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ture evidently favouring a courfe of virtue, and frowning upon a course of vice) is a fact independent of all reafoning concerning the existence of God himfelf; and therefore ought to determine the conduct of thofe, who are not fatisfied with respect to the proof of the being and attributes of God; and even of those who are properly Atheists, believing that nothing exists besides the world, or the univerfe, of which we ourfelves are a part.
• Whether there be any Author of Nature, or not, there cannot be any doubt of there being an established course of nature; and an Atheift muft believe it to be the more firmly eftablifhed, and see less prospect of any change, from acknowledging no fuperior being capable of producing that change. If, therefore, the course of nature be actually in favour of virtue'-(as the Author had fhewn in the preceding Letters); it must be the intereft and wifdom of every human being to be virtuous. And further, if it be agreeable to the analogy of nature, independent of any confideration of the Author of it, that things are in an improving ftate' (as the Author had likewife before endeavoured to evince); and confequently that there is a tendency to a more exact and equal retribution; it must produce an expectation that this course of nature will go on to favour virtue ftill more and therefore, it may be within the course of nature that men, as moral agents, fhould furvive the grave, or be reproduced, to enjoy the full reward of virtue, or to fuffer the punishments due to their vices.
It is acknowledged that we have no idea how this can come to pafs; but neither have we any knowledge how we, that is, the human fpecies, came into being: fo that, for any thing we know to the contrary, our re-production may be as much within the proper courfe of nature, as our original production; and, confequently, nothing hinders but that our expectation of a more perfect state of things, and ftate of more exact retribution, raifed by the obfervation of the actual courfe of nature, may be fulfilled. There may, therefore, be a future ftate, even though there be no God at all. That is, as it is certainly, and independently of all other confiderations, our wifdom to be virtuous in this life; it may be equally our wifdom to be virtuous with a view to a life to come. And, faint as this probability may be thought, it is however fomething, and must add fomething to the fanctions of virtue. Let not Atheis, therefore, think themselves quite fecure with refpect to a future life. Things as extraordinary as this, especially upon the hypothesis of there being no God, have taken place; and therefore this, which is fufficiently analogous to the reft, may take place alfo.'
In one of thefe Letters, the Author endeavours to explain the fallacy of fome of the fpeculative principles, on which fome real friends of religion have, in his opinion, endeavoured to fupport
the doctrines of a God and of a providence; and have thereby given caufe of triumph to perfons atheistically inclined. In another, he examines the arguments, and detects the inconsistencies, of the celebrated Author of the Syfteme de la Nature; a work which has been confidered as a kind of Bible of Atheism: and, in the four remaining Letters, he enters upon an examination of Mr. Hume's pofthumous dialogues on natural religion; of his effay on a particular providence and a future ftate; and of the influence of his opinion with refpect to the nature of caufation in general, as applied in fupport of Atheism: concluding with a general examination of the metaphyfical writings of Mr. Hume; in which a fuccinct and regular analyfis is given of such of his philofophical effays as relate to the prefent fubject. On all thefe heads, as well as on the fubjects before treated of, the Reader, who may have entertained doubts concerning the fundamental doctrines of natural religion, will here meet with a fatisfactory folution of thefe doubts, and an elucidation, at leaft, of the difficulties which attend the subject, from the very nature of it. It would be degrading this performance to confider it as an antidote to the poifon contained in the publication which is the subject of the following article. That poison is too weak, and too inartificially cooked up, to require a medicine fo powerful.
ART. III. The Antiquity and Duration of the World: By G. H,
N the courfe of our reviewing the preceding performance, the laudable intent of which is to prove the being of an infinitely powerful, infinitely intelligent, and eternally existent, Caufe of the univerfe, whofe works may likewife poffibly be eternal; we are reminded of the prefent production, which has indeed, as well as the preceding, through accident, been long overlooked. It is a work however of very different merit and tendency; the avowed drift of the Author of it, being, to ufe his own words, to grant eternity to Nature :'-a being, or goddefs, to whom he afcribes no moral attributes whatever; nor does he found her power on any other bafis than a fet of trite obfervations, well known to every philofopher or man of reading, tending to prove that the planet which we inhabit has all the appearances, forfooth, of being older than it is generally held to be:-a flight foundation, furely, for a fyftem of Atheism!
In this performance, in fhort, the defign of this Apostle of Nature is,―to use his own pompous phrafeology-to fhew that, on interrogating reason, she announces, without the fhadow of hefitation, that the human fpecies, and the other branches of animated nature, fluctuating in their increase and decrease, their barbarifm and refinement, actually may have flourished, amid
the unceafing revolutions of nature, through endless periods of existence; and afterwards, that nature muft, through endlefs periods of duration, have acted by laws fixed and immutable; and that the human species have had, and will have, an uniform and infinite exiftence.”—But this is not all. The drift of this declaimer will obviously appear from the following quotation alone.
Nor is the magnificence fo univerfal and apparent-the beautiful order and difpofition of the feveral parts that compofe the ftupendous whole-any objection to an unbounded fucceffion of events. So far indeed from being an objection, they might undoubtedly be brought as the ftrongeft confirmation of fuch a doctrine. Is it not far easier to conceive things to exift as they are, and to contain eternal order and regular difpofition within themselves, than to have recourfe to MORE MAGNIFICENT CAUSES, which, after all, muft be allowed to be eternal, and felf-exiftent? Were magnificence an objection to an eternal duration of things, is it reasonable to increase that magnificence, to remove the objection? If fomething always has exifsted, or must have been eternal,-why not pay a deference to the magnificent and beautiful objects of whofe exiftence we are certain? Why not grant eternity to Nature?"
In the midst of many unmeaning, or at least mifapplied, rants against fuperftition and vulgar prejudices, the Author more than once fhews a wish to exhibit himself as one of the inestimable few, endued with fuperior abilities, who write in a rational and confiftent manner, and whofe clear difcernment and found understandings raife them above the ordinary level of mankind."Looking down from these heights, he pretends to have effentially confulted the interefts of the human fpecies, by thus giving a scope to what he calls cool and liberal inveftigation :-but what benefits mankind can receive from a conviction that the world is eternal; and that men, animals, &c. are, and have been, from eternity, continually changing into marle and lime-ftone, while these, in their turn, are, and have been, changing into men, &c. or what harm they can incur by believing in a God, the rewarder of the virtuous, and the punisher of the wickeddoes not appear from any part of this illogical and declamatory performance.
ART. IV. Twelve Difcourfes on the Prophecies concerning the firft Establishment and fubfequent Hiftory of Chriftianity. Preached in Lincoln's-Inn-Chapel, at the Lecture of the Right Rev. William Warburton, late Lord Bishop of Gloucefter. By Lewis Bagot, LL. D. Dean of Chrift-Church. 8vo. 5 s. bound. Cadell, &c.
HE firft of thefe Difcourfes contains fome general obfer vations on the moral government of God, with a few reflections
fections on the proper evidence of a divine revelation; and on that particularly which arifes from the completion of prophecies. Having obferved, in his first difcourfe, that the old prophets unanimoufly affert, that the world was preparing for the introduction of a new difpenfation more general and comprehenfive than the Jewith, the Doctor endeavours to fhew, in his fecond, that the doctrine of a future and more excellent difpenfation is not only contained in pofitive and exprefs predictions, but likewife neceffarily implied in the very frame of the Jewish ceconomy. He then confiders what are the fpecial characters by which this difpenfation is marked, and tells us that the most ufual, as well as the moft ftriking, defcription that occurs is, that it fhould be a kingdom. Accordingly, the prophet Daniel, he fays, gives it a place among the other kingdoms of the world, and the effential characters of fuch a civil community are every where attributed to it. It is repeatedly declared to be under the government of a fupreme magiftrate or king; and it is figuratively fhadowed by the kingdom of David and Solomon. represented as having a law and a people peculiar to itfelf; and, like other ftates too, it is fhewn to arife from fmall beginnings, and to attain to its full extent by a gradual and progreffive growth.
Thefe feveral particulars he endeavours to illuftrate in his fecond and third difcourfes, and then proceeds, in his fourth, to enquire concerning those marks and limitations by which the Meffiah was to be known and diftinguifhed from all other perfons. In this difcourfe, the Doctor fhews much more zeal than knowledge; and offers nothing new in fupport of what he labours hard to prove, viz. That our Saviour is the one True God, the God of Ifrael, whofe name alone is Jehovah, the Moft High over all the earth.
The defign of the fifth difcourfe is to fhew, that the deliverance to be wrought by the Meffiah was of a spiritual nature; a deliverance from the power and confequences of fin and wickednefs. And here the preacher, like a true and faithful fon of the church, is a warm advocate for the doctrine of atonement, by a vicarious punishment; but he only repeats what has been often faid; and what good purpose can be anfwered by fuch repetition we cannot conceive. Such doctrines appear, to us, to have no foundation in Scripture, and to be utterly repugnant to the principles of common fenfe. But we must not treat them with too much feverity out of tenderness to our grandmothers, as the good old ladies may poffibly derive great confolation from them. Perhaps too, the Doctor himself was influenced by fome fuch pious motives; if fo, his piety will, no doubt, be properly rewarded.
Having fhewn, from the nature of the Jewish ceconomy, that It could only be appointed as preparatory to fome other scheme, and that the scheme wherein it was to receive its completion was no other than the kingdom of the Meffiah, the Doctor goes on, in his fixth difcourfe, to fhew, that this kingdom must have taken its rife before the Jewish polity was at an end; that the Gentiles were to be united with the Jews, and both together be one fold under one fhepherd; that the Meffiah's kingdom was to rise against oppofition from the powers of the world, and be advanced without force by the mild methods of perfuafion and argument; and that his first appearance must have happened feveral years before the great Jewish war, wherein the temple and city were deftroyed.
The defign of the feventh difcourfe is to fhew, that, of all the religions now obtaining upon earth, Chriftianity alone claims to be the scheme foretold by the prophets, and appeals to them for the truth of its pretenfions. In the eighth, the preacher confiders what the pretenfions of Chriftianity are, and how far they correfpond with thofe more general characters which appear from the prophets to be effential to the new difpenfation. In the ninth, he confiders the nature of Chrift's kingdom; and fhews what the appearance of Chriftianity was, at the time of its greatest purity; unfophifticated by the arts, the ambition, and the worldly interefts, of defigning men.
In the tenth and eleventh difcourfes, the Doctor endeavours to fhew, that the Apocalypfe contains a comprehenfive view of the Chriftian œconomy, and its various revolutions from beginning to end; that the intent and meaning of this prophetic book is beft difcovered from itself; that it is its own beft comment; that though it abounds more in fymbols than any other book of Scripture, it contains likewife the beft key for the interpretation of those fymbols, wherever they occur in the word of God. He sketches out the more material changes of the Chriftian church, as they appear to be reprefented in this prophecy; and attempts to fhew an evident accomplishment of them in the history of the world. The twelfth contains a fhort view of what has been advanced in the preceding difcourfes, together with some general obfervations. The Doctor tells us, that our eftablished church maintains, in its creeds and articles, thofe very doctrines which have been held forth by the mouth of the prophets fince the world began, as the effential doctrines of that faith by which all men fhould be faved. We fhould be cautious, he fays, of admitting any alterations in an establishment which has, for ages, fecured the TRUTH to us, amidst the repeated and violent attacks of enemies of different complexions and different denominations. He further obferves, that we have, of late, been loudly called upon; that the principles of the Reformation