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By the light of nature, however, I do not mean those ideas which heathens have actually entertained, many of which have been darkness; but those which were presented to them by the works of creation, and which they might have possessed, had they been desirous of retaining God in their knowledge. And by the dictates of nature, with regard to right and wrong, I understand those things which appear to the mind of a person sincerely disposed to understand and practice his duty, to be natural, fit, or reasonable. There is, doubtless, an eternal difference between right and wrong; and this difference, in a vast variety of instances, is manifest to every man who sincerely and impartially considers it. So manifest have the power and Godhead of the Creator been rendered in every age, that no person of an upright disposition could, through mere mistake, fall into idolatry or impiety; and every one who has continued in these abominations is without excuse. The desire also which every human being feels of having justice done to him from all other persons must render it sufficiently manifest to his judgment that he ought to do the same to them; and wherein he acts otherwise, his conscience, unless it be seared as with a hot iron, must accuse him.

But does it follow from hence that revelation is unnecessary? Certainly not. It is one thing for nature to afford so much light, in matters of right and wrong, as to leave the sinner without excuse; and another to afford him any well-grounded hope of forgiveness, or to answer his difficulties concerning the account which something within him says he must hereafter give of his present conduct.

Farther: It is one thing to leave sinners without excuse in sin, and another thing to recover them from it. That the light of nature is insufficient for the latter, is demonstrated by melancholy fact. Instead of returning to God and virtue, those nations which have possessed the highest degrees of it have gone farther and farther into immorality. There is not a single example of a people of their own accord, returning to the acknowledgment of the true God, or extricating themselves from the most irrational species of idolatry, or desisting from the most odious kinds of vice. Those nations where science diffused a more than ordinary lustre, were

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as superstitious, and as wicked as the most barbarous; and in many instances exceeded them. It was, I doubt not, from a close observation of the different efficacy of nature and scripture, that the writer of the nineteenth Psalm, (a Psalm which Mr. Paine pretends to admire,) after having given a just tribute of praise to the former, affirmed of the latter, The law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul.

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Again: It is one thing for that which is natural, fit, or reasonable, in matters of duty, to approve itself to a mind sincerely disposed to understand and practice it, and another to approve itself to a mind of an opposite description. The judgments of men concerning the dictates of nature are greatly influenced by their prevailing inclinations. If under certain circumstances they feel prompted to a particular course of conduct, they will be apt to consider that incitement as a dictate of nature, though it may be no other than corrupt propensity and thus, while the law of nature is continually in their mouth, their principles, as well as their conduct, are a continual violation of it. How was it that, notwithstanding the light of nature shone round the old philosophers, their minds, in matters of morality, were dark as night, and their precepts, in many instances, full of impurity? Did nature inspire Plato to teach the doctrine of a community of wives; Lycurgus to tolerate dextrous thieving; Solon to allow of sodomy; Seneca to encourage drunkenness, and suicide; and almost all of them to declare in favour of lewdness? No, verily; it is a perversion of language to call the principles of such men the dictates of nature; they are unnatural and abominable; as contrary to reason as to religion.

It is true, what is called nature, by modern Infidels, is not quite so gross as the above; but it falls very little short of it. So far as relates to the encouragement of theft, and perhaps of unnatural crimes, they would disavow; and for this we are indebted to Christianity but as to fornication and adultery, they are not a whit behind their predecessors. Lord Herbert, the father of the English Deists, and whose writings are far more sober than the generality of those who have come after him, apologizes for lewd


* See Leland's Advantages and Necessity of Revelation, Vol. II. pp. 147, 50, 59, 210, 213.

ness, in certain cases, as resembling thirst in a dropsy, and inactivity in a lethargy.* Lord Bolingbroke unblushingly insinuates, that the only consideration that can reconcile a man to confine himself by marriage to one woman, and a woman to one man, is this, that nothing hinders but that they may indulge their desires with others. This is the same as accusing the whole human race of incontinency, and denying that there is any such thing as conjugal fidelity; a plain proof that whoever was clear of this indecent charge, Lord Bolingbroke was not. Mr. Hume, who has written a volume on the principles of morality, scruples not to stigmatize self-denial as a "monkish virtue ;" and adopts the opinion of a French writer, that "adultery must be practised if we would obtain all the advantages of life; that female infidelity, when known, is a small thing, and when unknown, nothing." These writers will, on some occasions, descant in favour of chastity, as being conducive to health and reputation; but on others they seldom fail to apologize for the contrary, and that under the pretence of indulging the dictates of nature. Yet the same things might be alleged in behalf of oppression, revenge, theft, duelling, ambitious war, and a thousand other vices which desolate the earth; they are practices which men, placed in certain circumstances, will feel themselves prompted to commit: nor is there a vice that can be named but what would admit of such an apology.

Finally: It is one thing for the light of nature to be so clear as to render idolatry, impiety, and injustice, inexcusable; and another thing to render the whole will of our Creator evident, and in the most advantageous manner. If a person, possessed of only the light of nature, were ever so sincerely desirous of knowing God; or grieved for the sins of which his conscience accused him; or attached to the holy, the just, and the good; or disposed to obey his Creator's will if he did but understand it; though he should be in no danger of confounding the dictates of nature with those of corrupt propensity, yet he must labour under great disadvantages; which, allowing they might not affect his eternal state, yet would greatly injure his present peace and usefulness. To illustrate

* Leland's Review, &c. Vol. I. Let. I.

+ Works, Vol. V. p. 167.

this remark, let us suppose the inhabitants of a province to throw off the government of a just and lawful prince. Being once engaged, they may feel themselves impelled to go forward. They may choose new rulers, and use all possible means to efface every sign and memorial of the authority of their ancient sovereign. They may even labour to forget, and teach their children to forget, if possible, that there ever was such a character in being, to whom they owed allegiance. Yet, after all, there may be certain traces and memorials of his government which it is not in their power to efface. Yea, there may be continued instances of forbearance and clemency, which, in spite of all their efforts, will bear witness of his goodness and just authority over them. Thus it was that God, while he suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, nevertheless LEFT NOT HIMSELF WITHOUT A WITNESS, in that he did good, and gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. But, as the memorials of just authority, in the one case, though sufficient to leave the rebellious without excuse, would not contain a full expression of the prince's will, nor be conveyed in so advantageous a manner as that in which he treated his professed subjects; so the light afforded by the works of nature and the continued goodness of God, in the other, though sufficient to leave the world without excuse, does not express his whole will, nor convey what it does express so advantageously as by revelation. And, as an individual residing in the midst of the rebellious province, whose heart might relent, and who might long to return to his allegiance, would be under inexpressible disadvantages, so it must necessarily be with a heathen whose desire should be towards the God against whom he had sinned.

The amount is, that modern unbelievers have no standard of morals, except it be their own inclinations. Morality with them is any thing or nothing, as convenience requires. On some occasons they will praise that of Jesus Christ but ere we can have time to ask them, Why then do you not submit to it? they are employed in opposing it. Attend to their general declamations in favour of virtue, and you will be ready to imagine they are its warmest friends but follow them up, and observe their exposition of particular precepts, and you will be convinced that they

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are its decided enemies; applauding in the gross that which they are ever undermining in detail.

By the foolish and discordant accounts which these writers · give of morality, it should seem that they know not what it is. Every new speculator is dissatisfied with the definition of his predecessor, and endeavours to mend it. "Virtue," says Lord Shaftesbury, "is a sense of beauty, of harmony, of order, and proportion, an affection towards the whole of our kind, or species." "It is," says Lord Bolingbroke, “only the love of ourselves." "It is every thing that tends to preserve the perfect man," says Volney; and as "good reputation" has this tendenсу, it is, in his account, "a moral good."* "It is whatever is useful in society," says Mr. Hume; and as "health, cleanliness, facility of expression, broad shoulders, and taper legs," are of use, they are to be reckoned among the virtues. To this might be added, a large portion of effrontery, as the last named writer assures us, (it may be from his own experience,) that “ nothing carries a man through the world like a true, genuine natural impudence."* Mr. Paine brings up the rear, and informs us, "It is doing justice, loving mercy, and .... endeavouring to make our fellow creatures happy." Oh Paine! had you but for once suffered yourself to be taught by a Prophet, and have quoted his words as they stand, you would, undoubtedly, have borne away the palm but you had rather write nonsense than say any thing in favour of godliness.

It is worthy of notice, that amidst all the discordance of these writers, they agree in excluding the Divine being from their theory of morals. They think after their manner; but God is not in all their thoughts. In comparing the Christian doctrine of morality, the sum of which is love, with their atheistical Jargon, one seems to hear the voice of the Almighty saying, Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge? Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man.

*Law of Nature, p. 17.

+ Enquiry concerning the principles of Morals, 6, 7, 8. Essays Moral and Political, Es say III. p. 15.

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