« PreviousContinue »
In endeavouring to account for the existence of the world, we find it impossible to resist the conclusion, that it is the production of a Being of almighty power, and of perfect goodness. It is evident that it did not create itself, for creation necessarily supposes a pre-existing intelligence. It is evident that the creatures on its surface did not give being to themselves, for they do not comprehend the mode of their own existence. They must therefore derive their origin from some being who understood their nature, and who endowed them with the faculties they possess.
The simplest ideas we seem capable of forming of this Being are, that he is intelligent, and that
he is uncaused. Intelligent he must be, for there are in his works, proofs of exquisite and amazing skill; and if there be any thing of which we may be certain, it is, that wherever there is contrivance there must have been a contriver, and that an adaptation of means to an end, cannot possibly exist, without the operation of a being, who perceived and designed the end, and fitted the means to accomplish it.
That the Great First Cause of all things must be himself uncaused, is also a truth which we are obliged to admit: for if we imagine that the immediate Creator of the world derives his existence and power from some superior being, we must suppose, either that this superior being is uncaused, in which case it is he who will answer to our conception of the Deity, or that he is dependent upon a third, and that this third is dependent on a fourth, and so on in an infinite series. But this infinite succession of dependent beings, requires a first and independent cause, as much as any one in the series ; and however far we may choose to carry our thoughts backward, we must at length come to the conclusion, that there is some one independent, underived being, the peculiarity of whose nature we endeavour to express, by saying that he is self-existent. It is this being that we term God, and that we suppose to be the Creator of the world.
If in this visible creation there be proofs of such contrivance as cannot but convince the mind, that it is the production of infinite intelligence, it likewise contains indications of such power, as we must acknowledge to be altogether without limits. He who could create such a world as this, must be able to o whatever it is possible for wisdom and power to accomplish. We have therefore no difficulty in conceiving that the author of this part of the creation is the author of the universe, however unlimited it be, or however amazing the degree of wisdom and power necessary to the production of it. For, though other worlds may be much greater in magnitude than this, and may contain much higher and nobler displays of wisdom, (which may possibly be the case, though we can scarcely conceive how even infinite wisdom can go beyond some contrivances with which we are acquainted,) yet there are in this globe sufficient appearances of it, to account for any which may exist in other parts of the creation, however glorious they may be.
The discoveries of modern science which have exhibited in the most striking light these indications of wisdom in the economy of nature, have also rendered them so familiar; that few are entirely ignorant of them. Amidst all these wonders, in nothing, perhaps, is the matchless
skill of the Creator more admirably displayed, than in the simplicity of the means which he has adopted to accomplish his vast and mighty purposes. By one single principle he preserves the planets in their orbits, regulates and adjusts their various movements, determines the descent of bodies to the earth, and retains them at its surface. By a similar, if not the same principle, he causes the particles of matter of which bodies are composed to cohere, and by the same power, exerted between particles of different kinds, all existing and all possible combinations of matter are formed. The same sun which gives stability to the system of which it is the centre, furnishes it with light and heat. The same air which sustains animal life in respiration alike promotes the process of vegetation, supports combustion, equalizes temperature over the globe, dissolves, elevates and diffuses water, deposits it again in the form of dew or rain, and thus enriches and beautifies the earth. Though by respiration, by the process of vegetation, and by many other chemical changes which take place without ceasing at the earth's surface, there is a constant consumption of one of the constituent principles of this air, and as constant a production of another, yet it is never deteriorated; for by an arrangement which, if subsequent investigation shall establish its correctness, must
be ranked amongst one of the most admirable adjustments in the whole economy of nature, that part of the air which is no longer fitted for the function of respiration, but which would prove deliterious to animals, is the very part which ministers to the nourishment of plants, and that part which plants exhale, animals inhale. Neither is the air in the least degree exhausted by the constant expenditure of it, either by the two tribes of animated beings, or by the innumerable processes which are constantly taking place, and to which it affords the materials; but by the disengagement of its simple gases in other processes, and their re-union, the necessary supply, the just equilibrium is kept up.
The same comprehensive wisdom is seen in the means which have been provided to secure the constant fertility of the earth, by the appointment of the law that the destruction of one vegetable shall afford nourishment to another, and in like manner to keep up the supply of food for animals, by the appointment of the law that they shall furnish subsistence to each other.
Were it necessary in this argument to descend to the consideration of the structure of indivi. duals in the animal or vegetable kingdom, it would be easy to point out in both, instances of such consummate skill as no mind could