« PreviousContinue »
There is then a being, infinite in power
and knowledge. In other words there is a God.
The Bible presents us moreover with proofs of the wisdom and goodness of God, no less irrefragable than those, which it supplies, of his existence.
The infinity of his power and knowledge has (I trust) been already admitted : for the prophecies, recorded in scripture, are unquestionable evidence of the latter of those attributes; and the miracles, there related, are equally so of the former.
These prophecies and miracles moreover establish something far more than power or knowledge in their author : for they are evidently concurrent to the accomplishment of one common end; and that end is mercy to man, an end, which is not less decisive of the goodness of God than the means adopted are of his wisdom. To have devised a scheme, which required human cooperation without interfering with human freedom, which was to be carried on through a long succession of
ages by beings, who were not aware either of the interest, which they had in it, or of the aid, which they lent to it, to have foreseen under such circumstances the precise manner of its accomplishment, to have foretold it to others so plainly as to render the scheme intelligible, and yet not plainly enough to enable them to defeat it, is such a display of wisdom as can only be equalled by its goodness; and both appear to be infinite. Above all, when we recollect, that his own son was to be the price of this offered mercy, while yet it was known to the eternal father, not only, that all the beings, for whose benefit it was intended, were unworthy of it, but that many of them would reject it, the idea, which it raises, of persevering and unwearied goodness in the author of it, is such as even the word, infinite, appears too little to express.
The face of nature, therefore, and the page of revelation, bear a concurrent testimony both to the existence, the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the deity : and thus each, by reflecting light upon the other, confirms us in the conclusion, which we derive from both.
John vii. 19.
Did not Moses give you the law ? and yet none of
you keepeth the law.
No dictate of natural conscience appears clearer than this, that, when men know God, they ought to glorify him, as God, and to be thankful. Having therefore ascertained the existence of one God, and determined some of his moral attributes, and having in the course of that investigation discovered on satisfactory grounds the important fact, that he has made a revelation of his will to mankind, we are necessarily impelled to inquire in the next place, what is that will, and how far it is or is not obeyed.
The deist indeed stops short of this inquiry. Having been led by an observation of nature, or by a process of reasoning, to acknowledge, that there is a creator and governor of the universe, he will not admit that light of revelation, of which he perceived not the necessity, when he was engaged in establishing the first principle of all religion, to guide him in his further progress. He is not aware, how much he is indebted to an original revelation even for that knowledge of the existence of a supreme being, which he attributes exclusively to his own sagacity and penetration : and, having thus entered the portal of the temple, as he thinks, by a way of his own devising, he flatters himself, that he shall be able to measure all its proportions, ascertain its uses, and fulfil all the purposes of the structure, without any assistance from the God, who dwells in it. But to what advantage have we discovered a guide, if we seek not afterwards to be led by him. Even if chance or ingenious conjecture or exact argumentation have first brought us to the knowledge of him, is it wise to neglect the advantage of our own discovery, and to rely only on the same imperfect and secondary sources of information, which we possessed before, when they have opened to us an acquaintance with the original fountain of light and truth?
On the contrary, the very end of inquiring, whether there be a God or no, is, that we may learn his will. The first question, which the knowledge, that there is such a being, would suggest to a reasonable mind, is, whether he has ever made known to his intelligent creatures the purposes, for which he formed them, or the work, which he has appointed them to do: and one great advantage of the line of argument, through which I endeavored to conduct you last Sunday evening, is, that it answers this question in the affirmative, that in the very process, from which it inferred the existence and some of the moral attributes of Deity, it established also the important truth, that he has not left us to grope in the dark after some obscure intimations of his will concerning us, such as argument might deduce, or speculation invent, but that he has actually in former generations made himself known to mankind, that he has revealed himself by