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please to modify what is called the religion of nature, he can never know, whether his religion, with the line of conduct grafted upon it, be a delight or an abomination to the Divinity whom he wishes to honour *.
* Mr. Volney, having represented the general assembly of nations, as beseeching the legislators, to shen them the line that separates the world of chimeras from that of realities, and to teach them, after so many religions of error and delusion, the religion of evidence and truth ; makes his legislators set forth this unerring religion in the following manner.
The law of nature is the regular and constant order of events, according to which God rules the universe; the order, which his wisdom presents to the senses and reason of mankind, to serve them as an equal and general rule of action, and to conduct them, without distinction of country or sect, towards happiness and perfection.
Here then we have the foundation of what Mr. Volney calls an authentic and immutable code, not calculated for one family or one nation only, but for the whole human race without exception. But how is such a code to be built upon such a foundation ? And where is that regular and constant order of events, according to which God rules the universe? If physical regularity be meant; it may doubtless be perceived without any difficulty : but how is a religion of evidence and truth, proudly contradistinguished from religions of error and delusion, to be founded upon the physical regularity of the mundane system? If moral regularity be meant, which is plainly the only regularity capable of sustaining a scheme of natural religion : where is it to be found in the world as now constituted ? I readily grant, that, if the virtuous were always healthy and prosperous and fortunate, every thing turning out agreeably to their wishes and nothing occurring which could occasion to them the least sorrow or disappointment; while the vicious were always sickly and poor and unlucky, every thing crossing their inclinations IV. These, in regard to the general question of a revelation from heaven, are some of the many difficulties, with which deistical Infidelity is on every side surrounded.
The deist cannot certainly pronounce, whether there is one God, or whether there are many Gods; whether there is one independent principle of good which mysteriously permits evil to exist and to triumph, or whether there are two independent principles of good and evil. On the supposition that there is only one God, the deist is quite ignorant as to the nature of his moral attributes : he
guess indeed; but he has no sure means of determining, whether this one God be just and good and merciful, or whether he be unjust and bad and unmerciful, or whether he be of a mixed character partly good and partly bad. Thus ignorant as to God's moral attributes, he is of necessity ignorant also as to his own moral obligations so far as the will and pleasure of the Divinity is concerned.
These difficulties, viewed complexly, draw on
form a guess
and nothing occurring which could give them the least pleasure or satisfaction: in one word, if rewards and punishments as invariably followed virtue and vice, as the earth revolves round its axis, as fire burns, and as like produces like; we should then have a regular and constant order of events, which, being presented to the senses and reason of mankind, might serve them as an equal and general rule of action. But where can Mr. Volney find this regular and constant order of moral events ? Where is the foundation, upon which he builds his religion of evidence and truth?
and involve yet another difficulty. Whatever uncertainty, on the deistical system, may attend upon the moral attributes of God; there can be no doubt, as to his vast wisdom and power: these shine out too conspicuously in every part of the creation, to be either doubted or overlooked. Hence, therefore, immediately and inevitably springs up the following difficulty.
The Creator is doubtless a being of vast wisdom and contrivance. Every portion of his works, by its admirable adaptation to a manifest end, is a fixed proof of this his surpassing wisdom: and, the more we are enabled by observation and experiment to comprehend his works, the more forcibly does his wisdom strike upon our apprehension*. Yet, wise as the Creator may be, and wonderfully skilled in adapting the means to the end; he formed, if the system of the deist be well founded, his rational creature man with a total disregard to all such adaptation. He gave him reason: but, by affording him no fixed data, he made his reasoning faculty, in regard to its employment on the noblest subjects, altogether useless. He gave him the power of discerning good from evil : but he gave him no means of discerning their moral difference, by any sure reference to the will and nature of the Creator. This being, unquestionably gifted so largely, unquestionably the masterpiece of the visible cre
See Paley's Natural Theology, passim.
ation, he turned loose into the world, wholly ignorant and uninstructed in all matters which respect both his Maker and his own future destiny. A careful father is anxious to give every information to his child, which may qualify him to play a useful and respectable part in society: and, should any parent systematically withhold knowledge from his son, we should deem his plan an extraordinary mark of extreme folly. But the deist, on his own principles, is obliged to believe, that, what we reasonably deem the very perfection of folly in man, is precisely the line of conduct adopted by a God of confessedly surpassing wisdom in regard to the whole intelligent human species. This wonderfully wise Being created man; and placed him, as a sovereign, in our nether world. But he left him in a state of profound ignorance, both as to the unity or plurality of his Creator, both as to the moral attributes of the Deity and his own consequent moral obligation. Not the slightest lesson did he give him : not the least care did he take, that he should well answer any supposeable end of his creation. On the contrary, he industriously withheld from him all knowledge of his most important concerns and interests. Nor did he merely refrain from giving him the requisite information. Some knowledge may not be imparted, because the acquisition of it is in our own power: and to communicate knowledge, which may be acquired by industry, is only to foster idleness. But this was
not the case with the knowledge systematically denied to man, though knowledge of the last importance for him to possess.
The knowledge was at once systematically denied to him; and the means of acquiring that knowledge, by any possible exertion of industry, were studiously withheld. Man was never taught, that there is one only God : and he is utterly unable to attain to any certainty respecting the unity of the God. head. Man was never taught, thạt God is just and good and merciful: and he is utterly unable to demonstrate, that the moral attributes of God are justice and goodness and mercy. Man was never taught, what actions are pleasing to God : and he is utterly unable to prove, that virtue is more pleasing to him than vice. Much of this knowledge need not to have been revealed, had man been placed in a world differently constituted from the present: because, if virtue were uniformly followed by reward and vice by punishment, if pain and misery and sickness were unknown except as the evident and unfailing penalty of injustice, if no instance of suffering or trouble in the case of a good man were ever known to occur, and if a removal from the present state of existence were never attended with horror and agony save in the case of a bad man; the character and will of God might then be as unerringly ascertained, as if he had formally declared them. But the truth is, that the world, in which man is actually placed, is a complete enigma, a