« AnteriorContinuar »
a man, whose nature it cannot comprehend; for a grub is indefinitely nearer to man in all intellectual endowments (if the expression can be permitted) than man is to his maker. With better reason may we deny the existence of an intellectual faculty in the man who makes the machine : we know not the nature of the man; we see not the mind which contrives the figure, size, and adaptation of the several parts; we simply see the hand, which forms and puts them together.
Shall a shipwrecked mathematician, on observing a geometrical figure, accurately described on the sand of the sea-shore, encourage his followers with saying, “Let us hope for the best, for I see the traces of man; and shall not man, in contemplating the structure of the universe, or of any part of it, say to the whole human race, 'Brethren! be of good comfort, we are not begotten of chance, we are not born of atoms, our progenitors have not come into existence by crawling out of the mud of the Nile; behold the footsteps of a being, powerful, wise, and good—not nature, but the God of nature, the father of the universe.'
I will not entangle the understanding of my audience, or bewilder my own, in the labyrinth of metaphysical researches; but I must say to these, the great philosophers of the age-you ought to know, that matter cannot have been from eternity; and that if, with Plato, you contend for the eternity of matter, you ought to know, that motion cannot have been from eternity; and that if, with Aristotle, you contend for the eternity of motion, you ought to know, that with him also you must contend for the eternity of a first mo
ver: you must introduce, what you labour to ex clude, a God, causing, regulating, and preserving, by established laws, the motion of every particle of matter in the universe.
You affirm, that nature is your God; and you inform us, that the energy of nature is the cause of every thing, that nature has power to produce
In all this you seem to substitute the term nature, for what we understand by the term God. But when you tell us that nature acts (if such exertion can be called action) necessarily and without intelligence, we readily acknowledge, that your God is essentially different from our God. * All novelty is but oblivion:' this famous system of nature, which has excited so much unmerited attention, and done such incredible mischief throughout Europe, is in little or in nothing different from the system of certain atheistic philosophers mentioned by Cicero, who maintained, that "nature has certain energy, destitute of intelligence, exciting in bodies necessary motions.' The answer is obvious and short: an energy destitute of freedom and of intelligence cannot produce a man possessing both: as well may it be said, that an effect may be produced without a cause.
The proof of the existence of a supreme Being, which is derived from the constitution of the visible world, is of a popular cast; but you must not, therefore, suppose it to be calculated to convince only persons who cannot reason philosophically. What think you of Newton? He certainly could reason philosophically. He certainly, of all the sons of men, best understood the structure of the universe; and he esteemed that structure to be so irrefragable a proof of the existence and providence of an almighty, wise and good architect of nature, that he never pronounced the word God, without a pause. What think you of Cartes, second in sublimity of philosophic genius to none but Newton? “That man,' says he, must be blind who, from the most wise and excellent disposal of things, cannot immediately perceive the infinite wisdom and goodness of their almighty Creator; and he must be mad, who refuses to acknowledge them.' Bp. Watson.
A PERSIAN FABLE IN ILLUSTRATION OF THE
BEING OF A GOD.
I will conclude this head with a passage from Chardin's travels into Persia, as cited by Fabricius: it may be better remembered as an argument against atheism, than a more acute disquisition would be.
The Mahometans, says this author, have invented many fabulous accounts concerning the prophets and the patriarchs of the Old Testament: among the rest, they tell us, that Moses, having preached a long time to king Pharaoh, who was an atheist and a tyrant, on the existence of one eternal God, and on the creation of the world; and finding that he made no impression either upon Pharaoh or his courtiers, ordered a fine palace to be erected privately, at a considerable distance from a country residence of the king. It happened, that the king, as he was a hunting, saw this palace, and enquired by whom it had been built. None of his followers could give him any information : at length Moses came forward, and said to him, that the palace must certainly have built itself. The king fell a laughing at his absurdity, telling him that it was a pretty thing for a man, who called himself a prophet, to say, that such a palace had built itself in the middle of a desert. Moses interrupted him with saying, 'You think it a strange extravagance to affirm, that this palace built itself, the thing being impossible; and yet you believe that the world made itself. If this fine palace, which is but an atom in comparison, could not spring from itself in this desert, how much more impossible is it, that this world, so solid, so great, so admirable in all its parts, could be made by itself, and that it should not, on the contrary, be the work of an architect wise and powerful.' The king was convinced, and worshipped God as Moses had instructed him to do. There is much good sense in this fable, and its substance is thus expressed by Cicero : quod si mundum efficere potest concursus atomorum, cur porticum, cur templum, cur domum, cur urbem non potest?*
*• If a jumble of atoms could produce a world, why cannot
portico, a temple, a house, a city, be produced in the same way?'
HISTORICAL PROOF OF THE BEING OF A GOD.
The argument, which I have been hitherto insist. ing upon, may be called a natural argument for the being of a God, as it is taken from the contemplation of nature: I proceed to another, of great weight, which may be called an historical argument, as it is grounded on testimony concerning past transactions.
That this world has not been from eternity, but thạt it was either created from nothing, or fitted up by the supreme Being for the habitation of man, a few thousand years ago; that it was afterwards destroyed by an universal deluge, brought upon it by the same Being; that it has been repeopled by the descendants of three men, who escaped the general destruction ;—these things are either ancient facts, or ancient fables. If they are facts, both atheism and infidelity must be given up; and that they are facts and not fables, might, if time would permit, be satisfactorily proved, from a detailed examination of the history of every nation in the world.
The credible annals of all nations, not excepting Egypt or Chaldea, China or India, fall short of the deluge. The annals of all nations, ancient and modern, barbarous and civilized, speak of a deluge, as of a dreadful catastrophe, which had destroyed human kind, through the interposition of a superior being, offended by the vices of the world. The annals of all nations bear witness to the existence of a God who had created all things;