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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 revelation.—Even Mohammedans, who may justly claim deists as their relations, owe the deism of their imposture to the knowledge of the tenets of the sacred word acquired by its founder.
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 which men 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 New Zealand, 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?” Does practical deism take the place of scriptural instruction in the case of the infidels whom such books as the Age of Reason are suited and intended to multiply? They renounce the gospel, and substitute in its place the maxim, “Let us eat and drink, for to“ morrow we die.”—Is it not evident, that they understand Mr. Pi's 'revelation' almost as little as they do that which they have renounced? It also wants translating, and expounding, or men will misunderstand 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 mechanic, 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 “practi• cal deductions. The bulk of the human species can never be instructed in this way: and even the few who are not engrossed by business, or sunk in low sensuality, 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 authority 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 concerning 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 all that can be attained or that would be useful on the subject. Yet he himself in another place calls 'doubtfulness the opposite of
belief ;'2 in which he both contradicts the truth and himself: for doubtfulness' 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
P.ii.p. 100, 101.
· P. ii. p. 69.
any acquaintance with the nature of it as happy or miserable, or with 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 scripture, “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 sins ? finding peace with God and the enjoyment of his favour? gaining the victory over domineering lusts and habits, or strong temptations, or escaping 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 retribution, and conscious of guilt he dreads the consequences. 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 inquires 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 future 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 inquiries, 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 us; 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
“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
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 shews it to be extremely wanted. But Deism can pretend to nothing of the kind : and it
is therefore indeterminate, inefficacious, and obscure, unsuitable to man's condition and character; and, though abstractedly it may be said to be good as far as it goes, and as opposed to what is worse, yet it is' wholly insufficient for all religious purposes in the present lapsed state of human nature.