Abbildungen der Seite

from tradition, or it must be the result of men's own reasoning. Upon either supposition, it is an argument equally strong. If the first supposition be allowed, it will be difficult to assign any source of this tradition, but God himself. If the second, it can scarcely be supposed, that all man. kind, in different parts of the world, should agree in the belief of a thing, which never existed. For though doubts have arisen concerning this general belief, yet it is now pretty well ascertained, from the accounts of travellers, that no nation hath yet been discovered, among whom some traces of religious worship have not been found.

Be it so, says the objector; yet still we find single persons, even in civilized countries, and some of them men of enlarged capacities, who have not only had their doubts on this subject, but have proclaimed aloud their disbelief of a divine Being.

We answer, that it is more than probable, no man's infidelity on this head was ever thoroughly settled. Bad men, rather endeavour to convince themselves, than are really convinced. But even on a supposition, that a few such persons could be found, what is their testimony against so great a majority, as the rest of mankind? The light of the sun is universally acknowledged, though it happens, that, now and then, a man may be born blind.

But since, it seems, there are difficulties in supposing a divine Creator, and preserver of the world, what system of things does the atheist suppose attended with fewer? He sees the world produced before him. He sees it hath been

created; and is preserved. Some account of this matter must be given. If ours displease him, let us have his.

The experiment hath been tried. We have had many atheistical creeds; none of which hath stood the test of being handed down with any degree of credit into future times.

The atheist's great argument indeed against a Deity, is levelled at the apparent injustice of his government. It was an objection of ancient date, and might have had its weight in heathen times; but it is one of the blessings, which attends Christianity, that it satisfies all our doubts on this head; and gives us a rational and easy solution of this poignant objection. What if we observe an inaccurate distribution of the things of this world! What if virtue be depressed, and vice triumphant! It is nothing, says the voice of religion, to him who believes this life to be an inconsiderable part of his being : a point only in the expanse of eternity: who believes he is sent into this world merely to prepare himself for a better. This world, he knows, is intended'neither for reward nor punishment. Happiness unquestionably attends virtue even here, and misery, vice : but it is not the happiness of a splendid station, but of a peaceful mind; nor is it the misery of low circumstances, but of a guilty conscience. The things of this world are not, in their own nature, connected either with happiness or misery. Attended sometimes by one, and sometimes by the other, they are merely the means of trial. One man is tempted with riches, and another with poverty; but God intends neither an elevated, nor a depressed situation, as the ultimate completion of his will.

Besides, if worldly prosperity even was the indication of God's favour, yet good men may have failings and imprudences enough about them to deserve misfortune; and bad men virtues, which 'may deserve success. Why should imprudence,

though joined with virtue, partake of its reward ? Or the generous purpose share in the punishment, though connected with vice?

Thus then we see the being of a God is the universal creed of nature. But though nature could investigate the simple truth, she could not preserve it from errour. Nature merely takes her potions from what she sees, and what she hears, and hath ever moulded her gods in the likeness of things in heaven, and things on earth. Hence every part of the creation, animate and inanimate; hath, by turns, been an object of worship. And even the most refined nations, we know, had gross conceptions on this head. The wisest of them, indeed, by observing the wonders of creation, could clothe the Deity with wisdom and power: but they could go no further. The virtues of their heroes afforded them the highest ideas of perfection: and with these they arrayed their gods : mixing also with their virtues, such vices, as are found in the characters of the best of men.

For just notions of the Deity, we must have recourse then to revelation alone. Revelation removes all these absurdities. It dispels the clouds of ignorance; and unveils the divine majesty, as far as it can be the object of human contemplation. The lax notions of libertinism, on one hand, which make the Deity an inobservant governor; and the gloomy ideas of superstition, on the other, which suppose him to be a dark malignant being, are equally exposed. Here we are informed of the omniscience and omnipresence of God. Here we learn, that his wisdom and power are equalled by his goodness; and that his mercy is over all his works. In short, we learn from revelation, that we are in the hands of a being, whose knowledge we cannot evade, and whose power we cannot resist; who is merciful and good to all his creatures, and will be ever ready to assist and reward those, who endeavour to conform themselves to his will; but whose justice, at the same time, accompanying his mercy, will punish the bold and careless sinner in proportion to his guilt.


OBJECTIONS TO THE BEING OF A GOD REFUTED. I WILL crave your patience whilst I state some arguments of importance, in opposition to the principles of those philosophers, who have been the authors of this mischief (of atheism) in a foreign country, and of their admirers in our own.

Nature and reason, they tell us, are their gods. Let them not impose upon themselves and others by the use of words, the meaning of which they do not understand. What is nature? What is reason? These terms ought to be definert: for there is cause to suspect, that men who intresse, or who adopt, such impiety of expression, are rather ignorant of what atheism is, than that they are, what they affect to be thought, atheists on conviction. By nature then we may understand the order and constitution of things composing the universe; and by reason, that faculty of the human mind by which we are able to discover truth. And can it be thought that this system of things, consisting of an infinity of parts fitted to answer ends which human wisdom can neyer comprehend in their full extent, but which, as far as it can comprehend them, appear to be beneficial to man and all other percipient beings can it be thought that this system had not an intelligent, benevolent, powerful author?

When a man makes a watch, builds a ship, erects a silk-mill, constructs a telescope, we do scruple to say, that the man has a design in what he does. And can we say, that this solar system, a thousand times more regular in all its motions than watches, ships, or silk-mills—that the infinity of other systems dispersed through the immensity of space, inconceivably surpassing, in magnitude and complication of motion, this of which our earth is but a minute part-or even that the eye which now reads what is here written, a thousand times better fitted for its functions than any telescope--can we say, that there was no design in the formation of these things?

Tell us not, that it is allowed there must be intelligence in an artificer who makes a watch or a telescope, but that, as to the artificer of the universe, we cannot comprehend his nature. What then? shall we on that account deny his existence? With better reason might a grub, buried in the bowels of the earth, deny the existence of

« ZurückWeiter »