« הקודםהמשך »
Of the Principal
Appeared in ENGLAND in the
Account of the Answers that have
been published against them.
THE FOURTH EDITION.
By JOHN LELAND, D.D.
T. LONGMAN in Pater nofter Row.
M DCC LXIV.
A VIEW of the DEISTICAL WRITERS, &C.
- In several Letters to a FRIEND.
LETTER I. Some account of those that first took upon them the name of
Deifts. Lord Herbert of Cherbury, one of the most eminent deistical writers that appeared in England in the left age. His attempt to form Deism into a System. Observations upon his scheme, and upon the five prin. ciples in which he makes all religion to confift. It is mewn that the knowlege of them was very imperfeel and defective in the beathen world, and that a revelation from God for clearing and confirming those important principles might be of great advantage.
NOW enter upon the task you have injoined me, the giving some account of the principal Deistical writers that have appeared among us for above a century past. The reasons given by you, and other judicious friends, have con
vinced me that such a work might be of use, if properly executed; we only differed as to the fitness of the person that was to execute it. My objections have been overruled; I must therefore fet about it as well as I can: and if I were sure that others would look upon this attempt with the same favourable eye, that your candour and friendship for me will incline you to do, I should be in no great pain about the success of it.
The name of Deists, as applied to those who are no friends to revealed religion, is said to have been first assumed about the middle of the sixteenth century, by fome Gentlemen in France and Italy, who were willing to cover their opposition to the Christian revelation by a more honourable name than that of Atheists. One of the first authors, as far as I can find, that makes express mention of them, is Viret, a divine of great eminence among the first Reformers, who in the epistle dedicatory prefixed to the second tome of his Instruction Chretienne, which was published in 1563, speaks of some persons in that time who called themselves by a new name, that of Deists. These, he tells us, professed to believe a God, but shewed no regard to Jesus Christ, and considered the doctrine of the apostles and evangelists as fables and dreams. He adds, that they laughed at all religion, notwithstanding they conformed themselves, with regard to the outward appearance, to the religion of those with whom they were obliged to live, or whom they were desirous of pleasing, or whom they feared. Some of them, as he observes, professed to believe the immortality of the foul; others were of the Epicurean opinion in this point, as well as about the providence of God with respect to mankind, as if he did not concern himself in the government of human affairs. He adds, that many among them fet up for learning and philosophy, and were looked upon to be persons of an acute and subtil genius; and that, not content to perish alone in their error, they took pains to spread the poison, and to in. fect and corrupt others, by their impious discourses, and bad examples a.
I leave it to you to judge, how far the account this learned author gives of the persons that in his time called themselves Deists, is applicable to those among us who take upon them the same title, and which they seem to prefer to that of Christians, by which the disciples of Jesus have hitherto thought it their glory to be distinguished. That which properly characterizes thefé Deists is, that they reject all revealed religion, and discard all pretences to it, as owing to imposture, or enthusiasm. In this they all agree, and in professing a regard for natural religion, though they are far from being agreed in their notions of it. They are classed by some of their own writers into two forts, mortal and immortal Deists b. The latter acknowlege a 'future state, the former deny it, or at least represent it as a very
• See Bayle's dictionary, article Viret. reason, p. 99.
whether With them alls leem to be verdeed some of feared, the
writer ins Deit in on He may in ter
uncertain thing. And though these are, by some among themfelves, represented under a very disadvantageous character, and as little better than Atheists, they are, it is to be feared, the more pomerous of the two. And indeed some of their most eminent modern writers seem to be very easy about these differences. With them all are truo Deists who oppose revelation, whether they own future rewards or punishments or not. And they speak with great regard of those disinterested Deists, who profess to pursue virtue for its own sake, without regard to future retributions
In giving an account of the deistical writers that have appeared in these nations (for I shall not meddle with those of a foreign growth), I shall go back to the former part of the last century: and the first I shall mention, and who deserves a particular notice, is that learned nobleman, Lord Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury. He may be juftly regarded as the most eminent of the deistical writers, and in several respects superior to those that succeed him. He may be also considered as the first remarkable Deist in order of time, that appeared among us as a writer in the last century. For the first edition of his book de Veritate was in 1624, when it was published at Paris. It was afterwards published at London, as was also his book de Causis errorum, to which is subjoined his treatise de Religione Laici. Some years after this, and when the author was dead, his celebrated work de Religione Gentilium was published at Amsterdam, in 1663, in Quarto, and it was afterwards reprinted there in 1700, Octavo, which is the edition I make use of; and an English translation of it was published at London in 1705.
His lordship feems to have been one of the first that formed Deism into a System, and asserted the sufficiency, universality, and absolute perfection, of natural religion, with a view to discard all extraordinary revelation, as useless and needless. He seems to assume to himself the glory of having accomplished it with great labour, and a diligent infpection into all religions; and applauds himself for it, as happier than any Archimedes d. This universal religion he reduceth to five articles, which he free quently mentioneth in all his works. 1. That there is one supreme God. 2. That he is chiefly to be worshipped. 3. That piety and virtue is the principal part of his worship. 4. That we must repent of our fins; and if we do so, God will pardon them. 5. That there are rewards for good men, and
c See Christianity as old as the Creation, p. 332, 333. ed. 8vo. & De Relig. Gent, cap. 15. init.