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:ADIALOGUE. MANNER, the ORNAMENTS, the GRACES, which succeed in this shape, are more arbitrary and casual : But the merit of riper years is almost every-where the same ; and consists chiefly in integrity, humanity, ability, knowlege and the other more folid and useful qualities of the human mind.
What you insist on, replied PALAMEDES, may have some foundation, when you adhere to the maxims of common life and ordinary conduct. Experience and the practice of the world readily correct any great extravagance on either side. But what say you to artificial lives and manners? How do you reconcile the maxims, on which, in diferent ages and nations, these are founded?
What do you understand by artificial lives and manners, said I? I explain myself, replied he. You know, that religion had, in antient times, very little influence on common life, and that, after men had performed their duty in facrifices and prayers at the temple, they thought, that the gods left the rest of their conduct to themselves, and were little pleased or offended with those virtues or vices, which only affi cted the peace and happiness of human society. In those ages, it was the business of philosophy alone to regulate men's ordinary behavior and deportment; and accordingly, we may observe, that this being the sole principle, by which a man could elevate himself above his fellows, it acquired a mighty ascendant over many, and produced great singularities of maxims and of conduct. At present, that philosophy has lost the allurement of novelty, it has no such extensive influence; but seems to confine itself mostly to fpeculations in the closet; in the same manner, as the antient religion was limited to sacrifices in the temple. Its place is now supplied by the modern religion, which infpects our whole conduct, and prescribes an universal rule to our actions, to our words, to our very thoughts and inclinations; a rule so much the more austere, that it is guarded by infinite, tho' diftant, rewards and punishments; and no infraction of it can ever be concealed or disguised.
Diogenes is the most celebrated model of extravagant philosophy. Let us seek a parallel to him in modern times. We shall not disgrace any philosophic name by a comparison with the DOMINICs or LOYOLAS, or any canonized monk or friar. Let us compare him to PAKAL, a man of parts and genius as well as Diogenes himself; and perhaps too, a man of virtue, had he allowed his virtuous inclinations to have exerted and displayed themselves.
The foundation of Diogenes's conduct was an endeavor to render himself an independent being as much as possible, and to confine all his wants and desires and pleasures within himself and his own mind : The aim of PASCAL was to keep a perpetual sense of his dependance before his eyes, and never to forget his numberless wants and necesities. The antient supported himself by magnanimity, oftentation, pride, and the idea of his own superiority above his fellowcreatures. The modern made constant profession of humility and abasement, of the contempt and hatred of himself; and endeavored to attain these supposed virtues, as far as they are attainable. The austerities of the GREEK were in order to inure himself to hardships, and prevent his ever suffering: Those of the FRENCHMAN were embraced merely for their own fake, and in order to suffer as much as possible. The philosopher indulged himself in the most beastly pleasures, even in public: The faint refused himself the most innocent, even in private.
The former thought it his duty to love his friends, and to rail at them, and reprove them, and scold them : The latter endeavored to be absolutely indifferent towards his nearest relations, and to love and speak well of his enemies. The great object of Diogen es's wit was every kind of superstition, that is, every kind of religion known in his time. The mortality of the soul was his standard principle; and even his sentiments of a divine providence seem to have been very licentious. The most ridiculous superstitions directed PASCAL's faith and practice; and an extreme contempt of this life, in comparison of the future, was the chief foundation of his conduct.
In such a remarkable contrast do these two men stand : Yet both of them have met with general admiration in their different ages, and have been proposed as models of imitation. Where then is the universal standard of morals, which you talk of? And what rule shall we establish for the many different, nay contrary sentiments of mankind ?
An experiment, said I, which succeeds in the air, will not always succeed in a vacuum. When men depart from the maxims of common reason, and affect these artificial lives, as you call them, no-one can answer for what will please or displease them. They are in a different element from the rest of mankind; and the natural principles of their mind play not with the same regularity, as if left to themselves, free from the illusions of religious superstition or philosophical enthusiasm.
S every enquiry, which regards religion is of the utmost importance, there A are two questions in particular, which challenge our principal attention,
to wit, that concerning its foundation in reason, and that concerning its origin in human nature. Happily, the first question, which is the most important, admits of the most obvious, at least, the clearest solution. The whole frame of nature befpeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after se. rious reflexion, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion. But the other question, concerning the origin of religion in human nature, is exposed to some more difficulty. The belief of invisible, intelligent power has been very generally diffused over the human race, in all places and in all ages; but it has neither perhaps been so universal as to admit of no exceptions, nor has it been, in any degree, uniform in the ideas, which it has suggested. Some nations have been discovered, who entertained no fentiments of Religion, if travellers and historians may be credited, and no two nations, and scarce any two men, have ever agreed precifely in the same sentiments. It would appear, therefore, that this preconception springs not from an original instinct or primary impression of nature, such as gives rise to self-love, affection betwixt the sexes, love of progeny, gratitude, resentment; linee every instinct of this kind has been found absolutely universal in all nations and ages, and has always a precise, determinate object, which it inflexibly pursues. The first religious principles must be fecondary ; such as may easily be perverted by various accidents and causes, and whose operation too, in some cases, may, by an extraor
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dinary concurrence of circumstances, be altogether prevented. What those principles are, which give rise to the original belief, and what those accidents and causes are, which direct its operation, is the subject of our present enquiry.
Sect. I. That Polytheism was the primary Religion of Men. It appears to me, that if we consider the improvement of human society, from rude beginnings to a state of greater perfection, polytheism or idolatry was, and necessarily must have been, the first and most antient religion of mankind. This opinion I shall endeavor to confirm by the following arguments.
'Tis a matter of fact incontestable, that about 1700 years ago all mankind were idolaters. The doubtful and sceptical principles of a few philosophers, or the theisin, and that too not entirely pure, of one or two nations, form no objection worth regarding. Behold then the clear testimony of history. The farther we mount up into antiquity, the more do we find mankind plunged into idolatry. No marks, no symptoms of any more perfect religion. The most antient records of human race still present us with polytheism as the popular and established system. The north, the south, the east, the west, give their unanimous testimony to the same fact. What can be opposed to so full an evidence ?
As far as writing or history reaches, mankind, in antient times, appear universally to have been polytheists. Shall we assert, that, in more antient times, before the knowlege of letters, or the discovery of any art or science, men entertained the principles of pure cheism? Tharis, while they were ignorant and barbarous, they discovered truth : But fell into error, as soon as they acquired learning and politeness. · But in this assertion you not only contradict all appearance of probability, but also our present experience concerning the principles and opinions of barbarous na. tions. The savage tribes of AMERICA, AFRICA, and ASIA are all idolaters. Not a single exception to this rule. Insomuch, that, were a traveller to transport himself into any unknown region ; if he found inhabitants cultivated with arts and Sciences, tho' even upon that supposition there are odds against their being cheifts, yet could he not safely, till farther enquiry, pronounce any thing on that head : But if he found them ignorant and barbarous, he might beforehand declare them idolaters ; and there scarce is a possibility of his being mistaken.
It seems certain, that, according to the natural progress of human thought, the ignorant multitude must first entertain some groveling and familiar notion of superior powers, before they stretch their conception to that perfect Being, who bestowed order on the whole frame of nature. We may as reasonably imagine, that men inhabited palaces before huts and cottages, or studied geometry before agriculture ; as aflirt that the Deity appeared to them a pure spirit, omniscient, om. nipotent, and omnipresent, before he was apprehended to be a powerful, tho’ limited being, with human passions and appetites, limbs and organs. The mind rises gradually, from inferior to superior: By abstracting from what is imperfect, it forms an idea of perfection : And Nowly distinguishing the nobler parts of its frame from the groffer, it learns to transfer only the former, much elevated and refined, to its divinity. Nothing could disturb this natural progress of thought, but some obvious and invincible argument, which might immediately lead the mind into the pure principles of theism, and make it overleap, at one bound, the