« PreviousContinue »
the universe; and he esteemed that structure to be so irrefragable a proof of the existence and providence of an almighty, wise and good architect of nature, that he never pronounced the word God, without a pause. What think you of Cartes, second in sublimity of philosophic genius to none but Newton? That man,' says he, 'must be blind who, from the most wise and excellent disposal of things, cannot immediately perceive the infinite wisdom and goodness of their almighty Creator; and he must be mad, who refuses to acknowledge them.'
A PERSIAN FABLE IN ILLUSTRATION OF THE
I WILL conclude this head with a passage from Chardin's travels into Persia, as cited by Fabricius: it may be better remembered as an argument against atheism, than a more acute disquisition would be.
The Mahometans, says this author, have invented many fabulous accounts concerning the prophets and the patriarchs of the Old Testament : among the rest, they tell us, that Moses, having preached a long time to king Pharaoh, who was an atheist and a tyrant, on the existence of one eternal God, and on the creation of the world; and finding that he made no impression either upon Pharaoh or his courtiers, ordered a fine palace to be erected privately, at a considerable
distance from a country residence of the king. It happened, that the king, as he was a hunting, saw this palace, and enquired by whom it had been built. None of his followers could give him any information: at length Moses came forward, and said to him, that the palace must certainly have built itself. The king fell a laughing at his absurdity, telling him that it was a pretty thing for a man, who called himself a prophet, to say, that such a palace had built itself in the middle of a desert. Moses interrupted him with saying, 'You think it a strange extravagance to affirm, that this palace built itself, the thing being impossible; and yet you believe that the world made itself. If this fine palace, which is but an atom in comparison, could not spring from itself in this desert, how much more impossible is it, that this world, so solid, so great, so admirable in all its parts, could be made by itself, and that it should not, on the contrary, be the work of an architect wise and powerful. The king was convinced, and worshipped God as Moses had instructed him to do. There is much good sense in this fable, and its substance is thus expressed by Cicero: quod si mundum efficere potest concursus atomorum, cur porticum, cur templum, cur domum, cur urbem non potest?* Bp. Watson.
*If a jumble of atoms could produce a world, why cannot a portico, a temple, a house, a city, be produced in the same way?' Editor.
HISTORICAL PROOF OF THE BEING OF A GOD.
THE argument, which I have been hitherto insisting upon, may be called a natural argument for the being of a God, as it is taken from the contemplation of nature: I proceed to another, of great weight, which may be called an historical argument, as it is grounded on testimony concerning past transactions.
That this world has not been from eternity, but that it was either created from nothing, or fitted up by the supreme Being for the habitation of man, a few thousand years ago; that it was afterwards destroyed by an universal deluge, brought upon it by the same Being; that it has been repeopled by the descendants of three men, who escaped the general destruction;-these things are either ancient facts, or ancient fables. If they are facts, both atheism and infidelity must be given up; and that they are facts and not fables, might, if time would permit, be satisfactorily proved, from a detailed examination of the history of every nation in the world.
The credible annals of all nations, not excepting Egypt or Chaldea, China or India, fall short of the deluge. The annals of all nations, ancient and modern, barbarous and civilized, speak of a deluge, as of a dreadful catastrophe, which had destroyed human kind, through the interposition of a superior being, offended by the vices of the world. The annals of all nations bear witness to the existence of a God who had created all things;
for even in the time of Aristotle there was, as he observes, an ancient tradition (he does not say a deduction of reason, but a report or tradition) which all men had derived from their ancestors, that all things were from God, and that by God all things did consist.' Remarkable words these! and analogous to those of St. Paul, speaking of Christ, and, as is generally thought, of the creation of the material world, All things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.'
He who has employed most time in examining the history of the remote ages, will be most convinced of the following propositions: that profane authors derived their notions of a supreme Being from patriarchal tradition; that the Bible is the only book in the world in which this tradition is preserved in its original purity; that this invaluable book throws light upon the origin and ancient history of every nation in the world; and that the history of the Jews, contained in the Bible, and connected with their history to the present time, is the strongest proof which can be brought, not only against atheism, but against that species of deism which contends, that God never visibly interposed in the government of the Jewish nation.
When it is said, that the annals of all nations fall short of the deluge, it must be understood that the nation of the Jews is excepted. I look upon that people with astonishment and reverence: they are living proofs of facts most ancient and most interesting to mankind. Where do we meet with an Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, Roman,
corroborating, by his testimony, any one of the events mentioned in the history of their respective empires? But we meet with millions of Jews, in every quarter and in every country of the world, who acknowledge not only the existence of a God, as other nations do, but that he is the very God who enabled Moses to work miracles in Egypt; who delivered to him the law which they now observe; who called Abraham, the father of their nation, from the midst of his idolatrous kinsmen; who preserved Noah and his family in the ark; who formed Adam out of the dust of the earth; who created all things by the word of his power.
Wherever we have a Jew on the surface of the earth, there we have a man whose testimony and whose conduct connect the present time with the beginning of all time. He now believes, and he declares that all his progenitors have constantly believed, the history contained in the book of Moses to be a true history; he now obeys the laws which God gave to Moses above three thousand years ago; now practises the circumcision which God enjoined to Abraham; now observes the passover, in commemoration of the mercy vouchsafed to his nation when God destroyed the first-born throughout the land of Egypt; now keeps holy the seventh day, on which God rested from the works of the creation. When nations institute rites, to preserve the memory of great events, the uniform observance of the rite authorises us to admit the certainty of the fact. The Jews have for thousands of years (and the patriarchs before the Jews probably did the same) oh