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PROP. in my mind an idea of a thing, and cannot possibly in my imagination take away the idea of that thing as actually existing, any more than I can change or take away the idea of the equality of twice two to four; the certainty of the existence of that thing is the same, and stands on the same foundation as the certainty of the other relation. For the relation of equality between twice two and four has no other certainty but this; that I cannot, without a contradiction, change or take away the idea of that relation. We are certain, therefore, of the being of a supreme independent cause; because it is strictly demonstrable, that there is something in the universe actually existing without us, the supposition of whose not-existing plainly implies a contradiction.
Some writers have contended,* that it is prepos terous to inquire in this manner at all into the ground or reason of the existence of the first cause : because evidently the first cause can have nothing prior to it, and consequently must needs (they think) exist absolutely without any cause at all. That the first cause can have no other being prior to it, to be the cause of its existence, is indeed self-evident. But if originally, absolutely, and antecedently to all supposition of existence, there be no necessary ground or reason why the first cause does exist, rather than not exist; if the first cause can rightly and truly be affirmed to exist, absolutely without any ground or reason of existence at all, it will unavoidably follow, by the same argument, that it may as well cease likewise to exist, without any ground or reason of ceasing to exist: which is absurd. The truth therefore plainly is: Whatever is the true reason, why the first cause can never possibly cease to exist, the same is, and originally and always was, the true reason why it always did and cannot but exist: that is, it is the true ground and reason of its existence.
* See the Answer to a Seventh Letter at the end of this book.
4thly. From hence it follows, that the material PROP. world cannot possibly be the first and original being, III. uncreated, independent, and of itself eternal. For That the since it hath been already demonstrated, that what- material ever being hath existed from eternity, independent, and without any external cause of its existence, must bly be the be self-existent; and that whatever is self-existent, self-existent being. must exist necessarily by an absolute necessity in the nature of the thing itself. It follows evidently, that unless the material world exists necessarily by an absolute necessity in its own nature, so as that it must be an express contradiction to suppose it not to exist, it cannot be independent, and of itself eternal. Now that the material world does not exist thus necessarily, is very evident. For absolute necessity of existing, and a possibility of not existing, being contradictory ideas, it is manifest the material world cannot exist necessarily, if without a contradiction we can conceive it either not to be, or to be in any respect otherwise than it now is; than which, nothing is more easy. For whether we consider the form of the world, with the disposition and motion of its parts, or whether we consider the matter of it, as such, without respect to its present form, every thing in it,-both the whole and every one of its parts, their situation and motion, the form and also the matter, are the most arbitrary and dependent things, and the farthest removed from necessity, that can possibly be imagined. A necessity indeed of fitness, that is, a necessity that things should be as they are, in order to the well-being of the whole, there may be in all these things: but an absolute necessity of nature in any of them, (which is what the atheist must maintain,) there is not the least appearance of. If any man will say in this sense, (as every atheist must do,) either that the form of the world, or at least the matter and motion of it, is necessary, nothing can possibly be invented more absurd.
If he says, that the particular form is necessary;
The form of the world not
PROP. that is, that the world, and all things that are therein, exist by necessity of nature, he must affirm it to be a contradiction to suppose that any part of the world can be in any respect otherwise than it now is. It must be a contradiction in terms, to suppose more or fewer stars, more or fewer planets, or to suppose their size, figure, or motion different from what it now is; or to suppose more or fewer plants and animals upon earth, or the present ones of different shape and bigness from what they now are. In all which things there is the greatest arbitrariness, in respect of power and possibility, that can be imagined; however necessary any of them may be, in respect of wisdom, and preservation of the beauty and order of the whole.
Nor its motion.
If the atheist will say, that the motion in general of all matter is necessary, it follows that it must be a contradiction in terms to suppose any matter to be at rest; which is so absurd and ridiculous, that I think hardly any atheists, either ancient or modern, have presumed directly to suppose it.
One late author* indeed has ventured to assert, and pretended to prove, that motion (that is, the conatus to motion, the tendency to move, the power or force that produces actual motion,) is essential to all matter. But how philosophically, may appear from this one consideration: The essential tendency to motion, of every one, or of any one particle of matter in this author's imaginary infinite plenum, must be either a tendency to move some one determinate way at once, or to move every way at once. A tendency to move some one determinate way cannot be essential to any particle of matter, but must arise from some external cause; because there is nothing in the pretended necessary nature of any particle to determine its motion necessarily and essentially one way rather than another. And a ten
• Mr Toland, Letter III.
dency or conatus equally to move every way at PROP. once, is either an absolute contradiction, or at least could produce nothing in matter but an eternal rest of all and every one of its parts.
If the atheist will suppose motion necessary and essential to some matter, but not to all, the same absurdity, as to the determination of motion, still follows; and now he moreover supposes an absolute necessity not universal; that is, that it shall be a contradiction to suppose some certain matter at rest though at the same time some other matter actually
be at rest.
If he only affirms bare matter to be necessary then, Nor the besides the extreme folly of attributing motion and bare matthe form of the world to chance, (which senseless opinion I think all atheists have now given up; and therefore I shall not think myself obliged to take any notice of it in the sequel of this discourse;) it may be demonstrated, by many arguments drawn from the nature and affections of the thing itself, that matter is not a necessary being. For instance, thus Tangibility, or resistance, (which is what mathematicians very properly call vis inertia, is essential to matter; otherwise the word matter will have no determinate signification. Tangibility, therefore, or resistance, belonging to all matter, it follows evidently, that, if all space were filled with matter, the resistance of all fluids (for the resistance of the parts of hard bodies arises from another cause,) would necessarily be equal. For greater or less degrees of fineness or subtilty can in this case make no difference; because the smaller or finer the parts of the fluid are, wherewith any particular space is filled, the greater in proportion is the number of the parts; and consequently the resistance still always equal. But experience shows, on the contrary, that the resistance of all fluids is not equal; there being large spaces in which no sensible resistance at all is made to the swiftest and most lasting motion of the solidest bodies. Therefore all space is not filled with
PROP. matter; but, of necessary consequence, there must be a vacuum.
Or thus. It appears from experiments of falling bodies, and from experiments of pendulums, which (being of equal lengths and unequal gravities,) vibrate in equal times; that all bodies whatsoever, in spaces void of sensible resistance, fall from the same height with equal velocities. Now, it is evident, that whatever force causes unequal bodies to move with equal velocities, must be proportional to the quantities of the bodies moved. The power of gravity therefore in all bodies, is, (at equal distances, suppose from the centre of the earth,) proportional to the quantity of matter contained in each body. For if, in a pendulum, there were any matter that did not gravitate proportionally to its quantity, the vis inertia of that matter would retard the motion of the rest, so as soon to be discovered in pendulums of equal lengths and unequal gravities in spaces void of sensible resistance. Gravity, therefore, is in all bodies* proportional to the quantity of their matter. And consequently, all bodies not being equally heavy, it follows again necessarily, that there must be a vacuum.†
Now, if there be a vacuum, it follows plainly, that matter is not a necessary being. For if a vacuum actually be, then it is evidently more than possible for matter not to be. If an atheist will yet assert, that matter may be necessary, though not necessary to be everywhere, I answer, this is an express contradiction for absolute necessity is absolute necessity everywhere alike. And if it be no impossibility for matter to be absent from one place, it is no impossibility (absolutely in the nature of the thing; for no relative or consequential necessity can have any room in this argument,) it is no absolute impossibility, I
*Neutoni Princip. Philosoph. edit. 1ma. p. 304. edit. 2da. p. 272. edit. 3tia. p. 294.
+ Neutoni Princip. Philosoph. edit. 1ma. p. 411. edit. 2da, p. 368.