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It is not our object to enquire whether the sentiments which are classed under natural religion have been discovered, or could have been discovered, by the powers of reason alone. Admitting the first conceptions of true religion to have been derived from a divine revelation, the reason of man must be convinced that they are worthy of God. It perceives at once their infinite superiority to absurd extravagances of paganism, and confirms our belief in revelation by the consonance of its doctrines with the principles of reason. In subjects of human science every one perceives the distinction between discoveries made, and a perception of the truth of these discoveries. The architect designs and executes; the multitude approve and admire, what they could not have planned. The profound Philosopher alone may be competent to the investigations of science; a man of common understanding will be able to profit by his investigations. If the most desirable views of religion be in conformity with the first principles of reason, it is of inferior importance whether they were, or could have been, discovered by the exercise of intellect; or whether they were revealed by that being, who gave to man those powers of intellect, by which he is able to distinguish between supernatural interpositions, the pretensions of imposture, and the visions of fanaticks. As our chief attention will be directed, in these theological disquisitions, to the grand objects of an immediate revelation, we propose to treat the article before us with all possible brevity. The analytical method which we have adopted, cannot be prosecuted to its due extent, in scrutinizing the natural arguments for the existence of an intelligent first cause. For everything that exists in the immensity of space would present its claims. The author's sole motives for introducing this Disquisition, were a desire of preserving an unity in his plan; and the hopes that his observations, which respect the distinctions subsisting in the divine attributes, although they may appear to be novel, will not be considered as unimportant.
SUMMARY VIEW OF THE ARGUMENTS ON WHICH A BELIEF IN THE BEING AND PERFECTIONS OF GOD IS FOUNDED.
PHILosophical. Theists unite in contemplating God as one, living, intelligent, spiritual, immutable, operative, and happy being; the source of all other beings: whose existence is from eternity : whose presence is universal: whose power is irresistible: whose knowledge embraces all real and possible existences: whose wisdom is unerring: whose goodness is as unbounded as his power and his wisdom; extending to every proper object in universal nature. Theists maintain, that these sentiments of deity are not the hypothetic visions of the brain, but that they are supported by all the evidences which the immensity of the subject, and the contracted limits of the human faculties, will admit. They are embraced, because they alone can satisfactorily explain the various and wonderful phaenomena in nature; because they are most consoling in themselves, and most correspondent with the existence and state of moral agents.
From the many arguments with which they support these doctrines, we shall select the following.
When we contemplate the Universe, we contemplate a most extensive, curious, and complicated system, which bears innumerable marks of design in its conformation; and as naturally suggests the idea of a designing cause, as any wellcontrived machine of human construction, indicates a contriver. Nor would it be more absurd to deny design, in the latter case, than it is in the former, were the nature of the workmanship found, upon comparison, to be merely equal. If therefore, the former beinfinitely more surprising, extensive, complicated, and effective, than the latter, the absurdity of the denial is proportionably increased. It is irrational to acknowledge an intelligent cause in the formation of an Orrery, and refuse it to the formation of heavenly bodies, which it so imperfectly represents. .
The more we contemplate the system of nature, and the more intimate our acquaintance becomes with its different parts, the more forcibly are we struck with indications of design; of wisdom in the plan, power in the execution, goodness in the object; and the more are our evidences multiplied, of the existence of a designing Cause, who is wise, powerful, and good.
As the inanimate creation indicates a certain arrangement of different and heterogeneous materials, endowed with various properties, corres- . pondent to the rank in which they exist, and contributing to the unity of the whole; and as these materials contain no marks of self-existence, or of natural activity, it is rational to consider the material world as a production; and as the production of a cause distinct from, and superior t itself.
As organized bodies, both vegetable and animal, manifest a vitality, which is not necessarily inherent in matter; as they are endowed with numerous diversities and gradations in powers and faculties, which have no affinity with the accidental arrangements of matter, it is most rational to ascribe their existence to an higher origin. -