Imatges de pàgina

phenomena of the visible heavens are within the reach of human observation--yet, if we will not study them, we may still have a terrestrial geometry; but a celestial we altogether want, nay have wilfully put away from us. 'And so also, we may be capable of certain guesses and discoveries respecting God-yet, if we will not prosecute them, we may still have a terrestrial morals, and yet be in a state of practical atheism. The face of human society may occasionally brighten with the patriotism and the generosity and the honour which reciprocate from one to another amongst the members of the human family—and yet all may be immersed in deepest unconcern about their common Father who is in heaven-all may be living without God in the world.



On the Duty which is laid upon Men by the Probability or

even the Imagination of a God.

1. We have already seen that even though the objects of Theology lay under total obscurity, there might be a distinct and vigorous play of the Ethics notwithstanding-kept in actual exercise among those objects which are seen and terrestrial, and in readiness for eventual exercise on the revelation of unseen and celestial objects. This, however, does not accurately represent the real state of naturefor in no age or country of the world, we believe, did the objects of Theology lie hidden under an entire and unqualified darkness. There is, in reference to them, a sort of twilight glimmering, more or less, among all nations—and the question is, what sort of regimen or responsibility may that man be said to lie under, whose sole guidance in Theology is that which a very indistinct view of its objects, though with certainly a more distinct sense of its ethics, may suggest ?

2. This brings us to the consideration of the duty laid upon men by the probability or even the imagination of a God.

3. It must now be abundantly obvious, that along with nature's discernment of the ethics, she may labour at the same time under a comparative blindness as to the objects of Theological Science. On the hypothesis of an actually existent God, there

may be an urgent sense in human consciences of the gratitude and the obedience which belong to him. But still while this ethical apprehension may be clear and vivid, there may be either a bright or a dull conviction in regard to the truth of the hypothesis itself. We should here distinguish the things which be distinct from each other; and carefully note that, along with a just discernment of the proprieties which belong to certain moral relations, the question may still be unresolved, whether these relations be in truth exemplified by any real and living beings in the universe. is right under certain moral relations, supposing them to be occupied, is one consideration. What exists in nature or in the universe to occupy

these relations is another. It does not follow that though


nature should be able to pronounce clearly and confidently on the first of these topics-she can therefore pronounce alike confidently on the second of them. The two investigations are conducted on different principles; and the two respective sorts of evidence upon which they proceed are just as different, as is the light of a mathematical demonstration from that light of observation by which we apprehend a fact or an object in Natural Philosophy. We have already conceded to nature the possession of that moral light by which she can to a certain, and we think to a very considerable extent, take accurate cognizance of the ethics of our science. And we have now to inquire in how far she is competent to her own guidance in seeking after the objects of the science.

4. The main object of Theology is God.

5. Going back then to the very earliest of our mental conceptions on this subject, we advert first to the distinction in point of real and logical import, between unbelief and disbelief. There being no ground for affirming that there is a God is a different proposition, from there being ground for affirming that there is no God. The former we apprehend, to be the furthest amount of the atheistical verdict on the question of a God. The atheist does not labour to demonstrate that there is no God. But he labours to demonstrate that there is no adequate proof of there being one. He does not positively affirm the position, that God is not; but he affirms the lack of evidence for the position, that God is. Judging from the tendency and effect of his arguments, an atheist does not appear posi


tively to refuse that a God may be—but he insists that He has not discovered Himself, whether by the utterance of His voice in audible revelation or by the impress of His hand upon visible nature. His verdict on the doctrine of a God is only that it is not proven.

It is not that it is disproven. He is but an Atheist. He is not an Antitheist.

6. Now there is one consideration, which affords the inquirer a singularly clear and commanding position, at the outset of this great question. It is this. We cannot, without a glaring contravention to all the principles of the experimental philosophy, recede to a further distance from the doctrine of a God, than to the position of simple atheism. We do not need to take our departure from any point further back than this, in the region of antitheism ; for that region cannot possibly be entered by us but by an act of tremendous presumption, which it were premature to denounce as impious, but which we have the authority of all modern science for denouncing as unphilosophical. We can figure a rigidly Baconian mind, of a cast so slow and cautious and hesitating, as to demand more of proof ere it gave its conviction to the doctrine that there was absolutely and certainly a God.

But, in virtue of these very attributes, would it, if a sincere and consistent mind, be at least equally slow in giving its conviction to the doctrine that there was absolutely and certainly not a God. Such a mind would be in a state neither for assertion nor for denial

this subject. It would settle in ignorance or unbelief which is quite another thing from disbelief. The



place it occupied would be some mid-way region of scepticism—and if it felt unwarranted from any evidence before it that God is, it would at the very least feel equally unwarranted to affirm that God is not. To make this palpable, we have only to contrast the two intellectual states, not of theism and atheism, but of theism and antitheism along with the two processes, by which alone, we can be logically and legitimately led to them.

7. To be able to say then that there is a God, we may have only to look abroad on some definite territory, and point to the vestiges that are given of His power and His presence somewhere. be able to say that there is no God, we must walk the whole expanse of infinity, and ascertain by observation, that such vestiges are to be found nowhere. Grant that no trace of Him can be discerned in that quarter of contemplation, which our puny optics have explored—does it follow, that, throughout all immensity, a Being with the essence and sovereignty of a God is nowhere to be found ? Because through our loopholes of communication with that small portion of external nature which is before us, we have not seen or ascertained a God-must we therefore conclude of every unknown and untrodden vastness in this illimitable universe, that no Divinity is there?-Or because, through the brief successions of our little day, these heavens have not once broken silence, is it therefore for us to speak to all the periods of that eternity which is behind us; and to say, that never hath a God come forth with the unequivocal tokens of His existence? Ere we can

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