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That there is a Supreme Being.
ROMANS I. 20.
THE INVISIBLE THINGS OF HIM FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD ARE CLEARLY SEEN, BEING UNDERSTOOD BY THE THINGS THAT ARE MADE, EVEN HIS ETERNAL POWER AND GODHEAD.
ONCERNING the Being of an omnipotent, intelligent, FIRST CAUSE, neceffarily exifting from all eternity, barely to open our eyes is belief, to think is conviction, to deliberate is demonftration, and knowledge infallible.-Hence it is, that a cool, difinterested, fpeculative Atheist is, perhaps, one of the rareft, and most fingular characters, that human reafon, exposed to an almost. infinite variety of abuse, ever exhibited.-Indeed, when the head condescends to ask. counsel of the heart, and reason is led captive by. paffion, and enslaved by prejudice;-that in this state of perversion, man is capable of believing, or disbelieving any thing, or every thing, is an humiliating truth, which experience muft confirm to us in numberlefs inftances.
It was objected to the founder of the Epicurean philofophy, who pretended to hold the existence of a Supreme Being and yet difbelieved his government of the world, that what he in words admitted, he in fact-denied. For if the Deity be fo abforbed in the
contemplation of himself and his own infinite perfections, as either not to be at leifure, or not difpofed to intereft himself in our affairs, but our good and bad actions were to him equally indifferent, this mere speculative Theifin is but a more refined fpecies of practical Atheifin. He that, by a due exertion of his rational faculties, cometh to the knowledge of a God must not only believe that he is, but that he is a rewarder of them that diligently feek him, and confequently muft punish all thofe, who as moral agents, have led a life in habitual oppofition to his attributes. As from the creation of the world his eternal power and natural perfections are clearly seen ; fo by the invisible things of our own hearts, justice, benevolence, and mercy, his moral, may with equal certainty be inferred. For he that gave us our being itself must be the author of whatsoever in us is most excellent; or has in its nature any approach towards perfection;—if then justice benevolence and mercy exist in the human foul in any degree; God must be the giver of them; consequently he must be himself juft, benevolent and merciful.-But justice is merely a relative term, and confifts in rendering to another what is fit and equal; as then God by his eternal power was enabled to create, so by his infinite justice he must be disposed to reward or punish us in proportion as we shall fulfil, or disappoint the councils of his wifdem in calling us into existence.
Thus much at least is indifpenfably effential to rational Theism, and the fame corruption of heart, the fame naughtiness of flesh and fpirit, the fame apprehenfion of punishment which make it men's intereft to difbelieve God's moral attributes, would foon induce them to deny his natural; but that the contemplation of these gives but little check or disturbance to them amid the unbounded gratification of their finful appetites. But now if the belief of a God be a mere fpeculative notion, having no influence on our conduct, either as individuals, or members of fociety; what material difference, I beseech
I beseech you, can be discovered between such a barren belief and abfolute Atheism?
"The invisible things of him, even his eternal power and godhead, have been from the creation of the world clearly feen, being "understood by the things that are made;" or, as the original more properly fignifies, by the things that are done; "fo that they are "without apology or excufe." But of whom does the apostle speak? Not of those who did not from the works of nature infer the exiftence of a deity, but of thofe, who from the things that are done, or the divine Providence, were not convinced of his godhead, or moral attributes. Because, fays he, in the verse immediately preceding, That which may be known of God is manifeft in them is legible in their own hearts ;-for God hath fhewn it unto them, by making them moral agents. And therefore he tells us, "that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, "and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteouf"nefs;" who pretend to admit fo interefting a truth as the being of a Gcd, without feeing the neceflity of a godly life and conversation. This is to all intents and purposes Atheifin. And therefore our apostle, in his epiftle to Titus fpeaking of certain among the Cretans, who, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate, scruples not to bring home to them this very charge. They profefs, fays he, "that they know God, but in works they deny him."
And fuch Atheists, to the difgrace of human nature, have always infefted fociety: nay, a late noble pretender to philofophy has gone fo far, as to deny, or, at least, to explain away, every moral attribute of the Deity, and has thought fit to bequeath his books as a rich legacy to mankind: for what purpose, but that others may learn to live without God in the world, it would puzzle the most refined charity to discover.
As fome antidote against the malignity of this poison, which is but too grateful to the vitiated tafte of thofe, who wish to be freed from the restraint of confcience, that they may wholly devote themfelves to the things of this life; I take leave to offer the following plain difcourfe; humbly trufting, that fince the world by fuch philofophy cannot know God, it may please him by the foolishness of preaching to fave them that fhall be prevailed on to believe.
And let me appeal to any here prefent; fuppofing they had never heard, that there was a Supreme Being; fuppofing they never had any idea of a God before, and were to be afked, who it was that made this world, and all things that are contained therein? Who ordered the course of the fun? Who it was that regulated the feafons, and caufed the earth to be productive of fuch a vaft variety of fruits? Let me appeal, I fay, to the most illiterate whether they would not readily anfwer; there is certainly fome Being, who orders and disposes of all things according to the dictates of infinite wifdom and goodness. Nay, even children, by being fhewn the various works of nature will be unavoidably led to the fame conclufion ;and shall man, by habitual fenfuality, be reduced to so stupid and difingenuous a state as to deny what is as evident to reason as light and heat are to the fenfes.
For, as St. Paul well obferves, in our text," The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly "feen, being understood by the things that are made, even "his eternal power and godhead;-fo that they are without "excufe."
Let fuch confiderations raise in us a defire to look a little nearer into the miracles of nature, which is the "art of God, a bright
display of that divine wisdom and goodness, which demand an "eternal tribute of wonder and worship."