« ZurückWeiter »
knowledge of the true God into Egypt, were greatly corrupted by their connection with the Egyptians ; whilst the Egyptians themselves remained unimproved by it. When the Israelites departed from Egypt, they left the inhabitants of that land, as a nation, in the same state of wretched idolatry, in which they found them, worshipping the creature instead of the Creator.
If we carry on our observation to the more advanced civilization of Greece and Rome, we shall have no better proof to produce of the competency of unassisted reason to the attainment of true religion. Dr. Clarke has told us in his Catholic Doctrine (Pref. p. 32. edit. 3.) that the unity of person in the Supreme Nature is the “ first principle of natural religion.” But the testimony of Cicero, whose writings were prior to the Christian Revelation, must have more weight on the subject of natural religion, than those of Dr. Clarke. “ Omnibus innatum est; et in animo quasi insculptum, esse Deos." Cic De Naturâ Deor: And what these gods were, which nature pointed out as objects of religious
worship, St. Paul has informed us in the followinį declaration to his Gentile converts at Galatia:: 4 When ye knew not God, (says the Apostle,) i. e. before your conversion to Christianity, ye did service unto them, which by nature are no gods. But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God," &c. Gal. iv. 8. From whence the obvious conclusion is, that had not God been pleased to visit the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, with the light of Revelation through the preaching of the Apostles, they would have remained in the same state of spiritual ignorance in which the Apostles found them; bowing down to wood and stone; waiting on altars dedicated to the unknown God, as was the case with the learned Athenians; or worshipping, with the Ephesians, the great goddess Diana, and the image supposed to have fallen down from Jupiter. Acts xix. 35.
And shall we say that natural religion, which, during a lung night of Pagan darkness, could not distinguish the creature from the Creator, nor an idol from the living God, constitutes the basis of Reve
lation? in other words, that the religion of of the true God was built on the foundation of that gross idolatry, which the grand Deceiver of mankind set up in the world for the express purpose of supplanting it?--God forbid !—“ I say,” says the Apostle, “ that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God." 2 Cor. x. 20.- See also Deut. xxxii. 17.
It was well observed by a late eminent Divine,* (than whom no one was better qualified to decide on the present subject) “ that if the reasoning faculty could have inferred with precision any spiritual truth, from an analogy in nature, the only proper ground of natural religion, it must have been that of a resurrection; which yet did never make any part of the religion or philosophy of the Heathens. This doctrine was at length preached to them by St. Paul, upon unquestionable authority; but, we are told, that " when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, they mocked.”
* The late Rev. W. Jones. See his excellent Lette to a Young Gentleman intended for Holy Orders.
Acts xvii, 32.- It was the best intelli-
Man's religious education commenced
We shall not be thought, we trust, to depreciate the power of human reason, by assigning to her her proper province. A due exercise of the rational faculties will qualify a man to attain the wisdom of this world. But it is divine Revelationthat furnishes that knowledge, which can
alone make him wise unto salvation. When we see reason, therefore, usurping the place of Revelation, it is time to examine her pedigree and determine her pretensions. And common sense must be sufficient to inform us of what the experience of the world has abundantly confirmed, that reason, by herself, could never discover; what, even when discovered, reason, unassisted by grace, has at no time been disposed to receive.
It is with peculiar pleasure that I make a quotation from a celebrated layman * on this subject, because it furnishes the hope, that this heathenish religion of nature is on the eve of being banished from our pulpits; convinced as I am that the Christian religion can receive no advantage from so profane a connection.
“ Let the modern reasoner, therefore, who would make as good a religion by the help of nature and his own faculties, as we have received from the lights of Revelation and the doctrines of the Gospel,
* Plain Reasons why we should believe in Christ ;. addressed to the Patrons of the New Philosophy by R. Cumberland.