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I beseech you, can be discovered between such a barren belief and abfolute Atheism?
“ The invisible things of him, even his eternal power and god“ head, have been from the creation of the world clearly seen, being “ understood by the things that are made ;” or, as the original more properly signifies, by the things that are done ; " so that they are “ without apology or excuse.” But of whom does the apostle speak? Not of those who did not from the works of nature infer the existence of a deity, but of those, who from the things that are done, or the divine Providence, were not convinced of his godhead, or moral attributes. Because, says he, in the verse immediately preceding,—That which may be known of God is manifest in them; is legible in their own hearts ;---for God hath Thewn it unto them, by making them moral agents. And therefore he tells us, “ the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, “ and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteous“ ness;" who pretend to admit so interesting a truth as the being of a God, without seeing the necessity of a godly life and conversation. This is to all intents and purposes Atheisın. And therefore our apostle, in his epistle to Titus speaking of certain among the Cretans, who, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate, fcruples not to bring home to them this very charge. They profess, says he, “ that they know God, but in works they
And such Atheists, to the disgrace of human nature, have always infested society: nay, a late noble pretender to philofophy has gone so far, as to deny, or, at least, to explain away, every moral attribute of the Deity, and has thought fit to bequeath his books as a rich legacy to mankind : for what purpose, but that others may
learn to live without God in the world, it would puzzle the most refined charity to discover.
As some antidote against the malignity of this poison, which is but too grateful to the vitiated taste of those, who wish to be freed from the restraint of conscience, that they may wholly devote themselves to the things of this life; I take leave to offer the following plain discourse ; humbly trusting, that since the world by such philofophy cannot know God, it may please him by the foolishness of preaching to save them that shall be prevailed on to believe.
And let me appeal to any here present; fupposing they had never heard, that there was a Supreme Being ; suppoling they never had any idea of a God before, and were to be asked, who it was that made this world, and all things that are contained therein ? Who ordered the course of the sun ? Who it was that regulated the scasons, and caused the earth to be productive of such a vast variety of fruits ? Let me appeal, I say, to the most illiterate whether they would not readily answer ; there is certainly fome Being, who orders and disposes of all things according to the di&tates of infinite wifdom and goodness. Nay, even children, by being thewn the various works of nature will be unavoidably led to the same conclufion ;and shall man, by habitual sensuality, be reduced to so stupid and disingenuous a state as to deny what is as evident to reason as light and heat are to the senses,
For, as St. Paul well observes, in our text, -- " 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 godhead ;– fo that they are without “ excuse.”
Let such considerations raise in us a desire to look a little nearer into the miracles of nature, which is the “ art of God, a bright
display of that divine wisdom and goodness, which demand an “ eternal tribute of wonder and worship.”
In the illustration of this noble subject, we shall point out to you those things only, which are daily obvious to every one of us, and which a man, that has any curiosity at all, must often have reflected on in his own mind : and he must be weak indeed, that cannot demonstrate to any one, who denies à Supreme Being, such as we have before described, that he must do it in open defiance to reason and common sense. For it is so loudly proclaimed by the voice of universal nature, and engraven in such deep and legible characters on the minds of mankind, that all their expressions; nay, all the most exalted ideas their imaginations can possibly entertain, fall vastly short of what every object they behold discovers at one glance to their awakened senses.
If we look up, we view with a delightful amazement the numetous celestial bodies, the sun, moon, and stars, which notwithstanding their almost infinite motions, do not in the least clash, or interfere with one another. If we look down, the sea, which every moment threatens the land with a second deluge, and yet obeys that irresiftible command of its awful creator ; “ Hitherto shalt thou come, " but no farthet ; and here shalt thy proud waves be stayed :” and the earth on which we live are the surprising prospects that lie before us.--These contemplations naturally elevate our thoughts, and insensibly lead them to the notion of a God; and the exact order of the seemingly irregular parts of the vast universe, the beautiful harmony which they all observe among themselves, and one with another would soon be unhappily interrupted to our inevitable destruction, if infinite goodness did not superintend what infinite power had formed. But when we descend into ourselves, and examine man, that microcosm, or little world, and contemplate his body, adapted to various actions; and his soul, which, though invisible, directs the motions of the body as it pleases, and is endued with a rational faculty ; to which past, present, and future are at once the objects of consideration, and which weighs all our
actions in the balance of moral rectitude, either accusing or excufing us; we cannot, but admit, that he, in whom we live, move, and have our being, not only framed our bodies, after the model of the ideas in his all-comprehending mind, but our souls after his own divine image.-- This made an antient philosopher very
well obserye, “ that the first thing we conceive is the Deity, which we rather “ feel, by a divine contact, than know ; and that this knowledge “is the most certain.” Another goes ftill further, and boldly asserts, “ that he, who denies a Supreme Being, is not only devoid of rea- 1 “son, but fense itself."--Now, if the senfes, those doors at which knowledge enters, give us such incontestable proofs of his divine efsence, and we are fully convinced that an object exists, if we touch it; when we feel a Deity, to talk in the language of these philosophers, in the world in general, and what he is, in ourselves in pasticular ; then this must be laid down for a first principle, that there is a God, infinitely wise, powerful and good :-And that man who fhall dare to call fo evident a truth into question, must offer violence to his own nature, must render himself more vile and senseless than the brutes that perish.
It is much to be lamented, that men, whose thoughts are contin nually employed in the contemplation of the things of this world should be so obstinate and confirmed in infidelity, as not to grant what the curious frame of that stupendous fabric, if duly considered, would incontestibly demonstrate to them.
If we begin with the less curious parts of the creation, and thence proceed to those that bear the greater marks of artful contrivance, whether we consider them in general or particular, with regard to themselves, or the creatures about them, our thoughts cannot but gradually lead us to him, who, as he formed all things by the word of his
power; governs all, by the word of his goodness, in fuch a manner as is most consistent with the general benefit and happiness.
Let us, in the first place, take a transient view of the world in general.-Now there are four species, which gradually ascend in the scale of existence. Sonne have only being; others being and life ; some being, life and sense ; and others being, life, sense and reason. The air, sea, and earth, though they support all living, sensitive, and rational creatures, have only being; that is, border the nearest on non-existence. Plants, though they owe their nutriment to the earth, and refreshinent to the air, have being and life. The brutes, though obliged to the elements and plants for their subGftence, have being, life and sense. Man is endued with being, life, fense and reason: to him the elements and plants are created subfervient: he has an uncontroulable power given him over the brutal world: he can exercise his rational faculties in the delightful contemplation of the wonderful works of his great Creator: he can dilcover his wisdom in contriving, his power in effecting, and his benevolence in every thing. From whence proceeds this orderly gradation and distinction between one sank of beings and another ?-Why have some of them existence only, when others have existenco, life, sense, and reason; some in a higher, cthers in a lower degree? -Was this owing to themselves, or whence came it to pass ? --How came such small and inconsiderable beings as animals, if compared with the heavenly bodies, to excel them in so many respects ? - Why has such an impotent creature as man a fovereignty over the elements, plants, and most favage beasts? Can these effects be produced without some cause ?- It is the height of absurdity to ad mit the supposition. There is there necessarily must be some superior being, who divided the creatures into these several clafies, and originally had, and still preserves an indisputable sovereignty over them ;-and he must be almighty, because though they differ fo. widely in point of proportion, there is a perfect and uninterrupted harmony between them. He must be all good ; because they are mutually subservient to the general benefit. That, which has only