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rest his principal evidence of the existence of the Creator upon thie credibility of the Mosaic Records of the Creation. He justly adds, that to descend froin the height to which, upon the fundainental point of the existence of God, we have been gradually raised by Revelation, and to argue still upon the level of unassisted reasoni, would be equally impossible and unprofitable :-impossible, because the rays of revealed knowledge will inperceptibly penetrate :-unprofitable, because, although philosophy may silence atheism, it will never command practical obedience, nor inspire practical devotion.
It appears to us that Mr, Burnett, by the terms of his proposal, left the competitors for his prize at perfect liberty as to the ground upon which they might choose to establish the being of a God; and that it is only with respect to his wisdom and goodness that they were bound to establish the proof, both from reason and Revela, tion. Mr. Sumner was, therefore, at liberty to exercise full discretion on the first point; and whether by selecting the question concerning the credibility of the Mosuic Records he has fixed upon the most interesting track, even though Dr. Graves and the present Dean of Westminster had not published their able and learned works when the plan of the Essay before us was arranged, we will not presume to determine. But after all which Warburton, the Abbé Fleury, Lardner, the two Lowths, Chandler, and others have written, either professedly or incidentally, upon the Mosaic History, we think it indisputable that a moiety of the Essay is rather too large a portion to devote to this single point. We are the more disposed to lament the disproportionate space thus occupied, as it has necessarily contracted that which the author has been enabled to allot to other parts of the subject, in the discussion of which many modern writers have succeeded in exciting a lively interest among men of reflection and benevolence, and bave thrown over their subjects a sufficient portion of new light to excite eager curiosity, but by no means enough to settle the opinions of candid inquirers. These subjects are the existence of moral and physical evil, or, in the more modern phrase, of 'vice and misery,' and their alleged necessary increase as society proceeds towards those advanced stages to which it is now tending in all the most civilized and enlightened nations of the earth. These are points of discussion of momentous import, including questions to the illustration of which the lights of reason and Revelation equally converge, and affording practical inferences for the regulation of man in the sublimest, as well as in the lowest, departments of human conduct. We sincerely regret, therefore, that scarcely more than one half of the Essay is devoted to these discussions, even in their abstract prin
ciples, ciples, since they are necessarily developed in a manner more scanty and unsatisfactory than their extreme importance demands; and we are still more disappointed to find that scarely any space is left for the practical inferences justly deducible from the whole,' where we expected to find, in the application of the argument to the hearts and lives of men, the most eloquent and useful portion of the work. We confess, therefore, that our own taste would have been more fully gratified had Mr. Sumner contented himself with giving, in a few pages, the abstract, wbich he is so well capable of producing, of the arguments to be found in ancient and modern authors concerning the existence of a God, which after all is a fact scarcely any where denied in the present day; and had devoted, at least, four-fifths of the Essay to the more interesting and original matters to which we have just adverted, and which, in truth, appear to have been mainly in the view of Mr. Burnett when he proposed the subject for bis prizes. The political uses of such an argument would have embraced all the most interesting topics among those which may be called fundamental in the constitution of civil society, objects which lie at the root of all public prosperity, because upou them mainly depend the contentment of the people, the security of governments, and consequently the offensive and defensive power of nations. The moral uses would have been yet more interesting; for, as we have lately seen it expressed, there requires but little reflection upon the history of the past, and little experience of the actual condition of society, to perceive the utter insufficiency of mere political, or philosophical, or economical systems, for affording any permanence to the amelioration which they all profess to bestow upon the condition of mankind. System after system has been adopted with eager hope, and rejected in its turn, with utter despair, in favour of another which has ultimately followed the destiny of its predecessor; and mankind, instead of reaping the expected harvest, have too often found their condition deteriorated, and their minds disappointed and irritated. If ever there were a time in which these truths were more palpable than at another it appears to be the present. From all the magnificent systems, which, independently of pure morals, promised so much benefit to society, it has come out demoralized, degraded, impoverished, unsettled, insecure; and politicians have at length been compelled to acknowledge, (without, however, practically enforcing the consequence,) that all hope for the future is to be sought in a general moral amelioration. The opportunity, therefore, is surely favourable for endeavouring to demonstrate with effect the necessary connexion of moral conduct, public and private, with political wealth and prosperity,—that the former is, in fact, the centre round which the latter must revolve.
With the modifications contained in the preceding paragraphs, we venture to pronounce our opinion, that the Essay before us is a sketch by the hand of a master, although, as we have before intimated, a wide difference exists between some of the author's statements and conclusions, and those which we should be disposed to make from the same premises.
The first two chapters of the first book contain a brief exposition and refutation of the opinions of the metaphysicians, the materialists, and the disciples of the atomical philosophy, concerning the eternal existence and fortuitous formation of the world. Upon these we have only to remark that they present a specimen of the style of argument abridged from the writings of the most approved authors, to which we wish that Mr. Sumner had confined the first book of his Essay on the Existence of the Creator.' Not that we are disposed to dispute his position, that the subject is by no means exhausted;' but we certainly do think that the point is superabundantly established for all the practical purposes of the theologian, the moralist, and the politician; and that any sane man, who, after due inquiry, should still entertain doubts upon it, must possess, to use the words of the poet, ' a most uncommon skull. .
But to proceed:since the world neither had an independent, eternal existence, nor was produced by the fortuitous concurrence of atoms, it follows that it must have been created, and from the innumerable instances of design and benevolence which every where press upon our observation, that it was formed by an all wise, good, and powerful Creator. But as the world, and almost every thing in it, are capable of being abused by man, whose corrupt propensities are continually leading him to poison the sources of his own happiness, it seems to follow that such a world, created for the use of such a being, implies the necessity that some communication should have been made to him by the Creator of the terms upon which the tenure was bestowed, of the laws under which it is to be enjoyed, and of the mode in which the possession, which is the general property of all mankind,' was originally created. This has. always appeared to us to be the fundamental point (although 100 frequently overlooked) from which every just argument on the origin and progress of civil society must diverge, and which should be studiously kept in mind during the whole course. Man in a state of nature represents to our minds the idea of a being known by his Maker to be weak and liable to yield to temptation, surrounded nevertheless by objects continually soliciting him to sin, but amply gifted with the means and the power of resistance, if he do not wilfully set himself in opposition to those means. Man in a state of nature, then, is man in a state of probation :-a rational and
intelligent creature placed by his Creator under circumstances of trial, with the means of rising triumphantly above them. It is needless to contrast this statement with the degrading view which almost every writer on the origin of civil society has given of what they have been pleased to term' the state of nature' as it refers to man. But we have the greatest pleasure in laying before our readers the following extract from Mr. Sumner's third chapter on the Historical Evidence of the Creation of the World.'
'Suppose it granted, for the present, that a Creator exists; only two suppositions can be entertained : either man was turned naked and ignorant into the world, with less power to provide for his comfort and subsistence than the lowest savage whom modern discoveries have brought to our acquaintance; or he was instructed, through the agency of his Creator, in the means of supplying his immediate wants, and of performing the various purposes of his being.
If we embrace the first of these suppositions, we must believe that this world, and all it contains, was created without any definite or assignable object : that its intelligent inhabitants were summoned into life, and then immediately abandoned by their Maker, retaining no connexion with him, either during the short period of their earthly existence, or after it. If we reject this idea, as inconsistent with all reasoning as to the probable operations of Divine intelligence; then it is natural to conclude that the Creator would leave some memorial of himself in a world, which, as forming a part in the comprehensive scheme of his providence, he beholds with regard and interest. It is evident, however, that as mankind alone, of all the inhabitants of the earth, are gifted with intelligence, mankind alone can hold any connexion with an intelligent Creator. To them therefore we must look as the chief objects of creation, and as the depositaries with whom the records of it, supposing such an event to have taken place, would be left, to be handed down by them from age to age.'- pp. 29, 30.
In conformity with this expectation we find that a history does exist, giving an authentic account of the dealings of God with man from the creation of the world, transmitting the records of that creation from generation to generation; and perpetuating the important truth, that its Author, seen only by his works, is to be worshipped without material or visible representation as the Creator and Governor of the World. It further appears, that this sublime object was effected through the instrumentality of a peculiar and singular race of people, set apart by God for this especial purpose, and persevering in a course of conduct calculated to attain the end proposed, although surrounded by a host of opposing elements. Superstitious polytheism persecuted, licentious rites tempted, idolatrous splendour dazzled, and many individuals were overpowered, and fell. But the ways of God endured to the end. He made the courage which he inspired to triumph over
persecution,--the purity which he imparted from his own essence to resist the allurements of desire,—and the simplicity which emanated from him rested on the men of ancient times, and gave them power to count the idolatrous splendour of the Gentile world a very little thing. Thus was his purpose effected, and the knowledge of the true God preserved by a perpetual succession of miracles and judgments. Nor was this all. The holy men of old did not only preserve the purest tradition of the true religion, and of the nature of the divine government; but they employed themselves in meditating upon the Moral Law of God, praying to him both for themselves and others, and enuring themselves to the practice of every virtue. They instructed their disciples, explained to them the spirit and meaning of the Law, and opened to them the sublime mysteries relating to the state of the Church on earth and in heaven, which were hidden under allegories. They instructed the people concerning the Sabbath;— they reproved them for their vices, and exhorted them to repent, upon pain of God's judgments, which they foretold as visitations for impenitence. In short, what they knew and what they taught distinctly was this :That there is but one God:* that He governs all things by his Providence;t that there is no trust in any but him, nor good to be expected from any one else;that He sees every thing, even the secrets of the heart; 8 that He influences the will by his inward operation, and turns it as He pleases ; || that all men are born in sin, and naturally inclined to evil; that nevertheless they may do good, but only by divine assistance;** that they are free, and have the choice of good or evil; ++ that God is strictly just, and punishes or rewards men according to their works ; # that He is full of mercy and compassion for those who sincerely repent of their sins ; $$ that He judges the actions of all men after their
another life. II.
They knew besides, and taught, that God, out of his mere loving kindness, had chosen them from among all mankind, to be his faithful people; *** that from them, of the tribe of Judah and family of David, should be born a Saviour,+*+ who should deliver them from all their hardships, and bring all nations to the know,