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any of them go fo far as to fhew that forgiving injuries, loving enemies, and fetting the affections upon the future heavenly state, were abfolutely neceffary. The utmoft that any of them did, was to recommend the more fublime virtues to the practice of such persons as could reach them. So much for the Heathen doctrines and morals.
Mahomet is known to have abandoned himself to luft all his life long. His impoftures were fo grofs, that when he first broached them, his best friends were afhamed of both him and them. His religion fets up on the foot of direct violence and force of arms, and makes fenfual gratifications, to the most exceffive degree of beaftlinefs, the final reward of a ftrict attachment to it. The Koran, fo far as it is an original, is a heap of abfurd doctrines, and trifling or bad laws. The few miracles which Mahomet pretends to have performed, are either things within the reach of human power, or are hideous and incredible abfurdities, or are wholly unattefted.
The papifts, who pretend to be Chriftians; but have in fact forged a religion of their own; have they done any honour to the opinion of the all-fufficiency of reafon in matters of religion? Let every one of their peculiar doctrines be examined, and let it be confidered what advantage it is of to mankind for regulating their belief, and practice. Their invocation of faints, who ought to be omniprefent, to hear their prayers; which, according to their own account of the matter, they are not. Their purgatory, out of which the prieft can pray a foul at any time for money, which muft defeat the very defign of a purgatory. Their penances, pilgrimages, fines, abfolutions, and indulgences; whofe direct tendency is to lead the deluded votaries of that curfed fuperftition into a total neglect of the obligations of virtue, defeating the very end of religion. The infallibility of their popes, while one thunders out bulls and decrees directly contrary to thofe of another. And, laft and worft (for it is endless to enumerate the abfurdities of Popery) that most hideous and monftrous of all productions of the human brain, tranfubftantiation, which at once confounds all fenfe,
overturns all reafoning, and renders all truth precarious and uncertain. These are the triumphs of reafon; these the productions of human invention, when applied to making of religions.
Upon the whole, from this brief and imperfect reprefentation of the ftate of thofe parts of the world which have enjoyed but a very little of the light of genuine Divine Revelation, (for it is to be doubted, whether any was ever wholly without it) and of those which have wickedly extinguished, or foolishly forfaken it, from this very brief reprefentation, I fay, human reafon, unaffifted from above, fhews itself fo far from fufficient for leading mankind in general into a completely right belief and practice, that in almoft every point, beyond mere fimple right and wrong, it mifleads into error, or falls fhort of truth. As the naked eye, though very fit for directing our way on earth, yet mifreprefents, through its weakness, every celeftial object; fhews the fun no bigger than a chariot-wheel, the moon flat like a plate of filver, and the planets like lucid points. The same eye strengthened by a telescope fees the fun, and moon, and planets, large, and globular, as they really are. Revelation is that to reafon, which a telefcope is to the eye; an advantage and improvement. As he, who would fee the wonders of the heavens, arms his eye with a telescope, fo does the judicious inquirer into religious truth, apply to revelation for thofe informations, which reafon alone would never have given, though it judges of, and approves them, when given. And as the aftronomer does not think of putting out his eye, in order to fee better with a telescope; fo neither does the judicious advocate for revelation defire to oppose it to reafon, but to examine it by reafon, and to improve his reafon by it.
The abominable prieft craft, and horrid perfecution and bloodshed, which have been the difgrace of a religion, whofe diftinguishing characteristic is benevolence, is no confutation of what I have been advancing in fupport of the natural tendency and actual good effects upon a great number of mankind, of pure religion; and only fhews that even a Divine appointment may be perverted
verted to the purpose of establishing the kingdom of Satan. At any rate, the abuse of revelation, is no better objection against revelation, than that of reason (of which every hour prefents us various inftances) is against reafon; which no body ever thought of urging, as an argument that it was not of Divine original.
The difputes among the many different fects of Chriftians, which have rendered it very difficult for thofe, who fearch for the doctrines of revealed religion, any where, but in the Bible ittelf, to fettle their judgment upon many points; thofe difputes are no juft objection against revelation, any more than against every branch of human fcience whatever; upon every one of which, not excepting even the pure mathematics, controverfies have been raised. A revelation, upon which it should be impoffible for defigning, fubtle men to raise difputes, is hardly conceivable; or, however, is altogether inconfiftent with the idea of a contrivance intended for the improvement of a fet of free, moral agents; who must be expected to treat revelation, as well as every other kind of information, according to their respective capacities, and tempers of mind.
If it has been alleged, that for God to have recourfe to a direct meffage, or revelation, for reforming or improving mankind, or fupplying the deficiencies of reafon, looks like a defect in the make of the creature; and that reafon ought alone to have been made originally equal to the purpose of enabling mankind to fecure their final happiness; the answer is easy, to wit, That if human reafon were fuppofed more equal to the purpofe for which it was given than it is, a revelation might ítill be of great advantage. And that to fuppofe an exprefs contrivance for mending the moral world neceffary, or useful, is no more unphilofophical, or to speak properly, more unworthy of God, than one for the fame purpose, in the natural world. And this latter is by our great philofopher allowed to be probable.
Suppofing it reasonable to believe that the Divine Power, either immediately, or by means of the intervention or inftrumentality of inferior agents and caufes, does continually actuate the natural world, and conduct
the moral; is not this a continued interpofition? Why then should the thought of an extraordinary interpofition on an extraordinary occafion, in order to a great and important end, be fo difficult to conceive? At any rate, what must thofe gentlemen, who are fo ftartled at the notion of an extraordinary step taken by the infinitely wife and abfolutely free Governor of the world; what must they fay of the creation of the univerfe? Did the univerfe come into exiftence by fettled laws of nature? Is there any law of nature by which nothing becomes fomething? And does that law take place at fuch and fuch precife times, and no other? Let the oppofers of extraordinary interpofitions make the most of that difficulty, they must acknowledge fomewhat extraordinary, as they choofe to call it, to take place now and then in the univerfe on occafion of the creation of a world. And it does not appear to me, that the reftoration, or (as it may be called) making a-new a world, is of much lefs confequence, or lefs worthy of a particular interpofition, than the firft creation of it.
But after all, what is it thofe gentlemen puzzle themfelves with? Are they fure, that in order, the giving a pofitive revelation to mankind, and the restoration of a world by means of fuch an inftitution as the Christian, there is any thing to be done out of, or contrary to, the common course of things? Can they be pofitive, that there never was, or will be, any fcheme, analogous to this, contrived for any other order of beings in the univerfe? To affirm this, would be about as judicious as the opinion of the vulgar, that thunder is an immediate expreffion of the Divine difpleature, and that comets are fent on purpose to give notice of impending judgWhereas a little knowledge of nature thews, that, whatever moral inftructions thofe phænomena are in general fitted to communicate at all times to mankind, the cause of them is part of the mere conftitution of nature. And who can fay, that fuperior beings may not have fuch extenfive views of the auguft plan of the Divine government, as to fee the whole fcheme of Revealed Religion in the fame light?
Nor are there wanting various particulars, in the Divine government of the moral world, analogous, in a lower fphere, to the grand fcheme of revelation. How much are we in the prefent ftate dependent on others for various advantages fpiritual and temporal ? What gift of God do we receive without the interpofition of fome agent? How are parents, teachers, fpiritual paftors, and guardian angels, made the channels of the Divine goodness to us? Is there not in this fomething fimilar to our receiving the ineftimable advantages of the perfect knowledge of our duty, the pardon of our fins, and all the bleffings which religion bestows, through the channel of a Mediator between God and us? Our Saviour's taking upon himfelf certain fufferings, by which we are to gain great advantages, is by no means foreign to the common courfe of the world, in which we fee very great hazards run, and actual, inconveniencies fuffered, by friends and relations for one another. He and his apoftles allow of this analogy.
In the common courfe of things, thoughtlessnefs and folly, which though not innocent, are yet pitiable, are the causes of very terrible misfortunes; and are therefore in many cafes provided for by the goodnefs of the wife Governor of the world, fo that they do not always prove irretrievable. A thoughtless perfon, by intemperance, runs himself into a quarrel, in which, he is wounded. Without help, he muft perish. And it is not to be expected, that he fhould be miraculously recovered. Is it not the Divine goodnefs, which has furnished the materials neceffary for his cure, made provifion in the formation of the human body for the accidents it might be liable to, fo that every hurt should not prove fatal to it; and engaged us to be kind and helpful to one another; fo that we fhould be fure of comfort from one or other in our diftrefs? In the fame manner, and by the fame goodness, exerted in a higher degree, revelation teaches us, a remedy is provided for the recovery to the Divine mercy (in a confiftency with the wifdom and rectitude of his moral government) of a fallen, offending order of beings. In the cafe of the unfortunate perfon here exemplified, his being convinced