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quæ in profundo veritatem penitus abstruserit." (Vide De Nat. Deorum, lib. 1, n. 10, 11. Acad. Qu. lib. 2, n. 66, 120.)

On this subject Dr. Samuel Clarke, though so great an advocate of natural religion, concedes, that " of the philosophers, some argued themselves out of the belief of the very being of a God; some by ascribing all things to chance, others to absolute fatality, equally subverted all true notions of religions, and made the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and a future judgment needless and impossible. Some professed open immorality, others by subtle distinctions patronized particular vices. The better sort of them, who were most celebrated, discoursed with the greatest reason, yet with much uncertainty and doubtfulness, concerning things of the highest importance, the providence of God in governing the world, the immortality of the soul, and a future judgment."

If such facts prove the weakness and insufficiency of human reason, those just thoughts respecting God, his providence, his will, and a future state, which sometimes appear in the writings of the wisest heathen, are not however, on the contrary, to be attributed to its strength. Even if they were, the argument for the sufficiency of reason would not be much advanced thereby; for the case would then be, that the reason which occasionally reached the truth had not firmness enough to hold it fast, and the pinion which sometimes bore the mind into fields of light, could not maintain it in its elevation. But it cannot even be admitted, that the truth which occasionally breaks forth in their works was the discovery of their own powers. There is much evidence to show, that they were indebted to a traditional knowledge much earlier than their own day, and that moral and religious knowledge among them received occasional and important accessions from the descendants of Abraham, a people who possessed records which, laying aside the question of their inspiration for the present, all candid Theists themselves will acknowledge, contain noble and just views, of God, and a correct morality. While it cannot be proved that human reason made a single discovery in either moral or religious truth; it may be satisfactorily established, that just notions as to both were placed within its reach, which it first obscured, and then corrupted.


The Origin of those Truths which are found in the Writings and
Religious Systems of the Heathen.

WE have seen that some of the leading truths of religion and morals, which are adverted to by heathen writers, or assumed in heathen systems, are spoken of as truths previously known to the world, and with which mankind were familiar. Also, that no legislator, poet, or philoso

pher of antiquity, ever pretended to the discovery of the doctrines of the existence of a God, of providence, a future state, and of the rules by which actions are determined to be good or evil, whether these opinions were held by them with full conviction of their certainty, or only doubtfully. That they were transmitted by tradition from an earlier age; or were brought from some collateral source of information; or that they flowed from both; are therefore the only rational conclusions.

To tradition the wisest of the heathen often acknowledge themselves indebted.

A previous age of superior truth, rectitude, and happiness, sometimes called the golden age, was a commonly received notion among them. It is at least as high as Hesiod, who rivals Homer in antiquity. It was likewise a common opinion, that sages existed in ages anterior to their own, who received knowledge from the gods, and communicated it to men. The wisest heathens, notwithstanding the many great things said of nature and reason, derive the origin, obligation, and efficacy of law from the gods alone. "No mortal," says Plato in his republic, "can make laws to purpose." Demosthenes calls law ευρημα και δωρον Θες, "the invention and gift of God." They speak of νομοι αγραφοι, " unwritten laws," and ascribe both them, and the laws which were introduced by their various legislators, to the gods. Xenophon represents it as the opinion of Socrates, that the unwritten laws received over the whole earth, which it was impossible that all mankind, as being of different languages, and not to be assembled in one place, should make, were given by the gods. (2) Plato is express on this subject: "After a certain

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(2) Xen. Mem. lib. 4, cap. 4, sect. 19, 20.-To the same effect is that noble passage of Cicero cited by Lactantius out of his work De Republica.

"Est quidem vera lex, recta ratio, naturæ congruens, diffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna, quæ vocet ad officium jubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat; quæ tamen neque probos frustra jubet, aut vetat; nec improbos jubendo aut vetando movet. Huic legi nec abrogari fas est; nec derogari ex hac aliquid licet; neque tota abrogari potest. Nec vero aut per senatum, aut per populum solvi hac lege possumus; neque est quærendus explanator, aut interpres ejus alius. Nec enim alia lex Romæ, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac; sed et omnes gentes, et omni tempore, una lex et sempiterna et immutabilis continebit; unusque erit communis quasi magister et imperator omnium Deus, ille legis hujus inventor, disceptator, lator; cui qui non parebit, ipse se fugiet, ac naturam hominis aspernabitur ; atque hoc ipso luet maximas pœnas, etiamsi cætera supplicia, quæ putantur, effugerit:"From which it is clear that Cicero acknowledged a law antecedent to all human civil institutions, and independent of them, binding upon all, constant and perpetual, the same in all times and places, not one thing at Rome, and another at Athens; of an authority so high, that no human power had the right to alter or annul it; having God for its Author, in his character of universal Master and Sovereign; taking hold of the very consciences of men, and following them with its animadversions, though they should escape the hand of man, and the penalties of human codes.

flood, which but few escaped, on the increase of mankind, they had neither letters, writing, nor laws, but obeyed the manners and institutions of their fathers as laws: but when colonies separated from them, they took an elder for their leader, and in their new settlements retained the customs of their ancestors, those especially which related to their gods: and thus transmitted them to their posterity; they imprinted them on the minds of their sons; and they did the same to their children. This was the origin of right laws, and of the different forms of government." (De Leg. 3.)

This so exactly harmonizes with the Mosaic account, as to the flood of Noah, the origin of nations, and the Divine institution of religion and laws, that either the patriarchal traditions embodied in the writings of Moses, had gone down with great exactness to the times of Plato; or the writings of Moses were known to him; or he had gathered the substance of them, in his travels, from the Egyptian, the Chaldean, or the Magian philosophers.

Nor is this an unsupported hypothesis. The evidence is most abundant, that the primitive source from whence every great religious and moral truth was drawn, must be fixed in that part of the world where Moses places the dwelling of the patriarchs of the human race, who walked with God, and received the law from his mouth. (3) There, in the earliest times, civilization and polity were found, while the rest of the earth was covered with savage tribes,-a sufficient proof that Asia was the common centre from whence the rest of mankind dispersed, who, as they wandered from these primitive seats, and addicted themselves more to the chase than to agriculture, became in most instances barbarous. (4) In the multifarious and bewildering superstitions of all nations, we also discover a very remarkable substratum of common tradition and reli̟gious faith,

The practice of sacrifice, which may at once be traced into all nations, and to the remotest antiquity, affords an eminent proof of the common

(3) "The east was the source of knowledge from whence it was communicated to the western parts of the world. There the most precious remains of ancient tradition were found. Thither the most celebrated Greek philosophers travelled in quest of science, or the knowledge of things Divine and human, and thither the lawgivers had recourse in order to their being instructed in laws and civil policy." (LELAND.)

(4) The speculations of infidels as to the gradual progress of the original men from the savage life, and the invention of language, arts, laws, &c, have been too much countenanced by philosophers bearing the name of Christ; some of them even holding the office of teachers of his religion. The writings of Moses suffi, ciently show that there never was a period in which the original tribes of men were in a savage state; and the gradual process of the developement of a higher condition is a chimera. To those who profess to believe the Scriptures, their testimony ought to be sufficient: to those who do not, they are at least as good history as any other.

origin of religion; inasmuch as no reason drawn from the nature of the rite itself, or the circumstances of men, can be given for the universality of the practice and as it is clearly a positive institute, and opposed to the interests of men, it can only be accounted for by an injunction, issued at a very early period of the world, and solemnly imposed. This injunc tion, indeed, received a force, either from its original appointment, or from subsequent circumstances, from which the human mind could never free itself. "There continued," says Dr. Shuckford, "for a long time among the nations usages which show that there had been an ancient universal religion; several traces of which appeared in the rites and ceremonies which were observed in religious worship. Such was the custom of sacrifices expiatory and precatory; both the sacrifices of animals, and the oblations of wine, oil, and the fruits and products of the earth. These and other things which were in use among the patriarchs, obtained also among the Gentiles."

The events, and some of the leading opinions of the earliest ages, mentioned in Scripture, may also be traced among the most barbarous, as well as in the Oriental, the Grecian, and the Roman systems of mythology. Such are the FORMATION OF THE WORLD; the FALT AND CORRUPTION OF MAN; the hostility of a powerful and supernatural agent of wickedness, under his appropriate and Scriptural emblem, the SERPENT; the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD BY WATER; the REPEOPLING OF IT BY THE SONS OF NOAH; the EXPECTATION OF ITS FINAL DESTRUCTION BY FIRE; and, above all, the promise of a great and Divine DELIVERER. (5)

The only method of accounting for this, is, that the same traditions were transmitted from the progenitors of the different families of mankind after the flood; that in some places they were strengthened, and the impressions deepened by successive revelations, which assumed the first traditions, as being of Divine original, for their basis, and thus renewed the knowledge which had formerly been communicated, at the very time they enlarged it and farther, that from the written revelations which were afterward made to one people, some rays of reflected light were constantly glancing upon the surrounding nations.

Nor are we at a loss to trace this communication of truth from a common source to the Gentile nations; and also to show that they actually did receive accessions of information, both directly and indirectly, from a people who retained the primitive theological system in its greatest purity.

We shall see sufficient reasons, when we come to speak on that subject, to conclude that all mankind have descended from one common pair. If man is now a moral agent, the first man must be allowed to have been a moral agent; and, as such, under rules of obedience; in which

(5) See note A at the end of this chapter,

rules it is far more probable that he should be instructed by his Maker by means of direct communication, than that he should be left to collect the will of his Maker from observation and experience. Those who deny the Scripture account of the introduction of death into the world, and think the human species were always liable to it, are bound to admit a revelation from God to the first pair as to the wholesomeness of certain fruits, and the destructive habits of certain animals, or our first progenitors would have been far more exposed to danger from deleterious fruits, &c, and in a more miserable condition through their fears than any of their descendants, because they were without experience, and could have no information. (6) But it is far more probable, that they should have express information as to the will of God concerning their conduct; for until they had settled, by a course of rational induction, what was right, and what wrong, they could not, properly speaking, be moral agents; and from the difficulties of such an inquiry, especially until they had had a long experience of the steady course of nature, and the effect of certain actions upon themselves and society, they might possibly arrive at very different conclusions. (7)

But in whatever way the moral and religious knowledge of the first man was obtained, if he is allowed to have been under an efficient law, he must at least have known, in order to the right regulation of himself, every truth essential to religion, and to personal, domestic, and social morals. The truth on these subjects was as essential to him as to his descendants, and more especially because he was so soon to be the head and the paternal governor, by a natural relation, of a numerous race, and to possess, by virtue of that office, great influence over them. If we assume, therefore, that the knowledge of the first man was taught to his children, and it were the greatest absurdity to suppose the contrary, then, whether he received his information on the principal doctrines of religion, and the principal rules of morals, by express revelation from God, or by the exercise of his own natural powers, all the great principles of religion, and of personal, domestic, and social morals, must have been at once communicated to his children, immediately descending from him; and we clearly enough see the reason why the earliest writers on these subjects never pretend to have been the discoverers of the leading truths of morals and religion, but speak of them as opinions familiar to men, and generally received. This primitive religious and moral system, as far as regards first principles, and all their important particular applications, was also complete, or there had been neither efficient religion nor morality in the first ages, which is contrary to all tradition, and

(6) See DELANEY'S Revelation Examined with Candour, Dissertations 1 and 2. (7) "It is very probable," says Puffendorf, "that God taught the first men the chief heads of natural law."

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