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ishments into heaven and hell, into a state of happiness and a state of misery, cannot easily be reconciled to practice, because there must be little to choose between the worst who are received into the kingdom of heaven, and the best who are excluded; for how know we but that there may be little to choose in these conditions? It will be so upon the supposition, which appears so agreeable to reason and scripture, that the various conditions of our future life will descend by insensible steps from extreme happiness to extreme misery.
Lastly; the whole doctrine, and these several observations upon it, all meet in one point, tending to establish that one magnificent conclusion, that be our endeavours after virtue ever so vigorous, continued or well directed, our labor is not in vain. We know in whom we trust; that from his righteous judgment we may look for a full and complete reward, for a crown of glory and bliss, not only proportioned to, but exceeding, all we may, as well as can, either conceive or desire.
THE BEING OF GOD DEMONSTRATED IN THE WORKS OF CREATION. *
HEBREWS XI. 3.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
THE belief of a God is the corner stone of all religion. Whatever be a man's persuasion, whether he be Christian, Jew, Mahometan, or Pagan, this is the point assented to by all; because, without this, if there be in truth no God, all religions are equally vain. It is said that there neither is, nor ever was, a country or nation in the whole world that did not believe a God in some way, how much soever disguised and corrupted. Whatever senseless opinions and absurd and barbarous rites were
* The few following Sermons may seem placed out of their order; but they are added as protographs of the Natural Theology and the Evidences of Christianity. They appear to have been written between 1780 and 1790.
mixed up with it, whatever superstructure of superstition and idolatry had been built upon it, still there was a belief of God at the bottom. Whether this be exactly true or not, I do not know; but it is undoubtedly true, that, if there be any tribe of men without the notion of a God, it is some tribe so stupid and savage, so destitute of all heed and consideration, as to be, in the concerns of religion, precisely in the condition of a child of two or three years old. There may be, perhaps, some few who are taken up entirely with things present, with sensual and animal gratifications, without any more idea of religion, or of what is to become of them after death, or of a God, ruling and existing above them, than an infant has among us; possibly there may be a very few such. But of all others, of all the civilized, of all the rational, of all the cultivated parts of the world, it may be affirmed with certainty, that the belief in a God is universal.
Now, undoubtedly, there must be some strong plain reason for this opinion, that would strike the understanding of mankind in all ages and countries so forcibly as to produce such a universal agreement amongst them. Distant regions and distant ages could never all hit upon the same conclusion, if there was not some evident proof that led them to it, some argument comprehended, that carried irresistibly to the same truth. Which argument is no other than simply this; marks of contrivance in nature abound every where about us, therefore there must have been a contriver; proofs of design and intention are to be seen on all hands, therefore there must have been some one to have designed and intended. But this we are clear in; that no human being, no being we see upon the face of the earth, could be the author of these contrivances; therefore it must be some other being, whom we do not see. This is the upshot of the argument; and it is not an argument for scholars only, for men of study and learning; it is an argument open and level to every capacity in the world; a sensible husbandman and a sensible mechanic, who think at all, will see thus far as perfectly as the best scholar in the world. Does any one doubt. that vegetation was a thing designed? The seed, the blade, the stem, the flower, the ear; the whole process, from the first budding to final decay, was a process planned and laid down. I say, that proofs of contrivance, and design, and intent, abound. Does any man doubt but that the eyes in our head were designed, intended, and contrived to see with; that the tongue was designed to speak, the teeth to eat, the hands and fingers to handle and touch, the feet to walk with? If there be a man
breathing who doubts of this, that man can be convinced of nothing. Well, then, if they were so designed, they must have been designed by some one; if they were contrived for these purposes, there must have been a contriver. Surely, this is plain. But we are very certain that no being which we see did make or contrive these things. Who could make or contrive them? No man in the world, not all the men in the world, could make the eyes of a single insect, the limb of a fly, the feather of a bird, the scale of a fish, a grain of corn, or even a leaf of the vilest weed that grows upon the roadside. This, I think, will be allowed. Seeing these things were contrived and designed for the various uses which they serve by some being or other, and since they certainly were not contrived or designed by men, or by any body that we see upon the face of the earth, there must necessarily be some other being, whom we do not see, that was the maker, author, and contriver of all these wonderful effects.
I have said that this argument is intelligible to the simplest man living; it is no other than briefly this; Suppose, in walking upon a wide common, we should trip upon a stone lying upon the ground. If we were asked how the stone came there, possibly we might answer, that, for any thing we knew, it had lain there for ever; and it might not be very easy to show that there was any absurdity in this answer. But suppose we had met with a watch lying on the ground, and you should ask how it came to pass that a watch was in that place, we should never think of the answer we gave to the same question before; that for any thing that appeared to us, it might have lain there for ever. And why might not this answer serve for the watch, as it did for the stone? Why was it not as reasonable in the one case as the other? On this plain account; because, when we examine the watch, we perceive that its several parts are planned, contrived, and put together with design, and for a purpose; that they are so constructed as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; from whence we are perfectly certain that it must have had a maker; that there must have been some one, at some time, and in some place, who planned, and intended, and fashioned it, in the manner and for the purpose for which we see it planned and fashioned; who governed, constructed, and designed its use. Now, if there was no artist that we knew or had seen who was capable of making such an instrument, that surely would be no objection to the certainty of what we had concluded, that it was made by art. It would only prove that
the artist, whoever he was, that fabricated this machine, existed in some other country, or at some former time.
The brief statement of the case is this; Whatever reason we have to believe that every house must have had a builder, that a watch must have had a maker, that a book must have had an author; that very same reason we have to know that the world must have had a Creator. The one is just as certain as the other; the proof is the same in both. There is, indeed, a difference in the two cases, which is this; that whereas, in the works of men's hands, every individual piece of art is made by its artist, every individual house has its builder, every single watch has its maker, every particular book has its author and printer; whereas, I say, this is the case with works of art, the works of nature, on the contrary, produce one another. Plants produce plants of the same kind; animals beget and bring forth other animals of the same species; and thus the race and succession is kept up for ever. We must be all sensible of this difference between nature and art. One watch never produces another watch, as one animal does another animal. Now this difference, I say, greatly magnifies the contrivance on the part of nature, above all the attempts of art, and makes the proof of contrivance proportionably stronger. Suppose a watch could be so wonderfully made, as not only to go with perfect exactness itself, but so constructed within as to produce in the course of its motion other machines of the same kind; to contain within itself such mould and machinery as to cast and frame individuals like itself; would not this add exceedingly to the curiosity and art of the contrivance? As this required a mechanism vastly more intricate, vastly more complete, so would it proportionably raise our admiration of the maker's skill and ingenuity. And if the simple machine, of itself, proved undeniably, by the very examination of it, that it must have had a contriver, and a contriver too of great skill and art, much more, with this improvement, with this new and additional property, would it demonstrate the same thing. Now what we should so much wonder at in a piece of machinery or clockwork, namely, the power of producing its like, and which never has been compassed in any piece of machinery yet, is the very fact in the works of nature, and is as much a part of the contrivance, and surely as admirable and astonishing a part of the contrivance, as any other. We will not, therefore, be so absurd as to say that an animal or plant, for instance, without this property, would be exactly like a watch or a clock, in respect to its being contrived, and would equally prove that it
must have had a contriver, but that with this property, which is indeed a prodigious improvement, it does not prove the same thing. We cannot, I say, be so absurd as to argue thus. And yet, in fact, the circumstance of animals and plants being produced from parent animals and parent plants, takes off greatly our notice from the original maker and contriver of them all; because we do not see the artist, as it were, at work, as if he delivered each individual from his own hand, or produced each plant and animal by an immediate act of creation. We say the parent bird produces its young; yet it is no more the parent animal that makes the young animal, than it is the husbandman who sows the seed, that makes the young plant grow out of it. It is not he that makes the corn spring up, first the blade, then the stem, then the ear, then the seed in the ear; nor do we ever imagine it. Therefore I wish to have this well impressed and understood; that if the formation of a plant or animal proves a maker and contriver, as much, at least, as the mechanism of a watch or clock proves a maker and contriver; not less certainly, but much more so, does it prove it, when there is added to the plant or animal this new and surprising power, which excels all the rest, namely, that of producing
We conclude then, with most undoubting assurance, that all things about us had a maker; because we have precisely the same ground for our opinion that we have for saying every house must have had a builder, or every watch a maker. The plain mark of contrivance is the proof in both cases. But the force and impression of the proof will, in a great measure, depend upon the observation we make of these contrivances ourselves. A few instances that we discover, or even take notice of, of our own accord, will strike us more powerfully than a hundred that are related by others, and more powerfully a great deal than any general argumentation upon the subject. And this brings me to what I would most earnestly recommend to any one who hears me, namely, a way and habit of remarking and contemplating the works and mysteries of nature. It is a delightful and reasonable and pious exercise of our thoughts; it is oftentimes the very first thing that leads to a religious disposition. The best, and greatest, and wisest men in all ages were they who made this use of their understandings, and this application of their studies. But what is more, it is in a sufficient degree open to the level of every capacity. We are not to excuse ourselves, by saying such things are above our comprehension. This is not above any man's comprehension. The very herbage