« EelmineJätka »
"HERE are two points, I think, which
a little knowledge of human nature, and of the ancient and present state of the world, will render evident to the reflecting mind; first, that man is, naturally, a religious animal ; and, secondly, that, according to the nature of the religious principles which he entertains, he either is, or is not, happy in himself, and useful to others.
It will be my endeavour, in the following pages, to prove, in a concise and discursive form, both these propositions ; to inter, from their establishment, the benefit of the Christe ian revelation, and the importance of its being preached to the common people” in simplicity and truth; and to shew, that the Clergy of the Established Church fulfil this high public and professional duty, by TINDICATING them from the charges which are too frequently levelled against them, of their worshipping human learning ; their exalting season above faith ; and their not preaching the gospel of Christ.
That the religious feeling is natural to the human mind, seems to be conclusive, from the universality of its existence among mankind : since, no well-established account has yet appeared, of any people upon the face of the earth, who have been totally destitute of a belief in some power or powers, of a nature infinitely superior to themselves. Such a feeling, indeed, is the necessary consequence of the situation in which man is placed, and of the circumstances by which he is surrounded, here below. In his most savage state, he has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand, the striking Wonders that are above, below, andabout him:
• His untutor'd mind " Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind;" and the constant interchange of day and night; the uniform alternation of the sea. sons; the grandeur of the firmament; the beauty of the earth; and the various phæ. nomena of the elements; all inspire the no. tion of a super-human Intelligence, by hom the visible creation was formed; and the course of external nature, and the af. fairs of the world, are disposed and carried on.
It is true, indeed, that this religious feeling among the uncivilized and unenlightened, is usually a gloomy principle, leading them to
regard the Creator rather as a terrible, than a benevolent, Being. Conversant, in their own persons, only with difficulty, danger, and privation; and unable to discover, in the natural world, that constant eduction of good out of apparent evil, which, to the spiritual mind and philosophic eye, forms one of the most striking proofs of the wisdom and goodness of the Deity; they naturally invest the object of their worship with attributes exclusively fearful; and look up to him with distrust and dread, instead of confidence and love. Their religious services will, of course, be as terrible as their creed ; and personal infli&tions on themselves, or the tortures and blood of human victims, will be resorted to, in order to propitiate that vindi&tive Being, who, in their gross conceptions, seems to delight only in the misery of his creatures. No idea of moral obligation will be connected with their dread. ful faith; and the wide and important range of social duties will be not only unpractised, but altogether unknown among them.
As men, however, advance from a savage to a civilized 'state, (I speak of them, of course, as destitute of the light of revelation) their theological notions will be altered, in some measure, for the better. The innumerable marks of design, in the
frame of the universe, becoming now objects of observation and reflection, will in: spire a notion of the infinite wisdom of the Deity ; and the great perceptible preponderance of good over evil, both in the moral and physical world, will suggest that benevolence also is an attribute of the divine nature. Hence, their potions of the Deity will become less gloomy, their system of religious worship less ferocious, and their ritual more cheerful, than it was before. But, notwithstanding this improvement, it
still apparent, that, as 'religion affects the happiness of the individual, or the good of society, their theology, even in this state, will do little towards the promotion of either.. They will have no certain information on those subjects, which, of all others, most interest the human mind, and without certain information on · which, man cannot be at peace with himself,--the future existence of the soul, and a state of reward hereafter for the virtuous and the good : and having no fixed and rational standard of morality, no sanctions more affecting than the inadequate ones which human laws afford, for the encouragement of virtue, and the pre- : vention of crime, their performance of the relative and social duties will be imperfect and insecure.
From the above reasoning, I apprehend, may be clearly inferred, the necessity and advantage of a divine revelation ; of the declaration of the true God, to whom man may direct that homage, which it is natural for him to wish to offer ; and of the annunciation of those comfortable doctrines and useful duties, which, founded on eternal truth, and sanctioned by divine authority, shall be at once satisfactory to the mind of man, and obligatory upon his conduct; make him at peace with himself, and scrviceable to his fellow creatures.
In the christian religion, the world has this blessed and most desirable information; and by what it reveals, and what it commands, it has made provision for the felicity of man, under every light in which he can be viewed; as a single individual, or a member of the community; as a solitary being, pursuing his own personal interests ; or a social one, mixing with his fellow men, and either aiding, or marring, by his interference, the general welfare; as 'an inhabitant of earth, or a candidate for heaven. " It has " drawn aside,” to use the eloquent language of a late divine, « the curtain of heathen " ignorance, and laid open to the view the
genuine nature of God, the genuine na“ ture of man; and the duties and rewards