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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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2147. DEITY, Existence of.—
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2147. DEITY, Existence of.—

I think that
every Christian sect gives a great handle to
atheism by their general dogma, that, without
a revelation, there would not be sufficient
proof of the being of a God. Now, one-sixth
of mankind only are supposed to be Christians;
the other five-sixths, then, who do not
believe in the Jewish and Christian revelation,
are without a knowledge of the existence of
a God! This gives completely a gain de
to the disciples of Ocellus, Timoeus,
Spinosa, Diderot and D'Holbach. The argument
which they rest on as triumphant and
unanswerable is, that in every hypothesis of
cosmogony, you must admit an eternal pre-existence
of something; and according to the
rule of sound philosophy, you are never to
employ two principles to solve a difficulty
when one will suffice. They say, then, that it
is more simple to believe at once in the eternal
pre-existence of the world, as it is now going
on, and may forever go on by the principle of
reproduction which we see and witness, than
to believe in the eternal pre-existence of an
ulterior cause, or Creator of the world, a
Being whom we see not and know not, of
whose form, substance, and mode, or place of
existence, or of action, no sense informs us,
no power of the mind enables us to delineate
or comprehend. On the contrary, I hold
(without appeal to revelation) that when we
take a view of the universe, in all its parts,
general or particular, it is impossible for the
human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction
of design, consummate skill, and indefinite
power in every atom of its composition.
The movements of the heavenly
bodies, so exactly held in their course by
the balance of centrifugal and centripetal
forces; the structure of our earth itself, with
its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere;
animal and vegetable bodies, examined
in all their minutest particles; insects, mere
atoms of life, yet as perfectly organized as
man or mammoth; the mineral substances,
their generation and uses; it is impossible, I
say, for the human mind not to believe,
that there is in all this, design, cause, and
effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of
all things from matter and motion, their preserver
and regulator while permitted to exist
in their present forms, and their regeneration
into new and other forms. We see, too, evident
proofs of the necessity of a superintending
power. to maintain the universe in its
course and order. Stars, well known, have
disappeared, new ones have come into view;
comets in their incalculable courses, may run
foul of suns and planets, and require renovation
under other laws; certain races of
animals are become extinct; and were there
no restoring power. all existences might extinguish
successively, one by one, until all
should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So
irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent
and powerful agent, that, of the infinite
numbers of men who have existed through
all time, they have believed, in the proportion
of a million at least to a unit, in the hypothesis
of an eternal pre-existence of a


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Creator, rather than in that of a self-existent
universe. Surely this unanimous sentiment
renders this more probable, than that of the
few in the other hypothesis. Some early
Christians, indeed, have believed in the coeternal
pre-existence of both the Creator and
the world, without changing their relation of
cause and effect. That this was the opinion
of St. Thomas, we are informed by Cardinal
To John Adams. Washington ed. vii, 281.
(M. 1823)