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your premises, I must ftill deny your conclusion. You conclude, that religious doctrines and reasonings can have no influence on life, because they ought to have no influence; never considering, that men reason not in the same manner you do, but draw many confequences from the belief of a divine existence, and suppose, that the Deity will infiat punishments on vice, and bestow rewards on virtue, beyond what appear in the ordinary course of nature. Whether this reasoning of theirs be just or not, is no matter. Its influence on their life and conduct must still be the same. And those, who attempt to disabuse them of such prejudices, may, for aught I know, be good reasoners, but I cannot allow them to be good citizens and politicians; since they free men from one restraint upon their passions, and make the infringement of the laws of equity and society, in one re. spect, more easy and secure.
After all, I may, perhaps, agree to your gene. ral conclusion in favour of liberty, tho' upon different premises from those, on which you endeavour to found it. I think the state ought to tolerate every principle of philosophy ; nor is there an instance that any government has suffer'd in its political interests by such indulgence. There is no enthusiasm among philosophers ; their doctrines are not very allaring to the people; and no restraint can be put upon their
reasonings, but what must be of dangerous consequence to the sciences, and even to the state, by paving the way for persecution and oppression in points, where the generality of mankind are more deeply interested and concern'd.
But there occurs to me, (continu'd I) with regard to your main topic, a difficulty, which I fall just propose to you, without insisting on it, left it lead into reasonings of too nice and delicate a nature. In a word, I much doubt whether it be possible for a cause to be known only by its effect (as you have all along suppos’d) or to be of so fingular and particu. lar a nature as to have no parallel and no similarity with any other cause or object, that has ever fallen under our observation. 'Tis only when two species of objects are found to be constantly conjoin'd, that we can infer the one from the other; and were an effe$t presented, which was entirely fingular, and could not be comprehended under any known fpecies; I do not see, that we could form any conjecture or inference at all concerning its cause. If ex. perience and observation and analogy be, indeed, the only guides which we can reasonably follow in inferences of this nature ; 'both the effect and cause must bear a fimilarity and resemblance to other effects and causes which we know, and which we have found in many instances, to be conjoin'd with each
other. other. I leave it to your own reflections to prosecute the consequences of this principle. I shall just observe, that as the antagonists of Epicurus always suppose the universe, an effect quite singular and unparallel'd, to be the proof of a Deity, a cause no less fingular and unparalleld; your reasonings, upon that fuppofition, seem, at least, to merit our atten. tion. There is, I own some difficulty, how we can ever return from the cause to the effect, and reasoning from our ideas of the former, infer any altera. tion on the latter, or any addition to it.
ESSA Y XII.
the ACADEMICAL or SCEPTICAL
THERE is not a greater number of philoso
1 phical reasonings, display'd upon any subject, than those, which prove the existence of a Deity, and refute the fallacies of Atheists; and yet the most religious philosophers still dispute whether any man can be so blinded as to be a speculative atheist. How shall we reconcile these contradi&tions ? The knighterrants, who wander'd about to clear the world of dragons and giants, never entertain'd the least doubt concerning the existence of these monsters.
The Sceptic is another enemy, of religion, who naturally provokes the indignation of all divines and