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there has been an eternity, and yet contradict ourselves when we measure this eternity by any notion which we can frame of it. “If we go to the bottom of this matter, we shall find that the difficulties we meet with in our conceptions of eternity proceed from this single 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 duration made up of past, present, and to come. There is nothing which exists after this manner, all the parts of whose existence were not once actually present, and consequently may be reached by a certain number of years applied 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 present 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 actually present, and does not also lie at some determined distance from us. The distance in both cases may be immeasurable and indefinite as to our faculties, but our reason tells us that it cannot be so in itself. Here therefore is that difficulty which human understanding is not capable of surmounting. We are sure that something must have existed from eternity, and are at the same time unable 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 demonstrative argument of the being and eternity of God: and, though there are many other 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 is 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 the 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 any notions which we have of existence, could not have existed from eternity. * Fourthly, That this Eternal Being must therefore be the great Author of nature, “the Ancient of Days,” who, being at infinite distance in his perfections from from all finite and created beings, exists in a quite different manner from them, and in a manner of which they can have no idea. * I know that several of the schoolmen, who would not be thought ignorant of any thing, have pretended to explain the manner of God's existence, by telling us that he comprehends infinite duration in every moment: that eternity is with him a punctum stans, 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 propositions as words 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 self-contradictory. We cannot be too modest in our disquisitions when we meditate on him, who is environed with so much glory and perfection, who is the source of being, the fountain of all that existence which we and his whole creation derive from him. Let us therefore with the utmost humility acknowledge, that, as some being must necessarily have existed from eternity, so this being does exist after an incomprehensible manner, since it is impossible for a being to have existed from eternity after our manner or notions of existence. Revelation confirms these natural dictates of reason in the accounts which it gives us of the divine existence, where it tells us, that he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; that he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending ; that a thousand years are with him as one day, and one day as a thousand years; by which, and the like expressions, we are taught that his existence with relation to time or duration is infinitely different from the existence of any of his creatures, and consequently that it is impossible for us to frame any adequate conceptions of it.
In the first revelation which he makes of his own being, he entitles himself, “ I Am that I Am ;" and when Moses desires to know what name he shall give him in his embassy to Pharaoh, he bids him say that “ I Am hath sent you.” Our great Creator, by this revelation of himself, does in a manner exclude every thing else from a real existence, and distinguishes himself from his creatures as the only being which truly and really exists. The ancient Platonic notion, which was drawn from speculations of eternity, wonderfully agrees with this revelation which God has made of himself. There is nothing, say they, which in reality exists, whose existence, as we call it, is pieced up of past, present, and to come. Such a flitting and successive existence is rather a shadow of existence, and something which is like it, than existence itself. He only properly exists whose existence is entirely present; that is, in other words, who exists in the most perfect manner, and in such a manner as we have no idea of.
I shall conclude this speculation with one useful inference. How can we sufficiently prostrate ourselves and fall down before our Maker, when we consider that ineffable goodness and wisdom which contrived this existence for finite natures! What must be the overflowings of that good-will, which prompted our Creator to adapt existence to beings in whom it is not necessary; especially when we consider that he himself was before in the complete possession of existence and of happiness, and in the full enjoyment of eternity! What man can think of himself as called out and separated from nothing, of his being made a conscious, a reasonable and a happy creature, in short, of being taken in as a sharer of existence, and a kind of partner in eternity, without being swallowed up in wonder, in praise, in adoration! It is indeed a thought too big for the mind of man, and rather to be entertained in the secrecy of devotion, and in the silence of the soul, than to be expressed by words. The Supreme Being has not given us powers or faculties sufficient to extol and magnify such unutterable goodness.
"It is however some comfort to us, that we shall be always doing what we shall never be able to do; and that a work which cannot be finished, will however be the work of eternity.'
JONATHAN SWIFT, .
Born 1667— Died 1745.
TRAVELS OF LEMUEL GULLIVER.
A VOYAGE TO LILLIPUT. It would not be proper, for some reasons, to trouble the reader with the particulars of our adventures in those seas ; let it suffice to inform him, that in our passage from thence to the East Indies, we were driven by a violent storm to the north-west of Van Dieman's
Land. By an observation, we found ourselves in the latitude of 30 degrees 2 minutes south. Twelve of our crew were dead by immoderate labour and ill food; the rest were in a very weak condition. On the 5th of November, which was the beginning of summer in those parts, the weather being very hazy, the seamen spied a rock.within half a cable's length of the ship; but the wind was so strong, that we were driven directly upon it, and immediately split. Six of the crew, of whom I was one, having let down the boat into the sea, made a shift to get clear of the ship and the rock. We rowed, by my computation, about three leagues, till we were able to work no longer, being already spent with labour while we were in the ship. We therefore trusted ourselves to the mercy of the waves; and in about half an hour the boat was overset by a sudden flurry from the north. What became of my companions in the boat, as well as of those who escaped on the rock, or were left in the vesel, I cannot tell, but conclude they were all lost. For my own part, I swam as Fortune directed me, and was pushed forward by wind and tide. I often let my legs drop, and could feel no bottom; but when I was almost gone, and able to struggle no longer, I found myself within my depth; and by this time the storm was much abated. The declivity was so small, that I walked near a mile before I got to the shore, which I conjectured was about eight o'clock in the evening. I then advanced forward near half a mile, but could not discover any sign of houses or inhabitants; at least I was in so weak a condition that I did not observe them. I was extremely tired; and with that, and the heat of the weather, and about half a pint of brandy that I drank as I left the ship, I found myself much inclined to sleep. I lay down on the grass, which was very short and soft, where I slept sounder than ever I remembered to have done in my life, and, as I reckoned, about nine hours; for when I awaked it was just day-light. I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir; for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground, and my hair, which