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The Law of NATURE sufficiently pro
pagated to HEATHENS.
T 'HE following Dissertation was occafioned by reading
Dr. Campbell's late book on the Neceflity of Revelation, where the insufficiency of mere reason, to, conduct men to the knowledge of the existence of the Deity, and the immortality of their own fours, has, with a great profufion of learning to very little purpole, been contended for.
One may, at first sight, imagine, that it argues no good-will to the cause of Christianity, to attack an author who has of late so much distinguisked himself in its defence, and who, instead of employing his pen on these mean and insignificant controversies
, which have ingrossed the attention of too many of our Scots clergy, has imbarked in the defence of our holy religion, in opposition to that torrent of Deism and Infidelity which threatens its destruction. Happy for Scotland there are some who think it a matter of greater importanie, to make Infidels converts to the Christian faith, than to render Christians the violent Partizans of a particular feet!
That sentiments of this kind, and a sense of the danger that threatens us from the growth of Infidelity, were
tihe Doctor's motives, in publishing his performance, the principles of charity oblige me to believe. But howa ever much I am pleased with his general design, yet there are fome positions laid down in the projecution of it, that I cannot help refusing my asent to ; and this liberty, I am persuaded, the Doctor himself will readily allow me ; since, as he observes from the judicious: Hooker, “Whatever is spoken of God, or things. “ pertaining to God, otherways than as the truth is,
though it seem an honour, it is an injury.” To lie for the truth, is not only a needless piece of service, but an injurious one too. Our religion is so firongly. attested, and attended with fo unanswerable evidence, that it fcorns to be supported by Falshood, or raise its fame by fander and detraction. It has a firmer and more stable foundation than the ruins of philosophy. But when arguments in its defence are stretched further than their nature allows, which I am apt to think is the present case, the consequence too often is, that men, seeing an argument has not all that force which an author pretends, conclude it has none at all; nay, perhaps, without further examination, reject the opinion in support of which it is brought.
Thele confiderations prevailed with me to make publick the following reflections, wherein I have, with all the Mortness and perspicuity
. I was able, proposed certain difficulties to the Doctor's scheme. iV by the author's name is not prefixed to them it is needless to say. Let them appear in their native strength, with out that additional disadvantage, which the publishing such a circumstance would give them.
As the author never made the English language bis; study, it is hoped any grammatical improprieties, which have escaped him, will be pardoned.
in his treatise on the Necessity of Revelution, is (as he informs us, p. 21.) to ex“ amine the scheme of Deism, laid down in “ Chriftianity as old as the Creation; where it is “ asserted, That men are fully able, of them“ selves, without foreign assistance, to discover " all the articles of natural religion that are ne" cessary to their happiness; and that a wise and “ good God can impose upon mankind nothing “ relating to religion that is not discoverable by " the human mind, or that is not immediately “ founded in the nature of things : so that if a “ scheme of religion is offered to the world, “ wherein there are contained religious articles of “ faith and manners, that lie beyond human dis
covery, or have no immediate foundation in “ nature, but are positive institutions, depending
on will and authority, such a system of things can never be admitted as a divine revelation.”
I join with the Doctor in thinking, that the confuting these notions is an infallible way of demolishing Deism ; but it is somewhat strange, that when so much time has been spent by him, in confuting one of the articles of Deism contained in these affertions, the other, of equal, if not greater importance, should not be in the least ftruck at, viz. That men are not obliged to receive any doctrine, whose immediate foundation in nature, when once the doctrine is revealed to them, they cannot discern. A Deist may pretend, that it does not concern him to know how man.
kind originally came by their religion; whether they discovered it by the use of reason, or had it revealed to them by God. But that he fees no obligation on men to receive any doctrine, for which they have not the same evidence which they have for the grand principles of natural religion, viz. A necessary connection with eternal truths; this hypothesis seems not to be in the least shaken by any thing the Doctor has advanced. Nay, people of little charity might be apt to imagine he had some fecret view in this piece of negligence, especially as he is pleased, p. 20.' to join together, in the same sentence, mysteries and very trifles, as the causes of the divisions and confufions that have arisen in the world.
There are two or three passages in the Doctor's book, which persons of this stamp might alledge to justify such an inference. One is, p. 44. “ In “ matters of religion (says he) no point of know
ledge or article of faith, no external or bodily “ motion enjoined by positive institution, can be as of any value or moment, unless they promote
an observance of natural religion ; so that if
any thing can be supposed in the nature of « God, or, in his dealings with mankind, in the 6.5 nature of man, or in the relations between “ God and man, whereof the knowledge has no u influence upon our minds to engage and im
prove us in the study and pursuit of natural re« ligion, such things must be accounted of no “ weight or importance. Indeed, the discovery “ of truth is always agreeable, and the bare peru ception of such things as are here supposed to 56 relate to God and man, may afford some plea66 sure to one's mind by itfulf; but of what con46. sequence can such things prove with respect to K6
a social when,
“ focial beings, when they produce no focial “ happiness, or contribute nothing to heighten " and raise our love and devotion towards God, " or to excite and enlarge our kind affections to"s wards men? One should think, that the “ knowledge of these things is idle speculation, " wherein social beings have no concern or in“ tereft. And it appears full as evident, that all « bodily motions, or external observances, en“ joined by positive institution, that do not affift “ us in cultivating the duties of natural religion,
are wholly idle and trifling, and upon no acof count to be
regarded.” If the Doctor here means, what at first sight one would imagine, that we are not obliged to yield our aflent to any doctrine, or receive any positive institution, except we see in that doctrine or inftitution a peculiar and natural tendency to excite in us love to God, or benevolence to men, or some other particular duty; if this, I say, is his meaning, then what he afferts is utterly falfe; for God, no doubt, has a right to impose upan us precepts indifferent in their own nature ; nay, in some cases, it may be fit to impose such precepts, the better to inure us to obey the law of God, from regard to the authority of the legislator. Now this is an end which any rule that God enjoins must infallibly promote, however trifling it may be in itself. But this is not all : we find subjects are, in many cases, under an obJigation to obey the laws of their governors, tho’ they do not know on what account they were enacted; partly because the reasons of fome laws may lie above their comprehension ; partly because, in some cases, legislators may have just enough, motives to enact fuch and such laws,