« AnteriorContinuar »
The foregoing objection then weighs not against the sense of deity more than against the moral sense. If it have weight, it refolves into a complaint against Provividence for the weakness of the sense of deity in rude and illiterate nations. If such complaint be folidly founded, it pierces extremely deep: why have not all nations, even in their nascent state, the sense of deity and the moral sense in purity and perfection? why do they not pósfefs all the arts of life without necessity of culture or experience? why are we born poor and helpless infants, instead of being produced complete in every member, internal and external, as Adam and Eve were ? The plan of Providence is far above the reach of our weak criticisms: it is but a small portion that is laid open to our view; can we pretend to judge of the whole? I venture only to fuggelt, that as, with respect to individuals, there is a progress from infancy to maturity; fo there is a similar progress in every nation, from its favage state to its maturity in árts and sciences. A child that has just conceptions of the Deity and of his attributes, would be a great miracle ; and would sot
such knowledge in a savage be equally so? Nor can I discover what benefit a child or a savage could reap from such knowledge ; provided it remained a child or a savage in every other respect. The genuine fruits of religion, are gratitude to the Author of our being, veneration to him as the supreme being, absolute resignation to the established laws of his providence, and chearful performance of
every duty : but a child has not the slightest idea of gratitude nor of veneration, and very little of moral duties and a favage, with respect to these, is not much superior to a child. The formation and government of the world, as far as we know, are excellent: we have great reason to presume the same with respect to what we do not know; and every good man will rest satisfied with the following reflection, That we should have been men from the hour of our birth, complete in every part, had it been conformable to the system of unerring Providence,
Morality, confidered as a branch of duty to our
HAving travelled long on a rough road,
not a little fatiguing, the agreeable part lies before us; which is, to treat of morality as a branch of religion. It was that subject which induced me to undertake the history of natural religion; a subject that will afford falutary instruction; and will infpire true piety, if instruction can produce that effect.
Bayle states a question, Whether a people may not be happy in society and be qualified for good government, upon principles of morality singly, without any
sense of religion. The question is ingenious, and may give opportunity for subtile reasoning; but it is useless, because the fact fupposed cannot happen, The principles of morality and of religion are equally rooted in our nature: they are indeed weak
in children and in savages; but they grow up together, and advance toward maturity with equal steps. Where the moral sense is entire, there must be a sense of religion; and if a man who has no sense
in fociett he of religion live decently in society, more indebted for his conduct tờ good temper than to found morals.
We have the authority of the Prophet Micah, formerly quoted, for holding, that religion, or, in other words, our duty to God, consists in doing justice, in loving mercy, and in walking humbly with him. The last is the foundation of religious worship, discussed in the foregoing section : the two former belong to the present section. And if we have gratitude to our Maker and Benefactor, if we owe implicit obedience to his will as our rightful fovereign, we ought not to separate the worship we owe to him, from justice and benevolence to our fellow-creatures; for to be unjust to them, to be cruel or hard-hearted, is a transgression of his will, no less gross, than a total neglect of religious worship.' " Ma
Ма* fter, which is the great commandment * in the law? - Jesus said unto him, Thou * fhalt love the Lord thy God with all thy VOL. IV.
heart, with all thy foul, and with all thy “ mind. This is the first and great com* mandment. And the second is like unto
it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyis
felf. On these two cominandments hang all the law and the prophets (a).” “Then
shall the King say unto them on his right "hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, “ inherit the kingdom prepared for you, “ For I was hungry, and ye gave me แ
meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink : I was a stranger, and ye took
me in: naked, and ye cloathed 'me : “ fick, and
visited ine : in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the ” righteous answer, saying, Lord, when
law we thee hungry, and fed thee? or " thirsty, and gave thee drink? When
saw we thee a stranger, and took thee “ in ? or naked, and cloathed thee? When “ faw we thee fick, or in prison, and
came unto thee? And the King shall “ , " answer, Verily I fiy unto you, in as “ much as ye have done it unto one of " the least of these iny brethren, ye have “ done it unto me (6).”
“ Pure religion
(a) Matthew, xxi. 36.