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BEING AND ATTRIBUTES
MORE PARTICULARLY IN ANSWER TO MR HOBBES,
SPINOZA, AND THEIR FOLLOWERS.
All those who either are or pretend to be athe-The introists; who either disbelieve the being of God, or would be thought to do so; or, (which is all one,) who deny the principal attributes of the divine nature, and suppose God to be an unintelligent being, which acts merely by necessity ; that is, which, in any tolerable propriety of speech, acts not at all, but is only acted upon : all men that are atheists, I say, in this sense, must be so upon one or other of these three accounts.
Either, first, Because being extremely ignorant and stupid, they have never duly considered any stupid igthing at all; nor made any just use of their natural norance. reason, to discover even the plainest and most obvious
Atheism arises from
Or from gross cor
INTRO. truths ; but have spent their time in a manner of
life very little superior to that of beasts.
Or, secondly, Because being totally debauched and
corrupted in their practice, they have, by a vicious ruption of
and degenerate life, corrupted the principles of their nature, and defaced the reason of their own minds; and, instead of fairly and impartially inquiring into the rules and obligations of nature, and the reason and fitness of things, have accustomed themselves only to mock and scoff at religion; and, being under the power of evil habits, and the slavery of unreasonable and indulged lusts are resolved not to hearken to any reasoning which would oblige them to forsake their beloved vices.
Or, thirdly, Because in the way of speculative false philo- reasoning, and upon the principles of philosophy, sophy.
they pretend that the arguments used against the being or attributes of God, seem to them, after the strictest and fullest inquiry, to be more strong and conclusive than those by which we endeavour to prove these great truths.
These seem the only causes that can be imagined, of any man's disbelieving the being or attributes of God; and no man can be supposed to be an atheist but upon one or other of these three accounts. Now, to the two former of these three sorts of men ; name. ly, to such as are wholly ignorant and stupid, or to such as through habitual debauchery have brought themselves to a custom of mocking and scoffing at all religion, and will not hearken to any fair reasoning; it is not my present business to apply myself. The one of these wants to be instructed in the first prin. ciples of reason as well as of religion. The other disbelieves only for a present false interest, and because he is desirous that the thing should not be true. The one has not yet arrived to the use of his natural faculties : the other has renounced them; and declares he will not be argued with, as a rational creature. It is therefore the third sort of atheists only (namely those who in the way of speculative reasoning, and upon the principles of philosophy, pretend INTRO. that the arguments brought against the being or attributes of God, do, upon the strictest and fullest examination, appear to them to be more strong and conclusive, than those by which these great truths are attempted to be proved ;) these, I say, are the only atheistical persons to whom my present discourse can be supposed to be directed, or indeed who are capable of being reasoned with at all.
Now, before I enter upon the main argument, I shall premise several concessions, which these men, upon their own principles, are unavoidably obliged to make.
And first, They must of necessity own, that, sup- The being posing it cannot be proved to be true, yet at least it is a thing very desirable, and which any wise man able. would wish to be true, for the great benefit and happiness of men ; that there was a God, an intelligent and wise, a just and good Being, to govern the world. Whatever hypothesis these men can possibly frame; whatever argument they can invent, by which they would exclude God and providence out of the world; that very argument or hypothesis will of necessity lead them to this concession. If they argue, that our notion of God arises not from nature and reason, but from the art and contrivance of politicians; that argument itself forces them to confess, that it is manifestly for the interest of human society that it should be believed there is a God. If they suppose that the world was made by chance, and is every moment subject to be destroyed by chance again ; no man can be so absurd as to contend that it is as comfortable and desirable to live in such an uncertain state of things, and so continually liable to ruin, **
* Maria ac terras cælumque-
Dictis dabit ipsa fidem res
Lucret. lib. 5.
INTRO. without any hope of renovation; as in a world that
were under the preservation and conduct of a powerful, wise, and good God. If they argue against the being of God, from the faults and defects which they imagine they can find in the frame and constitution of the visible and material world; this supposition obliges them to acknowledge, that it would have been better the world had been made by an intelligent and wise Being, who might have prevented all faults and imperfections. If they argue against providence, from the faultiness and inequality which they think they discover in the management of the moral world, this is a plain confession that it is a thing more fit and desirable in itself, that the world should be governed by a just and good Being, than by mere chance or unintelligent necessity. Lastly, if they suppose the world to be eternally and necessarily self-existent, and consequently that every thing in it is established by a blind and eternal fatality, no rational man can at the same time deny, but that liberty and choice, or a free power of acting, is a more eligible state, than to be determined thus in all our actions, as a stone is to move downward, by an absolute and inevitable fate. In a word, which way soever they turn themselves, and whatever hypothesis they make, concerning the origin and frame of things, nothing is so certain and undeniable, as that man, considered without the protection and conduct of a superior being, is in a far worse case, than upon supposition of the being and government of God, and of men's being under his peculiar conduct, protection, and favour. Man, of himself, is infinitely insufficient for his own happiness :* he is liable to many evils and miseries, which he can neither prevent nor redress : he is full of wants which he cannot supply, and compassed about with infirmities which he cannot remove, and obnoxious to dangers which he can never sufficiently provide
* Archbishop Tillotson's Sermon on Job, xxviii. 28.