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2. God is the preserver of all things, visible and invisible.a
For, we find in our minds a power to alter the course of the material world. Notwithstanding this power, the latter still acts by general laws, which have never been changed. This can only be effected by the providence of God, which restrains the one and preserves the other.
It is evident we perceive in ourselves a freedom of acting, and a power, by the exertion of our wills, of so employing the engines that may be invented, as to alter considerably the appearance of the earth, from the state in which it would remain, if it were left unwrought. Thus, in the lapse of time, the surface of the earth would become a perfect forest; this, its cultivation by man prevents. In like manner, the working of mines and fossils, produces great alterations ;
God cannot be said to act in violation of nature, when he only supplies this impotency, without aopulling any existing quality. For my own part, I prefer Scott's reasoning on the subject : “ Pre
existing matter is the basis of our works, for in order to them, “ we require not only the act by which we mould matter, hat the “ matter itself. When, therefore, that basis is withdrawn, our “ work ceases with it. But in respect of God's works, no such
pre-existing matter is necessary. The act of bis power alone is “ the foundation on which they rest, for he made thein out of nothing. “ If, therefore, that act of his power be withdrawn, his works must “ fall back into annihilation." --See Scott's Christian Life, Part. 2. v. 1. c. iv. sec. 1.
a See Turretin's Irist. Theol. L. 6. Q. I.
the air being thereby purified from the damps which lay concealed in those recesses, and which is thus suffered to escape. Thus, then, considerable changes are made in the natural course of things, which would never have been produced were not the earth peopled by beings of a spiritual and rational mind. Notwithstanding these changes, however, the universe still moves by general appointed laws, which it never violates. This regularity can only be accounted for by admitting a providence which maintains the material world in its present motions, and at the same time restrains that power of the human mind within certain limits. In the former case, this providence acts in the preservation of the visible world, and in the latter, it secures the preservation of the invisible or spiritual world.
Some difficulties have been stated in the doctrine of God's preservation of the world, which it may be necessary to consider.
(1.) That we cannot conceive how the Supreme mind can have all things under its view at once.
This difficulty arises from men applying their limited capacities as the standard by which to measure infinite perfection. Even in ourselves, it is matter of wonder, how we get so great a variety of ideas by one organ, the eye; and how we are enabled by it to form accurate notions of the distances of objects, by the angles they make with each other. The immense assemblage of
ideas which are laid up in our memories, to be recalled when occasion requires them, may equally excite our astonishment. And if these wonders take place in our finite minds, it is not surprising, that an infinite Being should have all his ideas under his view at the same moment.
(2.) We cannot conceive how the interference of God can be consistent with the freedom of the agent.
In ordinary life we constantly see one mind act upon another. When a man expresses an idea, the word he utters causes a motion in the air, by which it is conveyed to another person's ear. An impression is thus produced on the brain of the latter, by which he is enabled to comprehend the meaning of that expression. Now, this method is perfectly inconceivable, yet no argument is deduced from that, against the mutual communication of men. The same objection, therefore, of our inability to comprehend the operation of the Divine mind upon ours, should be no ground for denying the existence of that operation.
(3.) There is much evil in this world, which can only be accounted for by supposing God either unwilling or unable to remove it.a
But such a removal would be inconsistent with
See King on the Origin of Evil. Bishop Hamilton's Essay on the Permission of Evil Works, v. 2. p. 137. Ed. Lond. 1809., and Turretin's Inst. Theol. L. 6. Q. 7.
the providence of God in other respects. He has made some beings capable of free action and of preferring good or evil. If, therefore, he were to restrain them from the commission of sin, he should, by so doing, destroy their liberty.
As to the degree to which God interferes in the government of the universe, some have supposed he is the immediate cause of every act and thought. But it is a great objection to this idea, that God should thus be the first physical cause of all the evil that exists in the world. This would destroy all distinctions of religion, for men would conclude that every thing was done without his direction, when they saw effects produced so opposite to his nature. It is more natural to suppose that he at first endowed things with certain properties, and framed them so that they should continue in the course in which he originally placed them. By this supposition, all actions are finally referred to him as their author, though not in such a way as to make him the immediate cause of sin. For the properties, from the direct operation of which all effects flow, were originally created by him, so as to produce those effects.
In the preceding observations, it may be observed that we assumed the existence of invisible or immaterial substances. We shall now proceed to demonstrate that,
The Soul is an immaterial substance.a
For its operations cannot arise either from matter, or from motion.
(1.) Matter in its most refined state shows no symptoms of thinking.
Thus, when it has been attenuated to the last degree, as in air, heat, &c. it is still as far from evincing thought as before. Were such power inherent in it, we should expect that the more it was refined, the nearer it should approach towards exhibiting this power.
(2.) Our intelligent principle can think of things altogether unconnected with matter. This it could not do, if it were material.
Thus we find we have ideas of God, of the proportions of bodies, and other immaterial things. It is evident that such results would be impossible, were the mind no more than a material principle.
(3.) We find we have a freedom of moving matter by an act of the mind. The mind, therefore, must be superior to matter.
a See Locke's Essay on the Understanding, B. 6. c. 10. sec. 14. Bentley's Lectures, lec. 2. Turretin's Inst. Theol. v. 1. Q. 14. p. 554.; and Dwight's Theol. ser. 23.
6 Matter can only be known by its properties. These properties are figure and mobility. It is evident, therefore, that if the operations of the soul do not proceed from these properties, they must be independent of matter itself.