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THE INSUFFICIENCY OF DEISM
MR. P. enlarges on the sufficiency of Deism, and evidently considers it as his principal argument against the Scriptures. The creation is the only word of • God, and natural philosophy the only preaching.' It is certain however, that numbers do not so much as believe there is a God, or that he created and governs the world: so that this revelation and preaching are not universally intelligible and convincing.
« The invisible things of God, are” indeed “clear" ly seen from the creation of the world being under“ stood by the things that are made, even his eternal “ power and Godhead:” so that atheists and idolaters “ are without excuse:" yet it is evident that men have almost as much neglected, misinterpreted, or differed about, this revelation, as that contained in the holy Scriptures. Only a very small proportion of the hu. man race have gathered so much as deism from it: and the deists, who profess to believe in one God of infinite perfection, almost universally spring up in places where the Bible is known. They borrow or steal, or imperceptibly to themselves acquire at second? hand, their glimmering light, from the very bcok
against which they oppose it; and in different circum. stances, they might have been atheists or idolaters: for this has been the case of almost the whole human species in every age, though probably none have been wholly destitute of all remains of original revela. tion.
It is unreasonable, to take a very few individuals, who have free access to the Scriptures, but reject a great part of them, as a specimen of the religion meni may learn from the creation by the exercise of their understandings. To judge fairly on this subject, we should take our specimen from the inhabitants of new South Wales, or the newly discovered islands in the South sea and Pacifick ocean; where the Bible has never been known: and the history of mankind from the beginning must be adverted to, before we bring in our verdict. For even the pagan moralists borrowed from the Scriptures: and after the æra of christianity, their sentiments on many subjects savour, as it were, of the New Testament. · But how are matters at present, even in Europe, among those who reject the Bible? Have they all recourse to practical deism? Is it not evident that they understand Mr. P.'s revelation almost as little, as they do that which they have renouncedi? This also wants translating, and expounding, or men will misunder. stand it. Let the astronomer then become a preacher, and try how far science will go in making pure deists. He will soon find, that the husbandman, the artist, and the mechanick, with all the busy and labouring part
of mankind, can never spare time, money, or attention, · to gain the necessary acquaintance with his principles
and demonstrations, to enable him to begin his prac. tical deductions. The bulk of the buman species can never be instructed in this way: and even the few, who are not engrossed by business, or sunk in low sensu. ality, will find the process very tedious, indecisive, and inefficient.
But supposing moral truths, duties, and obligations could, by these or some other means, be clearly defined and established: the rules would want autho. rity to enforce them; and men would remain destitute of sufficient motives to urge them forward, in a course that would require immense exertion and self-denial. What could the creation teach us decidedly concern. ing the moral perfections and government of God, or the actual immortality of the soul? This last, after all men's boasted demonstrations, can only be known, by a discovery of the Creator's determination respecting it: and even Mr. P. seems to think, uncertainty or doubtfulness is all that can be attained or would be useful on the subject. * Yet he himself in another place calls doubtfulness the opposite of belief, t in which he both contradicts the truth and himself: for doubt. fulness is the middle point between believing and disbelieving. The probability or possibility of a future state is however, as he thinks, all we ought to know: without any acquaintance with the nature of it as happy or miserable, or the influence of our present conduct on our future condition. That is, we are in the dark, and it is best to be so: or in the words of Scrip.
s crimes? fins the pardon bitter remord
ture, “ men love darkness rather than light because " their deeds are evil.” This is deism, all-sufficient deism!
What then can the creation teach 'a man, concerning the way of finding relief from bitter remorse of conscience? obtaining the pardon of numerous and heinous crimes? finding peace with God and the enjoyment of his favour? gaining the victory over domi. neering lusts and habits, or strong temptations, or es. caping the pollutions and snares of the world? What can we thence learn, which will inspire a sinner's heart with calm reflecting consolation in deep scenes of distress; or enable him to meet death with exulting hope of future felicity?--A poor wretch, having fallen into a pit and broken his bones, lies languishing in agony and at the point of death, for want of assistance: and a passenger instead of helping him out, gravely teaches him how men ought to walk, and look to their steps when they travel on the road; and concludes by saying, “This is sufficient, and all else is unnecessary!
Man is evidently in a state of suffering and death: if he reflect at all, he forbodes a future state of retri. bution, and conscious of guilt he dreads the conse. quences. If he be so stupid as not to reflect, he wants to be warned, and made sensible of his true character and situation: if he be alarmed, he enquires what he must do to be saved? how he may escape condemnation, and obtain eternal life? Is it enough to say to such a man, All nature teaches us the being of a God: moral principles are rational and obvious: study
the creation, practice morality; possibly there is a fu- ture state, possibly you may be happy in it. This is all you ought to know? Does this fully meet the man's reasonable, important, and anxious enquiries, or at all suit his case?
But the word of God, authenticated by miracles, prophecy, and many infallible proofs, answers in the most explicit manner all the questions we can propose, on subjects so interesting to lis; it gives full and express directions, encouragements, and assurances; and points out an adequate remedy and effectual refuge to the vilest of sinners. Thus “life and immortality are “ brought to light by the gospel.” Let common sense now determine whether these discoveries are unnecessary and useless. Is a pardon useless to a condemned criminal? a physician and a healing medicine to the sick? relief to the indigent, liberty to the captive, or sight to the blind? “ Blessed are the poor in “ spirit, for their's is the kingdom of God.” When the soul is truly humbled for sin, the gospel is more suited to its case, than any illustration can adequately represent; but the self-sufficient and self-wise always did, and always will, secretly or openly, pour contempt upon it. This the Scripture hath predicted; and the conduct and spirit of those who oppose christianity abundantly verify those predictions. The Bible proposes an adequate remedy to the wants of sinners: and the state of the world shew's it to be extremely wanted. But Deism can pretend to nothing of the kind: and it is therefore indeterminate, inefficacious, and obscure, unsuita. ble to man's condition and character; and though abstractedly it may be said to be good as far as it goes, yet it is wholly insufficient for all religious purposes in the present lapsed state of human nature.