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nature itself. If we advert to the series of the causes of our being and preservation in the world, we 9hall commence a re* trospective examination from son to father, grand father, and great grand father, and so on to the supreme and self-existent father of all: and as to the means of our preservation, or successive causes of it, we may begin with parental kindness in nourishing, succouring, and providing for us in our helpless age; always remembering it to have originated from our eternal father, who implanted that powerful and sympathetic paternal affection in the breast of our progenitors.
By giving our ideas a larger scope, we shall perceive our dependence on the earth, and waters of the globe, which we inhabit, and from which we are bountifully fed and gorgeously arrayed; and next extending our ideas to the sun, whose fiery mass darts its brilliant rays of light to our terraqueous hall with amazing velocity, and whose region of inexhaustible fire supplies it with fervent heat, which causes vegetation and gilds the various seasons of the year with ten thousand charms, we immediately see this to be, not the achievement of man, but the workmanship and providence of God. Hovr the sun is supplied with materials, thus to perpetuate its kind influences, we know not. But will any one pretend to deny the reality of those benign influences, because we do not understand the manner of the perpetuality of that fiery orb, or how it became such a body of fire: or will any one deny the reality of nutrition by food, because we do not understand the secret operation ofthe digesting powers of animal nature, or the minute particulars of its cherishing influence? None will affect so much stupidity. Equally preposterous and absurd would it be for us to deny the providence of God, "by whom we live and move, and have our being," because we cannot comprehend it.
We know that earth, water, fire, and air, in their various combinations, are subservient to our wants; we also know that these elements are devoid of reflection, reason, or design; from whence we may easily infer, that a wise, intelligent, and designing being has ordained them to be thus subservient. Could blind chance constitute order and propriety, and consequently a providence? That wisdom, order, and design should be the production of nonentity, or of chaos, confusion, and old night, is too ridiculous to deserve a serious confutation, since it supposes, that there may be an effect without a cause, that i.°, produced by nonentity; or that chaos and confusion produce the effects of power, wisdom, and goodness. To such absurdities as these we must either assent, or subscribe to the doctrine of a self-existent and providential being. Chaos itself would necessarily include the idea of a creator, inasmuch as it supposes a positive existence, though it precludes the idea of a providence, which cannot exist without order, tendency, and design.
But chaos could no moreexist independent of a creator, than the present aptly disposed system of nature. For there could be no fortuitous jumble or chaos of original atoms, independent or previous to creation, as nonentity could never produce the materials. Nothing from nothing and there remains notlung; but something from nothing is contradictory and impos* sible.
The evidence of the being and providence of a God is so full and complete, that we cannot miss of discerning it, if we but open our eyes, and reflect on the visible creation. The display of God's providence is that by which the evidence of his being is evinced to us; for, though mere chaos would evince the certainty of a creator, yet that abstract mode of argument could not have been conceived or known by us, were it not for the exercise of God's providence (by whom we have our being); though that argument in itself would have been true, whether it had been used by us or not; because the reason of propositions and just inferences in themselves, are in truth the same, independent of our conceptions of them, abstractedly considered from our existence.
The benefit accruing to us from reasoning and argumentation, as it respects our knowledge and practice, is this, that thereby we explore the truth of things, as they are in our own nature; and to do so is our wisdom. All other conceptions of things are false and imaginary. We cannot exercise our thinking faculty on any thing whatever, that has a positive existence; but if we trace it thoroughly it will centre in an independent cause, and attest a God. Thus it is, that from the works of nature we explore its great and exalted author; but the inquisitive mind is lost in its searches and researches into the immensity of the divine fullness, from whence our beings and all our blessings flow. Your's, &c.
P. S. In my next, I shall endeavour to point out tbe manner of discovering the moral perfections and essential attributes of God*
©N THE PRESCIENCE OF THE DEITY, AND THE NATURE IKt) CONDITION OF MAN. ESSAY THE FIRST.
PRESCIENCE is a power, which we attribute to God in his character of creator, and it would appear to found itself upon the two following self-evident propositions:—
1st. That the being who is capable of creating an organized 6ystem,and of arranging all its complicated details with precision and accuracy, must necessarily be intimately acquainted with the actions and operations, whether simple or compound, of all the various principles on which it is founded, and all the several laws by which it is to be governed.
2dly. That he who avowedly and visibly provides for the continuance of such a system, through a long and indefinite series of ages, must have actually contemplated its conditio! and circumstances, under all its revolutions, and through* out every stage of its progress.
These general principles allowed, let us observe their consequences, by applying them to a particular instance: the creation of the sun for example, and the various parts of the solar ^system, by the Deity. As the great Creator always works through the intervention of second causes, and invariably avails himself of the means necessary to compass the ends which he has in view, it necessarily follows, that, when he said, " let there be light," he, as certainly defined the laws, which should produce and govern that element, as that he actually called it into existence. JFinding also, that nothing is made for itself alone, but that every single part of the creation depends upon the rest for its effect, nay for its very existence—light, for in•stance, being evidently framed in a designed accordance with the laws of reflection and refraction, with that of the process of vegetation, and with the sense of sight in man, and other animals : observing this, it further follows, as an equally necessary Consequence, that the Creator of all those laws, must have absolutely intended them for each other, and consequently, that he must have foreseen the nature of their relative effects and operations, or he could never, in so exquisite a manner, have -adapted them each to each, and every one, to so numerous and Complicated a whole.
Matter, when once set at rest, may remain so for ever ; a system so formed, therefore, would appear to require nq exertion of wisdom in a creator to reguhite its future laws, or of prescience to foresee their workings and effects. The system of nature however is not thus constituted; describing inumnefable and complicated revolutionsj and undergoing, through every portion of its frame, a perpetual circulation of particles, it would appear absolutely necessary to its existence, andyet mora to its continuance through the long course of ages in which we have found it to remain unaltered and uninjured, that its Maker should have had present in his mind the course of every atom of matter, throughout every portion of its progress, and foreseen the consequences resulting from every law of nature, during each several and separate moment of its operation.
These then are the leading facts, and the principal reasons, which induce us to attribute the power of prescience, or fore- . knowledge, to the Deity, and, further, as there also appears degrees and gradations of excellence in the creation; a horse, for example, being superior to a clod of earth, and man, a more complicated, as well as a more noble production, than a quarry of marble—it must, from the same premises, equally ensue, that in the exact proportion asathing is worthy of care, or liable to destruction, so must be the degree of foresight necessary for its preservation : and the prescience exerted to direct the progress of a body, must be in the ratio of its complication.
Thus far, reasoning d priori, there would appear to be no difficulty in the subject—he that creates, must of course direct; he that combines, most assuredly must regulate; and he that ordains laws, must necessarily be acquainted with their operation. Coming down however to facts, and examining into the actual state oi'things, the case suddenly alters; we here find events apparently irreconcileable with our former reasonings, and phenomena which would seem to baffle all our calculations. Matter may indeed obey the impulse of matter, and blindly submit to laws which are capable of being discovered, and consequently calculated upon; but here are living beings, endowed with an inherent freedom of choice, whose springs of action are under their own guidance and direction, and who would in many cases appear to act totally independent of any external government or influence whatsoever.
Man, and every other animal (and let this be well remembered, not man alone, but every being wanned with thebreatii of life) have the power of commanding their actions, of indulging their passions, and of turning to the right hand, or to the left, according to their own good will and pleasure.
This weald, at first sight, appear totally subversive of all certainty of conduct, and consequently inconsistent with the existence of the power of prescience; at least upon the grounds which have herein been already stated as the foundation of that quality. A little further observation, however will giv* rise to at least a suspicion, that beneath all this apparent confusion, there may still lie concealed an actual regularity ; and it will not be long perhaps, before we are led to surmise that the mind of man, obscure and uncertain as its operations may appear to the casual observer, is, in fact, governed, at least in certain instances, and directed, upon certain occasions, by laws, and causes of action, which would seem equally strong) equally resistless, and equally immutable, with the most arbitrary and universal of those that are known to exist in the material and physical world. If for more than 6000years, the force of attraction has invariably caused falling bodies to gravitate towards the earth, for the same term, and with as tew exceptions, has the law of self-preservation operated upon the mind of man, and prevented him from rushing on that which would visibly produce his destruction. As too, the one of these effects has arisen'from the inherent nature of matter, so has the other been produced by the undeviating operation of motive. This it is, which working secretly, but effectually, in the mind of man, has ever led him to provide for his own safety, to seek his own happiness, to indulge in pleasure, to fly from pain, to satisfy his appetites by their indulgence, and gratify his passions by following their natural dictates. If the actions consequent on motive indeed were not detined, and certain, and did not act in a regular undeviating course as cause and effect, we might with equal reason expect that men should leap from the precipice, as that they should aim to walk secure upon its summit, and should as frequently have seen them plunge into the ocean, as prefer to live peaceably on dry land; poison would be as commonly taken as nutriment, misery as much prized as pleasure, and the whole human race might, at any given period, if caprice"or chance had Sq directed, have become totally extinct.
But the fact is, that we calculate differently. We fully know the force and effect of motive on the human mind; and, even in the most trivial occurrences of life are continually fashioning our conduct accordingly. We wish, for example, to excite a rich man's compassion towards a miserable object, whom we deem deserving of it, and why do we do this 3 Simply because we know, that compassion will operate as a motive, and cause him to desire, and seek the relief of its object. If, however, human actions were uncertain, and independent of motive, it might be as well, perhaps, to arouse in him the passion of hatred, and the desire of revenge, as upon such a supposition, they would be equally likely to prompt him to actions of benevolence, with the other softer passion. Nor is it the force of motives^ simple and mcompounded merely, with which w«