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It may not be improper or irrelevant to call your attention to the ordinary and approved arguments of the existence of a Deity: though some of these may not be thought to bear sufficiently upon the point in view. But my adoption of such a plan is warranted, or will appear to be so, if it be demonstrated, that the strongest of these is not more forcible, nay, much less so, than the evidence we have of the existence of a Deity in the man Christ Jesus. What can command or force conviction more than an exhibition of God-like power on earth? And shall He be called a mere man, who was very God,“ God manifest in the flesh ?” How do reason and every faculty within us argue upon
this vital subject? What leads to a conception that there must be a higher range of existence than that possessed by him whom we call Lord of the Creation? We behold a work far surpassing all the combined faculties of human nature, when carried to their utmost extent, and acting, as near as possible, in perfect unison ; and hence the conclusion is immediate and direct, that there must have been a superior cause, of the operation of whose hands we are incompetent judges, knowing it only as immense and prodigious, from that which is seen on the earth below and in the firmament above. 66 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work;” and “ his judgments are in all the earth.” There must indeed have been a very superior cause; for how far beyond comparison are some of the minutest creatures of Omnipotence with the most splendid operations of the hands of man! If a plough, a coach, a watch, or a ship were accidentally found for the first time by the inhabitants of a desert, uncivilized country,--what would be the effect of such a discovery? That they were artificial would at once be perceived ; and thus a high idea would be formed of the artificer. Great would be the admiration of his vast, his matchless, skill and potency. How much more then should this be the conclusion of those who survey
the manifold wonders of creation! But, in the present argument, we have not merely the operation,—we have not the sudden apparition of a castle, a church, a city, or a navy to gaze at,-nor like those untutored, inexperienced beings, who, on the first sight of the Spanish war-horse or the floating castle, supposed them to have dropped from heaven (and thus too led to God), but in the case of Christ,-of him whom some are willing to degrade to a mere man,—we have at the same moment the God-like operator, and the marvellous operations of his hands before our eyes.
Ilis numberless miracles are not mere records, like those of Creation, but were seen and testified both by friends and adversaries ;--by the former pronounced to be the handy-work of God—by the latter of Beelzebub ;neither the one nor the other being able to account for them without recourse to supernatural agency.
That there is a God is indeed self-evident; it is so in a variety of ways—by the action of almost every object upon every sense ;—and the difficulty, if there be any in establishing this great truth, is akin to those which are encountered in attempting to prove what needs no proof. Yet is it not, according to my humble and perhaps imperfect conception, more wonderful that men have been found hardy and foolish enough to say “there is no God,” than that there should be others who pronounce Christ to be a mere man. For of all proofs of the existence of a Deity, the actual administration of infinite power, seen and beheld controlling the elements, is the most undeniable.
To see the work is convincing, but to behold him, whose voice can still the raging sea, who can walk serenely on its ruffled foaming billows, who can tell to man the most hidden thoughts of his heart, is evidence of double compound weight. You here not only fix your wondering eyes upon the work, but perceive the hand of the artificer, moulding it according to his will; and at the same time know and acknowledge that the united, co-operating power and wisdom of man cannot attain unto it. Thus must all confess, that the mere man of the followers of Socinus was God himself in deed and in truth.
The modes of proving the existence of a first Great Cause are various and of different degrees of strength. Some have argued, that there must be a Deity, because such a belief is well nigh universal; and in those cases where it is wanting, there is an absence of every good property of human nature; and the dignity of sentient man degraded to a level with the irrational tenants of the forest. Such a prevailing notion, it is maintained, can only be accounted for on the supposition of its being at first imparted from above, and afterwards preserved by continued tradition. In this argument there is considerable weight, even without seeking that strong confirmation which history amply supplies. But has it that force which a sight of Christ, summoning Lazarus from the sepulchre, must have had ?
Another mode of arguing is this :- A finite quantity, be it of time or space, cannot, however multiplied, reach infinity, Hence it follows, that a rank or order of finite beings must have had a beginning. Thus the lives of all the men, women, and children, who have been born and have died since the beginning of the world, when added together, are not commensurate
with eternity. Nay, grant to each an antediluvian length; or instead of 900 be it 10,000 years, even such a sum would still fall short of immeasurable eternity. Add to this, if you please, the lives of all brute animals; and, on the same extended scale, accumulate into one aggregate with these the number and duration of the different tribes of the vegetable world—of all the leaves that have fallen since the days of Adam, and of the grains of sand on the sea shore-and after all, a number will not be produced approaching to eternity : the remainder still is infinite. Much less can there be any chance of travelling back through a succession of generations to the birth-day of time. There must, then, have been a beginning of any series of finite existences; and as that which does not yet exist cannot act, or be the author of its own existence, there must have been some prior cause : and that primary cause is what we call God. This is strong and cogent: not less so was the sight of one who could make the deaf to hear and the blind to see: the poor cripple to dance and leap like the hart; who said, and with authority, to the sea, “ be still:” and who walked serene and steady on its ruffled waves.
Another, and truly striking, proof is drawn from that admirable contrivance and design manifest in the construction of the universe, as far as our limited faculties are capable of extending the scrutiny. Man, as he proceeds to fathom deeper and deeper into the nature of things, becomes more and more convinced of this great truth. Astronomy alone is a schoolmaster sufficient to bring us unto God. True indeed are the words of the Psalmist, when he proclaims, that “ the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work.” Wherever we go, to whatever quarter we direct our attention,
proofs innumerable of infinite power and wisdom meet the eye: --the Deity is everywhere to be found. There is, as the Psalmist declares, no mode of escaping from his presence : “ Whither shall I go then from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there ; if I make my bed in hell, lo! thou art there also.” While, as Dr. Paley and others before him have argued,—it is incredible that a piece of mechanism,—of clock work,--should start into existence without a maker,-is it to be conceived that the wondrous fabric of heaven and earth, where all parts harmonize and form one admirable whole, should have been the offspring of chance or accident ? But it is needless to detain my (present) hearers with arguments as old as the days of Grotius, and familiar almost as the doctrines of our holy religion. Nay, it may be asked, where is the use in the present day of attempting to prove what no one is heard to deny? The great truth of the existence of a Deity is established beyond the reach of doubt or cavil. The Atheist exists now only in name. It
may and even granting that it is, are there not also many other unquestionable doctrines which it cannot be deemed lost labour to touch upon and illustrate ? Are not most of religious and moral truths of this description ? Many indeed transgress the precept, but where is the man who presumes to dispute its validity or authority? And is not a belief in God the foundation of all religion—the very corner-stone on which the sacred edifice must rest and be supported? But, on the other hand, it may be suggested, that the fool does sometimes say
in his heart, “ There is no God." I may even go a step further and remind you, that at no very distant.