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THE BEING AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD PROVED FROM
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things
is God. - HSB. iii. 4.
It is not the intention of the apostle in these words to prove the existence of the Deity, but only to suggest the most easy and proper way of attaining the certain knowledge of this great and fundamental truth. His words, taken in this view, naturally introduce the object of the following discourse, which is to exhibit the evidence of the being and perfections of God. Agreeably, therefore, to the spirit of the text, and the design proposed, it may be proper to proceed gradually, and observe,
I. This world might have had a beginning. There is nothing absurd in this supposition. We can easily conceive that there was a time when the heavens and earth did not exist; and consequently that there was a time when they first came into existence. The fashion of this world passes away, and mutability is stamped upon every object with which we are acquainted. The winds, and clouds, and seas, and the whole material system, are in continual motion. The varying seasons are constantly varying the face of the earth, and giving new forms and appearances to all the objects around us. One generation of mankind follows another; and whilst one is coming on, another is going off the stage of life. The numerous species of animals come and go, in a manner equally regular and rapid. The fruits of the earth spontaneously and successively spring up, come to maturity, flourish, fade and die. Such are the continual changes and revolutions which are brought about by
the laws of nature. And besides these, there are many others, which arise from human power and art.
We find by experience that we have a transforming influence over all material objects, and are able to change their modes and forms at our pleasure. We can turn not only forests into fields, but mountains into plains. We can give form, and figure, and polish, not only to wood, and stone, and silver, and gold, but even to pearls and diamonds. No material object has ever been found, but what could be formed and fashioned by human power and skill. Now, if the world existed of necessity, it would be absolutely immutable, or incapable of change. Neither the laws of nature, nor the powers of man, could make the least impression upon it, nor produce the least motion or variation in it. Whatever necessarily exists, must necessarily exist the same. For that necessity which is the ground of its existence must be equally and perpetually the ground of all its modes and forms of existence. Since the world, therefore, does not necessarily exist in any certain mode or form, it might not have existed in any mode or form whatever. And if it might not have existed at all, then we can easily conceive that it might have had a beginning of existence, in some distant period of past duration.
II. If this world might have begun to exist, then it might have had a cause of its existence. Upon this principle the apostle supposes that every house is builded by some man," or owes its existence to some cause. And this mode of reasoning from the effect to the cause, is perfectly agreeable to common sense. As soon as children begin to reason, they spontaneously reason from the effect to the cause; or from a thing's beginning to exist, to the cause of its existing. When they see any thing move, they imagine there is some cause of its moving. When they see any thing in motion stop, they conclude there is some cause of its stopping. When they see any thing broken, they naturally inquire, Who broke it?
When they find any thing out of its usual or proper place, they are prone to ask, Who put it there ? Indeed, whenever they observe any thing new or uncommon, they never fail to ascribe such a visible effect to some visible or invisible cause. Nor is this mode of reasoning peculiar to children ; for all persons, of every age and capacity, always reason in the same manner, unless their minds have been previously perverted by habitual and long continued sophistry. Every man ascribes the motion of the winds, the flying of the clouds, the falling of rain and the growing of grass, to some known or unknown cause. Though men in the busy scenes of life spend very little time or thought in tracing particular effects to particular causes, yet they as clearly perceive that every particular effect may have a particular cause,