Page images

his divine mission, and of the truth of his religion, so that we could not thence infer the certainty of our own resurrection, they must be so constituted, as that no evidence whatever can produce that conviction in their minds. The Divine Being himself (and I must in this argument suppose that there is such a Being) could not do it. For all that he could do to attest the divine mission of any person could only be his enabling him to work miracles, or to do such things as only he himself, the author of nature, could do. But no person, in the age of the apostles, or any subsequent one, ever believed the facts, and doubted the conclusion; so that the miracles were fully adequate to the purpose of them; and since all men are, no doubt, constituted alike, the present objectors must be under the inAuence of a prejudice that nothing can overcome, and this must be a case exactly similar to i

I now proceed to thew that the solution of such difficulties as these, respecting the truth of revealed religion, may assist those who have similar difficulties with respect to

Z 4



natural religion; and all great moral truths have, direcily or indirectly, a connexion with each other.

Now it seems to be impossible for any person to be convinced by historical eyidence (which is the most intelligible of all evidence whatever) of the miracles, the death, and resurrection of Christ, and at the same time to have any doubt of the being and the providence of God, because the one evidently implies the other. If Christ actually wrought miracles, and, after dying, rose from the dead, there must have been a power that enabled him so to do; and this must have been an intelligent, or a designing, and a benevolent power, the laws of nature having been changed for great and good purposes. • It is in vain for any person to say, as some, however, have done, that till we be satisfied with respect to the being of a God, which, in the order of nature, is the firit of all religious truths, it is to no purpose to, inquire into the evidence of christianity, For though it be most convenient to teach, and to consider, any system of truths in a

. . certain

certain order, the discovery of them is altogether independent of that order. In this case, the first may be last, and the last


An Englishman, for example, may say, and plausibly enough, that he ought to understand his own country, before he explores any other. But it may happen that he shall be carried to Asia, Africa, or America, before he can have seen much of his own country, and thereby have a better opportunity of exploring them than his own. Or, considering the sun as the centre of our system, he might fancy that, till we know what that great body is, it is absurd to give much attention to the planets, which depend upon it. But in this way he might live and die without acquiring any knowledge of them at all. Even the sez veral propositions in eometry may be learned in a very different order, as the different treatises on that branch of science evince, and yet be all equally well understood at the last. In like manner may men attain to the kn wledge of God, and of his pro,

vidence, without beginning with the study of them.

An atheist is a person who believes that there is no Being who established the prefent order of nature, but that all things have always been as they now are, and that all deviations from this order are absolutely impossible, and therefore incredible. Consequently, any clear proof of an actual deviation from this order of nature overturns his whole system. The atheist says that, since we must suppose something to have been uncaused, we may just as well content ourselves with saying that the present visible system had no cause, as suppose that fomething still greater than this system, and the cause of it, had no cause; since by ascending higher, we get no nearer to the solution of our great difficulty, viz. the cause of what exists. But the proof of any miracle is decisively in favour of the actual existence of a power unquestionably above the common course of nature, and different from it. This is no less than a demonstration, that the reasoning of the atheist, however specious, is in fact wrong;


[ocr errors]

and that, difficult as it may be to conceive the self-existence, as we say, of a Being greater than the visible universe, such a Being certainly does exist. I Thall endeavour to make this argument still plainer by an illustration.

Let a person unacquainted with clocks, watches, and other machines, be introduced into a room containing many of them, all in regular motion. He sees no maker of these machines, and knows nothing of their internal structure; and as he sees them all to move with perfect regularity, he may fay, on the principles of the atheistical system, that they are automata, or selfmoving machines; and so long as all these machines continue in regular motion, and he knows nothing of the making of them, or the winding of them up, this theory may appear plausible.

But let us suppose that, coming into this room again and again, and, always attending to the machines, he shall find one of them much out of order, and that at length its motion shall intirely cease ; but that after continuing in this state fome time, he shall

« PreviousContinue »