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hundred years before there were really either days, nights, or years marked out by any revolutions of the sun; yet we reckon as right, and thereby measure durations as well as if really at that time the sun had existed, and kept the same ordinary motion it doth now. The idea of duration equal to an annual revolution of the sun, is as easily applicable in our thoughts to duration, where no sun or motion was, as the idea of a foot or yard, taken from bodies here, can be applied in our thoughts to distances beyond the confines of the world, where are no bodies at all.
For supposing it were five thousand six hundred and thirty-nine miles, or millions of miles, from this place to the remotest body of the universe (for being finite, it must be at a certain distance) as we suppose it to be five thousand six hundred and thirty-nine years from this time to the first existence of any body in the beginning of the world; we can, in our thoughts, apply this measure of a year to duration before the creation, or beyond the duration of bodies or motion, as we can this measure of a mile to space beyond the utmost bodies; and by the one measure duration where there was no motion, as well as by. the other measure space in our thoughts, where there is no body.
If it be objected to me here, that in this way of explaining of time, I have begged what I should not, viz. that the world is neither eternal nor infinite; I answer that to my present purpose it is not needful, in this place, to make use of arguments, to evince the world to be finite, both in duration and extension; but it being at least as conceivable as the contrary, I have certainly the liberty to suppose it, as well as any one hath to suppose the contrary and I doubt not but that every one that will go about it, may easily conceive in his mind the beginning of motion, though not of all duration, and so may come to a stop and non ultra in his consideration of motion.— So also in his thoughts he may set limits to body, and the extension belonging to it, but not to space where no body is; the utmost bounds of space and duration being beyond the reach of thought, as well as the utmost bounds of number are beyond the largest comprehension of the mind; and all for the same reason, as we shall see in another place.
§. 27. Eternity.
By the same means thereof, and from the same original that we come to have the idea of time, we have also that idea which we call eternity: viz. having got the idea of succession and duration, by reflecting on the train of on own ideas, caused in us either by the natural appearances of those ideas coming constantly of themselves into our waking thoughts, or else caused by external objects successively affecting our senses; and having from the revolutions of the sun got the ideas of certain lengths in duration, we can, in our thoughts, add such lengths of duration to one another, as often as we please, and apply them, so added, to durations past or to come: and this we can continue to do on, without bounds or limits, and proceed in infinitum, and apply thus the length of the annual motion of the sun to duration, supposed before the sun's or any other motion had its being; which is no more difficult or absurd, than to apply the notion I have of the moving of a shadow one hour to-day upon the sun-dial to the duration of something last night, v. g. the burning of a candle, which is now absolutely separate from all actual motion: and it is as impossible for the duration of that flame for an hour last night to co-exist with any motion that now is or for ever shall be, as for any part of duration, that was before the beginning of the world, to co-exist with the motion of the sun now. But yet this hinders not, but that haaving the idea of the length of the motion of the shadow on a dial between the marks of two hours, I can as distinctly measure in my thoughts the duration of that candlelight last night, as I can the duration of any thing that does now exist: And it is no more than to think, that had the sun shone then on the dial, and moved after the same rate it doth now, the shadow on the dial would have passed from one hour-line to another, whilst that flame of the candle lasted.
The notion of an hour, day, or year, being only the idea I have of the length of certain periodical regular motions, neither of which motions do ever all at once exist, but only in the ideas I have of them in my memory derived from my senses or reflection; I can with the same ease, and for the same reason, apply it in my thoughts to duration antecedent to all manner of motion, as well as to any thing that is but a min ute, or a day, antecedent to the motion
that at this very moment the sun is in. All things past are equally and perfectly at rest; and to this way of consideration of them are all one, whether they were before the beginning of the world, or but yesterday: the measuring of any duration by some motion depending not at all on the real co-existence of that thing to that motion, or any other periods of revolution, but the having a clear idea of the length of some periodical known motion, or other intervals of duration in my mind, and applying that to the duration of the thing I would measure.
Hence we see, that some men imagine the duration of the world, from its first existence to this present year 1689, to have been five thousand six hundred and thirty-nine years, or equal to five thousand six hundred and thirtynine annual revolutions of the sun, and others a great deal more; as the Egyptians of old, who in the time of Alexander counted twenty-three thousand years from the reign of the sun; and the Chinese now, who account the world three millions, two hundred and sixty-nine thousand years old, or more: which longer duration of the world, according to their computation, though I should not believe to be true, yet I can equally imagine it with them, and as truly understand, and say one is longer than the other, as I understand, that Methusalem's life was longer than Enoch's. And if the cominon reckoning of five thousand six hundred and thirty-nine should be true (as it may be as well as any other assigned) it hinders not at all my imagining what others mean when they make the world one thousand years older, since every one may with the same facility imagine (I do not say believe) the world to be fifty thou sand years old, as five thousand six hundred and thirtynine and may as well conceive the duration of fifty thousand years, as five thousand six hundred and thirty-nine. Whereby it appears, that to the measuring the duration of any thing by time, it is not requisite that that thing should be co-existent to the motion we measure by, or any other periodical revolution; but it suffices to this purpose, that we have the idea of the length of any regular periodical appearances, which we can in our ininds apply to duration, with which the motion or appearance never co-existed.
For as in the history of the creation, delivered by Moses, I can imagine that light existed three days before the
sun was, or had any motion, barely by thinking, that the duration of light, before the sun was created, was so long as (if the sun had moved then, as it doth now) would have been equal to three of his diurnal revolutions; so by the same way I can have an idea of the chaos, or angels being created, before there was either light, or any continued motion, a minute, an hour, a day, a year, or one thousand years. For if I can but consider duration equal to one minute, before either the being or motion of any body, I can add one minute more till I come to sixty: and by the same way of adding minutes, hours, or years (i. e. such or such parts of the sun's revolutions, or any other period, whereof I have the idea) proceed in infinitum, and suppose a duration exceeding as many such periods as I can reckon, let me add whilst I will: which I think is the notion we have of eternity, of whose infinity we have no other notion, than we have of the infinity of number, to which we can add for ever without end.
And thus I think it is plain, that from those two fountains of all knowledge before-mentioned, viz. reflection and sensation, we get ideas of duration, and the measures of it.
For, first, by observing what passes in our minds, how our ideas there in train constantly some vanish, and others begin to appear, we come by the idea of succession.
Secondly, by observing a distance in the parts of this succession, we get the idea of duration.
Thirdly, by sensation observing certain appearances, at certain regular and seeming equidistant periods, we get the ideas of certain lengths or ineasures of duration, as minutes, hours, days, years, &c.
Fourthly, by being able to repeat those measures of time, or ideas of stated length of duration in our minds, as often as we will, we can come to imagine duration, where nothing does really endure or exist; and thus we imagine to-morrow, next year, or seven years hence.
Fifthly, by being able to repeat ideas of any length of time, as of a minute, a year, or an age, as often as we will in our own thoughts, and adding them one to another, without ever coming to the end of such addition any nearer than we can to the end of number, to which we can always add; we come by the idea of eternity, as the future eternal duration of our souls, as well as the eternity of that infinite Being, which must necessarily have always existed.
Sixthly, by considering any part of infinite duration, as set out by periodical measures, we come by the idea of what we call time in general.
OF DURATION AND EXPANSION, CONSIDERED TOGETHER. §. 1. Both capable of greater and less.
THOUGH we have in the precedent chapters dwelt pretty long on the considerations of space and duration; yet they being ideas of general concernment, that have something very abstruse and peculiar in their nature, the comparing them one with another may perhaps be of use for their illustration; and we may have the more clear and distinct conception of them, by taking a view of them together. Distance or space, in its simple abstract conception, to avoid confusion, I call expansion, to distinguish it from extension, which by some is used to express this distance only as it is in the solid parts of matter, and so includes, or at least intimates the idea of body; whereas the idea of pure distance includes no such thing. I prefer also the word expansion to space, because space is often applied to distance of fleeting successive parts, which never exist together, as well as to those which are permanent. In both these (viz. expansion and duration) the mind has this common idea of continued lengths, capable of greater or less quantities: for a man has as clear an idea of the difference of the length of an hour and a day, as of an inch and a foot.
§. 2. Expansion not bounded by matter..
The mind, having got the idea of the length of any part of expansion, let it be a span, or a space, or what length you will, can, as has been said, repeat that idea, and so, adding it to the former, enlarge its idea of length, and make it equal to two spans, or two paces, and so as often as it will, till it equals the distance of any parts of the earth one from another, and increase thus, till it amounts to the distance of the sun, or remotest star. By such a progression as this, setting out from the place where it is, or any other place, it can proceed and pass beyond all those lengths, and find nothing to stop its going on, either in, or without body. It is true, we can easily in our