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which give no rest to the mind, but make it have
recourse to religious rites and ceremonies, as expia..
tions of its offences. Whatever weakens or disorders
the internal frame promotes the interests of supersti-
tion: And nothing is more destructive to them than
a manly, steady 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 a-
bandon ourselves to the natural undisciplined sugge-
stions 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 em-
brace in order to appease him. Barbarity, caprice ;
these qualities, however nominally disguised, we
may universally observe, from the ruling character
of the deity in popular religions. Even priests, in-
ftead of correcting these depraved ideas of mankind,
have often been found ready to foster and encourage
them. The more tremendous the divinity is repre-
sented, the more tame and submissive do men be-
come to his ministers; and the more unaccountable
the measures of acceptance required by him, the
more necessary does it become to abandon our natu-
ral reason, and yield to their ghostly guidance and
direction. Thus it may be allowed, that the artifi-
ces of men aggravate our natural infirmities and fol-
lies 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.

THOUGĦ the stupidity of men, barbarous and uninstructed, þe so great, that they may not see a fo

vereign author in the more obvious works of nature, to which they are so much familiarized; yet it scarcely 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 throughout the whole frame of the universe, natu, rally, if not necessarily, lead us to conceive this intelligence as single and undivided, where the prejudices of education oppose not so reasonable a theory, Even the contrarieties of nature, by discovering them. felves every where, become proofs of fome confiftent plan, and establish one single purpose or intention, however inexplicable and incomprehensible.

Good and ill are universally intermingled and confounded; happiness and misery, wisdom and folly, virtue and vice. Nothing is pure and entirely of a piece. All advantages are attended with disadyantages. ** An universal compensation prevails in all conditions of being and existence. And it is not possible for us, by our most chimerical wishes, to form the idea of a station or situation altogether. defirable. The draughts of life, according to the poet's fiction, are always mixed from the vessels on each hand of JUPITER: Or if any cup be presented altogether pure, it is drawn only, as the same póct tells us, from the left-handed veffel.

The more exquisite any good is, of which a small specimen is afforded us, the Tharper is the evil allied to it; and few exceptions are found to this uniform law of nature. The most sprightly wit borders on madness; the highest effufions of joy produce the deepest melancholy; the most ravishing pleafures are attended with the moft cruel lailitude and disgust; the most flattering hopes make way for the feverett

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The NATURAL HISTORY OF RELIGION. disappointments. And, in general, no course of life has fuch safety (for happiness is not to be dreamed of) as the temperate and moderate, which maintains, as far as possible, a mediocrity, and a kind of infenfibility in every thing.

As the good, the great, the sublime, the ravishing, are found eminently in the genuine principles of theism; it may be expected, from the analogy of nature, that the base, the absurd, the mean, the terrifying, will be equally discovered in religious fictions and chimeras.

The universal propensity to believe in invisible, intelligent power, if not an original instinct, being at least a general attendant of human nature, may be considered as a kind of mark or stamp, which the divine workman has set upon his work; and nothing surely can more dignify mankind, than to be thus selected from all other parts of the creation, and to bear the image or impression of the universal Creator. But consult this image as it appears in the popular religions of the world. How is the deity disfigured in our representations of him! What caprice, absurdity, and immorality are attributed to him! How much is he degraded even below the character, which we should naturally, in common life, ascribe to a man of sense and virtue!

What a noble privilege is it of human reason to attain the knowledge of the supreme Being; and, from the visible works of nature, be enabled to infer so sublime a principle as its fupreme Creator? But turn the reverse of the medal. Survey most nations and most ages. Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact, prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are any thing but fick mens dreams: Or perhaps will regard them more as the playsome whimfies of monkies in human Thape, than the serious, positive, dogmatical asevesations of a being, who dignifies himself with the name of rational.

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of men.

Hear the verbal protestations of all men: Nothing so certain as their religious tenets. Examine their lives: You will scarcely think that they repose the smallest confidence in them.

The greatest and truest zeal gives us no security against hypocrify: The most open impiety is attended with a secret dread and compunction.

No theological abfurdities so glaring that they have not, sometimes, been embraced by men of the greatest and most cultivated understanding. No religious precepts so rigorous that they have not been adopted by the most voluptuous and most abandoned

Ignorance is the mother of Devotion: A maxim that is proverbial, and confirmed by general experience. Look out for a people entirely destitute of religion: If you find them at all, be assured, that they are but few degrees removed from brutes.

What so pure as some of the morals included in some theological systems? What fo corrupt as some of the practices to which these systems give rise?

The comfortable views, exhibited by the belief of futurity, are ravishing and delightful. But how quickly vanish on the appearance of its terrors, which keep a more firm and durable possesiion of the human mind!

The whole is a riddle, an ænigma, an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty, suspence of judgment, appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject. But such is the frailty of human reafon, and such the irresistible contagion of opinion, that even this deliberate doubt could scarcely be upheld; did we not enlarge our view, and opposing one species of superftition to another, set them a quarrelling; while we ourselves, during their fury and contention, happily make our escape into the calm, though obscure, regions of philofophy. 3

DIALOGUES

CONCERNING

NATURAL RELIGION.

PAMPHILUS to Her MIPPUS.

I

T has been remarked, my HERMIPPUS, that though

the ancient philosophers conveyed most of their instruction in the form of dialogue, this method of compofition has been little practised in later ages, and has seldom fucceeded in the hands of those who have attempted it. Accurate and regular argument, indeed, such as is now expected of philofophical inquirers, naturally throws a man into the methodical and didactic manner; where he can immediately, without preparation, explain the point at which he aims; and thence proceed, without interruption, to deduce the proofs on which it is established. To deliver a SYSTEM in conversation, scarcely appears natural; and while the dialogue-writer defires, by departing from the direct style of composition, to give a freer air to his performance, and avoid the appearance of Author and Reader, he is apt to run into a worfe inconvenience, and convey the image of Pedagogue and Pupil. Or if he carries on the dispute in the natural spirit of good company, by throwing in a variety of topics, and preserving a proper balance among the speakers; he often loses fo

much

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