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person was caught in the fact. Adultery was also in certain cases established by law. Exposing of children was, among the Romans, according to Luctantius, a daily practice. Gladiators butchering one another by thousands, was the reigning diversion among those lords of the world for ages; and it was common, when one had got the other down, for the conqueror to look at the people for their orders, whether to spare or kill him, which they often gave for the latter; and even the ladies, if we may believe their own writers, would often give the signal to dispatch a poor, conquered, helpless victim, that they might feast their savage and unwomanly hearts with scenes of cruelty and blood. The authors of the Grecian wisdom were almost all addicted to one vice or other, some more, some less scandalous. Their snarling, and impudence, got them the appellation of Cynics; and disputes about words run through all their writings. Too many of both Greek and Roman philosophers, or wise men, flattered the vices of princes. Socrates himself, the father of wisdom, and opposer of polytheism, encouraged to consult the oracles, and to offer sacrifice to idols. Plato's morals were so obscure that it required a lifetime to understand them. Cicero excuses and countenances lewdness in some parts of his writings and those of Seneca are not without their poison. What were the manners of the polite court of Augustus, (to say nothing of the sea of blood, through which he swam to the imperial throne,) is pretty evident from the abominable and unnatural filthiness scattered through the writings of the wits of that elegant age. Which of the ancient sages did not too far temporize, and conform to the national superstition, contrary to their better knowledge, and even make the worst species of dissimulation a part of the duty of a good citizen; the consequence of which was, the effectual rivetting of error, and prevention of reasonable inquiry and reformation. It is certain, that whole nations have placed virtue on directly opposite sides; and that the wise ancients differed in their notion of what the chief good of man consisted in, to such a degree that one author reckons up several hundred different opinions on the subject. This shows that the understanding, or moral sense, though sufficient when illuminated by Divine
revelation, to judge of truth, is not, for all that, capable of striking out, of itself, sufficient light, safely to guide itself, especially overwhelmed and oppressed as it is by vice and prejudice. The most sublime of the heathen philosophers never put the immortality of the soul (the foundation of all religion) out of doubt. On the contrary, they represent it as at best only a very desirable scheme. Of a general resurrection of the body, an universal public judgment, and final happiness of the whole Human Nature, soul and body, in a state of everlasting glory, it does not appear that they had any clear notions; or that they carried their views beyond the Elysian state. None of them could satisfy a thinking mind about the proper means for propitiating the Deity, or whether guilt was like to be pardoned at all: nor could any of them prescribe an acceptable method of addressing the object of worship. On the contrary, Plato represents the wise Socrates as at a full stop, and advising not to worship at all, till such time as it should please God to inform mankind, by an express revelation, how they might address him acceptably. Nor did any of them sufficiently inculcate humility, the foundation of all virtues. On the contrary, the very schemes of some of the sects were rather founded in pride and obstinacy. Nor did any of them go so far as to show that forgiving injuries, loving enemies, and setting the affections upon the future heavenly state, were absolutely necessary. The utmost that any of them did, was to recommend the more sublime virtues to the practice of such persons as could reach them. So much for the heathen doctrines and morals.
Mahomet is known to have abandoned himself to lust all his life long. His impostures were so gross, that when he first broached them, his best friends were ashamed of both him and them. His religion sets upon the foot of direct violence and force of arms, and makes sensual gratifications, to the most excessive degree of beastliness, the final reward of a strict attachment to it. The Koran, so far as it is an original, is a heap of absurd doctrines, and trifling or bad laws. The few miracles which Mahomet pretends to have performed, are either things within the 14
reach of human power, or are hideous and incredible absurdities, or are wholly unattested.
The papists, who pretend to be Christians; but have in fact forged a religion of their own; have they done any honour to the opinion of the all-sufficiency of reason, in matters of religion? Let every one of their peculiar doctrines be examined, and let it be considered what advantage it is of to mankind for regulating their belief, and practice. Their invocation of saints, who ought to be omnipresent, to hear their prayers; which, according to their own account of the matter, they are not. Their purgatory, out of which the priest can pray a soul at any time for money, which must defeat the very design of a purgatory. Their penances, pilgrimages, fines, absolutions, and indulgencies; whose direct tendency is to lead the deluded votaries of that cursed superstition into a total neglect of the obligations of virtue, defeating the very end of religion. The infallibility of their popes, while one thunders out bulls and decrees directly contrary to those of another. And, last and worst, (for it is endless to enumerate the absurdities of popery) that most hideous and monstrous of all productions of the human brain, transubstantiation, which at once confounds all sense, overturns all reasoning, and renders all truth precarious and uncertain. These are the triumphs of reason; these the productions of human invention, when applied to making of religions.
Upon the whole, from this brief and imperfect representation of the state of those parts of the world which have enjoyed but a very little of the light of genuine Divine revelation, (for it is to be doubted, whether any was ever wholly without it,) and of those which have wickedly extinguished, or foolishly forsaken it, from this very brief representation, I say, human reason, unassisted from above, shows itself so far from sufficient for leading mankind in general into a completely right belief and practice, that irr almost every point, beyond mere simple right and wrong, it misleads into error, or falls short of truth. As the naked eye, though very fit for directing our way on earth, yet misrepresents, through its weakness, every celestial object; shows the sun no bigger than a chariot wheel, the
moon flat, like a plate of silver, and the planets, like lucid points. The same eye strengthened by a telescope, sees the sun, and moon, and planets, large and globular, as they really are. Revelation is that to reason, which a telescope is to the eye; an advantage and improvement. As he, who would see the wonders of the heavens, arms his eye with a telescope, so does the judicious inquirer into religious truth, apply to revelation for those informations which reason alone would never have given, though it judges of and approves them, when given. And as the astronomer does not think of putting out his eye, in order to see better with a telescope; so neither does the judicious advocate for revelation desire to oppose it to reason, but to examine it by reason, and to improve his reason by it.
The abominable priestcraft, and horrid persecution and bloodshed, which have been the disgrace of a religion, whose distinguishing characteristic is benevolence, is no confutation of what I have been advancing in support of the natural tendency and actual good effects upon a great number of mankind, of pure religion; and only shows that even a Divine appointment may be perverted to the purpose of establishing the kingdom of Satan. At any rate, the abuse of revelation, is no better objection against revelation, than that of reason, (of which every hour presents us various instances,) is against reason; which nobody ever thought of urging, as an argument that it was not of Divine original.
The disputes among the many different sects of Christians, which have rendered it very difficult for those, who search for the doctrines of revealed religion, any where, but in the Bible itself, to settle their judgment upon many points; those disputes are no just objection against revelation, any more than against every branch of human science whatever; upon every one of which, not excepting even the pure mathematics, controversies have been raised.. A revelation, upon which it should be impossible for designing, subtle men, to raise disputes, is hardly conceivable; or, however, is altogether inconsistent with the idea of a contrivance intended for the improvement of a set of free moral agents, who must be expected to treat revela
tion, as well as every other kind of information, according to their respective capacities, and tempers of mind.
If it has been alleged, that for God to have recourse to a direct message, or revelation, for reforming or improving mankind, or supplying the deficiencies of reason, looks like a defect in the make of the creature; and that reason ought alone to have been made originally equal to the purpose of enabling mankind to secure their final happiness; the answer is easy, to wit, That if human reason were supposed more equal to the purpose for which it was given than it is, a revelation might still be of great advantage. And that to suppose an express contrivance for mending the moral world necessary, or useful, is no more unphilosophical, or to speak properly, more unworthy of God, than one for the same purpose, in the natural world. And this latter is, by our great philosopher, allowed to be probable.
Supposing it reasonable to believe that the Divine Power, either immediately, or by means of the intervention or instrumentality of inferior agents and causes, does continually actuate the natural world, and conduct the moral; is not this a continued interposition? Why then should the thought of an extraordinary interposition on an extraordinary occasion, in order to a great and important end, be so difficult to conceive? At any rate, what must those gentlemen, who are so startled at the notion of an extraordinary step taken by the infinitely wise and absolutely free Governor of the world; what must they say of the creation of the universe? Did the universe come into existence by settled laws of nature? Is there any law of nature by which nothing becomes something? And does that law take place at such and such precise times, and no other? Let the opposers of extraordinary interpositions make the most of that difficulty, they must acknowledge somewhat extraordinary, as they choose to call it, to take place now and then in the universe, on occasion of the creation of a world. And it does not appear to me, that the restoration, or, (as it may be called,) making a-new a world, is of much less consequence, or less worthy of a particular interposition, than the first creation of it.
But after all, what is it those gentlemen puzzle themselves with? Are they sure, that in order, the giving a