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Review Of Four Letters From Sir Isaac Newton
by [?]

REVIEW OF FOUR LETTERS FROM SIR ISAAC NEWTON TO DR BENTLEY

Containing some arguments in proof of a Deity.

It will certainly be required, that notice should be taken of a book, however small, written on such a subject, by such an author. Yet I know not whether these letters will be very satisfactory; for they are answers to inquiries not published; and, therefore, though they contain many positions of great importance, are, in some parts, imperfect and obscure, by their reference to Dr. Bentley’s letters.

Sir Isaac declares, that what he has done is due to nothing but industry and patient thought; and, indeed, long consideration is so necessary in such abstruse inquiries, that it is always dangerous to publish the productions of great men, which are not known to have been designed for the press, and of which it is uncertain, whether much patience and thought have been bestowed upon them. The principal question of these letters gives occasion to observe, how even the mind of Newton gains ground, gradually, upon darkness.

“As to your first query,” says he, “it seems to me, that if the matter of our sun and planets, and all the matter of the universe, were evenly scattered, throughout all the heavens, and every particle had an innate gravity towards all the rest, and the whole space, throughout which this matter was scattered, was but finite, the matter on the outside of this space would, by its gravity, tend towards all the matter on the inside, and, by consequence, fall down into the middle of the whole space, and there compose one great spherical mass. But if the matter was evenly disposed throughout an infinite space, it could never convene into one mass, but some of it would convene into one mass, and some into another, so as to make an infinite number of great masses, scattered, at great distances, from one to another, throughout all that infinite space. And thus might the sun and fixed stars be formed, supposing the matter were of a lucid nature. But how the matter should divide itself into two sorts, and that part of it, which is fit to compose a shining body, should fall down into one mass, and make a sun, and the rest, which is fit to compose an opaque body, should coalesce, not into one great body, like the shining matter, but into many little ones; or, if the sun, at first, were an opaque body, like the planets, or the planets lucid bodies, like the sun, how he alone should be changed into a shining body, whilst all they continue opaque, or all they be changed into opaque ones, whilst he remains unchanged, I do not think more explicable by mere natural causes, but am forced to ascribe it to the counsel and contrivance of a voluntary agent.”

The hypothesis of matter evenly disposed through infinite space, seems to labour with such difficulties, as makes it almost a contradictory supposition, or a supposition destructive of itself.

“Matter evenly disposed through infinite space,” is either created or eternal; if it was created, it infers a creator; if it was eternal, it had been from eternity “evenly spread through infinite space;” or it had been once coalesced in masses, and, afterwards, been diffused. Whatever state was first must have been from eternity, and what had been from eternity could not be changed, but by a cause beginning to act, as it had never acted before, that is, by the voluntary act of some external power. If matter, infinitely and evenly diffused, was a moment without coalition, it could never coalesce at all by its own power. If matter originally tended to coalesce, it could never be evenly diffused through infinite space. Matter being supposed eternal, there never was a time, when it could be diffused before its conglobation, or conglobated before its diffusion.