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easy to perceive from this passage, that though Mr. Hume acknowledges the justice of conceiving of a God infinitely superior to us, yet his inclination is the other way. At least, in a nation, the bulk of which will be supposed to be inclined to superstition, it is better according to his reasoning, and more friendly to virtue, to promote the worship of a number of imaginary deities, than of the One only living and true God. Thus the fool saith in his heart, No God!
The sum of the whole is this: Modern unbelievers are Deists theory, Pagans in inclination, and Atheists in practice.
If Deists loved the One only living and true God, they would delight in worshipping him; for love cannot be inoperative and the only possible way for it to operate towards an infinitely glorious and all-perfect Being is by worshipping his name, and obeying his will. If Mr. Paine really felt for the honour of his Creator," as he affects to do,* he would mourn in secret for all the great wickedness of which he has committed against him; he would lie in in the dust before him, not merely as "an outcast, a beggar, and a worm," but as a sinner deserving his eternal displeasure. He would be glad of a Mediator, through whom he might approach his offended Creator; and would consider redemption by his blood, not as "a fable," but a divine reality, including all his salvation, and all his desire. Yea, he himself would "turn devout;" and it would be said of him, as of Saul of Tarsus, Behold he prayeth! Nor would his prayers, though importunate, be "dictatorial," or his grief affected." On the contrary, he would look on Him whom he hath pierced, and mourn, as one mourneth for an only son; and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first born. But these are things pertaining to godliness; things, alas for him, the mention of which is sufficient to inflame his mind with malignity, and provoke him to the most outrageous and abusive language.
* Age of Reason, Part I. p. 16.
THE CHRISTIAN STANDARD OF MORALITY IS ENLARGED, AND FREE FROM IMPURITY: BUT DEISM CONFINES OUR OBLIGATIONS TO THOSE DUTIES WHICH RESPECT OUR OWN SPECIES, AND GREATLY PALLIATES VICE WITH REGARD TO A BREACH EVEN OF THEM.
PERSONS Who profess the strictest regard to the rule of duty, and carry the extent of it to the highest pitch, may, it is allowed, be insincere, and contradict by their practice what they advance in their professions. But those whose ideas of virtue are low and contracted, and who embrace every opportunity to reconcile the vices of the world with its sacred precepts, cannot possibly be accounted any other than its enemies.
That which the scriptures call holiness, spirituality, &c. as much surpasses every thing that goes under the names of morality and virtue among unbelievers, as a living man surpasses a painting, or even a rude and imperfect daubing. If, in this controversy, I have used these terms to express the scriptural ideas, it is not because in their ordinary acceptation they are equal to the purpose, but for the sake of meeting unbelievers upon their own ground. I have a right, however, to understand by them, those dispositions of the mind, whatever they be, which are right, fit, or amiable; and so explained, I undertake to prove that the morality and virtue inculcated by the gospel is enlarged and free from impurity, while that which is taught by its adversaries is the reverse.
It is a distinguishing property of the Bible that all its precepts aim directly at the heart. It never goes about to form the mere exterior of man. To merely external duties it is a stranger. It forms the lives of men no otherwise than by forming their disposiions. It never addresses itself to their vanity, selfishness, or any
other corrupt propensity. You are not pressed to consider what men will think of you, or how it will affect your temporal interest; but what is right, and what is necessary to your eternal well-being. If you comply with its precepts you must be, and not merely seem to be. It is the heart that is required: and all the different prescribed forms of worship and obedience are but so many modifications, or varied expressions of it.
Is any thing like this to be found in the writings of Deists? No. Their deity does not seem to take cognizance of the heart. According to them "There is no merit or crime in intention."* Their morality only goes to form the exterior of man. It allows the utmost scope for wicked desires, provided they be not carried into execution to the injury of society.
The morality which the scriptures inculcate is summed up in these few words; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself. This single principle is competent to the government of all intelligent nature. It is a band that would hold together the whole rational creation; and diffuse peace, order, and happiness, wherever it existed.
If mankind loved God supremely, there would be no idolatry upon earth, nor any of its attendant abominations; no profaning the name of God, nor making a gain of godliness; no opposing, corrupting, perverting, nor abusing the truth; no perjuries, nor hypocrasies; no despising of those that are good; no arrogance, ingratitude, pride, nor self complacency, under the smiles of providence and no murmuring, heart-rising, sullenness, nor suicide, under its frowns. Love would render it their meat and drink to fear, honour, and obey him, and induce them to take every thing well at his hands. And if they loved their fellow creatures as themselves, for his sake, there would be no wars, rivalships, antipathies, nor breach of treaties, between nations; no envyings, strifes, wrongs, slanders, duels, litigations, nor intrigues, between neighbours; no flattering complaisance, nor persecuting bitterness, in relig ion; no deceit, fraud, nor over-reaching, in trade; no tyrrany, venality, haughtiness, nor oppression, among the great; no envy, discon* Volney's Law of Nature, p. 18.
tent, disaffection, cabals, nor evil-devisings, among common people; no murders, robberies, thefts, burglaries, nor brothels, in city or country; no cruelty, in parents or masters; no ingratitude nor disobedience, in children or servants; no unkindness, treachery, nor implacable resentments, between friends; no illicit connexions between the sexes; no infidelities, jealousies, nor bitter contentions, in families; in short, none of those streams of death, one or more of which flow through every vein of society, and poison its enjoyments.
Such is the principle and rule of Christian morality; and what has Deism to substitute in its place? Can it find a succedaneum for love? No, but it proposes the love of ourselves instead of the love of God. Lord Bolingbroke resolves all morality into selflove, as its first principle. "We love ourselves," he says, “we love our families, we love the particular societies to which we belong; and our benevolence extends at last to the whole race of mankind. Like so many different vortices, the centre of all is self love." Such also are the principles of Volney.
Could this diposition be admitted as a proper source of moral action, the world would certainly not be wanting in morality. All men possess at least the principle of it, whether they carry it to the extent which Lord Bolingbroke proposes, or not: for though some may err in the choice of their end, and others in the means of obtaining it; yet no man was ever so wanting in regard to himself as intentionally to pursue his own injury. But if it should prove that to render self-love the source of moral action in the same thing as for every individual to treat himself as the Supreme Being; and, therefore, that this principle, instead of being a source of virtue, is the very essence of vice, and the source of all the mischief in the universe, consequences may follow of a very different complexion.
To subordinate self-love I have no objection. It occupies a place in the Christian standard of morality, being the measure of that love which we owe to our fellow-creatures. And, as the universal love which we owe to them does not hinder but that some of them, by reason of their situation or peculiar relation to * Posthumous Works, Vol. V. p. 82.
us, may require a larger portion of our regard than others, it is the same with respect to ourselves. Our own concerns are our own immediate charge; and those which are of the greatest importance, such as the concerns of our souls, undoubtedly require a proportionate degree of attention. But all this does not affect the present subject of inquiry. It is our supreme, and not our subordinate regard, that will ever be the source of action.
I take it for granted, that it is the intention of every good government, human or divine, to unite its subjects, and not to set them at variance. But there can be no union without a common object of regard. Either a character whom all love and venerate, or an end which all pursue, or both, is that to a community which a head-stone is to an arch; nor can they keep together without it. It is thus that the love of God holds creation together. He is that lovely character to whom all holy intelligencies bear supreme affection; and the display of his glory, in the universal triumph of truth and righteousness, is that end which they all pursue. Thus united in their grand object, they cannot but feel a union of heart with one another, arising from, what is common to every other voluntary union, a congenialty of sentiments and pursuits.
But if our supreme affection terminate on ourselves, and no being, created or uncreated, be regarded but for our own sakes, it is manifest there can be no union beyond the sphere in which other beings become voluntarily subservient to our wishes. The Supreme Being, if our plan do not comport with his, will be continually thwarting us; and so we shall be always at variance with him. And as to created beings. those individuals whom we desire to be subservient to our wishes, having the same right, and the same inclination, to require that we should be subservient to theirs, will also be continually thwarting us; and so we shall always be at variance with them. In short, nothing but an endless succession of discord and confusion can be the consequence. Every one setting up for pre-eminence, every one must of course contribute to the general state of anarchy and misery which will pervade the community. Such, is in fact, the state of this apostate world; and, but for divine providence, which for wise ends balances all human affairs, causing one set of evils to counteract the influence of another,