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the two first, we do in effect yield the question: if nature forcibly drives men into this persuasion, how extravagant will it be to oppose her And if we grant that plain reason, apparent to the generality of men, hath moved them to this consent, do we not, by dissenting from it, renounce common sense But if we say that it arose in the last manner, from a common instruction or primitive tradition, we shall be thereby driven to inquire, who that common master, or author of the tradition was: of any such we have no name recorded; we find no time designated when it began to arise. Who then were the teachers, but the first parents of mankind? Thus does this consideration lead to another very advantageous to our purpose: that . mankind hath proceeded from one common stock; which doubly confirms our assertion; first, as proving the generations of men had a beginning; secondly, as affording us their most weighty authority for the doctrine we assert. For, 1. supposing mankind had a beginning on this earth, whence could it proceed but from such a Being as we describe 2 This point enlarged on. 2. Supposing this notion derived from the first men, who instilled it into them Why should they conceive themselves to come from God, if he that made them did not discover himself to them? This enlarged on. Thus do these two notions, that of general tradition concerning God, and that concerning man's origin on earth from one stock, mutually support each other. And indeed concerning the latter, there be divers other arguments of the same kind confirming it, such as common opinions, stories, and practices, which cannot otherwise be accounted for. Testimonies of Aratus and Cicero, as to our being God's offspring, and having our souls from his nature : those of Aristotle, Ovid, Plato, Seneca, &c. concerning similar opinions. Those of Plato and Cicero concerning man's having been once in a better state, and having fallen into a more wretched one.
Story of Pandora from Hesiod applicable to the evil introduced into the world by Eve. Other traditions from Plato, Plutarch, &c. instanced. These chiefly concern man. Divers others concerning God and religion, sprouting probably from the same root : several of which are produced from Aristotle, &c. many collected by Clemens Alexandrinus. To these may be added various evil customs, wherein most nations did from this cause probably conspire: for example, their stopping at decades, their adherence to the number 7 in the division of time, &c. These traditions shown to have been, in substance, universally received, notwithstanding the negligence of some people, and the affected wisdom of others: also notwithstanding their adulteration through ignorance, fancy, craftiness, ambitious designs, &c. This argument summed up. In the preceding discourses, the existence of God has been proved by arguments which more immediately evince those their principal attributes, wisdom, power, and goodness incomprehensible; but which also consequentially declare all the other attributes commonly esteemed ingredients of that notion which answers to the name of God. The uniformity, concord, and perfect harmony which appears in the constitution and preservation of things; their conspiring to one end ; their continuing in the same order and course, do plainly declare the unity of God. And hereto also the common suffrage of mankind doth in a manner agree : for although they worshipped a multitude of inferior deities, yet there was one Supreme God, Author and Governor of the rest, and of all things besides: this point enlarged on and illustrated. So much for God's unity. His eternity deduced from his having made all things: also his immortality and immutability. From his making, upholding, and governing all things, it follows that he was ever and is every where; from his over-reaching wisdom, power, and goodness, his perfect veracity and justice proceeds. Lastly, from the excellency of his nature, from the abundance of his goodness, from his creation and preservation of all things, his rightful title to supreme dominion, &c. is inferred.
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 speakst) universal and unanimous testimony of people and nations, through all courses of time, who (otherwise differing in lan
* Who read Eb)p instead of Emp, t Lact. i. 2.
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 2, 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