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on the face of the deep. Nothing remains that does not acknowledge the divine revelation of Christianity, but the self-styled religion of nature-Deism. And what shall be said of this? I am unable to give an account of it more definite, than that it is the denial of Christianity on the one hand, and of Atheism on the other, and is to be found somewhere between these two infinitely distant extremes; never stationary, changing place with the times; accommodating its character to the disposition of every disciple, and permitting any one to assume the name of Deist who will only believe these two articles of faith-that there is a God, and that Christianity is untrue. Such is the religion which, according to Paine, “teaches us, without the possibility of being mistaken, all that is necessary or proper to be known.” And yet, notwithstanding this boasted fulness and infallibility of instruction, there is no agreement among Deists as to what their natural religion consists in, or as to the truth of what some of them consider its most fundamental doctrines. Their chief writers are altogether at variance as to whether there is any distinction between right and wrong, other than in the law of the land or the customs of society; whether there is a Providence; whether God is to be worshipped in prayer and praise, or the practice of virtue is not the only worship required; whether the practice of virtue forbids or encourages deceit, suicide, revenge, adultery, and all uncleanness; whether the soul is mortal or immortal; whether God has any concern with human conduct.

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ques. tion as to what evidence or what adaptation to the wants of men and of sinners Deism could pretend to, after the rejection of evidence and excellence such as those of the gospel, let me ask whether Deism can with any propriety be called religion? Does that deserve the name of a system of religious faith which has no settled doctrine upon the most essential points of belief and practice—which may acknowledge as many contradictory forms, at the same moment, as it has disciples, and never could remain long enough in one position or under one countenance for the most skilful pencil to take its portrait? But aside from all this, it is too notorious to be argued, that whatever pretensions may have been advanced by Deists to something like a theory of religious belief, it is at best a mere theory; utterly powerless in practice, except to liberate its disciples from all conscientious restraint upon their passions, and promote in the public mind the wildest licentiousness as to all moral obligation.

Substitute Deism for Christianity, and none acquainted with the nature or history of man can help acknowledging, that as to all the beneficial influence of religion upon the heart and life, in promoting either the moral purity of individuals or the happiness of society, we shall have no religion at all. When have Deists ever maintained a habit of private, family, or public worship? Attempts have been made among them to keep up some mode of congregational service, but total failure, in every instance,

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M'ILVAINE'S EVIDENCES.

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has proved how forced was the effort, and how little it would have been thought of, had it not been for the surrounding influence of Christianity. The first attempt was by a man in England, who styled himself the Priest of Nature. He relapsed from being a dissenting preacher of an orthodox creed to Socinianism, thence to Deism; after which he set up in London a house of worship, formed a liturgy, was patronized by some persons of influence, preached, and collected some disciples. But most of his people became Atheists; and after an experiment of four years, the congregation was reduced to nothing, funds failed, and the effort was abandoned. The most formidable enterprise in this way took place in France during the revolution. Having found by some experience, that to acknowledge no God was to have no law, and to be without religious institutions was to want civilization and peace, certain persons distinguished for learning, and calling themselves Theophilanthropists, set up a society for the worship of God on the principles of Deism. The desolated churches of Paris were given for their object. A directory of deistical worship was published, containing prayers and hymns. Lectures were substituted for sermons. The ceremonies were simple, tasteful, and classical. Music added its charms. The form of worship was sent into all parts of the country, and great exertions were made by the powers of the state to get up this religion in every town. Circumstances were exceedingly propitious to the enterprise. Christianity had been banished. Her witnesses were in sackcloth. She had

oppose themselves to the scheme of her enemies. The country was sick of the horrors of Atheism. Some religion was demanded by public feeling. This contrivance had nothing in it offensive to the sinner, while it seemed to be skilfully adapted to the people and the times. Moreover, it was patronized by government, and conformed to by the learned. The ceremonies were well performed; the musical accompaniments excellent. But all would not do. No sooner had novelty ceased, than the assemblies were thinned. The trifling expenses of music and apparatus could not be raised out of the liberality of the people. The society was split up with dissensions, some refusing the manual of worship; others complaining against the lecturers as aiming at too much power; others demanding that the creed of the society should be more liberal, and allow a greater latitude of belief. None at last could be got to lecture. To keep up the popular interest, and to escape the charge of bigotry, religious festivals were appointed, in which a union of service was attempted between Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Deists, and Atheists. There were festivals in honor of Socrates, of Rousseau, and of Washington. At one of these, a banner inscribed with the name Morality was carried by a man notorious as a professor of Atheism. But all would not do. The great principle of religion was . wanting. There was no devotional spirit. The body was dead, and therefore soon tumbled to dust. А. short time after, a counsellor of France in a public address, declared the result of the experiment in these

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words: "For want of a religious education for the last ten years, our children are without any ideas of a Divinity, without any notion of what is just and unjust; hence arise barbarous manners, hence a people become ferocious. Alas, what have we gained by deviating from the path pointed out by our ancestors ? What have we gained by substituting vain and abstract doctrines for the creed which actuated the minds of Turenne, Fenelon, and Pascal ?" *

I cannot omit, in connection with these striking confessions, the description given by one of the most famous infidels in those times, of all that class of philosophers whose views and schemes we have been noticing. Thus writes Rousseau: “I have consulted our philosophers, I have perused their books, I have examined their several opinions, I have found them all proud, positive, and dogmatizing even in their pretended scepticism, knowing every thing, proving nothing, and ridiculing one another; and this is the only point in which they concur, and in which they are right. If you count their number, each one is reduced to himself; they never unite but to dispute. I conceived that the insufficiency of the human understanding was the first cause of this prodigious diversity of sentiment, and that pride was the second. If our philosophers were able to discover truth, which of them would interest himself about it? Where is the philosopher who for his own glory would not willingly deceive the whole human race? Where is he

* For more particulars, see Alexander's Evidences and Dwight's Sermons, vol. 1, 191.

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