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II.-Proves the Jewish Government to be a Theocracy– This form shewn to be
necessary—There being no other, by which opinions could be justly punished
coming of CHRIST--The arguments of Spencer and Le Clerc to the contrary
administered by an extraordinary Providence, equally dispensing temporal
For the remainder of the Contents of Book V. see the Contents of the third volume.
For Plate IV. which ought to appear in page 175, see page 308, where it is
engraved with Plate X.
I have now gone through the second general proposition, which is, That ALL MANKIND, LEARNED NATIONS OF ANTIQUITY, HAVE CONCURRED IN BELIEV
ING, AND TEACHING, THAT THE
DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE STATE
BEING OF SOCIETY.
OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS WAS NECESSARY TO THE WELL
In doing this, I have presumed to enter the very Penetralia of Antiquity, and expose its most venerable secrets to open day.
Some parts of which having been accidentally and obscurely seen by the owl-light of infidelity, were imagined by such as Toland, Blount, and Coward (as is natural for objects thus seen by false Braves), to wear strange gigantic forms of terror: and with these they have endeavoured to disturb the settled piety of sober Christians.
The ridiculous use these men have made of what they did not understand, may perhaps recal to the reader's mind that stale atheistical objection, that RELIGION IS ONLY A CREATURE OF POLITICS, a State-engine invented by the Legislator, to draw the knot of Civil Society more close. And the rather, because that objection being founded on the apparent use of Religion to Civil Policy, I may be supposed to have added much strength to it, by shewing in this work, in a fuller manner than, perhaps, has been done before, the EXTENT OF THAT UTILITY ; and the large sphere of the Legislator's agency, in the application of it.
For thus stood the case : I was to prove Moses's divine assistance, from his being ABLE to leave out of his Religion, the doctrine of a future state. This required me to shew, that this doctrine was naturally of the utmost importance to Society. But of all the argu
THE TRUTH OF RELIGION IN
AND GENERAL UTILITY
NECESSARILY COINCIDE ;
ments, by which that importance may be proved, the plainest, if not the strongest, is the conduct of LaWGIVERS. Hence the long detail of circumstances in the second and third books.
But indeed it not only served to the purpose of my particular question, but, appeared to me, to be one of the least equivocal proofs of the truth of RELIGION in general; and to deserve, in that view only, to be carefully examined and explained. I considered this part, therefore, and desire the reader would so consider it, as a whole and separate work of itself, to PROVE GENERAL,
SOCIETY, though it be but the introduction to the truth of the MOSAIC.
Let us examine it: Lawgivers have unanimously concurred in propagating Religion. This could be only from a sense and experience of its UTILITY ; in which they could not be deceived: Religion therefore has a general utility. We desire no more to establish its truth.
For, TRUTH that is, Truth is productive of Utility; and Utility is indicative of Truth. That truth is productive of utility, appears from the nature of the thing. The observing truth, is acting as things really are : he who acts as things really are, must gain his purposed end : all disappointment proceeding from acting as things are not : Just as in reasoning from true or false principles, the conclusion which follows must be necessarily right or wrong. But gaining this end is utility or happiness ; disappointment of the end, hurt or misery. If then Truth produce utility, the other part of the proposition, that utility indicates truth, follows of necessity. For not to follow, supposes two different kinds of GENERAL UTILITY relative to the same creature, one proceeding from truth, the other from falshood ; which is impossible ; because the natures of those utilities must then be different, that is, one of them must, at the same time, be, and not be, utility.* Wherever then we find general utility, we may certainly know it for the product of Truth, which it indicates. But the practice of Lawgivers shews us that this utility results from Religion. The consequence is, that RELIGION, or the idea of the relation between the creature and the Creator, is true.
However, as the unanimous concurrence of Lawgivers to support Religion, hath furnished matter for this poor infidel pretence, I shall take leave to examine it more thoroughly.
Our Adversaries are by no means agreed amongst themselves : Some of them have denied the truth of Religion, because it was of no UTILITY; Others, because it was of so GREAT. But commend me to the man, who, out of pure genuine spite to Religion, can employ
See note II, at the end of this book.
these two contrary systems together, without the expense so much as of a blush.* However, the System most followed, is the political invention of Religion for its use : the other being only the idle exercise of a few dealers in paradoxes.
I have begun these volumes with an examination of the first of these systems; and shall now end them with a confutation of the other. For the Unbeliever, driven from his first hold, by our shewing the utility of religion, preposterously retires into this, in order to recover his ground.
Crities of Athens, one of the thirty tyrants, and the most execrable of the thirty, is at the head of this division ; whose principles he delivers in the most beautiful lambics. I His words are to this purpose : “ There was a time when man lived like a savage, without government or Laws, the minister and executioner of violence ; when there was neither reward annexed to virtue, nor punishment attendant upon vice. Afterwards, it appears, that men invented civil Laws to be a curb to evil. From hence, Justice presided over the human race ; force became a slave to right, and punishment irremissibly pursued the transgressor. But when now the laws had restrained an open violation of right, men set upon contriving, how to injure others, in secret. And then it was, as I suppose, that some CUNNING POLITICIAN, well versed in the knowledge of mankind, counterplotted this design, by the invention of a principle that would hold wicked men in awe, even when about to say, or think, or act ill in private. And this was by bringing in the BELIEF OF A God; whom, he taught to be immortal, of infinite knowledge, and of a nature superlatively excellent. This God, he told them, could hear and see every thing said and done by mortals here below : nor could the first conception of the most secret wickedness be concealed from him, of whose nature, knowledge was the very essence. Thus did our Poli. TICIAN, by inculcating these notions, become the author of a doctrine wonderfully taking; while he hid truth under the embroidered veil of fiction. But to add servile dread to this impressed reverence, the Gods, he told them, inhabited that place, which he found was the repository of those Mormo's, and panic terrors, which man was so dexterous at feigning, and so ready to fright himself withal, while he adds imaginary miseries to a life already over-burthened with disasters. That place, I mean, where the swift coruscations of enkindled meteors, accompanied with horrid bursts of thunder, run through the starry vaults of heaven; the beautiful fret-work of that wise old Architect,
. Where a social troop of shining orbs perform their regular
* See Blount's Anima Mundi, and “ Original of Idolatry.”
+ Such as the Author of Du Contract Social, ch. viii. p. 129.
See note KK, at the end of this book.
and benignant courses : and from whence refreshing showers descend to recreate the thirsty earth. Such was the habitation he assigned for the Gods; a place most proper for the discharge of their function : And these the terrors he applied, to circumvent secret mischief, stifle disorder in the seeds, give his Laws fair play, and introduce Religion, so necessary to the magistrate.— This, in my opinion, was the TRICK, whereby mortal man was first brought to believe that there were immortal Natures."
How excellent a thing is justice ! said somebody or other, on observing it to be practised in the dens of thieves and robbers. How useful, how necessary a thing is Religion ! may we say, when it forces this confession of its power, from its two most mortal enemies, the Tyrant and the Atheist.
The account here given of RELIGION is, that it was A STATE INVENTION : that is, that the idea of the relation between the creature and the Creator was formed and contrived by politicians, to keep men in awe. From whence the Infidel concludes it to be visIONARY and GROUNDLESS. From the MAGISTRATE's large share in the Establishment of ancient national Religions, two consequences are drawn ; the one by Believers ; the other by Unbelievers. The First conclude that therefore these national Religions were of political original : and this the ancient Fathers of the Church spent much time and pains to prove. The Second conclude, from the same fact, that therefore Religion in general, or the idea of the relation between the creature and the Creator, was a politic invention, and not founded in the nature of things. And if, in confuting this, I strengthen and support the other conclusion, I suppose, that, in so doing, I give additional strength to the cause of Revelation ; otherwise the Fathers were very much mistaken. And though Infidels, indeed, in their writings, affect to dwell upon this conclusion, " that Superstition was a State-invention ; ” it is not, I presume, on account of any
service, which they imagine it can do their cause ; but because it enables them to strike obliquely, under that cover, at Religion in general, when they do not care to appear without their mask. But if ever they should take it into their heads to deny, that there is any better proof of Superstition’s being a mere politic invention than that Religion in general is so, let them take notice that I have here answered them beforehand. On the whole, then, if I prove that Religion in general was not a politic invention, I enervate all the force of the Atheist's argument against Revelation, taken from the invention of Religion. For that Superstition was of human original, both parties seem to agree : though not all of it the invention of Statesmen, as we shall see presently, when we come to shew that one species of Idolatry was in use even before the institution of civil Society.