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duty, solemn and imperative duty, stands associated with the thought of a possible deity, as well as with the sight of a present deity, standing in full manifestation before us. Even anterior to all knowledge of God, or when that knowledge is in embryo, there is both a path of irreligion and a path of piety; and that law which denounces the one and gives to the other an approving testimony, may find in him who is still in utter darkness about his origin and his end, a fit subject for the retributions which she deals in. He cannot be said to have borne disregard to the will of that God, whom he has found. But his is the guilt of impiety, in that he has borne disregard to the knowledge of that God, whom he was bound by every tie of gratitude to seek after-a duty not founded on the proofs that may be exhibited for the being of a God, but a duty to which even the most slight and slender of presumptions should give rise. And who can deny that, antecedent to all close and careful examination of the proofs, there are at least many presumptions in behalf of a God, to meet the eye of every observer? Is there any so hardy as to deny, that the curious workmanship of his frame may have had a designer and an architect; that the ten thousand independent circumstances which must be united ere he can have a moment's ease, and the failure of any one of which would be agony, may not have met at random, but that there may be a skilful and unseen hand to have put them together into one wondrous concurrence, and that never ceases to uphold it; that there may be a real and a living artist, whose fingers did frame the economy of actual
things, and who hath so marvellously suited all that is around us to our senses and our powers of gratification ? Without affirming aught which is positive, surely the air that we breathe, and the beautiful light in which we expatiate, these elements of sight and sound so exquisitely fitted to the organs of the human frame-work, may have been provided by one who did benevolently consult in them our special accommodation. The graces innumerable that lie widely spread over the face of our world, the glorious concave of heaven that is placed over us, the grateful variety of seasons that like Nature's shifting panorama ever brings new entertainment and delight to the eye of spectators-these may, for aught we know, be the emanations of a creative mind, that originated our family and devised such a universe for their habitation. Regarding these, not as proofs, but in the humble light of presumptions for a God, they are truly enough to convict us of foulest ingratitude—if we go not forth in quest of a yet unknown, but at least possible or likely benefactor. They may not resolve the question of a God. But they bring the heaviest reproach on our listlessness to the question; and show that, anterior to our assured belief in his existence, there lies upon us a most imperious obligation to “stir ourselves up
that we may lay hold of Him.”
15. Such presumptions as these, if not so many demands on the belief of man, are at least so many demands upon his attention ; and then, for aught he knows, the presumptions on which he ought to inquire, may be more and more enhanced, till they brighten into proofs which ought to convince him.
The prima facie evidence for a God may not be enough to decide the question; but it should at least decide man to entertain the question. To think upon how slight a variation either in man or in external nature, the whole difference between physical enjoyment and the most acute and most appalling of physical agony may turn; to think how delicate the balance is, and yet how surely and steadfastly it is maintained, so as that the vast majority of creatures are not only upheld in comfort but often may be seen disporting themselves in the redundance of gaiety; to think of the pleasurable sensations wherewith every hour is enlivened, and how much the most frequent and familiar occasions of life are mixed up with happiness; to think of the food, and the recreation, and the study, and the society, and the business, each having an appropriate relish of its own, so as in fact to season with enjoyment the great bulk of our existence in the world; to think that, instead of living in the midst of grievous and incessant annoyance to all our faculties, we should have awoke upon a world that so harmonized with the various senses of man, and both gave forth such music to his ear, and to his eye such manifold loveliness; to think of all these palpable and most precious adaptations, and yet to care not, whether in this wide universe there exists a being who has had any hand in them; to riot and regale oneself to the uttermost in the midst of all this profusion, and yet to send not one wishful inquiry after that Benevolence which for aught we know may have laid it at our feet--this, however shaded from our view the object of the question
may be, is, from its very commencement, a clear outrage against its ethical proprieties. If that veil of dim transparency, which hides the Deity from our immediate perceptions, were lifted up; and we should then spurn from us the manifested God-this were direct and glaring impiety. But anterior to the lifting of that veil, there may be impiety. It is impiety to be so immersed as we are, in the busy objects and gratifications of life; and yet to care not whether there be a great and a good spirit by whose kindness it is that life is upholden. It needs not that this great spirit should reveal Himself in characters that force our attention to Him, ere the guilt of our impiety has begun. But ours is the guilt of impiety, in not lifting our attention towards God, in not seeking after Him if haply we may find Him.
16. Man is not to blame, if an atheist, because of the want of proof. But he is to blame, if an atheist, because he has shut his eyes. He is not to blame, that the evidence for a God has not been seen by him, if no such evidence there were within the field of his observation. But he is to blame, if the evidence have not been seen, because he turned away
his attention from it. That the question of a God
may lie unresolved in his mind, all he has to do, is to refuse a hearing to the question. He may abide without the conviction of a God, if he so choose. But this his choice is matter of condemnation. To resist God after that He is known, is criminality towards Him; but to be satisfied that He should remain unknown, is like criminality towards Him. There is a moral perversity of
spirit with him who is willing, in the midst of many objects of gratification, that there should not be one object of gratitude. It is thus that, even in the ignorance of God, there may be a responsibility towards God. The Discerner of the heart sees, whether, for the blessings innumerable wherewith He has strewed the path of every man, He be treated, like the unknown benefactor who was diligently sought, or like the unknown benefactor who was never cared for. In respect, at least of desire after God, the same distinction of character may be observed between one man and another--whether God be wrapt in mystery, or stand forth in full development to our world. Even though a mantle of deepest obscurity lay over the question of His existence; this would not efface the distinction, between the piety on the one hand which laboured and aspired after Him; and the impiety upon the other which never missed the evidence that it did not care for, and so grovelled in the midst of its own sensuality and selfishness. The eye of a heavenly witness is upon all these varieties; and thus, whether it be darkness or whether it be dislike which hath caused a people to be ignorant of God, there is with him a clear principle of judgment, that He can extend even to the outfields of atheism.
17. It would appear then, that, however shaded from the view of man are the objects of Theology, as in virtue of his moral nature he can feel and recognise in some degree the ethics of Theologyeven in this initial state of his mind on the question of a God, there is an impellent force upon the conscience, which he ought to obey, and which he