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ture state of rewards and punishments. Whether all men might not have been made angels, and whether more happiness might not have resulted from a different system, lie far beyond the reach of human knowledge. From what is known of the conduct of Providence, we have reason to presume, that our present state is the result of wisdom and benevolence. So much we know with certainty, that the sense we have of Deity and of moral duty, correspond accurately to the nature of man as an imperfect being; and that these senses, were they absolutely perfect, would convert him into a very different being.
A doctrine espoused by several writers ancient and modern, pretends to compose the world without a Deity; that the world, composed of animals, vegetables, and brute matter, is felf-existent and eternal; and that all events happen by a necessary chain of causes and effects. It will occur even at first view, that this theory is at least improbable : can any fupposition be more improbable than that the great work of planning and executing this universe, beautiful in all its parts, and bound together by the most perfect laws, should be a blind work, performed without intelligence or contrivance? It would therefore be a fufficient answer to observe, that this doctrine, though highly improbable, is however given to the public, like a foundling, without cover or support. But affirmatively I urge, that it is fundamentally overturned by the knowledge we derive of Deity from our own nature : if a Deity exift, felf-existence must be his peculiar attribute; and we cannot hesitate in rejecting the supposition of a felf-existent world, when it is so natural to suppose that the whole is the operation of a self-existent Being, whose
and wisdom are adequate to that great work.
work. I add, that this rational doctrine is eminently supported froin contemplating the endless number of wise and benevolent effects, display'd every where on the face of this globe; which afford complete evidence of a wise and benevolent cause. As these effects are far above the power of man, we necessarily ascribe them to a superior Being, or in other words to the Deity (a).
Many gross and absurd conceptions of Deity that have prevailed among rude na
(a) First sketch of this third book, Sect. 1.
tions, are urged by some writers as an
The proof of a Deity from the innate
CH A P II.
· Progress of Opinions with respect to Deity.
HE sense of Deity, like many other
delicate senses, is in favages fo faint and obscure as easily to be biassed from truth. Among them, the belief of many fuperior beings, is universal. And two causes join to produce that belief. The first is, that being accustomed to a plurality of visible objects, men, mountains, trees, cattle, and such like, they are naturally led to imagine a like plurality in things not visible; and from that flight bias, flight indeed but natural, is partly, derived the system of Polytheism, universal among favages. : The other is, that favages
know little of the connection between causes and effects, and still less of the order and government of the world : every event that is not familiar, appears to them fingular and extraordinary; and if such event exceed human power, it is without hesitation ascribed to a superior being. But as it occurs not to a savage, nor to any person who is not a philofopher, that the many various events ex-, ceeding human power and seemingly una connected, may all proceed from the same cause; they are readily ascribed to differ-ent beings. Pliny ascribes Polytheisin to the consciousness men have of their imbecillity: “Our powers are confined within
without * Plurality of heads or of hands in one idol, is sometimes made to supply plurality of different idols. Hence among favages the grotesque figure of some of their idols.
narrow bounds: we do not readily con“ ceive powers in the Deity much more “ extensive; and we supply by number “ what is wanting in power*.” Polytheism, thus founded, is the first stage in the progress of theology; for it is embraced by the rudest savages, who have neither capacity nor inclination to pierce deeper into the nature of things.
This stage is distinguishable from 0thers, by a belief that all fuperior beings are malevolent. Man, by nature weak, and helpless, is prone to fear, dreading