« PreviousContinue »
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
THE divine existence is an interesting subject of contemplation. It concerns every intelligent creature to know from whom he has derived his being; and to whom he is responsible. It is important to know whether nature and her laws are self-existent and independent, or derived their existence and support from a Creator. It is important to know whether events occur under the capricious control of chance; or under the established laws of an infinitely wise Sovereign. To form correct sentiments on these points, it is necessary to admit, or establish by a process of argumentation, the existence of God. This first principle of religion is established in the volume of nature, and in the volume of inspiration. It has been demonstrated and defended by champions of Divinity in every age. But the subject has not lost any of its importance by length of time; nor has it been exhausted by the most able discussion. The learning and genius of every future age will find full scope in contemplating, and discussing this interesting, this infinite subject.
A variety of arguments offer their assistance in proof of the existence of God. The inanimate, and brutal creation, and our own existence are evidences of an independent first Cause. "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God head." In every part of the natural world, there is a continual succession of changes. The face of the earth assumes, at every revolving season, a new aspect. One growth of the vegetable kingdom comes forward, matures, declines, dies, putrifies, and gives nourishment to a succeeding crop. Of the brutal creation individuals are continually perishing; and others take their place. In the rational world one generation passeth away and another taketh its place. This mutation among the different orders of beings proves that they are not self-existent; that they are not eternal; and proves, of course, that they derived their existence from a Creator. Because, what is changeable is subject to dissolution and extinction. What is subject to fall into nonexistence might, without contradiction or absurdity in the supposition, have been in that state. It follows, consequently, that all things, which are mutable may have had a beginning, and an author of their existence. As substances, which are changeable in their nature are not self-existent, it follows that they must have had an origin, and a Creator.
Between the different parts of the natural world there is a mutual connexion and dependence. The different particles of matter, which compose this globe, are united with, and rest upon each other. The vegetable kingdom springs from the earth, and is supported by the elements. The irrational and the rational world derive their origin from a parental stock; and are supported by the productions of the earth. A series of connected links of dependencies cannot make an independent chain of beings. Dependence may be traced from one thing to another;
from the smallest particle of matter up to the greatest object, which falls within the compass of human sight; and the question will arise, on what does this depend? Rise as high on this ascending series as imagination can soar, and the same question will return, till we fix on that Being, who is uncreated, eternal, and self-existent. This is the central point, from which every thing proceeds; to which every thing gravitates, and by which every thing is sustained.
In the natural world there are evident marks of design, of wise design. There is a just proportion between the different parts of creation. The mountains are weighed in scales and the hills in a balance. So exactly equipoised, are the spheres, which compose our system, that they perform their rotations, and revolutions in stated times. This curiously organized machine was not fitted up merely to make a display of mechanical skill. It is calculated to answer the most valuable purposes. There is a happy subserviency between the different parts of the system. The inanimate part of the world affords support to the brutal creation; and both afford support and enjoyment for mankind. The earth is covered with a great variety of the richest productions; the heavens are spread out like a curtain; and ornamented with shining and useful orbs. The elements are combined to sustain the life, and promote the enjoyment of all classes of creatures, from the smallest insect to the lord of this lower world. It is impossible to account for this just proportion, this mutual subserviency of different parts; and this wise design in every part, unless we trace them all to an infinitely wise Creator and Governor. When we see a machine of curious construction, and calculated for some valuable purpose, we never suppose that it derived its origin from a casual combination of parts. But we trace it to mechanical skill and design. With equal propriety we may trace the great machine of the universe to the incomparable skill, and benevolent design of a divine Artist.
The occurrence of events, which cannot be controlled by human power, and the accomplishment of ends by means directly contrary to those, which human wisdom employs, are an argument in favor of the existence of God. The rise of vapor, the formation of clouds, the fall of rain, the artillery of the skies, the succession of day and night, the rotation of the seasons, the rise, progress, and decline of the vegetable kingdom, manifest a superhuman power. Human wisdom is often employed to effectuate some design. All the energies of the mind are called into operation for the invention of means to ensure success. Exertion is so employed and a train of events is so arranged, that not a doubt of success obscures the prospect. But it frequently happens that the wisdom of the wise is brought to nought; that events take a retrograde course; and the most sanguine expectations are blasted. As if nature had changed her laws, the most promising circumstances become adverse; and the design, which was almost accomplished, proves abortive. On the other hand, when adverse events take place in rapid succession; when nothing but the severest trials appear in prospect; and it is beyond human power to turn the current of events, something unforeseen takes place, stays the progress of adversity, and discloses delightful prospects. History, both sacred and profane, give abundant evidence of the general government and special interposition of a Being, infinitely more powerful and wise, than the most exalted creature.
The general sentiment of mankind is in favor of the existence of God. It is probable that every nation and tribe on earth believe the existence of a supreme Being. However remote from each other, and however destitute of intercourse with the rest of the world, they all appear to coincide in this one sentiment, there is a God. The Creator has not left himself without witness. He originally impressed his image upon humanity. When this moral likeness was
effaced, a fearful belief of his existence still remained. This sentiment must have been generally engraven upon the human mind; or irresistible evidence from the works of nature must have been communicated to the senses. Those, who have traced the works of nature; viewed her operations; and studied her laws, have inferred that they depend on a first Cause. The untutored tribes of the wilderness, without any regular process of argumentation, have drawn the same conclusion. The learned and the barbarian have traced the footsteps of the Deity on earth; and have read his name in the firmament written with letters of light.
Further, mankind have always felt a dependence on some remote cause; they have felt a consciousness of responsibility; and they have always looked to some being as the object of their greatest fears, or of their greatest hopes. A consciousness of right and wrong is inherent in the human mind. The Gentiles had this law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness. As the instinct of brutes enables them to distinguish between salubrious and noxious food, and instigates them to self-defence, or to flee from danger; so a moral sense in man distinguishes between good and evil; and would persuade him to contend against spiritual enemies, or escape from them. This moral sense dwells not on abstract principles, but extends its views to that Being who is the Standard of moral excellence, the supreme Arbiter of moral actions, the Disposer of retributions.
Some have argued against nature, against consciousness, against reason, against the senses; and they have concluded that there is no God. On the boundless regions of chance they find the origin, the support and control of every thing. According to their own principles, it was by chance they formed this sentiment; by chance they may change it; and if they should fall into the belief of a God, they will find it to be not an act of chance, but a solemn reality. These