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AN ADDRESS TO ATHEISTS.
MEN WITHOUT A GOD,
PERMIT me to address you on a subject of the greatest importance, and, as you profess rationality, I beseech you to exercise your rational powers on what I shall offer for your consideration.
What can have so benumbed your intellects, and perverted your understanding as to prevent your discovering full evidence of the existence and government of God? Can you hesitate to admit that fundamental principle in all philosophical reasoning, "There can be no effect without a cause?" Do you not know that every effect must have an adequate cause, by which it is produced, whether or not that cause be fully discoverable by us? Can you help seeing that the visible worlds, with all their furniture and inhabitants, are in reality effects, and must have been produced by some cause, distinct from, and fully adequate to the production of such a stupendous and complicated system of being? Have you ever seen a new order of beings produced, either by chance, fatality, or the ingenuity and efforts of man? How then can you suppose that the wonderful objects which present themselves to your eyes, in the heavens and on the earth, could ever be produced in a fortuitous way? If you suppose matter to have been eternal, you cannot but know that life and motion are not natural to, or essential properties of matter. A divine power must be necessary to give matter that variety of forms which we now behold, to endow it with life and motion, and to establish those laws by which material objects are governed. How can you avoid seeing evident marks of design in every part of nature? in the arrangement, connexion and co-operation of the various parts of the amazing spectacle? that, consequently the whole must be the work, and under the government, of a being infinitely powerful and wise? That though such a being is invisible to our senses, yet his existence is evidenced by his manifest operations?
Have you not observed that the whole economy of nature is a combination of causes and effects? And where can you find a visible cause which is not itself the evident effect of some prior cause? If you trace the chain of natural causes and effects back, link by link, where will you be able to stop? Surely no where, until you arrive at a self existent, eternal, and invisible being, the first cause of all things. Can it have escaped your notice that there is a connexion between cause and effect in the moral, as well as in the natural, world? that the constitution and operation of the human mind demonstrates it? consequently that an invisible being must have fixed that connexion, as we know of no visible being capable of doing it? The progressive state of man, the manner in which circumstances are combined together, and made to operate, frequently contrary to the design and expectation of the immediate actors, the production of great events by apparently slight and improbable causes, are not these things manifest proofs of a superintending providence? You talk of credulity, of believing without
evidence; but are not you the most credulous men in the world, while you profess to believe there is no God? consequently, that the amazing system of the universe, which displays such incomparable marks of wisdom in the contrivance, and power in the execution, rose into existence, and is sustained in being, without either creator or governor ? You not only believe without evidence, when you believe the world to exist without a maker; but in opposition to the strongest evidence, the evidence of the existence of a cause arising from the contemplation of its effects. What can you find sufficient to induce a belief, contrary to all sound philosophy, that a universe of effects can exist without a universal cause?
If the existence and government of God were inimical to the well being of the creation, or even if the dearest interests of creatures were not inseparably connected with, and dependant on, his being and government, atheism might be ranked among other speculative points, and your unbelief might assume the appearance of philanthropy. But consider what an alarming situation creation would be in without God and his government. If it be the production of chance, some future accident may destroy it, or produce such complete derangement in its parts, which by mere accident co-operate for good, as will render absolute misery the standing order throughout the universe. If there be no divine government, virtue and vice must be things merely indifferent, any further than relates to present convenience. Upon your principles no future state cari be reasonably expected; man is merely the ephemera of a day, the earth a hot bed producing intelligences, and, when their powers begin to expand, entombing them for ever. All man's hopes respecting futurity, upon your hypothesis, are mere illusions of fancy, for nature itself may at some future period become an absolute blank; as what chance produces, chance may destroy. He can look for no termination to his labours and sorrows but in total oblivion. The perfectibility of the mind must be a mere figment of the brain; for after a few days we shall be crumbled to dust, without any hope of ever being raised up again, to renew our mental progress. Such are the consequences which atheism involves. O ye Atheists, think what ye are doing, your principles would deprive men of their only lasting ground of dependance, God; extinguish the powerful incentives to moral actions, hope and fear, any further than they have the things of the present transient life for their object; make virtue and vice to consist merely in the accommodating ourselves to circumstances, for the sake of present gratification; and leave us no prospect of rest but in total forgetfulness. Can you be called the friends, are you not the enemies
If God was either weak, foolish, or destitute of goodness, you would have some ground for your infidelity; but all his works proclaim him, and all who believe in his existence acknowledge him, to be infinitely wise, powerful, and good. Let reason say which is most desirable, most for the happiness of the creation, that every thing should be left to the guidance of mere chance, or be under the superintendence and direction VOL. IV. . 3 B
of a being infinitely wise, powerful, and good. In the former case, nothing but anarchy could be expected; it would be unreasonable to look for that order and harmony which appears in the economy of nature, or to expect that union and peace should ever universally obtain among rational creatures. In the latter case, the order and harmony which appears in the system of nature is what might be expected to exist among the works of an infinitely wise, powerful, and good being, and the union and happiness of rational creatures, living under the same divine government, is certainly both possible and probable. Atheism must certainly be favourable to vice, as it leaves the vicious nothing to fear hereafter from the hand of the righteous governor of the world; but supposes that their crimes will be buried in the same oblivion with the virtues of the good man; it must at the same time be highly discouraging to the virtuous, as it leaves them no hope of a future reward: on the contrary, the belief of God and his government is unfavourable to vice, as it leads the vicious to dread future punishment; and highly favourable to virtue, as it inspires the virtuous with the hope of a future reward.
Will you object that the existence of evil is incompatible with the government of a being infinitely wise, powerful, and good? Can you help seeing that this objection is infinitely outweighed by the evidence which the whole creation furnishes of the being and government of God? Is it not absurd to reject as false a subject so credible and important in itself, and which is substantiated by so many proofs, on account of a single difficulty? in particular when the denial thereof would involve still greater difficulties, namely, the existence of a universe of effects without a universal cause? May not the existence of evil be fully accounted for without denying the divine government? Is it not possible to prove that the sufferance of evil is perfectly consistent with the government of a being infinitely wise, powerful, and good? Is it not a more noble work to form rational creatures, free intelligences, voluntary agents, endowed with the power of acting from themselves, than to form mere machines? Can a wise governor be as well pleased with that subjection which arises from mere compulsion, as with voluntary obedience? But if men be not mere machines, if the obedience which God requires of them must be voluntary, it follows, that they must enjoy that degree of liberty which affords them opportunity of either obeying or disobeying, and the existence of evil is at once accounted for. Can voluntary agents be made virtuous and happy against their wills? Is it not easy to conceive that it must be wisest and best for God to leave his intelligent creatures to the developement of their own powers; to learn by experience, the happy effect of virtue, and the painful consequences of vice; for him to vary his dealings with them until he hath, under the operations of his government, conducted them to perfect rectitude and happiness, by bringing them to choose, and by free choice to be established in, that which is good? If this be admitted the existence of moral evil can be no objection to the divine government, because its existence is temporary, and will be over-ruled for good. As for physical evil, it seems to be
necessary to promote the cure of moral evil. Man is at present in the infancy of his being, placed in a state of discipline, and afflictions seem 1o be a necessary part of that discipline. Have you not observed that the of man are frequently roused to great exertions, the energies pa powers of his soul called forth, exalted virtues generated, and great characters formed, in the school of adversity? Men appear to be more or less placed in this school, in the present stage of their existence, that their minds may be formed, and they qualified for their future situations in another state. Hence the existence of evil, in no sense, appears incompatible with the world's being under the government of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness. Your objections to God and his government seem to rise from a narrow view of things. If, instead of confining your views to the contemplation of things as they are at present, you were to connect with the existence and government of the Deity his future dispensations, of which he hath given information in the Scriptures, and were to look forward to that period when universal reconciliation shall take place among creatures, when there shall be no more pain, sorrow, or death, when all intelligences shall be united in one harmonious body, and the whole creation be made pure and happy, your objections would vanish like darkness before the rising sun.
If there be a God, his dominion must extend over you, and you must be accountable to him, think then how dreadful must be the consequences. of your renouncing all subjection to him, and even denying his existence and government. Impressed with this, and feeling a deep concern for your welfare, I most earnestly solicit your attention to the preceding address.
LETTER TO DR. DODD.
THE following letter was sent to Dr. Dodd, while under sentence of death; and as it holds out to that dying man, the sufficiency of the gospel to save the vilest of the vile, without any other prerequisite but that of feeling their own wretchedness; and as a contrary doctrine is too much propagated in the religious world, which is the cause of many a sincere soul being disquieted, while the gospel is intended and calculated to make him happy, I hope you will have no objection to give it a place in your Miscellany, which will oblige,
A CONSTANT READER.
IT may appear impertinent, at first sight, for a stranger an entire stranger to intrude upon your now truly serious and important moments: however, as he does it not to upbraid but to sympathize-not
to dictate, but to enquire, he hopes his enquiries will be attended to as the language of disinterested benevolence, which feels most inexpressibly for a fellow-sinner in distress. Here he cannot help wishing for your truly easy and striking diction, to convey his ideas in the pleasing and attractive manner, with which he has sometimes heard you utter your sentiments from the pulpit; yet he would wish to look higlier than the manner, even to that invisible and sovereign influence, which can command truth to appear before the troubled conscience, in all its native and divine charms, though it be dressed in language not equal to its enchanting form.
Believe me, Sir, though I never did any thing of an atrocious nature, which has exposed me to the just punishment of human laws, and am persuaded that omniscience alone can accurately and without mistake, judge of the guilt in different men; I yet sincerely believe, considering the advantages I have enjoyed from my education, and a connection with a set of genuine Christians, that I have contracted as much guilt in the sight of my Maker as you have done, I cannot say unto you, then, Stand by, I am more fit, or better prepared for the grace of the gospel than Dr. Dodd. I myself, considered aside from the relief of the glad tidings of peace, stand condemned equally with yourself before the divine tribunal by my conscience, God's law, and unerring justice.
Now, Sir, notwithstanding this dreadful view of myself as a sinner, I have, merely from the testimony of the apostles concerning the salvation of Christ, hope towards God. I can call him my father, I am rejoicing in the expectation of future bliss, detest sin more than ever, and am daily praying to be kept in a course of Christian piety and righteousness to the end of life. But permit me to tell you, if what you have suggested in your late speech to the court be true, I am mistaken; my hope is a delusion, and my faith is vain. In that address to the recorder, you seem to think, that without much serious reflection, great humiliation, some considerable time spent in repentance, and a great deal of pious preparation, and holy exertion, you cannot find acceptance with God, nor be introduced into the mansions of bliss,·
Mistake me not: that utter hatred of sin, that deep humiliation, that evangelical repentance, that change of principle, heart, and character, genuine piety, heavenly devotion, and steady virtue which are essential to the Christian character, I consider as streams naturally flowing from this fountain-right views of God's forgiving goodness; which fountain is opened in the free declarations of the gospel that are pointed to the most vile, wretched, and hell deserving rebels, as well as to all other . sinners. Yea, I apprehend these qualifications never can be obtained without faith; this is the cause-they are the natural and necessary effects. And as the Christian faith, or gospel, is that alone by which God saves guilty polluted men, this, when brought to the soul by the sovereign doctrine of heaven, finds every one destitute of all meritorious prerequisites and distinguishing excellencies, which could give them a claim to it before others.
Give me leave then, Docter, to ask you, is there no grace in the gospel? If the spirit of God by any means of information be pleased to