« AnteriorContinuar »
abounds,-pondering not only the necessity of forecast in order to the construction and permanent ordination of such a mighty fabric, but the evidence of it, the impressions of plan which everywhere appear,—let her acknowledge the finger of a God, the workmanship of a Deity,--and bow before him who seeth the end from the beginning, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working,—~ For of him, and to him, and through him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen."
EVIDENCES OF POWER, WISDOM, AND GOODNESE.
It would not be difficult to shew by reasoning a priori, that as a self-existent being must be intelligent and free, so he must of necessity possess infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, comprehending under the attribute of goodness, benignity, as well as supreme moral excellence. *
Following, however, the method adopted, we shall suppose the sceptic to demand the evidence of facts, and from this region shall select so much as may be deemed sufficient, in connexion with all that has already been adduced, for establishing the existence of those attributes which necessarily belong to the idea of a God ; and that with a view to our subsequent scrutiny of objections drawn from the same region against every form of demonstrating this primary and most important truth.
Since minds, even the most candid and most willing to be satisfied, may be liable to occasional doubts, we are deeply interested in giving every fair advantage to the sceptic, either as a real opponent, or a figurative character, in whom the propensity to doubt is personified. Let us suppose him then to insist, “ That besides the bare proof of contrivance, specific proofs of power, wisdom, and goodness are requisite, since contrivance demonstrative of an intelligent agent may appear
where such proofs are wanting, contrivance discovering itself simply in adapting means to an end, which may be done, while the
For the prosecution of line of argument, see Dr. CLARKE's Demonstration of the Bcing and Attributes of God.
means chosen are not the best, while, of all possible means, the fittest are not in the power of the agent, while even those which he is compelled to adopt are so partially in his power that he cannot use them to the best advantage, and while the obvious end is not the most worthy or beneficial.”
Perhaps in thus taking his ground with a view to future objections, the sceptic might farther attempt to fortify himself by insinuating, " That as the direct affirmation of power, wisdom, and goodness necessarily implies an intelligent agent, to ascribe the existing phenomena of nature at once to a distinct independent power, or to assert that they indicate wisdom and goodness, must be deemed preposterous and next to a begging the question.” This suggestion, we must be allowed to say, is a mere speculative refinement, which can have no other object than to denounce as absurd all demonstration of a Deity a posteriori, and which therefore can never be approved by sound reason while the evidence of facts in any other case is deemed conclusive. Nor can the sceptic expect that the proofs already adduced of an Intelligent First Cause, to whom such attributes as power, wisdom, and goodness may be ascribed,-proofs therefore preparatory in the due order of argument to the consistent demonstration of such attributes,-should now be totally surrendered. This were an indulgence, which, disposed as we are to self-love, we ought resolutely to deny even to our own minds.
Nevertheless, to remove every appearance of begging the question, let us reserve for our last proposition on this section the amount of our previous reasoning, and proceed thus: The most determined atheist cannot, without forfeiting all claim to candour, refuse to survey the various departments of nature, and give his decision whether in these there be not facts and appearances corresponding to the known results of power, wisdom, and goodness, and which consequently must be considered as indicating these attributes, supposing an agent to exist in whom they might reside ;—that there are such facts or phenomena, shall be our first proposition ; the second, that they are sufficient to prove the Agent divine, or such a Being as must be God, according to the idea which right reason forms of a Deity; and the last, that the Intelligent Agent already demonstrated, is the Being in whom these attributes may reside, and to whom all the evidences of them must be traced. Since, however, the object of this section will be best attained by the removal of objections and solution of difficulties, which belongs to another department of the essay, it shall be enough to have sketched out what we deem the most unexceptionable plan of demonstration, with such hints as may show the possibility of filling it up to a vast extent.
I. THE UNIVERSE SO FAR AS KNOWN PRESENTS PHENOMENA SUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH A PROOF OF POWER, WISDOM AND GOODNESS,—supposing an agent to exist in whom these attributes might reside.
It will be granted that only a part of the universe is known. But since the sceptic has no means of proving that what is unknown is greatly, or at all, dissimilar to what is known,since the progress of discovery has not detected any dissimilitude between what is within the sphere of unassisted observation, and what can be ascertained only by instruments or mental calculation,-since what is but beginning as yet to show itself to philosophic inquiry, cannot be pronounced anomalous in regard to what has been fully investigated, since, on the contrary, all our researches only disclose homogeneous facts in the operation of the same general laws,-it appears reasonable that we judge of the whole by what falls within the compass of discoveries already made, and that any argument founded on the state of the universe, so far as known, be held satisfactory. It was not indeed to be expected, that such a being as man should be able to descry the utmost limits of the universe ; much less, that every human being should be able to grasp the whole in his mind, to understand fully its structure, and the relations of its several parts. If, therefore, this had been requisite to the acknowledgment of a Deity, man though fitted both physically and morally for adoration, obedience, and responsibility, must have been exempted from all these by his very circumstances, as truly as the inferior animals who want the fitness ; and the Deity, even supposing him to exist, must have lost his design in the peculiar adaptation of the rational creature. To hold that the creature must be deified in point of knowledge or capacity, in order to glorify the Creator by the confession and obedience incumbent on a creature, would be plainly absurd. But this is the absurdity on which the atheist would at bottom proceed, should he object our necessary limitation by structure, capacity, and place, against the possibility of ascertaining the being and attributes of a Deity; for although it should be urged that the creature might have been formed with capacities for comprehending the whole universe, and placed in a situation the most advantageous for this purpose, yet (not to mention that this, if requisite; would have rendered it impossible for the Deity himself to
diversify the powers and kinds of his rational creatures) the idea of finitude essential to the creature must still recur, as the disqualifying property emancipating the subject from all moral obligation. It remains, therefore, that we rest in the indications afforded by such parts of the universe as are within the reach of our knowledge. And since common observation must be held sufficient for discerning those indications of wisdom, power, and goodness, with which the idea of moral obligation, inseparable from the least intelligent of rational beings, stands closely connected, if we at any time pass beyond the sphere of common observation by appealing to the discoveries of science, it is not because these are deemed essential to the purpose view, but merely to show that nothing is detected by them incompatible with the argument founded on common observation,- that, on the contrary, difficulties are solved, the indications multiplied, and the force of the argument greatly increased.
After these remarks, which ought to be kept in mind not only on this part of the subject, but in all our reasoning from facts, and which admit an application to the moral as well as the natural world, we proceed, on the plan formerly announced, to confirm our first proposition.
In the system of the universe, facts corresponding to the known results of ACTIVE POWER as distinguished from gravitation, from the forces of matter originally inert, and from the mere capacity of exertion, are everywhere so apparent, and have already been so fully demonstrated in the projected and rotatory motions of the planets, the modifications of matter, the diversity of arbitrary conformations, the mechanical structure of animated bodies, and other particulars,—that to dwell farther upon them at present would only be to fatigue the attention of the reader. * The arrangements of a Deity in pur
. pose or plan, may be inscrutable; but those arrangements which we have been contemplating in the preceding section, as proofs of design and contrivance, appear in the existing system of nature,—which in relation to a First Cause comes under the idea of work done, or effects produced. And if the magnitude of a work impress the idea of power, how vast are many of the celestial orbs, even taking our globe for the standard ! how overwhelming to human conception the expansion of the universe of systems in every direction! But in the works of art, minuteness combined with elegance, is as truly as magnitude, though in a different way, demonstrative of power. And are not insects, with all the untold species of animalculæ, ex