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borrowed from a juftly-celebrated author; but as it may be implied, the paffage fhall be fairly tranfcribed. "The univerfal propensity to believe invifible intelligent power, being a general attendant on human nature, if not an original instinct, may "be confidered as a kind of stamp which the Deity has fet upon "his work; and nothing furely can more dignify mankind, "than to be the only earthly being who bears the stamp or image "of the univerfal Creator. But confult this image as it commonly is in popular religions: how is the Deity disfigured! what caprice, abfurdity, and immorality, are attributed to him (a)!” A fatisfactory answer to the objection implied in this paffage, will occur, upon recollecting the progrefs of men and nations from infancy to maturity. Our external fenfes, necessary for felf-prefervation, foon arrive at perfection: the more refined fenfes of propriety, of right and wrong, of Deity, of being accountable creatures, and many others of the fame kind, are of flower growth: the fense of right and wrong in particular, and the sense of Deity, feldom reach perfection, but by good education and much study. If fuch be the cafe among enlightened nations, what is to be expected from favages who are in the lowest stage of understanding? To a favage of New Holland, whose sense of deity is extremely obfcure, one may talk without end of a being who created the world, and who governs it by wife laws; but in vain; for the favage will be never the wifer. The fame favage hath also a glimmering of the moral sense, as all men have; and yet in vain will you difcourfe to him of approbation and difapprobation, of merit and demerit: of these terms he has no clear conception. Hence the endless aberrations of rude and barbarous nations, from pure religion as well as from pure morality. Of the latter there are many inftances collected in the preceding tract; and of
(a) Natural History of Religion.
the former, inftances ftill more plentiful in the prefent tract. The sense of deity in dark times has indeed been strangely distorted by certain biaffes and paffions that enflave the rude and illiterate but thefe yield gradually to the rational faculty as it ripens, and at last leave religion free to found philofophy.. Then it is that men, listening to the innate sense of deity purified from every bias, acquire a clear conviction of one fupreme Deity who made and governs the world.
The foregoing objection then, impartially confidered, weighs not against the fenfe of deity more than against the moral fenfe. If it have weight, it refolves into a complaint against Providence for the weakness of the sense of deity in rude and illiterate nations. If fuch complaint be folidly founded, it pierces extremely deep: why have not all nations, even in their nafcent ftate, the fense of deity, and the moral fenfe, in purity and perfection? why do they not poffefs all the arts of life without neceffity 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 criticifms. I fhall only obferve, that as, with respect to individuals, there is a progrefs from infancy to maturity; fo there is a fimilar progrefs in every nation, from its favage ftate to its maturity in arts and sciences. A child that has juft conceptions of the Deity and of his attributes, would be a great miracle; and would not such knowledge in a favage be equally fo? Nor can I discover what benefit a child or a favage could reap from fuch knowledge; provided it remained a child or a favage in every other respect. The genuine fruits of religion, are gratitude to the Author of our being, veneration to him as the fupreme being, abfolute refignation to the established laws of his providence, and chearful performance of every duty: but a child has not the flighest idea of gratitude nor of veneration, and very VOL. II. 3 I little
little of moral duties; and a favage, with refpect to these, is not much fuperior to a child. The formation and government of the world, as far as we know, are excellent: we have great reason to prefume the fame with refpect to what we do not know; and every good man will rest satisfied with the following reflection, That we would have been men from the hour of our birth, complete in every part, had it been conformable to the fyftem of unerring Providence.
Morality confidered as a branch of duty to our Maker.
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 fubject which induced me to undertake the history of natural religion; a subject that will afford falutary inftruction, and will infpire true piety, if instruction can produce that effect.
Bayle starts a question, Whether a people may not be happy in fociety, and be qualified for good government, upon principles of morality fingly, without any fenfe of religion. The queftion is ingenious, and may give opportunity for fubtile reasoning; but it is useless, because the fact fuppofed cannot happen. The principles of morality and of religion are equally rooted in our nature: they are indeed weak in children and in favages; but they grow up together, and advance toward maturity with equal steps.
Where-ever the moral fenfe is in perfection, a fenfe of religion cannot be wanting; and if a man who has no fenfe of religion, live decently in fociety, he is more indebted for his conduct to 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, confists in doing justice, in loving mercy, and in walking humbly with him. The laft is the foundation of religious worship, discussed in the foregoing fection: the two former belong to the prefent head. And if we have gratitude to our Maker and Benefactor, if we owe implicit obedience to his will as our rightful sovereign, 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 tranfgreffion of his will, no lefs grofs than a total neglect of religious worfhip. "Mafter, which is the great commandment in the law? Jefus faid unto him, Thou fhalt love the Lord thy God with "all thy heart, with all thy foul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the 'fecond is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (a)." "Then shall the King fay unto them on his right hand, Come, << ye bleffed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. "For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a ftranger, and ye took me in: naked, ye cloathed me: fick, and ye vifited me: in prifon, and Then fhall the righteous anfwer, faying, thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, When faw we thee a stranger, and took
ye came unto me.
Lord, when faw we
gave thee drink?
“thee in? or naked, and cloathed thee? When faw we thee
(a) Matthew, xxii. 36.
fick, or in prifon, and came unto thee? And the King fhall anfwer, Verily I fay unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it un
to me (a)." "Pure religion and undefiled before God, is this, "To vifit the fatherless and widow in their affliction; and to keep "himfelf unspotted from the world (b)." "Hoftias et victimas "Domino offeram quas in ufum mei protulit, ut rejiciam ei fuum munus ? Ingratum eft; cum fit litabilis hoftia bonus animus, et pura mens, et fincera confcientia. Igitur qui innocentiam colit, Domino fupplicat; qui juftitiam, Deo libat; qui fraudibus abftinet, propitiat Deum; qui hominem periculo fubripit, 66 optimam victimam cædit. Hæc noftra facrificia, hæc Dei facra "funt. Sic apud nos, religiofior eft ille, qui juftior* (c)." The laws of Zaleucus, lawgiver to the Locrians, who lived before the days of Pythagoras, are introduced with the following preamble. "No man can queftion the existence of Deity who obferves the "order and harmony of the univerfe, which cannot be the pro"duction of chance. Men ought to bridle their paffions, and to guard against every vice. God is pleased with no facrifice but a fincere heart; and differs widely from mortals, whofe delight
"Shall I offer to God for a facrifice thofe creatures which his bounty has given me for my ufe? It were ingratitude to throw back the gift upon the gi"ver. The moft acceptable facrifice is an upright mind, an untainted confcience, "and an honest heart. The actions of the innocent afcend to God in prayer; "the obfervance of juftice is more grateful than incenfe; the man who is fincere "in his dealings, fecures the favour of his Creator; and the delivery of a fellow"creature from danger or destruction, is dearer in the eyes of the Almighty than. "the facrifice of blood.”