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Lord Shaftesbury, not contented with overlooking, attempts to satirize the scripture representations of the divine character. "One would think," he says, "it were easy to understand, that provocation and offence, anger revenge, jealousy in point of honour or power, love of fame, glory, and the like, belong only to limited beings, and are necessarily excluded a Being which is perfect and universal."* That many things are attributed to the Divine Being in a figurative style, speaking merely after the manner of men, and that they are so understood by Christians, Lord Shaftesbury must have well known. We do not think it lawful, however, so to explain away these expressions, as to consider the Great Supreme as incapable of being offended with sin and sinners, as destitute of pleasure or displeasure, or as unconcerned about his own glory, the exercise of which involves the general good of the universe. A being of this description would be neither loved nor feared, but would become the object of universal contempt.
It is no part of the imperfection of our nature that we are susceptible of provocation and offence, of anger, of jealousy, and of a just regard to our own honour. Lord Shaftesbury himself would have ridiculed the man, and still more the magistrate, that should have been incapable of these properties on certain occasions. They are planted in our nature by the Divine being, and are adapted to answer valuable purposes. If they be perverted and abused to sordid ends, which is too frequently the case, this does not alter their nature, nor lessen their utility. What would Lord Shaftesbury have thought of a magistrate, who should have witnessed a train of assassinations and murders, without being in the least offended at them, or angry with the perpetrators, or inclined to take vengeance on them, for the public good? What would he think of a British House of Commons, which should exercise no jealousy over the encroachments of a minister; or of a King of Great Britain, who should suffer, with perfect indifference, his just authority to be contemned?
'But we are limited beings, and are therefore in danger of having our just rights invaded.' True; and though God be unlimited, and so in no danger of being deprived of his essential glory, yet he 1
*Characteristics, Vol. I. § 5.
may lose his just authority in the esteem of creatures; and were this to take place universally, the whole creation would be a scene of anarchy and misery. But we understand Lord Shaftesbury. He wishes to compliment his Maker out of all his moral excellencies. He has no objection to a God, provided he be one after his own heart, one who shall pay no such regard to human affairs as to call men to account for their ungodly deeds. If he thought the Creator of the world to bear such a character, it is no wonder that he should speak of him with what he calls " good humour, or pleasantry."* In speaking of such a being, he can, as Mr. Hume expresses it, "feel more at ease," than if he conceived of God as he is characterized in the holy scriptures. But let men beware how they play with such subjects. Their conceptions do not alter the nature of God: and, however they suffer themselves to trifle now, they may find in the end that there is not only a God, but a God that judgeth in the earth.
* Characteristics, Vol. I. § 3.
CHRISTIANITY TEACHES US TO ACKNOWledge god, AND TO DEVOTE OURSELVES TO HIS SERVICE: BUT DEISM, THOUGH IT CONFESSES ONE SUPREME BEING, YET REFUSES TO WOSHIP HIM.
If there is a God he ought to be worshiped. This is a principle which no man will be able to eradicate from his bosom, or even to suppress, but at great labour and expense. The scriptures, it is well known, both inculcate and inspire the worship of God. Their language is, O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.-O come. let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.-Give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto the Lord the glory due unto his Name : bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him all the earth.-Give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name; made known his deeds among the people.-Glory ye in his holy Name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and his strength; seek his face
The spirit also which the scriptures inspire is favourable to divine worship. The grand lesson which they teach is love; and love to God delights to express itself in acts of obedience, adoration, supplication, and praise. The natural language of a heart well affected to God is, I will call upon him as long as I live.Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.-Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.
Is it thus with our adversaries? They speak, indeed, of "true and fabulous theology," and of "true and false religion;" and often talk of "adoring" the Supreme Being. But if there be no
true religion among Christians, where are we to look for it? Surely not among Deists. Their "adorations" seem to be a kind of exercises much resembling the benevolent acts of certain persons, who are so extremely averse from ostentation, that nobody knows of their being charitable but themselves.
Mr. Paine professes to "believe in the equality of man, and that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and"—and what? I thought to be sure he had been going to add, walking humbly with God. But I was mistaken. Mr. Paine supplies the place of walking humbly with God, by adding, "and endearouring to make our fellow-creatures happy."* Some people would have thought that this was included in doing justice, and loving mercy; but Mr. Paine had rather use words without meaning than write in favour of godliness. Walking humbly with God is not comprehended in the list of his "religious duties." The very phrase offends him. It is that to him, in quoting scripture, which a nonconductor is to the electrical fluid: it causes him to fly off in an oblique direction; and, rather than say any thing on so offensive a subject, to deal in unmeaning tautology.
Mr. Paine not only avoids the mention of walking humbly with God, but attempts to load the practice itself with the foulest abuse. He does not consider himself as "an outcast, a beggar, or a worm;" he does not approach his Maker through a mediator; he considers "redemption as a fable," and himself as standing in an honourable situation with regard to his relation to the Deity. Some of this may be true; but not the whole. The latter part is only a piece of religious gasconade. If Mr. Paine really thinks so well of his situation as he pretends, the belief of an hereafter would not render him "the slave of terror." But, allowing the whole to be true, it proves nothing. A high conceit of one's self is no proof of excellence. If he choose to rest upon this foundation, he must abide the consequence: but he had better forborne to calumniate others. What is it that has transported this child of reason into a paroxism of fury against devout people? By what
* Age of Reason, Part I. p 2.
+ Age of Reason, Part I. p. 21.
Part II. near the end.