Imágenes de página

other, were capable, by their own powers, of framing a grand universal scheme of religion, constructed with such consummate wisdom, that all the objections of learned heathens and philosophical deists should only bring to light formerly unnoticed provisos against them,-should ever tend, by gradually unveiling the beauty and consistency of its parts, to increase its stability, and render its evidence irresistible ;—to suppose all this, which is the essence of modern infidelity, must indicate credulity and absurdity in the very extreme.

6th, Prior to our admission of the books, we know no intelligent beings superior to man, or intervening between him and a Deity; to a Deity, therefore, the books ought to be ascribed :—but even supposing such beings to exist, still from the complexion of the books, their author must have been One, Omniscient, Wise, Holy, Good, and the same with the Author of Nature ; and if they must have had such an author, they prove the existence of a God.



[ocr errors]

Besides Miracles and Prophecy, with proper illustrations of the moral perfections to be expected in a Deity, these books disclose a peculiar system of government by special supernatural interference among the Jews; and they shew what hath now succeeded to this,—who now possesses the throne in relation to that government, and in what form the kingdom or REIGN OF HEAVEN is now revealed and expanded.

These disclosures indicate facts, which serve farther to establish the Being of a God, and at the same time throw much light on the general doctrine of Providence so necessarily connected with the existence of a Deity. And as the principles on which a Deity may proceed in the government of free agents, cannot be learned from nature or common observation, we are with great propriety allowed to appeal to the Sacred Books, and to take from them those views of his plan which may assist in solving difficulties, and which alone can give rest to the soul.






It ought to be granted, that if the proper proofs of an All-wise and Omnipotent Being be produced, difficulties and mysteries cannot set them aside.

Should the reasons of this postulate be demanded, the following may be given.—Negative arguments cannot subvert, nor be legitimately held to invalidate positive evidence. Again, mysteries, apparently or even really inexplicable, do not destroy our convictions in other cases. We proceed upon the conviction, notwithstanding the mystery, in the ordinary affairs of life, and may we not add in almost all our philosophical speculations ?- In the present case, mysteries are far from being inadmissible, since a Deity, even supposing the thing possible, could be under no necessity of completely

manifesting himself to his creatures, or rendering every part of his ways intelligible to them ; the relation of the creatures to him may also have been so changed, as to superinduce a considerable degree of darkness on what was originally discovered or discoverable, so changed perhaps as to occasion a certain hebetude of the human intellect, and along with this a certain retiring


of the Deity.—But this is not all ; it is not to be expected, in any circumstances, that the works of a Deity, and especially his methods of procedure in the government of his creatures, should be altogether level to our comprehension any more than his nature and perfections. Human plans and procedure, as they originate from human intelligence, must be within the compass of its scrutiny; their springs, their objects, and their adaptation to these, may all be explored, and so completely, that a sentence sufficiently accurate may be passed upon them. But the ways of a Deity must be distinguished by traces of inscrutable wisdom. Might not divine sovereignty too, envelope them in certain degrees of mystery, even beyond what must necessarily rest upon them, were it but to exercise the rational powers of man, or produce that subordination of spirit which is so suitable in creatures ? Might it not be expedient that this mystery should remain to produce or confirm the impression of a future state,-or shall we say, even to prevent the criminality of passing a rash sentence on the ways of heaven, by suspending the final decision of creatures who are liable to err, till the whole plan be completed? The fact is, were there no difficulty, no mystery, this very circumstance would militate against the proof of a Deity; and the atheist would be perspicacious enough to avail himself of it.--Farther, while there may be some sources of intelligence calculated to remove the difficulties which attach to the present state of things, yet supposing the difficulties not completely removed even by these, this circumstance, so far from invalidating the positive proofs of a Deity already advanced, will not disparage the utility of the very sources of supernatural information referred to, since enough may be disclosed by them for regulating our worship and enabling us to fulfil the ends of our being in relation to a Deity, and sufficient reasons may exist, perhaps even be discoverable, for concealing the rest.

But we shall be still farther advanced in the path to a desirable solution of difficulties, if we place clearly before our minds those occasions of doubt which are founded in mistake, or which can only be considered as arising from prejudice.

Among these occasions of doubt, we reckon,–1st, Limited and insulated views of facts or events. Who can ascertain all the relations of any particular incident ? Much less surely can we pretend to explore the relations which must subsist among all the ways of a God.

a .

Yet the very idea of relations is often lost sight of ; we rest in limited and personal views, we feel the perplexity ever attendant on these, and then exclaim against


the distorted images which owe their existence solely to our own contracted method of judging. It is thus too, we expect that even in the present state the evil works of men should always be punished in the very agents who sin ; or that, if there be a God, the various systems of iniquity which make their appearance, should forth with be suppressed by him, without considering the relation which these things may have' to past or future events in some great scheme worthy of a God, how necessary they may be in the present constitution of the world, or how far they may enter into the methods ordained by an infinite wisdom for ultimately displaying the glory of Deity.—2dly, The supposition that the world must necessarily be in its original State, or such as we might expect it to have been, when it proceeded from the hands of an all-wise and beneficent Creator. To this, which is evidently a mere prejudice, must be traced all doubts founded on the existence of evil, physical or moral, and the presently apparent state of disorder.-3dly, The supposition that this must necessarily be the Ultimate State of things. Hence doubts relative to the continuance of disorder, the delay of full retribution, &c.Athly, The supposition that though it be not the ultimate state of things, yet it must necessarily be under the mere ordinary Moral Government of the Deity, and in such form alone as that in which this species of government might be conceived to adapt itself to a state of disorder.—On the last three heads reason declares that there can be no necessity for the thing supposed, and the Scriptures assure us that the fact is otherwise, — that the world is not in its original state,—that this is not the last constitution of things, we must “ look for a new heavens and earth,”—and that there is a peculiar administration superinduced on the ordinary or absolute government of Deity, and committed to the Messiah or Mediator, for the purpose of developing the reign of heaven, and bringing forward the last and best constitution. Reason, by recognising the positive proofs of a Deity, must admit that the actual state of things accredits the testimony of Scripture on all these points.

We only add, that since no difficulty or mystery can subvert our positive evidence in favour of the Being of a God, and since therefore on that ground we must still admit “ that He is;" in order to be consistent, we ought also to be persuaded a priori, and thus so as not to be affected by our success in solving difficulties or explaining mysteries, “ that He is doing all things well,” or acting in a manner worthy of himself.


This is a conclusion in which both Reason and Scripture concur. By faith in the latter, without the testimony of sense, and even in opposition to appearances in the present disposal of things, we attain the assured conviction, “ that God is, and that he is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Heb. xi. 6.

« AnteriorContinuar »