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I cannot conclude this introduction without recommending to my readers the present bishop of Carlisle's Appendix to his Considerations on the Theory of Religion, for a fuller account of the scripture doctrine of the fate of the dead, than is given in Chapter I. Section V. of this volume.
PART III. :
A S the Jewish and christian religions have been A proved to be founded on a series of revelations of the will of God to man, the history of which is recorded in the Old and New Testament, it behoves us to examine these books with care; taking it for granted, that they contain truths of the greatest importance to our happiness.
In this part of my work, therefore, I propose to exhibit, with as much fidelity and distinctness as I can, all the general knowledge that can, with certainty, be collected from these books, which are usually, and very deservedly, termed sacred. I fhall be careful, however, to keep as far as pollible from all controversy, and simply recite what appears to me to be contained in the scriptures, just as I think I should have done if I had never heard of any controversy upon the subject. Every thing that has been the subject of much contention and debate, I shall reserve for another work, which will be appropriated to a view of the corruptions of christianity.
As I divided the subject of natural religion into three parts, the first containing what we are able to learn from thence concerning God, the second concerning our duty, and the third concerning our future expectations, I shall adhere to the same general division in this part of my work also; by which means it will be more easily and distinctly seen what additional, what fuller, and clearer knowledge, we receive on these important subjects from divine revelation.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM THE SCRIPTURES CON.
This first chapter I shall subdivide into two others, the first re
specting the unity, as also the natural perfektions, and providence of God, and the second his moral perfections.
Of the unity, the natural perfeElions, and providence
NE of the most important of all the truths
concerning God, as that invisible being, who is the object of our fupreme reverence, and to whom we address ourselves in prayer, as our immediate inspector, and moral governor, is his unity. That there is but one God, we have seen to be a truth deducible from the observation of the works of nature; but it is not so easily and clearly deducible from thence, but that mankind have always been prone to fall into idolatry, or the worship of “more gods than one; which seems to have arisen chiefly from the very low and imperfect ideas that men entertained of the knowledge and power of God.
Judging of all other intelligent beings by themfelves, they had no conception of one superintendo ing mind only being sufficient for all the purposes for which the presence and agency of the deity was supposed to be requisite; and therefore they ima. gined, that there must, of neceffity, be a multiplicity of beings of that character, each superin, tending his respective province in nature. If they retained the idea of one fupreme God, which seems to have been the belief of all mankind in the earliest ages (handed down, I believe, by tradition from Noah and his immediate descendants) they still did not think that this one supreme being could go vern the world without the assistance of other subordinate beings, of an intermediate nature between himself and man. These subordinate agents they would therefore consider as the beings with whom they had iinmediately to do, and whom their religious worship and homage would respect; while the worship of the supreme being would be in danger of being neglected.
This was the actual progress of things in the heathen world. Mankind began with the worship of one true God; but, having afterwards associated with him various inferior beings, as objects of divine worship, they, in time, lost fight of the supreme being altogether; so that none of the objects of the popular worship among the Greeks or Romans were any thing more than either the sun,