kinds. (1.) It is urged, that, in many instances, we must suppose there is absolutely no difference between various possible objects of choice, which God has in view : and (2.) that the difference between many things is so inconsiderable, or of such a nature, that it would be unreasonable to suppose it to be of any consequence; or to suppose that any of God's wise designs would not be answered in one way as well as the other.
I. The first thing to be considered is, whether there are any instances wherein there is a perfect likeness, and absolutely no difference, between different objects of choice that are proposed to the Divine Understanding?
And here, in the first place, it may be worthy to be considered, whether the contradiction there is in the terms of the question proposed, does not give reason to suspect, that there is an inconsistence in the thing supposed. It is inquired whether different objects of choice may not be absolutely without difference? If they are absolutely without difference, then how are they different objects of choice? If there be absolutely no difference, in any respect, then there is no variety or distinction : for distinction is only by some difference. And if there be no variety among proposed objects of choice, then there is no opportunity for variety of choice, or difference of determination. For that determination of a thing, which is not different in any respect, is not a different determination, but the same.
That this is no quibble may appear more fully in a short time.
The arguments, to prove that the Most High, in some instances, chooses to do one thing rather than another, where the things themselves are perfectly without difference, are two.
1. That the various parts of infinite time and space, absolutely considered, are perfectly alike, and do not differ at all one from another : and that therefore, when God determined to create the world in such a part of infinite duration and space, rather than others, he determined and preferred among various objects, between which there was no preferableness, and absolutely no difference.
Answ. This objection supposes an infinite length of time before the world was created, distinguished by successive parts, properly and truly so; or a succession of limited and unmeasurable periods of time, following one another, in an infinitely long series : which must needs be a groundless imagination. The eternal duration which was before the world, being only the eternity of God's existence ; which is nothing else but his immediate, perfect, and invariable possession of the whole of his unlimited life, together and at once ; Vite interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio. Which is so generally allowed that I need not stand to demonstrate it.*
* " If all created beings were taken away, all possibility of any mutation or succession, of one thing to another, would appear to be also removed. Abstract succession in eternity is scarce to be understood. What is it that succeeds ? One minute to another, perhaps, velut unda supervenit undam. But when we imagine this, we fancy that the minutes are things separately existing. This is the common notion; and yet it is a manifest prejudice. Time is nothing but the existence of created successive beings, and eternity the necessary existence of the Deity:-Therefore, if this necessary Being hath no change or succession in his nature, his existence must, of course, be unsuccessive. We seem to commit a double oversight in this case; first, we find succession in the necessary nature and existence of the Deity himself: which is wrong, if the reasoning above be conclusive. And then we ascribe this succession to eternity, considered abstractedly from the Eternal Being ; and suppose it, one knows not what, a thing subsisting
So this objection supposes an extent of space beyond the limits of the creation, of an infinite length, breadth, and depth, truly and properly distinguished into different measurable parts, limited at certain stages, one beyond another, in an infinite se. ries. Which notion of absolute and infinite space is doubtless as unreasonable as that now mentioned, of absolute and infinite duration. It is as improper to imagine that the immensity and omnipresence of God is distinguished by a series of miles and leagues, one beyond another, as that the infinite duration of God is distinguished by months and years, one after another. A diversity and order of distinct parts, limited by certain periods, is as conceivable, and does as naturally obtrude itself on our imagination, in one case as the other; and there is equal reason in each case to suppose that our imagination deceives us. It is equally improper to talk of months and years of the Divine Existence, as of square miles of Deity: and we equally deceive ourselves, when we talk of the world being differently fixed with respect to either of these sorts of measures. I think we know not what we mean, if we say, the world might have been differently placed from what it is, in the broad expanse of infinity; or, that it might have been differently fixed in the long line of eternity: and all arguments and objections, which are built on the imaginations we are apt to have of infinite extension or duration, are buildings founded on shadows, or castles in the air.
2. The second argument, to prove that the Most High wills one thing rather than another, without any superior fitness or preferableness in the thing preferred, is God's actualiy placing in different parts of the world, particles, or atoms of matter, that are perfectly equal and alike. The forementioned author says, (p. 78, &c.) “ If one would descend to the minute specific particles, of which different bodies are composed, we should see abundant reason to believe, that there are thousands of such little particles, or atoms of matter, which are perfectly equal and alike, and could give no distinct deter
by itself, and flowing, one minute after another. This is the work of pure imagination, and contrary to the reality of things. Hence the common metaphorical expressions ; Time runs apace, let us lay hold on the present minute, and the like. The philosophers themselves mislead us by their illustration. They compare eternity to the motion of a point running on for ever, and making a traceless infinite line. Here the point is supposed a thing actually subsisting, representing the present minute ; and then they ascribe motion or succession to it: that is, they ascribe motion to a mere nonentity, to illustrate to us a successive eternity, made up of finite successive parts.- If once we allow an all-perfect mind, which hath an eternal, immutable, and infinite comprehension of all things, always (and allow it we must) the distinction of past and future vanishes with respect to such a mind. - In a word, if we proceed step by step, as above, the eternity or existence of the Deity will appear to be Vitæ interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio ; how much soever this may have been a paradox hitherto. Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul. Vol. ïi, 409, 410, 411. Edit. 3.
mination to the Will of God, where to place them.“ He there instances in particles of water, of which there are such immense numbers, which compose the rivers and oceans of this world, and the infinite myriads of the luminous and fiery particles, which compose the body of the Sun; so many, that it would be very unreasonable to suppose no two of them should be exactly equal and alike.
Answ. (1.) To this I answer : that as we must suppose matter to be infinitely divisible, it is very unlikely, that any two of all these particles are exactly equal and alike ; so unlikely, that it is a thousand to one, yea, an infinite number to one, but it is otherwise : and that although we should allow a great similarity between the different particles of water and fire, as to their general nature and figure; and however small we suppose those particles to be, it is infinitely unlikely that any two of them should be exactly equal in dimensions and quantity of matter.--If we should suppose a great many globes of the same nature with the globe of the earth, it would be very strange, if there were any two of them that had exactly the same number of particles of dust and water in them. But infinitely less strange, than that two particles of light should have just the same quantity of matter. For a particle of light, according to the doctrine of the infinite divisibility of matter, is composed of infinitely more assignable parts than there are particles of dust and water in the globe of the earth. And as it is infinitely unlikely, that any two of these particles should be equal ; so it is, that they should be alike in other respects : to instance in the configuration of their surfaces. If there were very many globes of the nature of the earth, it would be very unlikely that any two should have exactly the same number of particles of dust, water, and stone, in their surfaces, and all posited exactly alike, one with respect to another, without any difference, in any part discernible either by the naked eye or microscope ; but infinitely less strange, than that two particles of light should be perfectly of the same figure. For there are infinitely more assignable real parts on the surface of a particle of light, than there are particles of dust, water, and stone, on the surface of the terrestrial Globe,
Answ. (2.) But then, supposing that there are two parti. cles, or atoms of matter, perfectly equal and alike, which God has placed in different parts of the creation ; as I will not deny it to be possible for God to make two bodies perfectly alike, and put them in different places; yet it will not follow, that two different or distinct acts or effects of the Divine Power have exactly the same fitness for the same ends. For these two different bodies are not different or distinct, in any other respects than those wherein they differ : they are two in no
other respects than those wherein there is a difference. If they are perfectly equal and alike in themselves, then they can be distinguished, or be distinct, only in those things which are called circumstances ; as place, time, rest, motion, or some other present or past circumstances or relations. For it is difference only that constitutes distinction. If God makes two bodies, in themselves every way equal and alike, and agreeing perfectly in all other circumstances and relations, but only their place; then in this only is there any distinction or duplicity. The figure is the same, the measure is the same, the solidity and resistance are the same, and every thing the same, but only the place. Therefore what the will of God determines is this, that there should be the same figure, the same extension, the same resistance, &c. in two different places. And for this determination he has some reason. There is some end, for which such a determination and act has a peculiar fitness, above all other acts. Here is no one thing determined without an end, and no one thing without a fitness for that end, superior to any thing else. If it be the pleasure of God to cause the same resistance, and the same figure, to be in two different places and situations, we can no more justly argue from it, that here must be some determination or act of God's will that is wholly without motive or end, than we can argue, than whenever in any case it is a man's will to speak the same words or make the same sounds at two different times, there must be some determination or act of his will, without any motive or end. The difference of place, in the former case, proves no more than the difference of time does in the other. If any one should say, with regard to the former case, that there must be something determined without an end, viz. that of those two similar bodies, this in particular should be made in this place, and the other in the other, and should enquire, why the Creator did not make them in a transposition, when both are alike, and each would equally have suited either place ? The enquiry supposes something that is not true ; namely, that the two bodies differ and are distinct in other respects besides their place. So that with this distinction inherent in them, they might, in their first creation, have been transposed, and each might have begun its existence in the place of the other.
Let us, for clearness sake, suppose, that God had, at the beginning, made two globes, each of an inch diameter, both perfect spheres, and perfectly solid, without pores, and perfectly alike in every respect, and placed them near one to another, one towards the right hand, and the other towards the left, without any difference as to time, motion or rest, past or present, or any circumstance, but only their place; and the qeustion should be asked, why God in their creation placed