In all Ages wherein Learning hath flourished, complaint hath been made of the Itch of Writing, and the Multitude of worthless Books, wherewith importunate Scribblers have pesterd the world; Scribimus indocti doctique:
And, - Tenet insanabile multos Scribendi Cacoethes. I am sensible that this Tractate may likely incur the Censure of a superfluous Piece, and myself the Blame of giving the Reader unnecessary Trouble, there having been so much so well written of this Subject, by the most learned Men of our time, Dr. Moore, Dr. Cudworth; Dr. Stillingfleet late Bishop of Worcester, Dr. Parker late of Oxon; and, to name no more, the Honourable Robert Boyle, Esq; so that it will need some Apology.
First, Therefore, in Excuse of it, I plead, That there are in it some Considerations new and untouchd by others: Wherein, if I be mistaken, I alledge;
Secondly, That the Manner of Delivery and Expression may be more suitable to some Mens Apprehension, and facile to their Understandings. If that will not hold, I pretend,
Thirdly, That all the Particulars contained in this Book, cannot be found in any one Piece known to me, but lie scattered and dispersed in many; and so this may serve to relieve those fastidious Readers that are not willing to take the Pains to search them out: And possibly, there may be some whose Ability (whatever their Industry might be) will not serve them to purchase, nor their Opportunity to borrow, those Books, who yet may spare Money enough to buy so inconsiderable a Trifle .
If none of these Excuses suffice to acquit me of Blame, and remove all Prejudice, I have two farther Reasons to offer, which I think will reach home, and justify this Undertaking:
First, That all Men who presume to write, at least, whose Writings the Printers will venture to publish, are of some Note in the World; and where they do, or have lived nand conversed, have some Sphere of Friends and Acquaintance, that know and esteem them, who, its likely, will buy any Book they shall write for the Authors Sake, who otherwise would have read none of that Subject, tho ten times better; and so the Book; however inferiour to what have been already published, may happen to do much Good.
Secondly, By Virtue of my Function, I suspect myself to be obliged to write something in Divinity, having written so much on other Subjects: For being not permitted to serve the Church with my Tongue in Preaching, I know not but it may be my Duty to serve it with my Hand by writing: And I have made Choice of this Subject, as thinking myself best qualified to treat of it. If what I have now written shall find so favourable Acceptance, as to encourage me to proceed, God granting Life and Health, the Reader may expect more: If otherwise, I must be content to be laid aside as useless, and satisfy myself in having made this Experiment.
As for this Discourse, I have been careful to admit nothing for Matter of Fact, or Experiment, but what is undoubtedly true, lest I should build upon a sandy and ruinous Foundation; and by the Admixture of what is false, render that Which is true suspicious.
I might have added many more Particulars; nay, my Text warrants me to run over all the visible Works of God in particular, and to trace the Footsteps of His Wisdom in the Composition, Order, Harmony, and Uses of every one of them, as well as of those that I have selected. But, First, This would be a Task far transcending my Skill and Abilities; nay, the joint Skill and Endeavours of all Men now living or that shall live after a thousand Ages, should the World last so long. For no Man can find out the Work that God maketh from the Beginning to the End, Eccles. iii. 11. Secondly, I was willing to consult the Infirmity of the Reader, or indeed of Mankind in general; which, after a short Confinement to one Sort of Dish, is apt to loath it, tho never so wholesome, and which at first was most pleasant and acceptable: And so to moderate my Discourse, as to make an End of Writing, before I might presume he should be quite tired with reading.
I shall now add a Word or two concerning the Usefulness of the Argument or Matter of this Discourse, and the reason I had to make choice of it, besides what I have already offered.
First, the Belief of a Deity being the Foundation of all Religion, (Religion. being nothing but a devout Worshipping of God, or an Inclination of Mind to serve and worship Him) for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, it is a Mattcr of the highest concernment, to be firmly settled and establijhed in a full Persuasion of this main Point: Now this must be demonstrated by Arguments drawn from the Light of Nature, and Works of the Creation: For as all other Sciences, so Divinity proves not, but supposes its Subjects, taking it for granted that by Natural Light, Men are sufficiently convinced of the Being of a Deity. There are indeed supernatural Demonstrations of this fundamental Truth, but not common to all Persons or Times, and so liable to Cavil and Exception by Atheistical Persons, as inward Illuminations of Mind, a Spirit of Prophecy and Foretelling future Contingents, illustrious Mixacles, and the like. But these Proofs taken from Effects, and Operations, exposed to every Mans view, not to be denied or questioned by any, are most effectual to convince. all that deny or doubt of it. Neither are ttey only convictive of the greatest and subtlest Adversaries, but intelligible also to the meanest Capacities: For you may hear illiterate Persons of the lowest Rank of the Commonalty affirming, That they need no Proof of the
Being of a God, for that every Pile of Grass, or Ear of Corn, sufficiently proves that: For, say they, all the Men of the World cannot make such a thing as one of these; and if they cannot do it, who can, or did make it but God? To tell them, that it made itfself, or sprung up by Chance, would be as ridiculous as to tell the greatest Philosopher so.
Secondly, the Particulars of this Discourse serve not only to demonstrate the Being of a Deity, but also to illustrate some of his principal attributes; namely, his infinite Power and Wisdom. The vast Multitude of Creatures, and those not only small, but immensely great, the Sun and Mocn, and all the Heavenly Host, are Effects and Proofs of His Almighty Power. The Heavens declare the Glory of God, and the Firmament sheweth His Handy-Work, Psal. xix. 1. The admirable Contrivance of all and each of them, the Adapting all the Parts of Animals to their several Uses, the Provision that is made for their Sustenance, which is often taken Notice of in Scripture, Psal. cxlv. 15, 16. The Eyes of all wait upon Thee: Thou givest them their Meat in due Season. Thou openest Thy Hand, and fatisfieft the Defire of every living Thing. Matth. vi. 26. Behold the Fowls of the Air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into Barns yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Psal. cxlvli. 9. He giveth to the Beast his Food, and to the young ravens when they cry. And, Lastly, Tbeir mutual Subserviency to each other, and unanimous conspiring to promote and carry on the Publick Good, are evident Demonstrations of His Sovereign Wisdom.
Lastly, They serve to stir up and increase in us the Affections and Habits of Admiration, Humility, and Gratitude. Psal. viii. 3. When I considered the Heavens, the Work of Thy Fingers, the Moon and the Stars which Thou hast ordained: What is Man that Thou art mindful of him, or the Son of Man that Thou visitest him? And to these Purposes the Holy Psalmist is very frequent in the Enumeration and Consideration of these Works, which may warrant me doing the like, and justify the denominating such a Discourse as this, rather Theologicnl than Philosophical.
[Note, That by the Works of the Creation, in the Title, I mean the Works created by God at first, and by Him conservd to this Day in the same State and Condition in which they were at first made; for Conservation (according to the Judgment both of Philosophers and Divines) is a continued Creation.]