« AnteriorContinuar »
THE EVIDENCES THAT THERE IS A BEING ALL-POWERFUL,
WISE, AND GOOD, BY WHOM EVERY THING EXISTS ; PARTICULARLY TO OBVIATE DIFFICULTIES REGARDING THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF THE DEITY, AND THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE FROM CONSIDERATIONS INDEPENDENT OF WRITTEN REVELATION, AND IN THE SECOND PLACE FROM THE REVELATION OF THE LORD JESUS; AND FROM THE WHOLE TO POINT OUT THE INFERENCES MOST NECESSARY FOR, AND USEFUL TO MANKIND.
IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT.
NOTWITHSTANDING the consequences which may justly be dreaded by sinful and incorrigible beings, it is certainly of all things most desirable that there should be a God. Social order, and civil government, with all the sublime contemplations of Religion, its dignifying effect, and powerful consolations, clearly depend on the grand principle, that there is a Being who made and who governs the universe. Such a Being must be infinitely worthy of the adoration of his rational creatures, he must have a claim on their implicit obedience, and to him they must all be accountable. Here lie the foundations of human happiness, and particularly of that moral excellence, which even in this life, approximates the rational creature to its highest attainable perfection; here too are the securities, and the only effective securities, of every constitution calculated to promote the present or the future felicities of man.
So intimately is our future existence, that prospect which nature trembles to forego, connected with the grand truth of the being of a God, that the former fades from our view in pro
portion to the degree of our scepticism with regard to the latter. No genuine atheist can detach from his system the dismal doctrine of annihilation ; nor has he any data on which to establish a connexion between the present and a future state, were he even in spite of his system to assert the futurity and eternity of his being
The abstract idea of a supreme physical perfection, or of a supreme morality, independent of any adequate subject in whom it might reside, or a sufficiently powerful agent to enforce it, cannot supply the place of a Deity. Set aside the idea of a God in its proper conception, and what a blank is produced in the universe ! No all-pervading presence, no regulating providence,-no supremely intelligent and active Being to whom we might refer all our conceptions of excellence,-no ultimate Judge to whom we might appeal for the redress of wrongs often irreparable on earth, or whose interference we might expect to “ bear up the pillars of the world,” and cause "judgment return to righteousness," -no common Parent whom we might venerate, to whom we might render that homage of gratitude which it is so painful to suppress, or on whom we might depend amidst the ever-varying circumstances of a lot evidently regulated by none of the laws of nature ;-no one to whom under the impulse of feelings still more interesting we might look up as the Author of salvation. How bewildered would we be ! incapable of determining whence we came, or whither we are going ; surrounded with mystery,every incident, and every object, only calculated to perplex the unceasing activities of the rational powers, which yet seem to be formed for understanding and turning to account the operations of nature, and even for penetrating beyond these into subjects of a still higher order ; We would be left without motive or hope befitting the place which we hold in the scale of being, and under a feeling of desolation, and desertion, which no language can describe.
On account of its importance, and the deepi nterest it must ever excite, the existence of a Deity has been the theme of the sentimentalist, the philosopher, and the divine. Works of taste have been given to the world, in which a fascinating eloquence has traced and described the indications of wisdom, power, and goodness in the various departments of nature, Besides these, we have demonstrations in a variety of forms by
masters whose talents and force of reasoning seem to bid defiance to every attempt to surpass them. It may well be supposed that every department of evidence has, at one time or another, been explored, and that therefore no new arguments are now to be expected. Why indeed, unless we are dissatisfied with those which have long commended themselves to the reason and common sense of mankind, should we anxiously search for new arguments, on a subject already so ably and so amply discussed ? Less, perhaps, than might be desirable, has been done for solving the difficulties connected with the doctrine of Providence ; but every thing has been done, that can reasonably be required, for proving the existence of a Deity, and this point once established, both philosophers and divines have justly concluded, that an argument arises a priori, for the wisdom and equity with which the universe must be governed. But if there be a God, it is also probable, he may have given to that world the government of which is most perplexed, some rerelation of his plan, for the purpose of explaining his ways as far as present vindication may require, and inducing a patient submission to what is still mysterious, in the hope of its final development. Should books professing to contain this revelation exist, it must be our interest to ascertain their credibility, that we may profit by their lights. And doubtless under the confessed deficiency of all human reasonings, often impelling to take refuge in mere conjecture, the disclosure of a plan, worthy of God, justified by facts, and calculated either to solve difticulties, or indicate the reasons of their present existence, will be at once a satisfactory evidence of the credibility of the books, and our last resource on the general question of a Providence.
With regard to the being of a God, the demonstration does not depend, even a posteriori, on a long induction of particulars, or the combined force of a multitude of separate arguments; a single proof of intelligence in the structure of the universe, or any of the works of nature, may justly be regarded as decisive. Since, however, the grand truth of the existence of a Deity, is the basis not only of a civil order, but of all religion, and since this truth must be presupposed in our reasonings on Providence, it may be pleasing as well as highly confirmatory, to survey in detail the chief heads of argument, to arrange the sources of evidence, and shew how abundant and how varied they are.
Part I.—Comprises this exhibition of evidence. Different methods have been followed, by auth' rs who take a general
view of the subject. The most common is, to divide the argements into three classes,—the Historical, the Metaphysical, and the Physical,—the two last comprehending the reasonings a priori and a posteriori. Much, perhaps, might be abstracted from these classes, and with greater propriety arranged under a previous head, -presumptions in favour of the being of a God; for it seems undeniable, that a laudable anxiety to sustain this great first principle, has assigned to certain reasonings on the question, a place far too important for sceptical serutiny. These reasonings, however, are not unworthy of regard, and a less commanding title than that of positive evidence, might secure for them a due measure of candid attention from the sceptic. Our first, or preparatory Section, is constructed
. upon this idea, without, however, professing a decisive opinion on the merits of its contents, since the structure of the human mind is so different in different individuals, that what may be deemed only presumptive evidence by some, may be held to be positive, and sufficiently conclusive, by others.— Follows the method, by which any person designing to investigate the subject, may attain full satisfaction, in Section second on the existence of a first cause, Section third the proofs of an intelligent first cause, and Section fourth the phenomena which, on the supposition of such a cause, must be considered as the proper results of wisdom, power, and goodness. A fifth Section is added on the place which the very existence of books, claiming the high character of a divine revelation, may hold in the argument
Part II.—Is devoted to the solution of difficulties, whether such as are adduced by the sceptic, or such as may occasionally prove stumbling even to the saint. Here in sections first and second, a survey is taken of the present constitution of things, with the view of solving, on the plan marked out in the question, difficulties founded on the idea of imperfection, or that of disorder. In section third an attempt is made to delineate the plan of divine administration disclosed in the sacred oracles, as the ultimate fons solutionum.
The Conclusion must embrace in terms of the question “ the inferences most necessary for and useful to mankind.”
By Atheist in the course of this Essay, the writer would be understood merely to personify the propensity to doubt or oppose, and the various forms in which it may operate, without alluding to the existence of real atheists, much less deci affirmatively the question about the possibility of absolute atheism in any of the human race.
« THE EVIDENCES THAT THERE IS A BEING ALL
POWERFUL, WISE, AND GOOD, BY WHOM EVERY
I.-Were not the prior conception of Divinity, or of what should constitute a Deity, possible, neither the atheist could deny, nor the theist demonstrate the existence of a God.
II.-By the term God, is meant, a Being possessed of all possible excellences, spiritual in his nature, infinite, all-sufficient, and supreme.
The possession of all possible excellence, is the first conception. It is formed by an effort of abstraction, removing all known or conceivable imperfections, and attaching all known or supposable excellences, physical and moral. The idea cannot, of course, be that of a mere power, but of an intelligent agent, whatever be the mode of his existence.-Spirituality is essential, since matter is plainly less perfect than spirit, and has never in any stage of refinement, not even when analyzed and exhibited in its purest and simplest forms, approached one whit nearer to intelligence, or the susceptibility of moral qualities, than in its grossest state.
As a spirit, or spirit in the highest and most proper sense of the term, the Deity must be invisible and intangible, not extended, capable of acting upon matter, but without being necessarily connected with it. Then, whatever the Deity is either in nature or perfection, in that, to be discriminated from every other being, he