A free enquiry into the vulgarly receiv'd notion of nature made in an essay address'd to a friend
Boyle, Robert, 1627-1691.


I have now gone through so many of the celebrated Axioms, con∣cerning Nature, that, I hope, I may reasonably presume, that the other Page  348Sentences of this kind, that my Haste makes me leave unmention'd, will be thought capable of being fairly explicated, and with Congruity to our Hypothesis, by the help of the Grounds already laid, since, with light Variations, they may be easily enough improv'd, and apply'd to those other Particulars, to which they are the most Analogous.

But this Intimation ought not to hinder me to make a Reflection, that not only is pertinent to this place, but which I desire may have Retro∣spect upon a great part of the whole precedent Discourse. And it is This, that, though we could not Intelligi∣bly explicate all the particular Axi∣oms about Nature, and the Phaenome∣na of Inanimate Bodies, that are thought, but not by me granted, to favour them by Mechanical Princi∣ples; it would not follow, that we must therefore yield up the whole Cause to the Naturists. For we have already shewn, and may do so yet further ere long, that the Suppo∣sition Page  349 of such a Being, as they call Nature, is far from enabling Her Partizans to give intelligible Ac∣counts of these and other Phaenomena of the Universe. And though our Doctrine sh••ld be granted to be, as well as that generally receiv'd about Nature, insufficient to give good Ac∣counts of Things Corporeal: Yet I shall have this Advantage in this Case, that a less degree of Probabi∣lity may serve, in Arguments im∣ploy'd but to justifie a Doubt, than is requir'd in Those that are to de∣monstrate an Assertion.

'Tis true, that the Naturists tell us, that the Nature they assert is the Principle of all Motions and Ope∣rations in Bodies; which infers, that in explicating Them, we must have recourse to Her. But before we ac∣quiesce in, or confidently employ, this Principle, it were very fit we knew what it is. This Question I have discours'd of in the Section: But having there intimated a Refe∣rence to another Place, the Impor∣tance, Page  350 as well as Difficulty of the Subject, invites me to resume in this Place the Consideration of It; and both vary and add to what I for∣merly noted, that I may as well in∣culcate as clear my Toughts about It. I demand then o Those, that assert such a Nature as is vulgarly describ'd, whether it be a Substance or an Accident? If it be the later, it should be declar'd, what kind of Accident it is; how a Solitary Accident can have Right to all those Attributes, and can produce those numerous, manifold, and wonderful Effects, that they ascribe to Nature; and why a complex of such Accidents, as are the Mechanical affections of Matter, (as Figure, Bulk, Motion, &c.) may not altogether, as probably as that Accident they call Nature, be con∣ceived to have been Instituted by the perfectly Wise Author of the Universe, to produce those Chan∣ges among Bodies, which are (at least for the most part,) intelligibly referable to Them? And if Things be Page  351 not brought to pass by their Inter∣vention, 'twere very fit, as well as desirable, that we should be Inform'd, by what other Particular and Intel∣ligible Means Nature can effect them better, than they may be by that Complex.

But if it be said, as by Most it is, that the Principle, call'd Nature, is a Substance, I shall next demand, Whether it be a Corporeal, or an Immaterial One? If it be said to be an Immaterial Substance, I shall further ask, Whether it be a Created One, or not? If it be not, then we have God under another Name, and our Dis∣pute is at an End, by the removal of its Object or Subject, which is said by the Schools to be God's Vicegerent, not God Himself. But if Nature be affirm'd (as She is, at least by all Christian Philosophers,) to be a Created Being, I then demand, Whether or no She be endowed with understanding, so as to know what she does, and for what Ends, and by what Laws She ought to Act? If the An∣swer Page  352 be Negative, the Supposition of Nature will be of very little Use to afford an intelligible Account of Things; an unintelligent Nature being liable to the Objections, that will a little below be met with a∣gainst the usefulness of Nature, in case She be suppos'd a Corporeal Being. And though it should be said, that Nature is endowed with Under∣standing, and performs such Functi∣ons as divers of the Antients ascribe to the Soul of the World; besides, that this Hypothesis is near of kin to Heathenism, I do not think, that they who shall with many Grecian, and other Philosophers, who prece∣ded Christianism, suppose a kind of Soul of the Universe, will find this Principle sufficient to explicate the Phaenomena of It. For if we may compare the Macrocosm and Micro∣cosm in This, as well as many are wont to do in other Things; we may conceive, that, though Nature be admitted to be indowed with Reason, yet a multitude of Phaenomena may Page  353 be Mechanically produc'd, winhout Her immediate Intervention; as we see that in Man, though the Ra∣tional Soul has so narrow a Province to take care of, as the Human Bo∣dy, and is suppos'd to be intimate∣ly united to all the Parts of It; yet, abundance of things are done in the Body by the Mechanism of it, with∣out being produc'd by that Soul. Of this we may alledge, as an In∣stance, that, in Sleep, the Circula∣tion of the Blood, the regular Bea∣ting of the Heart, Digestion, Nu∣trition, Respiration, &c. are per∣form'd without the immediate. A∣gency, or so much as the actual Knowledge, of the Mind. And, when a Man is awake, many things are done in his Body, not only with∣out the Direction, but against the Bent of his Mind; as often happens in Cramps and other Convulsions, Coughing, Yawnings, &c. Nay, though some Brutes, as particularly Apes, have the Structure of many Parts of their Bodies very like that Page  354 of the Analogous Ones of Human Bodies: Yet, that admirable Work of the Formation and Organization of the Foetus, or little Animal, in the Womb, is granted by Philoso∣phers to be made by the Soul of the Brute (that is therefore said to be the Architect of his own Mansion,) which yet is neither an Incorporeal, nor a Rational Substance. And, e∣ven in a Human Foetus, if we will admit the general Opinion of Philo∣sophers, Physitians, Divines and Lawyers, I may be allowed to ob∣serve, that the Human Body, as ex∣quisite an Engine as 'tis justly e∣steem'd, is form'd without the In∣tervention of the rational Soul, which is not infus'd into the Body, 'till This hath obtain'd an Organization, that fits it to receive such a Guest; which is commonly reputed to happen a∣bout the end of the Sixth Week, or before that of the Seventh. And this Consideration leads me a little further, and prompts me to ask, How much, by the Supposition or Page  355 Knowledge of the Mind, (at the new∣ly mention'd time,) we are enabled to explicate the Manner, How the foremention'd Functions of an Em∣bryo are perform'd, when at the end of six or seven Week the Rational Soul supervenes and comes to be united to this living Engine?

And, if it be urg'd, that Nature being the Principle of Motion in Bo∣dies, their various Motions, at least, which amount to a considerable Part of their Phaenomena, must be explainid by having recourse to Her: I answer, that 'tis very difficult to conceive, how a Created Substance, that is Immaterial, can by a Physical Power or Action move a Body: The Agent having no impenetrable Part, wherewith to impell the Corporeal Mobile. I know, that God, who is an mmaterial Spirit, ought to be ac∣knowledg'd the Primary Cause of Motion in Matter, because (as we may justly with Monsieur Des Cartes infer,) Motion not belonging to Cor∣poreal Substance, as such; This Page  356 must owe That to an Incorporeal One. But then, I consider, that there is that infinite Distance be∣tween the Incomprehensible Crea∣tor, and the least imperfect Order of his Creatures, that we ought to be very Cautious, how we make Paral∣lels between Him and Them, and draw Inferences from His Power & manner of Acting to Theirs. Since He, for Instance, can immediately act upon Human Souls, as having Created Them, but they are not a∣ble so to act upon one another. And I think it the more difficult to con∣ceive and admit, that, if Nature be an Incorporeal Substance, She should be the greater Mover of the Mun∣dane Matter, because we see, that, in a Human Body, the Rational Soul, (which the School-Philosophers as∣sert to be an Immaterial Spirit,) tho' vitally united to it, can only de∣termin the Motion of some of the Parts, but not give Motion to any, or so much as Regulate it in most. And, if Nature be said to move Bo∣dies Page  357 in another than a Physical Way, I doubt, whether the Supposition of such a Principle will be of much Use to Physiologers in explicating Phae∣nomena; since I shall scarce think him an Inquisitive or a Judicious Doctor, who should imagine, that he explains, that it gives an intelli∣gible and particular Account of the astonishing Symptoms of those strange Diseases, that divers very Learned and Sober Physitians impute to Witchcraft, when he says, that those strange Distortions and con∣vulsive Motions, for Instance, and other Prodigious Effects, were pro∣duc'd by a wicked immaterial Spi∣rit, call'd a Devil. But having to this purpose said more in another Paper, which you may command the Sight of, I shall not trouble you with it here.

The past Discourse opposes their Opinion, who assert Nature to be an Immaterial Creature. But be∣cause 'tis thought, that a greater Number of Philosophers, at least Page  358 among the Moderns, take Her to be Corporeal, I shall now address my Discourse to their Hypothesis. And though I might object, that, if Nature be a Body, it may be de∣manded, How She can produce, in Men, Rational Souls, that are Im∣material Beings, and not capable to be produc'd by any Subtiliation or other Change of Matter whatsoever? Yet, waving this Objection, I shall first demand, Whether Those, I rea∣son with, believe Nature, though Corporeal, to act Knowingly, i. e. with Consciousness of what She does, and for pre-designed Ends; or else to be blindly and necessarily moved and directed by a Superior Agent, indow'd with (what She wants,) an excellent Understanding; and then I shall represent a few things, appliable some to one or the other of the two Answers, that may be made, and some to both.

And first, the Cartesians would ask, How, if Nature be a Corporeal Sub∣stance, we can conceive Her capa∣ble Page  359 of Thinking; and, which is more, of being a most Wise and Provident Director of all the Motions that are made in the Corporeal World?

Secondly, A Philosophizer may justly ask, How a Corporeal Being can so pervade, and, as it were, com-penetrate the Universe, as to be intimately present with all its Mi∣nute Parts, whereof yet 'tis said to be the Principle of Motion?

Thirdly, He may also demand, Whence Nature, being a Material Substance, comes itself to have Mo∣tion, whereof 'tis said to be the Prin∣ciple? Since Motion does not be∣long to Matter in itself, and a Bo∣dy is as truly a Body when it rests, as when it moves. And, if it be answer'd, that the First Cause, that is, God, did at first put it into Mo∣tion; I reply, that the same Cause may, at least as probably, be sup∣pos'd to have put the unquestion'd Mundane Matter into Motion, with∣out the Intervention of another Cor∣poreal Being, in whose Conception, Page  360 (i. e. as 'tis Matter,) Motion is not involv'd.

Fourthly, It may likewise be ask'd, How the Laws of Motion come to be observ'd or maintain'd by a Cor∣poreal Being? which, as merely such, is either uncapable of under∣standing them, or of acting with re∣spect to them, or at least is not neces∣sarily endow'd with any knowledge of them, or power to conform to them, & to make all the Parts of the unquestion'd Mundane Matter do so too.

Fifthly, And I do not see, how the taking in such an unintelligent & un∣designing Principle will free our Un∣derstandings from great Difficulties, when we come to explicate the Phae∣nomena of Bodies. For, as is else∣where noted, if Nature be a Bodily Creature, and acts necessarily, and (if I may so speak,) fatally, I see no Cause to look upon It but as a kind of Engine; and the Difficulty may be as great, to conceive how all the several Parts of this supposed Engine, call'd Nature, are them∣selves Page  361 fram'd and mov'd by the Great Author of Things, and how they act upon one another, as well as upon the undoubted Mundane Bo∣dies; as 'tis to conceive how, in the World itself, which is manifestly an admirably contriv'd Automaton, the Phaenomena may, by the same Au∣thor, (who was able to endow Bo∣dies themselves with Active Pow∣ers, as well as he could, on other scores, make them Causes,) be produc'd by Vertue, and in conse∣quence of the Primitive Constructi∣on and Motions that He gave it (and still maintains in it,) without the Intervention of such a thing, as they call Nature. For This, as well as the World, being a Corporeal Creature, we cannot conceive, that either of them act otherwise than Mechanically. And it seems very suitable to the Divine Wisdom, that is so excellently display'd in the Fa∣brick and Conduct of the Universe, to imploy in the World, already fram'd and compleated, the fewest Page  362 and most simple Means, by which the Phaenomena, design'd to be exhi∣bited in the World, could be pro∣duc'd. Nor need we be much mov'd by hearing some Naturists say, that Nature, though not an In∣corporeal Being, is of an Order Su∣perior to mere Matter; as divers of the School-men teach the Things, they call Material Forms to be. For, who can clearly conceive an Order or Kind of Beings, that shall be Real Substances, and yet neither Corpo∣real nor Immaterial? Nor do I see, how the Supposition of this Unintel∣ligible, or at least Unintelligent Be∣ing, though we should grant it to have a kind of Life or Soul, will much assist us to explicate the Phae∣nomena; as if a Man be acquainted with the Construction of Mills, he he may as well conceive, how Corn is ground by a Mill, driven by the Wind or by a Stream of Water, which are Brute and Senseless Be∣ings, as he can by knowing, that 'tis kept at Work by a Horse, who, Page  363 though an Animated Being, acts in our Case but as a Part of an Engine that is determin'd to go round, and who does neither intend to grind the Corn, nor know that he grinds It.

And in this Place (though per∣haps not the very fittest,) I may Question, With what Congruity to their Master's Doctrine, the School∣Philosophers teach, that Nature is the Principle of Motion in all the Bodies, they call Natural. For, not to urge, that those great Masses of Sublunary Matter, to which they give the Name of Elements, and the Mixt Bodies, that consist of them, are, by divers learned Men, said to be mov'd to or from the Centre of the Earth, by distinct Internal Prin∣ciples, which they call Gravity in the Earth and Water, and Levity in the Fire and Air; and that there is ascrib'd also to every compounded Body, that Quality of the Two, which belongs to the Element that predominates in It. Not to urge Page  364 this, I say, consider, that the Coe∣lestial Part of the World does so far exceed the Sub-Coelestial in Vast∣ness, that there is scarce any Com∣parison between them; and yet the Generality of the Peripateticks, after Aristotle, tell us, that the Coelestial Globes of Light, and the vast Orbs they suppose them to be fix'd in, are mov'd from West to East by Intelligences, that is, Rational and Separate Beings, without whose Conduct they presume, that the Mo∣tions of the Heavens could not be so Regular and Durable, as we see they are. So that, in that Part of the Universe, which is incompara∣rably vaster than the Sublunary is, Intelligences being the Causes of Mo∣tion, there is no Recourse to be had to Nature, as the true and internal Principle of It.

And here it may not, perhaps, be improper to declare somewhat more fully a Point already touch'd upon, namely, that, if to know what is the general Efficient Cause Page  365 of Motion, can much contribute to the Explication of particular Phaeno∣mena; the Hypothesis of those Natu∣rists I now reason with, will have no considerable Advantage, if any at all of Ours; which derives them from the Primitive Impulse given by God to Matter, and from the Mecha∣nical Affections of the greater and lesser Portions of It. For 'tis all one to Him, that would declare by what particular Motion, as Swift, Slow, Uniform, Accelerated, Direct, Circular, Parabolical, &c. this or that Phaenomenon is produc'd; to know, whether the Motions of the Parts of Matter were Originally im∣press'd on them by Nature, or im∣mediately by God; unless it be, that He, being of infinitely Perfect Know∣ledge, may be, more probably than a Creature, suppos'd to have at first produc'd in Matter Motions best accommodated to the Phaeno∣mena, that were to be exhibited in the World. Nor do I see sufficient Cause to grant, that Nature Her∣self Page  366 (whatever She be,) produces any Motion de Novo, but only, that She transfers and regulates That, which was communicated to Matter at the beginning of Things: (As we formerly noted, that in the Hu∣man Body, the Rational Soul or Mind has no Power to make new Motions, but only to direct those of the Spirits and of the grosser Or∣gans and Instruments of voluntary Motion.) For, besides that many of the Modern Naturalists approve of the Cartesian Opinion, That the same Quantity of Motion is always preserv'd in the whole Mass of of the Mundane Matter, that was communicated to it at first, though it be perpetually transferring it from one Part to another: Besides this, I say, I consider, that, if Nature pro∣duces in these & those Bodies Moti∣on, that were never before in Beings; (unless much Motion be annihilated, which is a thing as yet unprov'd,) the Quantity of Motion in the Uni∣verse must have for some Thousands Page  367 of Years perpetually increas'd, and must continue to do so; which is a Concession, that would much dis∣order the whole Theory of Local Motion, and much perplex Philoso∣phers, instead of assisting Them, in explicating the Phaenomena of Bo∣dies.

And as for the Effects of Local Motion in the Parts of the Universal Matter, which Effects make a great Part of the Phaenomena of the World: After what I have formerly declar'd, you will not wonder to hear me con∣fess, that, to me, the Supposition of Nature, whether Men will have Her an Immaterial or Corporeal Sub∣stance, and either without Know∣ledge or else indowed with Under∣standing, doth not seem absolutely Necessary, nor perhaps very Useful, to make us comprehend, how they are produc'd. The Bodies of Ani∣mals, are divers of them little less curiously fram'd than Mens, and most of them more exquisitely, than, for ought we know, the great Ina∣nimate Page  368 Mass of the Corporeal World is: And yet, in the Judgment of no mean Naturalists, some of the Me∣chanical Philosophers, that deny Co∣gitation, and even Sense properly so call'd, to Beasts, do, at least as In∣telligibly and Plausibly, as those that ascribe to them Souls indow'd with such Faculties as make them scarce more than gradually diffe∣rent from Human Ones, explicate the Phaenomena that are observ'd in them. And I know not, whether I may not on this Occasion add, that the Peripateticks themselves, espe∣cially the Moderns, teach some things, whence One may argue, that the Necessity of recurring to Nature does not reach to so many things by far, as is by them suppos'd. For the Efformation (or Framing) of the Bodies of Plants and Animals, which are by great odds the finest pieces of Workmanship to be met with a∣mong Bodies, is ascrib'd not imme∣diately to Nature, but to the Soul it∣self, which they will have to be Page  369 the Author of the Organization of the Body, and therefore call it the Architect of its own Mansion; which, they say, that it frames by an In∣nate Power and Skill, that some call Plastick, and to which others give other Names. And unto the same Soul, operating by Her several Functions, they attribute the Con∣coction of Aliments, the Expulsion of Excrements, the Production of Milk, Semen, &c. the Appetitive, Loco-motive, and I know not how many other Faculties, ascrib'd to Li∣ving Bodies. And, even in many Ina∣nimate Ones, the noblest Properties and Operations are, by the same School-Philosophers, attributed to what they call their Substantial Forms; since from These they de∣rive the wonderful Properties of the Load-stone, the attractive Fa∣culty of Amber and other Electricks, and the Medical Vertues of Gems and other Mineral Bodies, whether Consistent or Fluid.

Page  370 But not to insist on this Argu∣ment, because 'tis but ad Hominem, (as they speak,) if we consider the Thing itself, by a free Examen of the pretended Explanations, that the Vulgar Philosophers are wont, by recurring to Nature, to give of the Phaenomena of the Universe; we shall not easily look on those Ac∣counts, as meriting the Name of Explications. For to explicate a Phaenomenon, 'tis not enough to as∣cribe it to one general Efficient, but we must intelligibly shew the parti∣cular manner, how that general Cause produces the propos'd Effect. He must be a very dull Enquirer, who, demanding an Account of the Phaeno∣mena of a Watch, shall rest satisfied with being told, that 'tis an Engine made by a Watch-Maker; though no∣thing be thereby declar'd of the Stru∣cture and Co-aptation of the Spring, Wheels, Ballance, and other Parts of the Engine; and the manner, how they act on one another, so as to co∣operate to make the Needle point Page  371 out the true Hour of the Day. And (to improve to my present purpose an Example formerly touch'd up∣on,) as he that knows the Structure and other Mechanical Affections of a Watch, will be able by Them to explicate the Phaenomena of It, with∣out supposing, that it has a Soul or Life to be the internal Principle of its Motions or Operations; so he, that does not understand the Mecha∣nism of a Watch, will never be en∣abled to give a rational Account of the Operations of It, by supposing, as those of Chiness did, when the Je∣suits first brought Watches thither, that a Watch is an European Animal, or Living Body, and indow'd with a Soul. This Comparison seems not ill to befit the Occasion of propoun∣ding It; but to second It by ano∣ther, that is more purely Physical; when a Person, unacquainted with the Mathematicks, admires to see, That the Sun rises and sets in Win∣ter in some Parts of the Horizon, and in Summer in Others, distant enough Page  372 from them; that the Day, in the for∣mer Season, is by great odds shorter than in the Later, and sometimes (as some days before the Middle of March and of Sept.) the Days are equal to the Night; that the Moon is some∣times seen in Conjunction with the Sun, and sometimes in Opposition to Him; and, between those two States, is every Day variously illu∣minated; and, that sometimes one of those Planets, and sometimes a∣nother, suffers an Eclipse; this Per∣son, I say, will be much assisted to un∣derstand, how these things are brought to pass, if he be taught the clear Mathematical Elements of A∣stronomy. But, if he be of a Tem∣per to reject these Explications, as too defective, 'tis not like, that it will satisfie him, to tell him after A∣ristotle and the School-Men, That the Orbs of the Sun and Moon, and other Coelestial Spheres, are mov'd by Angels or Intelligences; since to refer him to such general and undetermin'd Causes, will little, or Page  373 not at all, assist him to understand, how the recited Phaenomena are pro∣duc'd.

If it be here objected, That these Examples are drawn from Factiti∣ous, not from merely Physical, Bo∣dies; I shall return this brief An∣swer, and desire that it be apply'd not only to the Two freshly men∣tion'd Examples, but to All of the like Kind, that may be met with in this whole Treatise, (near the Be∣ginning of which, had I remem∣ber'd it, something to the same pur∣pose should have had Place.) I say then in short, that divers of the In∣stances we are speaking of are in∣tended but for Illustrations; and that others may be useful Instances, if they should be no more than Ana∣logous Ones: Since Examples, drawn from Artificial Bodies and Things, may have both the Advantage of being more clearly conceiv'd by or∣dinary Understandings, and That of being less obnoxious to be Que∣stion'd in that Particular, in which Page  374 the Comparison or Correspondence consists. And I the less scruple to imploy such Examples, because A∣ristotle himself, and some of his more learned Followers, make Use of di∣vers Comparisons, drawn from the Figures and other Accidents of Arti∣ficial Things, to give an Account of Physical Subjects, and even of the Generation, Corruption and Forms of Natural Bodies.

This Advertisement premis'd, I persue the Discourse it interrupted, by adding, That thus we see That confirm'd, which was formerly ob∣serv'd, namely, that though Mecha∣nical Principles could not be satis∣factorily imploy'd for explaining the Phaenomena of our World; we must not therefore necessarily recur to, and acquiesce in, that Principle, that Men call Nature, since neither will That intelligibly explain Them: But in that Case, we should ingeniously confess, That we are yet at a loss, how they are perform'd; and that this Ignorance proceeds, rather Page  375 from the Natural Imperfection of our Understandings, than from our not preferring Nature (in the Vul∣gar Notion of It,) to the Mechani∣cal Principles, in the Explication of the Phaenomena of the Universe. For whereas Monsieur Des Cartes, and other acute Men, confidently teach, that there are scarce any of these Phaenomena, that have been truly and intelligibly deduc'd from the Principles peculiar to the Aristote∣lians and School-Philosophers; it will scarce be deny'd by any that is acquainted with Physico-Mathema∣tical Disciplines, such as Opticks, Astronomy, Hydrostaticks, and Me∣chanicks, more strictly so call'd, but that very many Effects (where∣of Some have been handled in this present Tract,) are clearly explica∣ble by Mechanical Principles; which, for that Reason, Aristotle himself often imploys in his Quaestiones Me∣chanicae and elswhere. So that, if because the Corpuscularian Princi∣ples, cannot be satisfactorily made Page  376 Use of to account for all that hap∣pens among Things Corporeal, we must refuse to acquiesce in them: It is but just, that, since a Recourse to what is call'd Nature is yet more dark and insufficient, at least, we must reject as well the Later as the Former Hypothesis, and endeavour to find some Other preferrable to Both.

And now, if it be demanded, what Benefit may redound to a Reader from the Explications gi∣ven in the foregoing Seventh Secti∣on? and in general, from the Trou∣blesome, as well as Free, Enquiry, whereof they make a considerable Part? I shall Answer, That I am not quite out of Hope, that the Things hitherto discours'd may do some Services both to Natural Phi∣lophy and to Religion.

And as to the first of these; this Tract may be of Use to the cultiva∣ters of that Science, by dissuading them from employing often, and without great need, in their Philo∣sophical Discourses and Writings, a Page  377 Term, (I mean Nature,) which, by reason of its great Ambiguity, and the little or no Care, which Those that use It are wont to take, to distinguish its different Accepti∣ons, occasions both a great deal of Darkness and Confusedness in what Men say and write about Things Cor∣poreal; and a multitude of Contro∣versies, wherein really Men do but wrangle about Words, whilst they think they dispute of Things; and perhaps would not differ at all, if they had the Skill or Luck to express themselves clearly. Besides which Service, the past Discourse may do this Other, to wean Many from the fond Conceit they cherish, that they understand or explicate a Cor∣poreal Subject or a Phaenomenon, when they ascribe it to Nature. For to do That, One needs not be a Phi∣losopher, since a Country Swain may easily do the same Thing.

On this Occasion, I must not for∣bear to take notice, that the unskil∣ful Use of Terms of far less Extent Page  378 and Importance, and also less Am∣biguous, than the word Nature is, has been, and still is, no small Im∣pediment to the Progress of Sound Philosophy. For not only the grea∣test Part both of Physitians (though otherwise learned Men,) and of Chymists; but the Generality of Physiologers too, have thought, that they have done their Part, though not on all Occasions yet on very Many, when they have referr'd an Effect or a Phaenomenon to some such Things as those, that are presum'd to be Real Qualities; or are by some styl'd Natural Powers; or are by o∣thers, by a more comprehensive and more usual Name, (which therefore here chiefly imploy,) call'd Facul∣ties; for each of which they are wont to form a Name, fit for Their purpose: Though they do not intel∣ligibly declare, what this Faculty is, and in what manner the Operations they ascribe to It, are perform'd by It. Thus the attractive Faculty as∣crib'd to a Man, that is enabled by Page  379Nature's (presum'd) abhorrence of a Vacuum, to suck up Drink through a Straw or Pipe, has been for many Ages acquiesced in, as the true Cause of the Ascension of that Li∣quor in Suction; of which never∣theless the Modern Philosophers, that have slighted Explications de∣riv'd merely from Faculties, have assign'd (as has been already de∣clar'd,) Intelligible, and even Me∣chanical Causes. The Power that a Load-stone has with one Pole to attract (as they speak,) the Nor∣thern Point of the Mariner's Needle, and with the Other to drive it away, is look'd upon as one of the Noblest and most proper Faculties of that admirable Stone. And yet I else∣where shew, how in a very small, indeed, but true and natural Mag∣net, I have, by a bare, and sometimes invisible, Change of Texture, given that Extream of the Magnet, that before drew the Southern Point of the Needle, the Power to draw the Northern, and to the opposite Ex∣tream, Page  380 the Power to drive it away: So much does even this wonderful attractive Faculty, as 'tis call'd, de∣pend upon the Mechanical Structure of the Mineral, and its Relation to other Bodies, among which 'tis plac'd, especially the Globe of the Earth, and its Magnetical Efflu∣via.

But because in another Paper, I purposely discourse of what Natu∣rists call Faculties, I shall here con∣tent my self to note in general, that the Term Faculty may, indeed, be allowed of, if. It be applied as a com∣pendious Form of Speech, but not as denoting a real and distinct A∣gent; since in reality the Power or Faculty of a Thing is (at least) of∣tentimes but the Matter of It, made Operative by some of its Mechanical Modifications; [I say, some, because the Complex of all makes up its Par∣ticular Nature.] And with how little Scruple soever, Men commonly speak of Faculties, as supposing Them to be distinct and active Page  381 Principles; yet this Condition does not necessarily belong to them. For sometimes, if not frequently, the Effect, of what is reputed a Natural Power of Faculty, is produc'd by the Texture, Figure, and, in a word, Mechanical Disposition of the A∣gent; whereby it determines the Action of a remoter Agent to the produc'd Effect. Thus in a Clock, to make the Ballance vibrate, to point at the Hour, to make, at set times, the Hammer strike upon the Bell, are but different Effects of the Weight or Spring, that sets and keeps the Engine in Motion. And so a Key may either acquire or lose its Power of opening a Door (which, perhaps, some School-Men would call its aperitive Faculty,) by a Change, not made in itself, but in the Locks it is apply'd to, or in the Motion of the Hand that mana∣ges It. And least it should be ob∣jected, that these Instances are taken wholly from Artificial Bodies, I shall add, that, when a clear Piece of Page  382 Native Chrystal has obtain'd, as it often does, a good Prismatical Shape, and is, in a due Position, expos'd to the Sun-beams; its Figuration, by inabling it to refract and reflect those Beams after a certain Manner, gives it a Colorifick Faculty, whereby it is inabled to exhibit that wonder∣ful and pleasing variety of Colours, that emulate, if not surpass, those of the Rain-bow. And so in a Con∣cave Metalline Looking-glass, though there seem to be many distinct Fa∣culties, such as that of Reflecting, Inverting, Magnifying divers Ob∣jects, and Melting, Burning, &c. se∣veral Bodies; yet all these Powers are but the genuine Consequences of the Figure, Capacity and Smooth∣ness, which are Mechanical Affecti∣ons of the Matter of the Speculum. And, indeed, if I judge aright, (though what I am going to say will seem a Paradox,) yet many Quali∣ties of very many Bodies are but la∣sting Dispositions to be thus or thus wrought upon by the Action of Exter∣nal Page  383 Agents, and also (perchance) to modifie that Action; as we see, that the Power of making an Ec∣cho, that is observ'd in divers hol∣low Places, is nothing but the Me∣chanical Disposition, their Figure and Resistence gives them to reflect a Sound. And, to resume the lately mention'd Instance of a Key, we may add, that, by bare Position, either End of it, especially if the Key be long, may be made to ac∣quire or lose a Transient Magnetick Faculty from the Effluvia of that great Magnet, the Earth; and that also the same Key may, in a few Moments, acquire a durable Magne∣tism, by a Mechanical Change re∣ceiv'd from the Load-stone, as is known to Those, that are any thing vers'd in the Philosophy of that won∣derful Mineral.

And to me it seems likely, that one main Reason, why learned Men have ascrib'd such inherent and active Powers, as they call Faculties, to so many Bodies, is, because that, Page  384 not being conversant enough with Natural and Artificial Things, they did not duly perpend, how great a Difference there may be between a Body consider'd absolutely, or by itself, and the same Body consider'd in such Circumstances, as it may be found in. For in some Cases a Phy∣sical Body many have strange Things justly ascrib'd to It, though not as 'tis such a Body consider'd simply, or unassociated with other Bodies; but as 'tis plac'd among congruous Ones, and makes the Principal or most Operative Part of a compoun∣ded Body, or of the Complex of Bo∣dies it is joyn'd with, and which are of such determinate Structures, as are convenient for the Phaenomena, to be exhibited. This may be Ana∣logically seen in what happens to a Spring. For if, being bent, 'tis held in Ones Hand, or crouded in∣to a Box, 'tis but a Simple thing, that does only, by its Expansive Endea∣vour, strive to remove the Bodies that keep it compress'd. But in a Page  385 curious Watch, it may, by virtue of the Structure of that Engine, be∣come the Principle of I know not how many differing, and perhaps contrary, Motions, among the Parts of It; and of many notable Phaeno∣mena and Effects exhibited or pro∣duc'd thereby. This Reflection may, perhaps, be improv'd, if I here add, that, in many Bodies, a Fluid Substance, determin'd to conve∣nient Motions, may be equivalent to an Internal Spring; especially if it be assisted by friendly External Agents. This may be illustrated by considering, that if One that plays skilfully on a Flute, blow out of his Mouth into the open Air, he will but turn it into a vapid Aereal Stream: But if this Wind duly pass into the Instrument, and be mo∣dify'd there by the Musician's Fin∣gers and Skill, the simple Stream of Air may be form'd into very various and melodious Tunes. Thus Gun∣powder artificially temper'd, tho', if it be fir'd in the open Air, it will give only a rude and sudden Flash, that Page  386 presently vanishes; yet, if it be skil∣fully dispos'd of in Rockets and o∣ther well-contriv'd Instruments, and then kindled, it will exhibit a great and pleasing variety of Shining Bo∣dies and Phaenomena, that are justly admir'd in the best sort of Artificial Fire-works. A Physical Instance also, in favour of our Analogical or Vicarious Springs (if I may so call them,) is afforded me by the Bulbs of Onions, and the Roots of Aloes, com∣monly call'd Semper-vive, and some other Vegetables, which in the Spring being expos'd to the Air, the Juices and Spirits, contain'd in them, will be so agitated by the Warmth of that Season, and so modify'd by the particular Structure of the more firm Parts, that, though neither Earth nor Rain co-operate, they will shoot forth green Stalks or Leaves for ma∣ny Weeks together, as if they were planted in a good Soil; (though the Matter of these green Productions be furnish'd by the radical Parts themselves, as may be argued both Page  387 from the manifest Diminution of the Bulb in Bigness, and the great and gradual Decrement in Weight, that I observ'd in making Experiments of this King. And so also the Air, which is an External Fluid, concur∣ring with the Juices and Spirits of divers Insects and other cold Ani∣mals, may both be put into Motion, and have that Motion so determin'd by their Organization, as to recover in the Spring or Summer, as it were, a new Life, after they have lain moveless and like dead Things, all the Winter; as we see in Flies, that, in a hot Air, quickly recover Motion and Sense, after having lost Both, for perhaps many Months. And the like Change may be far more suddenly observ'd in Them, in the warmer Seasons of the Year, when the Air is drawn from Them by the Pneumatick Pump, and af∣terwards permitted to enliven Them again. And to give another Instance, that may possibly please better, (be∣cause, as 'tis purely Physical, so 'tis Page  388 Simple and very Conspicuous,) tho' that which the Sun-beams are wont primarily to produce be but Light and, perhaps, Heat; yet falling in a due Manner upon a rorid Cloud, they form there the Figure of a vast Bow, and, being variously reflected and, refracted, adorn it with the se∣veral Colours, Men admire in the Rain-Bow.

But I must not farther prosecute an Observation, that I mention'd but occasionally, as an Instance whereby to shew, that the advance∣ment of solid Philosophy may be much hinder'd by Mens Custom of assigning, as true causes of Physical Effects, Imaginary Things or per∣haps Arbitrary Names; among which none seems to have had a more malevolent Influence upon Physiology than the Term Nature, none having been so frequently and confidently us'd, or imploy'd to so many differing Purposes. And there∣fore, though I would not totally for∣bid the Use of the word Nature, nor Page  389 of Expressions of Kin to It, in Popular Discourses or even in some Philosophi∣cal Ones, where Accurateness is not requir'd or Ambiguity is prevented by the Context; nor (to dispatch) whereit may be imploy'd as a com∣pendious form of speech, without dan∣ger to Truth, or Prejudice to Sound Philosophy, (in which Cases I my∣self forbear not the Use of It;) yet, I hope, our Free Enquiry may (some∣what at least,) conduce to the more skilful Indagation, and happy Dis∣covery, of Physical Truths, if it can perswade Men to make Use less fre∣quently, and with more Circumspe∣ction, of so ambiguous, and so often abus'd, a Term as Nature; and cease to presume, that a Man has well perform'd the part of a true Physio∣loger, till he have circumstantially or particularly deduc'd the Phaeno∣menon he considers, by Intelligible Ways, from Intelligible Principles. Which he will be constantly put in Mind of doing, or discover that he Page  390 hath not done it; if, by forbearing general and ambiguous Terms and Words, he endeavours to explain Things by Expressions, that are clear to all attentive Readers, fur∣nish'd with an ordinary measure of Understanding and Reason. And this perspicuous Way of Philoso∣phizing should be not a little re∣commended to ingenious Men, by the valuable Discoveries, which Those that have imploy'd it, in their Re∣searches and Explications of diffi∣cult Things, have in this Inquisi∣tive Age happily made, not only about the various Phaenomena, com∣monly referr'd to the Fuga Vacui; but in the Hydrostaticks, Opticks, Ana∣tomy, Botanicks, and divers other Parts of real Learning, that I can∣not now stay to enumerate. And thus much it may possibly be suffi∣cient to have said, about the Service our Doctrine may do Natural Phi∣losophy.

As for Religion, if what I have formerly said in favour of it be Page  391 duly consider'd and apply'd, the past Discourse will not appear un∣friendly, nor perhaps useless, to It. And therefore, if I do here abridge what I have there said, and add to it some Considerations, that were fit to be reserv'd for this Place; I hope the Doctrine, we have propos'd, may appear fit to do it a threefold Ser∣vice.

I. And in the First Place, Our Doctrine may keep Many, that were wont, or are inclin'd, to have an ex∣cessive Veneration for what they call Nature, from running, or being seduc'd, into those Extravagant and Sacrilegious Errors, that have been upon plausible Pretences imbrac'd not only by many of the old Heathen Philosophers but, by divers Modern Professors of Christianity, who have of late reviv'd, under new Names and Dresses, the impious Errors of the Gentiles. This I venture to say, because many of the Heathen Wri∣ters, as hath been shewn in the Fourth Section, ackonwledg'd indeed Page  392 a God (as these also own they do,) but meant such a God, as they often too little discriminated from Matter, and even from the aWorld; and as is very differing from the true One, ador'd by Christians and Jews: For Ours is a God, first, infinitely Perfect; and then secondly, by conse∣quence, both Incor∣poreal and too Excel∣lent to be so united to Matter, as to ani∣mate it like the Hea∣thens Mundane Soul; or to become to a∣ny Body a Soul pro∣perly so call'd; and thirdly, Uncapable of being divided, & ha∣ving either Human Souls or other Beings, Page  393 as it were, torn or carv'd out, or other∣wise separated from him, so as to be truly Parts or Portions of his own Substance.

b Whereas, the Idolaters and Infidels I speak of, conceiv'd, under the Name of God, a Being, about which they dogma∣tically entertained Conceptions, which, tho' diffe∣rent from one ano∣ther, Page  394 are much more so from the Truth.

For first, Most of Them thought Their God to be purely Corporeal,Page  395 as, besides what Diogenes Laertius and Others relate, I remember Ori∣gen doth in several Places affirm. If you will believe cEusebius, the An∣cient Aegyptian The∣ologers not only affirm'd the Sun, Moon and Stars to be Gods, but de∣ny'd Incorporeal Substances, or In∣visible Nature's, to have fram'd the World, but only the Sun, that is discoverable to our Eyes. And this Corporiety of God seems manifestly to be the Opinion of Mr. Hobbs and his genuine Disciples, to divers of whose Principles and Dogmas it is as congruous, as 'tis repugnant to Religion. But secondly, There are O∣thers, that allow'd a Soul of the world, which was a Rational and Provident Being, together with the Corporeal Part of the Universe, especially Hea∣ven, (which, I remember, Aristo∣tle himself styles a dDivine Body, (or, as some render his Expressions, the Body of God:) But Page  396 withal, They held, that this Being did properly Inform this great Mass of the Universe, and so was, indeed, a Mundane Soul. And though some of our late Infidels (formerly poin∣ted at in this Treatise,) pretend to be great Discoverers of new Light in this Affair, yet, as 〈◊〉s I am in∣form'd of their Doctrine, it has much Affinity with, and is little or not at all better than That which I former∣ly noted out of Lactantius to have been asserted by the Stoicks, and the Doctrine which is express'd by Max∣imus (a Pagan) to St. Austin. Equi∣dem Vnicum esse Deum summum at∣que magnificum, quis tam demens, tam mente captus, ut negt esse certissimum? Hujus nos virtutes per Mundanum o∣pus diffusas, multis vocabulis invoca∣mus, quoniam Nomen ejus Cuncti pro∣prium ignoremus. Or by that Fa∣mous and Learned Roman, Varro, who is cited by St. Austin,* to have said, Deum se arbitrari A∣nimam Mundi, & hunc ipsum Mun∣dum Page  397 esse Deum: Sed sicut Hominem Sapientem, cum sit ex Animo & Corpo∣re, tamen ab animo dicimus Sapientem; ita Mundum Deum dici ab Animo, cum sit ex Animo & Corpore.

The Doctrine, by us propos'd, may ('tis hop'd,) much conduce to justifie some Remarkable Procee∣dings of Divine Providence, against those Cavillers, that boldly censure It, upon the account of some Things, that they judge to be Physical Irre∣gularities, (for Moral Ones concern not this Discourse,) such as Mon∣sters, Earth-quakes, Floods, Erup∣tions of Volcanos, Famines, &c. For, according to our Doctrine,—

1. God is a most Free Agent, and Created the World, not out of ne∣cessity, but voluntarily, having fram'd It, as he pleas'd and thought fit, at the beginning of Things, when there was no Substance but Himself, and consequently no Creature, to which He could be oblig'd, or by which he could be limited.

Page  398 2. God having an Understanding infinitely Superior to that of Man, in Extent, Clearness, and other Excel∣lencies, He may rationally be sup∣pos'd to have fram'd so Great and Admirable an Automaton as the World, and the subordinate Engines compriz'd in it for several Ends and Purposes, some of them relating chiefly to His Corporeal, and others to His Rational Creatures; of which Ends, he hath vouchsafed to make Some discoverable by our dim Rea∣son, but Others are probably not to be penetrated by it, but lye conceal'd in the deep Abyss of His Unfathom∣able Wisdom.

3. It seems not Incongruous to conceive, that this most Excellent and Glorious Being thought fit to order Things so, that both His Works and Actions might bear some Signa∣tures, and as it were Badges of His Attributes, and especially to stamp upon His Corporeal Works some Tokens or Impresses, discernable by Human Intellects, of His Divine Page  399Wisdom; an Attribute that may ad∣vantagiously disclose Itself to us Men, by producing a vast Multitude of Things, from as few, and as simple, Principles, and in as Vniform a Way, as, with Congruity to His other At∣tributes, is possible.

4. According to this Supposition, it seems, that it became the Divine Author of the Vniverse to give It such a Structure, and such Powers, and to establish among its Parts such general and constant Laws, as best suited with His purposes in Creating the World; and, to give these Ca∣tholick Laws, and particular Parts or Bodies, such Subordinations to one another, and such References to the Original Fabrick of the Grand System of the World, that, on all particular occasions, the Welfare of inferior or private Portions of It, should be only so far provided for, as their Welfare is consistent with the general Laws setled by God in the Vniverse, and with Such of those Ends, that he pro∣pos'd to himself in framing It, as are Page  400 more Considerable, than the Welfare of those particular Creatures.

Upon these Grounds, if we set aside the Consideration of Miracles, as Things supernatural, and of those Instances, wherein the Providence of the great Rector of the Universe, and Human Affairs, is pleas'd peculiarly to interpose; it may be rationally said, That God having an Infinite Understanding, to which all Things are at once in a manner Present, did, by vertue of it, clearly discern, what would happen, in consequence of the Laws by Him establish'd, in all the possible Combinations of Them, and in all the Junctures of Circumstan∣ces, wherein the Creatures concern'd in Them may be found. And, that having, when all these things were in His Prospect, setled among His Corporeal Works, general and stan∣ding Laws of Motion suited to His most Wise Ends, it seems very con∣gruous to His Wisdom, to prefer (unless in the newly excepted Cases) Catholick Laws, and higher Ends, Page  401 before subordinate Ones, and Unifor∣mity in His Conduct before making changes in It according to every sort of particular Emergencies: And consequently, not to recede from the general Laws He at first most Wisely establish'd, to comply with the Ap∣petites or the Needs of particular Creatures, or to prevent some seem∣ing Irregularities (such as Earth-quakes, Floods, Famins, &c.) in∣commodious to Them, which are no other than such as He fore saw would happen (as the Eclipses of the Sun and Moon from time to time, the falling of Showers upon the Sea and Sandy Desarts, and the like must do, by vertue of the Original Disposition of Things,) and thought fit to ordain, or to permit, as not unsuitable to some or other of those Wise Ends, which He may have in His All-per∣vading View, who either as the Ma∣ker and Upholder of the Universe, or as the Sovereign Rector of His Rati∣onal Creatures, may have Ends, whe∣ther Physical, Moral, or Political; Page  402 (if I may be allowed so to distinguish and name Them,) divers of which, for ought we can tell, or should pre∣sume, are known only to Himself, whence we may argue, that several Phaenomena, which seem to us Ano∣malous, may be very Congruous or Conducive to those secret Ends, and therefore are unfit to be censur'd by us, dim-sighted Mortals.

And indeed, the admirable Wis∣dom and Skill, that, in some conspi∣cuous Instances, the Divine Opificer has display'd in the fitting of Things for such Ends and Uses, for which (among other purposes) He may rationally be suppos'd to have de∣sign'd Them, may justly persuade us, that His Skill would not appear Infe∣feriour in reference to the rest also of His Corporeal Works, if we could as well in These, as in Those, discern their particular final Causes. As if we suppose an excellent Letter about several Subjects, and to different Pur∣poses, whereof some Parts were written in plain Characters, others Page  403 in Cyphers, besides a third sort of Clauses, wherein both Kinds of Wri∣ting were variously mix'd, to be heedfully perus'd by a very intelli∣gent Person, if he finds that those Passages, that he can understand, are excellently suited to the scopes that appear to be intended in them, it is Rational as well as Equitable in Him to conclude, that the Passages or Clauses of the third sort, if any of them seem to be insignificant, or even to make an Incongruous Sense, do it but because of the illegible Words; and that both these Passa∣ges, and Those written altogether in Cyphers, would be found no less worthy of the excel∣lent Writer, than the plainest Parts of the Epistle, if the particular purposes, they were de∣sign'd for, were as clearly discern∣able by the Reader. And perhaps you will allow me to add, that by this way of ordering Things so, that, in some of God's Works, the Ends or Uses may be manifest, and the ex∣quisite Page  404 fitness of the Means may be conspicuous; [as the Eye is mani∣festly made for seeing, and the Parts it consists of admirably fitted to make it an excellent Organ of Visi∣on] and in others, the ends design'd seem to be beyond our reach: By this way, (I say) of managing Things, the most Wise Author of them does both gratifie our Understandings, and make us sensible of the Imperfection of Them.

If the Representation now made of Providence serve (as I hope it may,) to resolve some scruples about it; I know you will not think it use∣less to Religion. And though I should miss of my aim in it, yet since I do not dogmatize in what I pro∣pose about it, but freely submit my thoughts to better Judgments; I hope my well meant Endeavours will be, as well as the unsuccessful ones of abler Pens have been, excus'd by the scarce superable difficulty of the Subject. However, what I have propos'd about Providence, being written, rather to do a service to Page  405 Theology, than as necessary to justi∣fie a dissatisfaction with the Receiv'd Notion of Nature, that was grounded mainly upon Philosophical Objecti∣ons; I hope our Free Enquiry may, though this Second Use of it should be quite laid aside, be thought not unserviceable to Religion, since the First Use of it, (above deliver'd) does not depend on my Notions about Providence, no more than the Third, which my Prolixity about the former makes it fit I should in few words dispatch.

III. The last then, but not the least, service, I hope our Doctrine may do Religion, is, that it may in∣duce Men to pay their Admiration, their Praises, and their Thanks, di∣rectly to God Himself; who is the True and Only Creator of the Sun, Moon, Earth, and those other Crea∣tures that Men are wont to call the Works of Nature. And in this way of expressing their Veneration of the True God, (who, in the Holy Scri∣pture styles Himself a Iealous Page  406 God, Exod. xx. 5.) and their gratitude to Him, they are warranted by the Examples of the ancient People of God, the Israelites, and not only by the Inspir'd Persons of the Old Te∣stament, but by the Promulgators of the New Testament, and even by the Coelestial Spirits; who, in the last Book of It, are introduc'd,* Praising and Thanking God himself for His Mundane Works, without taking any notice of His pretended Vice-gerent, Nature.