their stated order ; this, I say, takes off the mind from remarking that they are effected at all, or that there must be necessarily some great being at work to bring them to pass. Should we see a miracle, the sun, for instance, to stand still, or the tide cease to flow, we should not doubt but that there was a power and cause from which to produce it; but it does not strike us, what yet is very certain, that there is an equal necessity for a power and a cause for carrying on the course of things. Since the fathers fell asleep, all things,' we are apt, as St Peter observes, to say, 'continue the same from the beginning of the world;' but does this less prove the hand of a master, because they go on truly and exactly? Because God is pleased, in his general operations, to act regularly, shall we think that he does not act at all? especially when that very regularity is one great perfection of his works? How would husbandry be carried on, if the seasons were not regular, and to be depended upon beforehand ? How could the navigation of the sea be managed if its tides were not constant ? This circumstance shows, therefore, infinite wisdom; but it does not show the less power, or any less certainty of that power having been exerted. Without a cause, without a contriver, without a maker, without a power to produce these things, they could no more come to pass regularly than they could irregularly. The sur could no more rise or set in a certain course than in an uncertain one.

To sum up the whole. There cannot be a more sure proof that a house must have had a builder, or a watch a maker, than there is that a world had a Creator; and this proof is neither more nor less valid, because that Creator, like many of the great powers of the universe of whose existence we are nevertheless convinced, is invisible to our eyes; nor yet because we have fallen into a way of attributing things to nature, which, at the best, means nothing, instead of regarding things as the operations of God; nor, lastly, because the general works of the Deity, instead of surprising us by strange and unnatural appearances, for the most part proceed in a constant and regular order.




Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord.

We have been so much accustomed to think and speak of one God, as the maker and governor of the universe, and to hear all use the same language, and express the same persuasion about the matter, that we are not easily brought to suspect that the notions of mankind upon the subject were ever different from what they are; whereas in truth, before the reception of Christianity in the world, the people of almost every country, the Jews excepted, maintained that there existed a great number and variety of gods, dwelling together in heaven, and governing the world amongst them; endowed with different powers and dispositions ; exercising different offices, and presiding over different events; sometimes carrying on the affairs of the universe, as it were, in conjunction, and sometimes striving and contending with one another about them. This was the ancient belief of a great part of the world ; and although many are now brought to the same opinion upon the subject, namely, that there is one, and only one God in the universe, yet the case we find was not always so.

In pursuing this subject, of what is called the unity of God, I shall first lay before you the ground of our assurance that there is one only God, the author and cause of all things; and then I shall add some reflections upon the doctrine of one God, as applicable to the Jewish and Christian dispensations. Now the argument which proves that there is but one Creator, is the uniformity of counsel and design observable in the creation ; by which is meant this, that in every part of the world that we are acquainted with, the same laws and constitution of nature obtains, and that one part is subservient and essential to another part, so as to form together one plan, scheme, and system ; and if it appears that one plan, scheme, and system runs through the whole of the creation, it affords clear and certain inference that the whole is the conception, contrivance, and design of one being; for had different beings formed different parts of the universe, we should undoubtedly have seen throughout different parts different laws of nature, a different order of things, never perhaps independent of one another, which is not by any means the fact.

Take, for instance, our globe, the earth on which we tread, and compare the different regions of it with one another. Á stone falls to the ground in China just as it does in England; water runs to a level in both. The same sun rises and sets in the most distant region of the globe as here; a grain of wheat springs up in the same manner in one quarter of the globe that it does in another; a bird builds its nest in the same way in whatever country it is found. The same laws of nature hold in all. In general, the very same species of plants and animals are to be met with in the several parts of the globe. Men, for instance, inhabit any part. When a new plant or new animal is found, the formation of it bears an evident similitude and analogy to that of the plants and animals with which we are acquainted. Every plant, for instance, has its root, its fibres, its sap, its flowers, and seed; every animal has much the same senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smelling; every animal is male and female ; every animal has blood, and is sustained by food; every one has a heart and lungs, brain and limbs, and this much similar prevails in all creatures; though new creatures be continually discovered, new laws of nature

The rain descends, the winds blow, the thunder is heard, the lightning seen; fire and water, earth and air, possess the same powers, hold the same place, produce the same effects, act upon one another in the same manner, in the most remote and hidden, the hottest and coldest tracts of the earth, that they do and always have done with us at home.

Now what is the plain inference from hence, but that the same being is the author of those effects in all these places; that they have all come from the same hand, have all had one origin, and one Creator? No one can doubt, but that the being who founded and established the laws of nature here, was the same being who founded and established the laws of nature in America ; because the laws are throughout the same. The Creator, who gave to the sparrow that instinct by which it builds its nest in this country, undoubtedly was he who gave to the bird its instinct in the most distant parts of the earth ; because the bird, left to itself, in all countries, would build its nest the same. This is only a trifling and particular instance; it is only one example out of many thousands. Throughout the whole order and economy of nature, in every part of the world

never are.

[ocr errors]

that has been travelled over or found out, there exists a manifest sameness of plan, and scheme, and design.

Then, if we ascend from our globe, which undoubtedly owes its formation to one hand, to the globes which occupy the firmament, the sun, moon, and planets in particular, we find amongst them a relation, a subserviency to one another, which demonstrate that they are different parts of one system. For instance; together with our earth, there revolve round the sun five, or perhaps six, other planets, all receiving light and heat from the sun, in like manner as we do; and so influencing and acting upon our earth, and upon one another, that if it, or any one of them, was destroyed, the motions of all the rest would be so disturbed that they would all fall into ruin and confusion. This shows a system. He that made one made all ; for they all mutually depend upon each ; the rest could not go on without that one, nor it without them; consequently they were produced together, and produced in pursuance of a common plan; which plan must have existed in the same divine mind, and, as far as the same plan continues, as far we are sure one and the same Creator was concerned. To the very extremest limits to which our knowledge or observation reaches, we find one and the same God; because we find a uniformity of counsel and design, a connexion of parts, a relation of things one to another, which could not be expected to take place amongst the works and productions of different, independent beings.

And what is a further and undeniable proof that the doctrine of one God is the genuine dictate of reason, is, that all the reasoning part of mankind are now agreed upon it. Whatever disputes or differences of opinion there may be among thinking and learned men concerning other points, there is none upon this; which shows, that however erroneous notions had formerly crept in amongst mankind concerning a multitude of gods, the thing itself is sufficiently certain ; for as reason and knowledge have made advances and gained ground in the world, men have gradually come to a pacific agreement about the matter. • The Lord our God is one Lord ;' there is none other besides him; one and the same; who made the heavens and the earth, ourselves, all that is around us, all we see, all we know of.

We now proceed to observe from this doctrine, in regard to the two great revelations under which we now live, the Jewish and the Christian, the Old and the New Testaments. Now with regard to the Old Testament, there is this remarkable undisputed fact; that at the time when every other nation and every other religion in the world held that there were many gods, the Jews alone, in the religion of Moses, taught that there was but one ; so that upon this, the greatest and most important point in the world, that which is now found out, and allowed, and agreed upon to be the truth, was contained and delivered in the bible, at a time when no such opinion was to be met with among any other persons, or in any other book; but contrary opinions. How is it to be accounted for, that the people of the Jews should hit upon the truth, when every other nation mistook it ; that their nation alone should maintain that there was one, and only one God, who first produced, and still governs all things, when the various nations which surrounded them, all fell into an opposite persuasion ; that Moses should be

; the first, and, as far as we find, the only person who delivered a doctrine which many ages afterwards, and not until many ages afterwards, the whole world, in a manner, was to be convinced was the truth ; how, I say, shall we account for this,

I but by believing, what the scriptures teach us to believe, that Moses and the fathers of the Jewish nation received it from God; that it was upon selfevidence that God, in the Old Testament, expressly taught his peculiar people, and enjoined them to maintain it; nay more, that this was that great truth which it was the very end and purpose of this institution to keep in the world? For although it may appear to some to be indifferent whether a man hold one God or many, besides that nothing can be indifferent which relates to Almighty God, the fact is, and always has been, that the opinion of a diversity of gods leads directly to gross corruption in religion, and, in consequence of this, to gross immoralities in practice; so that the knowledge of the one God, and the preservation of this knowledge, has always been essential to the preservation of virtue. In the Old Testament it was preserved, when in was nowhere else to be found. By the Jewish account it was not only preserved, but on many occasions communicated to the rest of the world; for as many countries as at any time became acquainted with this wonderful history, and with it their law, learned from it that the gods of the heathens were nothing, that in truth, there was but one God, and he the God of Israel.

But next and lastly, it comes to be considered how the matter stands in the New Testament, in the Christian dispensation, under which we live now. I say, that the Christian dispensation entirely confirms and repeats what the Jewish scripture of the Old Testament had before delivered ; Hear, O Israel!'

1 saith our Saviour bimself, the Lord our God is one Lord.' • We know,' saith St Paul to the Corinthians, that an idol is

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »