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“ gin to talk them in shops and stalls; and the cavils of “ Spinosa and Hobbes are grown common even to the “ rabble.” What more deplorable could be said of us at this day? The like complaints were made some time after, about twenty years ago: “That infidelity had taken deep “ root, had been cultivated with care, had spread its “ branches wide, shot up to an amazing height, and “ brought forth fruits in great abundance. The Mosaic « account of the creation was represented as mere alle“ gory and falle : the inspiration of holy Writ so explain“ ed as to amount to a denial of it ; the authority of the “ present Canon of Scripture disputed; the spuriousness " of several passages, and some books of it, more than in“ sinuated; priests, without distinction, traduced as im“ posers on the credulity of mankind; and those religious “ ordinances which they were appointed to dispense, even “ the chief of them, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, “ spoken of with such a degree of ungodly mockery and “insolent scorn, as filled the hearts of good Christians “ with horror and astonishment : nay, religion itself was, “ in some of the loose writings, so described, as if it were “ nothing but a melancholy frenzy and pious enthusi“ asmb.” Such were the representations made in those days. Yet Christianity (God be thanked) has still kept up its head, has reigned triumphant all the time; and I trust will reign, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail
I know not whether these licentious principles were the proper produce of our own soil, or may not be rather said to have been transplanted hither from abroadc; where, it is certain, they had taken root and spread for a hundred years or more, before they met with any favourable recep
• Representation of the present State of Religion by a Committee of Convocation, A. D. 1711. Compare An Inquiry into the Causes of the late Growth of Infidelity, written in 1705.
C“ It seems to have been brought over hither from some of our neighbour“ ing countries, together with the rest of our fashions.” Inquiry into the Causes, &c. p. 3.
tion, or made any public figure in this grave and serious, and for the most part well disposed kingdom. Mr. Hobbes has been reputed the first or principal man that introduced them here, or however that openly and glaringly espoused them d. And it is not unlikely that he imbibed his loose principles in France and Italy, as he also composed his famed pieces while residing in foreign parts. Deism seems to have sprung up abroad about the middle of the sixteenth century. A learned foreigner takes notice of the rise of the sect in his time; and he wrote in 1563. His account of them is as follows: “ There are several who “ profess to believe, that there is a certain Deity, or God, “ as the Turks and Jews do: but as for Jesus Christ, and “ all the doctrine testified by the Evangelists and Apostles, “ they take them for fables and dreams.-They have en“ tertained some opinions concerning religion, which are “ more extravagant than those of the Turks, or any other “ infidels. I hear that some of this band call themselves “ Deists, a new word in opposition to that of Atheists.“ These Deists of which we speak ridicule all religion; “ though they accommodate themselves to the religion of “ those with whom they are obliged to live, out of com“ plaisance or fear. Some amongst them have a sort of “ notion of the immortality of the soul : others agree with “ the Epicureans in that, as well as on the Divine provi“ dence with regard to mankind. I am struck with horror, “ when I think that there are such monsters among those “ that bear the name of Christianse.” Thus far Peter Viret : for he is the man that gives this account of the
Anglorum primus est (faxit Deus, sit ultimus) qui impietatem palam ostentare ausus est. Parker, Disputat. de Deo, p. 219.
In the account of the Growth of Deism, written in 1696, it is said, “ It is “ now three years since you and I had a serious discourse concerning the “ rise and progress of Deism, which is an opinion of late years crept into “ England, though not so widely spread here as in other parts of Europe," p. 1.
The Inquiry dates the growth of them from about the year 1660. Inquiry, &c. p. 7.
• See Bayle's Dictionary in Peter Viret, p. 2973.
modern Deists: and notwithstanding their complimenting themselves with a new plausible name, he scruples not to call their system of doctrine an execrable Atheism. Not intending, I presume, that they directly disowned the being of a God, (for he intimates the contrary,) but that they did it consequentially, or that they did as effectually undermine and destroy all the influences of religion, as if they had been professed Atheists: and so, in effect, their doctrine amounted to the same thing, but gave less offence. What Atheism chiefly aims at, is to sit loose from present restraints and future reckonings : and those two purposes may be competently served by Deism', which is but a more refined kind of Atheism. For when a man presumes to take God's business out of his hands, and under the name of reason prescribes both the laws and the sanctions, as his own fancy or inclination shall suggest; it is obvious to perceive, that God is as much excluded this way from being Lord over us, as if his existence were denied. And therefore, in this view, Atheism and Deism
“ It is certain that infidelity, as it is at present countenanced and main“ tained by those that would be called the Freethinkers of the age, does give " as much encouragement to immorality as most libertines either need or « desire. Atheism indeed makes shorter work of it, and at one blow cuts “ asunder all the ties of religion and duty. But that is too bold a step: it “ thwarts not only the common principles of reason, but even the general “ bent and inclination of human nature. It is an affront to good breeding “ and civility, as well as to good sense, and common morality : whereas in“ fidelity will answer the ends and designs of libertinism as well, but does it “ in a softer and a gentler way. For there being no authentic body or sys“ tem of the laws of natural religion, every man may believe as much or as “ little of it as he thinks fit; he is left to judge for himself bow far the obli“ gation of its duties extends, and no doubt will find out some favourable “ exceptions for his own darling lusts and vices." Inquiry into the Cause, &c. p. 4.
“ These loose notions — first appeared abroad without any disguise, “ among those that set up for wits of the age, who declared themselves “ avowed Atheists. This was too gross to become popular, though it appear“ ed too open and barefaced : but being not long after deserted as an inde“ fensible cause, by some of its greatest advocates, it daily lost ground, and “ by degrees was modelled and new licked into that shape wherein it now ap“pears, and passes current for Deism, though little differing, in reality, from “ what it was before.” Ibid. p. 7.
amount very nearly to the same thing, having the same effect in application and practice; for which reason, some conclude both under the same name 8. The good man, before mentioned, was struck with horror at the thought of there being such monsters as he had described; men bred up to Christianity, and acquainted also with pure and reformed Christianity. An infidel under Paganism might have something to plead from the impurities allowed of in the Pagan worship, and from the mass of superstition and imposture under which the remains of true religion lay buried: but what colourable excuse can any person invent for his infidelity, under the brightest sunshine of the Gospel ? None certainly. For, to use the words of a famous writer, and no bigot in the cause, “ Unless the “ reigning passion of his soul, or some prodigious stu“ pidity obstruct, he must see, that embracing the Gospel “ profession is infinitely a more reasonable choice than “ the way he is in h.” I know not how far an affectation of singularity, or an ambition to be thought wiser than the rest of the world, may have carried some persons. A few shining characters in history, of any kind, have often drawn after them a considerable number of very unequal imitators. There have been some extraordinary geniuses, who, by correcting vulgar errors, have acquired immense reputation. This perhaps may have stirred up others to aim at the same glory, by rejecting any thing vulgar, though ever so true and right: as if it were any commendation to be singularly injudicious; or as if, because it is honourable to exceed the common standard, it were honourable likewise only to differ from it, or not to come up to it; which is manifestly the case of our modern Deists, however highly they may please to think of themselves. For they have not so clear a discernment, nor so true a taste, nor so correct a judgment (whatever the reason be) as common Christians have. They have proved nothing
& Sce Gastrell's Boyle's Lecture Sermons, vol. i. p. 251, 252.
of what they boast of, nor ever will: they have frequently discovered warm inclinations to maintain their principles, but have been as frequently disappointed. Take but away their rhetorications and equivocal expressions, their misrepresentations and misreports, their ostentation and their scurrilities, and their cause will be left in a manner destitute. One advantage indeed they have over us, that they run the same way with corrupt nature, and it is easy to drive down a precipice, while it is hard to climb up an ascent: on which account they can never fail to have their disciples, such as they are; for Epicurus also before them had hisi. But then they have their disadvantages also, in other respects, and those many and great; so that, upon the whole, they will have the less reason to triumph. 1. For, in the first place, notwithstanding the depravity of human nature, prone to listen to bad counsels, there are yet (God be thanked) great numbers of honest and conscientious Christians, who fear God, and reverence his holy Word, and upon whom these new teachers can make no impressions at all, excepting only of horror and detestation. 2. Besides those, there may be other knowing and sensible men, who, if they have less affection for religion, (being taken up with the world,) will yet give no countenance to infidelity; either for fear of risking the reputation of their judgment, or for the regard they bear to the interests of society, which can never subsist upon infidel principles. 3. Add to this, that there may be a great many more, who, though viciously given, will yet never be mad enough to run those desperate lengths, so as to throw off all regards to revealed religion, and all prospects of heaven; but will rather choose, for a time, to “ hold the truth in unrighteousness,” reconciling themselves to it by the hopes of repentance, or by self fattery,
i Epicuri disciplina multo celebrior semper fuit, quam cæterorum : non quia veri aliquid afferat, sed quia multos populare nomen voluptatis invitat : nemo enim non in vitia pronus est. Propterea, ut ad se multitudinem contrahat, apposita singulis quibusque moribus loquitur. Lactant. lib. iii. cap. 17. p. 145.