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parts of mankind who neither bave, nor bave bad the advantage of that much greater light and safer guidance to boast of? From what I have observed, I think, it plainly appears, that religion has had a great band, (if I may so speak) in forming the various and different characters of men.
If then, the religion of mankind in general has been, and still is so various and contradictory, as in fact it has appeared, and still appears to be; and if the religion of Christians, (which comes more within our own notice and observation, and with respect to which Chriftians think they have sufficient proof that it came from God,) is fo.confused and contradictory as experience and fact has thewn, and still shews it to be; and if the present happiness and misery of mankind has been, and still is greatly affected by the various and opposite religions that have, and do prevail in the world, which most certainly is the truth of the case; then, from hence we are naturally, and almost unavoidably led to another enquiry, viz. whether religion has any solid foundation in nature ; that is, whether there be in reality a right and wrong, a true and false religion in nature; and consequently, whether there be any certain obvious principles in nature or reason by which a man may distinguish these, and form a proper judgment in the present case, and which an honest upright man may safely and securely stay his mind upon.
And, And, that this question may be throughly discussed, I think, it will be proper in the first place to suppose that Religion has no foundation in nature; and then enquire how the case will stand upon that supposition. By Religion's having no foundation in nature, I mean that in reality there is no natural difference in a&tions or things; that is, that one thing or action is not preferable to another in nature; that no action does of itself render the agent
proper object of the divine approbation or dislike, of the divine favour or displeasure ; and consequently, that no action 'or thing is of itself, and in it's own nature, religious or irreligious; that man is not, in the nature of the thing, an accountable creature; and that there is no foundation in nature for a future judgment and retribution.
If Religion has no foundation in nature, which is the present supposition, then, it must be either a creature of man's production ; that is, it must be founded only on the opinions and fancies, or on the cunning and craftiness of
or else it must be the creature of fome invisible agent, or agents, not divine ; that is, it must have been introduced into the world by the interposition of some invisible agent, or, agents, who is not, nor are they that being whom we characterise by the term God; or else lastly, it must be founded only on the Sovereign pleasure and arbitrary will of God; these being, I think, all the ways by which Religion could have been brought into being,
fupposing it to have no foundation in nature. And,
First, if we confider Religion as a creature of man's produktion, and that it has no other foundation than on the opinions and fancies, or on the cunning and craftinefs of men, then, that great variety and contrariety of religious sentiments and practices which have taken place in the world is not to be wondered at ; because then, it might well have been expected that mens religions would be as greatly various and opposite as the different measures of their understandings, their different pafsions and fancies, and as their various and opposite interests should incline or direct. And tho', in this view of the case, there would be in reality no such thing as true and false Religion, because all Religions would be true and false alike; yet those Religions would have the appearance of being true or false to every man, as his opinion or fancy led him to esteem them to be either. And tho' mens religion might have been subfervient to their present happiness or misery; yet it could not affe&t them with regard to futurity; because it must then be the same to a man with regard to God's favour and displeasure, and with regard to a man's happiness or misery in another world, whether he be of this, or that religion, or whether he be of any, or no religion. But this supposition, I think, is not admitted by the Religionists of any sect or party whatever, each party presuming that they have arguments and reasons
proper and sufficient to ground their respective religious principles and practices upon; and consequently, they do not admit that their Religion is founded only on opinion as aforesaid. Again,
If we suppose Religion to be the production of some invisible agent, or agents, not divine, the case will not be greatly different from what it was upon the former supposition. I introduce this supposition, because it is interwoven with the schemes of most Religionists, who admit.. that invisible agents not divine, have, and do operate upon this globe, and do interest themselves in the affairs of Religion ; which invisible agents are usually characterised by those terms Demons, Angels, Devils, and the like. And tho' it is not admitted that these invisible agents, or any one of them is the founder, or founders of true Religion; yet most Religionists readily admit that the Devil, some way or other, has had a hand in the introduction of all false Religions. And, as upon the present lupposition, there is no such thing as right and wrong in nature; so it can be neither right nor wrong for invisible agents to interpofe and interest themselves in human affairs; and there. fore, one would think, it must be mere wantonness in them which must be the ground of such interposition. And, this accounts for that great variety and contrariety of religious principles and practices which have taken place in the world ; as these may well be supposed to bear a proportion to the number of such,
invisible agents as have been concerned, or to that wanton fancy they may have indulged herein. And tho', upon the present suppofition as upon the former, there will be no such thing as true and false Religion; yet every man's Religion will appear true to himself, and all other Religions will appear to him to be false, according as those arguments, by which his judgment is directed, appear to him to be conclusive, or otherwise. And tho', upon the present supposition, a man's Religion, let it be what it will, cannot affect him with regard to God's favour and the happiness of another world; yet it may very much affect himselfand others with regard to their happiness or misery in this, as it may engage him more or less to pursue, or neglect the one or the other. And,
Upon the present supposition, a question or two will naturally arise, viz. bow, or in what
agents not divine can become the founders of Religion to mankind? And what kind of evidence they can produce to engage mens attention to, and belief of, it? · As to the first of these questions the answer is easy, if we admit a supposition which is admitted into the schemes of most Religionists, viz. that invisible agents not divine, can, and do impress various and contrary images upon the minds of men. And, if this be admitted, then, we may easily perceive, not only that such agents have it in their power to become the founders of Religion to mankind; but also in what way