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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 consequence of the prior existence and state of the parent and the oak, are truly immediately created by God; so must the existence of each created person and thing, at each moment, be from the immediate continued creation of God. It will certainly follow from these things, that God's preserving of created things in being, is perfectly equivalent to a continued creation, or to his creating those things out of nothing at each 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 the present moment, without a new exertion of the divine power to cause them to exist in the following moment.*
*The CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, (Vol. V. p. 177.) in reviewing a sermon entitled, "Predestination to Life," remarks: "It may be allowed (though even this is not to us in the sense formerly explained, a self-evident proposition) that all created nature, as such, tends to nihility. Since it sprung out of nothing, only through the intervention of Almighty Power, it must certainly relapse into nothing when the intervening power is removed. Since it became something only during the pleasure of another, it will cease to be something when left to itself. But it is not so apparent, why that which never subsisted but in a state of virtue and purity, should of itself have a tendency to subsist in any other state; or why, when left to itself, if it continue at all, it should not continue in that state in which it was left.""-But, in p. 186, he retracts what he first said, in the following very singular note: "The preceding sheet was printed off before we perceived that we had expressed ourselves at p. 177, col. 2. in language which may be construed into an admission of the truth of the doctrine maintained by Dr. WILLIAMS, it respects the necessary tendency of all created nature to nihility. In a popular sense, indeed, it may perhaps be said (though the proposition will be found to fill the ear rather than the mind') that what sprung out of nothing at the pleasure of another, must again become nothing when left to itself; and, for the sake of shortening the discussion, we were willing to concede thus much. We must at the same time confess that we do not quite understand the position, that created beings tend to nihility; and we leave it to our readers to judge whether there be much more meaning in saying that "what is tends not to be," than in saying "that what is not tends to be;" or, in other words, whether a tendency to annihilation in that which exists, be at all more conceivable, than a tendency to become existent in that whichexists not."
How far the writer had any good reason for retracting what he first asserted, and thereby opposing the sentiments, not only of the author he reviews, but of nearly all the divines that ever have written upon providence, let the reader judge by a careful perusal of this chapter. We are not ignorant of what Bishop BURNET says on this head, (Art. 1. p. 30. 3d Ed.) but are well satisfied his notion is as incapable of being supported by sound reason, as it was novel; and as little calculated to support the cause of piety as any one opinion he advances, in his undecisive and latitudinarian exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles. (See particularly Art. ix. on Original Sin.) For what can be a more heterodox opinion, or more full of horrid impiety, if traced to its just consequences, than the sentiment advanced by that Bishop, and by the CHRISTIAN OBSERVER! though we are far from supposing that either the one or the other foresaw those consequences. The best excuse we can form for this writer is, that "he does not quite understand the position" against which he writes. This record, we believe, is true; and is equally applicable to several other positions in that article. But then the public expects from a Reviewer a comprehensive acquaintance with the subject which he 70
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 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 help; nay, though he should wholly withdraw his sustaining power and influence?
It will follow from what has been observed, that God's upholding of created substance, or causing of 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 antecedent existence. For, to suppose 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 consequently 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 circumstantially; as, in first creation there had been no such act and effect of God's
criticises, instead of "a wood of words" and inconclusive declamations. However, he seems to be notoriously deficient in comprehending the true state of the question. A great part of that long article consists in proving what was not denied, and in disproving what was never asserted; with a goodly portion of contradictory propositions.
We might have expected, that an author who studiously shuns the intricacies of a subject which will, in his apprehension, "descend to posterity with all its difficulties on its head"—a subject, the depth of which "the sounding line of metaphysics will never fathom"-would have kept himself more free from embarrassments and self-contradictions. And it was also to be expected from one who professes to advocate the cause of piety and practical religion, that he should keep aloof from the horrible sentiment suggested by BURNET, in opposition to the almost unanimous verdict of all the pious and learned divines that ever lived. We almost shudder to draw the inference demonstrably implied in the sentiment-That the world would continue in being, were there no God to uphold it! When we say, that this is the just inference drawn from the sentiment held by the CHRISTIAN Observer, we mean, by the individual Reviewer in question, whose critique disgraces that excellent work.
Aware, perhaps, that the author whose works we now publish was of the same way of thinking; or at least, that his works have the same tendency with what he opposes, he observes: "We are apt to think that the metaphysical cast which the celebrated Mr. EDWARDS gave to his writings in divinity, has to a certain degree produced an unfavourable effect on the minds of his followers." It would have been extremely difficult for this writer to point out any preacher who came closer to men's consciences, or any writer who more effectually promotes the interest of genuine, humble, holy, practical religion, than President EDWARDS; and the editors of his works are fully conscious, that what they publish tends, in the most direct manner, when duly considered and understood, to essential truth—to GOD; of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. W.
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 created 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 effect; 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.* And there is no identity or oneness in the case, but
* 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 not absolutely and numerically the same with that which existed in preceding moments, what I intend may be illustrated by this example. The lucid colour or brightness of the moon, as we look steadfastly upon it, seems to be a permanent thing, as though it were perfectly the same brightness continued. But indeed it is an ef fect produced every moment. It ceases, and is renewed, 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 sensation 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 individually the same with the sound of the wind that blew just before; which, though it be like it, is not the same, any more than the agitated air, that makes the sound, is the same; or than the water flowing in a river, that now passes by, is individually the same with that which passed a little before. And if it be thus with the brightness or colour 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 application of power.
The matter may perhaps be in some respects still more clearly illustrated thus.-The images of things in a glass, as we keep our eye upon them, seem to remain precisely the same, with a continuing perfect identity. But it is known to be otherwise. Philosophers well know, that these images are constantly renewed, by the impression and reflection of new rays of light; so that the image impressed by the former rays is constantly vanishing, and a 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 colours 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 that existed the last preceding moment: for, 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 numerically 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 their 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 powerful cause of their existence. If so, the existence caused is every instant a new effect, whether the cause be light or immediate divine power, or whatever it be.
what depends 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 1 call this an arbitrary constitution, I mean that 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, constancy and regularity, continuance, 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 follow, that because there was sound, or light, or colour, 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 is in a constant flux, ever passing and returning; renewed every moment, as the colours of bodies are every moment renewed by the light that shines upon them; and all is constantly proceeding from GOD, as light from the sun. In him we live, and move, and have our being.
Thus it appears, if we consider matters strictly, there is no such thing as any identity or oneness in created objects, existing at different times, but what depends on God's sovereign constitution. And so it appears, that the objection we are upon, made against a supposed divine constitution whereby Adam and his posterity are viewed and treated as one, in the manner and for the purposes supposed-as if it were not consistent with truth, because no constitution can make those to be one, which are not one--is built on a false hypothesis: For it appears that a divine constitution is what makes truth, in affairs of this nature. The objection supposes, there is a oneness in created beings, whence qualities and relations are derived down from past existence, distinct from, and prior to any oneness that can be supposed to be founded on divine constitution. Which is demonstrably false; and sufficiently appears so from things conceded by the adversaries themselves; And therefore the objection wholly falls to the ground.
There are various kinds of identity and oneness found among created things, by which they become one in different manners, respects and degrees, and to various purposes; several of which differences have been observed; and every kind is ordered, regulated and limited, in every respect, by divine constitution. Some things, existing in different times and places, are treated by their Creator as one in one respect, and others in another; some are united for this communication, and others
for that; but all according to the sovereign pleasure of the fountain of all being and operation.
It appears, particularly, from what has been said, that all oneness, by virtue whereof pollution and guilt from past wickedness are derived, depends entirely on a divine establishment. It is this, and this only, that must account for guilt and an evil taint on any individual soul, in consequence of a crime committed twenty or forty years ago, remaining still, and even to the end of the world and for ever. It is this that must account for the continuance of any such thing, and where, as consciousness of acts that are past; and for the continuance of all habits, either good or bad: And on this depends every thing that can belong to personal identity. And all communications, derivations, or continuation of qualities, properties, or relations, natural or moral, from what is past, as if the subject were one, depends on no other foundation.
And I am persuaded that no solid reason can be given, why God-who constitutes all other created union or oneness according to his pleasure, and for what purposes, communications, and effects he pleases-may not establish a constitution whereby the natural posterity of Adam, proceeding from him, much as the buds and branches from the stock or root of a tree, should be treated as one with him, for the derivation, either of righte ousness and communion in rewards, or of the loss of righteousness, and consequent corruption and guilt*.
I appeal to such as are not wont to content themselves with judging by a superficial appearance and view of things, but are habituated to examine things strictly and closely, that they may judge righteous judgment, whether on supposi tion that all mankind had co-existed, in the manner mentioned before, any good reason can be given, why their Creator might not, if he had pleased, have established such an union between Adam and the rest of mankind, as was in that case supposed. Particularly, if it had been the case, that Adam's posterity had actually, according to the law of nature, some how grown out of him, and yet remained contiguous and literally united to him, as the branches to a tree, or the members of the body to the head; and had all, before the fall, existed together at the same time, though in different places, as the head and members are in different places: In this case, who can determine that the author of nature might not, if it had pleased him, have established such an union between the root and branches of this complex being, as that all should constitute one moral whole; so that by the law of union, there should be a communion in each moral alteration, and that the heart of every branch should at the same moment participate with the heart of the root, be conformed to it and concurring with it in all its affections and acts, and so jointly partaking, in its state, as a part of the same thing? Why might not God, if he had pleased, have fixed such a kind of union as this, an union of the various parts of such a moral whole, as well as many other unions, which he has actually fixed, according to his sovereign pleasure? And if he might, by his sovereign constitution, have established such an union of the various branches of mankind, when existing in different places, I do not see why he might not also do the same, though they exist in different times. I know not why succession, or diversity of time, should make any such constituted union more unreasonable, than diversity of place. The only reason why diversity of time can seem to make it unreasonable, is that difference of time shews there is no absolute identity of the things existing in those different times: But it shews this, I think, not at all more than the difference of the place of existence.