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nature, if not an original instinct, may "be considered as a kind of stamp which " the Deity has, fet upon his work; and
nothing surely can more dignify mankind, than to be the only, earthly being who bears the stamp or image of the universal Creator. But consult this is mage as it commonly is in popular ret. ligions : how is the Deity disfigured! what caprice, abfurdity, and immora
lity, are attributed to him (a)!”. A fa-, tisfactory answer to the objection implied in this passage, will occur, upon recollecting the progress of nien and nations, from infancy to maturity. Our external senses, necessary for self-preservation, soon arrive at perfection : the more refined fenses of propriety, of right and wrong, of Deity, of being accountable creatures, and many others of the same kind, are of flower growth : the sense of right;
in particular and the sense of Deity, feldom reach perfection but by good education and much ftudy. If such be the case among enlightened nations, what is to be expected from savages who are in the lowest stage of understanding? (a) Natural History of Religion.
To a favage of New Holland, whose fense of deity is extremely obscure, one may talk without end of a being who created the world, and who governs it by wife laws"; but in vain, for the favage will be never the wifer. The fame savage hath also a gliminering of the moral sense, as all men have ;'and yet in vain will you discourse to him of approbation and difapprobation, of merit and demerit: of these terms he has no clear conception. Hence the endless aberrations of rude and barbatous nations, from pure religion as well as from pure morality. Of the latter, there are many instances collected in the ceding tract; and of the former, still more in the present tract. The sense of deity in dark times has indeed been ftrangely distorted, by certain biasses and passions that enfláve the rude and illiterate : but these yield gradually to the rational faculty as it ripens, and at last leave religion free to found philosophy. Then it is, that men, listening to the innate sense of deity purified from every bias, acquire a. clear conviction of one supreme Deity who made and governs the world.
The foregoing objection then weighs not
such knowledge in a savage be equally fo? Nor can I discover what benefit a child or a savage could reap from such knowledge; ; provided it remained a child or a savage in every other respect. The genuine fruits of religion, are gratitude to the Author of our being, veneration to him as the supreme being, absolute resignation to the established laws of his providence, and chearful performance of every duty : but a child has not the slightest idea of gratitude nor of veneration, and very little of moral duties, and a favage, with respect to these, is not much superior to a child. The formation and government of the world, as far as we know, are excellent: we have great reason to presume the same with respect to what we do not know; and every good man will rest satisfied with the following reflection, That we should have been men from the hour of our birth, complete in every part, had it been conformable to the system of unerring Providence.
, confidered as a branch of duty to our Maker.
HAving travelled long on a rough road,
not a little fatiguing, the agreeable part lies before us; which is, to treat of morality as a branch of religion. It was that subject which induced me to undertake the history of natural religion; a subject that will afford falutary instruction; and will inspire true piety, if instruction can produce that effect.
Bayle states a question, Whether a people may not be happy in society and be
qualified for good government, upon principles of morality singly, without
sense of religion. The question is ingenious, and may give opportunity for subtile reafoning; but it is useless, because the fact fupposed cannot happen. The principles of morality and of religion are equally rooted in our nature : they are indeed weak