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requires, that while you thus endeavour to commit them to the antipathies of your hearers, you should allow them to be heard in their own defence. You are, therefore, requested either to permit a reply at the termination of your sermon, or otherwise offer the use of your chapel for that purpose, some evening of the ensuing week. You have described infidels as the most vicious and detestable beings in nature, but if you refuse them the common justice here demanded, your conduct will belie your words, and will prove you to be much more vicious and detestable.
"Bradford, Nov. 15th, 1833.'” « On reading the above, the author at once felt that such an appeal should be met; and as he found that no one else was likely to take up the subject, he determined on attempting to establish the truth of what is generally believed, by exhibiting the force of its evidence and the futility of all objections. As soon as his intentions were known, those who had espoused the sentiments alluded to, professed themselves highly pleased, and offered to render any assistance to such an investigation. A public meeting for discussion was suggested, but that on several accounts was declined, as less eligible than a course of lectures. It was also requested, that permission might be given to those who held sceptical opinions, to reply in the chapel to the arguments which might be advanced; but this was not admissible.""
The plan adopted appears to us to be the best that could have been chosen. Public discussions are perhaps the most fallacious criterions to which truth can be brought. The advocate of error may be much more prompt, witty, and eloquent than the advocate of truth ; and victory may appear to crown the smart and voluble pleader, who has suffered, in the view of the few competent auditors who may be present, the most complete defeat.
“In February and March the Lectures were delivered in Sion Chapel, where the author officiates as pastor. The interest felt in the town and neighbourhood was far greater than the lecturer had anticipated; the place was crowded to excess, the congregation increasing as the course proceeded, and though the pressure and heat were great, a silent and unremitting attention was given to the whole of the Lectures, which occupied on an average about two hours and a quarter in delivery. Those who had embraced the tenets of infidelity were general and regular in their attendance, and their behaviour was marked with propriety. Indeed, it is but just to say, that in all the communications the author has had with the leaders of the sceptical party, he has been treated with the utmost respect and courtesy ; in his intercourse with them he has often expressed his deep concern for their welfare, and his sense of the pernicious nature of their principles, which they have uniformly received with kindness.”
We think the lecturer most happy in the character of his opponents. It appears hardly credible that such principles as theirs should issue in dispositions so praiseworthy, and in conduct so respectable. We do not wish to be uncharitable, even to infidels ; but we almost believe that the kind-heartedness of the excellent author of these Lectures induced him to give the sceptics credit for a mental character and state of moral feeling to which they were not really entitled. .•* In addition to the frequent and urgent requests of the followers of infidelity, and the great difficulty found in furnishing, according to promise, such noles as would answer the purpose; a unanimous and affectionate request came from the author's own beloved charge, that the Lectures might be published-he could hesitate no longer. In consequence of these circumstances they now appear before the public."- See Pref. V. ix.
Such is briefly the history of this volume. It consists of a preface, from which we have given extracts, and six Lectures. In the first Lecture, after some preliminary remarks, the argument is stated, and certain presumptive proofs are adduced and commented on in a satisfactory manner, and at considerable length. In the second Lecture the three atheistic hypotheses are examinedthe self-origination of matter, the eternity of matter, and the eternity of the whole system of nature. All these are ably exposed, and shown to be untenable. In the third and fourth Lectures we have proofs of the existence of God from the works of nature. Our author here selects, from the vast mass of materials before him, man and his relation to the world which he inhabits, and the relation of that world to the great system of which it forms a part. The fifth Lecture is devoted to the views which nature teaches us to form of the Supreme Being; and the last is devoted to a comparison between the atheistic philosophy in some of its principal features, and Christianity; and the whole is concluded with appropriate and faithful addresses to the different classes who composed his auditory. The above is a very brief outline of Mr. Godwin's volume, than which we hardly know a work on the topic of which it treats, better calculated to benefit the inquiring mind of those young persons who have been perplexed by the miserably shallow soplisms of what is incorrectly enough termed “the infidel philosophy.” Philosophy! It is true that philosophers have been termed, by some, fools; for this obvious reason, that many philosophers have been betrayed into the most egregious folly. But why fools should be called philosophers, and the most miserable and worthless of all the species of folly should receive the honourable designation of philosophy, we are at a loss to discover, unless, indeed, we are to feel ourselves bound to compliment men with high-sounding titles, because they not only differ from us, but oppose themselves also to common sense, and to the almost universally expressed opinion of the great family of man. It becomes us, however, to call things by their proper names, and to declare that it is a foolish thing to say " in the heart" there is no God; and something worse than foolish to utter it with the lips. But how sliall we characterize those who go a step further, and attempt to prove that there is no God? Their folly is obvious; for they attempt to prove that which no process of reasoning can prove; and we without hesitation trace up the attempt to that deep moral corruption which originates the wish, that is at once the father of the assertion, and of the arguments by which they would sustain it. The fool first wishes that there were no God : he then argues himself into a state of mind in which he is sometimes half convinced that there is none. He then, to sustain and countenance his beloved desire, seeks by sophistical reasonings to convince others that he is right, and that all other men, even the best, and the wisest, and the most gifted, are wrong. “ Fere libenter homines, id quod volunt, credunt."*
But where are this reasoner's proofs? Does he fetch them from the height above, or from the depth below ? Has he travelled for them to the farthest east, or to the remotest west? Has the bleak north said to him, I will furnish them; or has the burning south said, The proofs are with me? Has he found them on this globe of earth which he inhabits, or has he discovered them in other planets of the system, or in the unnumbered suns that “gem the brow of night ?” Has he sought for them in the wonderful structure of the human frame; or in the constitution of the mind of man? Does he find his arguments in the beauty, order, harmony, and evident marks of design which are visible in the universe of matter? or, having by a power aspiring to be omnipotent, drawn aside the veil that conceals the spiritual world, has he discovered these proofs in the human mind; in its judgment, its passions, its will ? and, ranging through all that is intellectual, las he failed to discover an all-presiding mind; a great first cause; a source of all that is beantiful, all that is grand, all that is holy, and just, and good ? Amazing knowledge! Vast research! Great, glorious, astonishing being! I bow before thee with lowly reverence, for thou art, thou must be, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, the Omnipotent! Thou hast proved that which none but an omniscient being can prove. But is there a spot in the great universe of being that you have not visited ? a material or an intellectual intelligence which you have not beheld ? If so, in that unexplored spot the Deity may dwell: that unknown intelligence may be the great and glorious God of all. Are you quite certain that your proof is complete? No. It wants some addition; the chain is not continuous. It wants a few links. A few links! It wants more than you can number: for what have you seen? what do you know? what is the extent of that portion of the universe you have beheld, when compared with that over which your foot has never travelled, your eye has never ranged ? I withhold my reverence; I recant my declarations of astonishment. You are no deity. You are of yesterday, and know nothing; and have the audacious folly to beguile the weak and the wicked with the assumption of all knowledge. Truly it is the fool who says in his heart-it is the fool who utters with his lips--it is the fool, indeed, and the fool only, who attempts to prove that there is no God.
Let us listen on this point to Mr. G.
“ However bold may be the assertions of the non-existence of an all-creating power, no man can know that there is not such a being, no man has ever proved or can prove that there is no God. The farthest point to which the most daring sceptic can go, without exposing himself to the charge of utter ignorance or the most presumptuous rashness, is to affirm that he sees no proof of the existence of a Deity. What atheist, who makes any pretensions to reason, would venture to affirm, that the existence of an eternal being, combining in his nature the attributes of wisdom and power, the cause of all causes, and the source of all existence, is in the nature of things impossible? Every thing is possible that does not necessarily imply a contradiction. It is not possible that a past event should still be future; that what now exists, should not now exist; that two halves should make more or less than one whole; in each case there is an evident contradiction. But who will dare to affirm that a palpable contraVOL. I. X. S.
diction is involved in the belief, that there is an eternal being ; that all the causes which we now see in operation resulted from one great primitive causeand that this original and uncaused being possesses the attributes of mind! Does this imply a contradiction so self-evident as to shock the reason of man, as soon as it is announced? Do we not all know and feel that the very contrary is the case? Would it not require all the ingenuity of sophistry to give any show of absurdity or contradiction to it? If then, the position that there is such a being is not self-contradictory, his existence is not impossible; that is, it is possible. No man, therefore, can be certain of the non-existence of that which is possible, as that would produce the absurdity of its being possible and impossible at the same time. Every atheist is, therefore, bound to admit, in all fairness, that, after all his scepticism, there may be a God; that after all his confidence he may still be mistaken.”-pp. 13, 14.
It is not our intention to enter at length into the great argument, since in the volume before us it is conducted with great ability. The priori road taken by Clark, and the more popular, and more satisfactory course pursued by Fenelon, by Ray, by Denham, by Paley, and by the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises, are ably and successfully pursued by Mr. Godwin. His volume ought to be found in every Sunday School and Juvenile Library, in those of our Mechanics’ Institutes, and in the collections of books devoted to the use of the members of our numerous, and various Literary and Scientific Institutions throughout the kingdom. It is well calculated to arrest the progress of scepticism, and to afford direction to the unsettled but inquiring mind. We shall close our notice of it by an extract from the last lecture.
“ Of all men the atheist should especially beware of rashness. Consider, I beseech you, that it is not a light thing to take a stand against the sentiments and reasonings of so large a majority of mankind, many of the men of the greatest independence of mind, the most acute in reasoning, and the most extensive in their observations on nature. Consider, also, if you are wrong, how daring must be the impiety and how unnatural and atrocious the attempt, to endeavour to blot from the creation the great Maker of the universe, and to fly in the face of Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.' • “The atheist should, of all men, be most eager to examine wbat others have
to allege. None can possibly run such a risk as he does. What risk does the humble and devout Christian incur? If the atheistic scheme were true, and be were at last to be found in error, he now enjoys the most soothing consolations, is animated by the brightest hopes; and if he should sink into a state of nonexistence and eternal oblivion, would his perpetual and unconscious slumbers be less uninterrupted than those of the atheist? But should the Christian system prove true, what will become of the atheist ?who is found with his puny arm
fighting against God!' Will he be able to stand before the tribunal of his insulted Maker, with the false, the impious, the daring language of excuse and defence, which one of his favourite authors has put into his mouth ?*
“My fellow men, and fellow townsmen, let me, by all that is sacred, entreat you to stop and pause-your everlasting all is staked on the question. And it will soon be decided ; our sand is running, our lives are ebbing, our lamps will soon be burnt out, the journey of life will soon be ended, and then ! Allow me to breathe the fervent wish that you may be prepared to enter that world of happiness of which you now profess to disbelieve the existence. Should the effort which I have made at no small expense of time and strength, with my many other engagements, be the means of leading you from error to truth, from
* System of Nature, Vol. 2. pp. 476–480.
folly to wisdom, from the power of sin and Satan unto God,' how amply repaid shall I consider myself! I have endeavoured so to conduct this argument as to avoid all unnecessary irritation, even of prejudice itself. I have addressed you calmly and quietly ; you cannot say that you have not been rationally treated, that you have not been affectionately addressed; but I must, in now taking my leave of you, in the discharge of my duty to my God, myself, and you, warn you again of the dangerous position in which you stand. If Christianity be true, if God has spoken to man by his works and by his word, by his prophets in past ages, and by the Divine Redeemer in this latter dispensation, then your present course is one of most imminent peril, and your eternal welfare is in jeopardy. I believe we shall all meet-once more at least, and never perhaps shall we meet till then, before the judgment throne, before Him who shall award to all the final retributions of eternity; I take your own consciences to witness, I take the present assembly, I take that awful power' whose I am, and whom I serve,' whose omniscient eye at this moment beholds us, I take heaven and earth to witness, that I have reasoned with you, and counselled you, admonished you, and warned you. If you persist in your present course of unbelief and disobedience, the consequence will be on your own heads.
“Let me also urge on the attention of parents and guardians the propriety, pay the necessity of making the great foundation of all religion à part of the education of those who are entrusted to their care. Do not be content with merely apprising them of the truths which religion teaches, let them also know the ground on which they rest. This is not the age of implicit faith ; the reverence for opinions, merely because they are of long standing and of general extent, is continually diminishing; error has now taken the field, and error of every kind ; and it possesses in the peculiarities of the present times, facilities of access to every mind; its weapons are furbished, and its partisans are active; and should truth remain quiescent, and slumber on its rusty armour in dreams of safety, while the foe is abroad and active ? Teach, then, your interesting charge the nature and solidity of that foundation on which all your hopes rest; show them that you have not followed cunningly devised fables,' that your faith is not an hereditary prejudice, nor your hope a fond delusion. Teach them not only that there is, but why you have the undoubted assurance that there is, a supreme and glorious Creator, who is both the Benefactor and the Judge of man; show them how his name is written on every plant, and shines in every sunbeam ; let them see in all the wonders of science, in all the course of nature, in the curious arrangements and exquisite adaptations which the structure of plants and animals exhibit, the wisdom, power, and goodness of the great Parent of mankind. Accustom them thus early to follow nature up to nature's God,' and thus, while they acquire a taste for some of the purest of earthly pleasures, they will be prepared to find the whole creation a most interesting volume of sacred theology. Those who are young in life, I may be permitted to caution. Beware of being taken by surprise by the bold assertions, or of being captivated by the seductions, of a vain and deceitful philosophy.' Remember that the confidence with which a strange and bold assertion may be advanced is no proof of its truth, and the contempt and ridicule with which established opinions are assailed, is no evidence that they are erroneous. Caution is necessary, lest your pride and independence may be flattered into an acquiescence with what your better judgment would condemn; lest either a love of singularity, an appearance of superiority to vulgar prejudices, or a wish to indulge in pleasures which religion would forbid, tempt you to embrace a fatal error. Mistakes the most pernicious may, by the ingenuity of sophistry, assume a very plausible appearance; before you think of surrendering any thing to the infidel philosophy, pause deliberately, examine carefully, and attentively consider what, in their works on natural and revealed religion, some of the wisest and best of men have to say.
“And you who profess to believe in the gospel, and to have embraced the Christianity of the Scriptures, let me entreat you, let me charge you to be cau