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mode of ratiocination which Dr. C. deems the ideal atheist reasonable in rejecting as illegitimate.
There are two conclusions, which our author, in his loose manner of reasoning, here presses upon his atheist, as if they were strictly interchangeable; the existence of a God, and “ of a power superior to “ nature." To us whose preconceptions are so different from those of the negative atheist, the distinction may not at first view be very apparent. We are accustomed to consider supernatural power as in. separably connected with intelligence and with moral character; but to the mind of such an atheist, no such connection would appear to exist. Should it therefore be admitted that he finds reason to conclude from the phenomena in question, that there exists “ a power superior to “nature,” he is still very far from finding evidence of the existence of a God.' p. 53.
But the atheist, having nothing before him but the con'sciousness of what passes within, and the observation of what
passés without,' cannot have any conception of power, the notion of power not being supplied either by our senses, or by! consciousness. It being impossible, therefore, to eonvince this imaginary person of the existence of a supernatural power, by the miraculous phenomena themselves, it may be considered whether the explavation of them, afforded by the ostensible agent, will achieve his conviction. That “claims upon our belief were " accumulated to an unexampled degree in the person of Jesus of • Nazareth,' is gladly acknowledged.
• But such is the perverse force of that principle on which the atheism now under consideration is rested, that it rejects as “a non. • entity of the imagination,' every such ground of belief. So wide is the range of that law of belief by which we are impelled, from the character of effects, to infer the existence and nature of efficient causes; and so intimately connected is the natural argument from design, with every department of Christian evidence; that the prin·ciples which may be assumed to justify resistance to that law, and re
jection of the conclusions of natural theology, are found every where to oppose the Christian argument. Thus, how vain is it to urge upon a mind which isclaims the authority of this law of belief, the cre. dibility of testimony, and the high moral character of those by whom it is enitted. If power be a word absolutely without meaning,-how can “veracity," "worth,” “benevolence,” «i constancy,” be any thing else than mere “ nopentities of the imagination?” “ We do not avail or ourselves,” says Dr. C. “of any other principle than what an atheist “ will acknowledge !" And he instantly proceeds to avail himself of principles which the atheist does not acknowledge; nay, principles which Dr. C. himself cannot acknowledge, if his own reasoning against the conclusions of natural theology are good for any thing. It is vain to press the admission of conclusions upon grounds which have been previously affirmed to be fallacious; and the existence of those qualities which give credibility to the testimony of the witnesses, can be
E pon no other principle than that which has been rejected.'
are not allowed to reason from the effect to the exStand character of the cause, and consequently to infer the -27d attributes of the great Agent, from his operations, we
er establislı even the existence of those who performed ristian miracles, as moral and intelligent beings, much
we be entitled, from their peculiar intellectual and moral ger, to entertain any proposition, on the strength of their
de effect to the cause, but reject the great argument for stence of God, because he finds not appearances of design
ire, miracles will not work his conversion. The ordinary e extraordinary appearances afford evidence of the same
enomena are submitted to his observation, and he is desired r the existence of a cause in which intelligence and power are ned. That the phenomena of the first class display numerous
riking appearances of intelligence and power, has almost ceased strape a subject of dispute ; yet the atheist perceives no such appear
hemora ; his understanding, nevertheless, is in a high state of preparation, var. amms, for perceiving such appearances in the other class of phe
Tuat na. His negative mind can discover in the processes of nature, ind denne pearances which give even probability to the conclusion, that ledge
were instituted by any thing different from the inert instruments
oyed in conducting them; nor from investigation of nature's force of és, can his understanding perceive any traces of a power higher than on is reeds of the subjects of these laws; yet from the counteraction of these ensuch and processes, he is expected immediately to perceive the ex. or seinence of God. On the “ blank surface” of his mind, observation he erstens i he celestial mechanism has inscribed no trace of a powerful and Dected in the ful Architect; he has viewed the admirable construction of the of Chritia caetary system, has investigated the composition of the forces emjusti nez:yed, and the inode of dispensing light and heat : and he can find no ural bevatus re reason for concluding that a Cause in which power and skill
Thus bir z: combined exists, than for the random assertion, that in some mority of tissitant region, there are tracts of space, which teen only with ani.
ited beings, who without being supported on a firm surface have al ablate ice power of spontaneous movement in free spaces." Yet this is the
rson whose intellect is in the best possible condition for being con. nced of the existence of such a cause by “ a voice from heaven!” de has contemplated the skilful mechanism of the hurnan body,-the arious combinations of parts united for the production of a common ind, and that end the welfare of the whole. He has sought a solution if the great question of a First Cause; he has applied to the solution if that question, the declination of atoms, the appetencies of molecules,
he energies of nervous fibrıllæ, with all the other famous hypotheses clusos es of a similar nature, on the one hand; and on the other, the aluighty
h nioral de
olence, e imaginary
power of an Allwise and Benignant Cause ; and has maintained unmoved the strict neutrality of his inind. And yet, with all this unnatural dulness of perception, he no sooner observes “ health” given " to the “ diseased on the impulse of a volition,” than he imniediately perceives • the existence of a God.” That mind which judges it neither probable nor improbable that life is originally given by a living Being, is in the best condition for admitting the existence of that Being, from having witnessed restoration of life! And the understanding of that person, who having examined the admirable construction of the eye, finds no probability in the conclusion that it was made to see with, is in a high state of preparation for being convinced of the truth of theistical conclusions, by the miraculous gift of sight to the blind.' pp. 66–69.
But if it were allowed, that the imaginary atheist might, consistently with his principles, find reason, from miraculous events, to believe in an Invisible Cause sufficient to suspend certain laws of nature, he would have no means to ascertain whether this Cause were omnipotent, or not; whether it were, or were not intelligent and ot a moral character; the same as the power which regulates nature, or different from it. Nor could the ignorance of the atheist, on those and kindred questions, be removed by the testimony of the ostensible agent in the transaction ; for, as the atheist's confidence in human testimony is derived solely from experience, it is impossible be should have any conception of the credit due to the testimony of a rational being, different in any respect from mere man. Of such beings he has had no experience. If it were supposed that he might find reason to believe, on the testimony of the ostensible agent, that he was commissioned by the Jovisible Cause, whose existence some miraculous event bas been allowed to evince, the atheist, who is perfectly ignorant of the character of this Cause, it is most ohvious, has no rational grounds for believing the information imparted by the ostensible agent.
• He has no reason to believe that the agent is not himself de. ceived. He believes therefore in the truth of a message of which he knows nothing, because that message is sent by a Power of whose supremacy he knows nothing,--of whose relation to man as his Creator or Governor he knows nothing, and of whose moral character he has no conception. " Though the power which presided there, should be "an arbitrary, an unjust, or a malignant Being, all this may startle a « Deist, but it will not prevent a consistent Atheist froin acquiescing “ in any legitimate inference, to which the miracles of the gospel, “ viewed in the simple light of historical facts, may chance to carry “ him.”* Now the “ legitimate inference to which these facts have “ chanced to carry” the Atheist, is this,—that a message sent by a “ Power which may be a malignant Being" is, certainly true, for no other reason than that it is sent by such a Power.' p. 77.
* Evidence and Authority &c. p. 230.
n Such is the powerful and impressive aspect which Dr. C. las made the Christian evidence to assume !
As Dr. C.'s principles thus subvert the whole evidence of li Christianity, it might be useless to consider whether they enable E us, without discussing their reasonableness, to dispose of infidel he objections, did not the inquiry serve to illustrate the internal
evidence of our religion, and the theological conclusions from which it arises. Atthough Dr. C. says' we have no right to
sit in judgement over the information of heaven's ambas. • sador,' and, consequently, there might seem to be no scope for objections to the substance of a revelation attested by miracles, he subjects the above position to such limitations, as still to be obliged to discuss the usual objections to the Scriptures. If the statements of the ainbassador were inconsistent with observation or experience, he allows that they ought to be rejected. The alludes to miracles, as a special mark' or 'watchword which we
previously knew could be given by none but God.' This previous knowledge is of great extent, embracing
among other points, that no unintelligent principle can operate according to any other laws than those which regulate the present system of things on this globe-that there are no beings superior to man, excepting God, capable of suspending certain laws of nature and that it is contrary to reason to suppose that two or more divine Principles or Intelligences, share the government of the universe.' p. 86.
Dr. C. appeals to the sense which bis readers have of right and wrong, in proof of some of his positions, and, by consequence, allows that moral distinctions are not relative to the human intellect and condition, but eterval and immutable. He adduces the unity obvious in the doctrine and sentiments of Jesus Christ, as a most striking evidence of the truth of his religion. It follows, therefore, that if it were objected, that the statements of revelation do not accord with the results of our own observation, or consciousness, or that the conclusions of natural theology essential to the validity of the evidence of miracles, are pot sustained by reason, or that the Scripture ascribes such qualities to God, or inculcates such maxims of duty, as are inconsistent with our clearest moral perceptions, or that it contains heterogeneous and contradictory doctrines, Dr. C. is not entiiled, on his own priuciples, to dismiss such objections, without entering into a discussion of their reasonableness.
Shortly after the Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation appeared, Dr. C. bad occasion to expose what he deemed a formidable objection to Christianity. it might have been expected that he would seize this opportunity, to shew with what facility bis novel mode of sustaining the Christian revelation, enabled bin, without discassion, to dispose of infidel objections. Far otherwise. That the evidence of natural religion is conclusive, enters as an element into the res. soning of bis Discourses on tổe Modern Astronomy. He plainly takes it for granted, that nature affords sufficient evidence not only of the being and power of God, but of bis wisdom and goodness. We read of seeing the evidences of Divine wis. • dom and care spread in exhaustless profusion around us ;' of the principles of natural religion as undeniable troths, lying I within the field of human observation ;' of its being a most . Christian exercise to extract a sentiment of piety from the • appearances of nature.' The Author appeals to the per
sonal history of every individual,' for evidence of a particular providence; and he speaks of having experience of the goverament of God, of perceiving in the wisdom and gooduess 6 around us that the thoughts of God are not as our thoughts,
nor bis ways as our ways;' of 'prints of design and bevero6 lence in the scene of nature, of microscopic objects filled and animated with evidences of the Divine glory, of 'impres• sive proofs' of the particular attention of God to the minutest of his works.* He disposes of the infidel objection, not by saying that Cbristianity bas been proved to be true, not by opposing the obstipacy of the fact to the elegance of the • speculation,' but by applying to it the apalogy first illustrated by the profound and sagacious Butler. This tried weapon, which Dr. C. bad degraded into a mere argumentuin ad hominem, a fallacious mode of reasoning, is the instrument of his splendid victory. He readily believes in the mission of thə Eterval Son of God for the salvation of the world, because it is no more than what he sees lying scattered, in numberless • examples before him, and running through the whole line of « his recollections.'
To recommend his mode of defending Christianity, Dr. C. represented it as the application of the inductive pbilosophy to the Christian Evidence. This pbilosopliy, if we may credit him, considers experience, not in the vague and popular, but in the rigorous and philosopbic acceptation of that term, as the only source of human knowledge. The light of experience being our only guide, as 'we have no experience whatever of the "invisible God, as we are precluded, by the nature of the • subject, from the benefit of observation,' our ignorance ought to restrain us from asserting that God exists, and inuch more • from ascribing to him any attributes,' or holding any certain conclusions, as to the character of the Divine administration.' Not to dwell on the palpable contradiction between this repre.
*« A Series of Discourses on the Christian Revelation, viewed in conpection with the Modern Astronomy.” pp. 8. 9. 21. 106. 110. 113. 116.