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and the great enemies of religion. Tlre obfervation of all ages confirms this truth; and, if any man who is doubtsul of it would try the experiment, I make no question he will very soon be thoroughly convinced.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Anaxagoras, though he was the first philofopher who plainly afferted an Eternal Mind by whose power the world was made, for opposing the public worship at Athens, whose refined wits were plunged in the most senseless idolatry, and particularly for denying the divinity of the Sun, should be condemned for irreligion, and treason against the Gods; and be heavily fined and banished the city. It is no wonder, after so sharp a persecution of this zealous reformer, that Socrates, the next fucceffor but one to Anaxagoras, and the last of the Ionic school, for opposing their scandalous rabble of deities, and afferting one Divine Being, should be condemned for Atheism, and put to death, by blind fuperftition and implacable bigotry.
Some have been condemned by their antagonists for impiety, who maintain positions, which those from whom they diilent imagine lave a tendency to the disbelief of a Deity. But this is a manifeft violation of justice, as well as candour, to impute to any man the remote consequences of his opinion, which he himself disclaims and detests, and who, if he saw the connexion of his principles with such conclusions, would readily renounce them. No man can be reafonably charged with more opinions than lie owns; and if this justice were observed in polenical discourfus,
as well of theology as philosophy, many persons had escaped those hard names, and terrible censures, which Their angry antagonists have thought fit to fix upon them. No one therefore is to be reputed an Atheilt, or an enemy to religion, upon the account of any erroneous opinion, from which another inay by a long chain of sequels draw that conclufion; much less for holding any doctrines in pliilosophy, which the common people are not able to examine or comprehend, who, when they meddle with speculations, of which they are unqualified to judge, will be as apt -to censure a philosopher for an Atheist, as an astronomer for a magician.
I would fain too in this place make some apology for the great numbers of loose and vicious men, who laugh at religion, and feem in their conversation to disclaim the belief of a Deity. I do not mean an apology for their practice, but their opinion. I hope these unhappy persons, at least the greatest part, who have given up the reins to their passions and exorbitant appetites, are, rather than Atheists, a careless and stupid.fort of creatures, who, either out of a supine temper, or for fear of being difturbed with remorsein their unwarrantable enjoyments, never soberly consider with themselves, or exercise their reason on things of the highest importance. These persons never examine the arguments that cnforce the belief of a Deity, and the obligations of religion : but take the word of their ingenious friends, or some atheistical pretender to philofophy, who al?ures them there is no God, and therc
fore no religion. And notwithstanding all Atheists have leave given them by their principles to become Jibertines, yet it is not true that all libertines are Atheists. Some plainly assert their belief of a God; and others, who deny his existence, yet do not deny it upon any principles, any scheme of philosophy which they have framed, and by which they account for the existence and duration of the world, in the beautiful order in which we see it, without the aid of a Divine Eternal Mind.
But there are two sorts of men, who without injustice have been called Atheists; those who frankly and in plain terms have denied the being of a God; and those who, though they asserted his being, denied those attributes and perfections, which the idea of a God includes; and so, while they acknowledged the name, subverted the thing. These are as real Atheists as the former, but less sincere. If any man should declare he believes a Deity, but affirms that this Deity is of human shape, and not eternal; that he derives his being from the fortuitous concourse and complication of atoms; or, though he allowed him to be eternal, should maintain, that he shewed no wisdom, design, or prudence, in the formation, and ro care or providence in the government, of the world; that he never reflects on any thing exterior to his own being, nor interests himself in uman affairs; does not know, or does not attend to, any of our actions : such a person is, indeed, and in effect, as much an Atheist as the former. For though he owns the appellation, yet his description is
destructive of the idea of a God. I do not affirm, that the idea of a God implies the relation of a Creator : but, since in the demonstration of the existence of a God we argue from the effect to the cause, and proceed from the contemplation of the creature to the knowledge of the Creator, it is evident we cannot know there is a God, but we must know him to be the Maker, and, if the Maker, then the Governor and Benefactor of the world. Could there be a God, who is entirely regardless of things without him, who is perfectly unconcerned with the direction and government of the world, is altogether indifferent whether we worship or atfront him, and is neither pleased nor displeased with any of our actions; he would certainly to us be the same as no God. The log in the fable would be altogether as venerable a Deity; for if he has no concern with us, it is plain we have none with him : if we are not subject to any laws he has made for us, we can never be obedient or disobedient, nor can we need forgiveness, or expect reward. If we are not the fubjects of his care and protection, we can owe him no love or gratitude; if he either does not hear or disregards our prayers, how impertinent is it to build temples, and to worship at his altars ! In my opinion, such notions of a Deity, which lay the axe to the root of all religion, and make all the expressions of it idle and ridiculous; which destroy the ditlinction of good and bad, all morality of our actions, and remove all the grounds and reasons of fear of punishment, and hope of reward, will justly denominate a mi
Atheist, though he ever fo much disclaims that igno minious title.
Thales the founder of the Ionic school, and the philofophers who succeeded him, Anaximander, Anaxi menes, Diogenes Apollionates, Anaxagoras, and Archelaus, are censured by Arifotle as disbelievers of a Deity; the reason he gives is, that these philosophers, in treating of the principles of the world, never introduce the Deity as the efficient cause. But if it be .confidered, that naturel science was then in its infancy, and that those primitive philosophers only undertook to account for the material principle out of which the world was made, which one asserted to be water, one fire, another air; though this may prove that they formed but a lame and unfinished scheme of philosophy, yet it does not evince, that they denied the bcing of a God, or that they did not believe him to be the efficient cause of all things. It is indeed a convincing evidence that their philosophy was imperfeet, as at first it migirt well be; but from their filence or omillion of him in their systems, when they designed to treat only of the material causcs of things, it is unreasonable to affirm that they denicd his being : and it is certain Anaxagoras taught, that, besides matter, it was absolutely necessary to affert a Divine Mind, the Contriver and Maker of the world ; and for this religious principle, as was said before, he was at Athens an illustrious confultor.
After the death of Socrates, the lonic school was foon divided into various feets and philofophical par. ties: of the Cyrenaic school, Thcodorus and Dion