Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

to Derham's Physico-theology, is by far more compact and impressive. .

Newton, Boyle, Maclaurin, Ray, Derham, Locke, and other philosophers, distinguished for the profundity of their researches, and the extent of their erudition, are to be enrolled amongst the principal advocates for the existence and superintendence of a Deity. On this subject the celebrated Lord Chesterfield made the following declaration; and no man can suppose his understanding to have been clouded with religious prejudices : “ I have read some of Seed's sermons, and like them very well. But I have neither read, nor intend to read, those which are meant to prove the existence of God; because it seeins to me too great a disparagemeut of that reason which he has given us, to require any other proofs of his existence than those which the whole and every part of the creation afford us. If I believe my own existence, I must believe his : it cannot be proved à priori, as some have idly attempted to do, and cannot be doubted of à posteriori. Cato says very justly--' And that he is, all nature cries aloud !"

DEISTS. THE Deists believe in a God, but reject a written revelation from him. They are extravagant in their encomiums on natural religion, though they differ much respecting its nature, extent, obligation, and importance. Dr. Clarke, in his treatise against Deism, divides them into four classes, according to the less or greater number of articles comprised in their creed. “ The first are such as pretend to believe the existence of an eternal, infinite, independent, intelligent Being; and who, to avoid the name of Epicurean Atheists, teach also that this Supreme Being made the world; though at the same time they agree with the Epicureans in this, that they fancy God does not at all concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to, or care of, what is done therein, agreeably to the reasoning of Lucretius, the Epicurean poet

• For whatsoe'er's divine must live at peace,
• In undisturb'd and everlasting ease;
• Nor care for us, from fears and dangers free,
• Sufficient to his own felicity.
• Nought here below, nought in our pow'r it needs,

Ne'er smiles at good, nor frowns at wicked deeds.

« The second sort of Deists are those who believe not only the being, but also the providence

of God with respect to the natural world, but who, not allowing any difference between moral good and evil, deny that God takes any notice of the morally good or evil actions of men, these things depending, as they imagine, on the arbitrary constitution of human laws.

"A third sort of Deists there are, who having right apprehensions concerning the natural attributes of God and his all-governing providence, and some notion of his moral perfections also, yet being prejudiced against the notion of the immortality of the soul, believe that men perish. entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another, without any further restoration or renovation of things.

"A fourth and the last sort of Deists are such as believe the existence of a Supreme Being, together with his providence in the government of the world, also all the obligations of natural religion, but so far, only as these things are discoverable by the light of nature alane, without believing any divine revelation.” These, the learned author observes, are the only true Deists;, but as their principles would naturally lead them. to embrace the Christian revelation, he concludes there is now no consistent scheme of Deism in the world. Dr. Clarke then adds these observa

tions, mingled with a just severity: “ The Heathen philosophers, those few of them who taught and lived up to the obligations of natural religion, had indeed a consistent scheme of Deism, as far as it went. But the case is not so now; the same scheme is not any longer consistent with its own principles, it does not now lead men to believe and embrace revelation, as it then taught them to hope for it. Deists in our days, who reject revelation when offered to them, are not such men as Socrates and Cicero were; but, under pretence of Deism, it is plain they are generally ridiculers of all that is truly excellent in natural religion itself. Their trivial and vain cavils; their mocking and ridiculing without and before examination; their directing the whole stress of objections against particular customs, or particular and perhaps uncertain opinions or explications of opinions, without at all considering the main body of religion; their loose, vain, and frothy discourses; and, above all, their vicious and immoral lives shew, plainly and undeniably that they are not real Deists, but mere Atheists, and consequently not capable to judge of the truth of Christianity. The present Deists are of two. sorts only, those who believe, and those who d'sbelieve in a future state. If a Theist (from the Greek beos, God,) be different from a Deist, it

is that he has not had revelation proposed to him, and follows therefore the pure light of nature*.

The term Deist comes from the Latin word Deus, a God; and is applied to the rejectors of revelation, because the existence of a God is the principal article of their belief. The name was first assumed by a number of gentlemen in France and Italy, who were willing to cover their opposition to the Christian revelation by a more honourable name than that of Atheists. Viret, a divine of eminence among the first reformers, appears to have been the first author who expressly mentions them; for in the Epistle Dedicatory prefixed to the second volume of his Instruction Chretienne, published in 1563, he speaks of some persons at that time who called themselves by a new name, that of Deists. Deists are also often

* Paganism is the corruption of natural religion, and is little else than the worship of idols and false gods. These were either men, as Jupiter, Hercules, Bacchus, &c.; or fictitious persons, as Victory, Fame, Fever, &c.; or beasts, as in Egypt, crocodiles, cats, &c.; or, finally, inanimate things, as onions, fire, water, &c. Upon the propagation of Christianity, Paganism gradually declined. Julian the apostate made an ineffectual attempt to revive it, and it is now degenerated into gross and disgustful idolatry. Such especially was it found to be in the South Sea Islands, lately discovered by that unfortunate navigator, Capt. Cook. Curious specimens of the Pagan idols may be seen in the British Museum. When I saw them there, the worshippers of such hideous deformity excited my commiseration,

« ZurückWeiter »