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to call out on God's goodness for a remedy: but in the Christian world, for the very contrary reason, all wicked men act ill AGAINST PRINCIPLE ; a condition of perverseness which seems to call out for nothing but his justice : God, according to the state of the case, having done every thing that man, with all his presumption, can pretend to expect from the goodness of his Maker.
So far on the Deist's own principles ; on his own false notion that God's Revelation is represented in Scripture to be merely a republication of the religion of nature. For, as such he has presumed to comment on it; and as such, in excess of complaisance, we believers have generally thought fit to receive it. But I shall, ere long, shew it to be a very different thing : and, from its true nature, prove not only (as here) the use of Revelation, but likewise the absolute necessity of it, to mankind. I shall shew that what our adversaries suppose the only, was but the secondary end of the two Revelations; that what was primary and peculiar to them, as Revelations, was of such a nature as the utmost perversity of man could not, in any degree, defeat ; of such a nature as manifests there must needs be these Revelations; and that to expect more, or further, would not only be unreasonable, but absurd.*
At present, to go on with the Deist in his own way. From what hath been said, we see a strong presumption, that God hath indeed communicated his will to mankind in that extraordinary way we call
And now, that amazing number of false religions, under paganism, begins to appear less formidable and injurious to the true. It was on a presumption they would prove so, that, in a foregoing volume, they were drawn out in review, with each its false Prophet at its head.t And here at last they are employed, wicked instruments as they were, and wickedly as they have been abused in dishonouring truth, to evince the high probability of God's having actually given a revelation of his will to mankind.
If, therefore, there be such a thing as true revelation, our highest interests will engage us in the search of it: and we shall want no encouragement to proceed, because it must needs have some characteristic mark to distinguish it from the false. And this mark must be our guide.
λείας, ή και διά τάς τότε πρώτον συνισταμένας δυναστείας τε και τυραννίδας αποθαυμάζειν νόμων γούν, ώσπερ έφην, ήδη πρότερον μηδέπω τότε εν ανθρώπους σολιτευομένων, μηδ' επί τοις αμαρτανομένοις αμαρτίας [τιμωρίας] απηωρημένης, μοιχείας και αρρένων φθοράς, εκθέσμους τε και σαρανόμους γάμους, μιαιφονίας τε και σατροκτονίας, τίκνων τε και αδελφών σφαγάς, και μην και σολέμους και στάσεις σεπραγμένας όντως τους οικείους προστάταις, ους θεούς ηγούντό τε και απεκάλουν, ώσπερ εν μέρει κατορθωμάτων και ανδραγαθίας απομνημόνευον, την τούτων μνήμην ως σεμνών και ανδρείων τοϊς οψιγόνους ano Órtes.-Eusebii Præp. Evang. lib. ii. cap. 6, edit. Steph. p. 46.
• See book is, and, in the mean time, “Sermons on the Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion,” serm. v. vol. ix. † See book ii. sect. 2.
Now if we look round the ancient world, and take a view of the numerous religions of paganism, we shall find (notwithstanding all pretended to be original, and all were actually independent) so perfect a harmony in their genius, and conformity in their ministrations, as to the object, subject, and end of religious worship,* that we must needs conclude them to be all false, or all true. All true they could not be, because they contradicted one another, in matters of practice and speculation, professed to be revealed.
But amongst this prodigious number of pretended revelations, we find one, in an obscure corner of the giobe, inhabited by a single family, so fundamentally opposite to all the other institutions of mankind, as would tempt us to conclude we have here found what we search after.
The many particulars in which this religion differed from all others, will be occasionally explained as we go along. For, as our subject forced us, in the former volume, to draw into view those marks of agreement which the false had with true revelation ; so the same subject brings us now to the more pleasing task of shewing wherein the true differed from the false. To our present purpose it will be sufficient to take notice only of that primary and capital mark of distinction, which differenced JUDAISM from all the rest ; and this was its pretending to
FIRST CAUSE OF ALL THINGS; AND ITS CONDEMNING EVERY OTHER RELIGION FOR AN
I. Not one of all that numerous rabble of revelations, ever pretended to come from the first Cause,t or taught the worship of the one God in their PUBLIC ministrations. I So true is that which Eusebius observes from Scripture, that “ for the Hebrew people alone was reserved the honour of being initiated into the knowledge of God the Creator of all things, and of being instructed in the practice of true piety towards him." I said, in their public ministrations, for we have seen it was taught in their mysteries to a few; and to their mysteries, it is remarkable, the learned Father alludes ; who opposeth the case of the Hebrews, to the Pagans ; || where a small and select number only was initiated into the knowledge of the Creator ; but in Judea, a whole people.
II. That the Hebrews were as singular, in condemning all other religions of imposture, as in publicly worshipping one God, the Creator, hath been shewn in the former volume.
There is nothing more surprising in all Pagan Antiquity, than that, amidst their endless Revelations, not one of them should ever pretend
See “Divine Legation,” book ii. sect. 1, 2, 5, 6, and book iii. sect. 4. + Ibid. book ii, sect. 2. | See note A, at the end of this book.
$ See note B, at the end of this book. || See “ Divine Legation," vol. i. pp. 211 and 386.
to come from the FIRST CAUSE of all things; or should condemn the rest of falshood : And yet there is nothing which modern writers are more accustomed to pass over without reflection. But the ancient Fathers, who were more intimately acquainted with the state of paganism, seem to have regarded it with the attention that so extraordinary a circumstance deserves : and I apprehend, it was no other than the difficulty of accounting for it, which made them recur so generally, as they do, to the agency of the DEVIL : for I must beg leave to assure certain modern rectifiers of prejudices, that the Fathers are not commonly led away by a vain superstition ; as they affect to represent them : so that when these venerable writers unanimously concurred in thinking, that the devil had a great share in the introduction and support of pagan revelation, I imagine they were led to this conclusion from such like considerations as these,—That had these impostures been the sole agency of men, it is inconceivable that no one false prophet, no one speculative philosopher, of all those who regulated states, were well acquainted with the first Cause, and affected singularities and refinement, should ever have pretended to receive his Revelations from the only true God; or have accused the rest of falshood : A thing so very natural for some or other of them to have done, were it but to advance their own religion, in point of truth or origin, above the rest. On the contrary, so averse were they to any thing of this management, that those who pretended to inspirations even from JUPITER, never considered him, as he was often considered by particulars, in the sense of the Creator of all things; but as the local tutelar Jupiter, of Crete, for instance, or Libya. Again, those who pretended to the best system of religion, meant not the best simply; but the best for their own peculiar community.* This, if a supernatural agency be excluded, seemed utterly unaccountable. But admitting the Devil to his share, a very good reason might be assigned : for it is certain, the suffering his agents to pretend inspiration from the first Cause would have greatly endangered idolatry; and the suffering any of them to condemn the rest of falshood, would (by setting men upon enquiry and examination) have soon put a stop to the unbounded progress of it.
Thus, I suppose, the Fathers reasoned : and I believe our Freethinkers, with all their logic, would find it somewhat difficult to shew that they reasoned ill.
But as we have made it our business, all along, to enquire into the NATURAL causes of paganism, in all its amazing appearances, we shall go on, in the same way, to see what may be assigned for this most amazing of all. 1. First then, the FALSE PROPHET and POLITICIAN, who formerly
• See “ Divine Legation," book ii. sect. 6.
cheated under one and the same person,* found it necessary, in his character of Prophet, to pretend inspiration from the God most reverenced by the people ; and this God was generally one of their dead ancestors, or citizens, whose services to the community had procured him divine honours ; † and who was, of course, a local tutelary Deity. In his character of Politician, he thought it of importance to have the national worship paid to the Founder of the Society, or to the father of the Tribe : for a God, who had them in peculiar, suited the gross conceptions of the people much better than a common Deity at large. But this practice gave birth to two principles, which prevented any opening for a pretended intercourse with the one God, the Creator. 1. The first was, an opinion of their DIVINES, that the supreme God did not immediately concern himself with the government of the world, but left it to local tutelary deities, his vicegerents. I 2. The second, an opinion of their lawGIVERS, that it would be of fatal consequence to Society, to discover the first Cause of all things to the people.Ş
2. But secondly, that which one would imagine should have brought the one God, the Creator, to the knowledge of the world, in some public Institution of religion, namely, his being taught to so many in the Mysteries, and particularly to all who pretended to revelation and lawgiving,|| was the very thing that kept him unknown; because all who came to the knowledge of him this way, had it communicated to them under the most religious seal of secrecy.
3. Now, while the first Cause of all things was rejected or unknown, and nothing professed in the public worship but local tutelary Deities, each of which had his own appointment, and little concerned himself in that of another's, no one religion could accuse the other of falshood, because they all stood upon the same foundation.
How far this may account, in a natural way, for the matter in question, is submitted to the judgment of the learned.
Here then we rest. An essential difference between the Jewish and all other religions is now found : the very mark we wanted, to discriminate the true from the false.
As for any marks of resemblance in matters circumstantial, this will give us no manner of concern. The shame of this allegation must lie with the Deist, who can, in conscience, bring it into account, for the equal falshood of them both ; seeing, were the Jewish (as we pretend) true, and the Pagan false, that very resemblance must still remain. For what, I pray, is a false religion, but the counterfeit of a true? And what is it to counterfeit, but to assume the likeness of
† Ibid. sect. 1.
• “Divine Legation," book ii. sect. 2. sect. 4.
the thing usurped ? In good earnest, an Impostor, without one single feature of truth, would be a rarity even amongst monsters.
But the business of this work is not probability but DEMONSTRATION. This, therefore, only by the way, and to lead us the more easily into the main road of our enquiry : for the reader now sees we are pursuing no desperate adventure, while we endeavour to deduce the divinity of Moses's Law, from the circumstances of the Law itself.
I go on with my proposed demonstration.
Having proved in the foregoing volume the first and second propositions—That the inculcating the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments is necessary to the well-being of civil Society and, That all mankind, especially the most wise and learned nations of antiquity, have concurred in believing and teaching that this doctrine was of such use to civil Society :- I come, in this, to the third, THAT THE DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE STATE OF REWARDS AND
FOUND IN, NOR DID MAKE PART OF, THE MOSAIC DISPENSATION. Now as, in support of the two first Propositions, I was forced to make my way through the long chicane of Atheism and Freethinking; so in defence of the third, I shall have the much harder fortune of finding Adversaries in the quarter of our Friends : for it hath happened unluckily, that mistaken conceptions of the Jewish and of the CHRISTIAN Dispensations, have made some advocates of Revelation always unwilling to confess the truth which I here endeavour to establish ; and a late revived despicable whimsy concerning the sadducism of the Hebrews, hath now violently inclined them to
A man less fond of TRUTH, and equally attached to RELIGION, would have here stopt short, and ventured no further in a road where he must so frequently suffer the displeasure of forsaking those he most agrees with ; and the much greater mortification of appearing to go along with those he most differs from. I have often asked myself, What I had to do, to invent new arguments for Religion, when the old ones had outlived so many generations of this mortal race of infidels and freethinkers ? Why I did not rather chuse the high road of literary honours, and pick out some poor critic or small philosopher of this school, to offer up at the shrine of violated sense and virtue? Things that might be exposed to their deserved contempt on any principles ; or indeed without any: I might then have flourished in the favour of my superiors, and the good will of all my brethren. But the love of truth breaks all my measures : Imperiosa trahit