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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 inseparably 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 cog'sciousness of what passes within, and the observation of what
passes without,' cannot have any conception of power, the notion of power not being supplier 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 explanation of them, afforded by the ostensible agent, will achieve his conviction. That claims upon our beliet 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 rejection 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 cisclaims the authority of this law of belief, the credibility of testimony, and the high moral character of those by whem it is enitted. If power be a word absolutely without meaning - how can “veracity,” “ worth,” “ benevolence," " constancy,” be any thing else than mere “nonentities of the imagination?” “ We do not avail “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 bave been previously affirmed to be fallacious; and the existence of those qualities which give credibility to the testimony of the witnesses, can be
proved upon no other principle than that which has been rejected.' pp. 56, 57.
If we are not allowed to reason from the effect to the existence and character of the cause, and consequently to infer the being and attributes of the great Agent, from his operations, we can never establislı even the existence of those who performed the Christian miracles, as moral and intelligent beings, much less can we be entitled, from their peculiar intellectual and moral character, to entertain any proposition, on the strength of their testimony
If the ideal atheist should allow the legitimacy of reasoning from the effect to the cause, but reject the great argument for the existence of God, because he finds not appearances of design in nature, miracles will not work his conversion. The ordinary and the extraordinary appearances afford evidence of the same nature.
• Phenomena are submitted to his observation, and he is desired to infer the existence of a cause in which intelligence and power are combined. That the phenomena of the first class display numerous and striking appearances of intelligence and power, has almost ceased to be a subject of dispute ; yet the atheist perceives no such appearances; his understanding, nevertheless, is in a high state of preparation, it seems, for perceiving such appearances in the other class of phe
His negative mind can discover in the processes of e, no appearances which give even probability to the conclusion, that they were instituted by any thing different from the inert instruments employed in conducting them; nor from investigation of nature's laws, can his understanding perceive any traces of a power higher than that of the subjects of these laws; yet from the counteraction of these laws and processes, he is expected immediately to perceive the ex. istence of God. On the “ blank surface” of his mind, observation of the celestial mechanism has inscribed no trace of a powerful and skilful Architect; he has viewed the admirable construction of the planetary system, has investigated the composition of the forces employed, and the mode of dispensing light and heat ; and he can find no more reason for concluding that a Cause in which power and skill are combined exists, than for the random "assertion, that in some distant region, there are tracts of space, which teem only with ani. mated beings, who without being supported on a firm surfuce have the
power of spontaneous movement in free spaces." Yet this is the person whose intellect is in the best possible condition for being con. vinced of the existence of such a cause by a voice from heaven!" He has contemplated the skilful mechanism of the human body,--the various combinations of parts united for the production of a common end, and that end the welfare of the whole. He has sought a solution of the great question of a First Cause; he has applied to the solution of that question, the declination of atoms, the appetencies of molecules, the energies of nervous fibrillæ, with all the other famous hypotheses of a similar nature, on the one hand; and on the other, the almighty
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.'
But if it were allowed, that the imaginary atheist might, ccnsistently 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 mature, 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 Invisible Cause, whose existence some miraculous event has been allowed to evince, the atheist, who is perfectly ignorant of the character of this Cause, it is most obvious, 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 helieves 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 from acquiescing " in any legitimate inference, to which the miracles of the gospel, “ viewed in the simple light of historical facts, may chance to carry
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.
Such is the powerful and impressive aspect which Dr. C. has made the Christian evidence to assume !
As Dr. C.'s principles thus subvert the whole evidence of Christianity, it might be useless to consider whether they enable us, without discussing their reasonableness, to dispose of infidel 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 ambassador were inconsistent with observation or experience, he allows that they ought to be rejected. He 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 natureand that it is contrary to reason to suppose that two or more divine Principles or Intelligences, share the government of the universe.'
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 not 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 entitled, on his own principles, to dismiss such objections, without enteriog into a discussion of their reasonableness.
Sbortly after the Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation appeared, Dr. C. had 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 discussion, to dispose of infidel objections. Far otherwise That the evidence of natural religion is conclusive, enters as an element into the reasoning of his Discourses on the Modern Astronomy. He plainly takes it for granted, that nature affords sufficient evidence not only of the being and power of God, but of his 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 truths, lying
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 government of God, of perceiving in the wisdom and goodness
around us that the thoughts of God are not as our thoughts, • nor bis ways as our ways;' of prints of design and benevo
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 bis works.* le disposes of the infidel objection, not by saying that Christianity bas been proved to be true, not by opposing the obstinacy of the fact to the elegance of the
speculation, but by applying to it the analogy first illustrated by the profound and sagacious Butler.
This tried weapon, which Dr. C. bad degraded into a mere argumentum ud hominem, a fallacious mode of reasoning, is the instrument of his splendid victory. He readily believes in the mission of the Eternal 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 . bis recollections.'
To recommend his mode of defending Christianity, Dr. C. represented it as the application of the inductive pbilosophy to the Christian Evidence. This pbilosophy, if we may credit him, considers experience, not in the vague and popular, but in the rigorous and philosophic acceptation of thai term, as the only source of human knowledge. The light of experience being our only guide, as ‘we bave 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 bolding 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.