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from his scrutiny, and that even the inmost recesses of their breast lie open before him. They must then be careful not to form expressly any sentiment of blame and disapprobation. All must be applause, ravishment, extacy. And while their gloomy apprehensions make them ascribe to him measures of conduct, which, in human creatures, would be highly blamed, they must still affect to praise and admire these measures in the object of their devotional addresses. Thus it may safely be affirmed, that many popular religions are really, in the conception of their more vulgar votaries, a species of dæmonism ; and the higher the deity is exalted in power and knowlege, the lower of course is he frequently depressed in goodness and benevolence; whatever epithets of praise may be bestowed on him by his amazed adorers. Amongst idolaters, the words may be false, and belie the secret opinion : But amongst nore exalted religionists, the opinion itself often contracts a kind of falfhood, and belies the inward sentiment. The heart secretly detests such measures of cruel and implacable vengeance ; but the judgment dares not but pronounce them perfect and adorable. And the additional misery of this inward struggle aggravates all the other terrors, by which these unhappy victims to superstition are for ever haunted.
LUCIAN o observes, that a young man, who reads the history of the gods in Homer or Hesiod, and finds their factions, wars, injustice, incest, adultery, and other immoralities so highly celebrated, is much surprized afterwards, when he comes into the world, to observe, that punishments are by law inflicted on the same actions, which he had been taught to ascribe to superior beings. The contradiction is still perhaps stronger betwixt the representations given us by fome latter religions and our natural ideas of generosity, lenity, impartiality, and jula tice; and in proportion to the multiplied terrors of these religions, the barba rous conceptions of the divinity are multiplied upon us '. Nothing can preserve
' ftrange ideas, says he, would an Indian or å P BACCHUS, a divine being, is represented by • Chinese philosopher hive of our holy religion, the heathen mythology as the inventor of dan- • if they judged by the schemes given of it by cing and the theatre. Plays were antiently, even ''our modern freethinkers, and pharifaical doca part of public worship on the most folemn oc t ors of all sects? According to the odious and cafions, and often employed in times of pestilence, "too valgar fyftem of these incredulous fcoffers to appease the offended deities. But they have • and credulous fcriblers, “ The God of the Jews been zealously proscribed by the godly in latter" is a moft cruel, unjuft, partial and fantastical ages ; and the play-house, according to a learned “ being. He created, about 6000 years ago, a divine, is the porch of hell.
“ man and a woman, and placed them in a fine But in order to show more evidently, that it is “ garden of ASIA, of which there are no re. posible for a religion to represent the divinity in “ mains. This garden was furnished with all fill a more immoral and unamiable light than the “ forts of trees, fountains, and flowers. He alantients, we shall cire a long passage from an au. « lowed them the use of all the fruits of this thor of taste and imagination, who was surely no « beautiful garden, except of one, that was enemy to Christianity. It is the chevalier RAM- es planted in the midst thereof, and that had in it SAY, a writer, who had so laudable an inclina. * a secret virtue of preferving them in continual tion to be orthodox, that his reason never found “ health and vigor of body and mind, of exaltany difficulty, even in the doctrines which free- “ing their natural powers and making them wise. thinkers scruple the most, the trinity, incarna- " The devil entered into the body of a serpent, tion, and satisfaction : His humanity alone, of " and solici:ed the first woman to eat of this forwhich he seems to have had a great stock, rebel- “ bidden fruit; she engaged her husband to do led against the doctrines of eternal reprobation and “ the same. To punish this flight curiosity and fredeftination. He expresses himself thus: · What " natural desire of life and knowlege, God not
xx x 2
untainted the genuine principles of morals in our judgment of human conduct, but the absolute necessity of these principles to the existence of society. If common conception can indulge princes in a system of ethics, somewhat different from that which should regulate private persons; how much more those superior beings, whose attributes, views, and nature are so totally unknown to us? Sunt superis sua jura!. The gods have maxims of justice peculiar to themselves.
“ only threw our first parents out of paradise, but " unconvertible, because he will be for ever un" he condemned all their pofterity to temporal “ appeasable and irreconcileable. It is true, that "misery, and the greatest part of them to eternal 6 al this makes God odious, a hater of souls, “ pains, tho' the souls of these innocent chilo“ rather than a lover of them; a cruel, vindic" dren have no more relation to that of Adam ko tive tyrant, an impotent or a wrathful dæmon, " than to those of Nero and MAHOMET; since, “ rather than an all-powerful, beneficent Father « according to the scholastic driveller, fabulits, “ of spirits : Yet all this is a mystery. He has • and mythologists, all souls are created pure, 6 secret reasons for his conduct, that are impene. " and infused immediately into mortal bodies, so “ trable ; and tho' he appears unjust and barba. • soon as the fætus is formed. To accomplish the “ rous, yet we must believe the contrary, be“ barbarous, partial decree of predestination and “ cause what is injustice, crime, cruelty, and " reprobation, God abandoned all nations to “ the blackest malice in us, is in him justice, “ darkness, idolatry and superstition, without any“ mercy, and sovereign gcodness.” Thus the “ saving knowlege or salutary graces ; unless it incredulous freethinkers, the judaizing Christi. “ was one particular nation, whom he chose as 5 ans, and the fatalistic doctors have disfigured “ his peculiar people. This chosen nation was, ' and dishonored the sublime mysteries of our “ however, the most stupid, ungrateful, rebel- ' holy faith ; thus, they have confounded the « lious, and perfidious of all nations. After ' nature of good and evil; transformed the " God had thus kept the far greater part of all ' most monstrous passions into divine attributes, “ the human species, during near 4000 years, in " and surpassed the pagans in blasphemy, by " a reprobate state, he changed all of a sudden, ' ascribing to the eternal nature, as perfections, "6 and took a fancy for other nations, beside the "what makes the most horrid crimes amongst « Jews. Then he sent his only begotten Son 6 men. The groffer pagans contented themselves “ to the world, under a human form, to appease 'with divinizing lust, incest, and adultery; but « his wrath, satisfy his vindi&tive justice, and die " the predeftinarian doctors have divinized cruel. " for the pardon of sin. Very few nations, how. ' ty, wrath, fury, vengeance, and all the black. “ ever, have heard of this gospel; and all the rest vices, See the Chevalier Ramsay's philo. “ reft, tho' left in invincible ignorance, are dam- sophical principles of natural and revealed reli. " ned without exception, or any possibility of gion, Part II. p. 401. “ remission. The greatest part of those who have The same author asserts, in ocher places, that “ heard of it, have changed only some specula- the Arminian and Molinist schemes ferve very “ tive notions about God, and some external litle to mend the matter : And having thus thrown “ forms in worship: For, in other respects, the himself out of all received secls of Christianity, he 6 bulk of Christians have continued as corrupt, is obliged to advance a system of his own, which os as the rest of mankind in their morals ; yea, so is a kind of Origenism, and supposes the pre-exiftis much the more perverse and criminal, that ence of the souls both of men and beasts, and the “ their lights were greater. Unless it be a very eternal salvation and conversion of all men, beasts, “ small select number, all other Christians, like and devils. But this notion, being quite peculiar " the pagans, will be for ever damned; the great to himself, we need not treat of. I thought the ~ sacrifice offered up for them will become void opinions of this ingenious author very curious; " and of no effect. God will take delight for but I pretend not to warrant the justness of “ ever in their torments and blafphemies; and them. “ tho' he can, by one fiat, change their hearts, 9 Ovid. Metam, lib. ix. 501. “ yet they will remain for ever unconverted and
Sect. XIV. Bad influence of most p pular religions on morality. HERE I cannot forbear observing a fact, which may be worth the attention of those, who make human nature the object oi chci uiry. It is certain, that, in every religion, however sublime the verbal de ull, which it gives of its Jivinity, many of the votaries, perhaps the greatest number, will still seek the divine favor, not by virtue and good morals, which alone can be acceptable to a perfect being, but either by frivolous observances, by intemperate zeil, by rapturous extasies, or by the belief of mysterious and absurd opinions. The lealt part of the Sadder, as well as of the Peniatzuch, consists in precepts of morality; and we may be assured, that that part was always the least observed and regarded. When the old ROMANS were attacked with a pestilence, they never ascribed their suferings to their vices, or dreamed of repentance and amendment. They never thought that they were the general robbers of the world, whose ambition and avarice made desolate the earth, and reduced opulent nations to want and beggary. They only created a dictator', in order to drive a nail into a door; and by that means, they thought that they had sufficiently appeased their incensed deity.
IN Ægina, one faćtion entering into a conspiracy, barbarously and treacherously assassinated seven hundred of their fellow citizens; and carried their fury so far, that, one miserable fugitive having fled to the temple, they cut off his hands, by which he clung to the gates, and carrying him out of holy ground, immediately murdered him. By this impiety, says HERODOTUS ', (not by the other many cruel assassinations) they offended the gods, and contracted an inexpiable guilt.
Nay, if we should suppose, what seldom happens, that a popular religion were found, in which it was expressly declared, that nothing but morality could gain the divine favor; if an order of priests were instituted to inculcate this opinion, in daily fermons, and with all the arts of persuasion; yet so inveterate are the people's prejudices, that for want of some other superstition, they would make the very attendance on these serinons the essentials of religion, rather than place them in virtue and good morals. The sublime prologue of ZALEUCus's laws • inspired not the LOCRIANS, so far as we can learn, with any founder notions of the measures of acceptance with the deity, than were familiar to the other GREEKS.
This observation, then, holds universally : But still one may be at some loss to account for it. It is not sufficient to observe, that the people, every where, degrade their deities into a similitude with themselves, and consider them merely as a species of human creatures, somewhat more potent and intelligent. This will not remove the difficulty. For there is no man so stupid, as that, iudging by his natural reason, he would not esteem virtue and honesty the most valuable qualities, which any person could possess. Why not ascribe the same sentiment to his deity? Why not make all religion, or the chief part of it, to consist in these attainments ?
leyid not esteem vitu not ascribe the famonlist in these
sCalled Di&ator clavis figendæ causa. T. Livii, 1. vii. c. 3a
Nor is it satisfactory to say, that the practice of morality is more difficult than that of superstition ; and is therefore rejected. For, not to mention the excessive pennances of the Brachmans and Talapoins; it is certain, that the Rhamadan of the Turks, during which the poor wretches, for many days, often in the hottest months of the year, and in some of the hottest climates of the world, remain without eating or drinking from the rising to the setting of the sun ; this Rhamadan, I say, must be more severe than the practice of any moral duty, even to the most vicious and depraved of mankind. The four lents of the MUSCOVITEs, and the austerities of some Roman Catholics, appear more disagreeable than meekness and benevolence. In short, all virtue, when men are reconciled to it by ever so little practice, is agreeable : All fuperftition is for ever odious and burthensome.
PERHAPS, the following account may be received as a true solution of the difficulty. The duties which a man performs as a friend or parent, seem merely owing to his benefactor or children; nor can he be wanting to these cuties, without breaking thro' all the ties of nature and morality. A ftrong inclination may prompt him to the performance: A sentiment of order and moral beauty joins its force to thefe natural ties: And the whole man, if truly virtuous, is drawn to his duty, without any effort or endeavor. Even with regard to the virtues, which are more austere, and more founded on reflection, such as public spirit, filial duty, temperance, or integrity; the moral obligation, in our apprehension, removes all pretence to religious merit; and the virtuous conduct is esteemed no more than what we owe to society and to ourselves. In all this, a superstitious man finds nothing, which he has properly performed for the sake of his deity, or which can peculiarly recommend him to the divine favor and protection. He considers not, that the most genuine method of serving the divinity is by promoting the happiness of his creatures. He still looks out for some more immediate service of the supreme being, in order to allay those terrors, with which he is haunted. And any practice, recommended to him, which either ferves to no purpose in life, or offers the strongest violence to his natural inclinations; that practice he will the more readily embrace, on account of those very circumstances, which should make him absolutely reject it. It seems the more purely religious, that it proceeds from no mixture of any other motive or consideration. And if, for its fake, he sacrifices much of his ease and quiet, his claim of merit appears still to rise upon him, in proportion to the zeal and devotion, which he discovers. In restoring a loan, or paying a debt, his divinity is no way beholden to him ; because these acts of · justice are what he was bound to perform, and what many would have performed, were there no god in the universe. But if he fast a day, or give himself a found whipping ; this has a direct reference, in his opinion, to the service of God. No other motive could engage him to such austerities. By thefe distinguished marks of devotion, he has now acquired the divine favor ; and may expect, in recompence, protection and safety in this world, and eternal happiness in the next.
Hence the greateft crimes have been found, in many instances, compatible with a fuperftitious piety and devotion : Hence it is juftly regarded as unsafe to draw any certain inference in favor of a man's morals from the fervor or strictness of his religious exercises, even tho' he himself believe them sincere. Nay, it has been observed, that enormities of the blackest dye, have been rather apt to produce superstitious terrors, and encrease the religious passion. BOMILCAR, hav
ing formed a conspiracy for assassinating at once the whole senate of Carthage, and invading the liberties of his country, lost the opportunity, from a continual regard to omens and prophesies. Those who undertake the most criminal and most dangerous enterprizes are commonly the most fuperftitious ; as an antient historian "re. marks on this occasion. Their devotion and spiritual faith rise with their fears. CATILINE was not contented with the established deities, and received rites of his national religion: His anxious terrors made him seek new inventions of this kind " ; which he never probably had dreamed of, had he remained a good citizen, and obedient to the laws of his country.
To which we may add, that, even after the commission of crimes, there arise remorses and secret horrors, which give no rest to the mind, but make it have recourse to religious rites and ceremonies, as expiations of its offences. Whatever weakens or disorders the internal frame promotes the interests of superstition : And nothing is more destructive to them than a manly, steddy virtue, which either preserves us from disastrous, melancholy accidents, or teaches us to bear them. During such calm sunshine of the mind, these spectres of false divinity never make their appearance. On the other hand, while we abandon ourselves to the natural undisciplined suggestions of our timid and anxious hearts, every kind of barbarity is ascribed to the supreme being, from the terrors, with which we are agitated ; and every kind of caprice, from the methods which we embrace, in order to appease him. Barbarity, caprice ; these qualities, however nominally disguised, we may universally observe, to form the ruling character of the deity, in popular religions. Even priests, instead of correcting these depraved ideas of mankind, have often been found ready to foster and encourage them. The more tremendous the divinity is represented, the more tame and submissive do men become to his minifters: And the more unaccountable the measures of acceptance required by him, the more necessary does it become to abandon our natural reason, and yield to their ghostly guidance and direction. And thus it may be allowed, that the artifices of men aggravate our natural infirmities and follies of this kind, but never originally beget them. Their root strikes deeper into the mind, and springs from the essential and universal properties of human nature.
Sect. XV. General Corollary from the whole.
Tho' the stupidity of men, barbarous and uninstructed, be so great, that they may not see a sovereign author in the more obvious works of nature, to which they are so much familiarized; yet it scarce seems possible, that any one of good understanding should reject that idea, when once it is suggested to him. A purpose, an intention, a design is evident in every thing; and when our comprehension is so far enlarged as to contemplate the first rise of this visible system, we must adopt, with the strongest conviction, the idea of some intelligent cause or author. The uniform maxims too, which prevail thro' the whole frame of the universe, naturally, if not necessarily, lead us to conceive this intelligence as single and undivided, where the prejudices of education oppose not so reasonable a
• Diod. Sıc. lib. xx.
» Cic. Catil. i. SALLUST, de bello CATIL.