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“ O, that I could discover truth with the same ease that I can detect error!” and, in another place, aware of the little that human creatures can do of themselves, he says expressly, “ Nemo vir magnus, sine ali. quo afflatu divino unquam fuit.” “ No man was ever truly great without some divine influence.” And Plato, (whether from the recollection of the traditions and truths he gathered from the Jews while he was in Egypt, or whether 'twas
“ the Divinity that stirr'd within him;" I pretend not to determine), concludes 19, that we cannot know of ourselves what petition will be pleasing to God, or what worship to pay him; but that it is necessary a lawgiver should be sent from heaven to instruct us; and such a one he did expect: and “O,” says he, “ how greatly do I desire to see that man, and who he is !” Nay, he goes farther, and affirms 20 that this lawgiver must be more than man: for, since every nature is governed by another nature that is superior to it, as birds and beasts by man, he infers that this lawgiver, who was to teach man what man could not know by his own nature, must be of a nature superior to man, that is, of a divine nature. But farther still, as Rousseau remarked, in his celebrated letter to the archbishop of Paris, “ when Plato described his imaginary good man, loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus Christ; the resemblance was so striking that all the fathers perceived it.” He gives, indeed, as lively
, a picture of the person, qualifications, life and death, of this divine man, as if he had been acquainted with the 53d chapter of Isaiah: for he says 21 « that this just person must be poor, and void of all recommendations but that of virtue alone; that a wicked world would not bear his instructions and reproof; and therefore within three or four years after he began to preach, he
19 Alcibiad. ii. de Precat. 20 De Legibus, lib. 4. 2! De Republica, i. ii.
should be persecuted, imprisoned, scourged, and at last put to death."
I have now, my dear Friend, presented you with a summary of the most striking opinions of the ancient Legislators, Poets, and Philosophers, with regard to Superior Beings, to human conduct, and a future state;
, if it be asked what is the tendency of the sentiments of any one philosopher, or of the aggregate of them, to elevate the conceptions in respect of Deity, to purify the affections, to humanize the heart, to amend the conduct; the reply is lamentably obvious—nothing. What principle in theology, or what rule in morals, has any one of them, or have all of them, indubitably established? How many of the doctrines of what is now called Natural Religion did any of them hold? The four great propositions which the moderns almost universally concede to Natural Religion, as integral parts of it, are 1st. That there is one God. 2dly. That God is nothing of those things which we see. 3dly. That God takes care of all things below, and governs all the world. 4thly. That he alone is the great Creator of all things out of himself.” Now they are incontrovertible facts, which cannot be too deeply engraven upon the mind, that none of the greatest and wisest men among the Greeks and Romans held all these propositions, and that very few held any of them firmly; that before the Christian era no people in the world believed these propositions but the Jews; and that they did not discover them, but received them by divine Revelation, in the basis of the first four precepts of the decalogue. Let also the idolizers of the
of reason in the development of religious truths have it equally impressed upon their minds, that none of the heathen philosophers attempted a solution of the question, "How shall a sinner appear before the God whose laws he has broken?” and that none of them made even a remote approximation to that simple, comprehensive and admirable rule of moral conduct, “Do unto others as you would they should do unto you;” and then, I
trust, they will be constrained to acknowledge that the Apostle of the Gentiles was not indulging a flight of enthusiasm, but was simply impelled by the force of truth, when he broke out into the triumphant exclamation-"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe 22!"
I remain, dear Sir, yours truly. P. S. You will, perhaps, be surprised that I have not in this letter taken any notice of Zoroaster, of whom many Deists have so much to tell. I have omitted all recital of his supposed opinions for two reasons: 1st, Dr. Hyde has shown, in his treatise De Religione veterum Persarum, that Zoroaster had been a disciple of one of the Jewish prophets: and 2dly, all the writings that are ascribed to this philosopher are unquestionably spurious.
22 1 Corinthians, i. 20, 21.
ON MYSTERIES IN REVEALED RELIGION. 43 same time run counter to their whole plan of conduct in relation to all except religious subjects; for who is there that does not believe numerous facts wbich are utterly incomprehensible; and reduce principles into practice, which are beyond, though not repugnant to, reason?
It is, indeed, in a neglect of the essential distinction between what is above reason and what is contrary to it, that the objection now under consideration is founded. Yet surely nothing can be more obvious than that many things, beyond the scope of our intellectual powers, may nevertheless be perfectly true. When we were children, several matters were to us entirely incomprehensible, which have now sunk into the simplest, and lowest, and plainest elements of our knowledge. We were then learners; docility became us; and we were highly reprehensible if we opposed our puny understandings to that of our tutors. Now, in the bestowal of a revelation, the principle is assumed that men are in a state of pupilage. The God of infinite wisdom condescends to be their teacher; and it therefore be. hoves them, on such an occasion, to employ their reason solely for the purpose of ascertaining whether what is presented to them be really the word of God, and then to resign their understandings wholly to the adoption of the truths with which they are favoured. This is consistent with what is prescribed by that great philosopher Lord Bacon, who directs that reason be employed in studying “Holy mysteries, with this caution, that the mind for its module be dilated to the amplitude of the mysteries; and not the mysteries be straitened and girt into the narrow compass of the mind.” He says again, in his Advancement of Learning, “ We ought not to attempt to draw down, or submit the mysteries of God to our reason; but, on the contrary, to raise and advance our reason to the divine truth. In this part of knowledge, touching divine phi. losophy, I am so far from noting any deficiency, that I rather note an excess whereto I have digressed, be
cause of the extreme prejudice which both religion and philosophy have received from being commixed together, as that which will undoubtedly make an here. tical religion and a fabulous philosophy.” And again, “As to seek Divinity in Philosophy, is as if you would seek the living amongst the dead; so, on the other hand, to seek Philosophy in Divinity, is all one as to seek the dead amongst the living:” Lastly, that I may not tire you with quotations, “ The prerogative of God comprehends the whole man. Whereby, as we are to obey God's law, though we find a reluctance in our will ; so we are to believe his word, though we find a reluctance in our reason; for, if we believe only that which is agreeable unto our reason, we give assent to the matter, not to the author, which is no more than we would do towards a discredited witness."
Mighty as is the authority of Lord Bacon, I do not shelter myself under it for the purpose of avoiding the discussion; but merely in order to show that this great father of the inductive philosophy saw, not only the propriety, but the advantage, of subjecting his gigantic intellect to divine instruction. Nor was this the consequence of affected humility, but of real knowledge of the actual situation of man. He that is shut up in a close place, and can only peep through crevices, or who stands in a valley, and has his prospect intercepted,—or who is encompassed with fogs that render all surrounding objects obscure, would be overwhelmed with contempt if he set at nought the superior information of those who had beheld the same things from an eminence, and through'a translucent atmosphere: yet such is the folly of him who will not adopt what extends beyond his previous knowledge. Beneath omniscience there are innumerable forms of intelligence, in the lowest of which man seems to be placed, but one step above “ the beasts that perish :" hence his mind has a pitch beyond which it cannot soar without extraneous aid; and things clearly intelligible to more noble creatures, moving in a higher sphere, may be dark and