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It seems that it may be most firmly alleged, as a reason in favour of believing in a divine agency, that no nation, however wild, not one, of all that have existed, has been so barbarously savage', as not to have had the mind imbued with a belief in the existence of a divine agency. Many have depraved notions upon the subject; but the judgment of all is, that there does exist a divine prevalency and nature: now, in every matter, the consent of all nations is to be estimated as a law of nature.2
It must be observed, too, of the ancients, that, however they worshipped a multitude of inferior deities, yet they acknowledged one Supreme GodAuthor and Governor of the rest, and of all things beside. Plato refers the making of the world to one whom he calls the Father and Maker of the universe. Aristotle doth speak usually of God in the singular; and the Stoics, in their famous precept, to "follow God"-that is, to acquiesce in, or submit to, Divine Providence. And, says Seneca1, "You may have as many appellations as you please for this Author of things:. . . . call him Nature, Fate, Fortune all are but names of the same God."5
If there be nothing but matter in the world, then
2 Cicero, Tusc. Qu. 1. It will be observed that I have substituted “divine agency" for the strict translation of “Deorum” and "Diis." Sel.
3" Deum sequi.”
4 De Benef. 4. 7.
5 See Barrow, Serm. viii. (vol. ii. fol. ed.) 115.
the motions and modifications of matter must be the cause of intelligence. But even finite intelligences, such as that of man, for instance, show so much skill and design in their constitution as also to show that their causes, i.e. the appropriated motions and modifications of matter, must be conducted by a prior and superior intelligence. The infinite intelligence of God, therefore, since it results from the motions and modifications of matter, requires another infinite intelligence to direct these motionswhich is absurd. God is, therefore, proved to be immaterial from his infinite intelligence.1
Upon the whole, after all the struggles of a reluctant philosophy, the necessary resort is to a Deity. The marks of design are too strong to be got over;-design must have had a designer—that designer must have been a person-that person is God.2
And now we confidently conclude that the first original of all things was neither stupid and senseless matter, fortuitously moved; nor a blind and nescient, but orderly and methodical, plastic nature; nor a living matter having perception or understanding natural, without animal sense or consciousness; nor yet did every thing exist of itself necessarily, from eternity, without a cause. But there is One only necessary Existant, the Cause of all other things; and this an absolutely perfect Being,
1 Hartley, Observ. ii. 32.; and see Locke, Essay on the Human Understanding, ii. 235.
2 Paley, Nat. Theol. 473.
infinitely good, wise, and powerful; who hath made all that was fit to be made, and according to the best wisdom; and exerciseth an exact providence over all. Whose name ought to be hallowed, and separated from all other things. To whom be all honour, and glory, and worship, for ever and ever. Amen!1
1 Cudworth, Intell. Syst. 899. fol. 1678.
MORAL AND NATURAL EVIL.
SIR, you cannot answer all objections. You have demonstration for a First Cause. You see he must be good, as well as powerful, because there is nothing to make him otherwise; and goodness, of itself, is preferable. Yet you have against this the unhappiness of human life: this, however, gives us reason to hope for a future state of compensation, that there may be a perfect system.'
The instances of vicious persons sometimes living in a state of comparative ease and pleasure, may make one conjecture that Providence exposes some instances of this kind to view in a notorious manner; that the apparent inequality of its dispensations here, in a few cases, and the argument for a future state, thence deducible, may make the greater impression upon us.2
Wicked persons may, possibly, have an uninterrupted prosperity here in this life, and no visible marks of divine displeasure upon them; but as the generously virtuous will not envy them upon this account, nor repine at their own condition, they knowing that "there is neither any thing truly evil
1 Johnson. (Bosw. iii. 343.)
'Hartley, Ob. ii. 364.
to the good, nor good to the evil," so are they so far from being staggered here in their belief of God and Providence, that they are rather the more confirmed in their persuasion of a future immortality and judgment after death, when all things shall be set straight and right, and rewards and punishments impartially dispensed.'
It is the supposition of a future state alone that can furnish a key to the present disorders of the moral world.2
Our feelings may have been sometimes so shocked when we have seen a fellow-creature groaning under distress, that we may have been ready to cry out in haste, "How is it possible that such sufferings can be consistent with the goodness of the Deity?" But I have soon corrected myself by considering whence did I receive these feelings? Can I be more compassionate than the Being who gave me compassion? Were he malevolent, would he have made me detest malevolence? Is it credible that he would have planted within me principles which would render his character shocking
to me? 3
The great source of our mistake on this subject, and of the unbounded licence of conjecture which we indulge, is, that we tacitly consider ourselves as in the place of the Supreme Being, and conclude that he will, on every occasion, observe the same conduct which we ourselves, in his situation, would
2 Dugald Stewart.
3 Price's Sermons.