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The pride of Philosophy has too highly exalted reason, the mock humility of Enthusiasm has debased it. Moreover, while the Deist from self-sufficiency has spurned the aid and denied the necessity of Revelation, the well meaning advocate for Christianity has collected and exaggerated all the instances of ignorance and depravity to be found in the heathen world, and enquiries have been often made how much of the heathen morality was borrowed from Revelation, and it has been taken for granted that because some of the Greek philosophers travelled into Egypt, all their knowledge of the Deity and all their precepts respecting the private and social duties of man, were brought from thence. Their acquiescence in the popular religion is alledged as a proof of the grossness of their minds, and they are generally represented as not having themselves, much less inculcating in others, any ideas of those sublimer moral precepts, which, it is contended, are to be found only in the Gospel. The history of all kingdoms in a state of barbarity is uncertain, and it must be allowed that no one ever emerged from such a state by its own mere effects. But whatever knowledge the philosophers carried from the East, they certainly improved upon
it— They were not ignorant that purity of intention is necessary to constitute real goodnefs, that a desire of revenge is a mean and groveling passion, that man is not such a judge of his own happiness as to know what to request of heaven, and that he is insufficient of himself to become what he was intended to be, without supernatural assistance -Nor are we to impute to Cicero all the scepticism apparently to be found in his writings. He gives the opinions of every sect the most plausible appearance, and leaves the reader to judge for himself. The greatness of mind, which his morality displays, will delight an intelligent reader, as it will expose the mean and the profligate of every age and every country. Nor need any one be alarmed, if we should in some degree think more highly of the fages of Greece and Rome than we ought to think. Much vanity and pride, much unnecessary subtlety and refinement, much temporary compliance and pufillanimous condescension, to be found amongst them, will abundantly justify the censure of St. Paul, and set forth the superior excellence of the Gospel. Every age has abounded with Deists, and the present age has not the smalleft number. The Church of Rome, by im
posing too many articles of belief, has tempted many to disbelieve every thing: And every other Communion of Christians which has extended the boundaries of faith beyond the line fixed by Revelation, has indirectly, however unintentionally, added to the number of infidels. After the most earnest endeavours, our good will be evil Spoken of; only let not this be the effect of our own imprudence.
It perhaps was never thoroughly known how much a vigorous understanding, joined with unwearied diligence, might effect. In controversy, it is safer to allow too much than too little. For to those, who are favoured with a Revelation, who have not shut their eyes against the light, it is not of the greatest moment to know precisely what they could have been or what they could have discovered in the days of ignorance and superstition
But we may be asked, whether we intend to deny the existence of natural religion or to depreciate its excellence ? St. Paul himself has authorized us to suppose, that independent of revelation, there are certain obligations, both to God and our fellow creatures, which ought, under all circumstances, to have
been better understood and more universally practised than they were. The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly feen, being understood by the things that are made, even bis eternal power and Godhead; fo that they are without excuse: Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. And again, «When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which mew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. So little are the inspired penmen disposed to weaken the just pretensions even of deism.
It is a position, which surely can admit of little doubt, that, if Jesus Christ had not come into the world, first to instruct us and afterwards to die for us, there would ave been certain duties which man ought to have practised, and that without an useless disquisition concerning the several sources of information, we can discriminate between such du
c Rom, i, 20, 21.
d Ibid. ii, 14, 15
ties and the additional obligations which Christianity imposes. When this discrimination is made, it is clearly seen what is or what ought to be understood by natural, and what by revealed religion. We are not now speaking of practice; for in practice Whatsoever is not of faith, is fin. Whatsoever we do, actuated solely by motives of common prudence and mere morality, has in it the nature of fin. But what is united in practice may be distinguilhed in speculation. The successful movementof a machine depends upon a proper union and a regular co-operation of all its powers : but this neither prevents nor discourages us from analysing them, and determining how much of each power is necessary to render the whole compleat. We, therefore, see, by the way, with what propriety our Theological studies are assisted by the previous perusal of a system of Ethicks, for though our Ethicks and our Theology may proceed from the same source, yet in contemplation they are distinguished from each other, giving and receiving mutual aid and assistance. For from whence arises the internal evidence of the Christian religion? Does it not arise from the sense of right and wrongimplanted in the human breast? ¢ Rom. xiv, 23.