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THE DIFFICULTIES ATTENDANT UPON DEISTICAL INFIDELITY IN THE ABSTRACT REJECTION OF ALL REVELATION FROM GOD. .
Mr. Volney and other writers of the same school, in plain defiance of the more modest confession of Socrates, contend, that the light of nature alone is an amply sufficient teacher : so that, by its sole aid, an authentic and immutable code, which shall readily command the assent of all mankind, máy very easily be formed. Shew us, say the people freed (as Mr. Volney expresses it) from their fetters and prejudices, the line, that separates the world of chimeras from that of realities ; and teach us, after so many religions of error and delusion, the religion of evidence and truth. To this humble request the French philosopher kindly assents; and, for the instruction of the disa, bused multitude, draws up, what he styles, The Law of Nature, or principles of morality deduced from the physical constitution of Mankind and the Universe,
Now, unfortunately, some of the very first principles, on which this with other similar schemes of natural religion is founded, cannot themselves be certainly known without the aid of a revelation from heaven. Hence it is clear, that such a system, instead of being a religion of evidence and truth (the character much too hastily claimed for it by Mr. Volney), is in fact nothing better than a religion of vague conjecture and unauthorized speculation.
I. The deist, as his very title implies, lays it down as the basis of that natural religion which he advocates, that there is one God the Creator and Moderator of all things.
This dogma may appear so obvious, that few, it might be suspected, would controvert it, even placing revelation altogether out of the question, save the. atheist: and, laboriously to answer his folly, might equally, both by the deist and by the Christian, be well deemed labour thrown away. Yet the very first objection, which I would make to the deistical scheme, is the defect of legitimate proof under which its leading dogma most certainly labours.
There is one only God, says the deist, the Creator and Moderator of all things; by whom the universe was brought originally into being, and through whom is subsists.
In reply, I request to be informed, upon his principles, how he knows, that there is only one God, respecting whom such matters may be truly predicated.
His answer, no doubt, will be, that the existence of a God is decidedly proved by the very frame of the universe. Evident design must needs imply a designer. But evident design is conspicuous in every part of the universe : and, the wider our physical researches are extended, the more conspicuously does this design appear. Therefore, just as we argue the existence of a watchmaker from the evident design which may be observed in a watch, so we argue the existence of a Creator from the evident design which may be observed in the universe. To bring out any other conclusion involves the same palpable absurdity, as to contend, that a watch assumed its orderly form by chance and that it certainly never had a maker.
The cogency of this argument I most readily allow, so far as its principle is concerned: but I must be permitted to doubt, how far it will serve the purpose of a deist, who depends solely upon his own reason and who rejects the authority of revelation. It is perfectly true, that evident design must needs imply a designer : and it is equally true, that evident design shines out in every part of the universe. But we reason inconclusively, if, with the deist, we thence infer the existence of one, and only one, supreme designer. That a universe, upon which design is so evidently impressed, must have been created, is indeed abundantly clear: nor will this point be ever controverted, save by the gross folly of Atheism. But, that a universe, thus characterized, was created by one Supreme God, is not at all clear upon the principles of deistical Infidelity. It may, for ought the deist knows to the contrary, have been created by a collective body of Gods, perfectly harmonizing in design, and jointly bringing the great work to a completion. The argument, from the evident design impressed upon the universe, proves indeed, that the universe must have been first designed and then created : but it is incapable of proving, that the universe had no more than a single designer. Whether we suppose one designer or many designers, and thence one creator or many creators, the phenomenon of evident design in the creation will be equally accounted for : and, beyond this, the argument in question, as managed upon deistical principles, neither does nor can reach. The deist, I allow, can prove very satisfactorily and without the aid of revelation, that the universe, marked as it is in all its parts by evident design, must have been itself designed and therefore created : but he never did, and he never can, prove, without the aid of revelation, that the universe was designed by a single designer. He rejects, however, the aid of revelation : therefore, on his own principles, he cannot prove so much as the very dogma from which he borrows his name,
To this objection he will answer (I am fully aware), that the theory of one designer is much more simple than the theory of many designers, and therefore that it ought to be preferred and adopted.
What he says may be true enough : but still, on deistical principles, where is the proof? On those principles, it is highly probable, that there is no more than one God. But probability is not certainty : and I will venture to say, without any fear of well-grounded contradiction, that, even in the first article of his creed, the deist can attain to no greater elevation than bare probability. Nay, were we so disposed, we might contest even this point with him. On the same ground, that he pleads for the higher probability of a single designer, in the case of the universe; he stands pledged, would he preserve consistency, to plead for the higher probability of a single designer, in the case of a watch. Yet that instrument, as we all know, was not struck out at a heat by one intellect: and still less are its several component parts fashioned by a single hand, In short, when the deist has arrived at the conclusion, that the universe must have been designed and created : he must search for some new argument to prove, that it had only a single designer and creator. If he fail in demonstrating this vital point, his system will limp from its very birth : and, to style himself a deist rather than a polytheist, will be a virtual begging of the question. He has