The general first Principles of DEISM and REVE-
LATION contrasted ; delivered in Salisbury,
and Thyatira, on different days
in April & May, 1797.
By the Revd. SAMUEL E. MCCORKLE, D. D.
Pastor of the Church at Thyatira, near Salisbury,
Rowan County, NORTH-CAROLINA.
Printed by FRANCIS COUPEE, & JOHN M. SLUMP,
at their English and German Printing-Office.
WITH regard to God's speaking at any time to men, or with regard to external revelation, there have been, and can be but two general opinions. either it is true, or it is not--either God has spoken, or he has not.
These opinions, as either may be adopted, will lead to very different principles and practices, on all the subjects with which they are connected, and they are connected with almost every principle and practice in human life. Most necessary is it therefore that we try to find the truth. In a discourse already before the public, I have given the principles believed by those who deny revelation, and from some of those principles tried to shew the absurdity of deism or of denying revelation.
I now design to shew the principles of those, who believe revelation, and from some of these principles will prove the truth and reality of it. I say some of these principle, because it would be too tedious to argue from all.
These principles respect the attributes of God--the creation, confirmation, and degradation of angels-the creation of man-his innocent and lapsed state-the particular personal and interposing providence of God towards him in both states-express precepts and penalties of laws-terms of salvation-a future judgement-and a future state of retribution.
I begin with observing that these principles have respect to the attributes of God. I say not to his existence, because deism admits this ; but deism denies his omniscience with regard to the future actions of a free agent. Every believer in any revelation, may assert his omniscience in this case, as well as in every other which is not contradictory. For though there may be some supposed things which God cannot know nor do, as how to make any thing at once to be and not be, yet there is no such contradiction in knowing and foretelling, the future actions of a free agent-This will appear if we compare the Ancient prophecies, (see Hos. IX. 17,) with the present state of the Jews, and consider how shrewdly some men, well acquainted with human nature, will conjecture the future actions of others.
One object of revelation has, in all ages and nations, been supposed to be the future actions of men, and the events to which they lead. The other, and the only other object, has been some doctrines or truths which the Deity only was supposed to know and reveal. A believer in revelation may therefore admit, in all cases which are not contradictory, the omniscience of God, and his system seems to demand that belief. It also requires him to believe that the mercy of God is a matter of revelation, and can be certainly known no other way.
In the second place, all who believe any revelation, believe that God either out of nothing, or of preexistent matter, or of created and unfit materials, formed the earth and all that is therein. Some of the old philosophers supposed, with Aristotle, that the matter of creation was eternal; but as they believed the interposition of a Deity, or designing cause, to bring it into form, they admitted the truth of oracles, i.e. of revelation. None denied a revelation, but they, who, with Democrates and a few others, denied an interposition ; and asserted, what has been long since exploded, that the world and all that is therein, were the effects of chance, or the sidelong falling of atoms ; and that the gods were * too happy to be disturbed with the affairs of mortals, or even to be concerned about upholding the world. Such men were a little more than deists, though possibly some of our modern deists may follow them. It would not be more extraordinary than the steps that in a very short time, and therefore with a very superficial examination some of them have taken already, that is from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to Universalism, and from Universalism to Deism. So rapid has been their progression, so sudden their changes, yet always positively right.
The believing of a revelation prepares for the believing of a creation, for the one is interposition, and so is the other ; one is worthy of the Deity, and the other is as worthy; one is necessary, and the other can be no more. The creation of the human body from the clay, or from anything else, or the creation of the sun from nothing , are as really interpositions, and as really miracles, as the standing still of the one, or the resurrection of the other. Again, if God has deigned to create, why should he disdain to reveal? The necessity of the one, appears to me, much greater than the necessity of the other. For the necessity of revelation I can see, such creatures as we are being made; but the necessity, or at least the equal necessity, of making such creatures I cannot see.
In the third place, all who believe a revelation, believe that the Deity created good Angels, of whom some have fallen, or that there are invisible beings inferior to Deity; but superior to man. So says the Vidam or Bible of the Bramins in tbe East, * The Greeks said the same, Ate the demon of discord says Homer, + was precipitated from Heaven. The Northern Indians have their Manittos, ++ or tutelar spirits to direct and encourage them, and they all believe that there are invisible malignant beings, who are daily doing mischief to men. "It is, says Chevalier Ramsey, ~ a common opinon among men in all countries, that there are immortal demons, or degraded spirits."
The existence of devils was disputed by our late scriptural universalists in their progress to deism. For revelation seems to state the encrease of the punishment, and consequently guilt of devils quite down to the general judgement, or last revealed state of tbings; and with regard to any future deliverance either of men or devils it seems FARTHER TO SAY NOT. My own opinion is, that all the texts brought forward by universalists, may be limited to events either at or before the general judgement, or last revealed state, and that if God even intended any future deliverance after this, that it neither is, nor ought to be, in that revelation which he has given, and which closes at a certain period with a FARTHER SAITH NOT. Be Be this as it will, the universalists were prompted to turn devils into figures of Rhetoric, expressive of the irregular appetites and passions of men, and when this was not easy, tbey permitted the devils and scriptures to go together, and embraced their own reason as their ONLY GUIDE, with whose aid ALONE they attempted to prove universal salvation; but this led them, ere they were well aware, directly to deism. It could do nothing less; for if, from reason ALONE I can certainly prove the salvation of ALL, I have certainly no need of a revelation to prove the salvation of ANY. If reason ALONE tells me, that God MUST assuredly be merciful, I have no need of revelation to tell me any thing more. In one of four written discourses respecting scriptural universalism, I have attempted to explain and establish the distinction which universalists seem to have confounded between justice and mercy, and tried to show that on tbe principle of justice God may punish with endless pain; and that, if otherwise than endless, it will be as God has revealed it; but that revelation seems to stand as it was stated before, and as perhaps it ought to stand.
To return. The deity cannot well admit the existence of angels, either good or evil. For tho' the one be not unreasonable on the great scale of being, nor the other on the principle of fallibility, or free-agency ; yet both are doctrines of revelation; and because "If angels by nature superior to man would forfeit the favour of God, and be rendered miserable by his displeasure, it might have so happened that rnankind have apostatized, and that profligates may justly fear the vengeance of God, which fear it is the great object of infidelity to expel. But herein they contradict the Ancient philosophers: for says Tertullian, who lived at Carthage about the middle of the second century, the word DEMON is not new, both it and these spirits were known to the philosophers. " *
In the fourth place, connected with a belief of revelation is the belief of an active interposing providence, co-operating with free agents, and restraining, directing, governing and [inspiring] events in opposition to deism, which asserts an establishment of unchanging laws; and, except bare upholding power, denies every other act, or interposition visible or mental.
I SAY VISIBLE or MENTAL, for if there ever was a dearth, or deluge, or other calamity; or a removal of them which never would have happened in the natural course of things: or if I ever had an idea or inclination, or the recollection of an idea; or returning of an inclination, which in the common course of things I would not have had : or if I have ever been prevented from having any idea or desire which otherwise I would have had-there is an active interposing providence, and there is a revelation, for all interposition is revelation-revelation of the power, righteousness, or wrath of God. And if this interposition be only mental, or an INTERIOR NOTICE or INCLINATION, which are admitted both by Bolingbroke, and Paine; + the notice or inclination, divinely given, are as really interpositions as dividing the sea, or raising the dead.
The foes and friends of revelation have lately proclaimed war against one another, and here is the very ground on which the battle must be fought, and the war ended. Is there any interposition visible or mental?
The attempts of our new Bible-splitting deists, if I may use that expression, will never decide this debate. They have generally been educated by their parents in the belief of the divine authority of the Bible. They have now totally rejected that belief; and they are only pretending to retain a part, in order to evade the popular odium of rejecting the whole, until the period shall arrive, which they hope to be near, when the divine authority of the whole can be denied without hazarding offices of profit or honour; and then they will follow their leader, Mr. Paine, who has, at last the credit of * courage and consistency, in boldly, and at once, denying the whole.
I have said that they are pretending to retain a part, for in their
hearts they have rejected the whole. My reasons are that no part escapes.
They are trying, and constantly trying, to fix contradictions and absurdities
on the whole. They are publickly, and on every occasion, labouring to make
proselytes to the belief of these supposed absurdities and contradictions.
They are expressly denying all interpositions, and yet they have not made
up their minds; but are wanting more time to investigate the subject.
Now all this is the conduct, not of men hesitating and enquiring, but of those who brave already decided.
It requires but little time to read the Canon of the Bible, and to know all that can be known on that subject. To find all that has written by Ezra, Paul, John, Josephus, Pliny, and Mimondes, respecting the scriptures, is easy. With these men we cannot converse to ask for more, and from what they have written the whole must certainly stand or fall together. The argument which proves away one book, will prove away all. See Prid. Con. and Poley's Evid.
I know that there is one sense in which all scripture is not divine; but this sense does not divide the Bible by the books it contains. All the books express wrong opinions of bad, and even of good men. And these wrong opinions are not divine; but holy men have been moved, 2 Pet. I, 21, to record and refute there errors, and in this view all scripture is divine; but this is a sense which no deist will admit, for men could not be divinely moved to write without mental interposition.
This leads to say that, by denying interposition, the Bible-splitting deists joins eventually with him who has rejected the whole, and with him strikes off the whole at one stroke.
The argument stands thus: either there is a divine interposition, or there is none. If there be interposition, it fixes a principle which will account for every thing that is recorded in the Bible. I say recorded in the Bible, for possibly doctrines and facts have been supposed to be brought from the Bible, which time and deeper investigation find not to be there. But, if there be no interposition, there is not one word of it can divine. For I defy you to pitch on a single page from Genesis to the Revelations, which does not express or imply interposition, either visible or mental, or both. It is wholly, what we might expect a revelation to be, the history of in-terpositions. Even the book of Job, which some deists have adopted as a deistic book, begins and ends, and is throughout replete with interpositions of every kind.
I have said that our Bible-splitters will soon follow their hero, Mr Paine, for on the present ground they cannot stand; and whenever they ret-reat, they will give a triumph to their foes. Suppose the Bible to be divided among them, they will never agree about the parts that are to be rejected, or retained; each one will have a Bible of his own, and all collectively will have no Bible at all. They will realise the fable of Mahomet's hog, the whole of which was said to be interdicted, and yet the whole eaten up by each one's pitching on a different part, which he alledged was excepted in the general interdiction. The end will be, that these semi deists will take up the axe of Mr. Paine, "go through the books like one felling trees" cease to split them any longer, and like him try to cut up the whole.
And then they will afford a complete triumph to their foes, for they will have proved, to their own confusion, that their own reason has not been sufficient, as their only guide on this subject; and therefore on no other where religion is concerned. In fine, that they have been deceived by occupying ground which they could not defend.
On no other ground than that which I have marked out can the question be decided. The great final and decisive question will be this: Is there, or is there not a divine interposition visible or mental? In this discourse, I am only stating general principles; in the next, * this important question shall be fully discussed; the arguments to support interposition adduced, and objections answered.
I proceed to say, in the fifth place, that all who believe revelation believe that man was created innocent and happy, or in some state better than the present, from which state he has fallen by transgression. I know that there are particular and different opinions among those who believe revelation about the nature and extent of the first sin: but I am only stating general articles, and certainly all who believe that man was created at all, and that God did not create him a sinner, must believe that there was a first sin, and of course a degradation from his first state. The deist indeed who admits a creation must admit this, though he may from many who believe revelation both respecting the consequence and cause.
The degradation of man from some other and better state, is however an article of belief as general as the degradation of angels. The old Greeks and Romans had their golden and iron age ; and some of the North American Indians, I believe the Lenn i Lennapes, i.e. the original people, or Delawares, say that the first Indians were cast down from Heaven; other tribes say that they came from the Sea, which is .possibly some tradition of their first peopling this country; and others say they came from a country under ground. The idea and phraseology of earth form, and sons of earth are extended to more tribes than the. Aborigines of America. They are nearly universal, and so far co-inside with the revealed account of man's first formation from the clay.
I design in its proper place, to urge the condition of the first man in proof of interposition. No deist, who admits of his creation, would hazard his situation in any climate on earth. Naked he must be without fire, hungry, and houseless, without any interposition to guard him from wild beasts, hunger, nakedness, and wintry storms.
He would pray to the Lord God, if he never prayed before, that he would interpose, plant him a garden, and furnish him with cloaths.
6. * In the next place, a belief of revelation is connected with a belief of the need of it. This will appear whether we view man in his pristine perfection, or lapsed state-either he was formed with in note ideas, and a moral sense, or without them. If without them, he was certainly in want of revelation; and if with them they were a revelation, they were out of nature, they came not in the common course of things, they were more than the effect of mere upholding power. After the first sin, his need of revelation certainly became greater than it ever was before.
7. Again, a belief of revelation is connected with a belief of the desire of it i.e. of obtaining knowledge from it rather than from our own reasoning. The existence of this desire is reasonable, and it is felt by us all. It is reasonable that we should seek information from God rather than from ourselves, "and that if God designed, at sundry times, or at any times, to give revelation, he would previously give the desire of receiving it. Th reality as well as reason of this desire, we cannot deny, for we feel it; and I design, in the proper place to avail myself of the reality of this desire to prove the reality of its object-revelation.
8. In the next place, they who believe the need and desire of revelation in the innocent state, will believe that the need will be more, and the true desire less in the lapsed state-the need more, because man now wants information respecting pardon and sanctification-but the desire may be less because he may be less sensible of his crimes, and corruptions; and because much of his depravity may consist in self-confidence, and self-conceit. As a nausea disgusts at wholesome food, and healing medicine, and a delirium may induce the patient to believe that neither are necessary for him.
9. This leads to say, that all who believe revelation believe that mankind are naturally both ignorant, and addicted to vice-ignorant, and therefore in need of some revealed knowledge-addicted to vice, and therefore in need of revealed laws, or sanctions, and restraints. I am very much surprised to hear the deists asserting all this. Paine has expressed, or implied it in almost every page. "To vice, says Voltaire in the history of the Chinese-to vice are they as well as al1 other nations addicted." Deists forget and then contradict themselves, for \/oltaire has here proved the need of revelation, or he has asserted that which strongly implies its necessity; and if God be good, its rea1ity too.
Whenever the deists are out of sight of their system, they think, and speak, and write and act like other men; and it is only when the idea of inter-interposition, or revelation comes in their way, that they are deists.
10. All who believe revelation will believe that it may be given as a law or rule, either written or tractionary, with precepts and penalties-precepts to show what is the will of God in particular cases, and penalties, to enforce the observation of the precepts. Such a law will be believed to be necessary both in the innocent and lapsed state. In the first, to direct how to preserve innocence and to last, to tell him that he is ruined, and needs a remedy, which he can not procure.
It will be easy to lead such a person to believe that this law may be written. He will not say, "Would God commit himself by giving words for men to criticise and deny?" He will say, "that on this principle, God would not have given us his works, for these have been criticised and denied." Some have said that they could have planned a better world than this; and others have denied that God ever made this world at all. The whole sect of Epicureans said, that the materials of the Sun, and of everything else, were eternal; that they fell together by chance into their present form, and that the gods happy in themselves, had no concern in the matter. The followers of the Zoroosters in Cardee and Persia have never believed that the Sun, or the Fire, was the work of God, anymore than our modern deists believe that the scriptures of his word, for their belief was, and the belief of the Gnebres or Gawrs, their present disciples, now is that the sun is God himself. Hence they worship their Deity on a ground near Bakee in the north of Persia, impregnated with combustible materials. See Morse's Geog. on Persia, Vol. 2.
The truth is, more men have criticised and denied the works of the creator than have ever yet criticised, or denied his written word; more have denied that the sun is the work of God than ever yet denied that the scriptures are his word. Pride is reason's worst foe. When men miss the first useful truth, he that trusts his own understanding is a fool, they will miss every other useful truth.
They will give up God, and God will give up them; and after this, no mortal can tell how far they will go. Nothing can be too foolish, nothing too absurd for such men not to believe or profess. They will assert those weak and wicked things of which a modest humble child of seven years old would be ashamed.
The heavens declare the glory of God, Ps. XIX, I verse-in them he set a tabernacle for the sun, v. 4. the law of God is perfect, v. 7, converting the soul. Now if men have denied that the sun is the work of God, as they certainly have done, why should we be astonished that they should deny that the scriptures are his written word? And if they deny that the scriptures are his word why should we be astonished if they should deny that the sun was his work? I scarcely know which has most and strongest marks of truth.
Be all this as it may, it is plain that if God ever gave us laws, they must be written laws; unwritten laws are no laws. There is nothing to reduce them to precision-they are worse than no laws-they are discretionary with the Executive, and become sources of tyranny in both religion and civil government. I know that written laws may be criticised and absurd; and so may his works, as we have seen. But as the sun, though denied to be the work of God, is still better that no sun: so the written law of God, though denied to be his word, is still better than no written law.
The sun remains and shines, notwithstanding a11 the abominably foolish opinions that have been formed about his nature and origin; and the written law remains, and shines (for the law of God is a lamp, Ps. 119,) notwithstanding all the abominably wicked things that have been thought and said of it.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me, and me shalt thou love with all thine heart. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Here was interposition, if the sabbath be divine; here are the words, and fools may criticise or deny them; but here they will remain, and practised, and understood they will be by all who wish to understand, or practice them.
Now let us contrast these written laws with no written laws: on one
side are plain words; on the other side a blank to be filled up with as
many gods as you please, or if you please with no God at all: on one side,
remember the sabbath: on the other a blank, i. e. Remember no day at all;
but beware of all times and places that would remind you of God and a future
On the one side. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery, &c. &c. On the other, another blank to be filled up with what you please- with the books that have been written, and the arguments that have been offered by assassins, and debauchers, in favour of assassination and venery; and it is well known that books have been written and arguments offered in justification of both and it is also well known that both have been practised to the great injury of society in spite of all human laws that could be made to prevent. Nay, human laws, or customs, have some time admitted assassination, drunkenness, and prostitution-admitted the first as proof of patriotism, and the two last as acts of devotion to the Gods.
All this is deism. It loves human blanks; but abhors all divine written laws. And all this would soon be paganism; our children, in a few years would be employed in what our fathers have done- worshipping Bachus, Venus, Wodin, and Thor, and sacrificing each other on altars polluted with human gore. This, this is the blessed condition to which our wise and foreseeing deities are endeavouring to bring us. God of infinite mercy blast them- with disappointment. Amen! Amen ! And let all the people say, Amen!
11. Again, all who believe the reality of revelation, believe that God may interpose, and give poignancy to the pain which arises from the violation of his law: or that there is, as Dr. Blair has observed, some deep dark malignity in the guilt, and some stain in the pollution of sin which is not always easy to do away. I know that the heart may be sometimes insensible; and so may the body in a deep mortitication; but who, in either case, would boast of the insensibity, which has probably been effected by a series of follies ands crimes?
12. They all who believe revelation have like wise a general idea that there is some way, by mental or bodily pains, or purgations, to do away the guilt and turpitude of sin. All have agreed that pain should be inflicted on offenders, and offenders have often inflicted pain on tbemselves. The Gentoos try to wash away their sins in the water of the Ganges; and the Japanese to remove them by the sufferings of their saviour Saca Ameida.
13. They have also agreed that such things will not always take away sin. Cain, and Caligula, and many more have not dared to deny this; and even Voltaire has acceeded, at the last, to this truth. In his last illness, after taking the sacrament, he exclaimed in agonies to his physician, who had despaired of his life, "I am abandoned both by God and Man. I will give you half of all I am worth to give me six months life." " I cannot give you six weeks replied his physician." "Then I shall go to hell" cried this miserable man, this hero of modern infidels * It was the kind office of that revelation which he despised to shew the way of removing guilt and escaping from hell.
14. It has also been a general article of belief, that the benefits
of suffering may, some way, be transferred. This was certainly the idea
of sacrifice which was universal among those who have believed revelation.
I know that there have been particular notions respecting sacrifice. I
know that the question has been warmly contested, "Was the sacrifice in
our stead, or for our good"? But I am only viewing the general principles,
not particular opinions of all who believe the reality of any revelation.
This general and traditionary revelation of the gospel, by sacrifice, has paved the way for its more express revelation by preaching and writing.
15. I proceed farther to say, that all who believe revelation may believe that God, for the violation of his law has visibly interposed as by a deluge, the belief of which and of peopling the earth after it is universal, if we except the modern deists whose system requires them to deny it.
The following account is not the history of the deluge, but it seems to be so similar to the history of Noah, after the deluge, that it appears to have originated from the Scriptural account. It has been lately translated from an ancient Hindoo writer, by sir W. Jones, founder of a literary society at Calcutta, in the East Indies.
To Satyavarnem, sovereign of the world were born Sherma, Charma, and
Japeti. The king by act of destiny, having drank mead, became senseless,
and lay naked. Charma saw, and called his brethren, to whom he said, "See
in what state is our sire" "By these two was he hid with cloaths, and called
to bis senses." Having recovered bis intellect, he cursed Charma, saying,
"Thou shalt be a servent of servants." Then he gave to Sherma the wide
domain on the south of the snowy mountain, and to Japeti the north of the
snowy mountain; but he himself by the power of religious contemplation,
attained supreme bless." *
The Musselmen believe that the deluge was universal, Mahomet speaks thus: "God said, earth absorb thy waters, heaven drink up thy waves, thou hast poured down, and heaven and earth obeyed," This sublime language he has borrowed from Moses, Gen. I, "Let there be light &c."
The people of Cuba, says Herrera, gave the Spaniards an account of the deluge but little different from that given by Moses. In fine it appears from good authority that the Mexicans, Iroquois, and other inhabitants of America, and indeed of the whole earth are possessed of the tradition of a universal deluge. And were there no such tradition, the marks of a deluge both on the surface and in the bowels of the earth are universal.
16. If we believe that God has interposed by one judgement, we may believe that he will interpose by another or that he will one day bring al1 men to account. This must be interposition, or it must be a revelation of righteousness and wrath, Rom. II, 5, 10.
As this general judgement, interposition or revelation must be visible to creatures who can see only visible objects-it paves the way for a belief that the judge may possess visible humanity, and be such a personage as revelation describes.
17. Another article of general belief is, that there is some future state better than the present. We have all heard, of the Christian's heaven, the Greek Elysian fields, and Mahomet's paradise. The old Danes and Normans, says Voltaire, fixed future happiness in drinking beer out of the skulls of their foes in the hall of their god Wodin. The Tlascalans of South America believe that their great men will pass into the nobler animals, and common men into the inferior brutes; that those who die of dropsy, or are sacrificed to the God of water, will possess some cool and comfortable retreat; and that great warriors, and those who die in captivity will be removed to the sun. Our Northern Indians say that the good Indians will meet in some place where they will dance, sing and be merry; but the bad Indians will be constantly wandering from place to place, restless and melancholy.
18. This leads to say farther, that all who believe revelation do also believe that there is some future state worse than the present. From Homer's and Virgil's Mytheology, it appears that the Greeks and Roman had their Tartarus as well as Elysiam, and they also supposed some; intermediate state for intermediate characters. This has probably given rise to Popish purgatory, and modern universalisim.+ I am not ignorant that it has been urged that some nations, and particularly the inhabitants of Otaheittee, in the great Pacific, have no idea of any future punishment; but this is not asserted on sufficient authority, and it is utterly inconsistent with their known belief of fallen evil spirits. See Encyc. on Otaheittee. The truth of this article is as generally believed as the preceeding particular.
With respect to the question, whether there be a rising of any body, the same or another, it is not so generally agreed. Some think that Elysium was a place for men, not for idols or umbroe images or shades, as ghosts were called by the Greeks and Romans. Some think that the rising of the dead was involved in the Stoic doctrine of a general renovation of nature; and some that our Northern Indians believe it when they say "Indian corn rises, and Indians will not die for ever." But, though a resurrection might once have been a general doctrine, it does not appear always to have been known, and therefore I have not classed it among the articles of universal belief.
I make a similar observation respecting a trinity, or some triplicity in the divine nature. For though the Chinese, Persians, Greeks, Jews, and says Acosta, some tribes of South America; all have the idea of some triplicity or triformity-either the supreme co-operating with two of the most exalted created intelligencies; or three characters of the one supreme, as legislator, judge, and executor of laws; or three ways of manifesting the one supreme; or, as commonly supposed, three equal personalities in one godhead: yet the doctrine, in any sense, has not been as universa1 as the preceeding articles, and therefore I could not class it among them; yet it is so general that the deist cannot easily account for it without some revelation, and consequently some reality.
I only return to observe, that on the deistic principle of no interposition since the creation, it may be proved that our future state may be worse, but no better than the present-worse, for the present abuse of our reason; but not better because if there never was interposition, we are now in the very condition of the first protoplasts, whether they were two or two hundred in number. And if consistent with the goodness of God that mankind should first exist in such a state as is the present-- a state of God's appointment, and not of our own choosing, it cannot as Sherlock has observed, be proved to be inconsistent with his goodness that we all should exist in such a state, or even in a more wretched condition in future.
I have now enumerated the doctrines, and proceed to the practical articles
in our universal creed. They are as follow:
19. That the Deity should be worshipped on the principle of interposition, i. e. that we should practise the duty of prayer which is founded on such interposition as all revelation supposes or implies. This duty deism can never admit, because it denies all interposition, and asserts an absolute and undeviating system of laws, which are as unchangeable as God himself. I may therefore as properly pray that God would continue his own unchangeable existence as the undeviating existence of such laws, and the same thing may be observed of thanksgiving. But if there be interposition it supposes that God gives me knowledge, and inclines me to practice it. This is mental interposition, and it lays a rational foundation for prayer, that is for asking knowledge, pardon for the wrong, and inclination to the right: but deism sweeps away this foundation by denial of interposition, and consequently of all intercourse both visible and mental between God and man.
And yet all the deists have prayed. The French deists have prayed, and thereby owned an interposition which contradicts their whole system.
At the grand festival of the Supreme Being at Paris, June 8, 1794, after a pompous description of the order and procession Robespierre presiding the strophe, begins:
"Powerful God of an intripid People It is thou alone who defendest the ramparts. What! THOU ALONE who defendest the ramparts, and no interposition or revelation? But it proceeds:
Hear the virgins and their mothers, Author of their fruitfulness. Dry up the tears of 30 nations-Be always the ally of the French people."
Surely the French people forgot that they were deists; for a deistic prayer is a perfect contradiction. It stands thus: Oh God almighty! Do now I humbly beseech thee, do what I am assured thou never hast done and never wilt do-interpose and shew me that there is no interposition-reveal thyself to shew that there is no revelation.
20. A similar may be made respecting praise, or giving thanks which
with prayer, includes the most important parts of worship; and are both
supported by the same arguments, and both fixt on the same foundation that
is interposition, or occasional deviation from established laws. How contemptable
then was the doctrine of our late universalists, on their progress to deism
that thanksgiving was a duty, but not prayer. A child ought to have been
ashamed of it. But, now they are deists, they will both pray and give thanks,
for French deists have done both, and of French deists they seem to be
the humble imitators.
At a large assembly of the French people in the camp of Mars, Sept. 17p7, Revelleire Lepeaux, the president of of the French people, in the name of that people thus addressed the Great Supreme in their behalf:
"Thanks to thee O thou Sovereign Ruler of the destinies of the universe! Thanks to thee France is a republic."
This homage was offered to the Deity after the detection of a dangerous conspiracy to restore royalty, and ruin the republic; and it is often repeated in his address to the people.
"Thanks to thee O thou Sovereign Ruler of the destinies of the universe." And can the destinies of the universe be ruled? And can they be ruled without interposition ? And can there be interposition, and no revelation ? And can there be a revelation, and so many to ridicule and deny it? Yet all this is deism. It ridicules revealed foreknowledge, and fixt determinations; but admits Pagan destiny and Stoic fatality, to which it has devoted a decade. It admits that the destinies may be ruled, and yet denies interposition-with one breath it prays and gives thanks, and with the next it sweeps away the foundations of both, and turns them into ridicule; and ridiculous they are, if there be no interposition.
In one part, Paine says that prayer is presumption. In another, he says
"I have not believed, and do not now believe revelation-and so help me
God!" Help me ! How, if there be no interposition! Help me to what?-to
be a greater infidel, and more audaciously to ridicule prayer or help me
to believe that there is no help. Surely, when Mr. Paine shall have received
an answer to this extraordinary prayer, with M. Revelleire Lepeaux and
the French deists he will join, and render thanks to the Sovereign Ruler
of the destinies of the universe for interposing and answering his prayer.
This he will do if he be a grateful man.
The truth is, prayer and thanksgiving private and public have been universal and therefore natural as every thing universal must be. In anxiety for information, or anguish of spirit, even deists will pray. A deistic general on the eve of an engagement would certainly desire that the Deity would interpose, darken the councils, and discourage the hearts of his foes. He would certainly wish for a knowledge of the event of the battle, and would go to a witch of Endor for information, if from her he could hope to find it. With Paine he would pray, "Help me God," darken the councils, and blast the courage of my foes. Oh God !
21. Again, all who admit a revelation, admit the duty of noticing the providence of God to themselves and families, the churches and nations. This no one can avoid unless deism has blinded his mind. All men who admit revelation, admit as before observed, the various acts of an upholding, co-operating, interposing, restraining, directing, and governing providence. But of all these various acts, the deists can admit only one, that is simply upholding all things in existence. This can scarcely be called an act at all; and it is at best but one remove from the total denial of the providence of God, and only another from the denial of his existence. The Epicureans admitted his existence, but denied that he ever interposed, or even upheld the world; but this is the only act that our deists can admit, So near are they to be perfect Epicureans. Atheism comes next, and there is but one step between.
22. A belief of revelation is connected with a belief of the need of exertions to obtain a divine agency on the human heart, in order to the perfection of our moral characters. One of the heathens said that none could be good, and another that none could be great without God, or a divine asslatus from him. This was a belief of mental interposition.
But deism, by excluding revelation and interposition, excludes such agency, and consequently such exertions; cuts off a11 intercourse between the divine mind, and ours; and ridicules all that revelation means by checks of conscience, conviction, or conversion; and all these interior notices which Bollingbroke has absurdly admitted.
23. All who believe revelation every where agree to frequent rivers, groves, high hills, caves, cataracts, and volcanoes, or other places impregnated with fiery materials; in which they supposed a divine preference resided, from that awe and reverence which these places inspired. And, from respect paid to the manes, and tombs of the dead, they proceeded, as some supposed, to erect temples, which by the ancients were called tombs. In the earlier ages they worshipped their topical deities in groves, and on high hills from which they might be more easily heard. The untutored Indian now believes that the falls of St. Anthony is the residence of the great Spirit, to whom he there pays his humble homage. And the Gaurs, whose god is the fire, have raised many temples, and worship their Deity, as we have seen on a fiery burning ground near Bakee, in Persia.
24 All agree to treat these places, especially temples and altars, with unusual resect; to uncover the feet or head, as the custom may be, as an expression of the belief of omniscience in the Deity, and a mark of sincerity in the worshipper. Let no violence, said an old Greek law + be done to him that flies to the temple for sucour. The lsraelites had a better law, Exod. XXI, 14, which demanded that a murderer should be taken even from the altar, though otherwise it was general deemed a sacred asylum.
25. All agree in devoting fixt appointed days, as well as places to the exercise of public devotion. The Jewish sabbath is well known, and was known by the ancient Greeks. ++ Hesiod calls it LAMPRON, illustrious and Homer, HEIRON, sacred. the Chinese, says Voltaire, divided their months into weeks of seven days. Voltaire did not then reflect that he was writing against himself The Northern Indians, says Geo. H. Sequel, have five festivals; some annual, others biennial &c.
26. All who believe any revelation have agreed to observe particular days, on account of interposition, as famine &c. or deliverance from it. The one was the occasion of fast days; the other, of festivals; both on one principle, i.e. interposition; and both as universal as the belief of revelation. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, all had such days, and the Indians of North and South America now observe them at the dedication of a temple, the appointment of a captain, a military expedition, or a victorious return.
Now it is self-evident, that a deist by denying revelation and interposition denies all sacred times and places of worship. For it is only by revelation that the Deity can appoint them, and only by interposition can he give the occasion of their appointment. But by the denial of both, they are both swept away, and with them all public social religion and worship. This is deism, pure and holy deism. All Paine's disciples may say with himself, "My mind is my church."
27. All who believe revelation have agreed in offering some kind of sacrifice, or suffering, to remove the guilt, and pollution of sin. The inhabitants of some islands in the great Pacific, when sick, amputate their fingers as a purchase for life, and the natives of America, and other countries, subject themselves, for the same purpose, to bodily severities and penances which are almost incredible, in order, someway, to do away their sins.
But how astonishing that, except a few pious Jews, sacrifice - even human sacrifice should be universal. The early Greeks, and Romans, Carthagenians, Gauls, and Brittons, all offered human sacrifices. The Mexicans says Clavigero, before they were conquered by the Spaniards, offered yearly 20,000 men, and at the dedication of their great temple, 70,000. These men had abused revelation, and their reason was not sufficient to direct them.
For whence arose the first idea, the universality, and abuse of sacrifices? * Or what natural connection between the death of a beast, and the sin of a man? Nothing more probable than that they were originally appointed by the Deity to typify, in the first ages, the death of Messiah; and that enormous abuses were natural consequences.
The general notion of sacrifice or redemption is founded on that interposition which establishes revelation. It supposes a deviation from a general law, and is not more really a deviation than creation itself.
The fixt order previous to creation must have been that there was no creation - creation was then a deviation from this fixt order of law. The order for the first man's existence was that he should rise from the earth. But the formation of the woman was a deviation from this; and the formation of all others, a deviation from both. It is also an established law or rule that every sinner shall personally, and for himself only, feel pain; but that pain which falls universally on the animal world is a deviation from this law or rule, for every thing on earth feels pain that can possibly feel it. The whole creation groans; yet all are not supposed to be individually or identically guilty. Here then is a deviation in the conduct of the Deity - a deviation in the book of nature - and a deviation, which, without any revelation, is harder to be accounted for than for the pains which revelation asserts to be transferred to the innocent victim, or the suffering Messiah, whole sufferings can be no more than another deviation from the above law. If it be urged that the first deviation was necessary, the same thing may be urged with regard to the second. In fine, the plea from necessity absolute and uncontrollable - necessity can not be well urged in either case, for what wise man will say that there was such a necessity for the creation of animals that must feel pain? And what wise man will assert that their was an absolute and uncontrollable necessity for God to deliver up his son for us all? If we rest this subject on free choice, the book of revelation has manifestly the advantage; for it tells us, that Christ for the joy that was set before him indured the cross, despising the shame; but the book of nature says that the creation, the whole animal creation, was made subject to vanity NOT WILLINGLY, but by constraint; for they had no choice in the matter.
28. All who believe revelation will admit, and their principles will lead to practice the duties of self-preservation, self-examination, and self-government Revelation says, "Do thyself no harm. Rush not uncalled into a presence of God; for at a proper time he will call for thee. Be therefore always ready; but remember that there is assuredly a worse state than the present." Deism gives no assurance of any future state either good or bad, and therefore invites to quit certain misery for uncertain. Hence in proportion to their numbers we find more suicides among deists than among any other class of men. With respect to self-knowledge, and direction, it is plain that revelation presupposes the want of both. But deism, which stands on the sufficiency of human reason, cannot admit such a want; it cannot therefore enjoin self-examination, it cannot therefore acquire self-knowledge, and finally, it cannot therefore, obtain self-government, for no government can exist without knowledge to direct it.
29. All who believe revelation will believe the duty of exercising, and therefore may exercise the humble suffering silent virtues of patience, meekness, fortitude, and resignation. This seems to arise from that belief of interposition, which all revelation demands. The ancient Pagan heroes, and the later christian martyrs then acted or suffered most bravely when they believed a divine interposition to aid them either to do or to suffer. The Indian chief is now dispirited and in inactive when he believes that his Manitto has forsaken him, and is courageous and resolute when he thinks it has returned. The superstitious abuse of this doctrine of divine aid proves nothing but the defect of human reason., and the use and need of a written revelation which is less capable of abuse than traditionary.
The Mahometans, says Voltaire, called their revelation Islamism i.e.
resignation, and all revelation tends to it. A deist may be humble and
modest, but his principles lead to pride and impatience-to pride by telling
him, in properity, to confide in his own strength, -- and to impatience
and despondency by offering in adversity, no interposing aid but his own.
What but pride can make men deists? What but ungodliness can keep them
so? They have embraced a system that promises nothing.
Speaking of Paine's age of reason, Mr. Erskine of London, said in a court of justice, "It is mischievous in its effects, and illegal in its principles. The poor whom it affects to pity, are stabbed to the heart by it. They have more need of consolations than those who have greater comforts to render life delightful.
I can figure to myself says he, an humble man surrounded with children, sinking under the last days labour, and unequal to the next, still bearing the burden laid on him by that providence which he adores, and looking forward to the hour when all tears shall be wiped away from the eyes of affliction, what a change in such a mind might not be wrought by this merciless performance?"
All who believe revelation will believe and may practice these social duties-the early religious education of children,--and the exercise of justice-and charity towards all men.
His principles will require early religious education, because they have told him that we came into this world ignorant, depraved, and in need of revelation. Deism is an open enemy to such an education, because it tells us that it is not only not needful, but even pernicious, and prejudicing to the young mind. Let not my pupil, says the skeptical rather the deistic Rousseau, know that there is a god till he be eighteen years old. The late universalists were the first among us who opposed an early religious education, and particularly the reading of the christian scriptures in our English schools. We did not all at first see their object, and perhaps they did not all at first see it themselves. Now it is become obvious, and we ought to be on our guard. It was one of the many ways of attacking revelation.
31. With regard to social justice its foundation is an oath, which revelation calls a solemn act of religious worship, and by giving positive assurance of a future state, makes the solemnity more solemn. It spreads before us the omniscience, omnipotence, and holiness of God; and commands us on our peril to beware of swearing falsely by his name. Revelation also proscribes exact written rules for the common exercise of justice and promises, on the faith of Jehovah himself, a future and a sure reward. This is a motive to justice which deism does not offer.
32. We may observe the same thing with regard to charity, and we may add, that revelation gives infinitely the greatest scope for its exercise, and with infinitely more precision, guards against the spirit, and exercise of persecution.
They who believe revelation, written or not written, are infinitely more numerous than they who deny it, and they may extend a charitable hope to all who do not absolutely deny all revelation-to all who though they may abuse the proceeding general belief in its application, yet admit that it is radically right-to all who, though they may enthusiastically believe that there are interpositions of providence where there may be none, yet do not deny all interposition-to all who, though they may sometimes sacrifice, an improper victim, yet do not deny all sacrifice or atonement. To all these may their charitable hope be rationally and consistently extended, and withheld only from the few who deny. But the deist can extend to no such hope to any of the vast multitudes that believe revelation, because all such have violated the laws of reason, and are therefore damned by its penalties, which, from the supposed clearness and strength of reason, and from all the horrid evils that have arisen from sinning against such light, must on the deists own principles be very great.
The christian revelation excludes none but those who in belief or by
practice, deny the Messiah. If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die
in your sins. This was a denial of him who was personally heard or seen;
but it is impossible for those personally to deny him who have not personally
seen him, or heard of him. And yet they may deny him by denying all revelation,
interposition, sacrifice, and attonement. Such only, in whatever nation,
are excluded from the christian's hope. Indeed, if we admit a divine mental
interposition, at the very last of life, even these need not be excluded
from our charitable hope.
I know the apostle asks, how shall they call on him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher &c. Rom. X. But it is plain that he means, how shall they call on him in person. How shall they know the way of God more fully than they have already known it by an unwritten revelation, a belief of interposition, of sacrifice, or attonement &c. ? There is a wide difference between revelation written and traditionary - between a general belief of interposition, and a particular knowledge of the very manner respecting which the interposition has been. There is a wide difference between the general doctrine of some attonement, and a personal knowledge and history of the very person who gave himself to be a ransom. And finally there is a wide difference, not in nature, but degree, between life and immortality brought to light, and life and immortality left in obscurity, darkness and error, as they certainly were, as well as the other articles we have enumerated, and in the heathen, and indeed when Christ came in the whole period.
Deists seem to agree with those who agree revelation, that men's opinions
may be embraced from very vitious views, and consequently that they are
connected with guilt. Their venomous and outrageous language against the
belief of revelation, is a proof that they consider such a belief as highly
criminal, and consequently a fit object for their vengeance. But as they
have no revealed laws written or unwritten, they have no revealed bounds
or limits to their vengeance; and, from the rancour of such a man as Mr.
Paine, I would have no hope of my life, were my life in his power, for
my opinion. A Borgia, a Bonner, or a Jeffries, have never uttered more
virulent things against any opinions that contradicted their own than Mr.
Paine has uttered against the absurd belief of any revelation.
Revelation certainly supposes that men may embrace bad opinions for FILTHY LUCRE'S SAKE, and for other such detestable motives, consequently that they may be connected with guilt and punishment; but as it admits revealed laws, and even revealed written laws, it prescribes both the opinion and the penalty. It says hitherto and no farther. The prescribed opinions have their peculiar marks, and the penalty is, not civil pains, but only exclusion from two positive revealed institutes - Baptism and the Eucharist. But of this, more in a discourse which I design shortly to publish on the terms of Christian communion.
If it be objected that no other supposed system of revelation has been thus guarded, I answer this will prove that the christian is the true system, for certainly the true system should be thus guarded. But of this more in another place.
33. All who believe revelation, believe the divine appointment of a priesthood to enforce and explain revelation. Deists themselves own that this is universal, and it would be true if they did not own it. Priesthood and revelation are inseparably connected, and the deists have said that even deism must have its priests. Now whether revelation be true or false, there is some consistency in its requisition of a priesthood: but of all human characters, the character of a preacher or priest or deism, is most inconsistent. If we ask him - by what authority dost thou teach - what teachest thou - and on what terms? What would be the answer?
I am not authorised by God, for this were to admit a revelation and interposition; I am not authorised by men, for this were to admit, what deists abhor, a religious establishment.
But what dost thou teach? Morality, says Paine, and natural philosophy. And what it morality? It teaches our duty to God, our neighbour, and ourselves, and the reasons of it. And what is our duty to God?-Prayer? No. Thanksgiving? No. Observing his providences? No. Congregating for social worship on fast-days, or festivals? No. To be baptised, or celebrate the Eucharist? No. no.
With this question we need go no farther; and reason and civil laws will provide for the rest. But I am come, says this preacher to tell you that there is no revelation. And has God revealed to you that there is no revelation? No. How then do you know it? Why reason, my only guide, has told me so. But reason, which you say is my only guide, has told me the contrary; and here the matter must end. But I am come, says this preacher, to teach natural philosophy. And where is your philosophic apparatus, and if you had one do you think to teach philosophy to farmers, planters, mechanics, and day-labourers? No. But on what terms do you teach? The labourer, says this preacher, is worthy of his reward, and thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. "O priests, priests, would Paine say, you are willing to be compared to oxen for money, Avericious wretches! You are gaining an undo influence over the minds of men. Surely priesthood and priestcraft, in all shapes, are inseperable, and deistic priests are no better that the priests of revelation."
I close the articles with this general argument. If there never was any revelation, what can be more unaccountable than a creed as universal as this? How local and partial is deism when compared with it? Surely the deists will no longer object to the partiality and locality of revelation.
But why do they not see the partiality and other defects of their own scheme, and abandon it for a better one? I will answer this important question in the words of Soame Jenyns, who had long been a deist, but at last rejected deism and embraced christianity, bro't over, as he says, by its internal evidence. "If anyone, says he, be attached to a favourite pleasure, or engaged in world pursuits incompatible with christianity, he must continue those pursuits with uneasiness if he believes the Gospel. But if he determines neither to repent, nor reform, he will persist in them with dissatisfaction and remorse. Such therefore generally commence unbelievers in their own defense; for the most unsurrmountable, as well as the most usual obstacle to our belief, arises from our passions, appetites, and interests. Let the evidences of christianity be a thousand times stronger than they are, had Jesus appeared to the Jewish Sanhedrim and the Roman senate, it would not be effectual, for we have power over the eye of the mind as well as of the body, and shut it against the rays of truth and religion."
Thus I believe to be the true cause of deism. There is a moral quality
necessary to the study of revelation, which all men do not consider-it
is purity of heart united with obedience to God's laws-it is humility joined
with prayer and assiduity in our researches for the truth. The following
are solemn sentiments: Into a sensual soul wisdom cannot enter, nor dwell
in the body that is subject unto fin. Maccab XII 3. If any man will
do the will of my father, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of
God; John VII, 17, which implies, that if he will not do his will, he shall
not know. This will is humility, self-denial, and prayer; and what fitter
means of finding the truth: but deism indulges pride and sensuality, the
very vices that destroy the understanding - pride by asserting the sufficiency
of our reason - and sensuality by denying that human nature is depraved,
or its appetites to be restrained. Is it strange that deists are debauchees?
In inebriety makes more deists than all the writings of Paine.
The amiable bishop of Landoff has enumerated some other causes of deism. "The generality of unbelievers, says he, are such from want of information on the subject of religion, have been engaged from their youth in struggling for a worldly distinction, or perplexed with the incessant intricacies of business, or bewildered in the pursuit of pleasures, they have neither ability, inclination nor leisure to enter into critical disquisitions concerning the truth of christianity. Men of this description are soon startled by objections which they are not competent to answer; and the loose morality of the age (so opposite to christian perfection) co-operating with their want of scriptural knowledge, they got presently rid of their nursery faith, and are seldom sedulous in the acquisition of another, founded, not on authority, but sober investigation. Let me close with some advices.
Ist. To the deists. My fellow-man, and fellow-mortal, you are engaged from mistaken views, in a daring and desperate attempt-you have few assistants, and these not the most respectable. They have been changing their appearances, but not encreasing their numbers nor strength. You have undertaken two things that you will never be able to perform-to banish all revelation, and bring deism to its room. This you will never effect-you may banish some counterfeit systems of revelation, or you may destroy some licentious or bigoted sectaries of the christian system. You have already ruined the interest of universalism, and you will 'ere long, by opening enquiry and free investigation, annihilate all other sects. You will teach christians to think liberally, to love one another, to pray for your conversion, and in the mean time to unite against your efforts. But until you shall have produced a more rational and consistent system of deism than has ever yet been produced, you shall never prevail against revelation.
Desist then, vain man, from the rash purpose of thy soul. Consider the absurdity, contradiction, locality, and feebleness of your wretched system, and explore the firmness and extent of revelation-the tree that God hath planted by the waters, and made to take root downward, and bear fruit upward. Amuse us not by casting pebbles at the twigs, but pluck it up by the roots if you can, or let it altogether alone.
In fine, cease to ridicule, and carp at scriptural texts; but learn to reason, and ascend to first principles. This is the great highway to truth and right. Above all, flee pleasure which destroys reason, and pray to God for help. Take these advices, and I will yet hope to hear.
"The angels shont, an infidel reclaimed."
Friends to revelation, you have nothing to fear. I advise you to courage patience and prayer-your enemies are not more numerous nor respectable than in ages past. They have but changed their shape, and that change is in your favour-once they were the the cruel and pretended friends of revelation that with armed force brought your fathers to the burning stake. Now they are open enemies without arms. I had now rather encounter an avowed deist than a bigotted ill-hearted pretended professor of our mild and holy religion, whose heart has not fealt its power.
Let the sincere disciples of Jesus learn to defend his religion, and to love one another. It is a shame to be more dextrous in attacking each other, on some tenets peculiar and unimportant than in defending revelation on its general first principles against deism, and infidelity; and yet such people and such preachers are to found.
Sincere friends of revelation, fear not for its fate; but be concerned for the fate of those who deny and oppose it yon are losing, nothing by the numbers that are going ever to deism. They never understood nor felt the force of revelation, and they would have been at best but concealed foes. You are as well without them; yet cease not to pray for them, recommend religion by you life and then you may say, The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice; let deism tremble, and revelation be glad.
Since this went to the press, Volney's Ruin, a book just coming into circulation, came into my hands. I beg that its admirers would compare, with the benevolence of God, the following sentences: Chap. VI. "In the origin of things, man, formed equally naked both as to body and mind, found himself grown by chance upon a land confused and savage. An orphan, deserted by the unknown power that produced him." A cruel parent to be sure! Again-"Self-love, aversion to pain &c. were the simple and powerful motives which drew man from the savage and barbarous state in which nature (I suppose he means the designing and benevolent cause) had placed him." Innocent I suppose, and yet miserable! And many generation expired before experience had time to teach them the road either to truth, duty or happiness. How is all this reconciled? Easily, if we admit interposition or revelation; but otherwise impossible.
Chap. V.-"Man's existence is overruled by superior powers."-Man is like
the world, governed by natural laws, regular in their operations, consequent
in their effects, immutable in their essence. Here is a gross contradiction.
Interposition, and revelation, with one breath, both admitted, and denied.
I will make some more remarks on this wonderful performance in my next
discourse. Time will allow no more at present.
END OF THE SECOND DISCOURSE.