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case, be to establish the existence and character of the person whose deed the writing is asserted to be, and then to prove that it bears every mark of the genuineness alleged. Lord Bacon, therefore, justly observes, “ that there never was a miracle wrought by God to convert an atheist, because the light of nature might have led him to confess a God; but miracles are designed to convert idolaters, and the superstitious who have acknowledged a Deity, but erred in his adoration ; because no light of nature extends to declare the will and true worship of God." He might have added, that revelation is also intended to convince and instruct those who are ignorant of the true nature and attributes of Deity.
There is, indeed, a collateral proof of the being and attributes of God, which may be derived from the 'history of providence recorded in the sacred scriptures. For, as by the contemplation of nature and of the wonderful contrivance which its entire fabric displays, we are led to the acknowledgment of an omniscient and omnipotent author of it; so, by considering the series of events detailed in the sacred oracles, the uniformity of plan which they exhibit, the progress towards its consummation, and the astonishing means employed for this end, and by re
a Bacon on the Advancement and Proficiency of Learning, book iii. c. ii. sect. 1.
flecting that no just solution can be given of these phenomena, on the ordinary principles on which human affairs proceed; we are led to acknowledge both supernatural power and supernatural wisdom in the conduct of this mighty scheme. This species of collateral proof I have endeavoured briefly to illustrate in another work.
Those who have of late rejected all idea of natural religion, have been misled, both by erroneous conceptions of what these terms properly imply, and of what we ought rightly to understand by the term revelation. By natural religion cannot be understood that there has ever existed in the world such a scheme or system of religious doctrine, as has been adopted and acknowledged as a rule of faith and manners by any society of men united in a political capacity, or has been established by any public sanction; nor even that any considerable number of men have ever clothed with appropriate external religious expressions the principles which the religion of nature dictates. Wise and good men have in all ages reprobated the absurdities of all the popular religions established merely by human authority and imposture, and adopted by vulgar credulity. To discover these absurdities, and to reprobate them, although they dared not
a Essay on the Existence of a Supreme Creator, &c. book i, ch. viii.
to oppose them publicly, they must have possessed certain notions of Deity, dictated by reason, and certain sentiments of human duty, resulting from the consideration of the human frame and constitution. These conceptions and notions, such, for example, as we find in the writings of the best heathen moralists, may be considered as the elements of natural religion; implanted in their minds, without doubt, by the author of human nature himself. These and the conclusions which legitimately flow from them, when embodied and collected into one scheme, may, and do furnish what is justly termed the religion of nature, as distinguished from revelation.
That a due consideration of our own internal frame and constitution of the circumstances in which man is placed,—of the vicissitudes to which he is continually exposed, and of the admirable structure of all the parts of the natural world, and of the various animals by which it is inhabited, leads to infer an almighty and omniscient author of the universe, cannot be ration. ally contested. A proper use of the intellectual powers of man may also lead to the discovery of the principal attributes of this Being, and of the duties which man owes to his Creator, to those of his own species, and to himself. I say not that these discoveries have ever been complete, and much less that a perfect system ofre
ligion, adapted to the present circumstances of the human race, ever has been or could be devised by unenlightened human reason. This very defect evinces the necessity of divine revelation, and all the gross absurdities and abomi. nations of every religion instituted by man, have only exhibited so many futile and pernicious attempts to remedy it. But that the human faculties, if rightly exercised and applied, must discover the existence of a Deity, the principal attributes of his nature, and the worship which, as due to him, is dictated by that nature and the rational nature of man, is evident on the smallest consideration. Nay, the existence of Deity, under some conception or other, has been acknowledged by almost all nations, and the absurdities of pagan superstition have been exposed by heathen writers themselves. This they could never have done if they had not possessed more just and accurate conceptions of Deity, than were entertained by the gross and deluded vulgar.
Whatever, therefore, human reason, rightly applied, has discovered and dictated, or may discover and dictate, without the aid of revelation, concerning Deity, and the offices which are obligatory on man towards his omnipotent, omniscient, and infinitely benign Creator, is what may be properly called natural religion. This position is admitted by the sacred scriptures
themselves : “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth; and their words to the end of the world."a “The invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse; because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”b “When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another."
If the heavens declare the glory of God, to whom do they declare it? To the human race, capable surely of receiving and understanding this declaration of nature. “ If the invisible things of God are clearly seen and understood
a Psalm xix. 1-4.
b Rom. i. 20-22.
c Rom. ii. 14, 15,