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This may be satisfactorily demonstrated by the following arguments :
1. The consent of all nations to its reality.
2. The origin of the visible world, which cannot otherwise be accounted for, and
3. The fact that miracles have been performed.
1. The consent of all nations to the reality of the existence of God, proves that existence.
All nations of every age and language, have been found (with few exceptions) impressed with the idea of an infinitely perfect Being, and professing their belief in his existence. If there be no God this circumstance is unaccountable. But if there be, it is reasonable to suppose, he would have implanted such an idea in the nature of men, and that they, being descended for a common stock, would have had this belief handed down among them from one generation to another. It is also worthy of remark, that this consent is not confined to any particular state of civilization, since if received in polite nations only, it might be supposed to have been effected by their rulers, in order to their better government; or if in barbarous ones, the consequence of fear and ignorance. Its being professed in both indiscriminately, precludes either conclusion.
derations drawn only from the nature of the subject itself; and 2. Arguments a posteriori, by which we conclude from observed effects to an adequate cause of those effects. The latter are more popular, and are those produced by Bishop Burnet. The former are more abstruse, and by many considered inapplicable to the proof of this point. Some attempts, however, have been made to render them conclusive.-See Locke's Essay on the Understanding, B. 4. c. 10, Dr. Clarke on the. Being and Attributes of a God, and Bishop Hamilton on the same.
b I have here taken the liberty of omitting an argument mentioned by Bishop Burnet, derived from the fact, that all men have an idea of God impressed on their minds. This, however, it may be seen, is implied in the first of those stated in the text.
It is the theory of which ihe latter is the practical effect.
To this argument two objections have been made:
1. Some nations (for instance, Soldania, Formosa, and parts of America) have been discovered, which acknowledged no Deity.
This objection may be refuted by observing: (1.) The supposition originated in the ignorance of travellers.
Later writers have assured us, that these countries are not quite devoid of all sense of religion, which warrants us in concluding, that the first travellers gave a too hasty account.
(2.) The objection itself implies, that the impression of the Being of a God, is absolutely necessary to the welfare of man.
For if the only nations that can be found to form exceptions to this universal consent, are those which are most sunk in barbarism, it appears, that where the belief of a God does not exist, there those blessings are at the same time wanting, which alone render life valuable. Thus
we sometimes find men deprived of the use of their reasoning faculties, and in consequence of that privation, oppressed with peculiar miseries. From such instances no argument is ever deduced against the existence of reason in general; they rather furnish us with proofs of the value of that gift, to those who possess it.
2. It is likewise objected, that since men's ideas of the Deity have been so various, as that some have acknowledged one God, while others have held a plurality of Gods, no conclusion can be deduced from such consent,
This objection, however, refutes itself, for it implies the acknowledgment of the fact, we are endearouring to establish.
It admits the idea of a God to be universal, while its force is only directed against the corruption of that idea. Besides, it is not difficult to discover the origin of that corruption. The idea of many Gods might be derived from the spirits employed by the Supreme Being in the government of the world. The apparitions of the Deity under certain figures might lead to the adoration of those figures. God being considered as the source of light, men might hence be induced to worship the sun as his representative. So that even the errors to which the objection alludes, tend to show the belief of a Superior Being to have been universal.
2. The existence of God is proved from the origin of the visible world.
This argument may be advantageously exhibited in the following method:
The existence of the world can only be accounted for by supposing, that it has been from all eternity in its present state, that it has fallen into that state by chance, or that it was created in time by a supreme mind.
But the two former suppositions are false.
Therefore, it was created in time by a supreme mind.
The former of these assertions is evident from this, that nothing can give being to itself, and therefore no other way can be imagined to account for the origin of the world. The latter we shall proceed to demonstrate.
10. The world cannot have existed from all eternity in its present state.
* This would involve a direct contradiction. For since the same thing is thus both cause and effect, we can assign a time (viz. the first moment in which it begins to act) in which it both had existence, and had not existence. It must have had existence, in order to act in the production of an effect. It must at the same instant not bave had existence, since it was not yet brought into being. This conclusion being absurd, it is plain that the world could not give being to itself,
• Among the ancient philosophers, there were various doctrines as to the origin of the world. The pricipal are these three. 1. That the world existed from all eternity in the same state, and endured with the same motions as at present. This opinion was held by Aristotle and his followers. They acknowledged, however, a
It is clear, that the existence of things in the present state of the world is denoted by portions of time, which is marked out by the motions of the heavenly bodies. If then those motions have not been from eternity, neither can the present state of things have been from eternity. In order to show this, therefore, we assert,
(1.) A successive duration made up of parts, which is called time, and which is measured by a successive rotation of the heavens, cannot be eternal.
A contrary supposition would involve manifest absurdities. Saturn performs his revolution round the sun in thirty years:he performs the same revolution therefore in 10950
Deity, who acted by a necessity of nature, and was co-eternal with the universe. 2d. That the matter out of which the world was formed was eternal, though the Deity gave it its present form. This, which was the opinion of the Stoics, originated, equally with the former, in the maxim, ex nihilo nihil fit. 3d. That the world was made by the casual concourse of atoms. This opinion was embraced by Epicurus, who, consegaently, denied totally the existence of a Supreme Being. The first and last of these doctrines are here alluded to, the second is considered at p. 15. A concise refutation of their errors may be found in Stillingfleet's Origines Sacræ, 1. 3. c. 2. Lond. 1663.
I have here supposed a year to consist accurately of 365 days. I am aware this supposition is not quite correct; but I have assumed it, in order to avoid unnecessary confusion in the argument. For the same reason I have used the word number as applied to an infinite quantity, though the application is unwarranted.