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property, which by all is held inviolable ? It is totally unhinged. The proposition then is untenible as far as light can be drawn from reason. At the same time, the tribunal of reason may be justly declined in this case. Reason is the only touchstone of truth and falsehood: but the moral sense is the only touchstone of right
And to maintain, that the qualities of right and wrong are discoverable by reason, is no less absurd than that truth and falsehood are discoverable by the moral sense. The moral sense dictates, that on no pretext whatever is it lawful to do an act of injustice, or any wrong (a): and men, conscious that the moral sense governs in matters of right and wrong, submit implicitly to its dictates. Influenced however by the reasoning mentioned, men, during the nonage of the moral sense, did wrong currently in order to bring about a good end; witness pretended miracles and forged writings, urged without reserve by every fect of Christians against their antagonists. And I am sorry to observe, that the error is not entirely
(a) See the first part of this sketch, Sect. 3. at the end,
eradicated : miffionaries employ'd in converting infidels to the true faith, are little scrupulous about the means: they make no difficulty to feign prodigies in order to convert those who are not moved by argument. Such pious frauds tend to fap the very foundations of morality.
S K E T CH
Principles and Progress of Theology,
S no other science can vie with
theology, either in dignity or importance, it justly claims to be a favourite study with every person endued with true taste and folid judgement. From the time that writing was invented, natural religion has employ'd pens without number; and yet in no language is there found a connected history of it. The present work will only admit a flight sketch : which I shall glory in, however imperfect, if it excite any one of fuperior talents to undertake a complete history.
THE Hat there exist beings, one or many, powerful above the human race, is a
, proposition universally admitted as true, in all
all nations. I boldly call it universal, notwithstanding what is reported of some gross savages; for reports that contradict what is acknowledged to be general among men, require more able vouchers than a few illiterate voyagers. Among many favage tribes, there are no words but for objects of external sense : is it surprising, that such people are incapable to express their religious perceptions, or any perception of internal sense ? and from their filence can it be fairly presumed, that they have no such perception * ?
* In the language even of Peru, there is not a word for expressing an abstract idea, such as time, endurance, space, existence, substance, matter, body. It is no less defective in expressing moral ideas, such
The conviction that men have of superior powers in every country where there are words to express it, is so well vouched, that in fair reasoning it ought to be taken for granted among the few tribes where language is deficient. Even the groffeft idolatry affords evidence of that conviction. No nation can be so brutish as to worship a stock or a stone, merely as such: the visible object is always imagined to be connected with some invisible power; and the worship paid to the former, is as representing the latter, or as in some manner connected with it. Every family among the ancient Lithuanians, entertained a real serpent as a household god; and the same practice is at present universal am mong
negroes in the kingdom of Whidah : it is not the serpent that is worshipped, but some deity imagined to refide in it. The ancient Egyptians were not idiots, to pay divine honours to a bull or a cat,
as virtue, justice, gratitude, liberty. Tlie Yameos, a tribe on the river Oroonoko described by Conda. mine, use the word poettarraroincouroac to express the number three, and have no word for a greater number. The Brasilian language is nearly as barren.