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and moral) inay be denominated, good, evil, or indifferent; yet that will not be an immediate foundation for religion. But in the same sect. prop. 10. it is faid, If there be moral good and evil distinguished as before (viz. by the rule of truth, there laid down) there is religion, and such as may most properly be fti. led natural; by religion (says he) I mean nothing else but an obligation to do (under which word, says he, I comprehend acts both of body and mind, 1 say to do) what ought not to be omitted, and to forbear what ought not to be done.
If there be moral good and evil in respect to a divine conftitution, there must be religion. But a denomination of moral good and evil upon some remote account, antecedent to and independent on the divine existence, will not presently infer religion. It is not every sort of obligation, but a divine one, that argues religion. It is usual with natural religionists to fuppose this world existent in its present frame, antecedently to the notion of the divine existence. For from the consideration of the frame, order, and usefulness of the world, arguments are (justly) taken, to demonstrate the divine existence. From visible things we arise to the proof of things invisible. Let us suppose then (as I think, our author does) mankind capable of some acts, that may be called good, or evil, or indifferent, antecedenly to the consideration of the existence of GOD. In this state, either some moral rule may be assigned to human actions (according to which they may be denominated good, evil, or indifferent) or there may not. If, in this state and fi3
tuation of human nature, no such moral rule can be assigned to human actions; then our author's rule of truth (congruity of action to maiters of fact, and true propositions) cannot be established, (and consequently, not religion) antecedently to the consideration of a divine existence. If a moral rule for human action may be asserted, antecedently to the consideration of such existence (as, I suppose, our author would say, that, in such a state it would be naturally immoral, or rationally evil, to be always lying one : to another, or always murdering one the other) then there may be a physical, (if you will call it fo) a natural, or rational morality, and yet not a natural religion. Since religion relates to, and depends on, the existence of a divine majesty.
The learned author allows, that there is (belonging to rational animals) the law of sense or sensitive... nature; in respect to which he says, sect. 3. prop. 15. p.55. In this case, to act according to them i.e. as taking the informations of sense to be true) is to act according to reason, and the great law of our nature. Then there is the law of immediate reason; of which he says, sect. 3. prop. II. P.SI. To be governed by reason, is the general law, imposed by the author of nature, upon them, whose uppermost faculty is reason ; as the dictates of it, in particular cases, are the particular laws, to which they are subječt. Here is a supposition of an author of nature, and a law imposed by him, before we are come to the proof of his existence. But human nature, as now it appears to be constituted, may be considered as in a state pre
vious to the notion of such a supreme author. In this previous consideration of human nature, man has these laws of sense and reason, to be governed (or guided) by; (though in this state of consideration, those laws (as they are called) are not reckoned as the impositions of a supreme Author of Nature ; such a supreme Author being not yet supposed to exist). In this imagined state of human nature, there may be many rational (or moral) inducements (which some would call obligations) to observe the laws of fense and reason. There would be the good (the happiness, such as it would be) of the individuals themselves, the welfare of society, the dignity of the human nature, and other motives. Now, in this case, the wilful violation of the laws of sense and reason, has some natural absurdity, some irrational, and immoral evil in it, or it has not. If not, then the transgression of the law of sense (which is said to be the law of reason and of nature) will have no natural absurdity in it. The transgression of the law of reason, will not be irrational ; or if it be (and attended with never so many ill circumstances) it will not be moral (or immoral) evil.
If a man run his head into the fire, or murder his parents and children, there will be no irrational and iminoral evil in it. And so there will be no moral rule, no distinction of moral good and evil, (and consequently, no religion) antecedent to, or abstracted from, the consideration of the divine existence. And so our author (according to due method) should have begun with his deinonstration of that existence. But if (antecedently to the consideration thereof) there may be a moral rule in huinan nature,
and a distinction of rational (and, in that sense, moral) good and evil ; then such a distinction (we see) there inay be, without the immediate consequence of religion. That does not ensue, but upon supposition of the divine existence. There are (or have been) philosophers, who would allow the Being of a GOD, without inferring religion from thence. But sure, none would advance such a thing as religion, without the supposition of a divine Being. 'Twill be a strange supposition, that an Atheist may be a religious inan. But if the learned Author ineant no more, than that there may be a notion of inoral good and evil, antecedently to the consideration of the divine existence ; that that notion is subservient to the demonstration of such a Being; and consequently, that it is a remote foundation for religion, (if he meant thus) I would say no more.
III. Since the learned Author has so far (as he has) paved the way to the revealed religion, he had oblig'd the christian world, had he (by his great rational light) led the heathen philosopher (whom we are to suppose speaking in hiin) a little nearer to it. Human nature must have its religion (i. e. in the obligation of it). But there is the religion of innocent, and of guilty nature. Had these two been a little more distinguished, and had the philosopher (assisted by superior reason) delineated to us the religion of innocent nature, we might have been instructed thereby. We might have been rationally informed, what human nature may be suppos'd to be when immediately made by GOD; what law.was given to it then;
what was the state of religion, then enacted ; and how it may be most rationally suppos d, that human nature fell from its original (suppos’d) rectitude, into the present iinpurity and guilt.
That human nature is now abundantly vitiated, the philosopher will sufficiently certify us, when he says (p. 207) There is one thing more of which notice ought to be taken. To one, who carefully peruses the story (old or modern) and face of the world, what appears to prevail in it? Is it not corruption, vice, iniquity, folly at least? Are not debauching, getting per fas aut nefas, defaming one another, erecting tyrannies of one kind or cther, propagating empty and senseless opinions (yea, wicked and pernicious doctrines) with bawling and fury (even to fire, faggot, and sword) the great business of the world? and are not all these contrary to reason? What depravation then is here of the rational race ? Man is become the object of satyr, to those of his own nature. His powers are fo vitiated, that wit and reason raise him to a more elevated impiety. The good (if any are made so by much culture, long instruction and counsel, by inuch discipline, strange providences, and sudden infiuences as our Author speaks of, p. 106.) are sadly defective ; and complain of a law of corruption within, that wars against their superior fense and mind. The children of the good foon degenerate, and shake off all the good impressions of example, advice, and education. Ill men confess that there is a bad propenfion within, that fights against their conviction and conscience. The old Heathens could say, Nitimur in vetitum. The old Hebrew historian declares, that