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Since the education of youth, the company they keep, and the early impressions. made on them, have so great an influence towards their leading virtuous or vicious lives, that is, in rendering them happy or miserable; how necessary is it, above all things, to educate young persons in principles of piety and virtue, and inure thenibetimes to good habits ? Can a child possibly receive any benefit equal to this from a parent or guardian? Can a parent or guardian receive a higher satisfaction than by such a conduct, and the fruit that will probably be reaped from it?
SECONDLY, As to the circumstances which determine mens religious belief being out of their power : let any man ask himself, if he thinks it morally possible, that those who lived two thousand years ago in Athens or Rome, or any where else out of Judea, when paganism was in a manner the universal religion, could avoid being pagans? Or if a person börn of, and educated by Mohammedan parents in Turkey, and who perZ 3
haps punishments in the present world less just or reasonable. When Zeno, author of the Stoic philosophy, was beating his fervant for theft, he cried out, 'Tis part of my fate to be a thief. Yes, sirrah, says his master, and to be punished for it too. To which Zeno might well have added,--and by means of punishment, it may be your fate to be reclaimed from roguery: :
haps never heard of any other religion than that of his own country, or was brought up with the utmost prejudice and averfion against all other religions he might have heard of: let any one, I say, åsk himself, if such a person could be other than a Mohammedan? And respecting those born and educated: where that which we esteem the only true religion is taught and professed , suppose fome of these, after the most careful and deliberate confi. deration, the most diligent and impartial inquiry, and the most sincere desire to be rightly informed, should doubt of or disbelieve certain articles in religion which some think effential, is it consistent with justice that fueh perfons should therefore be made for ever miferable?
kind to be virtuous and religious, and to believe every article of the true faith, , a question, and a very considerable one too, will still remain, i. e. whether for unbelief and temporal faults it is reasonable or equitable that men should be eternally tormented, and suffer terrible and inconceivable punithments, when no good purpose whatever can possibly be answered by them?
Let men lay aside their prejudices, and .consult reason ; let them confider the nature of things, and the justice and goodness of God, and then answer this question, In truth, when men say, that justice requires the Deity should punish finners and. unbelievers in this manner, they talk they know not what. But this we do know: that to punish without some good end, or to a degree beyond what the necessity or the nature of the case requires, would proceed from revenge or cruelty, and not from justice. To pretend, therefore, that the Deity punishes in such a manner, is to blaspheme his holy name. How then can God be glorified in thus, punifhing his creatures, in making the works of his hands for ever miserable ? Surely those who fay he is, talk very weakly or very impiously. Men frequently speak of the glory of God without any just sentiments concerning, it: but if they are able to judge at all what his glory consists in, and think in any degrée reasonably about it, they must suppose it is partly in his infinite power, wifdom, and goodness, and in communicating happinefs to his creatures:: we may be certain it cannot confift in cruelty. Such diabolical wretches as a Muley Ismael, a Kouli Kban, or a Louis le grand, may have placed their glory in making men miserable ; but
furely it is the greatest folly or impiety to affirm this of the Deity.
SecondLY, In confirmation of this doctrine it is faid, that very great men, divines especially, have believed and taught it. That
is granted: but perhaps many have taught this doctrine who did not believe it ; and some of these, as hath been already observed, 'may have done so with a good, and others with a bad design.
However, we have already seen, that very great men frequently fall into very greät errors, and that it is oftentimes more difficult to convince them than the common people. But perhaps so many eminent persons have not fallen into this error (the belief of eternal punishments) as is generally fupposed.
An eminent divine hath taken much pains to prove, that the ancient philosophers, even the theistical, did not believe a future state of rewards and punishments, tho they were perpetually inculcating this doctrine to the people : “ After having read their history,
considered their characters, and examined " their writings with all the exactness I was « able," says this author, “it appeared evi- dent to me, that these men believed noç thing of a future state of rewards and
pu! nishments , which they most industriously
" It is a
propagated in fociety.” Again,
NEVERTHELESS, that very great men, divines especially, have taught this doctrine of eternal punishments, and some of them have believed it, will be readily acknowledged. Among the former may be included the late archbishop Tillotson, who preached and published a sermon, already quoted, of THE ETERNITY OF HELL TORMENTS But whether this excellent prelate was not too wise and humane * to believe such a doctrine, and only taught it because, as he says himself, he thought it a great discouragement to fin, I shall not presume to determine.
That • The Divine Legation of Mofes, Vol. I. p. 319. i
Tillotson's works, vol. I, Sermon 35.
* The word humane is here used, because we think, as is mentioned in the beginning of the Effay on Reli, gious Cruelty, that one principal cause of mens believing God to be cruel is, that they are cruel themselves,
u Ibid. p. 321.