« ForrigeFortsæt »
character, "Who is, (v,) and who was, and who is to come." It denotes eternal, original, unchanging Being.
Solve the difficulty respecting this name not being known to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob. He never used that name himself, though Moses employs it in reciting the communications he made to the nation.
II. We propose to demonstrate the existence of such a Being.
1. Something always must have existed, or nothing could have had an existence. To suppose the matter of this world, for example, to have arisen out of nothing, without any cause whatever, is, evidently, to suppose what is absurd and impossible.
2. Whatever exists of itself, and consequently from all eternity, can never cease to exist, and must be perfectly independent of every other being, with respect to existence, and the manner of its existence. Since it exists of itself, the cause and reason of its existence must, by the supposition, be in itself, not in another; it must have, so to speak, a perpetual spring of existence, independent of the operation or will of all other beings. It exists by absolute necessity. It exists because it cannot be otherwise than it is; for whatever can be so is contingent, not necessary. Hence it is absolutely unchangeable: which is sufficient to prove that matter is not that eternal, self-existent Being; because matter is undergoing continual changes;
and, instead of being unalterable, is perfectly passive and indifferent to all changes whatever.
3. The Being who always existed, in and of imself, must be an intelligent Being, or a Being possessed of reason and understanding: for these exist; and since they could not arise out of nothing, they must have been produced by something or other. But they could not have been produced by what was unintelligent. Reason and understanding could no more have been caused by what had none, than matter could have arisen out of nothing. Take a lump of clay, or of any kind of inanimate matter, and ask yourselves whether it is not in the highest degree absurd to suppose that the power of remembering, of reasoning, of judging, should arise from that, as a cause. It is, plainly, just as possible that light should spring from darkness as a cause, as that which is incapable of thought should produce it. Whether the power of thinking may possibly be superadded to matter, is not the question at present; admitting this were possible, it is plainly impossible that thought, or the power of thinking, should spring from inanimate matter as a cause. there are many beings possessed of reason and understanding, there must have been, at least, some one intelligent Being from eternity, or those thinking creatures could never have existed; since it is quite as impossible that thought and intelligence should arise out of unconscious matter, as that they should spring out of nothing.
As to the idea which some atheists have pleaded for, of an eternal succession of finite beings, such as we witness at present, without supposing any original, uncaused Being, it is evidently inconsistent with reason and with itself. For it affirms that to be true of the part, which it denies with respect to the whole: every particular being in the series, upon that supposition, depends upon a preceding one, yet the whole depends upon nothing; as if it were affirmed that there could be a chain infinitely long, each link of which was supported by the next, and so on, in each instance, and yet the whole absolutely depended upon nothing. The difficulty of supposing a being beginning to exist without a cause, is not at all lessened by supposing an eternal succession of such beings; for unless there be some first Being, on whom all the rest depend, it is evident the whole series hang upon nothing, which is altogether as impossible as that any one in particular should. Hence it is evident, there must have always been some one intelligent Being, whose existence is uncaused and absolutely eternal, unchangeable, and independent.
4. There is but one such Being. To affirm there is more than one, without reason, must, by the very terms, be unreasonable. But no shadow of reason can be assigned for believing in a plurality of such beings, because the supposition of one accounts for all that we see, as well, and even much better, than the supposition of more.
That there must be one underived, self-existent, eternal, and intelligent Cause, must of necessity be allowed, in order to account for what we know to exist; but no reason can be assigned for supposing more. It is with the utmost propriety established as an axiom, that we ought in no case to assign more causes than will account for the effects.
The harmony and order of the universe, and the sameness and universality of the laws which pervade every part of it, as far as our [knowledge]* extends, make it evident that it is the production of one eternal, intelligent Cause. Had it been the product of many, there would necessarily have been discrepancies, irregularities, and disorder in it, as the necessary effect of contrary plans and inclinations: at least it would have formed different systems, bearing the indication of their being the product of distinct authors; as we see no two individuals, left entirely to themselves, can be found, who would build a house exactly upon the same plan, of the same size, and with the same ornaments. The most fundamental laws of the material world [not only] pervade this globe which we inhabit, but are found to extend to the remotest bounds of the universe, as far as
* Mr. Hail's hand-writing is frequently so chaotic as to defy all interpretation; and words, and short portions of sentences, are sometimes omitted. In such cases, the sense is supplied conjecturally; and, that the author may not be blamed for any imperfections in style or phraseology, which may thus be occasioned, the words introduced by the editor are uniformly placed between brackets, as above.-Ed.
they have fallen under our observation, either by the naked eye or by telescopes. The compound [substance] of light which illuminates our system, is found to extend to the region of the fixed stars, immeasurably more distant from us than the sun. The law of gravitation pervades every particle of matter, at least within the solar system; and, there is every reason to believe, throughout the whole universe. Such simplicity and uniformity in the laws of nature, evince that they are the product of one and the same Intelligence.
III. We propose to consider why he chose to reveal himself, especially under this character, rather than under some one expression of his moral perfections.
1. This is an attribute of God, to which the heathen deities did not aspire. It was fit to be the name of that Being who was, when worshipped, to be maintained in the midst of surrounding idols, of a character totally distinct.
None of them pretended to be the supreme God, the Origin and Father of existence.
2. So abstract and elevated a conception of the Great Supreme, was less likely than [any] other to be perverted into image-worship.
No ideas are so impossible to paint, or represent under sensible forms, as self-origination, immutability, eternal existence, &c.
The import of Jehovah-not positive-but negative.
3. It exhibits that view of the divine character,