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Concerning the Being and Perfe&tions of God.
HOUGH the evidence of the existence of God be as clear and certain as that of our own, or of any thing else whatever, and it is one of the first dictates of reason, when offered to confideration, and attended to ; and has by general consent been acknowledged by mankind in all ages, as most demonstrable and certain ; yet it is most probable that even the knowledge, and general acknowledgment of this truth depends greatly, if not wholly on divine revelation, Mankind are lo “ alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance ibat is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts ;” and so disposed by their depravity and wickedness to link down into brutish ignorance and supidity with regard to every thing invisible, that if they were not first told that there is a God, they would most probably grow up without believing, or ever thinking of this truth. The general acknowledgment of the being of God, is no evidence that it does not originate from divine revelation ; for there are many things generally believed and practised in the heathen world, in their religion, which evidently depend on tradition ; and though in many respects cor, ropted, had their original in divine revelation, handed down from Noah and his fons, or taken from the Jews, and the revelation given to them. But one instance shall be mentioned, víz, the practice of sacrificing beasts, or D 3
some animals, to appease the gods, or ingratiate themselves with them, which has so generally obtained in the heathen world ; and which most certainly never would have been thought of by men, had not God first insti. tuted it by revelation ; and from that it was handed down, and the practice kept up among all nations, even long after they had loft, or corrupted, the original intent and dehgn of such sacrifices. So the belief of the being of a God may depend upon the same origin, and be handed down from generation to generation the same way. The following facts seem to favour this suppofition, if they do not clearly prove it.
1. The absurd and ridiculous notions respecting God, or a plurality of gods, which have generally taken place in the heathen world. Such as the following, viz. That there are many gods, both male and female-that they are embodied, like men and women--have carnal affections and lufts, and commit adulteries, rapes, &c.-have cruel hatred and contentions with one another—are taking advantage of each other by deceit and cunning, or by power to accomplish their own selfish, unreasonable incli. nations and designs, &c. &c. All this can be well accounted for ; on supposition their belief of the being of God depends chiefly on tradition ; for this truth, being thus handed down by tradition, would naturally and ea. fily be corrupted, and blended with endless absurd no. tions, according to the foolish and wicked humours and inclinations of man; which has been the case of all religious truths among the heathen, which originated from revelation. But if we suppose all nations in the heathen world believe the existence of God, by reasoning themselves into it, and attending to the clear and abundant evidence there is of this ; how can it be accounted for, that they should make no use of their reason in forming their notions of Deity and determining what kind of a being a God must be ; but, contrary to all the di&tates of reason, and the clearest evidence, embrace the greatest
absurdities? If their belief, in the first instance, be found. ed on the dictates of reason and evidence, why is reason wholly laid aside, in the latter ; and as soon as they have realoned themselves into the being of a God, make no further use of their reason ; but most unreasonably believe there are many gods, and embrace the greatest absurdities respecting Deity ?.
2. Those people and nations who are most out of the reach of the instruction and influence of divine revela. tion, and of the traditions which originated from it, have the most faint belief, and make the least acknowledgment of the being of a God. And historians and travellers tell us that there are people, and even whole nations, among whom there is not any acknowledgment of a Deity, or the least appearance of the belief of any*. These are nations, which by their situation and circumItances, are most out of the way of receiving any advantage by revelation, and by being long unconnected, and without any intercourse with other nations, have by degrees lost all tradition relating to every thing invisible. This seems to be a proof that if mankind were without all the light and advantages of a revelation, and traditions which originate from it,they would not pay any regard to an invisible supreme being, or entertain any belief or notion of such a being ; but would, in every sense" live with out God in the world.". And, by the way, this may serve to thew what need mankind stand in of a divine revelation, and that all religious light and knowledge originates wholly from this source.
3. There have been instances of persons who have been deaf from their birth, and consequently dumb; and after they have arrived to adult or middle age, have been able to hear and speak: And though before this, they D4
attended See Locke on the Human Understanding, Book I. Chap. IV. and the wthors there quoted by him. Allo Dr. Robertlon's History of South Ame
attended public worship with others, and appeared very devout ; and often made those signs which those with whom they conversed in this way, thought were express fions of their belief of the being of God, and of their piety : Yet, when they came to hear and speak, they declared, that they never had a throught that there was a God, until they could hear, and were by that means in. formed. And there never has been an instance known, of any such person's declaring that he had any belief or thought of the existence of a God, before he could hear and speak*.
Are not these facts an evidence that though the being of God is fo clearly manifelled in the works of creation and providence, yet mankind, in their present fallen, corrupt state, would not discern and acknowledge this fruth, had it not been otherwise revealed ?
And since the nature of all fin, fo far as it has domini. on in the heart, is real Atheism, and a denial of the God who is above ; and therefore the fool, the wicked man, always says in his heart, “ There is no God:” And the tending of it is to darken and stupify the mind, or father
* See President Clap's Essay on the Nature and Foundation of Moral Vira tue. Page 42, &c. The following is transcribed from him, page 45. "I was well acquainted with a Negro, who was a man of superiour natural pow. crs, and made a profellion of religion ; who told me that he was born in the illand of Madagascar, and lived there till he was above thirty years old : And in all that time he never had a thought of the being of a God, a Creator or Governor of the world, or of a future state atter death."
" Dr. Williots, in his sermon an the Light of Nature, relates a story or a man in France, who was born deaf and dumb ; yet was very knowing, ac. tive and faithful in the common affairs of life : And upon à folomn trial before the bishop, by the help of those who could converse with him, was judged to be a knowing and devout christian, and admitted to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which he attended for many years, with all the signs of high devotion, such as elevation of hands, eyes, &c. At length a large quantity of hard wax was taken out of his ears; upon which he could hear; and, after a while, could speak and read. He then declared, that while he was deaf, he bad no idea of a God, or maker of the world, or of a future state ; and that all he then did, in matters of religion, was purely in imitation of others."
is itself blindness and fupidity, with regard to the being of God, and every thing invisible ; and naturally shuts all these things out of the mind; it can be eafily accounted for, that without a revelation, the reason of man, who is totally corrupt and finful, 'will never suggest to him the being of a God, however evident and demonstrable this is to reason, when once suggested and revealed, and men can be excited and persuaded to attend to the evidence and exercise their reason on the fubject. : ; :
We will now take a short and summary view of the eridence there is of this great and fundamental truth of all morality and religion ; and mention some of the ar. guments which offer themselves to our reason, when we attend to the subject. These are not long and intricate ; but when the truth is once suggested to us, it becomes an object of intuition, in asenfe, fo that tho’there be reasoning in the case, it is so short and easy, that it strikes the mind at once, and it is hardly conscious of any reasoning upon is, and of the medium by which the evidence comes to the mind. Hence it is probable, that some have thought, doubtless without any good reason for it, that the exista ence of God is, what they call an innate idea, which is effential to the mind of man, and impressed on it, independent of all reasoning on the subject.
1. It is certain there is a God from our own exiftence, and the things we behold around us. There must be fome cause of the existence of these things. They could not cause their own existence, or make themselves; because this is a contradiction. There must therefore be lome invigible cause which exilted before them, and was able to give them existence, and to uphold them when they were made. And this first cause, maker and preserver of all things, is God.