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must be eternal. To suppose the first Cause had a cause of his existence, is to suppose there was a cause before the first Cause. Or to suppose he was the cause of his own existence, is to suppose that he existed and operated before he did exist. Or to suppose that he came into existence without any cause, is to suppose what has been proved to be impossible. Hence we are constrained to suppose that there is something in his nature which renders his existence absolutely necessary and eternal. And though we cannot explain the necessity and eternity of the divine existence, yet this is no real objection against it, because it is reasonable to suppose the great Creator should exist in a manner which surpasses the comprehension of all his
6. The Framer of our bodies and the Father of our spirits must be a being of moral rectitude. He hath engraven the evidence of this upon the minds of all intelligent creatures. For, when he made them, "he bent them to the right;" or gave them a capacity of discerning the moral beauty or deformity of every moral agent. But can we suppose the Creator would furnish his creatures with a faculty by which they could discover his own moral character, unless he knew himself to be possessed of perfect rectitude and spotless purity? For, if he were not of such a character, his creatures whom he endued with moral powers would be capable of discovering it; and whenever they should discover it, they would be under moral obligation to hate and detest the author of their existence. Hence the moral faculty of man carries in it a clear demonstration of the moral rectitude of his Maker. Besides, the whole world bears innumerable marks of the divine goodness. It is every way adapted to satisfy the reasonable desires of all reasonable creatures. And the more the works of God have been explored by the most inquisitive and discerning minds, the more of his goodness as well as of his wisdom has been discovered. All the works of creation and providence have such a natural and direct tendency to promote the holiness and happiness of mankind, that, notwithstanding the prevalence of natural and moral evil, there is abundant reason to conclude that he who built all things is good. And it is well known that goodness is the sum and comprehension of all moral excellence.
Thus it appears, by the most natural and conclusive mode of reasoning, that there must be a first and supreme Cause of all things, who is possessed of every natural and moral perfection. It now remains to make a few deductions from the subject.
1. If it be true that the visible world displays the being and perfections of the Deity, then all who reason themselves into atheism are guilty of extreme folly. Those who assume the
name of atheists generally profess to be masters of superior knowledge and penetration, and affect to despise the rest of mankind as weak, ignorant, superstitious creatures. But if the world in which we live and all the objects which come to our view, bear clear and obvious marks of the supreme power, wisdom and goodness of their Author, then the imputation of folly and weakness must rebound upon those who, in defiance of reason and common sense, deny the being and perfections of the first and supreme Cause, who has impressed his own great and amiable character upon all his works. Professing themselves to be wise they become fools, and expose their folly to all men who make a proper use of their rational powers. It requires much learned labor in any of mankind to become atheists in speculation. They must stifle the plain dictates of reason and the common feelings of humanity by deep and subtile sophistry, before they can renounce the idea of the necessary connection between cause and effect, which is the last step in the road to atheism. But when they have taken this step, they have leaped over all the principles of fair reasoning, and put it out of their own power to prove the existence of any other intelligent being besides themselves. For, if it be once allowed that any thing can begin to exist and consequently continue to exist without a cause, then the actions of men are no evidence of their intellectual powers. And the atheist who makes this concession, has no principle left upon which he can justly conclude that there is any being in the universe except himself, who possesses the least degree of perception or intelligence. He, therefore, who says and believes that there is no God, must, in order to be consistent, say and believe that there are no men. But is it not extreme folly in any man to say and believe that all mankind are fools but himself? Such shame must be the promotion of learned and voluntary fools. It behooves those, therefore, who are leaning towards atheism, and laboring to reason themselves into the disbelief and denial of the Deity, to turn from their dangerous folly, and employ their noble powers to the better purpose of pursuing the chief end of man, which is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.
2. If there be a being of supreme power and intelligence, who is the Creator and Proprietor of the world, then there is great reason to think that he will dispose of all things to his own glory. The same motive which led him to create, will necessarily lead him to govern, all his creatures and all their actions. His own glory must have been his highest motive in creating the world, and therefore must be his supreme end in governing every creature and directing every event. When a man has built a neat and convenient house, we natu4
rally expect that he will convert it to his own use, or dispose of it according to his own pleasure. So we may reasonably expect that he who built all things will dispose of all things after the counsel of his own will. If there be a God, we may rely upon it that he will dispose of us and all our interests, for time and eternity, to his own glory.
3. If there be a being who hath made us, and who will absolutely dispose of us, then it is very desirable to receive a revelation of his will. We are very deeply interested in the purposes of his pleasure concerning us, and therefore have great reason to desire the knowledge of our present duty, and of our future and final destination. If we are to pass through different states of existence, and if one state is to be preparatory to another, then it is very desirable to be made acquainted with the various states through which we have to pass, and the various preparations which are necessary to fit us for a happy transition from one state to another, until we reach the last, in which we are to take up our everlasting residence. To live in God's world, and under his supreme disposal, without any intimations of his mind and will, must be extremely painful to creatures who are capable of looking forward, and anticipating their future and final condition. This has been found to be true, by the unhappy experience of those who have been deprived of the oracles of God. Socrates, one of the wisest and best of the heathens, felt and lamented the want of divine revelation; and at the same time expressed his hope that the kind Parent of all would, in some future period, indulge his reasonable creatures with such a desirable and important blessing. The bare light of nature discovers only the supremacy of the Creator, and the dependence of creatures. And this light leaves them in the most deplorable darkness. What person of common prudence would be willing to launch into the mighty ocean, without knowing whither the master of the ship designed to steer his course? But it would be of far less importance to the passenger in the ship to know the designs of the master, than it is to mankind to know the designs of their Creator. For the master of the ship could only transport the passenger to some remote part of this world, and there leave him for a time; but the great Creator can convey his rational creatures to a distant world, and there fix them for eternity. Every human creature, therefore, who feels the importance of his own existence, must desire some better information concerning his future and eternal state than he can possibly derive from the bare light of nature. This shows the stupidity and absurdity of those who deny the inspiration and authority of the sacred scriptures, merely because they cannot see any need of a divine revelation.
4. If there be a God who is possessed of every natural and moral perfection, then it is fruitless for those who believe and acknowledge his existence, to deny the divinity of the scriptures, in order to get rid of their disagreeable doctrines. No man would wish to disbelieve and discard the holy scriptures, if they contained nothing disagreeable to his heart. But many who read the sacred oracles, find they contain very disagreeable sentiments, which they wish to be at liberty to reject. And they are ready to imagine that if they can only bring themselves to disbelieve the, divine authority of the scriptures, they shall then be at full liberty to disbelieve all the disagreeable doctrines which they teach and inculcate. But this is a very great mistake. For if they will only look into the book of nature, they will there find many of the same disagreeable truths which are written in the book of revelation. If the creation of the world be not a cunningly devised fable, but the production of an infinitely powerful, wise and benevolent being, then all who acknowledge his existence and attributes are still obliged to believe a number of sentiments which are no less disagreeable to the corrupt heart than any that can be found in the scriptures of truth. In particular,
They are obliged to believe the doctrine of divine decrees. If the Author of nature be a being of perfect wisdom, he must have formed all his purposes from eternity. He could not have begun to operate in a single instance, before he had determined the nature, number, duration and end of all his works. And by determining all his own conduct, he must have necessarily determined the conduct, and character, and final state, of all his intelligent and accountable creatures. The doctrine of decrees, in its largest extent, necessarily results from the being and perfections of God. Hence all who acknowledge themselves to be the creatures of God, are constrained to believe that he hath decreed every thing respecting them, through every period of their existence. Again,
If there be a God who governs all things in perfect rectitude, then it must be the duty of every intelligent creature to yield unconditional submission to his will. The will of the creature ought always to bow to the will of the Creator. Not one of the creatures of God has a right to say unto him, What doest thou? Unreserved submission is a duty which grows out of absolute dependence. And since all men without exception are entirely dependent upon God, they are under indispensable obligation to submit to him in all things, without the least murmur or complaint. If we acknowledge the existence of God, we must, in order to be consistent, cordially resign all our interests for time and eternity to his supreme disposal. Once more:
All who believe the existence and moral rectitude of the Deity, are obliged to believe the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. A being who loves righteousness and hates iniquity cannot look upon the conduct of free, moral agents, with an eye of indifference. He must be either pleased or displeased with all their moral conduct. If they act agreeably to that moral faculty which he hath implanted in their breasts, they will meet with his approbation; but if they violate the dictates of conscience, and do those things which they know to be wrong, they will incur his just displeasure. The moral rectitude of the Supreme Being lays mankind under moral obligation to obey him, and at the same time gives them just ground to expect that he will finally call them to an account for all their actions, and treat them according to their respective characters, by rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked.
These, and many other disagreeable truths, necessarily result from the essential perfections of the great Creator; and therefore it is of no avail to deny the truth and divinity of the scriptures, in order to get clear from the hard sayings and disagreeable doctrines of Christ and his apostles. No man, under the light of the gospel, can really believe the existence and love the character of God, and yet disbelieve and reject the doctrines of divine revelation.
5. If there be a God, then all his reasonable creatures are bound to be religious. The natural and moral attributes of the Deity are the primary ground of all religious duties and affections. And so long as God continues to possess supreme power, wisdom and goodness, these great and amiable attributes will lay all mankind under indispensable obligations to love, revere, obey and worship their Creator. Our capacity to know God obliges us to glorify him as God. And hence we must cease to be reasonable creatures, before we can cease to be under obligation to adore and worship him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. O come, then, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, and give unto him the glory which his great and amiable character deserves. Amen.