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A S no other science can vie with theA ology, either in dignity or importance, it juftly claims to be a favourite study with every person endued with true taste and solid judgement. From the time that writing was invented, natural religion has employ'd pens without number; and yet in no language is there found a connected history of it. The present work will only admit a light sketch: which I shall glory in, however imperfect, if it excite any one of fuperior talents to undertake a complete history,
::CH A P. I.
THat there exist beings, one or many,
4. powerful above the human race, is a proposition universally admitted as true, in all ages, and among all nations. I boldly call it universal, notwithstảnding what is reported of some gross lavagés';for reports thất contradict włat is acknowledged to be general among men, require more able vouchers than a few illiterate voyagers, Among many favage-tribes, there are no words but for objects of external fenfe: is it surprising, that fuch people are incapable to express their religious perceptions, or any perception of internal fenfe ? and from their filence can it be fairly prefumed, that they have no such perception *?
* In the language even of Peru, there is not a word for expresling an abstract idea, such as time, endurance, Space, existence, substance, matter, body. It is no less defective in expressing moral ideas, such
The conviction that men have of fuperior powers in every country where there are words to express it, is so well vouched, that in fair reasoning it ought to be taken for granted among the few tribes where language is deficient. Even the groffest idolatry affords evidence of that conviction. No nation can be so brutish as to worship a stock or a stone, merely as such : the visible object is always imagined to be connected with some invisible power; and the worship paid to the former, is as representing the latter, or as in some manner connected with it. Every family among the ancient Lithuanians, entertained a real serpent as a household god; and the same practice is at present universal among the negroes in the kingdom of Whidah: it is not the serpent that is worshipped, but some deity imagined to reside in it. The ancient Egyptians were not idiots, to pay divine honours to a bulk or a cat,
as virtue, justice, gratitude, liberty. The Yameos, a tribe on the river Oroonoko described by Conda. mine, use the word poettarraroincouroac to express the number three, and have no word for a greater number. The Brasilian language is nearly as barren. Vou. IV. B b.
as as such : the divine honours were paid to a deity, as residing in these animals. The sun is to man a familiar object : being frequently, obscured by clouds, and totally eclipsed during night, a savage naturally conceives it to be a great fire, sometimes flaming bright, sometimes obscured, and sometimes extinguished. Whence then fun-worship, once universal among favages ? Plainly from the same caule : it is not properly the sun that is worshipped, but a deity who is supposed to dwell in that luminary.
Taking it then for granted, that our conviction of superior powers has been long universal, the important question is, From what cause it proceeds. A conviction so universal and fo permanent, cannot proceed from chance; but must have a cause operating constantly and invariably upon all men in all ages. Philosophers, who believe the world to be eternal and self-existent, and imagine it to be the only deity tho' without intelligence, endeavour to account for our conviction of superior powers, from the terror that thunder and other elementary convulsions raise in savages; and thence conclude that
such belief is no evidence of a deity. Thus Lucretius,
Præterea, cui non animus formidine divum
And Petronius Arbiter,
Primus in orbe deos fecit timori ardua cælo
It will readily be yielded to these gentle. men, that favages, grossly ignorant of causes and effects, are apt to take fright at every unusual appearance, and to think that some malignant being is the cause.
* What man can boast that firm undaunted soul, That hears, unmov'd, when thunder shakes the
pole; Nor shrinks with fear of an offended pow'r, When lightnings fath, and storms and tempests as roar : roar ?
ini .. . ! ! ! * When dread convulsions rock'd the lab'ring earth, · And livid clouds first gave the thunder birth,
Instinctive fear within the human breaft. .
(a) Lib. so
B b 2