The following Essay comes from the ingenious Author of the Letter upon Novelty, printed in a late Spectator: The Notions are drawn from the Platonick way of Thinking, but as they contribute to raise the Mind, and may inspire noble Sentiments of our own future Grandeur and Happiness, I think it well deserves to be presented to the Publick.
If the Universe be the Creature of an intelligent Mind, this Mind could have no immediate Regard to himself in producing it. He needed not to make Tryal of his Omnipotence, to be informed what Effects were within its Reach: The World as existing in his eternal Idea was then as beautiful as now it is drawn forth into Being; and in the immense Abyss of his Essence are contained far brighter Scenes than will be ever set forth to View; it being impossible that the great Author of Nature should bound his own Power by giving Existence to a System of Creatures so perfect that he cannot improve upon it by any other Exertions of his Almighty Will. Between Finite and Infinite there is an unmeasured Interval, not to be filled up in endless Ages; for which Reason, the most excellent of all God's Works must be equally short of what his Power is able to produce as the most imperfect, and may be exceeded with the same Ease.
This Thought hath made some imagine, (what, it must be confest, is not impossible) that the unfathomed Space is ever teeming with new Births, the younger still inheriting a greater Perfection than the elder. But as this doth not fall within my present View, I shall content my self with taking Notice, that the Consideration now mentioned proves undeniably, that the Ideal Worlds in the Divine Understanding yield a Prospect incomparably more ample, various and delightful than any Created World can do: And that therefore as it is not to be supposed that God should make a World merely of inanimate Matter, however diversified; or inhabited only by Creatures of no higher an Order than Brutes; so the End for which he designed his reasonable Offspring is the Contemplation of his Works, the Enjoyment of himself, and in both to be happy, having, to this Purpose, endowed them with correspondent Faculties and Desires. He can have no greater Pleasure from a bare Review of his Works, than from the Survey of his own Ideas, but we may be assured that he is well pleased in the Satisfaction derived to Beings capable of it, and, for whose Entertainment, he hath erected this immense Theatre. Is not this more than an Intimation of our Immortality? Man, who when considered as on his Probation for a happy Existence hereafter is the most remarkable Instance of Divine Wisdom; if we cut him off from all Relation to Eternity, is the most wonderful and unaccountable Composition in the whole Creation. He hath Capacities to lodge a much greater Variety of Knowledge than he will be ever Master of, and an unsatisfied Curiosity to tread the secret Paths of Nature and Providence: But, with this, his Organs, in their present Structure, are rather fitted to serve the Necessities of a vile Body, than to minister to his Understanding; and from the little Spot to which he is chained, he can frame but wandering Guesses concerning the innumerable Worlds of Light that encompass him, which, tho' in themselves of a prodigious Bigness, do but just glimmer in the remote Spaces of the Heavens; and, when with a great deal of Time and Pains he hath laboured a little way up the steep Ascent of Truth, and beholds with Pity the groveling Multitude beneath, in a Moment, his Foot slides, and he tumbles down headlong into the Grave.
Thinking on this, I am obliged to believe, in Justice to the Creator of the World, that there is another State when Man shall be better situated for Contemplation, or rather have it in his Power to remove from Object to Object, and from World to World; and be accommodated with Senses, and other Helps, for making the quickest and most amazing Discoveries. How doth such a Genius as Sir Isaac Newton, from amidst the Darkness that involves human Understanding, break forth, and appear like one of another Species! The vast Machine, we inhabit, lyes open to him, he seems not unacquainted with the general Laws that govern it; and while with the Transport of a Philosopher he beholds and admires the glorious Work, he is capable of paying at once a more devout and more rational Homage to his Maker. But alas! how narrow is the Prospect even of such a Mind? and how obscure to the Compass that is taken in by the Ken of an Angel; or of a Soul but newly escaped from its Imprisonment in the Body! For my Part, I freely indulge my Soul in the Confidence of its future Grandeur; it pleases me to think that I who know so small a portion of the Works of the Creator, and with slow and painful Steps creep up and down on the Surface of this Globe, shall e'er long shoot away with the Swiftness of Imagination, trace out the hidden Springs of Nature's Operations, be able to keep pace with the heavenly Bodies in the Rapidity of their Career, be a Spectator of the long Chain of Events in the natural and Moral Worlds, visit the several Apartments of the Creation, know how they are furnished and how inhabited, comprehend the Order, and measure the Magnitudes, and Distances of those Orbs, which to us seem disposed without any regular Design, and set all in the same Circle; observe the Dependance of the Parts of each System, and (if our Minds are big enough to grasp the Theory) of the several Systems upon one another, from whence results the Harmony of the Universe. In Eternity a great deal may be done of this kind. I find it of use to cherish this generous Ambition: for besides the secret Refreshment it diffuses through my Soul, it engages me in an Endeavour to improve my Faculties, as well as to exercise them conformably to the Rank I now hold among reasonable Beings, and the Hope I have of being once advanced to a more exalted Station.
The other, and that the Ultimate End of Man, is the Enjoyment of God, beyond which he cannot form a Wish. Dim at best are the Conceptions we have of the Supreme Being, who, as it were, keeps his Creatures in Suspence, neither discovering, nor hiding himself; by which Means, the Libertine hath a Handle to dispute his Existence, while the most are content to speak him fair, but in their Hearts prefer every trifling Satisfaction to the Favour of their Maker, and ridicule the good Man for the Singularity of his Choice. Will there not a Time come, when the Free-thinker shall see his impious Schemes overturned, and be made a Convert to the Truths he hates; when deluded Mortals shall be convinced of the Folly of their Pursuits, and the few Wise who followed the Guidance of Heaven, and, scorning the Blandishments of Sense and the sordid Bribery of the World, aspired to a celestial Abode, shall stand possessed of their utmost Wish in the Vision of the Creator? Here the Mind heaves a Thought now and then towards him, and hath some transient Glances of his Presence: When, in the Instant it thinks it self to have the fastest hold, the Object eludes its Expectations, and it falls back tired and baffled to the Ground. Doubtless there is some more perfect way of conversing with heavenly Beings. Are not Spirits capable of Mutual Intelligence, unless immersed in Bodies, or by their Intervention? Must superior Natures depend on inferior for the main Privilege of sociable Beings, that of conversing with, and knowing each other? What would they have done, had Matter never been created? I suppose, not have lived in eternal Solitude. As incorporeal Substances are of a nobler Order, so be sure, their manner of Intercourse is answerably more expedite and intimate. This method of Communication, we call Intellectual Vision, as somewhat Analogous to the Sense of Seeing, which is the Medium of our Acquaintance with this visible World. And in some such way can God make himself the Object of immediate Intuition to the Blessed; and as he can, 'tis not improbable that he will, always condescending, in the Circumstances of doing it, to the Weakness and Proportion of finite Minds. His Works but faintly reflect the Image of his Perfections, 'tis a Second-hand Knowledge: To have a just Idea of him, it may be necessary that we see him as he is. But what is that? 'Tis something, that never entered into the Heart of Man to conceive; yet what we can easily conceive, will be a Fountain of Unspeakable, of Everlasting Rapture. All created Glories will fade and die away in his Presence. Perhaps it will be my Happiness to compare the World with the fair Exemplar of it in the Divine Mind; perhaps, to view the original Plan of those wise Designs that have been executing in a long Succession of Ages. Thus employed in finding out his Works, and contemplating their Author! how shall I fall prostrate and adoring, my Body swallowed up in the Immensity of Matter, my Mind in the Infinitude of his Perfections.Translation of motto: