Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

is a physical emanation operating on this material Globe : Revelation, a voluntary gift bestowed upon the rational Inhabitants of it. All they hold in common is, that they are both blessings, but of very different kinds.—Or was it the Poets intention, in this simile, to insinuate the Philosopher's system of NATURALISM?

II.

So much for the strait-laced Divine and the loose-bodied Philosopher ; but to the SOBER RELIGIONIST, of whatever denomination, I have something more to say ; and I hope so much to his satisfaction, that this objection to the Mosaic Law, from the OMISSION of a future state, shall never hereafter be considered in the learned world, as any other than an ignorant prejudice.

Now to understand how Revelation in general is affected by the representation which I have given of the Jewish, it will be necessary to consider, What the light of Nature teacheth us concerning RELIGIOUS SANCTIONS.

The true idea of natural Religion (defining and including the essence wherein it consists) is no where so concisely, so fully, and so elegantly delivered as by St. Paul in these words-He who cometh to God must believe that he is; and that he is a Rewarder of them who diligently seek him : In other words, the sum of natural Religion (he tells us) is this, “ Belief in God, and that he rewards his Faithful Worshippers ; which implies his punishing the unfaithful.”—While this is steadfastly believed, natural Religion stands on a solid Basis. If any thing be seen in God's dispensing Providence here, which shews that God is not always a Rewarder, fc., the Belief is shaken, and Religion is in danger. The unequal distribution of things here below endangers it; and it becomes re-established by the intervention of the Doctrine of a FUTURE STATE. Thus, we see, the belief of a future state is not of the Essence of natuRAL RELIGION, but one of the accidents of it only; for were the distribution equal, as from the Being and Attributes of the Deity (abstractedly considered) one might be led to expect, a future state had never come into the definition of natural Religion.

The Mosaic Religion was a REPUBLICATION of natural Religion to the Jews. And all it taught, concerning it's sanction, was, that God is, and that he is a Rewarder, 8c. The reason why a future state was omitted is apparent : Moses assured them they were under the dispensation of an equal Providence here. And now let me ask, How it comes to pass that the self-same system of Religion, which, one way (by the light of reason ) revealed to man, does honour to God, if we believe St. Paul ; yet, another way, revealed (by Moses) does dishonour him, if we give credit to our modern Divines ?

When God separated a chosen People, he gave them, for their Belief, the principles of NATURAL RELIGION (republished by the Ministry of Moses) in its ORIGINAL and most perfect Form, under an equal Providence. And yet this circumstance, which sets it far above it's publication amongst the Gentiles by natural light, is esteemed a disgrace to it ; and men rather chuse to piece-out God's Dispensation from what they can find in the lumber and

[blocks in formation]

rubbish of Paganism, than receive it in it's native simplicity and genuine grandeur: And, because natural Religion, disturbed and corrupted amongst the Gentiles, was forced to lean on the Crutch of a future state, they will needs find the same prop for the pure and perfect, as REPUBLISHED by Moses, though it stands upright, under an extraordinary Providence.

The truth is, this false idea arises from an inveterate error (to be exposed at large in the last volume of this Work) that natural Religion not only teaches a future state, (which it does indeed, though by accident only) but that it teaches this state to be ENDLESS, which it neither does, nor can do. All it teaches is, that God is, and that he is a Rewarder ; whether here or hereafter is to be collected from the mode of God's dispensing Providence here.

This error, which confounds all our reasoning on God's moral Government, arose, in part, from a later Revelation, the Christian, ill understood (of which, more hereafter); and, in part, from false and visionary Metaphysics.

1. But say they, “ Admitting, that natural Religion taught no more than St. Paul learned of it, yet surely a Rerelation, such as the Mosaic, must contain more, or why was it given ?”—I will answer these men in their own way-It was given as a republication of the Religion of Nature: For though they were egregiously mistaken in receiving the Christian Religion for no more; yet it is very certain, the Mosaic, with regard to Doctrine, was, indeed, just such a Republication, and no other. Nor, does human conception discover any thing incongruous in the moral conduct of the Deity, when he RENEWS those Laws, first revealed in an ordinary way, and by the folly of men become almost erased ; to renew them, I say, in an extraordinary. For we do not oppose the talk of Christianity's being only such a republication on account of any incongruity in the thing itself ; but because, that, when applied to the Christian Religion, this definition of it is both false and imperfect, and averse to the whole genius and nature of the Dispensation.

2. But, secondly, it may be said, That “the Doctrine of future rewards is of force to purify and spiritualize the mind ; which that of temporal rewards is not.” To this, I reply, That the known rewards here, or the unknown hereafter, leave the mind just in that state in which Religion itself, or Piety towards God, hath put it. It is the FREE OBEDIENCE to his commands, not the sense of the necessary consequence of that obedience, which rectifies the Will, and purifies the Affections.

But the mistake, here confuted, arises from men's having confounded a future state, as discoverable by natural light, with the future state as announced in the Gospel. Now, Natural light discovers to us nothing of the Nature of that State; and therefore leaves the mind in that situation in which an indefinite Reward puts it. The Gospel, indeed, defines a future state so fully, as to enable the doctrine to purify and spiritualize the Mind, above all other modes of Religion.

But what does this concession infer? That the Mosaic Religion, which taught an equal Providence, but omitted to teach a future state, was unworthy of God ? Surely not. For then it would follow, that natural Religion, that other revelation of God's will, which taught no future state, till Providence here was found to be unequal, was likewise unworthy of Him. What then, does it infer? This, and this only, that the Mosaic Religion wants much of that perfection which the Christian hath. Now, this truth is not only acknowledged, but contended for.

The Question then may return, Could God, according to the idea we have of his attributes, give a less perfect Religion, in order to facilitate the reception of one more perfect? The question may return, I say, but in order to be sent back for its confutation, to the answer already bestowed upon it, in the examination of Mr. Voltaire's Objections.

NOTES

ON

THE THIRD BOOK.

P. 411, vol. i. A. It may not be improper, on this occasion, to present the Reader with an extract from a Letter of the late President MONTESQUIEU to the Author, who had given him some account of Lord Bolingbroke's Posthumous Works, just then on the point of publication—" J'ay lu quelques ouvrages de My Lord Bolingbroke —Or, Monsieur, dans cet ouvrage posthume, dont vous me donnes une idée, il me semble qu'il vous prepare une matiere continuelle de triomphe. Celui qui attaque la Religion revelée n'attaque que la Religion revelée ; mais celui qui attaque la Religion naturelle attaque toutes les Religions du monde. Si l'on enseigne aux hommes qu'ils n'ont pas ce frein ci, ils peuvent penser qu'ils en ont un autre : Mais il est bien plus pernicieux de leur enseigner qu'ils n'en ont pas du tout. Il n'est pas impossible d'attaquer une Religion revelée, parce qu'elle existe par des faits particuliers, et que les faits, par leur nature, peuvent être une matiere de dispute : mais il n'en est pas de même de la Religion naturelle ; elle est tirée de la nature de l'homme, dont on ne peut pas disputer, et du sentiment interieur de l'homme, dont on ne peut pas disputer encore. J'ajoute à ceci, Quel peut être le motif d'attaquer la Religion revelée en Angleterre ? on l'y a tellement purgé de tout prejugé destructeur qu'elle n'y peut faire de mal, et qu'elle y peut faire, au contraire, une infinité de biens. Je sais, qu'un homme en Espagne ou en Portugal que l'on va bruler, ou qui craint d'être brulé, parce qu'il ne croit point de certains articles dependans ou non de la Religion revelée, a une juste sujet de l'attaquer, parce qu'il peut avoir quelque esperance de pourvoir à sa defence naturelle : Mais il n'en est pas de même en Angleterre, où tout homme qui attaque la Religion revelée l'attaque sans interest, et où cet homme quand il reussiroit, quand même il auroit raison dans le fond, ne feroit que detruire une infinité de biens pratiques pour établir une verité purement speculative.

“ J'ay eté ravi, &c. A Paris, ce 26 May, 1754.

“ MONTESQUIEU.” Ρ. 411. B. Strabo's words are--Και φόβους, και απειλάς, ή διά λόγων, ή διά

Tútwy đópwv, “ Fears and threatnings either by words or dréadful forms." Casaubon, who corrected the last word very justly, has given us no explanation of the allusion in this obscure sentence. I am persuaded, the author had in his mind the dreadful words spoken, and the representations exhibited in the Mysteries, for the very purpose the author here mentions : so απειλάς refers to λόγων, and φόβους tο τύπων αώρων. The reader, who remembers what has been said in the section of the Mysteries, in the foregoing book, concerning this matter, will be inclined to believe this to be the true explanation.

P. 415. C. And, without doubt, this was amongst the reasons for his declining, throughout the whole course of his life, the study and the teaching of physics, or natural philosophy, which had a direct tendency to shake and overturn one half of the national religion, namely the worship of, what were called, the celestial Gods, or Host of Heaven.

P. 415. D. We have, indeed, been told, that, to his Cock he might have added a Bull; for that the Philosopher was now in a delirium, occasioned by the cicuta, to which, Scribonius Largus attributes this effect. But I apprehend, the eminent persons who then attended the last moments of the expiring Philosopher (and must have been well apprised of the nature of a draught, whose legal application to criminals of state had made its effects familiar to every one) would have been the first to observe this symptom, if, indeed, the drug had any such property. Whereas they speak of Socrates as perfectly in his senses when he made this request; and I think They are rather to be relied on who understood what related both to the sacrifice and the drug, than They who know so little of either ; especially as we find this rite was exactly suitable to the foregoing declaration of Conformity, in his defence before his judges.

P. 416. E. “Duplex enim erat doctrinæ genus apud antiquas gentes, δημώδες και απόρρητον, doctrina vulgaris et doctrina arcana : idque non tantum ob diversitatem materiæ, sed eandem sæpe materiam duplici modo tractabant, populari et philosophica.”--Archæol. Phil. 1. i. c. 8. -See this matter explained at large by the very learned author of the Critical inquiry into the opinions and practice of the ancient philosophers, fc. second edit. chap. 11, 12, 13.

P. 417. F. “The author of the philosophical piece commonly ascribed to Origen, says, That he sometimes complied with the popular opinion, and declared that the universe would be one day destroyed. Και Παρμενίδης εν μέν το σαν υποτίθεται, ΑΙΔΙΟΝ ΤΕ, και αγέννητον, και σφαιροειδές' ουδ' αύτός ΕΚΦΕΥΓΩΝ ΤΗΝ ΤΩΝ πολλών ΔΟΞΑΝ, συρ λέγων και γην ΤΑΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΝΤΟΣ ΑΡΧΑΣ, την μεν γην, ώς ύλην το δε συρ, ως αίτιον, και σοιούν: ΤΟΝ ΚΟΣΜΟΝ

It appears too from this passage that he spoke popularly, when he said that the world was made, or had a beginning; and that this doctrine was merely popular, may be seen too from the following words of Themistius. Και γάρ ο Παρμενίδης εν τοις προς δόξαν, το Βερμόν ποιεί και το ψυχρών αρχάς, ών το μεν συρ, το δε γην προσαγορεύει. It is then evident from these passages that, in his exoterics, he gave the world both a beginning and an end. But then in his other writings he denied that it had either. I need not quote Cicero, Plutarch, or Eusebius, to prove this; the following verses of his own are sufficient for my present purpose :

Αυτάρ ακίνητον μεγάλων εν σειρασι δεσμών
"Έστιν ΑΝΑΡΧΟΝ, ΑΠΑΥΣΤOΝ, επεί ΓΕΝΕΣΙΣ και ΟΛΕΘΡΟΣ

Τηδε μαλ' επλάγχθησαν, άπωσε δε πίστις αληθήςSee the Critical enquiry into the opinions and practice of the ancient philosophers, p. 225, 2d edit.

ΕΙΠΕ ΦΘΕΙΡΕΣΘΑΙ.

P. 420. G. One of the Answerers of The Divine Legation says, “ What a noble field would have been here opened for the FATHERS, could they have charged the Pagan sages and philosophers with the dissimulation which Mr. W. has here done! Could they have loaded them with the crime of believing one thing and teaching another, with LYING, with imposing on the credulity of the people ; what a display of rhetoric should we have had ! Could there have been a more fit occasion for satire or declamation ?-BUT THEY NEVER REPROACH THEM ON THAT ACCOUNT.”-Dr. Sykes’s Exam. p. 88. The gravity of all this is so rarely contrasted with its profound knowledge, that the Reader cannot find in his heart to be angry with him for what follows, from these FATHERS ; with whom the good Doctor appears to be so well acquainted.

ARNOBIUS, speaking of this custom of believing one thing and teaching another, says: “Nunc vero, cum ALIUD CREDITIS et ALIUD FINGITIS, et in eos estis contumeliosi, quibus id attribuitis, quod eos confitemini non esse : et irreligiosi esse monstramini, cum id adoratis quod fingitis, non quod in re esse, ipsaque in veritate censetis.”—L. iii. p. 109. Lugd. ed.

EUSEBIUS reproaches Plato on this very account: charges him with mean dissimulation for teaching doctrines which he believed to be false, merely out of reverence to the laws of his country. Και το σαρά γνώμην δε ταύτα λέγειν των νόμων ένεκα διαρρήδην σαρίστηση ομολογήσας, ότι δέοι επομένους το νόμω πιστεύειν αυτοίς. Prep. Evang. c. xiii. 1.αλλά γάρ τούτων δε χάριν απολειπτέος ημίν ούτος, δέει θανάτου τον Αθηναίων δημoν καθυποκρινόμενος. c. 15.

LACTANTIUS reproves Cicero for the same practice : “ Cum videamus etiam doctos et prudentes viros, cum religionum intelligant vanitatem, nihilominus tamen in iis ipsis, quæ damnant, colendis, NESCIO QUA PRAVITATE, perstare. Intelligebat Cicero falsa esse, quæ homines adorarent : nam cum multa dixisset, quæ ad eversionem religionum valerent : ait tamen non esse illa vulgo disputanda, ne susceptas publice religiones disputatio talis extinguat : Quid ei facies, qui, cum errare se sentiat, ultro ipse in lapides im. pingat, ut populus omnis offendat? Ipse sibi oculos eruat, ut omnes cæci sint ? Qui nec de aliis bene mereatur, quos patitur errare; nec de seipso, qui alienis accedit erroribus ; nec utitur tandem sapientiæ suæ bono, ut factis impleat, quod mente percepit.” Div. Instit. 1. ii. c. 3.

St. AUSTIN's account of Seneca is not at all more favourable. “ Sed iste quem philosophi quasi liberum * fecerunt, tamen quia illustris populi Romani Senator erat, colebat quod reprehendebat ; agebat, quod arguebat; quod culpabat, adorabat.-Eo damnabilius, quod illa quæ MENDACITER agebat sic ageret, ut populus veraciter agere existimaret.” De civ. Dei, 1. vi. c. 10.

But this Father concludes all the Pagan sages and philosophers under the same condemnation, for IMPOSING (as Dr. Sykes expresses it) ON THE CREDULITY OF THE PEOPLE, and with satire and declamation enough of conscience, if that will satisfy the Doctor.—“Quod utique non aliam ob causam factum videtur, nisi quia homines velut prudentium et sapientium negotium fuit, POPULUM IN RELIGIONIBUS FALLERE, et in eo ipso non solum colere, sed imitari etiam Dæmones. Sicut enim Dæmones nisi eos quos fallendo deceperint, possidere non possunt, sic et homines principes non sane justi sed Demonum similes, ea quæ vana esse noverant, religionis nomine populis tanquam vera suadebant, hoc modo eos civili societati velut arctius alligantes.” De civit. Dei, 1. iv. c. 132.

• Alluding to the Stoical wise man.

« IndietroContinua »