Imágenes de páginas

gree to conceive fuch reafoning, yet fo weak and obfcure would their conviction be, as to reft there without moving them to any fort of worship; which however among favages goes hand in hand with the belief of fuperior powers.


To fum up this argument: As fear is a caufe altogether infufficient for the belief of Deity, univerfal among all tribes; and as reafoning from effects to their caufes can have no influence upon ignorant favages; what caufe remains but nature itself? To make this belief univerfal, the image of the Deity must be stamp'd upon the mind of every human being, the ignorant equally with the knowing nothing lefs is fufficient. And the perception we have of Deity muft proceed from an internal caufe, which may be termed the fenfe of Deity.

Included in the fense of Deity, is the duty we are under to worthip him. And to enforce that duty, the principle of devotion is made a part of our nature. All men accordingly agree in worfhipping fuperior beings, however they may differ in the mode of worship. And the univerfality of fuch worship, proves devotion to be an innate principle.

[ocr errors]

The perception we have of being accountable beings, arifes from another branch of the fenfe of Deity. We expect appro→ bation from the Deity when we do right; and dread punishment from him when guilty of any crime; not excepting the most occult crimes, hid from every mortal eye. From what caufe can dread proceed in that cafe, but from belief of a fuperior being, avenger of wrongs? That dread, when immoderate, disorders the mind, and makes every unusual misfortune pafs for a punishment inflicted by an invifible hand. "And they faid one to an"other, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we "faw the anguifh of his foul, when he befought us, and we "would not hear: therefore is this diftrefs come upon us. And "Reuben answered them, faying, Spake I not unto you, faying,

Y y 2

" Do

[ocr errors]

Do not fin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore behold also his blood is required (a)." Alphonfus King of Naples, was a cruel and tyrannical prince. He drove his people to despair with oppreffive taxes, treacherously affaffinated several of his barons, and loaded others with chains. During profperity, his conscience gave him little disquiet; but in adverfity, his crimes ftar'd him in the face, and made him believe that his diftreffes proceeded from the hand of God, as a just punishment. He was terrified to distraction, when Charles VIII. of France approached with a numerous army: he deferted his kingdom; and fled to hide himself from the face of God and man.

[ocr errors]

But admitting a sense of Deity, is it evidence to us that a Deity actually exists? The answer is, That it is complete evidence. So framed is man as to rely on the evidence of his senses (b); which evidence it is not in his power to reject, were he even difpofed to be a fceptic. And experience confirms our belief; for our fenfes, when in order, never deceive us.

The foregoing fenfe, of Deity is not the only evidence we have of his existence: there is additional evidence from other branches of our nature, Inherent in the nature of man are two paffions, devotion, of which the Deity is the immediate and only object; and dread of punishment, when one is guilty of any crime. These paffions would be idle and abfurd, were there no Deity to be worshipped or to be dreaded: they would be illufory paffions, having no object: they would be the fingle inftance of fuch irregularity; and grossly irregular it would be, to be endued with paffions or principles contrived for no end or purpose. Man makes a capital figure; and is the most perfect being that inhabits this earth: how then is it poffible to believe, that he should be endued with paffions

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

contradictory to the regular and beautiful laws which govern all other things here? It is not credible. The paffions mentioned, both of them, direct us to a Deity, and afford us irresistible evidence of his existence.

Thus our Maker leaves no work of his imperfect: he has revealed himself to us, in a way perfectly analagous to our nature: in the mind of every human creature, he has lighted up lamp, which renders him visible even to the weakest fight. Nor ought it to escape observation, that here, as in every other cafe, the conduct of Providence to man, is uniform. It leaves him to be directed by reason, where liberty of choice is permitted: but in matters of duty, he is provided with guides lefs fallible than reafon in performing his duty to man, he is guided by the moral sense; in performing his duty to God, he is guided by the fenfe of Deity. In these mirrors, he perceives his duty intuitively.

It is no flight fupport to this doctrine, that if there really be a Deity, it is highly prefumable, that he will reveal himself to man, fitted by nature to adore and worship him. To other animals, the knowledge of a Deity is of no importance: to man, it is of high importance. Were we totally ignorant of a Deity, this world would appear to us a mere chaos: under the government of a wife and benevolent Deity, chance is excluded; and every event, the result of established laws, is perceived to be the best on the whole. Good men fubmit to whatever happens, without repining, trusting that every event is ordered by divine Providence: they fubmit with entire refignation; and fuch refignation is a sovereign balfam to every misfortune.

[ocr errors]

The fenfe of Deity resembles our other fenfes, which lie dormant till a proper object prefent itself. When all is filent about us, the sense of hearing is dormant; and if from infancy a man were confined to a dark room, he would be as ignorant of the fenfe

fense of seeing, as one born blind. Among favages, the objects that roufe the fenfe of Deity, are uncommon events above the power of man; an earthquake, for example, a hurricane, a total eclipfe of the fun, a fudden fwell of a river that prevents their escape from an impending enemy. A favage, if he be acquainted with no events but what are familiar, has no perception of fuperior powers; but thunder rattling in his ears, or the convulfion of an earthquake, roufes in him the fenfe of Deity, and directs him to fome fuperior being as the caufe of thefe dreadful effects. The favage, it is true, errs in afcribing to the imme→ diate operation of a Deity, things that have a natural caufe: his error however is evidence that he has a fenfe of Deity, no less pregnant, than when he more justly attributes to the immediate operation of Deity, the formation of man, of this earth, of all the world.

The fenfe of Deity, like the moral fenfe, makes no capital figure among favages; the perceptions of both fenfes being in them faint and obfcure. But in the progrefs of nations to maturity, these fenfes turn more and more vigorous, fo as among enlightened nations to acquire a commanding influence; leaving no doubt about right and wrong, and as little about the existence of a Deity.

The obfcurity of the fenfe of Deity among favages, has encou raged fome fceptical philosophers to deny its existence. It has been urged, That God does nothing by halves; and that if he intended to make himself known to man, the sense of Deity would produce equal conviction with that of feeing or hearing. When we argue thus about the purposes of the Almighty, we tread on flippery ground, where we feldom fail to ftumble. What if it be the purpose of the Deity, to afford us but an obfcure glimpfe of his being and attributes? We have reafon from analogy to conjecture, that this may be the cafe. From fome particulars


mentioned above (a), it appears at least probable, that entire fubmiffion to the moral fenfe, would be ill-fuited to man in his prefent state; and would prove more hurtful than beneficial. And to me, it appears evident, that to be confcious of the prefence of the Great God, as I am of a friend whom I hold by the hand, would be inconfiftent with the part that Providence has deftined me to act in this life. Reflect only on the restraint one is under, in presence of a fuperior, suppose the King himself: how much greater our restraint with the fame lively impreffion of God's awful prefence! Humility and veneration would leave no room for other paffions: man would be no longer man; and the fyftem of our prefent state would be totally fubverted. Take another inftance : Such a conviction of future rewards and punishments as to o vercome every inordinate defire, would reduce us to the condition of a traveller in a paltry inn, having no wifli but for day-light to profecute his journey. For that very reafon, it appears agreeable to the plan of Providence, that we should have but an obfcure glimpse of futurity. As the fame plan of Providence is vifible in all, I conclude with affurance, that a certain degree of obfcurity, weighs nothing against the sense of Deity, more than against the moral fenfe, or against a future ftate of rewards and punishments. Whether all men might not have been made angels, and whether more happiness might not have resulted from a different fystem, lie far beyond the reach of human knowledge. From what is known of the conduct of Providence, we have reason to prefume, that our present ftate is the refult of wisdom and benevolence. So much we know with certainty, that the fense we have of Deity and of moral duty, correfpond accurately to the nature of man as an imperfect being; and that these fenfes, were they abfolutely perfect, would unhinge his nature, and convert him into a very different being.

(a) Book 2. sketch 1.j


« AnteriorContinuar »