O THE BEIG AD PERFECTIOS OF GOD.

BY THE REV. DR. STYLES.
This God is our God for ever and ever." — Psal. xlviii. 14.
My brethren, the mechanics of this
great metropolis, it is my province to
commence a course of lectures, especially
designed for your instruction in the high-
est branches of practical knowledge
which can possibly engage your thoughts,
and which has, therefore, the most urgent
claims upon your serious and devout con-
sideration. The character of the times
in which you live is highly favourable to
your mental culture. It has raised you
to a state of intellectual eminence, hitherto
unknown to the classes of the commu-
nity to which you belong, and this, as is
perfectly natural, has inspired you with
the ardent hope of improving your social
condition. Already you begin to feel
that knowledge is power; but this just
axiom of philosophy you are in great
danger of employing against yourselves,
of misapplying to purposes subversive of
your own happiness and injurious to the
best interests of society. As yet, the
knowledge you have acquired has merely
awakened the thinking faculty, and raised
you from the slumbers of ignorance.
Your minds are partially illuminated
with science, but you have scarcely at-
tained to the grandeur of its higher prin-
ciples, or to a rigid adherence to that
course which would secure to you all the
benefits of its practical results. The
things which you best understand you
know but imperfectly — you are but learn-
ing their rudiments, and from these your
attention is diverted to other subjects,
which you have not the means of under-
VoL. L~36
standing, and in which you are likely to
be misled by persons more pretending,
but not less ignorant than yourselves ; or
who, if they are better informed, aim only
at some selfish or sinister object of their
own, which they hope to realize by mak-
ing you their dupes and victims. They
attempt to dazzle your imagination by
wild theories, rather than to inform your
reason by sound principles. Their grand
design is not to reform but to revolutionize,
and to try the most visionary experiments,
which cannot be attempted without sub-
verting every government upon the face of
the earth, and destroying the whole sys-
tem of social order, not only in its frame,
but in its principles. A chaos is a neces-
sary preliminary to their new creation.
Whatever is, must give place to an edi-
fice of society which is to be built in
perfect contempt of the former architec-
ture, on the principles of a demoralizing
necessity from which the oratory and the
altar are to be excluded, whose materials
are to consist, not of immortal men, but
of mere machines operated upon by un-
controllable circumstances ; these circum-
stances to be first created by the redoubt-
able projector of the sublime absurdity.
You will, my brethren, in a moment
perceive that I here refer to the new
scheme of society, which among your
own class especially has obtained so
many supporters. Of its author I know
nothing. Were it not for the atheism
and the consequent materialism which
disgrace the entire system, and which he
2 A 2 281
282
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maintains are essential to its success, I
should pronounce him to be an amiable
enthusiast, whose imagination, darkened
by the evils of the social state, and per-
petually brooding over them, can devise
no remedy but a perfectibility incompati-
ble with the nature of that state, and
which can never be even approached
without the agency, which he not only
disregards, but utterly contemns — I mean
that of true religion.
We admit, with the new theorists, that
the face of society is deformed by a thou-
sand blemishes, and that its fitful and
irregular pulsation indicates that the
whole head is sick and the whole heart
faint. With them we feel that effectual,
political, and moral remedies must be
applied, or that a convulsive dissolution
of the whole frame of civilized life can-
not be long averted. But we fearlessly
tell them that we have no confidence in
their empirical nostrums — we dare not
intrust a nation's weal in the crisis of its
fate to those who leave out of their cal-
culations the inherent evils of human
nature, who would remove from those
evils the most effectual restraints that
ever have been imposed upon them under
the considerations furnished by piety,
and the hopes and fears inspired by the
consciousness of accountableuess and the
sublime realities of a future \vorld.
My brethren, if we could imagine so
preposterous an idea as a company of
atheists inflamed with a generous ardour
for the public good, their bosoms over-
flowing with philanthropy, and that phi-
lanthropy assuming the form of the most
devoted patriotism, could we with safety
appoint them to be the restorers or the
guardians of our social happiness 1 Men
who entertain principles at variance with
those which mankind in general regard
as sacred and fundamental, take great
delight in their propagation. If atheists,
therefore, had the formation of the public
mind, or if the political and civil institu-
tions of their country w^ere under their
direction or subject to their control, we
may be perfectly certain that the negation
of a Deity would stand pre-eminently
forth in all their works and distinguish
all their policy. This happens precisely
in the neAV scheme of society. From an
attentive perusal of one of its most elabo-
rate expositions, we learn that it renounces
as far as it regards recognition and wor-
ship, every religion, true or false, that has
ever obtained in the world ; proscribing
all reference to God, both as the Creator
and the Supreme Ruler of the universe.
That it ridicules every idea of rewards
and punishments — that as character is
formed for the individual and not by him,
he has no responsibility, is neither the
object of praise nor of blame — that com-
munities as well as individuals are the
mere creatures of a circumstantial neces-
sity controlling them in spite of them-
selves — and that the only hope of improv-
ing their condition and emancipating
them from the calamities which degrade
and oppress them, must arise from the
operation of a new and totally opposite
class of circumstances : and this mighty
revolution they are to achieve for them-
selves. That is, those, who from their
very nature, must be the passive victims
of whatever circumstances surround them,
and which it is affirmed, they have no
moral power to resist, are suddenly to
assume a supernatural and independent
energy, and instead of being carried along
as heretofore, with the stream of destiny,
they are to roll back the tide which had
threatened to ingulf them, and this not
for the purpose of securing their moral
liberty, but simply that they may become
as passive as before, the creatures of a
necessity which, though it affords them
a greater sum of present enjoyment, still
degrades them below the level of intelli-
gent and accountable beings. ow,
allowing for the sake of argument, that
the co-operative system is fraught with
all the advantages which the most gene-
rous enthusiasm might hope to derive
from it, we maintain that it is utterly
impracticable on the principles of atheism
which its author assumes ; but that these
and still greater advantages may be more
than realized on the principles of that
religion which he impiously rejects, and
which is founded on the being and per-
fections of God, as partially displayed in
the works of nature, and more extensively
revealed in the Holy Scriptures. In
O THE BEIG AD PERFECTIOS OF GOD.
283
illustrating these positions, 1 am per-
suaded I shall ensure your candid atten-
tion.
The very assumption of atheism by an
individual who seeks to be distinguished as
the belief actor of society, aiid who proclaims
himsef the enemy of its existing institu-
tions, ought to awaken distrust of his men-
tal capacity, as well as excite disgust at his
moral depravation.
Atheism, wherever it exists, is the re-
sult of some peculiar conjunction of dis-
astrous influences. An atheist is the
unhappy victim of a mental obliquity, of
a strange perversion of the understanding,
which renders him incapable of compre-
hending the laws of evidence and the
principles of right reason.
There are certain principia on which,
with a few exceptions, all men are agreed.
The foundation of all reasoning, concern-
ing being and events, for instance, is a
supposed or acknowledged connexion
between cause and effect. By cause is
meant that something, be it what it may,
which produces existence, or any change
of existence, and without which the ex-
istence or the change could not have been.
It is universally admitted that we have
no knowledge of any existence, or any
change which has taken place without a
cause. The human mind, under what-
ever circumstances of culture or neglect,
has acknowledged in the clearest manner,
and in every way of which the subject is
susceptible, the inseparable nature of this
connexion. We learn it from experience,
and in two ways — by the testimony of
our senses, and by the inspection of our
own minds. We cannot realize the fact,
that existence or change can take place
without a cause. The man who begins
by denying what is so self-evident, dis-
covers an incapacity to reason. He holds
nothing in common with the rest of man-
kind, and no absurdity can be greater
than to attempt to argue with him. In-
deed he cannot pursue an argument on
the subject without a practical refutation
of the principle he assumes. In speaking,
he exhibits himself as a cause of all the
words uttered by him, and of the opin-
ions he would communicate, and, in the
act of arguing, admits you to be a similar
cause. If his body be not a cause, and
your eyes another, you cannot see him ;
— if his voice and your ear be not causes,
you cannot hear him; — if his mind and
yours be not causes, you cannot under-
stand him. In a word, without admit-
ting the connexion between cause and
effect, you can never know that he is
arguing with you, or you with him. But
the sophistry which leads to atheism
denies this first principle of all reason-
ing, and betrays a mental perversion,
which utterly disqualifies for sober and
rational investigation. But the source
of atheism is the heart rather than the
head ; — and it is a moral phenomenon of
a most portentous and appalling charac-
ter. It is the child of depravity, bearing
all the worst features of its parent.
A tree is known by its fruits.
Reason never produced such a monster
as atheism ; — it is to be traced to the in-
disposition of the heart to acknowledge
the existence of the Creator. He that
hates the control and dreads the inspect-
ing judgment and retribution of his Maker,
finds no refuge from anxiety and alarm
so safe as the belief that there is no God.
To me there is something fearful and
even terrific in the state of mind which
can delight in the renunciation of the
Deity, which can derive satisfaction from
the feeling, that the infinite Spirit is gone,
that the only solid foundation of virtue is
wanting — which can enjoy pleasure in
renouncing that system of doctrine of
which a God is the great subject, and that
train of affections and conduct of which
he is the supreme object. The idea of a
God seems essential to every pleasurable
and sublime emotion ; — without it we
can conceive of nothing glorious, and
nothing delightful. And could it once
be exploded, in my view, it would dimin-
ish to insignificance the range of thought,
and the circle of enjoyment. The ab-
sence of God would cover the face of
nature with funereal gloom ; — and he that
should first make the fatal discovery,
according to my apprehension, would be
at once and for ever the most miserable
being in the universe. He would evince
no eagerness to communicate the dismal
fact; — on the contrary, he would envy
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his fellow-creatures the pleasant delusion
which sustained their virtue and encou-
raged their hope.
ow we ask with confidence whether
an individual who cannot discern that
God exists, or that he requires and de-
serves any homage from his creatures,
who knows not how to reason on the
plainest facts, ought to be regarded as an
oracle, when he approaches the terra in-
cognita of a new order of things conjured
out of his own imagination, the principles
of which have never been submitted to
the process of induction ; which experi-
ence cannot explore, nor science illumine.
What judgment are we to form of his
understanding, who renounces faith to
become the dupe of the most absolute
credulity ] For we fearlessly maintain
that there is no absurdity which the hu-
man mind in the very spirit of extrava-
gance has been capable of inventing,
which the denier of a God has not made
an article of his creed.
The dogmas of atheism are the most
melancholy exhibition of weakness which
has ever degraded the human understand-
ing. Its eternal series — its spontaneous
universe of worlds and beings, the result
of motion and matter — and all produced
and continued as they are by a physical
necessity, to the utter exclusion of intel-
ligence, and the moral perfections which
infinite intelligence implies, have been
unanswerably proved, not only to be false,
but to be impossible. What then can
we think of the mental capacity of him
who goes quietly on with his faith in
these hypotheses, and resolves to believe
in defiance of demonstration and impossi-
bility. But it is in his character of a
philanthropist and a remodeller of the
whole frame-work of society, that his
principles necessarily operate to the de-
struction of his hopes.
We have already intimated that the
co-operative system excludes all conside-
rations of a Deity, as forming the human
character — that it utterly abrogates all
religion, and we may add, that while it
degrades man from his high rank as a
responsible being in the universe, it at
the same time teaches him to believe that
there is nothing greater than himself in
existence, and that he is formed for thi«»
world and no other. He is the creature
of death — but he has no inheritance be-
yond the grave — and as he is to acquire
no property, to rise to no distinction on
earth, hopes and fears are to have no in-
fluence in restraining his passions or vices
— his destiny is comprised within the
narrow limits of threescore years and
ten — and the character which he acquires
in his passage to the tomb is not his own.
It belongs to other influences for which
he is irresponsible, and over which he
has no control.
ow, my brethren, what estimate can
we possibly form of a man who under-
takes to govern the moral world without
a God, who would form a moral charac-
ter without motives, who would limit the
existence of the human being to the pre-
sent state, and who proposes to construct
the whole fabric of society on the princi-
ple of such exclusion and limitation ?
With whatever professions he may ap-
proach us, must we not instantly shrink
from him as the worst enemy of his spe-
cies 1 If he could even banish all the
evils from the world, which he ascribes
to its tyrannical governments and anti-
social institutions, if at the same time he
annihilated the fear and the love of God,
the dread of retribution, and the expecta-
tion of enjoying the divine favour after
death, mankind would be infinite losers
by the change, and might justly curse
their benefactor, for procuring for them
the temporal advantages of a perishing
world, during a few fleeting years, at the
expense of all that is ennobling to their
intellectual, their moral and immortal
nature. But this inversion of the order
of Providence is impossible ; you might
as well expect the seasons to revolve,
and the earth to bring forth all its won-
drous and useful productions without the
light and heat of the great luminary of
day, as that man either in his individual
or social capacity should possess happi-
ness without piety — or piety without that
sense of accountableness which springs
from the conviction, that the principles,
motives, and volitions which form his
character are essentially his own, irre-
spective of all outward circumstances.
O THE BEIG AD PERFECTIOS OF GOD.
289
which can no further control his destiny
than as he voluntarily yields himself up
to their influence. In support of this very
unqualified assertion, and we make it as
broadly as the strength of human lan-
guage will admit — we proceed to show
that The legitimate consequences of atheism
are appallijig and demoralizing impieties,
and that the co-operative system, assuming
atheism for its basis, is utterly opposed to
the nature of man, and the very existence
of society.
Mr. Burke has profoundly remarked,
" that man is by his nature and constitu-
tion a religious animal ; that atheism is
against not only our reason but our in-
stincts, and cannot last long." This was
written during the fury of the French
revolution — when, as in one day, a whole
nation threw off the restraints of religion,
and avowed in the face of civilized Eu-
rope that they were a community of athe-
ists. The prediction in the latter clause of
the sentence was soon fulfilled. It is pos-
sible that some of the advocates of the
scheme we are reprobating may endeavour
to shield its author from the imputation
of atheism — but to do this successfully
is impossible — the grand pre-requisite to
the application of his principles, is that
the communities formed by him shall
have no religion, no God. The French
atheists have fully expressed what is
necessarily implied in this preliminary
stipulation. During the reign of Robes-
pierre, the convention, in one of its most
popular and authentic papers, makes the
following announcement. " Provided the
idea of a Supreme Being be nothing more
than a philosophical abstraction, a guide
to the imagination in the pursuit of causes
and effects, a resting-place for the curi-
osity of inquiring minds, a notion merely
speculative, and from which no practical
consequences are to be applied to human
life, there can be no great danger in such
an idea ; but if it is to be made the foun-
dation of morality, if it is to be accompa-
"ied by the supposition that there exists
4 God, who presides over the affairs of
the world, and rewards and punishes men
for their actions on earth, according to
some principle of speculative justice,
there can be no opinion more prejudicial
to society." In these sentiments the sup-
porters and author of the co-operative
system perfectly concur. With respect
to a belief in the being and moral govern-
ment of God, one of their writers ob-
serves, " We attach no importance to the
belief of doctrines that are inexplicable —
as man does not form his own character,
it is injustice and cruelty to visit him
with punishment — even the robber has it
not in his power to govern his own actions
— the motives by which he is impelled
have been produced by the circumstances
under which he has been placed, acting
upon his peculiar organization — and as
this applies to all men without a single
exception — on this principle the whole
system of rewards and punishments must
fall to the ground." Such is the moral
philosophy on which the new scheme of
renovating society is founded. Let us
for a few moments examine it as a matter
of reason, and trace the principle to its
just consequences ; and then, let us con-
template its actual operation in those
cases where it has been brought to the
test of experiment.
The only character under which man
either is, or can be placed before us, ac-
cording to this system, is that of a mere
automaton, with a principle of what is
called life superadded, which life how-
ever confers no moral power, but leaves
its subject to be as necessarily impelled
to action by the circumstances in which
he is placed, as the puppet is moved by
the springs and wires that compose its
actuating machinery. This is an essen-
tial fundamental doctrine of atheistical
materialism, and is inseparably connected
with all its forms. This doctrine, Mira-
baud, the atheistical oracle of the present
day, has publicly avowed and defendea.
He unhesitatingly says, that " Every
thing is necessary — that it cannot be
otherwise, than it is — that all the beings
we behold, as well as those which escape
our sight, act by certain and invariable
laws. In those terrible convulsions that
sometimes agitate political societies,
shake their foundations, and frequently
produce the overthrow of an empire, there
is not a single action, a single word, a
I single thought, a single will, a single
286
THE BRITISH PULPIT
passion in the agents, whether they act
as destroyers or victims, that is not the
necessary result of the causes operating
— that does not act as of necessity it must
act, from the peculiar essence of the be-
ings who give the impulse, and that of
the agents who receive it, according to
the situation these agents occupy in the
moral whirlwind." And he further adds,
" Man's life is a line that nature com-
mands him to describe upon the surface
of the earth, without his ever being able
to swerve from it even for an instant.
He is born without his own consent; his
organization does in no way depend upon
himself; his ideas come to him involun-
tarily ; his habits are in the power of
those who cause him to contract them ;
he is unceasingly modified by causes,
whether visible or concealed, over which
he has no control, which necessarily re-
gulate his mode of existence, give the
hue to his way of thinking, and determine
his manner of acting ! He is good or
bad — happy or miserable — wise or fool-
ish — reasonable or irrational, without his
will going for any thing in these various
states." This is the doctrine which Mr.
Owen has adopted and moulded into his
system. The principle which he acknow-
ledges has wrought all the evils and mise-
ries which prevail in the present order of
things, in his hands is to erect a new
machinery productive only of virtue and
felicity. But how is this to be achieved
— whence is the intellectual and moral
power to be derived, which is to battle
with a blind and inexorable necessity,
which acts without intelligence, and in
defiance of every thing like moral govern-
ment in the universe "?
pan the principle which degrades man
to the humblest possible level of intellect-
ual existence at the same time illumine
and expand his mind — can that which
renders him unsusceptible of moral obli-
gation elevate him to the dignity of virtue
— can the doctrine which tells him that
he is insulated in all his interests, and
these the interests of a mere animal, that
he is united to his fellow men only by
time and chance, that he is born merely to
breathe, to eat, to drink, to sleep, to pro-
pagate his kind and to die, without the
remotest apprehension of law or govern-
ment, merit or reward, can such a doc-
trine dignify him with personal worth,
inspire him with the love of rectitude,
delight him with pleasurable emotions
derived from the present, or the future,
or the past, or produce in him any desire
to promote the common good, the general
happiness 1 Assuredly not. " Men do
not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of
thistles — the same fountain cannot send
forth bitter waters and sweet." Allow
me to strengthen the position I have thus
assumed by a quotation from one of our
ablest writers on Christian theology : —
" Personal worth is all dependent on the
existence of laws and government formed
by one who has a right to enact the for-
mer and administer the latter : — a right
founded on the relations which he sustains
to those who are under his government.
To these relations also must the laws
and the government be conformed in
such a manner as that, and that only,
shall be enacted which requires the con-
duct suited to these relations, and pro-
motive of general and individual happi-
ness. In the same manner must be
directed the rewards, punishments, and
administrations. But on the scheme
which disavows the being, or that pro-
scribes the recognition of a God, there is
no such ruler and no such right to rule ;
there are no such relations, and no such
duties. Rectitude, the sum of personal
worth, consists in rendering voluntarily
that which others have a right to claim ;
but on this scheme no claim can be
founded and none exists. There is, there-
fore, nothing due ; of course no duty can
be performed and no rectitude experi-
enced ; hence that high, unceasing, and
refined enjoyment which attends the
sense of rectitude can never be found by
the atheist." Where rectitude or moral
principle is discarded, nothing remains
as the impelling principle and the guid-
ing rule of human conduct but appetite
and passion. And what must be the re-
sult? — Disorder, crime, and misery!^
If this scheme be true, all men ought
undoubtedly to be governed by it. What
would become of such a world and of the
atheist himself in the midst of such a
OIS THE BEIG AD PERFECTIOS OF GOD.
287
world ? We may confidently ask, in
what possible way can atheism secure the
well-being of society. If we grant that
the being of a Deity operates as a very
slight restraint on vice, in individual
cases, where the character has become
utterly depraved, yet its general influence
must be mighty, interwoven as it is with
the whole civil and social economy of
man. It must act powerfully as an in-
centive to good, and as a check to what-
ever is evil : and it can only fail in par-
ticular instances of atrocious obduracy.
But what offences against himself or
his fellow-creatures, may not an atheist
perpetrate with conscious impunity, with-
out regret and without a blush 1 What
protection can his principles afford to con-
fiding innocence and beauty 1 What shall
deter him from dooming an amiable and
lovely wife to penury, to desolation, and an
untimely grave ] What shall make seduc-
tion and adultery criminal in his eyes, or
induce him, when she is in his power, to
spare the victim of unhallowed and guilty
passion 1 What can he know of honour, of
justice and integrity 1 What friend will he
not betray — what enemy will he not pur-
sue to utter destruction 1 What lawless
gratification will he not indulge when its
indulgence does not compromise his per-
sonal safety] Who, we may ask, are
those that set the decencies of life at de-
fiance, that laugh at virtue, and riot in
epieureean debauchery 1 Are they not the
base apostates from God who boast of
their impiety, and write themselves athe-
ists to their own disgrace and the scandal
of the country that gave them birth.
From the specimens of atheists which
the world has seen, some faint idea may
be formed of what an atheistical com-
munity would soon become ; soon would
it be transformed into an image of hell ;
"and distrust, jealousy, wrath, revenge,
murder, war and devastation overspread
the earth. In the midst of millions the
atheist would find himself in a desert.
His situation would be that of a hermit,
his character that of a fiend." But as
the author of the new scheme of society
is loud and violent in his condemnation
of all existing governments and every
system of civil polity which is esta-
blished, let us see how a government
formed on his favourite principle of athe-
istical necessity, and intended to rule a
people professing the same creed, would
be found to conduct itself — what would
be the character of the ruler and the go-
verned in reference to each other and the
relations subsisting between them ] Dr.
Dwight has furnished us with a dark but
not overcharged portraiture. Under such
an absence of all that would impose
restraint on wickedness and under the
active operation of all that can stimulate
depravity, he observes, " Rulers would
feel no sense of rectitude, possess no
virtue and realize no moral obligation.
To all these things their fundamental
principles would be hostile, and would
render the very thought of them ridicu-
lous. God is the only acknowledged
source of obligation, but to them there
would be no God, and therefore no such
obligation. Conformity to His laws is
the only rectitude ; but to these men there
would be no such laws, and therefore no
rectitude. Convenience of course, or in
better words, passion and appetite, would
dictate all the conduct of these rulers.
The nature of a government directed by
passion and appetite we know imperfectly
by the histories of Caligula, ero, and
Heliogabalus, and more thoroughly,
though still imperfectly, in those of Dan-
ton, Murat, Robespierre, and their associ-
ates. Who would be willing to see such
a tissue of madness, cruelty, misery, and
horror woven again 1"
"The subjects of such a government
would at the same time lie in the same
manner under the influence of the same
doctrine. Their conduct would accord-
ingly be an exact counterpart to that of
their rulers. Appetite would change
every man into a swine, and passion into
a tiger. Right would neither be acknow-
ledged, nor be fell, nor exist. Whatever
was coveted would be sought and ob-
tained, could it be done with safety.
Whatever was hated would, so far as
safety would permit, be hunted and de-
stroyed ; to deceive, to overreach, to
betray, to maim, to torture, and to butcher,
would be the common employment and
the common sport. The dearest and most
288
THE BRITISH PULPIT.
venerable relations would be violated by
incestuous pollution ; and children, such
of them I mean as were not cast under a
hedge, thrown into the sea, or dashed
against the stones, would grow up with-
out a home, without a parent, without a
friend. The world would become one
vast den, one immeasurable stye, and the
swine and the wolf would be degraded
by a comparison with its inhabitants."
Such, my brethren, is the reasoning,
fair and conclusive, from principles to
their legitimate consequences. But we
come now to a fearful practical illustra-
tion of this reasoning. As if to silence
infidelity for ever, and to stamp upon it
the brand of everlasting execration ; the
Governor of the world, in his inscrutable
wisdom, was pleased to permit the most
polished and refined among the civilized
nations of the earth to reduce atheism to
practice, to bring its principles to bear
upon the social state, and to exhibit the
tremendous result. In mercy, however,
he limited its duration — for a short sea-
son only was it suffered to perform its
dreadful tragedies. It soon destroyed
itself, while it displayed before the uni-
verse its scroll of blood, on which was
written lamentation, and mourning, and
woe ! Atheistical philosophers seized
the power of legislation and government;
they talked of the perfectibility of man,
and promised to their deluded votaries a
golden age for them and their regenerated
species. The pledge was given, and
fairy scenes were delineated with all the
glow of an excited imagination — another
paradise bloomed. The human race,
freed from tyranny, oppression, and crime,
were described not merely as innocent,
but virtuous and immortal. But how
was all this realized 1 I must again bor-
row the pencil of truth. Atheism, under
a co-operative system, began its career —
the experiment was tried, and we have
the result before us, as a warning and a
calamity the most fearful that the offended
Majesty of heaven could in mercy and in
vengeance give and inflict.
Dr. Dwight has eloquently observed,
" the only instance in which infidels of
any description have possessed the su-
preme power and government of a country,
and have attempted to dispose of humao
happiness according to their own doc-
trines and wishes, is that of France, since
the beginning of the revolution. If we
consider this government as established
over a nation, educated for ages to the
belief and obedience of many doctrines of
Christianity, and retaining, as to a great
majority of the people, the habits formed
by that education, the state of that nation
will evince beyond a question, that all
which I have said is true without exag-
geration.
" France during this period has been a
theatre of crimes, which, after all preced-
ing perpetrations, have excited in the
mind of every spectator, amazement and
horror. The miseries, suffered by that
single nation, have changed all the his-
tories of the preceding sufferings of
mankind into idle tales, and have been
enhanced and multiplied, without a pre-
cedent, without number, and without a
name. The kingdom appeared to be
changed into one great prison ; the inha-
bitants converted into felons; and the
common doom of man commuted, for the
violence of the sword and the bayonet,
the sucking boat and the guillotine. To
contemplative men, it seemed for a sea-
son as if the knell of the whole natior
was tolled, and the world summoned to
its execution and its funeral. Within
the short space of ten years, not less than
three millions of human beings are sup-
posed to have perished in that single
country by the influence of atheism.
Were the world to adopt and be governed
by the doctrines of France, what crimes
would not mankind perpetrate 1 what
agonies would they not suffer"?"
After this, will such men as Mr. Owen
and his coadjutors ever efface the impres-
sion from our minds, that atheism, what-
ever disguise it may assume, is an inhu-
man, a bloody and ferocious system,
equally hostile to every useful restraint
and to every virtuous affection ; leaving
nothing above us to excite fear, or around
us to awaken tenderness, it wages war
with heaven and with earth. Its first
object is to dethrone God; its next to
destroy man. With such conviction, the
enlightened and virtuous inhabitants of
O THE BEIG AD PERFECTIOS OF GOD.
289
Groat Britain, and you, my brethren, the
very sinews and strength of your native
land, will not surely be tempted to your
fate by the rhapsodies of men, without
religion, and without a God.
Mr. Owen tells you, that the remedy
of all your ills is co-operation, as opposed
to competition. Co-operate by all means ;
but on principles true to your nature, your
interests, and your happiness — let Chris-
tianity be cordially received — welcome
its blessings to your hearts — place your-
selves under its wholesome regimen — be
a community of Christians, and when all
shall know the Lord, from the least to
the greatest, there will be nothing to hurt
nor to destroy — "the wolf shall dwell
with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie
down with the kid ; and the calf and the
young lion and the falling together; and
a little child shall lead them. And the
cow and the bear shall feed ; their young
ones shall lie down together : and the
lion shall eat straw like the ox. And
the sucking child shall play on the hole
of the asp, and the weaned child shall
put his hand on the cockatrice' den."
The being and perfections of God, as the
moral Governor of the world, are the
foundation of this glorious system of
truth, of righteousness and mercy.
Let us draw a hasly sketch of its ten-
dency to ameliorate the human co7idition,
as it is applicable to the present state of the
human family.
Your time is gone, and your attention
is wearied, and on this part of the subject
I must, for my own sake and yours, be
brief. This 1 should regret, if in looking
over the syllabus of lectures, I did not
perceive, that this topic must be again
discussed, under another aspect indeed,
but in such a form as to fill up my outline
and supply my deficiencies.
My brethren, the idea best suited to
the glorious faculties of the human mind,
and which can it most worthily cherish, is
the idea of a Deity, which, unlike every
other with which we are familiar, is capa-
ble of continual expansion, enlarges with
our intellectual powers, ranges through
all space, stretches beyond all limited
duration, and which, to use the words of
an eloquent Christian orator, borrows
Vol. I.— 37
splendour from all that is fair, subordi-
nates to itself all that is great, and sits
enthroned on the riches of the universe.
This idea, illustrated and explained in an
infinite variety of forms in nature, is aug-
mented with a moral grandeur, and shines
with an infinite glory in the pages <of
divine revelation.
In both it is brought home to our hearts
with irresistible power; and produces a
character in those who sincerely entertain
it in some humble measure, resembling the
perfections of the Great Being who is its .
original architype. His natural attri-
butes, such as eternity, spirituality, om-
nipotence, wisdom, omnipresence, and
infinite goodness, inspire adoration and
furnish all the elements of a sublime and
elevated piety ; while the impressive
manifestation of his moral excellencies,
his holiness, rectitude, truth, and mercy,
as the Governor and Saviour of the world,
operates to the production of principles
which renovate, dignify, and exalt the
human being, placing him under an influ-
ence which supplies his understanding
with the most valuable knowledge— his
conscience with the most delicate sensi-
bility — his will with the purest and
mightiest motives — his affections with
the noblest objects — and his whole sphere
of existence with duty and enjoyment.
On the principle that " the character is
formed /or- the individual and not hy him,
man must indeed become the creature of
necessity, and thus what may be properly
termed influence as opposed to this neces-
sity, is entirely foreign to his nature.
But on the Christian principle, that every
character involves personal responsibility
in its formation, the idea of a moral in-
fluence instilling its motives, impressing
its features, and controlling its destiny is
most welcome to the heart ; and this
moral influence is exerted with a perpe-
tual energy on the individual who cor
dially receives and reverentially adores
Being of infinite perfection and glory-
his Creator — his Governor — his Sancti
fier — his God. The character rises and
is sustained under his transforming in-
fluence. The struggles against tempta-
tion, sin, and folly, in the vale of tears,
become successful, because they are
2B
290
THE BRITISH PULPIT.
animated by the inspecting eye of the
Divinity ; and the feeble creature, armed
with the omnipotence of heaven, is more
than a conqueror. Mighty are the tri-
umphs of principle over passion, and of
piety over the world. What a powerful
check to vice is likewise furnished by
the consciousness in the bosom of the
sinner, that there is an Almighty Judge,
from whose presence he cannot hide him-
self — a Being that surrounds his path
and is acquainted with all his ways ]
Let this impression be once felt, and the
pleasures of vice lose all their captivating
charms, the heart sickens at temptation.
" God is here,''^ irradiates the darkness of
the night, tears off the cowl of secret vil-
lany in the face of day, and so alarms
the conscience, that imagined crimes are
destroyed in embryo.
But it is the influence of these sublime
sentiments upon society, upon man, in his
state of civil compact and association, that
displays, by matchless contrast, the degrad-
ing and d moralizing character of atheism.
We have shuddered as we have viewed
the scene of guilt and desolation opened
to us by this foul spirit, the dark and
final abyss of sin and ruin, where no soli-
tary virtue gleams, where no ray of hope
or comfort trembles througli the profound
midnight; let us, now, though but for a
moment, refresh the wearied sight by
glancing over the moral world, on which
the " Sun of Righteousness" for ever
shines with healing in his wings. Here,
at the head of the vast chain of moral
being, reaching like Jacob's ladder from
earth to heaven, sits on the throne of in-
finite dominion, the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God
of all who, like them, believe, worship,
and obey their Creator. In Him, the
self-existent and infinite mind, the Chris-
tian beholds, unceasingly, an object of
boundless sublimity, grandeur, beauty,
and loveliness ; commanding by the dis-
closure of his character, and exhausting,
all finite admiration, complacency, love,
and praise ; expanding every view, refin-
ing every affection, and ennobling every
attribute. From the immediate contem-
plation of this glorious Being, raised to
a superiority and distinction, of which
he could otherwise have never conceived,
he casts his eyes abroad into the universe,
which that Being has created. There he
beholds an endless train of intelligent
minds, reflecting with no unhappy lustre
the beauty and glory of their Maker.
From the pre-eminent dignity of the arch-
angel, through the glowing zeal of the
seraph, and the milder wisdom of the
cherub ; through the high endowments of
Moses, Isaiah, and Paul, down to the
humble but virtuous inhabitant of a cot-
tage, one spirit lives, and breathes, and
actuates in all, and that spirit is divine.
Each wears, and exhibits, in his own
manner, and that manner a delightful and
useful one, the image and beauty of Jeho-
vah. All, though of different magnitudes,
diffuse a real light ; all are stars, though
one star different from another in glory.
All are the subjects of virtuous affections ;
all are fitted to admire and adore, to
glorify and enjoy their Creator ; all are
formed, and disposed voluntarily, to fill
up their existence of doing good, with
promoting individual enjoyment, and in-
creasing universal happiness ; all are
bound together as children of one God,
and brethren of each other, by love, the
bond of perfection. Every one, therefore,
is lovely in the sight of his Maker.
To this universe of minds the Chris-
tian believes, that the Creator, who is of
course the rightful lawgiver, has given
laws for the direction of its members,
which require perfect conduct, and ensure
to it perfect happiness. These laws ex-
tend to all the thoughts, words, and
actions alike, and regulate each with un-
erring propriety. Their obligation is,
and is acknowledged to be, divine ;
nothing can sunder, nothing can lessen it.
This, instead of being a source of regret
to him, is his delight ; for what these
laws require is better than any thing else ;
and more fraught with self-approbation,
worth, and enjoyment. Of course, in all
the relations and situations in life, as a
parent or a child, a neighbour or a friend,
a magistrate or a subject, he feels him-
self, on the one hand, irresistibly obliged,
and, on the other, entirely delighted, to
obey their dictates.
As these dictates reach every moral
O THE BEIG AD PERFECTIOS OF GOD.
291
being, in every situation, and with re-
spect to every action, they provide, of
course, and universally, for that conduct,
in every being which is commendable
and desirable. Here an immovable foun-
dation is laid for peace within, for dignity
of mind, for real and enduring enjoyment,
in the recesses of solitude, and for the
endless train of duties and blessings,
necessary to the happiness of society.
A ruler, formed in this manner, will go-
vern only to bless. " Subjects of the
same character will obey, because recti-
tude demands their obedience, and be-
cause their obedience will ensure the hap-
piness both of themselves an-d their
rulers."* If it be objected to this vision,
that it belongs only to the imagination,
and has never been realized, we beg to
observe, that to effect all this is the im-
mediate tendency of the system, that
amidst ten thousand counteracting influ-
ences, it has achieved the greatest good
to society ; that it is a moral system, and
that just in proportion as it has ever pre-
vailed, have been the number and mag-
nitude of the evils it has banished, and
the benefits it has conferred. Wherever
it has been truly welcomed, it has pro-
duced unmingled good ; human depravity
and guilt, whenever they have triumphed,
they have triumphed in spite of it, amidst
its remonstrances and determined hos-
tility. In fact, it is the only antagonist
of evil in the moral world ; while infi-
delity is its patron, its principle, its soul
and energy.
A people, rising in their intellectual
character, and at the moment when they
are making their transit from ignorance
to knowledge, and from the degradation
of brutes to the dignity of thinkingbeings,
are peculiarly exposed to intellectual de-
lusions, to fallacious theories and ruinous
seductions, from the paths of truth and
happiness; and their greatest danger is to
be apprehended from the dazzling splen-
dours of perverted genius, and the wild
dogmas of spurious philanthropy.
Both these insidious spirits are at this
moment at work among our people,
watching every dawn of mind, that they
may obscure it with the discolorations
* Dwight.
of error and prejudice, and associate it
with the evil powers that are at war with
the best interests of man. We cannot
use, we cannot invent terms sufficiently
strong by which to express our indigna-
tion at the prostitution of genius. The
talents of an atheistical and profligate
writer, if they are of the first order, will
no doubt ensure to him a species of im-
mortality ; but who would covet it 1
Who that is not lost to every sentiment
of moral dignity would not deprecate it
as a dire misfortune 1 To occupy through
all time the bad eminence which vice
assigns to her most powerful agents, to
be the oracle of every impious witling
who is unable of himself to construct a
sophism against religion ; to be the text
book of quotation to the impure of both
sexes, who would throw a splendid refine
ment over their debaucheries ; to stimu-
late the already too precocious depravity
of youth, and the prurient lasciviousness
of anticipated decrepitude ; instead of
brightening the heavens as a star, to fall
upon the earth, to be in reality only a
putrescent mass of shining corruption,
emitting a pestiferous lustre, and then to
perish forever! These are the exclusive
triumphs of prostituted genius, this its
fearful destiny.
" rd rather be the wretch that scrawls
Its idiol nonsense on the walls;
The gallant bark of reason wreck'd,
A poor quench'd ray of intellect;
With slabber'd chin and rayless eye,
And mind of mere inanity ;
ot quite a man, nor quite a brute,
Than I would basely prostitute
My powers to serve the cause of vice.
To build some jewell'd edifice ;
So fair, so foul, — framed with such art,
To please the eye and taint the heart ;
That he who has not power to shun,
Comes, looks, and feels himself undone."
But the spurious philanthropists, these
are the most powerful coadjutors of the
theoretic infidel. They bring out his
principles into active life. True philan-
thropy aims at amelioration, not destruc-
tion; it does not dazzle with the promise of
a distant visionary good that is to be pur-
chased by anarchy, massacre, and the
ruin of a whole generation of human
292
THE BRITISH PULPIT.
beings ; but it applies the remedies of
principle ; it does good in its immediate
sphere, and extends that sphere simply
by the moral expansion of its useful-
ness.
Be not deceived, my brethren, when
the enemies of your God, and the consti-
tution of your country, approach you with
expressions of affected concern for the
well-being of society. Think not that
they are tender hearted, because they
have nothing but douce humanite in their
mouth. Even the assassins and butchers
of the French revolution, and the very
worst of them too, could talk in raptures of
restoring parents to their children, and
children to their parents, relations to each
other, and man to society, " I ever sus-
pect," says one who belonged to their
school, and who is very probably an athe-
ist, " I ever suspect the sincerity of a
man whose discourse abounds in expres-
sions of universal philanthropy." o-
thing is easier than for a person of some
imagination to raise himself to a swell of
sentiment Avithout the aid of one single
feeling in the heart. Rousseau, for in-
stance, is ever babbling about his genera
humain, his human race, and his cceur
animaut et tendre, tender and loving heart ;
he writes for the human race, his heart
bleeds for the distresses of the human
race, and in the midst of all this he sends
his unfortunate children to the poor house,
the receptacle of misery.
In the instance of our modern martyrs
to humanity, who encounter reproach and
ridicule, opposition and scorn, and all for
the good of mankind — whose laws they
would abrogate — whose monarchs they
would dethrone — whose intellect they
would extinguish — and whose account-
ableness they would destroy : what has
all their boasting come to, and what are
the results of their exertions % Let La-
nark speak — rather let the report of the
parliamentary commissioners be seriously
pondered. Of all the manufacturing dis-
tricts which they had visited during a
season of unexampled distress, Lanark
was the most demoralized and the most
wretched. The unhappy co-operatives
had gained nothing by their compact but
a community of unsatiated appetites, ex-
cited passions, disappointed hopes, and a
reckless disregard of the future.
These practical lessons, I trust, will
not be lost upon our people, who, instead
of hunting after novelties and yielding to
the seducing spirit of the age, will stand
in the way and ask for the old paths, where
is the good way, and walk therein, and
thus find rest to their souls.
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