An Antidote Against Atheism/Book II/Chapter II

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Chap. II.

1. The perpetual Parallelism of the Axis of the Earth a manifest argument of Divine Providence. 2. The great Inconveniences, if the posture of this parallel Axis were Perpendicular to the Plane of the Ecliptick: 3. Or Co-incident with the said Plane. 4. The excellent advantages of that Inclining posture it hath, and what a manifest Demonstration it is of Providence. 5. The same Argument urged from the Ptolemaical Hypothesis. 6. A further consideration of the Axis of the Earth, and of the Moon's crossing the Æquinoctial Line. 7. A Demonstration from the Phænomenon of Gravity, that there is a Principle distinct from Matter. 8. That neither the Aire, nor any more subtile Matter in the Aire, have any Knowledge or free Agency in them. 9. A notable Demonstration from the Sucker of the Aire-Pump's drawing up so great a weight, that there is a Substance distinct from Matter in the World. 10. That this Phænomenon cannot be salv'd by the Elastick power of the Aire, demonstrated from the Phænomenon it self. 11. An Evasion produced and answered. 12. Another Evasion anticipated. 13. That this peremptory force of Nature against the first Lawes of Mechanical motion and against that of Gravity, is a palpable pledge, that where things fall out fitly, there is the same Immaterial Guide, though there be not the same sensibility of force on the Matter. 14. The ridiculous Sophistry of the Atheist, arguing from same petty effects of the mere Motion of Matter that there is no higher Principle, plainly discovered and justly derided. 15. Providence concluded from the Laws of Day and Night, winter and Summer, &c.

1.Now therefore to admit the Motion of the Earth, and to talk with the Naturalists in their own Dialect, I demand, Whether it be better to have the Axis of the Earth steady, and perpetually parallel with its self; or to have it carelesly tumble this way and that way as it happens, or at least very variously and intricately. And you cannot but answer me. That it is better to have it steady and parallel; for in this lies the necessary Foundation of the Art of Navigation and Dialling. For that steady stream of Particles which is supposed to keep the Axis of the Earth parallel to it self, affords the Mariner both his Cynosura and his Compass; the Load-stone and the Load-star depend both on this; and Dialling could not be at all without it. But both of these Arts are pleasant, and the one especially of mighty importance to mankind: For thus there is an orderly measuring of Time for our affairs at home, and an opportunity of traffick abroad with the most remote Nations of the world, and so there is a mutual supply of the several commodities of all Countreys, besides the inlarging of our Understanding by so ample Experience we get of both men and things. Wherefore if we were rationally to consult, Whether the Axis of the Earth is to be held steady and parallel to it self, or to be lest at random; we would conclude. That it ought to he steady. And so we find it de facto, though the Earth move floating in the liquid Heavens, So that appealing to our own Faculties, we are to affirm, That the constant direction of the Axis of the Earth was established by a Principle of Wisdom and Counsel, or at least approved of it.

2. Again, there being several Postures of this steady direction of the Axis of the Earth, viz. either Perpendicular to a Plane going through the Centre of the Sun, or Co-incident, or Inclining; I demand, which of all these reason and Knowledge would make choice of. Not of a Perpendicular posture: for both the pleasant variety and great conveniency of Summer and Winter, Spring-time and Harvest, would be lost, and for want of accession of the Sun, these parts of the Earth that bring forth fruit now and are habitable, would be in an incapacity of ever bringing forth any, and consequently could entertain no Inhabitants; and those parts that the full heat of the Sun could reach, be plying them alwaies alike, without any annual recession or intermission, would at last grow tired and exhausted. And besides, consulting with our own Faculties we observe, that an orderly vicissitude of things is most pleasant unto us, and doth much more gratifie the Contemplative property in Man.

3. And now in the second place, nor would reason make choice of a Co-incident position of the Axis of the Earth. For if the Axis thus lay in a Plane that goes through the Centre of the Sun, the Eclipick would, like a Colure or one of the Meridians, pass through the Poles of the Earth, which would put the Inhabitants of the world into a pitiful condition: For they that scape best in the Temperate Zone, would be accloy'd with very tedious long nights, no less then fourty daies long; and they that now have their night never above four and twenty hours, as Friseland, Ireland, the further parts of Russia and Norway, would be deprived of the Sun above a hundred and thirty dales together; our selves in England, and the rest of the same Clime, would be closed up in darkness no less then an hundred or eighty continual dales, and so proportionably of the rest both in and out of the Temperate Zones. And as for Summer and Winter, though those vicissitudes would be, yet it could not but cause very raging Diseases to have the Sun stay so long describing his little Circles near the Poles, and lying so hot upon the Inhabitants that had been in so long extremity of Darkness and Cold before.

4. It remains therefore that the postureof the Axis of the Earth be Inclining, not Co-incident, nor Perpendicular to the forenamed Plane, And verily it is not onely Inclining, but in so fit proportion, that there can be no fitter excogitated to make it to the utmost capacity as well pleasant as habitable. For though the course of the Sun be curbed within the compass of the Tropicks, and so makes those parts very hot; yet the constant gales of wind from the East (to say nothing of the nature and fit length of their nights) make the Torrid Zone not onely habitable, but pleasant.

Now this best posture which our reason would make choice of, we see really establish'd in Nature; and therefore, if we be not perverse and wilfull, we are to infer, that it was establish'd by a Principle that hath in it Knowledge and Counsel, not from a blind fortuitous jumbling of the parts of the Matter one against another, especially having found before in our selves a Knowing Spiritual Substance, that is also able to move and alter the Matter. Wherefore, I say, we should more naturally conclude, That there is some such Universal Knowing Principle, that hath power to move & direct the Matter of the Universe, then to fancy that a confused justling of the Parts thereof should contrive themselves into such a condition, as if they had in them Reason and Counsel, and could direct themselves. But this directing Principle, what could it be but God?

5. But to speak the same thing more briefly, and yet more intelligibly, to those that are onely acquainted with the Ptolemaical Hypothesis: I say, that being it might have hapned, that the annual course or the Sun should have been through the Poles of the world, and that the Axis of the Heavens might have been very troublesomely and disorderly moveable, from whence all those inconveniencies would arise which I have before mentioned, and yet they are not, but are so ordered as our own reason must approve of as best; it is natural for a man to conceive, that they are really ordered by a Principle of Reason and Counsel, that is, that they are made by an All-wise and All-powerful God.

6. I will onely adde one or two observables more, concerning the Axis of the Earth and the course of the Moon, and so I will pass to other things.

It cannot but be acknowledged, that if the Axis of the Earth were perpendicular to the Plane of the Sun's Ecliptick, that her Motion would be more easie & natural; and yet, for the conveniencies afore-mentioned, we see it is made to stand in an inclining posture: So in all likelihood it would be more easie and natural for that Hand-maid of the Earth, the Moon, to finish her monethly courses in the Æquinoctial Line; but we see, like the Sun, she crosses it, and expatiates some degrees further then the Sun himself, that her exalted light might be more comfortable to those that live very much North, in their long nights.

Wherefore I conclude. That though it were possible that the confused agitation of the parts of the Matter might make a round hard heap like the Earth, and more thin and liquid bodies like the Æther and Sun, and that the Earth may swim in this liquid Æther, like a rosted Apple in a great bowl of Wine, and be carried about like straws or grass cast upon a Whirlpool; yet that its Motion and Posture would be so directed and attemper'd, as we our selves that have reason upon due consideration would have it to be, and yet not to be from that which is Knowing, and in some sense Reasonable, is to our Faculties, if they discern any thing at all, as absonous and absurd as any thing can be. For when it had been easier to have been otherwise, why should it be thus, if some Superintendent Cause did not oversee and direct the Motions of the Matter, allowing nothing therein but what our reason will confess to be to very good purpose?

7. And that the foregoing Phænomena are not by chance or luck, but directed and effected by the abovesaid Superintendency, will be more evincingly confirmed, if we adde the consideration of two other Phænomena in Nature, which are very plain and simple, but even violently cross to the mere Mechanical powers of Matter. The one is that of Gravity, or the Descent of heavy bodies toward the Earth; the other what they ordinarily call Fuga Vacui: wherein I shall bring such an Instance out of that noble and ingenious Gentleman's Experiments of his Aire-pump, as will plainly demonstrate there must be some Immaterial Being that exercises its directive Activity on the Matter of the World. But first I shall recurre, and give a touch upon the nature of Gravity.

That, upon supposition the Earth runs round in four and twenty hours, it will violently fling off such things as lye upon it, (unless there be some other Substance distinct from Matter that Resists the Mechanical powers thereof,) I have clearly and copiously demonstrated in my Treatise of the Immortality of the Soul.Book 3. ch. 13. And if we consider more particularly what a strong tug a massie Bullet, suppose of lead or brass, must needs give (according to that prime Mechanical law of Motion persisting in a right Line) to recede from the superficies of the Earth, the Bullet being in so swift a motion as would dispatch some fifteen miles in one minute of an hour; it must needs appear that a wonderfull power is required to curb it, regulate it, or remand it back to the Earth, and keep it there notwithstanding the strong reluctancy of that first Mechanical Law of Matter that would urge it to recede. Whereby is manifested not onely the marvellous power of Unity and Indiscernibility in the Spirit of Nature, but that there is a peremptory, and even forcible, execution of an All-comprehensive and Eternal Counsel for the ordering and the guiding of the Motion of the Matter in the Universe to what is for the best. And this Phænomenon of Gravity is of so good and necessary consequence, that there could be neither Earth nor Inhabitants without it, in this state that things are.

For the Aire, whether a man will be so delirous as to phancy it all endued with perception and liberty of will to Resist as it pleases, or to be interspersed with some subtiler Matter so qualified, which they must ridiculously make either a disjoyned or else spongy and perforated Deity; all the Resistance that this laxe and disunited Element could make, call it Natural or Divine, (for words have no force) could no more keep down the above-said Bullet from receding from the Earth, then an army of the smallest Flyes stop a Cannon-bullet flying in the Aire, let them resist it as stoutly as they can. So plain a Demonstration is this Phænomenon of Gravity, that there is a Spirit of Nature which is the Vicarious power of God upon the Motion of the Matter of the Universe.

8. And that neither the Aire it self has any such Power, Knowledge and liberty of will, nor that there are any such Divine particles interspersed in the Aire that have, in my opinion is plainly manifest from the second & thirty second Experiments of the abovenamed Treatise of that Learned ** The Honourable Robert Boyle Esq. his Treatise entituled New Experiments Physico-Mechanical touching the Aire. Gentleman. For whereas in the first of those Experiments, the Brass Key or Stopple of the Cover of the Receiver, after the Receiver is emptied well of Aire, is with much difficulty listed up, and in the other, if you apply a tapering Valve of brass to the lower branch of the Stop-cock of the Receiver well emptied of Aire, as before, and turn the Key of the Stop-cock, the external Aire beating like a forcible stream upon the Valve to get in there, will suddenly both shut the Valve, and keep it shut so strongly, that it will bear up with it a ten-pound weight (which are evident arguments of an earnest endeavour in Nature to fill the Receiver again with Aire, as it was naturally before, though this motion whereby it attempts so strongly to get in, does more accurately exclude it out:) it is apparent from hence that neither the Aire it self, nor any more subtile and Divine Matter (which is more strongly congregated together in the Receiver upon the pumping out of the Aire) has any freedome of will, or any knowledge or perception to doe any thing, they being so puzzel'd and acting so fondly and preposterously in their endeavours to replenish the Receiver again with Aire.

For if the external Aire and that subtiler Matter in the Receiver had been knowing and free Agents, there would have been that Correspondence betwixt them, that the Exteriour Aire would have suspended or withdrawn its pressure without, and the subtile and Divine Matter within would have directed its motion against the Stopple and Valve to let in the Aire, according to the intention of Nature. Or if nothing but that subtile body be free and knowing, that alone by mutual Correspondence (that in the Aire without bearing off the pressure of the outward Aire against the Receiver, & that part within bearing against the Valve or Stopple) would let in the Aire, according to the earnest and serious purpose of Nature. But their acting being so clear contrary to the End designed, and their attempts so inept, (whenas yet the thing were easily done, if there were Knowledge and free Agency in either the Aire or any other more subtile Matter) it is a Demonstration that the Impetus of Motion in all Matter is blinde and necessary, and that there is no Matter at all that is free and knowing, but moves and acts of it self (if undirected by some other Immaterial Principle) according to the mere Mechanical laws of Motion.

9. According to which that notable ** See Mr. Boyle's New Experiments Physico-mechanical, Exper. 23. Phænomenon, which now at last I come to cannot be brought to pass, namely. That the Sucker of the Aire-pump, the Cylinder being well emptied of Aire, should draw up above an hundred pound weight, moving up as it were of its own accord. For, as the ingenious Experimenter has observed in his third Experiment, this forcible endeavour of the subingression of the Aire is not from the pressure of the ambient Aire as strengthned by the accession of the Aire sucked out, because then he that manages the Pump would find the Resistance of the Aire increased as the Sucker is drawn down lower, which yet is not observed. To which we may adde in reason, that the Aire being nothing but a thin body or Congeries of small particles in perpetual motion, what is pumped out will naturally spread out into such distances as it may move more freely in, that is, into those spaces where the Aire is more thin; so that, as it were in a moment, all the Aire becomes of one and the same consistency. And therefore any new pressure (upon the account of the Aire nearest to the Pump becoming more thick) cannot come into compute in this case.

10. The most plaustble Mechanical Solution therefore that can be given of this Phænomenon is that Hypothesis which the excellent Authour himself has made use of, and which will agree universally to the Aire though in its own natural temper: namely, that there is an Elastick power in the Aire, whether you explain it the Cartesian way, by the playing and whirling of every particle thereof, whereby they attempt to possess a larger space; or whether there be such a compression of the particles as there is in the hairs of a lock of wooll, which will expand it self upon the receding of what bore too strongly against it.

But let this Elastical power consist in this or in what else it will, though the Solution look at first sight very hopefull and promising, yet I must confess (but with submission to better judgments) that the Effect that is attributed to the Hypothesis in this Experiment, seems to me a Demonstration against the Hypothesis it self. For this Elastical power, according to the Experiment, has no less force of pressure then an hundred pound weight or more: which pressure (as in all flexible bodies that have a Spring power in them) is perpetual and every where in the Aire, if it be there at all. And therefore any Cylinder of Aire in the same height from the ground, and of the same diameter with that of the Sucker of the Pump, will press as forcibly as an hundred pound weight.

Now suppose a Lump of Butter in a pair of wooden scales having the same diameter with the Sucker of the Aire-pump: it is manifest that this Butter will be pressed with the force of the pressure of two hundred pound weight, a Cylinder of Aire from beneath and another from above pressing with the force of an hundred pound weight apiece. This would necessarily follow if there were this Elastick power in the Aire. But the Butter is not pressed at all, as appears in that no serose humour is squeezed out of it, nor is it at all flatted or spred out by any such compression, although it have the force of two hundred pound weight pressing it, according to this Hypothesis of the Elastick power of the Aire.

11. Nor can I excogitate any Evasion against this Demonstration, unless it be that the Spring of the Aire pressing against the sides of the Butter as well as the bottom and top, keeps it from flatting. But it is easily answered, That yet it cannot keep it from squeezing on all sides, and pressing out the milky and serose humour in the Butter, if there were any such pressure, as is supposed. To which you may further adde, That the Lump of Butter being reduced to the figure, suppose, of a round Trencher, whose edge should fall short of the Area of the two sides an hundred or two hundred times, and then placed betwixt two thin light Trenchers broad enough for the purpose, and hung free in the Aire with strings, as in a Scale, so that the force of pressure from above and beneath shall exceed that against the round edge of the Butter an hundred or two hundred times, yet the Butter will not for all this be pressed closer by the Spring of the Aire, nor have any more effect upon it then it had before: when notwithstanding it is so soft and yielding, that a very small force of our hands will press it betwixt the two Trenchers.

12. Which yet is not, because our strength is superadded to the force of the Spring of the Aire: For the excess of the force of the Spring of the Aire against the sides of the Trenchers above that which is against the round edge of the Butter, is far greater then the addition of the force of our pressing hand added to the force of the Aire-spring against the sides of the Trencher, and yet there was no new effect.

And moreover where this Aire-spring does not reach, namely, within the sides of a paile filled with water, in which you may put a lump of Butter, the Butter will there as easily yield to the pressure of your hand as in the Aire it self. So that it is irrefragably evident, that there is no such Spring of the Aire as some learned men have supposed, much less so strong as to master an hundred pound weight, as it is conceived to doe in this notable Experiment of the Aire-pump.

13. But as the Phænomenon of Gravity is quite cross and contrary to the very first Mechanick laws of Motion, which yet is an Universal law of Terrestrial bodies, put upon them by that which is not onely not Terrestrial, but Immaterial: so likewise this ascending of the Sucker of the Aire-pump with above an hundred pound weight at it, is as cross and violent a breach of that Universal Law of Gravity, and so forcible, that it is apparent, that there is a Principle transcending the nature and power of Matter that it does umpire and rule all, that directs the Motion of every part and parcell of Matter backwards and forwards and contrary waies, in pursuance of such General designs as are best for the Whole. And no less good then the living and breathing of Animals is aimed at in this so industriously and peremptorily keeping the parts of the Aire together, as is well observed by this vertuous and judicious Authour, upon his 41 Experiment.

Wherefore it being so manifest, that there is a Principle in the World that does tug so stoutly and resolutely against the Mechanick laws of Matter, and that so forcibly Resists or nulls one common Law of Nature for the more seasonable exercise of another, this, I say, is a very sure pledge to us, that when things are fitly done, though not with this seeming violence and peremptoriness, yet they are the Effects of the same Immaterial Principle, (call it the Spirit of Nature or what you will) which is the Vicarious Power of God upon this great Automaton, the World.

14. But because so many Bullets joggled together in a mans hat will settle to such a determinate figure, or because the Frost and the Wind will draw upon doors and glass-windows pretty uncouth streaks like feathers, and other fooleries, which are to no use or purpose, to infer thence, that all the Contrivances that are in Nature, even the Frame of the bodies both of Men and Beasts, are from no other Principle but the jumbling together of the Matter, and so because that this doth naturally effect something, that it is the Cause of all things, seems to me to be a reasoning in the same Mood and Figure with that wise Market-mans, who going down a hill, and carrying his Cheeses under his arms, one of them falling and trundling down the hill very fast, let the other goe after it, appointing them all to meet him at his house at Gotham, not doubting but they beginning so hopefully, would be able to make good the whole journey; or like another of the same Town, who perceiving that his Iron Trevet he had bought had three feet, and could stand, expected also that it should walk too, and save him the labour of the carriage. So our profound Atheists and Epicureans, according to the same pitch of wisdom, do not stick to infer, because this confused Motion of the parts of the Matter may amount to a rude delineation of hard and soft, rigid and fluid, and the like, that therefore it will goe on further, and reach to the disposing of the Matter in such order as doth naturally imply a Principle that some way or other contains in it exact Wisdom and Counsel. A Position more beseeming the Wise-men above mentioned, then any one that hath the least command of his natural Wit and Faculties.

15. Wherefore we having sufficiently detected the ridiculous folly of this present Sophism, let us, attending heedfully to the natural Emanations of unprejudic'd reason, conclude, That the Rising and Setting of the lights of Heaven, the vicissitude of Day and Night, Winter and Summer, being so ordered and guided as if they had been settled by exquisite consultation and by clearest knowledge; that therefore that which did thus ordain them is a Knowing Principle, able to move, alter and guide the Matter according to his own will and pleasure; that is to say, That there is a God.

And verily I do not at all doubt but that I shall evidently trace the visible foot-steps of this Divine Counsel and Providence, even in all things discoverable in the world. But I will pass through them as lightly and briefly as I can.