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in the First Article of the Church : " There is but one living and true God, everlasting ; without body, parts, or passions ; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness ; the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible."
2. The general concurrence of mankind in this fundamental article of our most holy faith, is a strong reason to induce us to believe it; for it is not likely that such a sentiment should so generally prevail throughout the known regions of the earth, if it were not forced upon men by the strongest evidence. Even savage nations, unenlightened by the Christian revelation, have some indistinct conceptions of a Superior Being, whose favour they wish to propitiate, and whose wrath they dread as the sorest calamity. And there seems to be no doubt, but that the multifarious rites of Paganism, debased as they are by superstition and cruelty, owe their origin chiefly to that consciousness which Heathens possess of a God, to whom they look for health, safety, and happiness, and whom, by those means, they intentionally, though ignorantly, worship.
3. The formation of the world naturally leads the mind to contemplate a Creator, by whom it was made. The world, it is evident, had a beginning; and, therefore, is neither eternal, as some of the ancient Philosophers supposed : nor did it create itself ; for mere matter, being destitute of activity and power, thought, and intelligence, cannot act, but as it is put in motion by some powerful agent, to whose pleasure it must be subservient. For the same reason, it is equally impossible that the world should have originated from a casual concourse of atoms : and hence it will undeniably follow, that it must have had a Creator of boundless wisdom and
If we attentively survey the structure of the habitable globe, the beauty of its parts, and the relation which they bear to each other-if we consider the order, design, and harmony, which pervade the whole—we shall be sensibly struck with the folly of Atheism, which ascribes the performance of so vast and complex and beautiful a work to the
of chance." As soon might we expect that unshapen pieces of materials thrown at random in the air would form themselves into a well-built edifice, as to conceive that what is called chance could have had any thing to do in the production of the world, the several portions of which are so nicely arranged as to be accommodated to the convenience of every animal which inhabits it. But, in fact, we everywhere throughout the universe observe such clear marks of design, as abundantly declare that it must have had an all-intelligent contriver. The globular form of the earth, which is perhaps most conducive to the welfare of the different animals which live on its surface—the position of the sun in the centre of the heavenly bodies, whence its rays diverge so advantageously as to fructify the earth without annoying its inhabitants—the regularity discernible in the motions of other celestial bodies, and the benefits which their revolutions produce, strike all, who duly reflect on these things, as convincing proofs that the Author of Nature is supremely wise. Peculiar marks of contrivance are conspicuous in the admirable structure of the human frame; which is a piece of mechanism so curiously compacted, as to display, in the most sensible manner, the great skill of its framer. The most inconsiderable parts of our bodies have their appropriate uses, and no one of them is without its purpose.
4. That instinct possessed by irrational animals,
whereby some of them are enabled to build nests and provide for their young; and by which others prepare dens and subterraneous retreats, for shelter against the inclemency of the weather, for avoiding what is noxious, and laying up, as in a treasure-house, those things that are adapted to promote their well-being ; argues a wise Providence, which has gifted the brute-creation with this especial property, for the preservation of their lives.
5. Conscience, however reluctantly, bears her testimony also in favour of the existence of a God. Indeed, this faculty is the vicegerent of heaven : and though its power to perform its office is much impaired, by the depravity of our nature, and through long habits of iniquity which blunt and harden it, yet it has, even now, a still small voice to exert in behalf of God who gave it, which, if listened to with patience, would produce the happiest results. Attentive to the warnings of that internal monitor, many would be afraid to plunge themselves heedlessly into the commission of crimes which it loudly condemns. As it is, conscience effects the most valuable purposes : it restrains the violence of some, and intimidates others from pursuing schemes of villainy: and, notwithstanding all the attempts made by wicked men to stifle its suggestions, which too often succeed, there are seasons when, faithful to its trust, it makes them a terror to themselves, by “setting their secret sins in the light of their countenances.
Let us come home to our own experience. When Atheistical thoughts have arisen in our breasts, when we have been ready, with the fool, to say in our hearts “There is no God,” have we not felt a something within us, which has suddenly repelled the daring assertion? or, when we have promised
ourselves impunity in the commission of some evil action, have we not been instantly checked by a voice in our bosom, saying, “How can we do this great wickedness, and sin against Godad.". Now we should regard these admonitions of conscience, as so many vouchers to assure us of the being of a God,“ whose smile is heaven, whose frown is hell," and who thus silently, though clearly, condemns our iniquity.
6. Miracles and prophecy jointly declare there must be a God; who can alter the laws of nature when he pleases, without deranging it; and foresee future events, the accomplishment of which cannot be defeated by the instrumentality of secondary causes. How could so many predictions, as the Scriptures record, have been punctually fulfilled several ages after they were uttered, except by an omniscient God; to whom, past, present, and future are alike known; and with whom "a thousand years are but as one day,” or the shortest space of time, in comparison with his own eternal duration ? It is impossible for those who deny the inspiration of the Divine word fairly to withstand the evidence which miracles and the completion of prophecy afford of the existence of a God, “who ruleth all things after the counsel of his own will, both among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth."
7. The orderly manner in which, for the most part, the affairs of the world are managed, evinces a Divine powerand interposition that superintends and regulates them. A general providence exerting itself for the good of man, is evidently at work in all mundane transactions. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understandi
dd Gen. xxxix. 9.
ing, nor yet favour to men of skille.” “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord To this kind interference, thousands are indebted for numerous advantages, who would otherwise perish for lack of proper attention.
The care taken of the young, the indigent, the helpless, and the destitute--the restraints put upon the disorderly passions of many, which if once set at liberty, would deluge the world with crimes-and the comparative order and tranquillity which exist in society, where so many opposite interests are excited by local circumstances--these, and other things which might be specified, shew the manifold wisdom of God in the government of the world.
We must not, however, confine the exercise of providence to some great occasions only; since the Divine government graciously descends to the minutest particulars of the present life. Hence Christians are taught to believe that every event is at God's wise disposal, and “that He hath determined the times before appointed,and fixed the bounds of their habita». tions :” yea, that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the knowledge of their heavenly Father“, who directs every thing with an especial reference to His own glory and the benefit of the Church of Christ'. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding outk."
This doctrine is not at at all weakened by the apparent inequalities discoverable in the temporal conditions of men, or by the mixture of good and evily or the frequent triumphs of the wicked over the righteous, in the present life. In a state of probation .. Ecclesiastes ix: 11. Prov. xvi.33. & Acts xvii.26. • Matt. X. 29.
* Rom. viii. 28. * Rom. xi. 33.