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the people of thofe ages, except a few families, to have been wholly given to polytheism and idolatry. The deftruction of the five cities by fire from heaven, for the most abominable and unnatural crimes, fhews the ftate of corruption to which the people of thofe times were funk. The accounts we have from Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, of the religion of the Egyptians, the fathers of wisdom and learning, are the diígrace of human reason. Their worshipping the most contemptible and hateful animals, as crocodiles, ftorks, cats, monkeys, and calves; to kill which facred animals, was death by their law, and which they carefully embalmed, and folemnly depofited in tombs; and their adoration even of plants, as leeks and onions; these are strange inftances of the fufficiency of reafon for judging in religious matters! They alfo (according to the fame author) allowed of theft; and made marriages between brothers and fifters a part of religion. What were all the popular religions of the Pagans in general, but a heap of abfurdities? What can be faid of their deities; whose characters were too fhocking, for men and women of such manners to be fuffered to live among us? And left there fhould be any want of fuch hopeful objects of worship, they multiplied them to fuch a number, that Varro reckons up a little army of them, and Lucian reprefents the heavens as in danger of being broke down with the weight of fuch a multitude. The horrid practice of appeafing them with human blood, and even with that of the children of the zealous votaries themselves, with the abominable impurities afcribed to them, and practifed by their blind worshippers in honour of them, fhew what notions of the object, and nature of worship, human reafon, left to itself, is apt to run into. Thofe, who had better notions of the fuperior powers, reprefent them as either quarrelling and fighting (Homer makes his goddeffes treat one another with the language of Billinfgate) or as a fet of idle luxurious voluptuaries, fpending their whole time in quaffing of nectar, wholly regardless of human affairs. In fome ancient nations, every young woman was ⚫bliged to prostitute herself in the temple of Venus, as
a religious ceremony. Thucydides fays, that both Greeks and Barbarians thought robbery and plunder glorious. The whole ancient heroifm was indeed little elfe. And it was chiefly by violence and brutal fury, that the Macedonian, Roman, and other ftates acquired fuch an extent of dominion. From Homer, and other writers, down to the Roman hiftorians, we see how the manners of ancient times allowed to treat captives in war. Princes and Princeffes were dragged in triumph after the chariot of the conqueror; and they, and the inferior people, by thousands, butchered in cold blood, or condemned to flavery: The beautiful part of the female captives fhared among the heroes, and condemned to prostitution, and infamy. The laws of Lycurgus were founded in war and favage heroifm, and allowed ftealing, unless the person was caught in the fact. Adultery was alfo in certain cafes established by law. Expofing of children was, among the Romans, according to Lactantius, a daily practice. Gladiators butchering one another by thousands, was the reigning diverfion among thofe lords of the world for ages. And it was common, when one had got the other down, for the conqueror to look at the people for their orders, whether to spare or kill him, which they often gave for the latter; and even the ladies, if we may believe their own writers, would often give the fignal to defpatch a poor, conquered, helpless victim, that they might feaft their favage and unwomanly hearts with fcenes of cruelty and blood. The authors of the Grecian wisdom were almoft all addicted to one vice or other, fome more, fome lefs fcandalous. Their fnarling, and impudence, got them the appellation of Cynics; and difputes about words run through all their writings. Too many of both Greek and Roman philofophers, or wife men, flattered the vices of princes. Socrates himself, the father of wisdom, and oppofer of polytheism, encouraged to confult the oracles, and to offer facrifice to idols. Plato's morals were so obfcure, that it required a life-time to understand them. Cicero excufes and countenances lewdnefs in fome parts of his writings. And thofe of Seneca are not without their poifon. What were the manners of the polite court of Auguftus (to fay nothing of the fea of blood, through
which he swam to the imperial throne) is pretty evident from the abominable and unnatural filthinefs fcattered through the writings of the wits of that elegant age. Which of the ancient fages did not too far temporize, and conform to the national fuperftition, contrary to their better knowledge, and even make that worft fpecies of diffimulation a part of the duty of a good citizen; the confequence of which was the effectual rivetting of error, and prevention of reasonable inquiry and reformation. It is certain, that whole nations have placed virtue on directly oppofite fides; and that the wife ancients differed in their notions of what the chief good of man confifted in, to fuch a degree, that one author reckons up feveral hundred different opinions on the fubject. This fhews that the understanding, or moral fenfe, though fufficient, when illuminated by Divine Revelation, to judge of truth, is not, for all that, capable of ftriking out of itself fufficient light, fafely to guide itself, especially overwhelmed and oppreffed as it is by vice and prejudice. The most fublime of the Heathen philofophers never put the immortality of the foul (the foundation of all religion) out of doubt. On the contrary, they reprefent it as at best only a very defirable scheme. Of a general refurrection of the body, an univerfal public judgment, and final happiness of the whole Human Nature, foul and body, in a state of everlafting glory, it does not appear that they had any clear notions; or that they carried their views beyond the Elyfian ftate. None of them could fatisfy a thinking mind about the proper means for propitiating the Deity, or whether guilt was likely to be pardoned at all; nor could any of them prescribe an acceptable method of addreffing the Object of worfhip. On the contrary, Plato reprefents the wife Socrates as at a full ftop, and advifing not to worship at all, till fuch time as it fhould please God to inform mankind, by an exprefs revelation, how they might addrefs him acceptably. Nor did any of them fufficiently inculcate humility, the foundation of all virtues. On the contrary, the very fchemes of fome of the fects were rather founded in pride and obftinacy. Nor did
any of them go fo far as to fhew that forgiving injuries, loving enemies, and fetting the affections upon the future heavenly ftate, 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 strict 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 priest 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 vo-. taries 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 those of another. And, laft and worft (for it is endless to enumerate the abfurdities of Popery) that moft 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