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a foundling, without cover or support. But affirmatively I urge, that it is fundamentally overturned by the knowledge we derive of Deity from our own nature ; if a Deity exist, self-existence must be his peculiar attribute : and we cannot hesitate in rejecting the supposition of a self-existent world, when it is so natural to suppose that the whole is the operation of a self-existent Being, whose power and wisdom are adequate to that great work. I add, that this rational doctrine is eminently supported from contemplating the endless number of wise and benevolent effects, displayed every where on the face of this globe; which afford complete evidence of a wise and benevolent cause. As these effects are far above the power of man, we necessarily ascribe them to a superior Being, or in other words to the Deity *.

Some philosophers there are, not indeed so hardened in scepticism as to deny the existence of a Deity : They acknowledge a self-existent Being ; and seem willing to bestow on that Being power, wisdom, and every other perfection. But then they maintain, that the world, or matter at least, must also be self-existent. Their argument is, that ex nihilo nihil fit, that it is inconsistent for any thing to be made out of nothing, out of a nonens. To consider nothing or a nonens as a material or substance out of which things can be formed, like a statue out of stone or a sword out of iron, is I ac

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* First sketch of this third book, sect 1.

knowledge a gross absurdity. But I perceive no absurdity nor inconsistence in supposing that matter was brought into existence by Almighty power ; and the popular expression, that God made the world out of nothing, has no other meaning. It is true, that in the operations of men nothing can be produced but from antecedent materials; and so accustomed are we to such operations, as not readily to conceive how a thing can be brought into existence without antecedent materials, or made out of nothing, as commonly expressed. But will any man in sober sense venture to set bounds to Almighty power, where he cannot point out a clear inconsistence? It is indeed difficult to conceive a thing so remote from common apprehension ; but is there less difficulty in conceiving matter to exist without a cause, and to be entitled to the awful appellation of self-existent, like the Lord of the Universe, to whom a more exalted appellation cannot be given ? Now, if it be within the utmost · verge of possibility for matter to have been created, I conclude with the highest probability, that it owes its existence to Almighty power. The necessity of one self-existent being is intuitively certain : but I perceive no necessity, nor indeed probability, that there should be more than one. Difficulties about the creation of matter, testify our ignorance; but to argue from our ignorance that a thing cannot be, has always been held

weak reasoning. Our faculties are adapted to our present 'state, and perform their office in perfection. But to complain that they do not reach the origin of things, is no less absurd than to complain that we cannot ascend to the moon in order to be acquainted with its inbabitants. At the same time, it is a comfortable reflection, that the question, whether matter was created or no, is a pare speculation, and that either side may be adopted without impiety. To me it appears more simple and more natural to hold it to be a work of creation, than to be self-existent, and consequently independent of the Almighty either to create or to annihilate. I cheerfully make the former an article of my Creed; .but without anathematising those who adopt the latter. I would however have it understood, that I limit my concession to matter in its original rude state. I cannot possibly carry my complaisance so far as to comprehend the world in its present perfection. That immense machine composed of parts without number so artfully combined as to fulfil the intention of the maker, must be the production of a great being, omniscient as well as omnipotent. To assign blind fatality as the cause, is an insufferable absurdity.

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sent these * Part ii. sect. 7,

Many gross and absurd conceptions of Deity that have prevailed among rude nations, are urged by some writers as an objection against a sense of Deity. That objection shall not be overlooked ; but it will be answered to better purpose, after

1

these gross and absurd conceptions are examined in the chapter immediately following.

The proof of a Deity from the innate sense here explained, differs materially from what is contained in essays on morality and natural religion*. The proof there given is founded on a chain of reasoning, altogether independent on the innate sense of Deity. Both equally produce conviction; but as sense operates intuitively without reasoning, the sense of Deity is made a branch of human nature, in order to enlighten those who are incapable of a long chain of reasoning; and to such, who make the bulk of mankind, it is more convincing, than the most perspicuous reasoning to a philosopher.

CHAP. II.

Progress of Opinions with respect to Deity.

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"HE sense of Deity, like many other delicate

senses, is in savages so faint and obscure as easily to be biassed from truth. Among them, the belief of many superior beings, is universal. And two causes join to produce that belief. The first

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is, that being accustomed to a plurality of visible objects, men, mountains, trees, cattle, and such like, they are naturally led to imagine a like plurality in things not visible; and from that slight bias, slight indeed but natural, is partly derived the system of Polytheism, universal among savages. The other is, that savages know little of the connection between causes and effects, and still less of the order and government of the world : every event that is not familiar, appears to them singular and extraordinary; and if such event exceed human power, it is without hesitation ascribed to a superior being. But as it occurs not to a savage, nor to any person who is not a philospher, that the many various events exceeding human power and seemingly unconnected, may all proceed from the same cause; they are readily ascribed to different beings. Pliny ascribes Polytheism to the consciousness men have of their imbecillity: “Our

powers are confined within narrow bounds : we “ do not readily conceive powers in the Deity “ much more extensive : and we supply by num“ber what is wanting in power*.” Polytheism, thus founded, is the first stage in the progress of theology; for it is embraced by the rudest savages, who have neither capacity nor inclination to pierce deeper into the nature of things.

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* Plurality of heads or of hands in one idol, is sometimes made to supply plurality of different idols. Hence among savages the grotesque figure of some of their idols.

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