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others in appearance; for it is plainly said, that Tie waB numbered with the eleven, and had obtained part of the ministry.

The pernicious effects of these doctrines on the minds of those who think they believe them, are strikingly obvious. They tell us, they are "humbling doctrines.'" No doubt there are individuals who hold them, that manifest a tolerable share, of humility; but this arises, not from the doctrines themselves, but from causes which might have influenced them; and, perhaps, more powerfully, if they had never known those doctrines. Indeed, so far from promoting humility, they must tend to pride. The man who fancips himself the favourite of heaven, in general manifests dispositions not unlike those which appear in the favourites of an earthly despot. Feeling himself secure, he can allow his imagination to rove with peculiar pleasure over a scene, which exhibits the majority of mankind as struggling under the most unutterable torments, without the most distant hope of relief. To feel otherwise would be to feel in opposition to their own notions of the Deity. Hence it is, that while they imagine they are enjoying •' sweet fellowship with the Lord" they can indulge the most malevolent passions towards those who, though much more amiable than themselves, dare not entertain such thoughts of God as they do. The husband must view his wife, notwithstanding all her amiable and endearing qualities, as a subject of Satan, unless she has been converted, i.e. has adopted his creed; and the parent must look upon bis infant, lately snatched from him by death, as now burning in hell, u for the glory of God." Horrible as these tilings must appear to every benevolent mind, they are topics which seem wonderfully to animate many of our popular preachers, who, by frequently expatiating on them, frighten thousands into a state which they call religious; and this, they tell us, is being 11 useful to sinners." These remarks may, by some, be thought severe; but the question is, are they true? It is well known, that those who hold these doctrines, are very shy in admitting the consequences resulting from them, and avail themselves of the most miserable shifts to avoid free enquiry on the subject; but this only argues the weakness of their cause. It shews that there is hell: at least a wish in their breasts, that they could entertain a more pleasing idea of the conduct of God. I appeal to the experience of many whether this be not the case. And, is it not passing strange, that man should be more mercifully disposed than his Maker?

iVor.8, 1812. M.

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THE DUTY OF REFORMING MANKIND FROM SUPERSTITION
AND ERROR, AND THE GOOD CONSEQUENCES OF IT.

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To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.

SIR,

rjlHE desire of knowledge has engaged the attention of the -TM- wise and curious among mankind, in all ages, which has been productive of extending the arts and sciences far and wide, in the several quarters of the globe; and excited the contemplative to explore nature's laws in a gradual series of improvement, till philosophy, astronomy, geography, and history, with many other branches of science, have arrived to a great degree of perfection.

It is nevertheless to be regretted, that the bulk of mankind, even in those nations which are more celebrated for learning and wisdom, are still carried down the torrent of superstition,, and entertain very unworthy apprehensions of the being, perfection creation, and providence of God, and theirduty to him. Whence it becomes an indispensable obligation, incumbent on the philosophic friends of human nature, unanimously to exert, in every lawful, wise, and prudent method, their endeavours to reclaim mankind from their ignorance and delusion, by enlightening their minds on the great and sublime truths respecting God and his providence, and their obligations to moral rectitude, which cannot fail greatly to affect their happiness and well being, both in this world and in that which is to come.

Though none hi/ searching can find out God, nor trace out the Almighty to perfection; yet I am persuaded, that, if mankind Would dare to exercise their reason as freely on those divine topics, as they do in the common concerns of life, they would, in a great measure, rid themselves of their blindness and superstition, gain more exalted ideas of God, and their obligations to him and one another, and be proportionably delighted and blessed with the views of his moral government, make better members of society, and acquire many powerful incentives to the practice of morality, which is tiie last and greatest perfection whereof our nature is capable.

If we would come to God, we must believe that he is. The laws of nature having subjected mankind to a state of absolute dependence on something out of and manifestly beyond themselves, or the compound exertion of their natural powers, gave thein the first conception of a superior principle existing; otherwise they could have had no possible conception of a superintending power. But this sense of dependency, which results from experience add reasoning on the

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Facts which every day cannot fail to produce, has uniformly established the knowledge of our dependence to every of the species who are rational, which necessarily involves, or contains in it, the idea of a ruling power, or the existence of a God, which iJeas are synonimous.

This is the first glimpse of a Deity, and powerfully attracts the rational mind to make further discoveries; which, through the weakness of human reasonings, opens a door to errors and mistakes respecting the divine essence, though there is no possibility of our being deceived in our first conceptions of a superintending power. Of which more will be observed in its order.

The globe with its productions, the planets in their motions, and the starry heavens in the magnitudes of their orbs, surprise our senses, and confound our understanding, in their munificent lessons of instruction concerning God, by means whereof we are apt to be more or less lost in our ideas of the object of divine adoration; though at the same time every one is truly sensible that their being and preservation is from God. We are too prone to confound our ideas of God with his works, and take the latter for the former. Thus barbarous and unlearned nations have imagined, that, inasmuch as the sun in its influence is beneficial to them in bringing forward the spring of the year, causing the production of vegetation' and food for their subsistence, therefore it is their God; while others have chosen other parts of the creation for ascribing to them the prerogatives of Deity; and mere creatures and images have been substituted as gods by the wickedness or weakness of man, or both together. It is apparent that mankind; in most ages and parts of the world, have been fond of corporeal deities, with whom their outward senses might be amused; or as fantastically diverted from the just apprehension of the true God, by a supposed supernatural intercourse with invisible and mere spiritual beings, to whom they ascribe divinity; so that, through one means or another, the character of the true God has been greatly neglected, to the vast detriment of truth, justice, and morality in the world. Nor is it possible, that mankind can either be uniform in their religious opinions, or worship God according to knowledge, unless they can form a consistent arrangement of ideas of the divine character. This therefore shall be the great object of the following communication, to which all others are only subordinate; for the superstructure t;f our religion will ever be proportionate to the notious we entertain of the divinity whom we adore. A sentiment of mere dependence includes an idea of something on which we depend (call it by what name we . will), which has a real existence, inasmuch as a dependency

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on nonentity is inadmissible; seeing that the absence or nonexistence of all being could not have caused an existence to be. Should we, however, attempt to trace the succession of the causes of our dependence, they would exceed our comprehension; though each of them which we could understand, would be so ninny evidences (of the displays) of a God. Although a sense of dependency discloses to our minds the certainty of a Supreme Being; yet it does not point out to us the object, nature, or perfections, of that being; this belongs to the province of reason; and in our course of ratiocination ori the succession of causes and events, although we extend our ideas retrospectively ever so far upon the succession; yet no one cause in the extended order of succession, which depends upon another prior to itself, can be the independent cause of all things.

Nor is it possible to trace the order of the succession of causes back to that self-existent cause, inasmuch as it is eternal and infinite; and therefore cannot be traced out by succession, which operates according tp the order of time; consequently can bear no more proportion to the eternity of God, than time itself may be supposed to do, which has no proportion at all : as the succeeding arguments respecting the eternity and infinity of God will evince. But notwithstanding the series of the succession of causes cannot be followed in a retrospective succession op to the self-existent or eternal cause, it is nevertheless a perpetual and conclusive evidence of a God. For a succession of causes, considered collectively, can be nothing more than effects of the independent cause, and as much dependent on it, as those dependent causes are upon one another: so that we may with certainty conclude that the system of nature, which we call by the name of natural causes, is as much dependent on a self-existent cause, as an individual of the species in the order of generation is dependent on its progenitors for existence. Such part of the series of nature's operations, which we understand, has a necessary connection with, and dependence, on its parts, which we designate by the names of cause and effect. Accordingly, we are authorised by reason to conclude, that the vast system of causes and effects is thus necessarily combined (speaking of the natural world only) and the whole regularly and necessarily dependent on a self-existent cause: so that we are obliged to admit an independent cause, and ascribe to it self-existence; otherwise it could not be independent, and consequently not God. But the eternity or mode of the existence of a self-existent and independent being is to all finite capacities utterly incomprehen ible. This, however, is so far from an objection against the reality of such a being, that it is essentially neces

i?ry to support the evidence of it. For, if we could comprehend that Being whom-we call God, lie Would not be God; butmust have been infinite, and that in the same degree as those may be supposed to be, who could comprehend him: therefore, so certain as God is, we cannot comprehend his essence, eternity, or mode of existence. This should always be premised when we essay to reason on the being, perfection, eternity, and infinity of God, or about his creation and providence. As far as we understand nature, we are become acquainted with the character of God; for the knowledge of nature is the revelation of God. If we form in our imagination a compendious idea of the harmony of the universe, it is the same as calling God by the name of harmony; for there could he no harmony without regulation, and no regulation without a regulator, which is expressive of the idea of a God. Nor could it be possible, that there should be order or disorder, unless we admit of such a thing as creation, and creation includes the idea of a Creator, which is another appellation for the Divine Being, distinguishing God from his creation. Furthermore, there could be no proportion, figure, or motion without wisdom and power; wisdom to plan and power to execute: and these are perfections, when applied to the works of nature, which signify the agency or superintendency of God. If we consider nature to be matter, figure, and motion, we include the idea of God in that of motion ; for motion implies a mover, as much as creation does a creator. If from the composition, texture, and tendency of the universe in general, we form a complex idea of general good resulting therefrom to mankind, we implicitly admit a God by the name of irood, including the idea of his providence toman. And hence arises our obligation to love and adore God; because he provides for and is beneficent to us. Substract the idea of goodness from the character of God, and it would cancel all our obligations to him, and excite us to hate and detest him as a tyrant. Hence it is, that ignorant people are superstitiously misled into a conceit, that they hate God, whereas it is only the idol of their own imagination, which they truly ought to hate and be ashamed of; but were such persons to connect the ideas of power, wisdom, goodness, and all possi^ ''{e perfection, in the character of God, their hatred towards him would be turned into love and adoration.

For mankind to hate truth, as it may bring their evil deed* to light and punishment, is very easy and common; but to "ate truth as truth, or God as God, which-is the same as to h;ite goodness for its own sake, unconnected with any other consequences, is impossible even to a (premised) diabolical Vol. xxi. G

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