Page images



It is equally a matter of undoubted fact, that in all Facts are sufficiently in proof of this. The sages of questions of morals, which restrain the vices, passions, antiquity were moral teachers; they founded schools; and immediate interests of men, conviction is generally they collected disciples; they placed their fame in their resisted, and the rule is brought down to the practice, wisdom; yet there was little agreement among them, rather than the practice raised to the rule; so that the even upon the first principles of religion and morals ; most flimsy sophisms are admitted as arguments, and and they neither generally reformed their own lives nor principles the most lax displace those of rigid rectitude those of others. This is acknowledged by Cicero :and virtue. This is matter of daily observation, and "Do you think that these things had any influence cannot be denied. The irresistible interence from this upon the men (a very few excepted) who thought, and is, that, at least, the great body of mankind, not being wrote, and disputed about them? Who is there of all accustomed to intellectual exercises ; not having even the philosophers, whose mind, life, and manners were leisure for them on account of their being doomed to sordid confornable to right reason? Who ever made his philabours; and not being disposed to conduct the investiga-losophy the law and rule of his life, and not a mere tion with care and accuracy, would never become ac- show of his wit and parts? Who observed his own quainted with the will of the Supreme Governor, if the instructions, and lived in obedience to his own preknowledge of it were only to be obtained from habitual ob. cepts? On the contrary, many of them were slaves to servation and reasoningShould it be said, “ that the in- filthy lusts, many to pride, many to covetousness," tellectual and instructed part of mankind ought to teach &c.(8) the rest,” it may be replied, that even that would be Such a system of moral direction and control, then, difficult, because their own knowledge must be com- could it be tormed, would bear no comparison to that municated to others by the same process of diflicult which is provided by direct and external revelation, of induction through which they attain it themselves, or which the doctrine, though delivered by different men, rational conviction could not be produced in the minds in different ages, is consentaneous throughout; which of the learners. The task would therefore be hopeless is rendered authoritative by divine attestation; which as to the majority, both from their want of time and consists in clear ayd legislative enunciation, and not in intellectual capacity. But, if practicable, the Theistical human speculation and laborious inference; of which system has no provision for such instruction. It neither the teachers were as holy as their doctrine was submakes it the duty of some to teach, nor of others to liine; and which in all ages has exerted a powerful learn. It has no authorized teachers; no day of rest moral influence upon the conduct of men.

I know from labour, on which to collect the auditors; no au- of but one Phædo and one Polemon throughout all thorized religious ordinances by which moral truth may Greece,” saith Origen, “who were ever made better be brought home to the ears and the hearts of men: by their philosophy; whereas Christianity hath brought and, if it had, its best knowledge being rather contained back its myriads from vice to virtue.” in diffuse and hesitating speculation, than concentrated All these considerations, their still farther support in maxims and first principles, imbodied in a few plain the presumption that the will of God has been the subwords, which at once indicate some master mind fully ject of express revelation to man, because such a declaadequate to the whole subject, and suddenly irradiate ration of it is the only one which can be conceived the understandings of the most listless and illiterate,-it ADEQUATE ; COMPLETE ; OF COMMON APPREHENSION; would be taught in vain.

SUFFICIENTLY AUTHORITATIVE; AND Let us however suppose the truth discovered, the THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MANKIND. teachers of it appointed, and days for the communication of instruction set apart. With what authority would these teachers be invested? They plead no commission from Him whose will they affect to teach, and they

CHAPTER IV. work no miracles in confirmation of the truth of their

FARTHER PROOFS OF THE WEAKNESS AND UNCERdoctrine. That doctrine cannot, from the nature of things, be mathematically demonstrated so as to enforce

TAINTY OF HUMAN REASON. conviction, and it would therefore be considered, and The opinion that sufficient notices of the will and justly considered, as the opinion of the teacher, and purposes of God with respect to man, may be collected nothing but an opinion to which every one might listen by rational induction from his works and government, or not without any consciousness of violating an obli- attributes too much to the power of human reason and gation, and which every one might and would receive the circumstances under which, in that case, it must as his own judgment agreed with or dissented from his necessarily commence its exercise. unauthorized teacher, or as his interests and passions Human reason must be taken, as it is in fact, a weak might commend or disparage the doctrine so taught.(7) and erring faculty, and as subject to have its operations

suspended or disturbed by the influence of vicious prinand dairy-maids, perfect mathematicians, as to have ciples and attachment to earthly things; neither of them perfect in ethics this way: having plain commands which can be denied, however differently they may be is the sure and only course to bring them to obedience accounted for. and practice: the greatest part cannot know, and there- It is another consideration of importance, that the fore they must believe. And I ask, whether one coming exercise of reason is limited by our knowledge; in from heaven in the power of God, in full and clear evi- other words, that it must be furnished with subjects dence and demonstration of miracles, giving plain and which it may arrange, compare, and judge; for beyond direct rules of morality and obedience, be not likelier to what it clearly conceives its power does not extend. enlighten the bulk of mankind, and set them right in It does not follow, that, because many doctrines in their duties, and bring them to do them, than by rea- religion and many rules in morals carry clear and desoning with them from general notions and princi- cided conviction to the judgment instantly upon their ples of human reason ?”—LOCKE's Reasonableness of being proposed, they were discoverable, in the first Christianity.

instance, by rational induction; any more than that the (7) "Let it be granted (though not true) that all the great and simple truths of philosophy, which have been moral precepts of the Gospel were known by somebody brought to light by the efforts of men of superior minds, or other among mankind before. But where, or how, were within the compass of ordinary understandings, or of what use, is not considered. Suppose they may be picked up, here and there; some from Solon, and ples, or humours :--they were under no obligation : the Bias, in Greece; others from Tully in Italy, and, to opinion of this or that philosopher was of no AUTHORcomplete the work, let CONFUCIUS as far as China be ITY."--LOCKE's Reasonableness, fc. consulted, and ANACHARSIS the Scythian contribute his “ The truths which the philosophers proved by specushare. What will all this do to give the world a com- lative Reason were destitute of some more sensible plete morality, that may be to mankind the unques- authority to back them; and the precepts which they tionable rule of life and manners? What would this laid down, how reasonable soever in themselves, arnount tu towards being a steady rule, a certain tran- seemed still to want weight, and to be no more than script of a law that we are under ? Did the saying of PRECEPTS OF MEN."---Dr. SAM. CLARKE. Aristipfus or CONFUCIUS give it an authority ? Was (8) Sed hæc eadem num censes apud eos ipsos valere, Zeno a lawgiver to mankind ? If not, what he or any nisi admodum paucos, a quibus inventa, disputata, other philosopher delivered was but a saying of his. conscripta sunt? Quotus enim quisque philosophorum Mankind might hearken to it, or reject it, as they invenitur, qui sit ita moratus, ita animo ac vita constipleased, or as it suited their interest, passions, princi- tutus, ut ratio postulat ? &c.--Tusc. Quest. 2.

because, after they were revealed by those who inademen, which they propose to defend, explain, demonthe discovery, they instantly commanded the assent of strate, or deny, according to their respective opinions. almost all to whom they were proposed. The very Ir we overlook the inspiration of the writings of Moses, first principles of what is called natural religion(9) are they command respect as the most ancient records in probably of this kind. The reason of man, though it the world, and as imbodying the religious opinions of should assent to them, though the demonstration of the earliest ages; but Moses nowhere pretends to be them should be now easy, may be indebted even for the author of any of these fundamental truths. The them to the revelation of a superior mind, and that book of Genesis opens with the words, " In the beginmind the mind of God.(1)

ning God created the heavens and the earth;" but here This is rendered the more probable, inasmuch as the the term “God” is used familiarly; and it is taken for great principles of all religion, the ex tence of God, granted, that both the name and the idea conveyed by the immortality of the human soul, the accountableness it were commonly received by the people for whom of man, the good or evil quality of the most important | Moses wrote. moral actions, have by none who have written upon The same writer gives the history of ages much them, by no legislator, poet, or sage of antiquity, how- higher than his own, and introduces the Patriarchs of ever ancient, been represented as discoveries made the human race holding conversations with one anhy them in the course of rational investigation; but other, in which the leading subjects of religion and they are spoken of as things commonly known among morals are often incidentally introduced; but they are

never presented to us in the form of discussion; no (9) The term Natural Religion is often used equivo- Patriarch, however high his antiquity, represents himcally. “Some understand by it every thing in religion self as the discoverer of these first principles, though with regard to truth and duty, which, when once dis- he might, as Noah, be a“ preacher" of that righteouscovered, may be clearly shown to have a real founda- ness” which was established upon them. Moses mention in the nature and relations of things, and which tions the antediluvians, who were inventors of the arts unprejudiced reason will approve, when fairly proposed of working metals, and of forming and playing upon and set in a proper light; and accordingly very fair and musical instruments; but he introduces no one as the goodly schemes of Natural Religion have been drawn inventor of any branch of moral or religious science, up by Christian philosophers and divines, in which they though they are so much superior in importance to have comprehended a considerable part of what is con- mankind. tained in the Scripture Revelation. In this view, Na- In farther illustration it may be observed, that, in tural Religion is not so called because it was originally point of fact, those views on the subject just mentioned, discovered by natural reason ; but because, when once which, to the reason of all sober Theists, since the known, it is what the reason of mankind duly exer- Christian revelation was given, appear the most clear cised approves, as founded in truth and nature. Others and satisfactory, have been found nowhere since patake Natural Religion to signify that religion which triarchal times, except in the Scriptures, which profess men discover in the sole exercise of their natural facul- to imbody the true religious traditions and revelations ties, without higher assistance."-LELAND.

of all ages, or among those whose reason derived prin(1) “When truths are once known to us, though by ciples from these revelations, on which to establish its tradition, we are apt to be favourable to our own parts, inferences. and ascribe to our own understanding the discovery of We generally think it a truth easily and convincingly what, in reality, we borrowed from others; or, at least, demonstrated, that there is a God, and yet many of the finding we can prove what at first we learned from philosophers of antiquity speak' doubtingly on this others, we are forward to conclude it an obvious truth, point, and some of them denied it. At the present day, which, if we had sought, we could not have missed. not merely a few speculative philosophers in the heaNothing seems hard to our understandings that is once then world, but the many millions of the human race known; and because what we see, we see with our who profess the religion of Budhu, not only deny a own eyes, we are apt to overlook or forget the help we Supreme First Cause, but dispute with subtlety and had from others who showed it us, and first made us vehemence against the doctrine. see it, as it we were not at all beholden to them for We feel that our reason rests with full satisfaction those truths they opened the way to and led us into; in the doctrine that all things are created by one eternal for knowledge being only of truths that are perceived and self-existent Being; but the Greek philosophers to be so, we are favourable enough to our own facul- held that matter was eternally coexistent with God. ties to conclude that they, of their own strength, would This was the opinion of Plato, who has been called the have attained those discoveries without any foreign Moses of philosophers. Through the whole“ Timæus," assistance, and that we know those truths by the Plato supposes two eternal and independent causes of strength and native light of our own minds, as they did all things: one, that by which all things are made, from whom we received them by theirs; only they had which is God; the other, that from which all things the luck to be before us. Thus the whole stock of are made, which is matter. Dr. Cudworth has in vain human knowledge is claimed by every one as his pri- attempted to clear Plato of this charge. The learned vate possession, as soon as he (profiting by others' dis- | Dr. Thomas Burnet, who was well acquainted with coveries) has got it into his own mind: and so it is; the opinions of the ancients, says, that " the Ionic, Py. but not properly by his own single industry, nor of his thagoric, Platonic, and Stoic schools all agreed in asown acquisition. He studies, it is true, and takes serting the eternity of matter; and that the doctrine pains to make a progress in what others have delivered; that matter was created out of nothing, seems to have but their pains were of another sort who first brought been unknown to the philosophers, and is one of which those truths to light which he afterward derives from they had no notion.” Aristotle asserted the eternity of them. He that travels the roads now applauds his the world, both in matter and form too, which was but own strength and legs that have carried him so far an easy deduction from the former principle, and is in such a scantling of time, and ascribes all to his own sufficiently in proof of its Atheistical tendency. vigour; little considering how much he owes to their The same doctrine was extensively spread at a very pains who cleared the woods, drained the bogs, built ancient period throughout the East, and plainly takes the bridges, and made the ways passable, without away a great part of the foundation of those arguwhich he might have toiled much with little progress. ments for the existence of a Supreme Deity, on which A great many things wbich we have been bred up in the moderns have so confidently rested for the demonthe belief of from our cradles, and are now grown fami- stration of the existence of God by rational induction, liar (and, as it were, natural to us under the Gospel), whether drawn from the works of nature or from we take for unquestionable, obvious truths, and easily metaphysical principles ; so much are those able works demonstrable, without considering how long we might which have been written on this subject indebted to have been in doubt or ignorance of them had revela that revelation on which their authors too often clogs tion been silent. And many others are beholden to their eyes, for the very bases on which their most con revelation who do not acknowledge it. It is no dimi- vincing arguments are built. The same Atheistical nishing to revelation, that reason gives its suffrage too results logically followed from the ancient Magian docto the truths revelation has discovered; but it is our trine of two eternal principles, one good, and the oths mistake to think, that, because reason confirms them evil; a notion which also infected the Greek schoola, to us, we had the first certain knowledge of them from as appears from the example of Plutarch, and the inthence, and in that clear evidence we now possess | stances adduced by bim. them."-LOCKE.

No one, enlightened by the Scriptures, whether ha

acknowledges his obligations to them or not, has ever These instances might be enlarged; but they amply been betrayed into so great an absurdity as to deny the show that they who speak of the sufficiency of human individuality of the human soul; and yet, where the reason in matters of morals and religion neglect almost light of revelation has not spread, absurd and destruc- all the facts which the history of human opinion furnishtive to morals as this notion is, it very extensively pre-es; and that they owe all their best views to that founvails. The opinion that the human soul is a part of tain of inspiration from which they so criminally turn God, enclosed for a short time in matter, but still a por- aside. For how otherwise can the instances we have just tion of his essence, runs through much of the Greek mentioned be explained ? and how is it that those funPhilosophy. It is still more ancient than that, and, at damental principles in morals and religion, which mothe present day, the same opinion destroys all idea of dern philosophers have exhibited as demonstrable by accountability among those who in India follow the the unassisted powers of the human mind, were either Brahminical system. “The human soul is God, anda held doubtfully, or connected with some manifest abthe acts of the human soul are therefore the acts of surdity, or utterly denied by the wisest moral teachers God.” This is the popular argument by which their among the Gentiles, who lived before the Christian crimes are justified.

revelation was given? They had the same works of The doctrine of one Supreme, All-wise, and Uncon- God to behold, and the same course of providence to trollable Providence commends itself to our reason as reason from, to neither of which were they inattentive. one of the noblest and most supporting of truths; but They had intellectual endowments, which have been we are not to overlook the source from whence even the adıniration of all subsequent ages; and their reathose draw it who think the reason of man equal to son was rendered acute and discriminative by the disciits full developement. So far were pagans from being pline of mathematical and dialectic science. They able to conceive so lofty a thought, that the wisest of had every thing which the moderns have except the them invented subordinate agents to carry on the af- BIBLE; and yet on points which have been generally fairs of the world; beings often divided among them- settled among the moral philosophers of our own age selves, and subject to human passions; thereby de- as fundamental to natural religion, they had no just stroying the doctrine of providence, and taking away views and no settled conviction. “ The various apprethe very foundation of human trust in a Supreme hensions of wise men," says Cicero, “ will justify the Power. This invention of subordinate deities gave doubtings and demurs of skeptics, and it will then be birth to idolatry, which is sufficiently in proof both of sufficient to blame them, si aut consenserint alii, aut its extent and antiquity.

erit inventus aliquis, qui quid verum sit invenerit, The beautiful and well-sustained series of arguments when others agree, or any one has found out the truth. which have often in modern times been brought to We say not that nothing is true; but that some false support the presumption “that the human soul is im- things are annexed to all that is true, tanta similitumortal,” may be read with profit; but it is not to be dine ut iis nulla sit certa judicandi, et assentiendi accounted for, that those who profess to confine them- nota, and that with so much likeness, that there is no selves to human reason in the inquiry, should argue certain note of judging what is true, or assenting to it. with so much greater strength than the philosophers We deny not, that something may be true; percipi of ancient times, except that they have received assist-posse negamus, but we deny that it can be perceived ance from a source which they are unfair enough not so to be : for, quid habemus in rebus bonis et malis exto acknowledge. Some fine passages on this subject plorati, what have we certain concerning good and may be collected from Plato, Cicero, Seneca, and others evil? Nor for this are we to be blamed, but NATURE, but we must take them with others which express which has hidden the truth in the deep, naturam acsometimes doubt and sometimes unbelief. With us cusa quæ in profundo veritatem penitus abstruthis is a matter of general belief; but not so with the serit."(3) generality of either ancient or modern pagans. The On this subject Dr. Samuel Clarke, though so great same darkness which obscured the glory of God, pro- an advocate of natural religion, concedes, that “ of the portionably diminished the glory of man,-his true and philosophers, some argued themselves out of the belief proper immortality. The very ancient notion of an of the very being of a God; some by ascribing all things absorption of souls back again into the Divine Essence to chance, others to absolute fatality, equally subverted was with the ancients, what we know it to be now in all true notions of religions, and made the doctrine of the metaphysical system of the Hindoos, a denial of the resurrection of the dead and a future judgment individual immortality; nor have the demonstrations needless and impossible. Some professed open imof reason done any thing to convince the other grand morality, others, by subtle distinctions patronised pardivision of metaphysical pagans into which modern ticular vices. The better sort of them, who were most heathenism is divided, the followers of Budhu, who celebrated, discoursed with the greatest reason, yet believe in the total annihilation both of men and gods with much uncertainty and doubtfulness, concerning after a series of ages. ---a point of faith held probably things of the highest importance,--the providence of by the majority of the present race of mankind.(2) God in governing the world, the immortality of the

soul, and a future judgment." (2) " The religion of Budhu," says Dr. Davy, "is If such facts prove the weakness and insufficiency more widely extended than any other religion. It ap- of human reason, those just thoughts respecting God, pears to be the religion of the whole of Tartary, of his providence, his will, and a future state, which China, of Japan, and their dependencies, and of all the sometimes appear in the writings of the wisest heathen, countries between China and the Burrampooter. are not however, on the contrary, to be attributed to its

“ The Budhists do not believe in the existence of a strength. Even if they were, the argument for the Supreme Being, self-existent and eternal, the Crea- sufficiency of reason would not be much advanced tor and Preserver of the Universe; indeed, it is doubt thereby; for the case would then be, that the reason ful if they believe in the existence and operation of any which occasionally reached the truth had not firmness cause besides fate and necessity, to which they seem enough to hold it fast, and the pinion which sometimes to refer all changes in the moral and physical world. bore the mind into fields of light could not maintain They appear to be materialists in the strictest sense of it in its elevation. But it cannot even be admitted, that the ierm, and to have no notion of pure spirit or mind. the truth which occasionally breaks forth in their works Prane and hitta, life and intelligence, the most learned was the discovery of their own powers. There is of them appear to consider identical : seated in the much evidence to show, that they were idebted to a heart, radiating from thence to different parts of the traditional knowledge much earlier than their own day, body, like heat from a fire; uncreated, without begin- and that moral and religious knowledge among them ning, at least that they know of; capable of being mo- received occasional and important accessions from the dified by a variety of circumstances, like the breath in descendants of Abraham, a people who possessed redifferent musical instruments ;-and like a vapour, ca- cords which, Jaying aside the question of their inspirapable of passing from one body to another;--and like tion for the present, all candid Theists themselves will a flame, liable to be extinguished and totally annihilated. Gods, demons, men, reptiles, even the minutest malcule; that ordinary death is merely a change of and most imperfect animalcules, they consider as simi- form; and that this change is almost infinite, and iar beings, formed of the four elements-heat, air, wa- bounded only by annihilation, which they esteem the ter, and that which is tangible, and animated by prane acme of happiness !--- Account of Ceylon. and hitta. They believe that a man may become a god (3) Vide De Nat. Deorum, lib. 1, n. 10, 11. Acad. Qu. of a demon; or inat a god may become a man or an ani- lib. 2, n. 66. 120.

acknowledge, contain noble and just views of God and, and in their new settlements retained the customs of a correct morality. While it cannot be proved that hu- their ancestors, those especially which related to their man reason made a single discovery in either moral gods: and thus transmitted them to their posterity; or religious truth, it may be satisfactorily established, they imprinted them on the minds of their sons; and that just notions as to both were placed within its they did the same to their children. This was the reach, which it first obscured, and then corrupted. origin of right laws, and of the different forms of go


This so exactly harmonizes with the Mosaic account,

as to the flood of Noah, the origin of nations, and the CHAPTER V.

Divine institution of religion and laws, that either the The Origin of those Truths which are found in the had gone down with great exactness to the times of

patriarchal traditions imbodied in the writings of Moses Writings and Religious Systems of the Heathen. Plato; or the writings of Moses were known to him; We have seen that some of the leading truths of reli- or he had gathered the substance of them in his travels gion and morals which are adverted to by heathen from the Egyptian, the Chaldean, or the Magian philowriters, or assumed in heathen systems, are spoken of sophers, as truths previously known to the world, and with Nor is this an unsupported hypothesis. The eviwhich mankind were familiar. Also that no legislator, dence is most abundant, that the primitive source from poet, or philosopher of antiquity ever pretended to the whence every great religious and moral truth was discovery of the doctrines of the existence of a God, of drawn, must be fixed in that part of the world where providence, a future state, and of the rules by which Moses places the dwelling of the patriarchs of the huactions are determined to be good or evil, whether these man race, who walked with God, and received the law opinions were held by them with full conviction of from his mouth.(6) There, in the earliest times, civitheir certainty, or only doubtfully. That they were lization and polity were found, while the rest of the transmitted by tradition from an earlier age; or were earth was covered with savage tribes,--a sufficient brought from some collateral source of information; or proof that Asia was the common centre from whence that they flowed from both; are therefore the only ra- the rest of mankind persed, who, as they wandered tional conclusions.

from these primitive seats, and addicted themselves To tradition the wisest of the heathen often acknow- more to the chase than to agriculture, became in most ledge themselves indebted.

instances barbarous (7) A previous age of superior truth, rectitude, and hap- In the multifarious and bewildering superstitions of piness, sometimes called the golden age, was a com- all nations we also discover a very remarkable submonly received notion among them. It is at least as stratum of common tradition and religious faith. high as Hesiod, who rivals Homer in antiquity. It was The practice of sacrifice, which may at once be traced likewise a common opinion, that sages existed in ages into all nations, and to the remotest antiquity, affords anterior to their ownl, who received knowledge from an eminent proof of the common origin of religion ; inthe gods, and communicated it to men. The wisest | asmuch as no reason drawn from the nature of the heathens, notwithstanding the many great things said rite itself, or the circumstances of men, can be given of nature and reason, derive the origin, obligation, and for the universality of the practice: and as it is clearly eficacy of law from the gods alone. “No mortal," a positive institute, and opposed to the interests of men, says Plato in his Republic, “ can make laws to pur- it can only be accounted for by an injunction, issued pose.” Demosthenes calls law cvonua kai dupov Oes, at a very early period of the world, and solemnly im* the invention and gift of God." They speak of vouoi posed. This injunction, indeed, received a force, either αγραφοι, , unwritten laws,” and ascribe both them from its original appointment, or from subsequent cirand the laws which were introduced by their various cumstances, from which the human mind could never legislators, to the gods. Xenophon represents it as free itself. “ There continued,” says Dr. Shuckford, the opinion of Socrates, that the unwritten laws re- “ for a long time among the nations usages which ceived over the whole earth, which it was impossible show that there had been an ancient universal religion; that all mankind, as being of different languages, and several traces of which appeared in the rites and cerenot to be assembled in one place, should make, were monies which were observed in religious worship. given by the gods.(4) Plato is express on this sub- Such was the custom of sacrifices expiatory and pre

ject. • After a certain flood, which but few escaped, catory, both the sacrifice of animals and the oblations on the increase of mankind, they had neither letters, of wine, oil, and the fruits and products of the earth. writing, nor laws, but obeyed the manners and insti- | These and other things which were in use among the tutions of their fathers as laws; but when colonies se patriarchs obtained also among the Gentiles.”. parated from them, they took an elder for their leader, The events, and some of the leading opinions of the

earliest ages, mentioned in Scripture, may also be (4) Xen. Mem. lib. 4, cap. 4, sect, 19, 20.---To the traced among the most barbarous, as well as in the Orisame effect is that noble passage of Cicero cited by Lac-ental, the Grecian, and the Roman systems of mythotantius out of his work De Republica.

logy. Such are the FORMATION OF THE WORLD; the “Est quidem vera lex, recta ratio, naturæ congruene, FALL AND CORRUPTION OF MAN; the hostility of a powdiffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna, quæ vocet ad erful and supernatural agent of wickedness under his officium jubendó, vetando a fraude deterreat; quæ appropriate and scriptural emblem, the SERPENT; the tamen · neque probos frustra jubet, aut vetat ; nec im. DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD BY WATER; the REPEOprobos jubendo aut vetando movet. Huic legi nec abrogari fas est; nec derogari ex hac aliquid licet; neque (5) De Leg. 3. tota abrogari potest. Nec vero aut per senatum, aut (6) “ The East was the source of knowledge from per populum solvi hac lege possumus ; neque est quæ- whence it was communicated to the western parts of the rendus explanator, aut interpres ejus alius. Nec enim world. There the most precious remains of ancient traalia lex Romæ, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac; sed dition were found. Thither the most celebrated Greek et omnes gentes, et omni tempore, una lex et sempi- philosophers travelled in quest of science, or the knowterna, et immutabilis continebit; unusque erit commu- ledge of things divine and human, and thither the lawnis quasi magister et imperator omnium Deus, ille legis givers had recourse, in order to their being instructed hujus inventor, disceptator, lator; cui qui non parebit, in laws and civil policy.”--LELAND. ipse se fugiet, ac naturam hominis aspernabitur; atque (7) The speculations of infidels as to the gradual prohoc ipso luet maximas pænas, etiamsi cætera supplicia, gress of the original men from the savage life, and the quæ putantur, effugerit." From which it is clear that invention of language, arts, laws, &c., have been too Cicero acknowledged a law antecedent to all human much countenanced by philosophers bearing the name civil institutions, and independent of thern, binding of Christ, some of them even holding the office of teachupon all, constant and perpetual, the same in all times ers of his religion. The writings of Moses sufficiently and places, not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; show that there never was a period in which the original of an authority so high that no human power had the tribes of men were in a savage state, and the gradual right to alter or annul it; having God for its author, in process of the developement of a liigher condition is a his character of universal master and sovereign ; taking chimera. To those who profess to believe the Scrip. hold of the very consciences of men, and following tures, their testimony ought to be sufficient : to those thern with its animadversions, though they should es- who do not, they are at least as good history as any cape the hand of man and the nenalties of human codes. other.

PLING OF IT BY THE SONS OF Noah; the EXPECTATION mitted is clear from this, that the wisdom of very early OF ITS FINAL DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ; and, above all, ages consisted not so much in natural and speculative the promise of a great and Divine DELIVERER.(8) science as in moral notions, rules of conduct, and an

The only method of accounting for this is, that the acquaintance with the opinions of the wise of still earsame traditions were transmitted from the progenitors lier periods. of the different families of mankind after the flood; The few persons through whom this system was that in some places they were strengthened and the transmitted to Noah (sor, in fact, Methuselah was conimpressions deepened by successive revelations, which temporary both with Adam and Noah) rendered any assumed the first traditions, as being of Divine original, great corruption impossible; and therefore, the crimes for their basis, and thus renewed the knowledge which charged upon the antediluvians are violence, and other had formerly been communicated, at the very time immoralities, rather than the corruption of truth; and they enlarged it: and farther, that from the written re- Noah was “a preacher of righteousness," rather than velations which were afterward made to one people, a restorer of doctrine. some rays of reflected light were constantly glancing The flood,(2) being so awful and marked a declaraupon the surrounding nations.

tion of God's anger against the violation of the laws of Nor are we at a loss to trace this communication of this primitive religion, would give great force and truth from a common source to the Gentile nations; sanction to it as a religious system, in the minds of and also to show that they actually did receive acces- Noah's immediate descendants. The existence of God; sions of information, both directly and indirectly, from his providence; his favour to the good; his anger a people who retained the primitive theological system against evil-doers; the great rules of justice and mercy, in its greatest purity.

the practice of a sacrificial worship; the observance of We shall see sufficient reasons, when we come to the Sabbath; the promise of a deliverer, and other simispeak on that subject, to conclude that all mankind lar tenets, were among the articles and religious rites have descended from one common pair.

of this primitive system: nor can any satisfactory acIf man is now a moral agent, the first man must be count be given why they were transmitted to so many allowed to have been a moral agent, and, as such, under people in different parts of the world; why they have rules of obedience, in which rules it is far more pro- continued to glimmer through the darkness of paganbable. that he should be instructed by his Maker by ism to this day; why we find them more or less recogmeans of direct communication, than that he should be nised in the mythology, traditions, and customs of lett to collevt the will of his Maker from observation almost all ages, ancient and modern, except that they and experience. Those who deny the Scripture ac- received some original sanction of great efficacy, count of the introduction of death into the world, and deeply fixing them in the hearts of the patriarchs of all think the human species were always liable to it, are the families of men. Those who deny the revelations bound to admit a revelation from God to the first pair contained in the Scriptures have no means of accountas to the wholesomeness of certain fruits, and the de- ing for these facts, which in themselves are indisputstructive habits of certain animals, or our first proge- able. They have no theory respecting them which is nitors would have been far more exposed to danger not too childish to deserve serious refutation, and they from deleterious fruits, &c., and in a more miserable usually prefer to pass them over in silence. But the condition through their fears, than any of their descend believer in the Bible can account for them, and he ants, because they were without experience, and could alone. The destruction of wicked men by the flood put have no information.(9) But it is far more probable, the seal of Heaven upon the religious system transthat they should have express information as to the mitted from Adam; and under the force of this Divine will of God concerning their conduct; for until they and unequivocal attestation of its truth, the sons and had settled, by a course of rational induction, what descendants of Noah went forth into their different setwas right and what wrong, they could not, pro- tlements, bearing for ages the deep impression of its perly speaking, be moral agents; and from the difficul- sanctity and authority. The impression, it is true, at ties of such an inquiry, especially until they had had length gave way to vice, superstition, and false philoa long experience of the steady course of nature, and sophy; but superstition perverted truth rather than the effect of certain actions upon themselves and so- displaced it; and the doctrines, the history, and even ciety, they might possibly arrive at very different con- the hopes of the first ages were never entirely banished clusions.(1)

even from those fables which became baleful substiBut in whatever way the moral and religious know- tutes for their simplicity. ledge of the first man was obtained, if he is allowed to In the family of Abraham the true God was acknowhave been under an efficient law, he must at least have ledged. Melchizedeck was the sovereign of one of the known, in order to the right regulation of himself, every nations of Canaan, and priest of the Most High God; truth essential to religion, and to personal, domestic, and his subjects must, therefore, have been wor and social inorals. The truth on these subjects was as shippers of the true Divinity. Abimelech, the Philisessential to him as to his descendants, and more espe- tine, and his people, both in Abraham's days and in cially because he was so soon to be the head and ihe Isaac's, were also worshippers of Jehovah, and acknow. paternal governor, by a natural relation, of a numerous ledged the same moral principles which were held sarace, and to possess, by virtue of that office, groat in- cred in the elect family. The revelations and promises fluence over them. If we assume, therefore, that the made to Abraham would enlarge the boimdaries of reknowledge of the first man was taught to his children, ligious knowledge, both among the descendants of and it were the greatest absurdity to suppose the con- Ishmael, and those of his sons by Keturah ; as those trary, then, whether he received his information on the made to Shem would, with the patriarchal theology, be principal doctrines of religion and the principal rules of transmitted to his posterity--the Persians, Assyrians, morals by express revelation from God, or by the ex- and Mesopotamians.(3) In Egypt, even in the days of ercise of his own natural powers, all the great princi- Joseph, he and the king of Egypt speak of the true God ples of religion, and of personal, domestic, and social as of a being mutually known and acknowledged. morals, must have been at once communicated to his children immediately descending from him; and we (2) Whatever may be thought respecting the circumclearly enough see the reason why the earliest writers, stances of the flood as mentioned by Moses, there is on these subjects never pretend to have been the dis- nothing in that event, considered as the punishment of coverers of the leading-truths of morals and religion, a guilty race, and as giving an attestation of God's apbut speak of them as opinions familiar td men, and probation of right principles and a right conduct, to generally received. This primitive religious and moral which a consistent Theist can object. For if the wili system, as far as regards first principles and all their of God is to be collected from observing the course of important particular applications, was also complete, nature and providence, such signal and remarkable or there had been neither efficient religion nor morality events in his government as the deluge, whether uniin the first ages, which is contrary to all tradition and versal, or only co-extensive with the existing race of to all history, and that this system was actually trans- men, may be expected to occur; and especially when

an almost universal punishment, as connected with an (8) See note A, at the end of this chapter.

almost universal wickedness, so strikingly indicated (9) See DELANEY's Revelation examined with Can- an observant and a righteous government. dour, Dissertations 1 and 2.

(3) See Bishop HORSLEY's Dissertations before re(1) “ It is very probable,” says Puffendorf,“ that God / ferred to; and LELAND'S View of the Necessity of Ro. laught the first men the chief heads of natural law" i velation, part i. chap. 2.


« PreviousContinue »