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النشر الإلكتروني

CHA P. II.

Concerning the Being and Perfections of God.

THOUGH 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 confent been acknowledged by mankind in all ages, as moft demonftrable 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 fo" alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts ;" and fo disposed by their depravity and wickednefs to fink down into brutifh ignorance and ftupidity with regard to every thing invisible, that if they were not first told that there is a God, they would moft 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 practifed in the heathen world, in their religion, which evidently depend on tradition; and though in many respects cor rupted, 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 inftance shall be mentioned, viz. the practice of facrificing beafts, or

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fome animals, to appease the gods, or ingratiate themfelves with them, which has fo generally obtained in the heathen world; and which most certainly never would have been thought of by men, had not God first inflituted 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 design of such sacrifices. So the belief of the being of a God may depend upon the fame origin, and be handed down from generation to generation the fame way. The following facts feem to favour this fuppofition, if they do not clearly prove it.

1. The abfurd and ridiculous notions refpecting 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 felfish, unreasonable inclinations and defigns, &c. &c. All this can be well accounted for; on fuppofition their belief of the being of God depends chiefly on tradition; for this truth, being thus handed down by tradition, would naturally and eafily be corrupted, and blended with endlefs abfurd notions, according to the foolifh and wicked humours and inclinations of man; which has been the cafe of all religious truths among the heathen, which originated from revelation. But if we fuppofe all nations in the heathen world believe the exiftence 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 fhould 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 dictates of reason, and the cleareft evidence, embrace the greatest abfurdities?

abfurdities? If their belief, in the first inftance, be founded on the dictates of reafon and evidence, why is reafon wholly laid aside, in the latter; and as foon as they have reasoned themselves into the being of a God, make no further use of their reafon; but most unreasonably believe there are many gods, and embrace the greatest abfurdities refpecting Deity?

2. Those people and nations who are moft out of the reach of the inftruction and influence of divine revelation, and of the traditions which originated from it, have the most faint belief, and make the leaft acknowledgment of the being of a God. And hiftorians and travellers tell us that there are people, and even whole nations, among whom there is not any acknowledgment of a Deity, or the leaft appearance of the belief of any*. These are nations, which by their fituation and circumLances, 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 loft 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 fuch a being; but would, in every fenfe "live without God in the world." And, by the way, this may ferve to fhew what need mankind ftand in of a divine revelation, and that all religious light and knowledge originates wholly from this fource.

3. There have been inftances of perfons who have been deaf from their birth, and confequently dumb; and after they have arrived to adult or middle age, have been able to hear and speak: And though before this, they attended

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• See Locke on the Human Understanding, Book I. Chap. IV. and the authors there quoted by him. Alfo Dr. Robertion's History of South Ame

attended public worship with others, and appeared very devout; and often made thofe figns which thofe with whom they converfed in this way, thought were expres 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 informed. And there never has been an instance known, of any fuch perfon's declaring that he had any belief or thought of the exiftence of a God, before he could hear and speak*.

Are not these facts an evidence that though the being of God is fo clearly manifefled in the works of creation and providence, yet mankind, in their prefent fallen, corrupt ftate, would not difcern and acknowledge this truth, had it not been otherwise revealed?

And fince the nature of all fin, fo far as it has dominion in the heart, is real Atheism, and a denial of the God who is above; and therefore the fool, the wicked man, always fays in his heart, "There is no God:" And the tending of it is to darken and stupify the mind, or rather

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* See President Clap's Effay on the Nature and Foundation of Moral Virtue. Page 42, &c. The following is tranfcribed from him, page 45. was well acquainted with a Negro, who was a man of fuperiour natural pow ers, and made a profession of religion; who told me that he was born in the island of Madagascar, and lived there till he was above thirty years 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 ftate after death."

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"Dr. Williots, in his fermon on the Light of Nature, relates a story of a man in France, who was born deaf and dumb; yet was very knowing, active and faithful in the common affairs of life: And upon a folomn trial before the bishop, by the help of thofe who could converse with him, was judged to be a knowing and devout chriftian, and admitted to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which he attended for many years, with all the figns of high devotion, fuch 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 fpeak and read. He then declared, that while he was deaf, he had no idea of a God, or maker of the world, or of a future ftate; and that all he then did, in matters of religion, was imitation of others."

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is itself blindness and ftupidity, with regard to the being of God, and every thing invisible; and naturally shuts all these things out of the mind; it can be easily accounted for, that without a revelation, the reason of man, who is totally corrupt and finful, will never fuggeft to him the being of a God, however evident and demonftrable this is to reason, when once suggested and revealed, and men can be excited and perfuaded to attend to the evidencé and exercise their reafon on the fubject.

We will now take a short and summary view of the evidence there is of this great and fundamental truth of all morality and religion; and mention fome 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 fuggefted to us, it becomes an object of intuition, in a fenfe, fo that tho' there be reafoning in the cafe, it is so short and easy, that it strikes the mind at once, and it is hardly conscious of any reasoning upon it, and of the medium by which the evidence comes to the mind. Hence it is probable, that fome have thought, doubtless without any good reason for it, that the existence of God is, what they call an innate idea, which is eflential to the mind of man, and impreffed on it, independent of all reafoning on the subject.

1. Ir is certain, there is a God from our own existEnce, and the things we behold around us. There muft be fome caufe of the existence of these things. They could not cause their own exiflence, or make themselves; because this is a contradiction. There must therefore be fome invifible caufe which exifted before them, and was able to give them existence, and to uphold them when they were made. And this firft caufe, maker and preferver of all things, is God.

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