Слике страница

intelligent cause. No ingenuity of conjecture

can add any other case to this number. One of these three suppositions must necessarily

be true.

Shall we then rest satisfied with the first solution, and say, that the universe, of which this earth is a part, has been from eternity? It is an hypothesis, to which many philosophers, when pressed by the difficulty of accounting for its existence, have resorted: and yet there is none, which upon examination appears more untenable.

If the world for instance, which we now inhabit, were eternal, is it credible, that so much should be known of its history during the last many centuries, and yet nothing at all be known of it six thousand years ago, a very short period, compared with eternity? We have very particular accounts of the origin, progress, and decline of many arts and inventions, of many states of society, of many nations and people, some of which reach back to half that distance. We can trace the march of civilization from the eastern to the western hemisphere; and History has hardly left us in

the dark during all that period, in regard to any nation, where it has made the least progress. How comes it then, that previously to the last three thousand years we scarcely know more of the world, unless it be from the bible, than if it had no previous existence? The records, which we now possess, there is no reason why we should not continue to possess to all eternity. Neither, therefore, is it likely, that any records of that eternity, which is ascribed to the world, should have been entirely obliterated, had it really existed from eternity; and we must either in the absence of all such records suppose, that the world produced nothing worthy of remembrance till within the last few thousand years, or else take the want of them, as a sufficient refutation of the pretended eternity of the world.

This consideration then amounts certainly to a very strong presumption against the hypothesis we are now examining. It is very extraordinary, to say the least of it, that the world should have slumbered on from age to age without leaving the least memorial of its existence, while the events of the last three

thousand years are all fresh in the page of history, embalmed, as it were, against the ravages of time, preserving their peculiar lineaments and distinguishing features, unimpaired by lapse of years, and retaining for the observation of generations yet to come (and why not to unborn eternity?) the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure.

If then the world be not eternal, it must have been produced. Let us ask then-By what, or by whom was it produced?

It was the doctrine of Epicurus and his followers, that the universe was formed by chance; that it arose out of a concourse of atoms, which, having been floating from all eternity in infinite space, at length from some predisposing affinities separated and fell together in their present form. But then the question recurs-Whence had they these predisposing affinities? The difficulty is not solved by this hypothesis, but only carried backward to a prior stage. It is as difficult to conceive the eternity of atoms, endowed with affinities, predisposing them to a particular

form, as to imagine that form itself, subsisting from all eternity.

The world however exhibits to every observer decisive marks, which render it utterly impossible, that it should have been a work of chance. The difference between the marks of chance and design is instinctively obvious to every capacity. When we see a watch, for instance, or a house, or a garden, we never think of drawing the same inference from it, which we do, when we cast our eyes upon a heap of rubbish. But the proofs of contrivance, with which the universe abounds, are far more striking and undeniable which can be afforded by art.

than any,

Let the regularity of the seasons, the corresponding, harmonious, unvarying revolutions of the heavenly bodies, their magnitude, swiftness, and the equilibrium, if I may so call it, of their forces, go for nothing in this argument! although perhaps few persons of reflection will be inclined to dispute, that they furnish considerations of sufficient moment to determine the whole question. But they are not needed. We have proofs of contrivance to produce in

the works of creation, still more decisive in their character.

Of these contrivances the first, that I shall select, are such as are prospective, or fitted to answer an end, which does not exist at the time of their production. Every animal comes into the world, provided, though unconsciously, with every thing, that is requisite for its preservation and enjoyment. It has eyes, before it has seen the light, lungs, before it has occasion to breathe, and organs, adapted for the exercise of every function, before any of them can possibly be exercised; organs, which are all sure to be wanted afterwards, though none are at all useful at the moment of their original formation. When born, moreover, the child comes into the world, furnished with a perfect set of teeth, which are so far from being wanted immediately, that they would be inconvenient, while it obtains its food from the breast, were they not sheathed within the gums. They are prepared there nevertheless for future use, though concealed for present convenience; and even a second row is ready formed, that

« ПретходнаНастави »