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suspect him of the groffest infidelity. A litile philojophy, says Lord Bacon, makes men atheists ; a great deal reconciles them to religion. For men, being taught by superstitious prejudices to lay the stress on a wrong place, when that fails them, and they discover, by a little reflection, that the course of nature is regular and uniform, their whole faith totters, and falls to ruin. But being taught, by more reflection, that this very regularity and uniformity is the strongest proof of design and of a supreme intelligence, they return to that belief which they had deferted, and they are now able to establish it on a firmer and more durable foundation.
Convulsions in nature, disorders, prodigies, miracles, though the most opposite to the plan of a wise superintendent, impress mankind with the strongest sentiments of religion ; the causes of events seeming then the most unknown and unaccountable. Mad. ness, fury, rage, and an inflamed imagination, tho' they fink men nearest to the level of beasts, are, for a like reason, often supposed to be the only dispositions in which we can have any immediate commu-, nication with the Deity.
We may conclude; therefore, upon the whole, that since the vulgar, in nations which have embraced the doctrine of theism, still build it upon irrational and superstitious principles, they are never led into that opinion by any process of argument, but by a certain train of thinking, more suitable to their genius and capacity.
It may readily happen, in an idolatrous nation, that though men admit the existence of several limi. ted deities, yet is there fome one God, whom, in a particular manner, they make the object of their worship and adoration. They may either suppofe that, in the destribution of power and territory'among the gods, their nation was subjected to the jurisdiction of that particular deity; or reducing heavenly objects to the model of things below, they may
B b 2
represent one God as the prince or supreme magistrate of the rest, who, though of the same nature, rules them with an authority like that which an earthly fovereign exercises over his subjects and valsals. Whether this god, therefore, be considered as their peculiar patron, or as the general sovereign of heaven, his votaries will endeavour, by every art, to infinuate themselves into his favour; and suppofing him to be pleased, like themselves, with praise and flattery, there is no eulogy or exaggeration which will be spared in their addresses to him. In proportion as mens fears or distresses become more urgent, they still invent new strains of adulation; and even he who outdoes his predecessor in swelling up the titles of his divinity, is sure to be outdone by his fucceffor in newer and more pompous epithets of praise. Thus they proceed, till at laft they arrive at infinity itself; beyond which there is no farther progress : And it is well if, in striving to get farther, and to represent a magnificent simplicity, they run not into inexplicable mystery, and destroy the intelligent nature of their deity, on which alone any rational worship or adoration can be founded. While they confine themselves to the notion of a perfect being, the Creator of the world, they coincide, by chance, with the principles of reason and true philofophy; though they are guided to that notion, not by reason, of which they are in a great measure incapable, but by the adulation and fears of the most vulgar superstition.
We often find, amongst barbarous nations, and even sometimes among civilized, that when every strain of flattery has been exhausted towards arbitrary princes, when every human quality has been applauded to the utmost; their servile courtiers represent them at last as real divinities, and point them out to the people as objects of adoration. How much more natural therefore is it, that a limited deity, who at first is supposed only the immediate author
of the particular goods and ills in life, should in the end be represented as sovereign maker and modifier of the universe ?
Even where this notion of a supreme deity is already established; though it ought naturally to lessen every other worship, and abase every object of reverence; yet if a nation has entertained the opi. nion of a subordinate tutelar divinity, saint, or angel, their addresses to that being gradually rise upon them, and encroach on the adoration due to their supreme deity. The Virgin Mary, ere checked by the reformation, had proceeded, from being merely a good woman, to usurp many attributes of the Almighty : God and St Nicholas go hand in hand, in all the prayers and petitions of the Muscovites.
Thus the deity who, from love, converted himself into a bull, in order to carry off EUROPA, and who, from ambition, dethroned his father SATURN, became the OPTIMUS MAXIMUS of the heathens. Thus the God of ABRAHAM, ISAAC, and Jacob, became the supreme deity or JEHOVAH of the Jews.
The JACOBINS, who denied the immaculate conception, have ever been very unhappy in their doctrine, even though political reasons have kept the ROmish church from condemning it. The CORDELIERS have run away with all the popularity. But in the fifteenth century, as we learn from BoulainVILLIERS*, an ITALIAN Cordelier maintained, that during the three days when Christ was interred, the hypostatic union was dissolved, and that his human nature was not a proper object of adoration during that period. Without the art of divination, one might foretel, that so gross and impious a blasphemy would not fail to be anathematized by the people. It was the occasion of great insults on the part of the JACOBINS; who now got some recompence for their misfortunes in the war about the immaculate conception.
• Histoire abregée, p. 499.
Rather than relinquish 'this propensity to adulation, religionists, in all ages, have involved themfelves in the greatest absurdities and contradictions.
Homer, in one passage, calls 'OCEANUS and TeThys the original parents of all things, conformably to the established mythology and tradition of the GREEKS; yet in other pafilages, he could not forbear complimenting JUPITER, the reigning deity, with that magnificent appellation, and accordingly denominates him the father of gods and men. He forgets, that every temple, every street, was full of the ancestors, uncles, brothers, and sisters of this JUPITER; who was in reality nothing but an upstart parricide and usurper. A like contradiction is observable in Hesiod; and is so much the less excusable, as his professed intention was to deliver a true genealogy of the gods.
Were there a religion (and we may suspect Mahometanism of this inconsistence) which fometimes painted the Deity in the most sublime colours as the Creator of heaven and earth; sometimes degraded him nearly to a level with human creatures in his powers and faculties; while at the same time it afcribed to him suitable infirmities, passions, and partialities of the moral kind : That religion, after it was extinct, would also be cited as an instance of those contradictions, which arise from the gross, vulgar, natural conceptions of mankind, opposed to their continual propensity towards flattery and exaggeration. Nothing indeed would prove more strongly the divine origin of any religion, than to find (and happily this is the case with Christianity) that it is free from a contradicțion, so incident to human nature.
Sect. VII. Confirmation of this Doctrine.
Ir appears certain, that though the original no
tions of the vulgar represent the Divinity as a limited being, and confider him only as the particular cause of health or sickness, plenty or want, profpe-. rity or adversity; yet when more magnificent ideas are urged upon them, they esteem it dangerous to refuse their assent. Will you say that your deity is finite and bounded in his perfections; may be overcome by a greater force; is subject to human palsions, pains, and infirmities; has a beginning, and may have an end? This they dare not affirm; but thinking it fafest to comply with the higher encomiums, they endeavour, by an affected ravishment and devotion, to ingratiate themselves with him. As a confirmation of this, we may observe, that the afsent of the vulgar is, in this case, merely verbal, and that they are incapable of conceiving those sublime qualities which they seemingly attribute to the Deity. Their real idea of him, notwithstanding their pompous language, is still as poor and frivolous as
That original intelligence, says the MAGIANS, who is the first principle of all things, discovers himself immediately to the mind and understanding alone; but has placed the sun as his image in the visible universe; and when that bright luminary diffuses its beams over the earth and the firmament, it is a faint copy of the glory which resides in the higher heavens. If you would escape the displeasure of this Divine being, you must be careful never to set your bare foot upon the ground, nor spit into a fire, nor throw any water upon it, even though it were consuming a whole city *. Who can express the perfections of the Almighty ? say the MAHOMETANS. Even the noblest of his works, if compared to him, are but duft and rubbish. How much more must human conception fall short of his infinite perfections ? His smile and favour render men for ever happy; and to obtain it for your children, the best
method Hyde de Relig. veterum PERSARUN.