« AnteriorContinuar »
it may be demonstrated that even this oneness of created substance, existirg at different times, is a merely dependent identity, dependent on the pleasure and sovereign constitution of Him who worketh all in all. This will follow from what is generally allowed, and is certainly true, that God not only created all things, and gave them being at first, but continually preserves them, and upholds them in being. This being a matter of considerable importance, it may be worthy here to be considered with a little attention. Let us inquire therefore, in the first place, whether it be not evident that God does continually, by his immediate power, uphold every created substance in being ; and then let us see the consequence.
That God does, by his immediate power, uphold every created substance in being, will be manifest, if we consider that their present existence is a dependent existence, and therefore is an effect, and must have some cause ; and the cause must be one of these two ; either the antecedent exist. ence of the same substance, or the power of the Creator. But it cannot be the antecedent existence of the same substance. For instance, the existence of the body of the moon at this present moment, cannot be the effect of its existence at the last foregoing moment. For not only was wliat existed the last moment, no active cause, but wholly a passive thing; but this also is to be considered, that no cause can produce effects in a time and place in which itself is not. It is plain, nothing can exert itself, or operate, when and where it is not existing. But the moon's past existence was neither where nor when its present existence is. In point of time, what is fast, entirely ceases, when present existence begins; otherwise it would not be past. The past moment is ceased and gone, when the present moment takes place; and does no more coexist with it, than does any other moment that had ceased twenty years ago. Nor could the past existence of the particles of this moving body produce effects in any other place than where it then was. But its existence at the present inoment, in every point of it, is in a difierent place from where its exis: VOL. VI.
ence was at the last preceding moment. From these things I suppose it will certainly follow that the present existence, either of this, or any other created substance, cannot be an effect of its past existence. The existences (so to speak) of an effect, or thing dependent, in different parts of space or duration, though ever so near one to another, do not at all coa crist one with the other ; and therefore are as truly different effects, as if those parts of space and duration were ever so far asunder; and the prior existence can no more be the proper cause of the new existence, in the next moment, or next part of space, than if it had been in an age before, or at a thousand miles distance, without any existence to fill up the intermediate time or space. Therefore the existence of created substances, in each successive moment, must be the effect of the immediate agency, will, and power of God.
If any shall say, this reasoning is not good, and shall insist upon it, that there is no need of any immediate divine power to produce the present existence of created substances, but that their present existence is the effect or consequence of past existence, according to the nature of things; that the established course of nature is sufficient to continue existence, where existence is once given; I allow it : But then it should be remembered, what nature is in created things; and what the established course of nature is; that, as has been observed already, it is nothing, separate from the agency of God; and that, as Dr. Taylor says, God, the Original of all being, is the onlr cause of all natural effects. A father, according to the course of nature, begets a child ; an oak, according to the course of nature, produces an acorn, or a bud; so, according to the course of nature, the former existence of the trunk of the tree is followed by its new or present existence. In the one case and the other, the new effect is consequent on the former, only by the established laws and settled course of nature, which is allowed to be nothing but the continued immediate efficiency of God, according to a constitution that he has been pleased to establish. Therefore, according to what our author urges, as the child and the acorn, which come into existence according to the course of nature, in con,
sequence of the prior existence and state of the parent and the oak, are truly, immediately created or made by God; so must the existence of each created person and thing, at each moment of it, be from the immediate continued creation of God. It will certainly follow from these things, that God's fireserving created things in being is perfectly equivalent to a continued creation, or to his creating those things out of nothing at cach moment of their existence. If the continued existence of created things be wholly dependent on God's preservation, then those things would drop into nothing, upon the ceasing of tire present noment, without a new exertion of the divine power to cause them to exist in the following moment. If there be any who own, that God preserves things in being, and yet hold that they would continue in being without any further help from him, after they once have existence; I think, it is hard to know what they mean. To what purpose can it be, to talk of God's preserving things in being, when there is no need of his preserving them? Or to talk of their being dependent on God for continued existence, when they would of themselves continue to exist without his heip; nay, though he should wholly withdraw his sustaining power and influence ?
It will follow from what has been observed, that God's upholding created substance, or causing its existence in each successive moment, is altogether equivalent to an immediate production out of nothing, at each moment. Because its existence at this moment is not merely in part from God, but wholly from him, and not in any part or degree, from its an. tecedent existence. For the supposing that its antecedent existence concurs with God in efficiency, to produce some part of the effect, is attended with all the very same absurdities, which have been shewn to attend the supposition of its producing it wholly. Therefore the antecedent existence is nothing, as to any proper influence or assistance in the affair ; and consequenily God produces the effect as much from nothing, as if there had been nothing before. So that this effect differs not at all from the first creation, but only circumstane tally; as in first creation there had been no such aci apd er.
fect of God's power before ; whereas, his giving existence afterwards, follows preceding acts and effects of the same kind, in an established order.
Now, in the next place, let us see how the consequence of these things is to my present purpose. If the existence of crcated substance, in each successive moment, be wholly the effect of God's immediate power, in that moment, without any dependence on prior existence, as much as the first creation out of nothing, then what exists at this moment, by this power, is a new effici, and simply and absolutely considered, not the same with any past existence, though it be like it, and follows it according to a certain established method..
* When I suppose that an effect which is produced every moment, by a new action or exertion of power, must be a new effect in each moment, and pot absolutely and numerically the same with that which existed in preceding moments, the thing that I intend, may be illustrated by this example, The lucid color or brightness of the moon, as we look stediastly upon it, seems to be a permanent thing, as though it were perfectly the sarrie brighiness continued. But indeed it is an effect produced every moment. It ceases, and is senewed, in each successive point of time; and so becomes altogether a new effect at each instant; and no one thing that belongs to it, is numerically the same that existed in the preceding moment. The rays of the sun, impressed on that body, and reflected from it, which cause the effect, are none of them the same : The impression, made in each moment on our sensory, is by the stroke of new rays; and the sonsation, excited by the stroke, is a new effect, an effect of a new impulse. Therefore the brightness or lucid whiteness of this body is no more numerically the same thing with that which existed in the preceding moment, than the sound of the wind that blows now, is india vidually the same with the sound of the wind that blew just before, which, though it be like it, is not the sam, any more than the agitated air, that makes the sound, is the same; or than the water, flowing in a river, that now passes br, is in. div dually the same with that which passed a little before. And if it by this with the brightness or color of the moon, so it must be with its solidity, and every thing else belonging to its substance, if all be, each moment, as much the immediate effect of a new exertion or app:ication of power.
Tle matter may perhaps be in some respects stii more clearly illustrated by this. The im3/s of things in a glass, as we keep our eye upon them, seem to remain precis ly the same, with a contin ing, perfect identity. But it is known to be otherwise. Philosophers well know that these images are constan ly renewed, by the impression and reflection of new rays of light; so that the image impressed by the former says is constantly vanishing, and a
And there is no identity or oneness in the case, but what de. pends on the arbitrary constitution of the Creator ; who by his wise sovereign establishment so unites these successive new effects, that he treats them as one, by communicating to them like properties, relations, and circumstances ; and so, leads us to regard and treat them as one. When I call this an arbitrary constitution, I mean, it is a constitution which depends on nothing but the divine will ; which divine will depends on nothing but the divine wisdom. In this sense, the whole course of nature, with all that belongs to it, all its laws and methods, and constancy and regularity, cootinuance and proceeding, is an arbitrary constitution. In this sense, the continuance of the very being of the world and all its parts, as well as the manner of continued being, depends entirely on an arbitrary constitution : For it does not at all necessarily folluw, that because there was sound, or light, or color, or resistance, or gravity, or thought, or consciousness, or any other dependent thing the last moment, that therefore there shall be the like at the next. All dependent existence whatsoever
new image impressed by new rays every moment, both on the glass and on the eye. The image constantly renewed, by new successive rays, is no more numerically the same, than if it were by some artist put on anew with a pencil, and the colors constantly vanishing as fast as put on. And the new images being put on immediately or instantly, do not make them the same, any more than if it were done with the intermission of an hour or a day. The image that exists this moment, is not at all derived from the image which existed the last preceding moment; as may be seen, because, if the succession of new rays be intercepted, by something interposed between the object and the glass, the image immediately ceases; the past existence of the image has no influence to uphold it, so much as for one moment. Which shews, that the image is altogether new made every moment; and strictly speaking, is in no part nu. merically the same with that which existed the moment preceding. And truly so the matter must be with the bodies themselves, as well as their images : They also cannot be the same, with an absolute identity, but must be wholly renewed every moment, if the case be as has been proved, that ibeir present existence is not, strictly speaking, at all the effect of their past existence; but is wholly, every instant, the effect of a new agency, or exertion of the power, of the cause of their existence. If so, the existence caused is every instant a new effect, whether the cause be lighi, or immediate divine power, or whatever it be.