NATURE OF GOD
Agapetus ad Justinianum.
Ὁ γὰρ ἑαυτὸν γνοὺς, γνώσεται θεόν. θεὸν δὲ ὁ γνοὺς, ὁμοιωθήσεται θεῷ. ὁμοιωθήσεται δὲ θεῷ, ὁ ἄξιος γενόμενος θεοῦ. ἄξιος δὲ γίνεται θεοῦ, ὁ μηδὲν ἀνάξιον πράττων θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ φρονῶν μὲν τὰ ἀυτοῦ, λαλλῶν δὲ ἃ φρονεῖ, ποιῶν δὲ ἃ λαλλεῖ.
M. T. Cicero l. I. De Legibus.
Ex tot generibus nullum est animal præter hominem quod habeat notitiam aliquam Dei: ipsisque in hominibus nulla gens est neque tam immansueta, neque tam fera, quæ non, etiamsi ignoret qualem habere Deum deceat, tamen habendum sciat.
NATURE OF GOD.
That the Best way to know God is by an attentive reflexion upon our own Souls. God more clearly and lively pictur'd upon the Souls of Men, then upon any part of the Sensible World.
WE shall now come to the other Cardinal Principle of all Religion, & treat something concerning God. Where we shall not so much demonstrate That he is, as What he is.
Both which we may best learn from a Reflexion upon our own Souls, as Plotinus hath well taught us, εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἐπιστρέφων, εἰς ἀρχὴν ἐπιστρέφει, He which reflects upon himself, reflects upon his own Originall, and finds the clearest Impression of some Eternall Nature and Perfect Being stamp'd upon his own Soul. And therefore Plato seems sometimes to reprove the ruder sort of men in his times for their contrivance of Pictures and Images to put themselves in mind of the θεοὶ or Angelicall Beings, and exhorts them to look into their own Souls, which are the fairest Images not onely of <124> the Lower divine Natures, but of the Deity it self; God having so copied forth himself into the whole life and energy of man's Soul, as that the lovely Characters of Divinity may be most easily seen and read of all men within themselves: as they say Phidias the famous Statuary, after he had made the Statue of Minerva with the greatest exquisiteness of Art to be set up in the Acropolis at Athens, afterwards impress'd his own Image so deeply in her buckler, ut nemo delere possit aut divellere, qui totam statuam non imminueret. And if we would know what the Impresse of Souls is, it is nothing but God himself, who could not write his own name so as that it might be read but onely in Rationall Natures. Neither could he make such without imparting such an Imitation of his own Eternall Understanding to them as might be a perpetual Memorial of himself within them. And whenever we look upon our own Soul in a right manner, we shall find an Urim and Thummim there, by which we may ask counsel of God himself, who will have this alway born upon its breast-plate.
There is nothing that so embases and enthralls the Souls of men, as the dismall and dreadfull thoughts of their own Mortality, which will not suffer them to look beyond this short span of Time, to see an houres length before them, or to look higher then these materiall Heavens; which though they could be stretch'd forth to infinity, yet would the space be too narrow for an enlightned mind, that will not be confined within the compass of corporeal dimensions. These black Opinions of Death and the Non-entity of Souls (darker then Hell it self) shrink up the free-born Spirit which is within us, which would otherwise be dilating and spreading it self boundlesly beyond all Finite Being: <125> and when these sorry pinching mists are once blown away, it finds this narrow sphear of Being to give way before it; and having once seen beyond Time and Matter, it finds then no more ends nor bounds to stop its swift and restless motion. It may then fly upwards from one heaven to another, till it be beyond all orbe of Finite Being, swallowed up in the boundless Abyss of Divinity, ὑπεράνω τῆς οὐσίας, beyond all that which darker thoughts are wont to represent under the Idea of Essence. This is that θεῖον σκότος which the Areopagite speaks of, which the higher our Minds soare into, the more incomprehensible they find it. Those dismall apprehensions which pinion the Souls of men to mortality, churlishly check and starve that noble life thereof, which would alwaies be rising upwards, and spread it self in a free heaven: and when once the Soul hath shaken off these, when it is once able to look through a grave, and see beyond death, it finds a vast Immensity of Being opening it self more and more before it, and the ineffable light and beauty thereof shining more and more into it; when it can rest and bear up itself upon an Immaterial centre of Immortality within, it will then find it self able to bear it self away by a self-reflexion into the contemplation of an Eternall Deity.
For though God hath copied forth his own Perfections in this conspicable & sensible World, according as it is capable of entertaining them; yet the most clear and distinct copy of himself could be imparted to none else but to intelligible and inconspicable natures: and though the whole fabrick of this visible Universe be whispering out the notions of a Deity, and alway inculcates this lesson to the contemplators of it, ὡς ἐμὲ πεποίηκε ὁ θεὸς, as Plotinus expresseth it; yet we cannot understand it without some interpreter within. The <126> Heavens indeed declare the glory of God, and the Firmament shews his handy-work, and the τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, that which may be known of God, even his eternal power and Godhead, as S. Paul tells us, is to be seen in these externall appearances: yet it must be something within that must instruct us in all these Mysteries, and we shall then best understand them, when we compare that copie which we find of them within our selves, with that which we see without us. The Schoolmen have well compared Sensible and Intelligible Beings in reference to the Deity, when they tell us that the one doe onely represent Vestigia Dei, the other Faciem Dei. We shall therefore here enquire what that Knowledge of a Deity is which a due converse with our own naked Understandings will lead us into.
How the Contemplation of our own Souls, and a right Reflexion upon the Operations thereof, may lead us into the knowledge of 1. The Divine Unity and Omniscience, 2. God's Omnipotence, 3. The Divine Love and Goodness, 4. God's Eternity, 5. His Omnipresence, 6. The Divine Freedome and Liberty.
IT being our design to discourse more particularly of that knowledge of the Deity that we may learn immediately from our selves, we shall observe,
First, There is nothing whereby our own Souls are better known to us then by the Properties and Operations of Reason: but when we reflect upon our own Idea of Pure and Perfect Reason, we know that our own <127> Souls are not it, but onely partake of it; and that it is of such a Nature that we cannot denominate any other thing of the same rank with our selves by; and yet we know certainly that it is, as finding from an inward sense of it within our selves that both we and other things else beside our selves partake of it, and that we have it κατὰ μέθεξιν and not κατ' οὐσίαν. neither doe we or any Finite thing contain the source of it within our selves: and because we have a distinct Notion of the most Perfect Mind and Understanding, we own our deficiency therein. And as that Idea of Understanding which we have within us points not out to us This or That Particular, but something which is neither This nor That, but Totall, Understanding; so neither will any elevation of it serve every way to fit and answer that Idea. And therefore when we find that we cannot attain to Science but by a Discursive deduction of one thing from another, that our knowledge is confined, and is not fully adequate and commensurate to the largest Spheare of Being, it not running quite through it nor filling the whole area of it; or that our knowledge is Chronical and successive, and cannot grasp all things at once, but works by intervals, and runs out into Division and Multiplicity; we know all this is from want of Reason and Understanding, and that a Pure and Simple Mind and Intellect is free from all these restraints and imperfections, and therefore can be no less then Infinite. As this Idea which we have of it in our own Souls will not suffer us to rest in any conception thereof which represents it less then Infinite: so neither will it suffer us to conceive of it any otherwise then as One Simple Being: and could we multiply Understandings into never so vast a number, yet should we be again collecting and knitting them up together <128> in some Universal one. So that if we rightly reflect upon our own Minds and the Method of their Energies, we shall find them to be so framed, as not to admit of any other then One Infinite source of all that Reason and Understanding which themselves partake of, in which they live, move and have their Being. And therefore in the old Metaphysical Theology, an Originall and Uncreated Μόνας or Unity is made the Fountain of all Particularities and Numbers which have their Existence from the Efflux of its Almighty power.
And that is the next thing which our own Understandings will instruct us in concerning God, viz. His Eternall Power. For as we find a Will and Power within our selves to execute the Results of our own Reason and Judgment, so far as we are not hindred by some more potent Cause: so indeed we know it must be a mighty inward strength and force that must enable our Understandings to their proper functions, and that Life, Energy and Activity can never be separated from a Power of Understanding. The more unbodied any thing is, the more unbounded also is it in its Effective power: Body and Matter being the most sluggish, inert and unwieldy thing that may be, having no power from it self nor over it self: and therefore the Purest Mind must also needs be the most Almighty Life and Spirit; and as it comprehends all things and sums them up together in its Infinite knowledge, so it must also comprehend them all in its own life and power. Besides, when we review our own Immortal Souls and their dependency upon some Almighty Mind, we know that we neither did nor could produce our selves; and withall know that all that Power which lies within the compass of our selves, will serve for no other purpose then to apply severall præexistent things one to another, <129> from whence all Generations and Mutations arise, which are nothing else but the Events of different applications and complications of Bodies that were existent before: and therefore that which produced that Substantiall Life and Mind by which we know our selves, must be something much more Mighty then we are, and can be no less indeed then Omnipotent, and must also be the First architect and δημιουργὸς of all other Beings, and the perpetuall Supporter of them.
We may also know from the same Principles, That an Almighty Love, every way commensurate to that most Perfect Being, eternally rests in it, which is as strong as that is Infinite, and as full of Life and Vigour as that is of Perfection. And because it finds no Beauty nor Loveliness but onely in that and the issues thereof, therefore it never does nor can fasten upon any thing else. And therefore the Divinity alwaies enjoies it self and its own Infinite perfections, seeing it is that Eternall and stable Sun of goodness that neither rises nor sets, is neither eclipsed nor can receive any encrease of light and beauty. Hence the Divine Love is never attended with those turbulent passions, perturbations, or wrestlings within it self, of Fear, Desire, Grief, Anger, or any such like, whereby our Love is wont to explicate and unfold its affection towards its Object. But as the Divine Love is perpetually most infinitely ardent and potent, so it is alwaies calm and serene, unchangeable, having no such ebbings and flowings, no such diversity of stations and retrogradations as that Love hath in us which ariseth from the weakness of our Understandings, that doe not present things to us alwaies in the same Orient lustre and beauty: neither we nor any other mundane thing (all which are in a perpetual flux) are alwaies the same. Besides, <130> though our Love may sometimes transport us and violently rend us from our selves and from all Self-enjoyment, yet the more forcible it is, by so much the more it will be apt to torment us, while it cannot centre it self in that which it so strongly endeavours to attract to it; and when it possesseth most, yet is it alwaies hungry and craving, as Plotinus hath well express'd it, πάντοτε πληροῦται καὶ πάντοτε ἐκρεῖ, it may alwaies be filling it self, but, like a leaking vessel, it will be alwaies emptying it self again. Whereas the Infinite ardour of the Divine Love arising from the unbounded perfection of the Divine Being, alwaies rests satisfied within it self, and so may rather be defin'd by a στάσις then a κίνησις, and is wrapt up and rests in the same Centrall Unity in which it first begins. And therefore I think some men of later times have much mistaken the nature of the Divine Love in imagining that Love, is to be attributed to God, as all other Passions are, rather secundùm effectum then affectum: whereas S. John, who was well acquainted with this noble Spirit of Love, when he defin'd God by it, and calls him LOVE, meant not to signifie a bare nothing known by some Effects, but that which was infinitely such as it seems to be. And we might well spare our labour, when we so industriously endeavour to find something in God that might produce the Effects of some other Passions in us, which look rather like the Brats of Hell and Darkness then the lovely offspring of Heaven.
When we reflect upon all this which signifies some Perfect Essence, as a Mind, Wisdome, Understanding, Omnipotency, Goodness, and the like, we can find no such thing as Time or Place, or any Corporeall or Finite properties which arise indeed not ex plenitudine, but ex inopia entitatis; we may also know God to be <131> Eternall and Omnipresent, not because he fills either Place or Time, but rather because he wanteth neither. That which first begets the Notion of Time in us, is nothing else but that Succession and Multiplicity which we find in our own Thoughts, which move from one thing to another, as the Sun in the Firmament is said to walk from one Planetary house to another, and to have his several Stages to pass by. And therefore where there is no such Vicissitude or Variety, as there can be no sense of Time, so there can be nothing of the thing. Proclus hath wittily observ'd that Saturne, or (as the Greeks call'd him) Κρόνος, was the first of the θεοὶ ἐπικόσμιοι or Mundane Gods, ὅτι ὅπου γένεσις, ἐκεῖ προηγεῖται χρόνος, because Time is necessarily presuppos'd to all Generation, which proceeds by certain motions and intervalls. This World is indeed a great Horologe to it self, and is continually numbring out its own age; but it cannot lay any sure hold upon its own past revolutions, nor can it gather up its infancy and old age, and couple them up together. Whereas an Infinitely-comprehensive Mind hath a Simultaneous possession of its own never-flitting life; and because it finds no Succession in its own immutable Understanding, therefore it cannot find any thing to measure out its own duration. And as Time lies in the Basis of all Finite life, whereby it is enabled by degrees to display all the virtue of its own Essence, which it cannot doe at once: so such an Eternity lies at the foundation of the Divinity, whereby it becomes one without any shadow of turning, as S. James speaks, without any Variety or Multiplicity within himself, which all created Beings that are carried down in the current of Time partake of. And therefore the Platonists were wont to attribute Αἰὼν or Eternity to God, not so much because he had nei <132> ther beginning nor end of daies, but because of his Immutable and Uniform nature, which admits of no such variety of Conceptions as all Temporary things doe: And Time they attributed to all created Beings, because there is a γένεσις or constant generation both of and in their essence, by reason whereof we may call any of them, as Proclus tells us, by that borrowed expression, ἔνην καὶ νέαν old and new, being every moment as it were re-produced, and acting something which it did not individually before. Though otherwise they supposed This World, constantly depending upon the Creatour's Omnipotency, might from all Eternity flow forth from the same Power that still sustains it, and which was never less potent to uphold it then now it is: notwithstanding this piece of it which is visible to us, or at least this Scheme or fashion of it, they acknowledged to have been but of a late date.
Now thus as we conceive of God's Eternity, we may in a correspondent manner apprehend his Omnipresence; not so much by an Infinite Expanse or Extension of Essence, as by an unlimited power, as Plotinus hath fitly express'd it, ληπτέον δὲ καὶ ἀπειρον ἀυτὸν οὐ τῷ ἀδιεξιτήτῳ ἢ τοῦ μεγέθους ἢ τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ, ἀλλὰ τῷ ἀπεριλήπτῳ τῆς δηνάμεως. For as nothing can ever stray out of the bounds or get out of the reach of an Almighty Mind and Power; so when we barely think of Mind or Power, or any thing else most peculiar to the Divine Essence, we cannot find any of the Properties of Quantity mixing themselves with it: and as we cannot confine it in regard thereof to any one point of the Universe, so neither can we well conceive it extended through the whole, or excluded from any part of it. It is alwaies some Material Being that contends for Space: Bodily parts will not lodge together, and the more bulky they <133> are, the more they justle for room one with another; as Plotinus tells us, τὰ μὲν ἐνταῦθα μεγάλα ἐν ὄγκῳ, τὰ δὲ ἐκει ἐν δηνάμει, Bodily Beings are great onely in bulk, but Divine Essences in virtue and power.
We may in the next place consider that Freedome and Liberty which we find in our own Souls, which is founded in our Reason and Understanding; and this is therefore Infinite in God, because there is nothing that can bound the First Mind, or disobey an Almighty power. We must not conceive God to be the freest Agent, because he can doe and prescribe what he pleaseth, and so set up an Absolute will which shall make both Law and Reason, as some imagine. For as God cannot know himself to be any other then what indeed he is; so neither can he will himself to be any thing else then what he is, or that any thing else should swerve from those Laws which his own Eternall Nature and Understanding prescribes to it. For this were to make God free to dethrone himself, and set up a Liberty within him that should contend with the royall prerogative of his own boundless Wisdome.
To be short; When we converse with our own Souls, we find the Spring of all Liberty to be nothing else but Reason; and therefore no Unreasonable creature can partake of it: and that it is not so much any Indifferency in our Wills of determining without, much less against, Reason, as the liberall Election of, and Complacency in, that which our Understandings propound to us as most expedient: And our Liberty most appears, when our Will most of all congratulates the results of our own Judgments; and then shews it self most vigorous, when either the Particularness of that Good which the Understanding converseth with, or the weak knowledge that it hath of it, restrains it not. Then is <134> it most pregnant and flows forth in the fullest stream, when its Object is most full, and the acquaintance with it most ample: all Liberty in the Soul being a kind of Liberality in the bestowing of our affections, and the want or scarce measure of it Parsimoniousness and Niggardise. And therefore the more the Results of our Judgments tend to an Indifferency, the more we find our Wills dubious and in suspense what to chuse; contrary inclinations arising and falling within enterchangeably, as the Scales of a Ballance equally laden with weights; and all this while the Soul's Liberty is nothing else but a Fluctuation between uncertainties, and languisheth away in the impotency of our Understandings. Whereas the Divine Understanding beholding all things most clearly, must needs beget the greatest Freedome that may be; which Freedome as it is bred in it, so it never moves without the Compass of it. And though the Divine Will be not determin'd alway to this or that particular, yet it is never bereft of Eternall Light and Truth to act by: and therefore though we cannot see a Reason for all Gods actions, yet we may know they were neither done against it nor without it.
How the Consideration of those restless motions of our Wills after some Supreme and Infinite Good, leads us into the knowledge of a Deity.
WE shall once more take a view of our own Souls, and observe how the Motions thereof lead us into the knowledge of a Deity. We alwaies find a restless appetite within our selves which craves for some Supreme and Chief good, and will not be satisfied with any thing less then Infinity it self; as if our own Penury and Indigency were commensurate to the Divine fulness: and therefore no Question has been more canvas'd by all Philosophy then this, De summo hominis bono, and all the Sects thereof were antiently distinguish'd by those Opinions that they entertain'd De finibus Boni & Mali, as Tully phraseth it. But of how weak and dilute a Nature soever some of them may have conceived that Summum Bonum, yet they could not so satisfie their own inflamed thirst after it. We find by Experience that our Souls cannot live upon that thin and spare diet which they are entertain'd with at their own home; neither can they be satiated with those jejune and insipid morsels which this Outward world furnisheth their Table with. I cannot think the most voluptuous Epicurean could ever satisfie the cravings of his Soul with Corporeal pleasure, though he might endeavour to perswade himself there was no better: nor the most Quintessential Stoicks find an ἀυτάρκεια and ἀταραξία a Self-sufficiency and Tranquil <136> lity within their own Souls, arising out of the pregnancy of their own Mind and Reason; though their sullen thoughts would not suffer them to be beholden to an Higher Being for their Happiness. The more we endeavour to extract an Autarchy out of our own Souls, the more we torment them, and force them to feel and sensate their own pinching poverty. Ever since our Minds became so dim-sighted as not to pierce into that Original and Primitive Blessedness which is above, our Wills are too big for our Understandings, and will believe their beloved prey is to be found where Reason discovers it not: they will pursue it through all the vast Wilderness of this World, and force our Understandings to follow the chase with them: nor may we think to tame this violent appetite or allay the heat of it, except we can look upward to some Eternal and Almighty goodness which is alone able to master it.
It is not the nimbleness and agility of our own Reason which stirs up these hungry affections within us, (for then the most ignorant sort of men would never feel the sting thereof) but indeed some more Potent nature which hath planted a restless motion within us that might more forcibly carry us out to it self; and therefore it will never suffer it self to be controll'd by any of our thin Speculations, or satisfied with those aierie delights that our Fancies may offer to it: it doth not, it cannot, rest it self any where but upon the Centre of some Almighty good, some solid and substantial Happiness; like the hungry childe that will not be still'd by all the mother's musick, or change its sower and angry looks for her smiling countenance; nothing will satisfie it but the full breasts.
The whole work of this World is nothing but a perpetuall contention for True Happiness, and men are <137> scatter'd up and down the world, moving to and fro therein, to seek it. Our Souls by a Naturall Science as it were feeling their own Originall, are perpetually travailing with new designs and contrivances whereby they may purchase the scope of their high ambitions. Happiness is that Pearl of price which all adventure for, though few find it. It is not Gold or Silver that the Earthlings of this world seek after, but some satisfying good which they think is there treasur'd up. Neither is it a little empty breath that Ambition and Popularity soars after, but some kind of Happiness that it thinks to catch and suck in with it.
And thus indeed when men most of all flie from God, they still seek after him. Wicked men pursue indeed after a Deity in their worldly lusts; wherein yet they most blaspheme; for God is not a meer empty Name or Title, but that Self-sufficient good which brings along that Rest and Peace with it which they so much seek after, though they doe most prodigiously conjoyn it with something which it is not, nor can it be, and in a true and reall strain of blasphemy, attribute all that which God is to something else which is most unlike him, and, as S. Paul speaks of those infatuated Gentiles, turn the glory of the uncorruptible God into the image of corruptible man, of birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things.
God is not better defin'd to us by our Understandings then by our Wills and Affections: He is not onely the Eternal Reason, that Almighty Mind and Wisdome which our Understandings converse with; but he is also that unstained Beauty and Supreme Good which our Wills are perpetually catching after: and wheresoever we find true Beauty, Love and Goodness, we may say, Here or there is God. And as we cannot understand any thing <138> of an Intelligible nature, but by some primitive Idea we have of God, whereby we are able to guess at the elevation of its Being and the pitch of its Perfection; so neither doe our Wills embrace any thing without some latent sense of Him, whereby they can tast and discern how near any thing comes to that Self-sufficient good they seek after: and indeed without such an internal sensating Faculty as this is we should never know when our Souls are in conjunction with the Deity, or be able to relish the ineffable sweetness of true Happiness. Though here below we know but little what this is, because we are little acquainted with fruition and enjoyment; we know well what belongs to longings and languishment, but we know not so well what belongs to plenty and fulness; we are well acquainted with the griefs and sicknesses of this in-bred love, but we know not what its health and complacencies are.
To conclude this particular, μεγάλας ἔχει κινήσεις ἡ ψυχη, the Soul hath strong and weighty motions, and nothing else can bear it up but something permanent and immutable. Nothing can beget a constant serenity and composedness within, but something Supreme to its own Essence; as if having once departed from the primitive Fountain of its life, it were deprived of it self, perpetually contesting within it self and divided against it self: and all this evidently proves to our inward sense and feeling, That there is some Higher Good then our selves, something that is much more amiable and desirable, and therefore must be loved and preferred before our selves, as Plotinus hath excellently observ'd, τῶν ὀντων ἕκαστον ἐφιέμενον τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ, βούλεται ἐκεῖνο μᾶλλον ἢ ὅ ἐστιν ἐιναι, &c. Every thing that desires the enjoyment of the First good, would rather be <139> That then what it is, because indeed the nature of that is much more desirable then its own. And therefore the Platonists, when they contemplate the Deity under these three notions of τὸ ἓν, τὸ ὂν and τὸ ἀγαθὸν, and question which to place first in order of understanding, resolve the preeminence to be due to the τὸ ἀγαθὸν, as Simplicius tells us, because That is first known to us as the Architect of the world, and, we may adde, as that which begets in us this ἐρωτικὸν πάθος, these strong passionate desires whereby all sorts of men (even those that are rude and illiterate) are first known to themselves, and by that knowledge may know what diminutive, poor and helpless, things themselves are, who can never satiate themselves from themselves, and what an Excellent and Soveraign goodness there is above them which they ought to serve, and cannot but serve it, or some filthy idol in stead of it; though this mental Idolatry be like that gross and external in this also, that howsoever we attend it not (and so are never the more blameless) yet our worship of these images and pictures of Goodness rests not there, it being some all-sufficient Good that (as we observed before) calls forth and commands our adorations.
Deductions and Inferences from the Consideration of the Divine Nature and Attributes.
1. That all Divine productions are the free Effluxes of Omnipotent Love and Goodness. The true Notion of God's glory what it is. Men very apt to mistake in this point. God needs not the Happiness or Misery of his Creatures to make himself glorious by. God does most glorifie himself by communicating himself: we most glorifie God when we most partake of him, and resemble him most.
WE have seen how we may rise up to the understanding of the Deity by the contemplation of our own Souls: and now it may seem worthy of the best attention of our Minds to consider some Deductions and Inferences which naturally flow from the true knowledge of the Divine Nature and Attributes.
And the First is this, That all Divine productions or operations that terminate in something without Him, are nothing else but the free Effluxes of his own Omnipotent Love and Goodness, which alwaies moves along with them, and never willingly departs from them. When God made the world, it was not out of a piece of Self-Interest, as if he had had any design to advance himself, or to enlarge his own stock of glory and happiness; for what Beauty or Perfection can be in this whole Creation which was not before contained in himself as the free Fountain of all? or what could he see out of him <141> self that could adde any thing to his own stature, which he found not already in himself? He made not the World χρείας ἕνεκεν, ἵνα τιμὰς πρός τε ἀνθρώπων καὶ πρὸς θεῶν ἄλλων καὶ δαιμόνων καρποῖτο, οἱον πρόσοδόν τινα ἀπὸ τῆς γενέσεως ἀρνύμενος, It was not for any need, or that he might gain some honour to himself from Men, Archangels or Angels, as the Tribute or Rent to be paid to him from his Creation, as Clemens Alexandrinus observes out of Plato. Though I know not how it comes about that some bring in God as it were casting about how he might erect a new Monopoly of glory to himself, and so to serve this purpose made the World, that he might have a stock of glory here going in it. And I doubt we are wont sometimes to paint him forth too much in the likeness of corrupt and impotent men, that by a fond ambition please themselves and feed their lustfull phansies with their own praises chanted out to them by their admirers, and another while as much sport themselves and applaud their own Greatness, to hear what hideous cries the Severity of their own Power can extort from those they have a mind to make miserable.
We all speak much of the Glory of God, and entertain a common belief that that's the onely End for which we were all made: and I wish we were all more inwardly moved with a true and lively sense of it. There can be nothing else that either God could propound to himself, or that we ought, if it be rightly understood. But we must not think that God, who is Infinite fulness, would seek for any thing without himself: he needs neither our Happiness nor our Misery to make himself more illustrious by; but being full in himself, it was his good pleasure to communicate of his own fulness: for, as Proclus hath well observ'd, πῶς γὰρ <142> ἔξω βλὲπει νοῦς ὢν, &c. How can he look without himself, being he is a pure Mind alwaies encompass'd with its own glorious brightness? But the good pleasure of his Will being fill'd with bounty, and the power of a most gracious Deity proceeding from it, liberally dispensed themselves, and distributed those gifts of grace that might make all created Being the more to resemble that Archetypall Idea of themselves. Accordingly Timæus Locrus represents the Creatour of the World in the same strain that Moses did, ὡς ἀγαζόμενος καὶ ἐυφρανθεὶς, delighted as it were in himself to see that all things that he had made were good, and some things exceeding good. God himself being infinitely full, and having enough and to spare, is alwaies overflowing; and Goodness and Love issue forth from him by way of redundancy. When he made the World, because there was nothing better then himself, he shadowed forth himself therein, and, as far as might be, was pleased to represent himself and manifest his own eternall glory and perfection in it. When he is said to seek his own glory, it is indeed nothing else but to ray and beam forth, as it were, his own lustre; as R. Jehuda in his Book Cofri hath glanc'd at it, הכבוד ניצוץ אור אלהי המועיל אצל עמו ומארצו Gloria hæc scintilla est lucis divinæ, cedens in utilitatem populi ejus in terra ejus.
God does then most glorifie and exalt himself in the most triumphant way that may be ad extra or out of himself, if I may so phrase it, when he most of all communicates himself, and when he erects such Monuments of his own Majesty wherein his own Love and Goodness may live and reign.
And we then most of all glorifie him, when we partake most of him, when our serious endeavours of a true assimilation to him and conformity to his Image <143> declare that we think nothing Better then He is, and are therefore most ambitious of being one with him by an Universall Resignation of our selves unto him.
This is his Glory in its lowest Humiliation, while it beams forth out of himself; and our Happiness in its Exaltation, which Heaven never separates nor divides though Earth doth. His Honour is His Love and Goodness in paraphrase, spreading it self over all those that can or doe receive it; and this he loves and cherishes wheresoever he finds it, as something of himself therein.
Thus I should leave this particular, but that being gone so far in it, it may be worth the while to take notice of Three things wherein God most of all glories and takes the greatest complacency, in reference to Creatures, as they are laid down by Proclus l. 4. in Tim. 1. Εὐφραίνεται μὲν πρώτως κατὰ τὴν ἔνδον ἑαυτοῦ νόησιν, ἁπλῇ καὶ ἀνεμποδίστῳ ἀθρόᾳ περιβολῇ πᾶν τὸ νοητὸν περιλαμβανοῦσῃ, The First, and chiefest, is concurrent with his own internall vision of all things in that simple, expedite and simultaneous comprehension of all things intelligible, piercing through all their essences, and viewing them all in himself, he is delighted therein, as seeing how his own Glory can display and imitate it self in outward Matter. 2. The second is, διὰ τὴν ἐπιτηδειότητα τῶν ὑποδεχομένων τὴν ἔξω προϊοῦσαν ἀυτοῦ τῶν ἀγαθῶν χορηγίαν, in the aptness and capacity of those things which he hath made to receive a further influence of good ready to stream forth from himself into them. 3. The last is, ἐν τῇ ἐξ ἀμφοῖν συμμετρίᾳ, καὶ ὡσανεὶ συμπνοίᾳ καὶ συμφωνία, in the sweet symmetry of his own forms with this capacity, and as it were the harmonious conspiration and symphony of them, when his own light pleasantly plaies upon those well-tuned instruments which he hath fitted to run the <144> descants of his own Goodness upon. And therefore it becomes us whom he hath endued with vitall power of action, and in some sense a Self-moving life, to stir up his good gifts within our selves; and, if we would have him take pleasure in us, to prepare our own Souls more and more to receive of his Liberality, ἵνα μὴ ἀργη εἶς ἡμας ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ δόσις, that that stock which he is pleased to impart to us may not lie dead within us. And this is the Application which he makes of this Particular.
A second Deduction.
2. That all things are supported and govern'd by an Almighty Wisdome and Goodness. An Answer to an Objection made against the Divine Providence from an unequall distribution of things here below. Such quarrelling with Providence ariseth from a Pædanticall and Carnall notion of Good and Evil.
IN the next place we may by way of further Deduction gather, That that Almighty Wisdome and Goodness which first made all things, doth also perpetually conserve and govern them; deriving themselves through the whole Fabrick, and seating themselves in every Finite Essence, ἵνα μὴ φυγόντα το θεῖον τελέως ἄτακτα γέηται, (as the same Philosopher expresseth it) lest stragling & falling off from the Deity, they should become altogether disorderly, relapsing and sliding back into their first Chaos. As in all Motion there must be some First Mo <145> ver, from whence the beginning and perpetuation of all Motion is deduced: so in Beings there must be some First Essence upon which all other must constantly depend. And therefore the Pythagorean philosophy was wont to look upon these νέα δημιουργήματα, as they call this production of every thing that is not truly divine, ὡς ἀεὶ ἐν γενέσει, as being alwaies in fieri. For as no Finite thing can subsist by its own strength, or take its place upon the stage of Space without the leave of an Almighty and Supreme power: so neither can it remain here without licence and assistance from it. The Deity indeed is the Centre of all finite Being, and Entity it self, which is Self-sufficient, must of necessity be the Foundation and Basis of every one of these weak Essences, which cannot bear up themselves by any Centrall power of their own; as we may also be almost assured of from a sensible feeling of all the constant mutations and impotency which we find both in our selves and all other things.
And as God thus preserves all things, so he is continually ordering & disposing all things in the best way, and providing so as may be best for them. He did not make the World as a meer Exercise of his Almighty power, or to trie his own strength, and then throw it away from himself without any more minding of it; for he is that Omnipresent Life that penetrates and runs through all things, containing and holding all fast together within himself; and therefore the antient Philosophy was wont rather to say, that the World was in God, then that God was in the World. He did not look without himself to search for some solid foundation that might bear up this weighty building, but indeed rear'd it up within him, and spread his own Omnipotency under it and through it: and being cen <146> trally in every part of it, he governs it according to the prescript of his own unsearchable Wisedome and Goodness, and orders all things for the best. And this is one principall Orthodox point the Stoicks would have us to believe concerning Providence, ὅτι πάντα ὑπ' ἀρίστου νοῦ γίνεται, that all things are here done in this World by the appointment of the Best Mind.
And now if any should quarrel with the unequall distribution of things here, as if rather some blind Fortune had bestow'd her blessings carelesly till she had no more left, and thereby made so many starvelings, rather then some All-knowing Mind that deals forth its bounty in due proportions; I should send them to Plutarch and Plotinus to have their Reasons fully satisfied in this point, (for we here deal with the Principles of Naturall light) all these debates arising from nothing but Pædanticall and Carnall notions of Good and Evil: as if it were so gallant a thing to be dealing with Crowns and Scepters, to be bravely arrayed, and wallow in that which is call'd the Wealth of this World. God indeed never took any such notice of Good men as to make them all Rulers, as the last of those forecited Authors tells us; neither was it worth the while, οὐδὲ θεμιτὸν τοὺς ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς ἄλλον βίον ζῶντας τὸν ἀῤχῆς ἀνθρωπίνης ἀμείνω, τούτους ἀυτῶν ὔρχοντας εἰναι, neither is it fit for good men that partake of an higher life then the most Princely is, to trouble themselves about lording & ruling over other men; as if such a splendid kind of nothing as this is were of so much worth. It may be generally much better for us, while we are so apt to magnifie & court any Mundane beauty and glory, as we are, that Providence should disorder and deface these things, that we might all be weaned from the love of them, then that their lovely looks should so bewitch and enchant <147> our Souls as to draw them off from Better things. And I dare say that a sober mind that shall contemplate the state and temper of mens minds, and the confused frame of this outward world, will rather admire at the Infinite Wisdome of a gracious Providence in permitting and ordering that Ataxy which is in it, then he would were it to be beheld in a more comely frame and order.
A third Deduction.
3. That all true Happiness consists in a participation of God arising out of the assimilation and conformity of our Souls to him; and, That the most reall Misery ariseth out of the Apostasie of Souls from God. No enjoyment of God without our being made like to Him. The Happiness and Misery of Man defin'd and stated, with the Originall and Foundation of both.
WE proceed now to another Deduction or Inference, viz. That all True Happiness consists in a participation of God arising out of the assimilation and conformity of our Souls to him, and the most reall Misery ariseth out of the Apostasie of Souls from God. And so we are led to speak of the Rewards and Punishments of the Life to come, Præmium and Pœna, וענש שכר as the Jewish Writers are wont to express them: and it will not be any hard labour from what hath been said to find out the Originall and Nature of both of them; and though perhaps we cannot dive into the bottome <148> of them, yet we may go about them, and tell how in a general way to define and distinguish them.
Happiness is nothing else, as we usually describe it to our selves, but the Enjoyment of some Chief good: and therefore the Deity is so boundlesly Happy, because it is every way one with its own Immense perfection; and every thing so much the more feelingly lives upon Happiness, by how much the more it comes to partake of God and to be made like to him: And therefore the Platonists well defin'd it to consist in idea Boni. And as it is impossible to enjoy Happiness without a fruition of God; so it is impossible to enjoy him without an assimilation and conformity of our Natures to him in a way of true goodness and Godlike perfection. It is a common Maxim of Socrates, μὴ καθαρῷ καθαροῦ ἐφὰπτεσθαι μὴ οὐ θεμιτὸν ᾖ, it is not lawfull for any impure nature to touch pure Divinity. For we cannot enjoy God by any Externall conjunction with him: Divine fruition is not by a meer kind of Apposition or Contiguity of our Natures with the Divine, but it is an Internall Union, whereby a Divine Spirit informing our Souls, derives the strength of a Divine life through them; and as this is more strong and active, so is Happiness it self more Energeticall within us. It must be some Divine Efflux running quite through our Souls, awakening and exalting all the vitall powers of them into an active Sympathy with some Absolute good, that renders us compleatly blessed. It is not to sit gazing upon a Deity by some thin speculations; but it is an inward feeling and sensation of this Mighty Goodness displaying it self within us, melting our fierce and furious natures, that would fain be something in contradiction to God, into an Universall complyance with it self, and wrapping up our amorous Minds wholly <149> into it self, whereby God comes to be all in all to us. And therefore so long as our Wills and Affections endeavour to fix upon any thing but God & true Goodness, we doe but indeed anxiously endeavour to wring Happiness out of something that will yeeld no more then a flinty Rock to all our pressing and forcing of it. The more we endeavour to force out our Affections to stay and rest themselves upon any Finite thing, the more violently will they recoil back again upon us. It is onely a true sense and relish of God that can tame and master that rage of our insatiable and restless desires which is still forcing us out of our selves to seek some Perfect Good, that which from a latent sense of our own Souls we feel our selves to want.
The Foundation of Heaven and Hell is laid in mens own Souls, in an ardent and vehement appetite after Happiness, which can neither attain to it, nor miss finally of it and of all appearances of it, without a quick and piercing sense. Our Souls are not like so many lumps of dead and sensless Matter to a true living Happiness, they are not like these dull clods of Earth which sent not the good or ill savour of those Plants that grow upon them. Gain and Loss are very sensibly felt by greedy minds. The Soul of man was made with such a large capacity as it is, that so it might be better fitted to entertain a full and liberall Happiness, that the Divine Love and Goodness might more freely spread it self in it, and unite it to it self. And accordingly when it misseth of God, it must feel so much the more the fury and pangs of Misery, and find a severe Nemesis arising out of its guilty conscience, which like a fiery Scorpion will fasten its stings within it. And thus as Heaven, Love, Joy, Peace, Serenity, and all that which Happiness is, buds and blossoms out of holy and God <150> like spirits: so also Hell and Misery will perpetually spring out of impure Minds, distracted with Envy, Malice, Ambition, Self-will or any inordinate loves to any particular thing.
This is that Ἀδραστείας νόμος that Plato speaks of, that fatal Law that is first made in Heaven's Consistory, That Purity and Holiness shall be happy, and all Vice and Sin miserable. Holiness of Mind will be more and more attracting God to it self, as all Vice will lapse and slide more and more from him. The more pure our Souls are and abstracted from all mundane things, the more sincerely will they endeavour the nearest union that may be with God, the more they will pant and breathe after him alone, leaving the chase of any other delight. There is such a noble and free-born spirit in true Goodness seated in Immortall natures, as will not be satisfied meerly with Innocency, nor rest it self in this mix'd Bodily state, though it could converse with Bodily things without sinking to a vitious love of them; but would alwaies be returning to a more intimate union with that Being from whence it came, and which will be drawing it more and more to it self: and therefore it seems very reasonable to believe that if Adam had continued in a state of Innocency, he should have been raised by God to a greater fruition of him, and his nature should have been elevated to a more transcendent condition. And if there was any Covenant made with Adam in Paradise, I think we cannot understand it in any other sense but this: the Scripture speaks not of any other terms between God and Man. And this Law of life, which we have spoken of, is Eternall and Immutable; nor does the Dispensation of Grace by Christ Jesus at all abrogate or disannull, but rather enforce, it: for so we find that the Law of Christ, that <151> which he gave out to all his Disciples, was this Law of perfection that carries true Happiness along in the Sense of it, which, as the great Prince of Souls, he dispenseth by his Eternall Spirit in a vitall way unto the Minds of men.
A Fourth Deduction.
4. The Fourth Deduction acquaints us with the true Notion of the Divine Justice, That the proper scope and design of it, is to preserve Righteousness, to promote and encourage true Goodness. That it does not primarily intend Punishment, but onely takes it up as a mean to prevent Transgression. True Justice never supplants any that it self may appear more glorious in their ruines. How Divine Justice is most advanced.
IN the fourth place, we may further collect How rightly to state the Notion of the Divine Justice, the scope whereof is nothing else but to assert and establish Eternall Law and Right, and to preserve the integrity thereof; it is no design of Vengeance, which though God takes on wicked men, yet he delights not in it. The Divine Justice first prescribes that which is most conformable to the Divine Nature, and mainly pursues the conservation of Righteousness. We would not think him a good Ruler that should give out Laws to ensnare his Subjects, with an even indifferency of Mind whether his Laws be kept, or Punishments suffered; but such a one who would make the best secu <152> rity for Right and Equity by wholsome Laws, and annexing Punishments as a mean to prevent transgression, and not to manifest Severity. The proper scope of Justice seems to be nothing else but the preserving and maintaining of that which is Just and Right: the scope of that Justice which is in any Righteous Law, is properly to provide for a righteous execution of that which is just and fit to be, without intending punishment; for to intend that properly and directly, might rather seem Cruelty then Justice: and therefore Justice takes not up Punishment, but onely for a security of performance of Righteous Laws, viz. either for the amendment of the person transgressing, or a due example to others to keep them off from transgression. For I would here suppose a Good and Righteous man, who in some desolate place of the World should have the command of a 100 more, and himself be Supreme & under no command. He prescribes Laws to this company, makes it death for any one to take away another's life. But now one proves a Murtherer, kills one of his fellows; afterwards repents heartily, and is like to prove usefull among the rest of his fellows: they all are so heartily affected one to another, that there is no danger, upon sparing this Penitent's life, that any one of them should be encouraged to commit the like evil. The Case being thus stated, it will not seem difficult to conclude that the Justice of this Righteous and Good Commander would spare this poor Penitent: for his Justice would have preserved that life which is lost, and seeing there is nothing further that it can obtain in taking away this, it will save this which may be saved; for it affects not any blood; and when it destroies, it is out of necessity, to take away a destructive person, and to give example, which in the Case stated falls not out.
Again, Justice is the Justice of Goodness, and so cannot delight to punish; it aimes at nothing more then the maintaining and promoting the Laws of Goodness, and hath alwaies some good end before it, and therefore would never punish except some further good were in view.
True Justice never supplants any that it self might appear more glorious in their ruines; for this would be to make Justice love something better then Righteousness, and to advance and magnifie it self in something which is not it self, but rather an aberration from it self: and therefore God himself so earnestly contends with the Jews about the Equity of his own waies, with frequent asseverations that his Justice is thirsty after no man's blood, but rather that Sinners would repent, turn from their evil waies, and live. And then Justice is most advanced, when the contents of it are fulfill'd; and though it does not, and will not, acquit the guilty without Repentance, yet the design of it is to encourage Innocency and promote true Goodness.
The Fifth and last Deduction.
5. That seeing there is such an Entercourse and Society as it were between God and Men, therefore there is also some Law between them, which is the Bond of all Communion. The Primitive rules of God's Oeconomy in this world, not the sole Results of an Absolute Will, but the sacred Decrees of Reason and Goodness. God could not design to make us Sinfull or Miserable. Of the Law of Nature embosom'd in Man's Soul, how it obliges man to love and obey God, and to express a Godlike spirit and life in this world. All Souls the Off-spring of God; but Holy Souls manifest themselves to be, and are more peculiarly, the Children of God.
THE former Deduction leads me to another a-kin to it, which shall be my last, and it is that which Tully intimates in his De legibus, viz. That seeing there is such an Entercourse and Society as it were between God and Men, therefore there is also some Law between them, which is the Bond of all Communion. God himself, from whom all Law takes its rise and emanation, is not Ex-lex and without all Law, nor, in a sober sense, above it. Neither are the Primitive rules of his Oeconomy in this world the sole Results of an Absolute will, but the Sacred Decrees of Reason and Goodness. I cannot think God to be so unbounded in his Legislative power, that he can make any thing Law, both for his own Dispensations and our Observance, that we may sometime <155> imagine. We cannot say indeed that God was absolutely determin'd from some Law within himself to make us; but I think we may safely say, when he had once determin'd to make us, he could neither make us sinfull, seeing he had no Idea nor shadow of Evil within himself, nor lap us those dreadfull fates within our Natures, or set them over us, that might arcanâ inspiratione (as some are pleas'd to phrase it) secretly work our ruine, and silently carry us on, making use of our own naturall infirmity, to eternall misery. Neither could he design to make his creatures miserable, that so he might shew himself Just. These are rather the by-waies of Cruell and Ambitious men, that seek their own advantage in the mischiefs of other men, and contrive their own Rise by their Ruines: this is not Divine Justice, but the Cruelty of degenerated men.
But as the Divinity could propound nothing to it self in the making of the World but the Communication of its own Love and Goodness; so it can never swerve from the same Scope and End in the dispensation of it self to it. Neither did God so boundlesly enlarge the appetite of Souls after some All-sufficient Good, that so they might be the more unspeakably tortur'd in the missing of it; but that they might more certainly return to the Originall of their Beings. And such busie-working Essences as the Souls of men are, could neither be made as dull and sensless of true Happiness as Stocks and Stones are, neither could they contain the whole summe and perfection of it within themselves: therefore they must also be inform'd with such Principles as might conduct them back again to Him from whom they first came. God does not make Creatures for the meer sport of his Almighty arm, to raise and ruine and toss up and down at meer pleasure. <156> No, that εὐδοκία or good pleasure of that Will that made them is the same still, it changes not, though we may change, and make our selves uncapable of partaking the blissfull fruits and effects of it.
And so we come to consider that Law embosom'd in the Souls of men which ties them again to their Creatour, and this is called The Law of Nature; which indeed is nothing else but a Paraphrase or Comment upon the Nature of God as it copies forth it self in the Soul of Man.
Because God is the First Mind and the First Good, propagating an Imitation of himself in such Immortall Natures as the Souls of Men are, therefore ought the Soul to renounce all mortall and mundane things, and preserve its Affections chast and pure for God himself; to love him with a most Universall and Unbounded Love; to trust in him and reverence him; to converse with him in a free & chearful manner, as One in whom we live and move and have our Beings, being perpetually encompassed by him, and never moving out of him; to resign all our Waies and Wills up to him with an equall and indifferent mind, as knowing that he guides and governs all things in the Best way; to sink our selves as low in Humility, as we are in Self-nothingness.
And because all those scatter'd Raies of Beauty and Loveliness which we behold spread up and down all the World over, are onely the Emanations of that inexhausted Light which is above; therefore should we love them all in that, and climb up alwaies by those Sun-beams unto the Eternall Father of Lights: we should look upon him and take from him the pattern of our lives, and alwaies eying of him should ἀγάλματα θεῖα τεκταίνειν, &c. (as Hierocles speaks) polish and <157> shape our Souls into the clearest resemblance of him; and in all our behaviour in this World (that Great Temple of his) deport our selves decently and reverently, with that humility, meekness and modesty that becomes his house. We should endeavour more and more to be perfect, as he is; in all our dealing with men, doing good, shewing mercy and compassion, advancing justice and righteousness, being alwaies full of charity and good works; and look upon our selves as having nothing to doe here but to display & blazon the glory of our heavenly Father, and frame our hearts and lives according to that Pattern which we behold in the Mount of a holy Contemplation of him. Thus we should endeavour to preserve that Heavenly fire of the Divine Love and Goodness (which issuing forth from God centres it self within us, and is the Protoplastick virtue of our Beings) alwaies alive and burning in the Temple of our Souls, and to sacrifice our selves back again to him. And when we fulfill this Royall Law arising out of the heart of Eternity, then shall we here appear to be the Children of God, when he thus lives in us, as our Saviour speaks Matth. 5. And so we shall close up this Particular with that High privilege which Immortall Souls are invested with: they are all the Off-spring of God, for so S. Paul allows the Heathen Poet to call them: they are all royally descended, and have no Father but God himself, being originally formed into his image and likeness; and when they express the purity and holiness of the Divine Life in being perfect as God is perfect, then they manifest themselves to be his Children, Matth. 5. And in Matth. 7. Christ encourageth men to seek and pray for the Spirit, (which is the best gift that God can give to men) because he is their Heavenly Father, much more boun <158> tifull and tender to all helpless Souls that seek to him, then any earthly parent, whose Nature is degenerated from that primitive goodness, can be to his children. But those Apostate Spirits that know not to return to the Originall of their Beings, but implant themselves into some other stock, and seek to incorporate and unite themselves to another line by sin and wickedness, cut themselves off from this divine priviledge, and lose their own birth-right; they doe μεταβαίνειν εἰς ἄλλο γένος (if I may borrow that phrase) and lapse into another nature. All this was well express'd by Proclus, πᾶσαι ψυχαῖ θεῶν παῖδες, ἀλλ' οὐ πᾶσαι τὸν ἑαυτῶν ἐπέγνωσαν θεόν. αἱ δὲ ἐπιγνοῦσαι καὶ τὴν ὁμοίαν ἑλόμεναι ζωὴν, καλοῦνται θεῶν παἲδες, All Souls are the Children of God, but all of them know not their God; but such as know him and live like to him, are called the Children of God.
An APPENDIX concerning the Reason of Positive Laws.
BUT here, as an Appendix to the two former Deductions, it may be of good use to enquire into the Reason of such Laws as we call Positive, which God hath in all times, as is commonly suppos'd, enjoyn'd obedience to; which are not the Eternall dictates and Decretals of the Divine Nature communicating it self to Immortall Spirits, but rather deduce their Originall from the free will and pleasure of God.
To solve this Difficulty, that of S. Paul may seem a fit Medium, who tells us, The Law was added because <159> of transgression; though I doubt not but he means thereby the Morall Law as well as any other. The true intent and scope of these Positive laws, (and it may be of such an externall promulgation of the Morall) seems to be nothing else but this, to secure the Eternall Law of Righteousness from transgression. As the Jews say of their decreta sapientum, that they were גדר לתורה, an hedge to the Law; so we may say of these Divine Decretals, they were but cautionary and preventive of disobedience to that Higher Law: and therefore Saint Paul tells us why the Morall Law was made such a Political business by an external promulgation, &c. 1 Tim. 1. 9. not so much because of righteous men, in whom the Law of Nature lives, who perform the τὰ τοῦ νόμου without any outward Law, but it was given for the lawless and disobedient, &c. And therefore I doubt not but we may safely conclude, that God gave not those Positive Laws meerly pro imperio, if I may use that expression; it was not meerly to manifest his Absolute Dominion & Soveraignty, as some think, but for the good of those that were enjoyned to obey; and this belief Moses endeavours almost throughout the whole Book of Deuteronomy to strengthen the Israelites in: and therefore God was so ready upon all occasions to dispense with these Laws, and requires the Jews to omit the observance of them, when they might seem to justle with any other Law of Morall duty or Humane necessity, as may be observ'd in many Instances in Scripture.
But for a more distinct unfolding of this point, we may take notice of this difference in the notion of Good and Evil, as we are to converse with them. Some things are so absolutely, and somethings are so onely relatively. That which is absolutely good, is every way <160> Superiour to us, and we ought alwaies to be commanded by it, because we are made under it: But that which is relatively good to us, may sometime be commanded by us. Eternall Truth and Righteousness are in themselves perfectly & absolutely good, and the more we conform our selves to them, the better we are. But those things that are onely good relatively and in order to us, we may say of them, that they are so much the better, by how much the more they are conform'd to us, I mean, by how much the more they are accommodated and fitted to our estate and condition, and may be fit means to help and promote us in our pursuit of some Higher good: and such indeed is the matter of all Positive Laws, and the Symbolicall or Rituall part of Religion. And as we are made for the former, viz. what is absolutely good, to serve that; so are these latter made for us, as our Saviour hath taught us when he tells us that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: and as sincere and reall Christians grow up towards true perfection, the lesse need have they of Positive precepts or Externall helps. Yet I doubt it is nothing else but a wanton fastus and proud temper of spirit in our times that makes so many talk of being above Ordinances, who, if their own arrogance and presumption would give them leave to lay aside the flattering glasse of their own Self-love, would find themselves to have most need of them.
What I have observ'd concerning the Things absolutely good, I conceive to be included in that צֶדֶק עוֹלָמים mention'd Dan. 9. everlasting righteousness, which the Prophet there saith should be brought in and advanced by Messiah: this δικαιοσύνη αἰώνιος is the Righteousness which is of an eternall and immutable nature, as being a conformity with Eternall and Unchangeable <161> Truth: For there is a Righteousness which thus is not Eternall, but Positive and at the pleasure of God that dictates it: and such was the Righteousness which Christ said it became him to fulfill when he was baptiz'd; there was no necessity that any such thing should become due. But the Foundation of this Everlasting righteousness is something unalterable. To speak more particularly, That the Highest good should be loved in the Highest degree; That dependant creatures, that borrow all they have from God, should never glory in themselves, or admire themselves, but ever admire and adore that unbounded Goodness which is the Source of their Beings and all the Good they partake of; That we should alwaies doe that which is just and right, according to the measure we would others should doe with us: these, and some other things which a rectified Reason will easily supply, are immutably true and righteous; so that it never was nor can be true, that they are unnecessary. And whoso hath his Heart molded into a delight in such a Righteousness and the practise thereof, hath this Eternall righteousness brought into his Soul, which Righteousness is also true and reall, not like that imaginary Externall righteousness of the Law which the Pharisees boasted in.
The Conclusion of this Treatise concerning the Existence and Nature of God, shewing how our Knowledge of God comes to be so imperfect in this State, while we are here in this Terrestriall Body. Two waies observ'd by Plotinus, whereby This Body does prejudice the Soul in her Operations. That the Better Philosophers and more Contemplative Jewes did not deny the Existence of all kind of Body in the other state. What meant by Zoroaster's εἴδωλον ψυχῆς. What kind of knowledge of God cannot be attain'd to in this life. What meant by Flesh and Blood, 1 Cor. 15.
FOR the concluding of this Discourse, as a Mantissa to what hath been said, we shall a little consider how inconsistent a thing a Perfect knowledge of God is with this Mundane and Corporeall state which we are in here. While we are in the Body, we are absent from the Lord, as S. Paul speaks, and that (I think) without a mysterie: Such Bodies as ours are being fitted for an Animal state, and pieces of this whole Machina of Sensible Matter, are perpetually drawing down our Souls, when they would raise up themselves by Contemplation of the Deity; and the caring more or less for the things of this Body, so exercises the Soul in this state, that it cannot attend upon God ἀπερίσπάστως without distraction. In the antient Metaphysicks such a Body as this is we carry about us, is call'd ἄνζον, σπήλαιον, &c. the dark Den and Sepulchre in which Souls are imprison'd and entomb'd, with many other expressions of <163> the like importance; and Proclus tells us that the Commoration of the Soul in such a Body as this, is, according to the common vote of Antiquity, nothing else but κατασκήνωσις ἐν πεδίῳ λήθης, a dwelling or pitching its Tabernacle in the Valley of Oblivion and Death. But Plotinus, in his περὶ τῆς εἰς τὰ σώματα καθόδου τῆς ψυχῆς, seems not to be easily satisfied with Allegoricall descriptions, and therefore searching more strictly into this business, tells his own and their meaning in plainer terms, that This Body is an occasion of Evil to the Soul two waies; 1. ὅτι τὲ ἐμπόδιον πρὸς τὰς νοήσεις γίνεται, as it hinders its Mentall operations, presenting its Idola specûs continually to it: 2. ὅτι ἡδονῶν καὶ ἐπιθυμιῶν καὶ λυπῶν πίμπλησιν αὐτὴν, as it calls forth its advertency to its own Passions, which while it exerciseth it self about too earnestly, it falls into a sinfull inordinacy.
Yet did not the Platonists nor the more Contemplative Jews deny the Existence of all kind of Body in the other State, as if there should be nothing residing there but naked Souls totally devested of all Corporeall Essence; for they held that the Soul should in the other World be united with a Body, not such a one as it did act in here, (which was not without disturbance) but such as should be most agreeable to the Soul, which they call'd πνευματικὸν ὄχημα τῆς ψυχῆς the Spirituall Vehicle of the Soul, and by Zoroaster it was call'd εἲδωλον ψυχῆς, a kind of Umbra or Aereal Mantle in which the Soul wraps her self, which, he said, remain'd with her in the state of glory, Ἔστι καὶ εἰδώλῳ μερὶς εἰς τόπον ἀμφιφάοντα. and in the Jewish language it is מלבוש הפנימי indumentum quoddam interius, as Gaulmin hath observed in his De vita & morte Mosis.
But to return; the Platonists have pointed out a threefold knowledge of God, 1. one κατ' ἐπιστήμην, <164> 2. the second κατὰ νόησιν, 3. the last κατὰ παρουσίαν. and this last they affirm'd to be unattainable by us, it being that ineffable Light whereby the Divinity comprehends its own Essence penetrating all that Immensity of Being which it self is. The First may be attain'd to in this life; but the Second in its full perfection we cannot reach here in this life, because this knowledge ariseth out of a blissfull Union with God himself, which therefore they are wont to call ἐπαφὴν τοῦ νοητοῦ a Contact of Intellectuall Being, and sometimes ἀυτοφάνειαν or ἐπιβολὴν ἀυτοπτικὴν, that is, that I may phrase it in the Scripture words, a beholding of God face to face, which is that סיר הפנים Arcanum facierum the Jewish writers speak of, which we cannot attain to while we continue in this concrete and bodily state. And so when Moses desir'd to behold the face of God, that is, as the Jewes understand it, that a distinct Idea of the Divine Essence might be imprinted upon his Mind, God told him, No man can see me, and live; that is, no man in this corruptible state is capable of attaining to this ἀυτοφάνεια or visio facierum, as Maimonides expounds it, עאין כח בדעת האדם ההי הוא מחובר מגוף ונפש וכוי, The Understanding of the living man, who is compounded of Body and Soul, is utterly unable clearly to apprehend the Divine Essence, to see it as it is. And so S. Paul distinguisheth the knowledge of this life as taken in this complex sense, and of the life to come: that now we see δἰ ἐσοπτρου in a glass, which is continually sullied and darkened, while we look into it, by the breathing of our Animal fansies, passions and imaginations upon it; and ἐν αἰνίγματι darkly: but we shall see then πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον face to face; which is the translation of that Hebrew phrase פנים אל פנים. And in the like manner does a Greek Philosopher com <165> pare these two sorts of Knowledge which the Soul hath of God in this life and in that to come, Τοὺς ἐπιστημονικοὺς λόγους μύθους ἡγήσεται συνοῦσα τῶ πατρὶ καὶ συνεστιωμένη τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ ὂντος, καὶ ἐν ἀυγῇ καθαρᾷ, The Soul will reckon all this knowledge of God which we have here by way of Science but like a fable or parable, when once it is in conjunction with the Father, feasting upon Truth it self, and beholding God in the pure raies of his own Divinity. I shall conclude all with that which S. Paul expresly tells us, 1 Cor. 15. 50. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdome of God; where, by Flesh and Blood he seems to mean nothing else but Man in this complex and compounded state of Soul and Body, I mean corruptible, earthy Body: and it was a common Periphrasis of this ἄνθρωπος ὁ πολὺς amongst the Jews, בשר ודם: in the like sense is σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα, Flesh & Blood, in those and other places in the New Testament used, where this phrase occurs, viz. Matth. 16. 17. Gal. 1. 16. Ephes. 6. 12. Heb. 2. 14. But in opposition to this gross earthy Body, the Apostle speaks of σῶμα πνευματικὸν, a Spirituall Body, v. 44. such as shall put on incorruption and immortality, v. 53. and consequently differing from that Body which here makes up this compounded animall Being: and accordingly our Saviour speaks of the children of the Resurrection, that they neither marry nor are given in marriage, nor can they die any more, but are ἰσάγγελοι, or, as it is in S. Matthew and Mark, ὡς ἄγγελοι, τοῦ θεοῦ, as the Angels of God; and so the Jewish writers are wont to use the same phrase to express the state of Glory by, viz. that then good men shall be כמלאכי השרת sicut Angeli ministerii.
 Rom. 1.
 Strom. 5.
 Lib. 4. in Timæum.
 Plotin. Enn. 3. l. 2. c. 9.
 Lib. 4. in Timæum.
 Gal. 3.
 Matth. 3.
 Enn. 4. l. 8.
 Maimon. de fundam. legis, cap. 1.
 Exod. 33. 20.
 Luk. 20.
Cite as: John Smith, ‘A Discourse concerning the Existence and Nature of God’, from Select Discourses (1660), pp. 121-165, http://www.cambridge-platonism.divinity.cam.ac.uk/view/texts/diplomatic/Smith1660E-excerpt005, accessed 2022-01-23.