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it is often their notion of his power and knowledge on
e the secret opi-, 474
your daughter, said one present, become such as the deity whom
But as men farther exalt their idea of their divinity i not of his goodness, which is improved. On the trary, in proportion to the supposed extent of his science and authority, their terrors naturally augment while they believe, that no secrecy can conceal them from his scrutiny, and that even the inmost recesses of their breaft fie 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 themñ afcribe to him measures of conduct, which, in human creatures, would be highly, blamed, they must ftill affect to praise and admire that conduct in the object of their devotional addresses Thus it may fáfely be affirmed, that most 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“knowledge, 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. Amongstidonion : But amongst more exalted religionists, the opi
, lies the inward sentiment The heart secretly detests fush measures of cruel and implacable vengeance; but the judgment dares not bút pronounce them perfect and adorable. And the additional misery of this inward struggle aggravates all the other tetrorsi," by which these unhappy victims to superstition are
for ever haunted. LUCIAN + observes, that a young man, who reads the þiftory of the gods in HOMER or HESIOD, and finds their. factions, wars, injuftice, incest, adultery, and other imPLUTAACH. de Superstit.
moralities so highly celebrated, is much surprized afterwards, when he comes into the world, to observe, that punishments are by law inflicted on the fame actions, which he had been taught to ascribe to superior beings,
The contradiction is still perhaps stronger between the representations given us by some latter religions and our natural ideas of generosity, lenity, impartiality, and juftice; and in proportion to the multiplied terrors of these religions, the barbarous conceptions of the divinity are multiplied upon us * Nothing can preserve untainted
Bacchus, a divine being, is represented by the heathen mythology as the inventor of dancing and the theatre, Plays were anciently, even a. pass of public worship on the most solemn occasions, and often employed in times of pestilence, to appease, the offended deities. But they have been zealously proscribed by the godly in latter ages; and the play-house, accordo ing to a learned divine, is the porch of hell.
But in order to how more eridently, that it is possible for a religion, to represent the divinity in till a more immoral and unamiable light than the antients, we shall cite a long passage from an author of taste and imagina. tion, who was surely no 'enemy to Christianity. It is the Chevalier RAMSAY, a writery who had fo laudable an inclination to be orthodox, that his reason never found any difficulty, even in the doctrines which free-thinkers fcruple the molt, the tripity, incarnation, and satisfaction : His humanity alone, of which he seems to have had a great stock, rebelled - against the doctrines, of eternal reprobation and predestination. He expresses himself thus:- What strange ideas,' says he would an Indian or, a. Chinese philolopher have, of our holy religion, if they judged by the schemes given of it
by our modern free.chinkers, and.pharifæical doctors of all.leets? According to the odious and too vulgar, System of these incredulous fcoffers and crea Hulous fcriblers, “ The God of the Jews is a most spel, hnjasta partial,
and fantaßical beings! He created, about, 6090 years ago sa man and a "woman, and placed them in a fine garden of Asik, of which there are no remains. Thiş garden, was furnished with all forts of trees, fountains;
and flowers. He allowed them the use of all the fruits of this beautiful of garden, except of one, that was planted in the midd thereof, and that had '' in it a secret virtue of preserving them in continual health and vigour of
body and minds of exalting their natural powers and making them wise. f! The devil entered into the body of a serpent, and folicited the firft woman 4 to eat of this forbidden fruit ; he engaged her husband to do the fame.. 64 To punish this fight curiosity and natural desire of life and knowledge,
she genuine principles of morals in bùr Judgment of Hu-
rs. Then he rent his only begotten Son to the world, under a hu. a man form, to appease his wrathi, fatisfy his vindičtive justice, and die For " the pardon of Gn. Very few nationis, however," have heard of this gor.
pel; and all the ref, though left in invincible ignorance, are damned with. u out exception, or any possibility of remiffion. The greateft, part of w those who have heard of it, have changed only some speculative notions « about God, and fome external forms in worship: For, in other respects, - the bulk of Christians have continued as "corrupt as the rest of inankind
their morals; yea, so much the more perverse and criminal, that their's * lights were greater. Unless it be a very small select number, all other u Chrifians, like the pagans, will be for ever damned; the great facrifice of offered up for them wil} become void and of no effe&. God will take delight w for ever in their torments and blasphemies; and tho he can, by one fial, a change their hearts, yet they will remain for ever onconverted and in as convertible, because he will be for ever uñappeafable and irreconcileable, « It is true; that all this makes God odious, a bater of fouls, rather than a « Jovet of them; a cruel, vindittivë tyrant,' an impotent of a wràthför dz. « mon, rather than an all-powerful, beneficent Father of spirits : *Ye alla u this is a mystery. He has fecret reasons for his conduct, that are impenea trables and though he appears unjust and barbarous, yet we malt believe 4 the contrary, because what is rinjukice, crimej cruelty, and the blackeft a malice in us, is in him justice, merey, and fovereiga goodness." Thus the • incredulous free-thinkers, the judaizing Chriftians, sand the fataliftic doc • tors have disfigured and dishonoured the fublime myfteries of our holy • faith; thus they have confounded the nature of good and evil; tranfa • formed the makt monstrous passions into divine attributes, and surpassed the pagans in blasphemy, by ascribing to the eternal maçuse, as perfections
to the existence of society. If. cammen conception can indulge princes in asfyltem of ethics, fomewhat different from that which should regulate private persons; how much more those superior beings, whose attributes, views, and nature are
åre fo totally unknown to us? Sunt Juperis fua juca, The gods have maxims of justice peculiar to themselves. IA DAE 04353 o slusis is's wina ir 3st: as coisas zivoills fizeladina bitka pritutt egy 1:33 STE 2 642308 *? 25 nool of 251524 &
1965 SL. Sect. XIV. Bad influence of most popular religions on slot i praxisb 21?'$
morality. 293579 visit to go * "Here I cannot forbear observing a fact, which may be worth the attention of those, who make human nature the object of their enquiry. It is certain, that, in every religion, however sublime the verbal definition which it. gives of its divinity, many of the votaries, perhaps the greatest number, will still seek the divine favour, not by virtue and good morals, which alone can be acceptable tò a perfect being, but either by frivolous observances, by, intemperate zeal, by rapturous extafies, or by the belief of mysterious and absurd opinions. The least part of the Sadder, as well as of the Pentateuch, confifts in precepts of morality; and we may be assured also, that that part , was always the least observed and regarded. When the
500 m what makes the most horrid crimes amongst men. The groller pagans ' ontented themselves with divinizing luft, inced, and adulterybus, the as
predestinarian doctors have divinized cruelty, wrath, fury. vengeances >> • and all the blackett vices. See the Chevalier Ramsax's philofophical principles of gatural and revealed religion, Part II. 8..401.rse ishin 40k **
The same author afferész cin other places; that the Arminian and Molining schemes. serve very little 10: Dlend ishe matters And Having thus chrowa himself oat of all received fedts of Christianity, he is obliged to advance ** *** system of his own, whịche is a kind of Origenisti, and supposes the preexifeace of the fouls both of men and beasts, and the eternal falvatione and converhon of all men, beasts,' and devils. But this notion, being quite peculiar to himself, we need not treat of. I thought the opinions of this ingenious author very curious; but I prétend not to warrant the jutne of them, uytsa 18.9 OYID. Metam, lib, ix. 303.
old Romans were attacked with a pestilence, they never afcribed their fufferings 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 defolate the earth, and reduced Opulent nations to want and beggary. They only created a di&tator, in order to drive a nail into a door stand by that means, they thought that they had sufficiently appealed their incensed deity.
In Ægina, one faction entering into a conspiracy, barbarously and treacherously affaffinated feven 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 feldom happens, that a popular religion were found, in which it was expresly declared, that nothing but morality could gain the divine favour; if an order of priests were instituted to inculcate this opinion, in daily sermons, 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 sermons the essentials of religion, rather than place them in virtue and good morals. The sublime prologue of ZALEUCUS's laws I 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.
* Called Dictator clavis figendæ causa. T. Livii, l. vii. c. 3. + Lib. vi.
| To be found in Diod. Sic, lib. xii.