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Reflections on Atheism.
This sacred shade and solitude, what is it?
Among the several advantages to be obtained by solitude and shade, not the least is, that the mind is obliged to recur to its own exertions and search out its way to the original fountains of nature, the sources of eternal truth. Dazzled by the false lights. of an interested philosophy, misled by the seductions of vice, we have sometimes seen the ingenuous man bewildered and unhappy. Unable to disentangle himself from this perplexity, unwilling perhaps to do so lest his deeds should not bear the scrutiny of unprejudiced reason, the doubter proceeds one
step further, and takes refuge in a bold and unqualified atheism.
There was a time, at no very reniote period, when I imagined that no such character existed in nature, as an atheist. That I am old fashioned, and in a great measure secluded from the world, must be my apology if I am rather of that opinion still. But as the present age has beheld this character publickly asserted in a national assembly, I may be allowed to take for granted that they intended what they said. And though a succeeding legislature decreed that there rias a supreme Being, it bore the appearance of presuinption, perhaps of policy and doubt, to affirm that which ought never to have been denied.
А poor Arabian of the desart, ignorant as most Arabians are, was one day asked, How he came to be assured that there was a God? - In the same way,” replied he, “ that I am able to tell by the print im
pressed on the sand, whether it was a man or a beast that passed that way
* St. Pierre's Studies of Nature, Vol. II. p. 173. Eng. Trans, from Mons. d'Arvieux's Trav. through Arabia.
simple argument may serve instead of a volume upon the subject. The use of reason will instruct us in this truth; and in this manner many unenlightened nations have been instructed. I dare not affirm that the human race in every country has acknowledged the existence of a supreme
invisible power. Some travellers have assured us that they liave met with people without any traces of this important truth. Perhaps they have not themselves been sufficiently acquainted with their language or manners, thoroughly to ascertain the assertion. It is certain that in all out late voyages of discovery, religious ceremonies have been found, and amongst the wildest natives of the southern ocean, symptoms of reverence for some unknown being continually prevail. And can it be otherwise where the God of nature has distributed 'the blessing of reason and reflection? Can it be otherwise where “the eye is not satisfied with
seeing nor the ear with hearing?” The most untrained savage must make the observation of the Arab, when his mind informs him that, there can be no effect witliout a correspondent cause.
“ Suppose a chain,” says a philosopher *,
hung down out of the heavens from an "unknown height, and though every
link “of it gravitated towards the earth, and “ what it hung upon was not visible, yet it " did not descend, but kept its situation; " and upon this a question should arise, “ what supported or kept up this chain; " would it be a sufficient answer to say, " that the first or lowest link hung upon " the second (or that next above it) the “ second, or rather the first and second to
gether upon the third, and so on ad in“ finitum? For what holds up the whole ? " A chain of ten links would fall down un“ less something able to bear it up hindered ; “one of twenty, if not staid by something “of a yet greater strength in proportion to “ the increase of weight; and therefore one “of infinite links certainly, if not sustained
by something infinitely strong, and capable to bear up an infinite weight. And
* Wollaston's Religion of Nature, p. 67.
“ thus it is in the chain of causes and
effects, tending, or as it were gravitating " towards some end."
Every visible part of nature, animate or inanimate, is a link in this chain which ascends by regular gradation to the first and infinite mover of this vast machine. In the scale of beings there is a close and intimate connection from the sluggish life of an oyster, through the different improvements of the rational faculties of man, to the intelligence of an angel. But no part of this series, however closely united, is the efficient cause of any other. For that we must look upward ; and unable to comprehend the mode of existence of the Supreme "Being, must acknowledge who it is that * has measured the waters in the hollow of “ his hand, and meted out heaven with a
span; and comprehended the dust of the “ earth in a measure; and weighed the “ mountains in a scale, and the hills in a " balance. Behold the nations,” proceeds the sublime Isaiah, “ are as a drop of the “ bucket, and are counted as the small dust “ of the balance; behold he taketh up the