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Doctrine; and of the deep root, which by its agreeable nature, it takes in the Mind wherever it has been once received. So that though, as it hath been observed, no Religion ever existed without the doctrine of a Future State, yet the doctrine of a Future State hath, it seems, sometimes existed without a Religion,
E have seen with what art, and care in contrivance, the Sages of the GENTILE World endeavoured, by the intervention of the MYSTERIES, to prevent the memory of THE FIRST CAUSE of all things from being totally obliterated from the minds of men; while the perverse constitution of the National Idolatries prevented the true God's being received into any PUBLIC Worship. To the SECRET of the Mysteries it was, that these Pseudo-Evangelists invited their more capable Disciples, awfully admonishing them to give heed unto it, as unto a light shining in a dark place. For it was no more than such a glimmering, till the rising of the day-star of the Gospel, in the hearts of the Faithful.
But if the late noble Author of THE FIRST PHILOSOPHY deserves credit; all this care was as absurd as it was fruitless.
The Institutors of the Mysteries imparted this SECRET, as the true and only solid foundation of RELIGION; for the FIRST CAUSE was, in their ideas, a God whose ESSENCE indeed was incomprehensible, but his ATTRIBUTES, as well moral as natural, discoverable by human reason. Such a God was wanted for
for that foundation: for unassisted reason taught them, as, in its most assisted state, it had taught St. PAUL, That he who cometh to God, must believe that he is; and that he is a REWARDER of them who diligently_ seek him. Thus Plato, in his Book of Laws, speaking of Religion, and it's use to civil Society, says, "It is "not of small consequence, that what we here reason "about the Gods, should, by all means and methods, "be made probable; as that they ARE, and that they are GOOD Hence, though their mistaken mode of teaching, deprived the pagan world of the fruit of the Doctrine, the purpose however was laudable and rational.
But now comes a modern Sage †-PHILOSOPHER and STATESMAN like the Ancient, (in all things else how unlike!) who tells us "that they made the Basis of Religion far too wide; that men have no further concern with GOD than TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS, which his physical Attributes make fully manifest; but, That he is a rewarder of them who diligently seek him, Religion doth not require us to believe, since this depends on God's MORAL ATTRIBUTES, of which we have no conception." In this manner, by the turn of a hand, hath our Noble Philosopher changed Natural Religion into NATURALISM; and made this care of the ancient Sages as ridiculously conceived as it was ineffectually prosecuted.
But to do justice to the weak endeavours of those Friends and Servants of mankind, who surely deserve a grateful memory with Posterity, I shall take the liberty to examine his Lordship's reasoning on this
ὡς θεόν τ ̓ εἰσι, καὶ ἀγαθεί. + Lord Bolingbroke.
branch of his FIRST PHILOSOPHY; which casts so malignant a shade over the whole religious World.
He pretends to prove That we have NO ADEQUATE ideas of God's moral attributes, his GOODNESS and JUSTICE, as we have of his natural, his Wisdom and Power. Here let me observe, that his Lordship uses the words, inadequate ideas, and, no ideas, as terms of the same import. And I think, not improperly. I have therefore followed him in the different use of either expression. For the reason of his calling our ideas of God's moral attributes INADEQUATE,, is, because he denies, that goodness and justice in God, and goodness and justice amongst Men, are the same IN KIND. But if not the same in kind, we can have NO IDEA of them; because we have no idea of any other kind of goodness and justice.
He lays down these three propositions:
1. That, by METAPHYSICS, or by reasoning à priori, we can gain no knowledge of God at all;
2. That our knowledge of his Attributes is to be acquired only by a contemplation on his WORKS, or by the reasoning à posteriori;
3. That in this way, we can only arrive at the knowledge of his NATURAL Attributes, not of his MORAL.
"It is from the CONSTITUTION OF THE WORLD ALONE (says his Lordship) and from the state of "mankind in it, that we can acquire any ideas of the “divine attributes, or a right to affirm any thing about "them*"
"The knowledge of the Creator is, on many accounts, necessary to such a creature as man: and
"therefore we are made able to arrive by a proper exercise of our mental faculties, from a knowledge of God's works to a knowledge of his existence, and "of that infinite POWER and WISDOM which are "demonstrated to us in them. OUR KNOWLEDGE CONCERNING GOD GOES NO FURTHER "Artificial Theology connects by very problemati"cal reasoning à priori, MORAL ATTRIBUTES, such 66 as we conceive them, and such as they are relatively "to us, with the physical attributes of God; though "there be no sufficient foundation for this proceeding, << nay, though the phænomena are in several cases repugnant †,"
Having thus assured us that the ideas of God's moral attributes are to be got by no consequential reasoning at all, either à priori or à posteriori, the two only ways we have to knowledge; He rightly concludes, that if Man hath such ideas, they were not FOUND but INVENTED by him. And therefore, that nothing might be wanting to the full dilucidation of this curious point, he acquaints us who were the Authors of the FICTION, and how strangely the thing came about,
"Some of the Philosophers (says his Lordship) having been led by a more full and accurate contemplation of Nature to the knowledge of a supreme "self-existent Being of infinite power and wisdom, "and the first Cause of all things, were not contented "with this degree of knowledge. They MADE A "SYSTEM of God's MORAL as well as physical ATTRIBUTES, BY WHICH TO ACCOUNT FOR THE PROCEEDINGS OF HIS PROVIDENCE‡.”
• Vol. IV. p. 86. + Vol. V. p. 316. Vol. IV. p. 48.