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The great

The stupendous fabric of the universe, part of which we see, and part of which we ourselves are, cannot but become an object of earnest contemplation to the inquisitive mind. majority of men, it is true, pass through life without reflection. Their intellectual powers are so little cultivated, and they are so much occupied with objects of sense, and in making provision for their immediate and pressing wants, that they never attempt to raise their minds to the contemplation of the wonderful works by which they are surrounded : but these objects, constantly beheld from infancy, excite no surprise, and seldom call forth a single reflection. There have always been, however, among nations enjoying any degree of civilization, men of minds more cultivated than the rest, and more disposed to investigate the causes of those phenomena which they continually beheld. These sages, when they looked upon the heavens and the earth, upon themselves and other organized and living beings, have been led to inquire, Whence all these things? Have they always existed, or have they been produced ? To those who have been conversant with the truth all their lives, it may seem that it would have been an easy thing for any rational mind to ascend at once from the creature to the invisible Creator ; but we cannot readily conceive of the perplexity and darkness which surround the intellect of men, whom no ray of divine revelation has visited. The reasonings of such men are also impeded and perverted by prejudices, and erroneous opinions imbibed from their forefathers; and, not unfrequently, pride and other evil passions influence speculative men to adopt extravagant opinions, for the sake of their paradoxical character, or because they are naturally grateful to the feelings of depraved nature. It is, therefore, not an unaccountable fact, that men, unenlightened by divine revelation, should have fallen into so many egregious errors respecting the origin of the world and its inhabitants.

A considerable number of those called philosophers entertained the opinion, that the universe always existed as we now behold it. They observed that, from age to age, the heavenly bodies move on in their orbits, undisturbed and unchanged ; and that, on earth, the same changes of day and night, of winter and summer, of seedtime and harvest, succeed each other in regular order: and no other power being manifest to the senses but that which operates through all nature, they concluded that the universe existed without any cause of itself; and that it ever had existed, and ever would exist, as it now appears.

Some, however, observing in all things, as they imagined, a tendency to dissolution, and perceiving in our globe evidences of a former destruction, adopted the opinion, that the universe contained in itself the principles of its own dissolution and regeneration ; that, after running through a period of unknown and inconceivable duration, it falls into a chaotic state, in which catastrophe all organized bodies are destroyed, and return to their simplest elements; but, from this chaos, by degrees, springs up a new order of things, or a renewal of that which before existed ; and thus, while they conceived the universe to be eternal, they imagined that it is in a state of perpetual change, by a kind of circular progression, which has neither beginning nor end.

Others of those called philosophers, who seem to have paid a more minute attention to the curious structure of organized bodies, were of opinion that they must by some means have been formed or produced ; bụt, not being able to rise to the conception of a Creator-or what is more probable, not liking to retain the idea of God in their minds—they invented the hypothesis of the eternal existence of the elements of the universe, which they supposed to consist of atoms, or indivisible bodies of all manner of shapes, and in perpetual motion among each other. These atoms, possessing various affinities, came together in every conceivable form of organized bodies, until, by degrees, and in a long process of time, the universe assumed its present aspect, and vegetables and animals of every species were produced by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.

Such a hypothesis might seem too absurd to be seriously entertained by any rational mind, and yet we find among its abettors, men of high and cultivated intellect, among the ancients. It has, however, met with less favour among modern atheists than the fore-mentioned theories ; although, in point of absurdity, all systems of atheism may be said to stand on a perfect level; for no folly can be conceived greater than that which says, “ there is no God."

The idea of the necessity of a cause, wherever we observe what we must consider an effect, is so deeply seated in human nature, that most men have professed themselves dissatisfied with any system

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