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in general."--There never man known or heard ot, who had an idea of God, without being taught it.— Whole sects of philosophers denied the very being of God; and some have died martyrs to Atheism, as, Vaninus, Jordanus, Bruno, Cosimir, Liszinsai, and Mahomet Effendi.--A man confined to a dungeon all his days, and deprived of all conversation with mankind, probably would not so much as once consider who made him, or whether he was made or not, nor entertain the least notion of God. There are many instances of people born absolutely deaf and blind, who never showed the least sense of religion, or knowledge of God.
§ 16. It is one thing to work out a demonstration of a point when once it is proposed, and another to strike upon the point itself. I cannot tell whether any man would have considered the works of creation, as effects, if he had never been told they had a cause. We know very well, that, even after the being of such a cause was much talked of in the world, and believed by the generality of mankind ; yet many and great philosophers held the world to be eternal; and others ascribed what we call the works of creation, to an eternal series of causes. If the most sagacious of the philosophers were capable of doing this, after hearing so much of a first cause and a creation, what would they have done, and what would the gross of mankind, who are inattentive and ignorant, have thought of the matter, if nothing had been taught concerning God and the origin of things; but every single man left solely to such intimation as his own senses and reason could have given him? We find, the earlier ages of the world did not trouble themselves about the question, whether the being of God could be proved by reason; but either never inquired into the matter, or took their opinions, upon that head, merely from tradition. But allowing that every man is able to de monstrate to himself, that the world, and all things contained therein, are effects, and had a beginning, which I take to be a most absurd supposition, and look upon it to be almost impossible for unassisted reason to go so far: yet, if effects are to be ascribed to similar causes, and a good and wise effect must suppose a good and wise cause ; by the same way of reasoning, all the evil and irregularity in the world must be attributed to an evil and unwise cause. So that either the first cause must be both good and evil, wise and foolish, or else there must be two first causes, an evil and irrational, as well as a good and wise principle. Thus, man left to himself, would be apt to reason, “ If the cause and the effects are similar and conformable, matter must have a material cause; there being nothing more impossible for us to conceive, than how matter should be produced by spirit, or any thing else but matter." The best reasoner in the world, endeavouring to find out the
causes of things, by the things themselves, might be led into the grossest errors and contradictions, and find himself, at the end in extreme want of an instructor.
§ 17. In all countries we are acquainted with, knowledge bears an exact proportion to instruction. Why does the learn. ed and well educated, reason better than the mere citizen? why the citizen better than the poor? why the English poor beiter than the Spanish? why the Spanish better than the Moorish? why the Moorish better than the Negro ? and why he better than the Hottentot? If, then, reason is found to go hand in hand, and step by step with education ; what would be the consequence, if there were no education? There is no fallacy more gross, than to imagine reason, utterly untaught and undisciplined, capable of the same attainments in knowledge, as reason well refined and instructed : or to suppose, that reason can as easily find in itself principles to argue from, as draw the consequences, when once they are found; I mean, especially in respect to objects not perceivable by our senses. In ordinary articles of knowledge, our senses and experience furnish reason with ideas and principles to work on : continual conferences and debates give it exercise in such matters ; and that improves its vigour and activity. But, in respect to God, it can have no right idea nor axiom to set out with, till he is pleased to reveal it.
$ 18. What instance can be mentioned, from any history, of any one nation under the sun, that emerged from atheism or idolatry, into the knowledge or adoration of the one true God, without the assistance of revelation ? The Americans, the Africans, the Tartars, and the ingenious Chinese, have had time enough, one would think, to find out the true and right idea of God, and yet, after above five thousand years' improvements, and the full exercise of reason, they have, at this day, got no further in their progress towards the true religion, than to the worship of stocks and stones and devils. How many thousand years must be allowed to these nations, to reason themselves into the true religion? What the light of nature and reason could do to investigate the knowledge of God, is best seen by what they have already done. We cannot argue more convincingly on any foundation, than that of known and incontestable facis.
§ 19. Le Compte and Duhald assure us, the Chinese, after offering largely to their gods, and being disappointed of their assistance, sometimes sue them for damages, and obtain decrees against them from the Mandarin. This ingenious people,
. when their houses are on fire, to the imminent peril of their wooden gods, hold them to the flames, in hopes of extinguishing them by it. The Tyrians were a wise people ; and there
fore, when Alexander laid siege to their city, they chained Appollo to Hercules, to prevent his giving them the slip.
$ 20. Revenge and self-murder were not only tolerated, but esteemed heroic by the best of the Heathen. I know not, in all profane history, six more illustrious characters, than those of Lycurgus, Timoleon, Cicero, Cato Uticensis, Brutus, and Germanicus. The first encouraged tricking and stealing, by an express law. The second, upon principle, murdered his own brother. Cicero, with all his fine talk about religion and virtue, had very little of either; as may appear by what he says, (I think it is in a letter to Atticus) on the death of his daughter Tullia, “I hate the very gods, who hitherto have been so profuse in their favours to me ;'' and by deserting his friends and his country and turning a servile flatterer to Cæsar. Brutus concludes all his mighty heroism with this exclamation : " Virtue, I have pursued thee in vain, and found thee to be but an empty name;" and then kills himself. Cato's virtue was not strong enough to hinder his turning a public robber and oppressor, (witness his Cyprian expedition ;) nor to bear up against the calamities of life; and so he stabbed himself, and ran away like a coward, from his country and the world. Germanicus, who exceeded all men in his natural sweetness of temper, at the approach of death, called his friends about him, and spent his last moments in pressing them to take revenge of Piso and Plancina, for poisoning or bewitching bim ; in directing them how this might best be done ; and in receiving their oaths for the performance of his request. His sense of religion he thus expressed on that occasion : “ Had I died by the decree of fate, I should have had just cause of resentment against the gods, for hurrying me away from my parents, my wife and my children, in the flower of my youth, by an untimely death."
21. Socrates, Plato, and Cicero, who were more inclined to the belief of a future existence than the other philosophers, plead for it with arguments of no force; speak of it with the utmost uncertainty ; and, therefore, are afraid to found their system of duty and virtue on the expectation of it. Their notions of morality were of a piece with their religion, and had little else for a foundation than vain glory. Tully, in his Treatise of Friendship, says, that virtue proposes glory as its end, and hath no other reward. Accordingly, he maintains, that wars undertaken for glory, are not unlawful, provided they are carried on without the usual cruelty. Diogenes, and the sect of the Cynics, held, that parents have a right to sacrifice and eat their children ; and that there is nothing shameful in committing the grossest acts of lewdness publicly, and before the faces of mankind. The virtuous sentiments discovered by the
philosophers on some occasions, will neither palliate these execrable principles, nor suffer us to think those who could abet them, fit instructors for mankind. Zeno, Cleombrotus, and Menippus, committed murder on themselves ; the last, because he had lost a considerable sum of money, which, as he was an usurer, went a little too near his heart. That I do not charge the philosophers with worse principles and practices, than they themselves maintain, and their own Pagan historians ascribe to them, any one may satisfy himself who will consult Diogenes, Laertius, Sextus Empiricus, Lucian, Plutarch, and the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero.
§ 22. Thus, it is plain, whether we consider what the human understanding could do, or what it actually did, that it could not have attained to a sufficient knowledge of God, without revelation; so that the demonstration brought in favour of some religion, ends in a demonstration of the revealed.
When we attentively consider the nature of man, we find it necessary he should have some religion. When we consider the nature of God, we must conclude he never would have made a falsehood necessary to the happiness of his rational creatures ; and that therefore there must be a true religion. And when we consider, that, by our natural faculties, it is extremely difficuli to arrive at a right idea of God, till he reveals it to us ; that all the Gentile world hath run into the grossest theological errors, and, in consequence of these, into the most enormous customs and crimes; and that no legislator ever founded his scheme of civil government on any supposed religious dictates of nature, but always on some real or pretended revelations: we cannot help ascribing all the true religion in the world to divine instruction, and all the frightful variety of religious errors to human invention; and to that dark and degenerate nature, by the imaginary light of which, Deists suppose the right idea of God may be easily and universally discovered.
§ 23. Socrates, who never travelled out of Greece, had nothing to erect a scheme of religion or morality on, but the scat- . tered fragments of truth, handed down from time immemorial among his countrymen, or imported by Pythagoras, Thales, and others, who had been in Egypt and the East. These he picked out from a huge heap of absurdities and errors, under which they were buried; and, by the help of a most prodigious capacity, laying them together, comparing them with the nature of things and drawing consequences from them, he found reason to question the soundness of the Grecian theo. logy and morality. But this is all the length he seems to have gone.
He reasoned extremely well against the prevailing errors of his time; but was able to form no system of religion or morality. This was a work above the strength of his nature, and the lights he enjoyed. He taught his disciples to worship
the gods, and to ground the distinction between right and wrong on the laws of their country; in the latter of which he followed the saying of his master, Archelaus, who taught, that what is just or dishonest, is defined by law, not by nature.
§ 24. The notions of Plato concerning the divine nature, were infinitely more sublime and nearer the truth, than those of his master, Socrates. He did not content himself merely with removing errors: He ventured on a system; and maintained, that virtue is a science, and that God is the object and source of duty; that there is but one God, the fountain of all being, and superior to all essence ; that he hath a Son, called The World: that there is a judgment to come, by which the just, who have suffered in this life, shall be recompensed in the other, and the wicked punished eternally ; that God is omnipresent: and, consequently, that the wicked, if he were to dive into the deepest caverns of the earth, or should get wings, and fly into the heavens, would not be able to escape from him : that man is formed in the image of God; and that, in order to establish laws and government, relations made by true traditions and ancient oracles, are to be consulted. These points, so much insisted on by Plato, are far from being the growth of Greece, or his own invention, but derived from Eastern traditions, which, we know, he travelled for, at least as far as Egypt. He was wiser than his teacher, (who was a much greater man,) because his lights were better : But, as they were not sufficient, he ran into greater errors, speaking plainly as if he believed in a plurality of gods ; making goods, women, and children, common, &c.
$ 25. The natural faculties of men, in all nations, are alike: and, did nature itself furnish all men with the means and materials of knowledge, philosophy need never turn traveller, either in order to her own improvement, or to the communication of her lights to the world. How came it to pass, that Scythia did not produce so many, so great philosophers as Greece? I think it very evident, that the great difference between these countries as to learning and instruction, arose from this : The latter had the benefit of commerce with the Phænicians, from whence they came by the knowledge of letters, and probably of navigation; and, with the Egyptians, from whom they learned the greater part of their theology, policy, arts, and sciences. Such advantages, the Scythians wanted; and, therefore, although their natural talents were as good as those of the Grecians, they were not able to make any improvements in philosophy. Why are the Asiatic Scythians at this day as ignorant as ever, while the European Scythians are little inferior to the other nations of Europe in arts and politeness? And how does it come to pass, that we, of this day, take upon us to approve the philosophy of Socrates and