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Atheistical Objections and Schemes of Doctrine Considered



psalm 14:1

The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.

In the preceding discourse, I endeavoured to prove the existence of God, by arguments which have appeared to men of great distinction for learning and wisdom, to be not only satisfactory but unanswerable. Plain men, also, though comprehending them imperfectly, have admitted both the force of the arguments, themselves; and the point which they are intended to establish; without a question, and almost without an exception. Yet it cannot be denied that there have been Atheists, speculative as well as practical. A few of them may have existed in the uneducated classes of mankind, but almost all have been found among those, who, professedly at least, have been more or less learned.

But to whatever class these persons may belong, and whatever pretensions they may make to knowledge and wisdom, they are in the text universally characterized by folly. The fool, says David, hath said, there is no God. In other words, every man who says this, is a fool; and the assertion is the result of his folly, only.

It is remarkable that this assertion is declared to be made in the heart of the fool; that is, to flow from his wishes, and not from his understanding. For the words, there is, in the translation, there is nothing in the original. Hence, it has been supposed, by some commentators, that the passage ought to be rendered, let there be no God. Whether this rendering be admitted, or not, there can be no doubt that the chief reason why the assertion is adopted, at all, is the indisposition of the heart to acknowledge the existence of the Creator.

That we easily believe, what we wish to believe, is a truth so obvious, as to have passed into a proverb. He, who hates the control, disrelishes the character, and dreads the inspection, judgment, and retribution of his Maker, and intends to persevere in a course of sin; will find no refuge from anxiety and alarm, and no source of quiet in sinning so comfortable, or in his view so safe, as the belief, that there is no God. It is not strange, therefore, that this belief has been cherished by such beings as mankind are; and particularly, by such beings as Atheists have universally been.

Still, this conduct cannot be denied to be folly of a very gross kind. As our belief can make no difference in the fact; as if God exists, he will continue to exist; as our danger from his anger against our sins, is exactly the same whether we believe it or not; as our quiet in sin will in this case only cheat us into ruin; and as the little consolation which we find in the indulgence of this belief, will only enhance our wretchedness by adding to it the anguish of disappointment; no sober man will hesitate to pronounce this conduct foolish in the extreme. To him, who walks over the edge of a precipice, what benefit can it be to shut his eyes. What greater stupidity can there be, than to shut our eyes, when this conduct will prove the certain means of conveying us to this scene of absolute destruction.

Atheists have, however, determined to encounter this hazard, and boldly resolved that there is no God. Against the doctrine of the divine existence they have raised up several objections, which they declare to be satisfactory, at least, to themselves. These they have also formed into a scheme, and presented it to the public with a face of bold assurance. Even this has not satisfied them. They have triumphed, in the most open manner, in the supposed ingenuity of their efforts; and in the boasted strength of their arguments, have ridiculed the arguments of their antagonists; and have treated the doctrines not only of Christianity, but even of Theism, with contempt. It is the design of this discourse, to examine the objections of these men, and the principal doctrines with which they have been connected.

The first of these objections, which I shall mention, is that Creation is so great a work, as to make it seem impossible, even for God to accomplish it.

This was the great difficulty in the mind of Aristotle. This singular man, in the early parts of his life, found his thoughts so much perplexed with this consideration, that he for a time gave up the doctrine of Creation, and determined that the Universe, as to its substance at least, had existed from eternity. I cannot help remarking here the difference between him and the modern opposers of the divinity of Christ. Arians and Socinians have very generally insisted, that Creation is so easy a work, as to afford no proof of divine agency; and declared, that, even if Christ did in fact create all things, this fact does not infer his divinity. To Aristotle it appeared too difficult a work, even for God himself to perform.


To this objection we are furnished with a conclusive answer. God does actually, and daily, create the human soul, in innumerable instances; and the creation of the soul evidently demands all the power, necessary to the creation of matter. He, who can give existence to the soul, can plainly give existence to any thing. As I propose in the progress of these discourses to discuss at large the immateriality of the soul, I shall at present take, it for granted.

This objection is also completely overthrown by the fact, that God upholds, moves, and governs, the universe. Had Aristotle known the doctrines of the Copernican Astronomy, and beheld God moving, with entire and unabated ease, the systems of worlds, which compose the universe; his capacious mind would, I think, have been irresistibly led to admit, that the hand, which moves them, could with the same ease have created them. Indeed this great man appears, in the later parts of his life, not to have placed any serious reliance on this objection.


2dly. It is objected, that the state of the world is such, as to forbid the belief, that it is the work of a God.

“The world,” say the objectors, “is full of imperfection, and of suffering. The course of nature is such, as to entail upon all its animated inhabitants, pain, disease, and Death. Nor is the moral state of things materially different from the natural. Depravity, in all its odious forms, appears to have existed from the beginning; and has ever constituted, to say the least, no small part of the character of mankind.” God, on the part of all enlightened men, who believe in the existence of such a being, and particularly on that of Christians, is declared to be possessed of infinite perfection. Can a being of such perfection be supposed to be the author of so imperfect, incongruous, and deformed, a work? Is it not plain, that God either did not make the world, or that he has forgotten it, and left it wholly to the control of chance?

To this objection, which is attended with a degree of speciousness, and fitted to awaken fretfulness, where it will not produce conviction, I answer, in the

1st place, that all the real weight of it lies in the existence of moral evil; a subject, which I shall have occasion to examine, when I come to discourse on the benevolence of God, and on the apostasy of man.

2dly. The whole force of this objection lies in the inexplicableness of certain things, which it alleges; and amounts to no more than this, that there are several things in the world, the nature, use, and end, of which we cannot understand. The argument, contained in it, if resolved into a general principle, will stand thus. Nothing, the nature, use, and end, of which we cannot understand, can be the work of God. This argument needs only to be proposed, to be exploded; for it is absolutely certain, that God can do very few things, whose nature, use, or end, can be comprehended by us.

It is equally certain, that, according to this rule of concluding, the same thing may, at the same time, be proved to be, and not to be, the work of God. One man may distinctly comprehend the nature of a thing, and discern in it certain proofs of divine workmanship. Another man may, at the same time, be wholly ignorant of the nature of the same thing; and his ignorance will, according to this rule, be decisive proof, that it is not a divine work.

The same man, also, may, according to this rule, in the different periods of childhood and manhood be able to prove a thing to be, and not to be, wrought by the hand of God. The evidence of the divine agency, and the want of it, are here placed, not in the nature of the work, but in the nature of the optics, by which it is perceived: an absurdity too palpable to need any further discussion. The real proof in this, and every other, case must, if it be found at all, be found in something which we know, and not in our ignorance.

But it has not been, and cannot be, shown, that in the existing world there is any thing inconsistent with the doctrine, that it was created, and is governed, by God. It is readily acknowledged, that in the system, of which we are a little part, mystery and inexplicableness are found every where, and in every thing, in the view of such minds as ours. At the same time, it is also certain, that nothing else can be rationally looked for in the works of Him, whose ways are higher than our ways as the Heavens are higher than the Earth. The mysteries alleged, instead of being an objection against the doctrine, that the world was made by God, are a strong presumptive argument in its favour.

3dly. The direct proof of the divine agency in the formation and government of this very world, found in innumerable things, which itself contains, is hitherto unanswered, and is plainly unanswerable. This, having its foundation in what we know, can never be affected in any manner by what we do not know; or, in other words, by the mere inexplicableness of the objects around us.

Universally, until we know thoroughly the nature, use, and end, of the things, on which the objection is founded, it must be a mere and miserable presumption, that they have not such a nature, use, and end, as are worthy of God.

The Doctrines, which Atheists have connected with these objections, and which are deserving of any serious attention, are the following,

  1. That things have existed in an Eternal Series:
  2. That their existence is Casual: and

III. That all distinct, or separate, beings owe their existence to the Powers and Operations of Matter.

These I shall consider in the order specified.

  1. It is asserted by Atheists, that there has been an Eternal Series of things.

The absurdity of this assertion may be shown in many ways.

1st. Each individual in a series is an unit. But every collection of units, however great, is with intuitive certainty, numerable; and therefore cannot be infinite.

2dly. Every individual in the series, (take for example a series of men,) had a beginning. But a collection of beings, each of which had a beginning, must, however long the series, have also had a beginning. This likewise is intuitively evident. Should it be said, that the first in each series had not a beginning, but was from everlasting; which is the only possible method of evading the answer already given; I reply, that, according to this supposition, the first in each series was uncaused and self-existent; and, containing in itself the principles of eternal existence, could never have ceased to be. At the same time, an endless multitude of finite self-existent beings must be admitted on this supposition, possessed in all instances of few and feeble active powers, and in most instances of none but such as are merely passive. Thus, for example, there must have been an eternal Man, an eternal Lion, an eternal Eagle, an eternal Oak, an eternal Rose, eternal Grass, and in a word as many eternal self-existent Beings, as there are kinds, and sorts, of existences in the world: for no being of one kind can possibly produce, or bring into existence, a being of any other kind. Of course, there must have been one, eternal and self-existent, at the head of every existing series; and at the head of every series of animated beings an eternal self-existent pair. From these, also, the whole series must have sprung without any contrivance, and in most instances without any consciousness. All this, with a train of absurdities following it, literally endless, must be admitted on this supposition. For what purpose must all this be admitted? Truly, to relieve us from the difficulty of admitting the existence of One self-existent being. At the same time, the existence of such a finite self-existent being is a mere hypothesis, without a shadow of support.

Beyond this, all such beings must have lived, as we do, through a succession of years, and their whole existence must be made up of parts, or divisions, succeeding each other. These parts are a collection of units; and are therefore numerable.

Should it be said, that Saints and Angels in heaven are immortal, and will therefore exist through an infinite duration; that this duration will also be made up of successive parts; and that, of course, there may be an infinite duration made up of successive parts: I answer, that there is a total difference between these cases. In the former, the supposed infinite duration is completed: in the latter, it will never be completed. It is true, that Saints and Angels will never cease to be: but it will never be true, that they have lived infinitely, or through an infinite duration. An endless addition of parts may be supposed; but an infinite sum of parts, which have actually had existence, is a self-contradiction.

3dly. It is justly observed by the learned and acute Dr. Bentley, that, in the supposed infinite series, as the number of individual men is alleged to be infinite; the number of their eyes must be twice, the number of their fingers ten times, and the number of the hairs on their heads many thousand times, as great, as the number of men. What, then, must be the number of the hairs on the bodies of animals; of leaves on the trees; and of blades of grass on the earth? According to this supposition, then, there is an almost endless multitude of numbers, greater, and many of them incalculably, than an infinite number. To such palpable absurdities are we reduced by supposing an infinite succession.

4thly. It is also observed by the same excellent Writer, that all these generations of men were once present. One of the individuals, viz. the first, existed at an infinite distance from us. His son, who may be supposed to have been forty years younger, was either at an infinite, or at a finite, distance from us. If at an infinite, then the infinite distance of his father was forty years longer than the infinite distance of the son. If the son was at a finite distance from us, then forty years, added to a finite distance, will make it infinite.

It is unnecessary, that I should dwell any longer on this complication of folly.

The same arguments are, with the same force, applicable to all possible successions. Every succession is in its nature made up of parts, each of which has a beginning. Of course we see intuitively, that the whole has had a beginning.

The only subject, on which rests even a seeming obscurity in this respect, is what is called continued motion. Some persons have considered motion of this kind; such, for example, as that of the Planets; as not being successive; because, when viewed in the gross, the successive parts were not separable by the human mind. Divide the circuit, as a wheel is divided by its cogs, or teeth; or fix upon a number of stars, by which the planet shall successively pass; and the delusion, occasioned by the continuity of the parts, will vanish in a moment. It will be seen of course, and with perfect distinctness, that motion, in all its forms, is as truly a succession of changes, as successive thought, or successive being.

Atheists assert, that the existence of things is Casual.

In this assertion the connection between cause and effect, and the very existence of causation, are denied, so far as the production of being is concerned. All beings are supposed not to have been produced, or caused, but to have happened: their existence being supposed to be a mere contingency. Some, perhaps most of those, who have adopted this system, have, however, at the same time believed matter to be eternal. On this scheme of existence I observe in the

1st. place, that it is a mere hypothesis, unsupported by any evidence whatever. The doctrine of casual, or contingent, existence precludes all reasoning by its very nature. The very demand of a reason from him, who adopts it, is itself an absurdity; because he declares to you in the very nature of the doctrine that neither the existence, nor the doctrine, admits of the application of any reason. Of course, the fact, that existence has happened in any case, is in its own nature capable of being evidenced only by testimony, and of this evidence it is in fact incapable, because no witness was ever present at such a contingency. The doctrine, therefore, stands on exactly the same ground with that of all other mere assumptions; such as, that the soul of man is blue, or triangular; that the inhabitants of Jupiter walk with their heads downward; or that the Sun is a body of melted glass.

2dly. The abettors of this doctrine have, in their endeavours to form a system, founded on it, been driven, unavoidably, into a continued succession of absurdities.

Epicurus, the principal vender of this system, supposed, that innumerable solid atoms existed from eternity in infinite space; that they were of different sizes and figures, and were all separated from each other; and that they were originally quiescent, or motionless. When it was objected, that they must, then, have remained for ever motionless; he invented for them a conatus ad motum; an endeavour, or tendency, towards motion; which he declares to have been inherent in them eternally. When it was objected, that, unless they were moved eternally by this conatus, they could never have moved at all; he avoided this difficulty by determining, that they had moved from eternity, in parallel directions. It was objected again, that with this motion they would never have approached any nearer to each other. To escape this difficulty, he gave them a motion, in a small degree oblique. The cause of their motion be declares to be their weight; and their direction to be downward: not knowing, that there is no weight, where there is no attracting body; and that every direction towards the centre of the earth is downward. I will not pursue this mass of absurdities any farther; and will only observe, that those, who have followed him, have not rendered the system a whit better than they found it.

3dly. The actual state of things is a complete refutation of this doctrine.

Regularity is a direct and perfect proof of the absence of casualty in the formation of that, in which the regularity exists; and the whole system of things is, in its parts, and their union in a whole, one immense and multiform system of regularity.

The twenty-four letters of the Alphabet, small as the number is, are proved arithmetically to be capable of more than six hundred thousand millions of billions, of different, horizontal arrangements. Were they to be thrown up into the air, and to fall in any supposed order, the chances against their falling, a second time, in the same order are at least as great a number, as that which has been specified; and just so many chances exist against their falling in any given position.

In the human frame there are probably more than a million of parts, greater and smaller; all of which we behold united in a perfect and most regular system. The relative horizontal positions only, of which these are capable, must be expressed by more than a million of arithmetical figures; their vertical and oblique positions must be expressed by several millions more; and all these, combined, must be expressed by the multiplication of these immense sums with each other. The chances, therefore, against such an union of the parts of the human body, as actually exists, even after we suppose the several parts actually formed, would be such, as would be expressed by this aggregate of figures: a number, which all the human race, who have existed since the Mosaic date of the creation, would not have been able to count, had they busied themselves in no other employment, during their lives. In addition to this, the number of chances against the original formation of these parts is immensely greater, than against the fact of their coming together. Nor are we yet at the end of the climax: for we perfectly well know, that, if all the parts were actually and perfectly formed, they could neither put themselves together, nor be united by any human skill, or labour, however long employed. Beyond all this, if they were all formed, and all perfectly united, so as to constitute exactly, both within and without, a human frame; it would still be a mere corpse, without life, or motion. Were we to admit, still further, that the frame, thus formed, might become possessed of life; it would yet be destitute of a soul, and therefore infinitely distant from the intelligent being, whom we call man.

All these difficulties must be surmounted, a second time, in order to the existence of mankind: one of each sex being originally, and absolutely, necessary to the existence of succeeding generations. In the same manner, the same process must be repeated, in order to the production of every kind of animals; and in most cases in order to the production of the kinds of Trees, Shrubs, and Plants.

He, who can believe this system, can believe any thing; and his faith must undoubtedly be the nearest approximation to casualty, which has been hitherto recorded in the history of man.

The body of man is a system, made up of parts, wonderfully numerous and diversified, and still more wonderfully united and arranged. Every one of them is regularly found in all the bodies of men, in its own place; and that, the best place possible. The hair of the head, which, for aught that appears, might as naturally have grown on the face, grows only where it is needed to cover the cerebrum, and cerebellum, so tender and vital, from the injuries of both heat and cold; and to become, at the same time, a beautiful ornament. The eyes are placed where only they are needed, or could be materially useful, to direct the hands and the feet: the teeth, where alone they could serve their great purpose, of mastication: the throat, immediately behind and beneath them; where alone it could answer its own purpose of receiving the food, after it has been chewed, mixed with the saliva, and thus prepared for digestion: the stomach, beneath the throat, or more properly beneath the œsophagus, to receive through it the food, thus prepared, and render it useful to the preservation of life by digestion. In the same manner, the heart is situated in exactly that position, with respect to the lungs, and the greater arteries and veins, in which it communicates to them, and through them to the whole body, in the most advantageous manner, the blood, which is the great instrument of sustaining life. The Lungs, also, are in the same happy manner connected with the throat by the trachea, so as to receive, and decompose, the air on which we live, after it is admitted into the nostrils. The great bone of the Neck and Back, commonly called the Spine, is so formed, and placed, as to sustain the body in an erect posture; as to defend, in a manner indispensably necessary, the spinal marrow, so essential to life; and as, through orifices in the vertebræ, of which it is composed, to permit the nerves to pass, and give sensation to every part of the body; and as, at the same time, to enable us to bend into every useful position. The tongue is so constructed, and posited, as to answer exactly its various important purposes, particularly tasting and speaking; the hands, where alone they could be employed, in their innumerable uses; and the feel, where alone they could enable us to stand, or walk.

This course of illustration might be pursued through a volume, or rather through many volumes; and the more minutely and extensively it was pursued, the more clearly would it evince, al every step, a design most wonderful in itself, originally and exactly formed, and perfectly executed; every part of which is with the greatest felicity fitted to the important ends of human existence.

Let us now, for a moment, consider what would be the consequences of mere casualty with regard to this subject. Suppose the eyes, only, placed (where they might as easily have fallen by chance, as in their proper place) in any one of those innumerable positions, furnished by the body; for example on the top of the head, or on the soles of the feet: What would have become of the man? Suppose the mouth, the throat, the trachea, the lungs, the stomach, or the heart, to have been removed even a very little distance from their present places. How soon must life, if we suppose life at first to exist, be extinguished? Or rather, how impossible must it have been for life to exist at all? Were the hands and feet to interchange positions; were the thumb to grow from the back of the hand; or the joints of the fingers to be turned outwards, nearly every purpose, which man is fitted to accomplish, must be entirely prevented. The truth is; all the parts of the human body are of high importance to our well-being, both as to their structure, and their position; and very many of them are in both respects absolutely indispensable. A very small change in any one of these would be equally fatal to comfort, and to life.

Whence, then, has it come to pass, that, in so many millions of the human race, all the parts of the human body are exactly formed, and exactly placed, in their proper and relative position? that the blood has flowed in its thousand channels, and regularly returned to the fountains, in all its various courses? that the food has ever been digested; the processes of secretion carried on with exactness; the juices separated without mixture; and the nutriment of the whole Body conveyed to every part, however minute; and however distant? that the organs of sensation have ever been formed; and the bones, muscles, and sinews, furnished with strength, and the nerves with sensitive perception; and that thus the Body has become a frame, a tenement, suited to the inhabitation of an intelligent mind?

Let me further ask, has mere casualty been the source of contrivance, of thought, of volition, of virtue? Has an immaterial Existence possessed of these wonderful powers, started into being by a mere contingency? That the soul is immaterial, I shall, as I have before observed, attempt to prove in another discourse, and shall therefore take it, here, for granted. Will it be held, that souls are also progenitors, and propagate each other, after chance has given birth to the first in the series?

The first proofs of design, viz. the provision of means, adapted evidently to the accomplishment of ends, are also found in every animal Body; in every organized structure; in the mineral Kingdom, to a vast extent; and universally in the figure, positions, motions, and appurtenances, of the worlds composing the planetary system. Their magnitudes, their distances from the Sun; the position of their axes; their diurnal and annual revolutions; their furniture of moons; the central station, size, and splendour, of the vast luminous world, around which they roll; the regularity and harmony of all their motions; are overwhelming proofs of design and wisdom, such as can be attributed only to a boundless and uncreated Mind.


III. Atheists assert, that the several beings, found in the Universe, owe their existence to the operations of Matter.

In opposing this scheme we return again to arguments, derived from the connection between cause and effect: for here a cause is not only supposed, but directly alleged by the Atheist; and is regarded by him as being adequate to the production of all beings. It will be my business to prove from the inadequacy, and the consequent inefficacy, of the alleged causes, that it was not the real source of existence to the beings, visible in the world around us. For the accomplishment of this purpose, I observe in the

1st. Place, that Matter is acknowledged by the Atheist, with whom I am now arguing, to be destitute of Intelligence: it being the great object of his scheme to prove, that his own existence, and that of other beings, was not derived from an Intelligent cause.

2dly. The eternal existence of Matter is a merely gratuitous supposition; unsupported by any evidence, whatever.

3dly. If we admit, that Matter existed from eternity, its properties, and operations, must all have been also eternal.

As the properties of Matter are inherent in it; they must, in the case supposed, have been eternally inherent. Of course whatever powers Matter possessed, it possessed them eternally: there being no cause, intrinsic or extrinsic, to increase, lessen, or alter them. Hence it is certain, that they must have operated from eternity, in every way, in which they could operate at all. All the beings, therefore, and all the changes, which its operations could produce, it must have produced from eternity. Hence it is plain, that there must have been an eternal and infinite series of Men, of Animals, of Vegetables, of Motions, and of Changes of every other kind, in the universe. But this has been demonstrated to be a self-contradiction. The premises, whence it is derived, are therefore false. That Matter should have possessed these powers from Eternity, without exerting them, and that it should have exerted them from Eternity, are thus proved to be, as I asserted in the former discourse, plain impossibilities. It follows, then, undeniably, that, if Matter existed eternally in one uniform state, that state was entirely quiescent; and that no change, however small, could ever have taken place in it, but from an extrinsic cause. Thus, the supposition of the eternal existence of Matter, is so far from accounting for the existence of the beings, and the changes, in the Universe, that it will not account for any thing; not even for the least change in the position, or circumstances, of an atom.

4thly. There is no fact, which gives even the appearance of plausibility to this scheme.

The only facts, which, so far as I know, have ever been seriously alleged to this purpose, are the production of insects, and plants, by what is called equivocal generation: according to which, by the mere fermentation of various kinds of matter, the insect is supposed to be produced without a parent, and the plant without a seed.

To this I answer,

(1st.) That this is, at best, a mere supposition: no evidence having been ever furnished of the fact which it alleges.

(2dly.) Francisco de Redi, and Malpighi, two eminent Italian philosophers, have, by a long train of ingenious and accurate experiments, unanswerably proved, that equivocal generation is a groundless hypothesis; and that no Matter, in any process of fermentation, will produce an insect without a parent, or a plant without a seed. As, therefore, all the powers and operations of matter must, if eternal, be eternally the same; and as matter now produces no such beings, as are alleged; it follows unanswerably, that matter was never the cause of any such productions.

5thly. Innumerable facts directly refute this scheme.

1st. That this world, in its present form, was not eternal is certain; because its surface is continually changing, and approximating, towards a level. If we suppose one particle only to have descended from the higher towards the lower parts of the surface in an age, or in a million of ages; the whole, unless counteracted by opposing causes (and in most places there is no trace of such causes) must have become an entire level, at a period, too distant to be conceived by any mind, or expressed by any numbers. Yet millions of tons annually descend towards the centre. The date of the Earth, in its present state, must, therefore, have begun at a time not far distant.

2dly. If, contrary to truth, we admit gravitation to be an inherent property of Matter, it could not possibly have caused the revolutions of the planets.

Let the planets be placed at any supposable place, and distance, within the reach of the Sun’s attraction; the only direction, in which they could possibly move, would be a straight or right line towards the Sun; because this is the only direction, in which his gravitation, and theirs, can possibly act. It is easily, and mathematically, proved, that to the circular motion of the planets round the Sun a projectile force, or impulse, acting in the direction of a tangent to the planetary orbit, was originally indispensable. So far, therefore, would the planets have been from moving in their proper orbits, round the Sun by the mere power of gravitation, that they could only have fallen directly to the Sun. Should it be said, that the planets have moved eternally in their present orbits; and that the Earth, for example, has performed an infinite series of revolutions; it must also be said, that the Moon, in her circuit round the Earth, has performed a series thirteen times, and the Earth, in its rotation round its axis, a series 365 times, as great, as that infinite series.

3dly. The diurnal motions of the planets, the positions of their axes, and the attendance of their satellites, which accord with no regularity, or proportion, to their magnitudes, or their distances from the Sun, and cannot be explained in any consistency with mere material principles, prove themselves, unquestionably, to have been derived from an extrinsic and intelligent cause.

6thly. From a sufficiently regular course of observations, employed on the eclipses of the Sun and Moon, and a series of correct calculations concerning them, it is proved by Ferguson, that the ancient eclipses, noted in history, took place at times, differing sensibly from those, which the calculations require, that these differences of time regularly diminish, as the times approach nearer to us; and that the orbit of the Moon was, therefore, more distant from the Earth, formerly, than it is now. Hence it is certain, that the Moon’s motion round the Earth, instead of having been eternal, has existed only during a little period.

In the last place, for I will not dwell on this atheistical dream any longer, if all these impossibilities were removed, and all these proofs given up, another would still remain, which completely refutes this scheme; viz. that Matter cannot be the cause of Intelligence.

Quod non habet, dare non potest, what a cause does not contain or possess, it cannot communicate; is a maxim, or self-evident proposition. That Matter, therefore, which cannot think, will, or originate motion, should communicate thought, volition, and motivity, is plainly impossible.

Thus have I considered the only atheistical schemes of existence, which merit any serious attention. Were I disposed to exhibit the abettors of these schemes in a ridiculous and contemptible light; the efforts of Anaximander, Epicurus, the Egyptian Philosophers, the Count de Buffon, and many others both ancient and modern, to explain the origin and progress of things, would furnish me with ample materials. But such an exhibition would ill become this sacred place. I shall only add, that the existence of the very Matter, to which so much is attributed, and on which such reliance is placed, by atheistical philosophers, can never be evinced. I myself believe, indeed, that it exists; but I also know, that its existence cannot be proved.


From these observations it is evident, in the

1st. place, that Atheism in all its forms is a specimen of the most absolute credulity.

The three great atheistical schemes of existence, here recited, and undoubtedly the best which have been formed, are founded on mere assumptions, or gratuitous hypotheses, unsupported by a particle of argument, or evidence. But to adopt a mere assumption, especially in a case of infinite importance, is credulity in the extreme, and folly which cannot plead even a pretence. More than this, each of these schemes is refuted by direct demonstration. Beyond even this, they are unanswerably proved not only to be false, but to be impossible. Still the Atheist goes on quietly with his faith in these hypotheses; and resolves to believe, in defiance of demonstration, and impossibility.

2dly. There are still men, in considerable numbers, and of no small ingenuity, who profess themselves Atheists; and who thus prove, that Atheism has its seat in the heart, and not in the understanding. Nothing can be more evident, than that these doctrines can never have been embraced from argument, or conviction, or by an unbiassed understanding. They were, therefore, certainly adopted under the influence of the heart; and believed, only because they were loved, or because God was dreaded and hated. Thus the heart is the true source of the belief that there is no God; and he is a fool, who, governed by its wishes, thus believes against all reason and evidence.

3dly. As such men have thus believed under such an influence; so, if we indulge such wishes, we may be given up by God to these, or any other, fatal doctrines, and of course to destruction.

The great danger lies in the heart; and in its hostility to God and his character. What we wish we easily believe; and what we dread, or hate, we easily disbelieve. As we dread the anger of God against sin, and against ourselves particularly as sinners, and all his designs to punish it; as we hate to renounce it, and its pleasures; we contrive easily, and naturally, to disbelieve his designs, character, and existence. Especially is this the case, when God, provoked by our rebellion and opposition, gives us up to a reprobate mind.

How greatly ought we then to fear this mass of guilt, danger, and ruin? How earnestly ought we to watch, and strive, and pray that we fall not into this train of temptations and miseries? Let us resolve to receive the truth, at all events, however humbling, or painful, in the love of it. And may God grant that it may make us free from the bondage of corruption, and translate us into the glorious liberty of his Children. Amen.

Dwight, T. (1818). Theology: Explained and Defended, in a Series of Sermons, Volume 1 (19). Middletown, CT: Clark & Lyman.


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