The Faith of Isaac Newton

As well as discovering the Law of Gravity, the author of the Principia Mathematica and one of the great founders of Enlightenment science was a man of profound religious faith. A Unitarian with a profound belief in God’s miracles, Newton wrote:

‘We are, therefore, to acknowledge one God, iinfinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, the creator of all things, most wise, most just, most good, most holy. We must love him, fear him, honour him, trust in him, pray to him, give him thanks, praise him, hallow his name, obey his commandments, and set times apart for his service, as we are directed in the third and fourth Commandments, for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous. 2 John, v. 3. And these things we must do not to any mediators between him and us, but to him and alone, that he may give his angels charge over us, who, being our fellow-servants, are pleased with the worship we4 give to their God. And this is the first and the principal par of religion. This always was, and always will be the religion of God’s people, from the beginning to the end of the world.’

He believed very strongly that God’s works – His creation – pointed to the Almighty’s existence, and believed that science could correctly demonstrate the Lord’s existence. In his Opticks he wrote:

‘The main business of natural philosophy is to argue from phenomena without feighning hypotheses, and to deduce causes from effects, till we come ot the very first cause, which certainly i snot mechanical; and not only to unfold the mechanism of the world, but chiefl to resolve these and such like questions… And these things being rightly dispatched, does it not appear from phenomena that there is a being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who, in infinite space, as it were in his sensory, sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them; and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself?’

Source:

E.A Burtt, The Mataphysics of Newton, in C.A. Russell, (ed.), Science and Religious Belief: A Selection of Recent Historical Studies (London: University of London Press 1973) 131-146.

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