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But what still more concerns us: You have pointed out, and cnabled us to discern from what simple principles, and by what easy natural processes, the rational, moral character is formed, and from primeval dust and ciay, whence we were first taken, becomes capable of rising to some faint, though infinitely distant resemblance of the all good and all perfect Being.
Yet I fear that this will be regarded merely as beautiful theory; and these fine capacities of the rational nature thought to be bestowed in vain, and never likely to be brought to maturity, when we take a survey of the world at large, and scan what mankind have been in all ages, and still are, in a moral wiew. And I should be led almost to despair, if you, Photinus, were not to continue to give us your kind help to explore what the momentous subject will produce.
- CONVERSATION III.
AT THEIR NEXT MEETING.
AFTER talking for some time together upon indifferent matters, Marcellinus turned the discourse, observing, that as Photinus had shewn to their entire satisfaction, that the animal creation below us, in all their infinite variety and gradations, most usefully
filled the places assigned them, and were happy therein as far as we could perceive and judge; and was going on to investigate, and ascertain how far the same could be said of the human race, he thought that to do full justice to the subject, it would be necessary to take in the history of the origin of mankind as delivered in our sacred books; and as there were different opinions entertained about it, to have it in some measure settled among them, what credit was to be given to that most antient history of all others, how it is to be understood, and what is to be gathered from it. Concerning these points, that the adjusting of them might not divert Photinus: from pursuing his main subject, he should take the liberty to submit his own sentiments to thein, which he had reason to believe were not much different from their own, as it was a matter that had often fallen in their way.
i Now it seemed to be generally allowed, by those who had searched into, and were best qualified to form a right judgment concerning the cosmogony recorded in the entrance of the book of Genesis, that the account of things therein given had been handed down to Moses from the first parents of mankind, through the channel of Noah and his descendants ; which, from the longevity of mankind at that period, would not need to pass through many hands; anų their high importance would secure diligence and fidelity in the conveyance. In the first three chapters of the book, we have the
nrost momentous documents and information concerning the one true God, and sole creator of all things, his character, and that of his creature, man. We there learn, what we might presume to be the fact, that mankind were not left to themselves, to the investigations of reason, to spell out and acquire the knowledge of the Being that made them, and of their duty to him; which though attainable by their natural powers, would have been a matter of very slow operation and accomplishment; but that they received this knowledge directly from God himself; deriving from the same source, at the same time, the knowledge of language necessary for their intercourse with each other and with their Maker. From the facts and circumstances of the narrative, we have the most probable grounds on which to build these conclusions. But how this knowledge of a primitive language was instilled or acquired, it is needless to ask, as it seems inipossible to find out.
And although men have differed, and will continue to differ, in their interpretations of the language and dress, in which these important truths are clothed and conveyed; namely; what is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; the tree of life : the serpent's temptation, and his conversation with Eve; her eating of the forbidden fruit at his instigation, and giving it to Adain to cat, and the 'sentence passed upon the several offenders by their creator and judge: much of it undoubtedly couched in allegory and figurative expression; as also literally to be taken in other
parts, which are at the foundation ; (see the reference to it, Mark X. 5, 6.) yet the moral instruction intended to be conveyed by the whole is not difficult to be understood; and in this there has been a very general harmony and concurrence. That, for instance, there is one God, the maker of all things, and father of mankind, who formed them in his own image, their moral governor and judge; who is desirous of their happiness, which can only be attained by their observance of the laws he has made known to them as a rule for their conduct, annexing rewards to their obedience, and threatening with punishment their transgressions.
I shall only add, that, not far from the entrance of Mr. Locke's “ Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures," is a specimen of the manner in which that judicious person was wont to interpret for himself the history of the fall of our first parents, which, I have no doubt, you think with me worthy of attention.
When Marcellinus had finished, Photinus inmediately rising up, remarked, that he had not any doubt of their being all much satisfied with what had been now suggested concerning this most interesting narrative of the remotest antiquity. For his part, he could not but declare and acknowledge, that it would relieve him much in the task their partiality had imposed on him, to have such a foundation to proceed upon. With their leave then, he would begin, and remind them; that having already shown, that man
had a moral nature, in distinction from the animals around him, by which he was fitted for the supreme happiness arising from the knowledge and worship of God, the sovereign all-perfect Being, and from a resemblance to him in goodness; they were now to inquire whether man attains that happiness and what his history teaches us in this respect? In the Bible, the oldest and most authentic history of the world and of the human race, as far as it goes, we find our first parents placed originally in a most happy station, where obedience to their kind creator, in observing his laws, enjoined only for their good, was their easy duty. But they ungratefully failed in it; and, as they were forewarned, paid the penalty of their transgression ; and, though not particulariy informed of it, we may not doubt of their punishment having its intended effect, in producing repentance and future obedicince. - The marks of human frailty did not, alas! stop with them. Dire selfish passions soon crept into their small family, and prompted their eldest son, the monster Cain, through envy, to take away the life of his more pious, virtuous brother. But fell remorse and misery speedily overtook him for the atrocious act. The shock which this would give to all that heard of it; and the lessons upon it which our first parents would not fail to read, of the fatal effects of headstrong ungoverned passion, would contribute to - restrain others from a violation of their duty, and be remembered for good.