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IS THERE A GOD?
BEFORE entering upon the immediate subject of this Lecture, I would offer some remarks prefatory to the whole
This series of Lectures, has originated in the propagation of certain opinions by Mr. Robert Owen. Every possible effort is now being made to spread them, and if they were true, if they tended to purify the heart, and were conducive to man's happiness, and the highest and noblest end of his being, no one would more cordially wish their universal diffusion than myself: but having read Mr. Owen's publications with calmness, and attentionhaving attended many lectures by accredited Socialists to obtain information as to his principles, and having considered the arguments, and evidence adduced in their favour, truth constrains me to say that I think his opinions and principles unsound ; some of them are visionary, and others are injurious to human happiness—calculated to inflict serious mischief upon our social relations, and destructive of the purest, and most sublime feelings as to our existence and happiness in a future state. This I am aware is only an opinion, it will have to be established in the Lectures now to be delivered.
Towards Mr. Owen, and the persons who entertain his opinions, I cherish no hatred, no prejudice, no unkind feeling. They are my fellow-creatures. Born under the same
circumstances as myself, they have an equal right to examine the books of nature, and of Revelation, without being responsible to any human authority for the creed they may derive from them. If, however, they entertain and propagate a false creed-if their ideas of God be derogatory to the character of the Divine Being—if their notions of man, of virtue, of human liberty, of a future state of existence, or of any other important subject, be erroneous—it is due to them and to society at large, that such opinions should be examined, and their error pointed out, and truth be taught so far as we, or others, may
The spirit and temper in which this should be done are of the first importance. I would speak to no man for the space of five minutes, merely for the sake of victory: but I hope I should not consider days, or weeks, too long to reason with, and pray for a fellow-creature that I might rescue him from the power and consequences of error. Violence, misrepresentation, personal and offensive epithets, special pleading, disingenuous subtilty, malignant sarcasm, may all have their peculiar advantages; but an ingenuous and honest mind seeking after truth, will not make these the substitute for sound reasoning, nor for those just views of man, of society, of the physical universe, and of God, by which true knowledge can alone be advanced, and man be made wiser, holier, and happier. Personally I disclaim them.
The Committee of the London City Mission cannot be held responsible for every expression, or argument that may be employed in this series of Lectures. The sentiments and arguments, will properly belong to the Lecturer who advances them: but I am instructed by the Committee to say that their principles, feelings, knowledge of human nature, and earnest desire to do good, alike dictate that those who are opposed to us, should be treated, as we
doubt not they will be by every lecturer, with all justice,
“ Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The following question is now to be answered:
Is THERE A God?
Never did I rise to address a number of my fellowcreatures with greater solemnity and anxiety, or with a deeper sense of responsibility than on this occasion. I feel my intellectual weakness, and my ignorance in relation to the theme assigned me, and am deeply humbled. Receive from me, my fellow-men, with candour, integrity, and charity, the illustrations and arguments I have to address to you; and do me the justice to admit, that my inquiry and advocacy to-night, are not those of a partizan, on a trifling or sectarian subject, but of an intelligent being in behalf of my race seeking to know our origin; whether we exist by chance; whether matter has organized us, and given us intelligence; or whether we are the workmanship of an allwise, and all-powerful God.
I exist; or, in the language of the celebrated argument of Des Cartes-Cogito, ergo sum*-I think, therefore, I
But the source, and the process of my thinking are beyond my comprehension ; so also is the physical origin, and the modus of my existence; yet the facts of my think
* I understand by this, that consciousness of the operations of the mind, is the strongest evidence of our existence. It cannot be proved to an individual so forcibly by any other means : and although Des Cartes' language may appear to involve a logical fallacy, yet the proof of our personal existence which we have from thinking, is the fullest and best we are acquainted with.
ing, and of my existence, are self-evident, and undeniable. With this feebleness of comprehension, or, more accurately, this inability to comprehend what indisputably belongs to myself, I venture to inquire whether I have a Creator? We are creatures, therefore we must have been created. Who made me? who made the first man and the first woman ? The inquiry is natural and reasonable, and if pursued in a truly philosophic spirit, desiring to know the truth-determined to be satisfied with the highest possible evidence we have any right to expect on such a subject, and which kind of evidence does satisfy us many other questions, we shall arrive at rational, and sound conclusions, and by these as intelligent creatures, whole conduct ought to be governed.
Our first object will be an explanation of terms. The words God, in English–Deus in Latin-deós in Greekand other in Hebrew, are used to denote the Supreme Being, the Creator, and Ruler of the universe. They are used in other senses, and are appropriated in an inferior sense to other beings; but the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and ourselves, use them as appellations of the supreme intelligence, the God of the universe.
The terms Atheist, and Antitheist, will also be used in this Lecture, and it may prevent some misunderstanding if we explain the sense in which we shall use them. Offence has again and again been taken by Socialists, because the word Atheist has been applied to them. If I knew a word that would designate their views of the First Cause more accurately, I would use it. According to the sentiments men entertain in politics, philosophy, or religion, so are they classified, and terms are necessarily employed as descriptive of the classes to which they severally belong. For instance, a Polytheist is a believer in many gods, a Monotheist is a believer in one God, an Antitheist denies the existence of a God, and an Atheist is one