An Antidote Against Atheism/Preface
1. The Authour's Apologie for writing this Treatise, there being so many already on the same Subject. 2. That what he has wrote are the proper Emanations of his own Minde, and may have their peculiar serviceableness for men of the like Genius. 3. That he affects not Rhetorick, nor Philologie, nor the pompous numerosity of more popular Arguments, but solid and unresistible reason in a perspicuous Method. 4. That he has undeniably demonstrated the Existence of God, this one Postulate being but admitted, That our Faculties are true. 5. His peculiar Management of the first Argument of Des-Cartes: 6. And the Reasons of his Rejection of the rest. 7. His caution and choiceness in the managing such Arguments as are fetch'd from the more general Phænomena of Nature: 8. As also in those from Animals. 9. His carefull choice in such Histories as tend to the proving of Spirits. 10. His assuredness of that kinde of Argument. 11. The reason of his declining the recitall of the miraculous Stories of Holy Writ. 12. His studied Condescension and compliance with the Atheist to win him from his Atheism.
1.BY what inducements I was drawn to publish this present Treatise, notwithstanding the Numerosity of the Writings of this kinde, I had rather leave to thine own quick-sightedness to spy out, then be put upon so much immodesty my self as to speak any thing that may seem to give it any precellency above what is already extant in the world about the same matter. Onely I may say thus much that I did on purpose abstain from reading any Treatises concerning this Subject, that I might the more undisturbedly write the easie Emanations of mine own Mind, and not be carried off from what should naturally fall from my self, by prepossessing my thoughts by the inventions of others.
2. I have writ therefore after no Copy but the eternal Characters of the Minde of Man, and the known Phænomena of Nature. And all men consulting with these that endeavour to write sense, though it be not done alike by all men, it could not happen but I should touch upon the same Heads that others have that have wrote before me: who though they may merit very high commendation for their learned atchievements; yet I hope my endeavours have been such, that though they care not to be corrivals or partners in their praise & credit, yet I do not distrust but they will doe their share towards that publick good that such performances usually pretend to aim at.
For that which did embolden me to publish this present Treatise was not, as I said before, because I flatter'd my self in a Conceit that it was gayer or more plausible then what is already in the hands of men, but that it was of a different sort, and has its peculiar serviceableness and advantages apart and distinct from others; whole proper preeminences it may aloof off admire, but dare not in any wise compare with. So that there is no Tautology committed in recommending what I have written to the publick view, nor any lessening the labours of others by thus offering the fruit of mine own. For considering there are such several complexions and tempers of men in the world, I do not distrust but that, as what others have done has been very acceptable and profitable to many, so this of mine may be well relish'd of some or other, and so seem not to have been writ in vain.
3. For though I cannot promise my Reader that I shall entertain him with so much winning Rhetorick and pleasant Philology as he may find elsewhere; yet I hope he will acknowledge, if his mind be unprejudic'd, that he meets with sound and plain Reason, and an easie and clear Method.
And though I cannot furnish him with that copious variety of Arguments that others have done; yet the frugal carefulness and safeness of choice that I have made in them may compensate their paucity.
For I appeal to any man, whether the proposal of such as will easily admit of evasions (though they have this peculiar advantage, that they make for greater pomp, and at first sight seem more formidable for their multitude) does not embolden the Atheist, and make him fancy, that because he can so easily turn the edge of these, the rest have no more solidity then the former; but that if he thought good and had leisure, he could with like facility enervate them all.
4. Wherefore I have endeavoured to insist upon such alone as are not only true in themselves, but are unavoidable to my Adversary, unless he will cast down his shield, forsake the free use of the natural Faculties of his Mind, and profess himself a mere puzzled Sceptick. But if he will with us but admit of this one Postulate or Hypothesis, That our Faculties are true; though I have spoke modestly in the Discourse it self, yet I think I may here, without vanity or boasting, freely profess, that I have no less then demonstrated That there is a God: and by how much more any man shall seriously endeavour to resist the strength of my Arguments, that by so much the more strong he shall find them; (as he that presses his weak finger against a wall of Marble) and that they can appear slight to none but those that carelessly and slightly consider them. For I borrowed them not from Books, but fetch'd them from the very nature of the thing it self, and indeleble Ideas of the Soul of Man.
5. And I found, that keeping my self within so narrow a compass as not to affect any Reasonings but such as had very clear affinity and close connexion with the Subject in hand, I naturally hit upon whatever was material to my purpose; and so contenting my self with my own, received nothing from the great store and riches of others. And what I might easily remember of others, I could not let pass, if in my own judgement it was obnoxious to evasion. For I intended not to impose upon the Atheist, but really to convince him. And therefore Des-Cartes, whose Mechanical wit I can never highly enough admire, might be no Master of Metaphysicks to me. Whence it is that I make use but of his first Argument only, if I may not rather call it the School's, or mine own. For I think I have manag'd it in such sort, and every way so propt it and strengthened it, that I may challenge in it as much interest as any.
6. But as for his following Reasons, that suppose the ** Cartes. Resp. ad Object. 2. Metaphys. Defin. 3. Objective Reality of the Idea of God does exceed the efficiency of the Mind of man, and that the Mind of man, were it not from another, would have conferr'd all that perfection upon it self that it has the Idea of, and, lastly, that it having no power to conserve itself, and the present and future time having no dependence one of another, that it is continually produc'd, that is, conserv'd, by some higher Cause, which must be God; these grounds, I say, being so easily evaded by the Atheist, I durst not trust to them, unless had the Author's wit to defend them, who was handsomly able to make good any thing. But they seem to me to be liable to such evasions as I can give no stop to.
For the Mind of man, as the Atheist will readily reply, may be able of her self to frame such an actual Idea of God as is there disputed of, which Idea will be but the present modification of her, as other Notions are, and an effect of her essence and power, and that power a radical property of her essence. So that there is no excess of an Effect above the efficiency of the Cause, though we look no further then the Mind it self; for she frames this Notion of God as naturally and as much without the help of an higher Cause, as she does any thing else whatsoever.
And as for the Mind's contributing those perfections on her self she has an Idea of; if she had been of her self, the Atheist will say, it implies a contradiction, and supposes that a thing before it exists may consult about the advantages of its own existence. But if the Mind be of it self, it is what it findes it self to be, and can be no otherwise.
And therefore, lastly, if the Mind finde it self to exist, it can no more destroy it self then produce it self; nor needs any thing to continue its Being, provided that there be nothing in Nature that can act against it and destroy it; for whatever is, continues so to be, unless there be some Cause to change it.
7. So likewise from those Arguments I fetch'd from external Nature, as well as in these from the innate properties of the Mind of Man, my carefull choice made very large defalkations; insisting rather upon such things as might be otherwise, and yet are far better as they are, then upon such as were necessary, and could not be otherwise. As for example, When I consider'd the distance of the Sun, I did not conceive that his not being placed so low as the Moon, or so high as the fixed Stars, was any great argument of Providence, because it might be reply'd, that it was necessary it should be betwixt those two distances, else the Earth had not been habitable, and so mankinde might have waited for a Being, till the agitation of the Matter had wrought things into a more tolerable fitness or posture for their production.
Nor simply is the annual Motion of the Sun, or rather of the Earth, any argument of Divine Providence, but as necessary as a piece of wood's being carried down the stream, or straws about a whirl-pool. But the Laws of her Motion are such that they very manifestly convince us of a Providence; and therefore I was fain to let go the former, and insist more largely upon the latter.
Nor thought I it fit to Rhetoricate in proposing the great variety of things, and precellency of one above another; but to press close upon the design and subordination of one thing to another; shewing that, whereas the rude motions of the Matter (a thousand to one) might have cast it otherwise, yet the productions of things are such as our own Reason cannot but approve to be best, or as we our selves would have design'd them.
8. And so in the consideration of Animals, I do not so much urge my Reasons from their diversity and subsistence, (though the framing of Matter into the bare subsistence of an Animal is an Effect of no less Cause then what has some skill and counsel;) but what I drive at is, the exquisite contrivance of their parts, and that their structure is far more perfect then will merely serve for their bare existence and continuance in the world: which is an undeniable Demonstration that they are the effects of Wisdome, not the results of Fortune or fermented Matter.
9. Lastly, when I descend to the History of things miraculous and above the ordinary course of Nature, for the proving that there are Spirits, that the Atheist thereby may the easier be induced to believe there is a God; I am so cautious and circumspect, that I make use of no Narrations that either the avarice of the Priest, or the credulity and fancifulness of the Melancholist may render suspected.
10. Nor could I abstain from that Subject, it being so pat and pertinent unto my purpose; though I am well aware how ridiculous a thing it seems to those I have to deal with. But their confident ignorance shall never dash me out of countenance with my well-grounded knowledge: for I have been no careless Inquirer into these things, and from my Childehood to this very day have had more reasons to believe the Existence of God and a Divine Providence, then is reasonable for me to make particular profession of.
11. In this History of things Miraculous or Supernatural, I might have recited those notable Prodigies that happened after the Birth, in the Life, and at the Death of Christ: as the Star that led the Wise men to the young Infant; Voices from Heaven testifying Christ to be the Son of God; and, lastly, that miraculous Eclipse of the Sun, made, not by interposition of the Moon (for she was then opposite to him) but by the interposition or totall involution, if you will, of those scummy spots that ever more or less are spred upon his face, but now overflowed him with such thickness, and so universally, that day-light was suddenly intercepted from the astonished eyes of the Inhabitants of the Earth. To which direful Symptomes though the Sun hath been in some measure at several times obnoxious, yet that those latent Causes should so suddenly step out and surprise him, and so enormously at the Passion of the Messias, he whose Mind is not more prodigiously darkned then the Sun was then Eclips'd, cannot but at first sight acknowledge it a special designment of Providence.
But I did not insist upon any Sacred History, partly, because it is so well and so ordinarily known, that it seemed less needful; but mainly, because I know the Atheist will boggle more at whatever is fetch'd from establish'd Religion, and flie away from it, like a wild Colt in a Pasture at the sight of a bridle or an halter, snuffing up the aire, and smelling a plot afar off, as he foolishly fancies.
12. But that he might not be shie of me, I have conform'd my self as near his own Garb as I might, without partaking of his folly or wickedness; and have appear'd in the plain shape of a mere Naturalist my self, that I might, if it were possible, win him off from down-right Atheisme.
For he that will lend his hand to help another fallen into a ditch, must himself, though not fall, yet stoop and incline his body; and he that converses with a Barbarian, must discourse to him in his own language: so he that would gain upon the more weak and sunk minds of sensual mortals, is to accommodate himself to their capacity, who, like the Bat and Owle, can see no where so well as in the shady glimmerings of their own Twilight.