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And as the fountains still supply their store, 66 The wave behind impels the wave before ; 6. Thus in successive course the minutes run, " And urge their predecessor minutes on. " Still moving, ever new : for foriner things " Are laid aside, like abdicated kings; “ And ev'ry moment alters what is done, “ And innovates some act, till then unknown.”
The following discourse comes from the same
hand with the essays upon infinitude *.
"W E consider infinite space as an exp 6 VV fion without a circumference: we 6 consider eternity, or infinite duration, as a • line that has neither a beginning nor an end. • In our Speculations of infinite space, we con• sider that particular place in which we exist • as a kind of centre to the whole expansion. « In our Speculations of eternity, we consider • the time which is present to us as the mid6 dle, which divides the whole line into two
equal parts. For this reason many witty au
thors compare the present time to an isthmus 6 or narrow neck of land, that rises in the midst • of an ocean, immeasurably diffused on either 6 side of it.
· Philosophy, and indeed common sense, na• turally throws eternity under two divisions, • which we may call in English that eternity • See SPECT. No. 565, No. 571, No. 580, and No. 628.
“ which is past, and that eternity which is to
come. The learned terms of Æternitas a • parte ante, and Æternitas a parte poft, may • be more amusing to the reader, but can have « no other idea affixed to them than what is ! conveyed to us by those words, an eternity
that is past, and an eternity that is to come. * Each of these eternities is bounded at the ! one extreme, or, in other words, the former has an end, and the latter a beginning. "Let us first of all consider that eternity which is past, reserving that which is to come • for the subject of another Paper. The nature ! of this eternity is utterly inconceivable by the
mind of man: our reason demonstrates to us • that it has been, but at the same time can
frame no idea of it, but what is big with ab< surdity and contradiction. We can have no 6 other conception of any duration which is
past, than that all of it was once present; • and whatever was once present is at some ! certain distance from us, and whatever is at
any certain distance from us, be the distance never so remote, cannot be eternity. The ! very notion of any duration being past im• plies that it was once present, for the idea of ļ being once pretent is actually included in the • idea of its being past. This therefore is a
depth not to be founded by human under
standing. We are sure that there has been į an eternity, and yet contradict ourselves when " we measure this eternity by any notion which t we can frame of it.
* If we go to the bottom of this matter, we • shall find that the faculties we meet with in ' our conceptions of eternity proceed from this • fingle reason, that we can have no other
idea of any kind of duration, than that
by which we ourselves, and all other created • beings, do exist; which is, a successive du
ration made up of past, present, and to come, • There is nothing which exists after this man“ ner, all the parts of whose existence were not “ once actually present, and consequently may * be reached by a certain number of years ap• plied to it. We may ascend as high as we • please, and employ our being to that eternity • which is to come, in adding millions of years . to millions of years, and we can never come • up to any fountain head of duration, to any • beginning in eternity: but at the same time • we are sure, that whatever was once pretent • does lie within the reach of numbers, though • perhaps we can never be able to put enough*
of them together for that purpose. We may • as well say, that any thing may be actually • present in any part of infinite space, which • does not lie at a certain distance from us, as • that any part of infinite duration was once fore is that difficulty which human under• standing is not capable of surmounting. We ( are sure that something must have existed 4 from eternity, and are at the same time una.
actually present, and does not also lie at some • determined distance from us. The distance ç in both cases may be immeasureable and inde: finite as to our faculties, but our reason tells y us that it cannot be so in itself. Here there
* enow. The singular number is here used for the plural.
ble to conceive, that any thing which exists, ? according to our notion of existence, can have • existed from eternity,
• It is hard for a reader, who has not rolled “this thought in his own mind, to follow in ! such an abstracted Speculation; but I have ! been the longer on it, because I think it is a 4 demonstrative argument of the being and eter§ nity of God: and, though there are many ļother demonstrations which lead us to this • great truth, I do not think we ought to lay
aside any proofs in this matter, which the ? light of reason has suggested to us, especially • when it is such an one as has been urged by
men famous for their penetration and force of ' understanding, and which appears altogether ? conclusive to those who will be at the pains ! to examine it,
! Having thus considered that eternity which ! iş past, according to the best idea we can " frame of it, I shall now draw up those several ! articles on this subject, which are dictated to ! us by the light of reason, and which may be ! looked upon as a creed of a philosopher in ! this great point..
First, it is certain that no being could have made itself; for, if so, it must have acted before it was, which is a contradiction.
Secondly, That therefore some being must ¢ have existed from all eternity.
· Thirdly, That whatever exists after the • manner of created beings, or according to o any notions which we have of existence, could • not have existed from eternity.
· Fourthly, That this Eternal Being must ļ therefore be the great author of nature, the “ Ancient of Days,' who, being at an infinite • distance in his perfections from all finite and • created beings, exists in a quite different « manner from them, and in a manner of which o they can have no idea.
I know that several of the schoolmen, who I would not be thought ignorant of any thing, « have pretended to explain the manner of • God's existence, by telling us that he com• prehends infinite duration in every moment;
that eternity is with him a puncium ftans, a
fixed point; or, which is as good sense, an - infinite instant; that nothing with reference • to his existence is either past or to come: to • which the ingenious Mr. Cowley alludes in • his description of heaven:
“ Nothing is there to come, and nothing past, “ But an eternal now does always last.”
* For my own part, I look upon these pros positions as wards that have no ideas annexed • to them; and think men had better own their • ignorance than advance doctrines by which • they mean nothing, and which, indeed, are felf-contradictory. We cannot be too modest