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of revealed religion have more of difficulty in them than those of natural religion; hy which we mean the arguments from nature, for the being, perfections, and providence of God. On the contrary, far greater difficulties occur with respect to these, than with respect to the others, and all that can be said is, that great difficulties must give way to greater. Far am I from supposing that the evidence for the being of a God is not demonstrative, since marks of design, with which the world abounds, necessarily imply a designing or intelligent
But notwithstanding this, we can never fully satisfy ourselves with respect to the objection of the atheist, that if the universe require a cause, this cause must require another ; and if the author of nature, or the being we call God, exist without a cause, so may the universe itself.
All we can say in answer to this is, that whatever difficulty we may labor under with respect to this subject, which will always be above our comprehension, the actual existence of a visible world, and of marks of design in it, cannot be denied, and, therefore, whether we be able to proceed any farther or not, we must acknowledge a designing cause; otherwise we might say that a house had no architect, or a child no father. If the eye of a man require no designing cause, neither would a telescope, which is an instrument of a similar nature, evidently adapted to answer a similar purpose. And at this supposition every mind would revolt.
More and greater difficulties occur when we proceed to the consideration of the unity, the omnipresence, the constant agency, and, what is of more consequence still, the benevolence of the Supreme Being, on the principles of the light of nature. So forcibly were the minds of men, in the early ages, impressed with a view of the evils which abound in the world, and so inconsistent did they conceive them to be with the designs of a benevolent Author, that they supposed there was an original principle of Evil, independent of that of Good. And they who supposed there was a multiplicity of deities (to which they were led by the extent and variety they ob
served in the works of nature), imagined some of them to be of a benevolent, and others of a malevolent disposition. That the Author of nature is one, that he is simply, invariably, and infinitely good, and that all the evils we see and experience are calculated to promote good, are great and sublime truths, which we derive from revelation only; though, on a strict examination, they appear not to be inconsistent with the appearances in nature.
On the other hand, the evidences of revelation are level to every capacity. That it is the Author of nature who interposes, must be evident from every interruption of the usual course of it; for no other than he who established the laws of nature can control them; and though there may be some difficulty in distinguishing some preternatural appearances from such as are merely unusual, this cannot be the case with respect to numberless others. If it was a fact that the Israelites walked through the Red Sea and the river Jordan ; if all the first-born of the Egyptians, and the first-born only, of man and beast, died in one night, and that announced beforehand; if an articulate voice was actually heard to pronounce the ten commandments from Mount Sinai, so as to be heard by two millions of people, there could be no doubt of a Divine interposition in any of the cases. And the same may be said of numberless other facts in the Scripture history. If the facts be ascertained, there can be no doubt concerning their
Now, all facts may be ascertained by sufficient testimony, or that of a competent number of credible witnesses ; that is, of persons who were in circumstances not to be imposed upon themselves, and who had no apparent motive to impose upon others. This is fully equal to the evidence of a man's own senses. Nay, there are many persons who would distrust their own eyes and ears, rather than those of other persons, who, they thought, were better judges than themselves.
Though single persons may be imposed upon in a variety of ways, or may take it into their heads, for reasons which it
is not in the power of any man to investigate, to impose upon others; this can never be said to be the case with respect to thousands who believe, or attest, things evidently contrary to their interest and previous inclinations. That great numbers of persons, and others in succession to them (all of whom had sufficient opportunity to investigate any particular fact, which required no other evidence than that of the senses, and who were interested in the investigation, their fortunes or their lives depending upon it) should persist in their attestation of it would be a greater miracle, more contrary to what we know of human nature, than any fact contained in the Scripture history.
As to the evidence of a future state, what are all the arguments derived from the light of nature compared to that which is furnished by the gospel, which is therefore justly said to “bring life and immortality to light”? There we see a person commissioned by God, teaching the doctrine with the greatest plainness and emphasis, enforcing it by mir. acles, among which was the raising of several persons from a state of death to life; and, what was infinitely more, submitting to die himself in the most public and indisputable manner, and rising to life again at a fixed time. Had mankind in general been asked what evidence would satisfy them, they could not have demanded more.
Whether, therefore, we consider the precepts of religion, that is, the rules of a virtuous and happy life, the authority requisite to enforce the observance of them, the motives by which they are enforced, or the evidence of their truth, revealed religion has unspeakably the advantage of natural; and therefore so far is the scheme of revelation from being improbable à priori, that it must appear such as a wise and good Being, who was acquainted with human nature, and wished to engage the attention of men, and impress their minds with sentiments of reverence of himself, and respect for such laws as were calculated to promote their greatest happiness, would adopt in preference to any other; being the
best adapted to gain his end. It was of the greatest importance to mankind to be made acquainted with those moral principles and rules of conduct on which their happiness depended, and which they would never have discovered of themselves; to have their attention drawn to them in the most forcible manner, and to have the most satisfactory evidence of their truth; and this is what we find in revelation, and in revelation only. It is therefore, as the apostle justly calls it, "the wisdom and the power of God,” though objected to and ridiculed by light and superficial men.
Such a firm persuasion in the whole Jewish nation, circumstanced as they are well known to have been, on the supposition that the events above recited never took place, and that the written history of them is not authentic, would be a miracle of a much more extraordinary nature than any of those that are objected to, and a miracle without any reasonable object ; for what rational end could have been answered by such a supernatural infatuation (for it could not have been any thing less) as should induce a whole nation firmly to believe all the particulars that I have recited, viz.. the account of all the plagues of Egypt, their passing through the Red Sea and the river Jordan, the Divine Being speaking to them from Mount Sinai, and this last instance of the miraculous fall of the walls of Jericho, without any human means, and that the books containing the history of these particulars were written and published while the memory of the things recorded in them was recent; when, if the account had been fabulous, it must have been exceedingly easy to have exposed it?
No nation in the world, not even the most credulous (and the Jews have always been the least so,) could have been imposed upon in so gross a manner. And this was not in one particular, but in many; and those on the largest scale, the farthest in the world from resembling tricks of legerdemain, such as may be exhibited before a few persons in a private
But, for the satisfaction of all mankind in future ages, it was requisite that those miracles, which ushered in the first dispensation of revealed religion, should be so circumstanced