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In respect to this belief being part of the foundation of religion; it may be fo of that which is false, but cannot of that which is true: it is certainly too bad a foundation to build any thing good upon.
As faith in God is the basis of religion, so the belief that he is a being of perfect goodþess must be the foundation of all true religion: for were he an evil being, it would undoubtedly be in vain to worship him ; or, if any acceptable worship could be invented, it must be of a malignant and cruel kind, such as bloody facrifices or the like.
“ The Hottentots adore an evil Deity, “ whom they call Touqúoa, and look “ as the father of mischief, and the source of “ all their plagues. Upon any apprehenfion “ of danger or misfortune they coax him 6 with the offering of an ox or a sheep; and me at other times perform divers ceremonies " to wheedle and keep him quiet “.”
MANY of the ignorant Indians in America, who imagine that two great fpirits, one
good and the other bad, goveșn the world, worship the latter but not the former, and assign this reason why they do fo: the good, fay they, cannot hurt us, but the bad will. These poor people do not consider, that the
utmost • The present State of the Cape of Good-Hope, Vol. I. P. 104,
utmost they can possibly perform, is not at all likely to prevail with a bad spirit, of fo much power and without controul, not to hurt them; and that such a being, who must be delighted with doing mischief or he would not do it, cannot be moved with pity or compassion: on the contrary, he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh. When their fear cometh as deform lation, and their destruction cometh as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish cometh upon them, then thall they call upon him, but he will not answer.
CAN a good and true religion be founded on a belief, that God will not only punish multitudes of his creatures to eternity, but that he hath rendered it almost impoffible for them to escape being thus punished? Yet this is too common an opinion, and as many imagine, is grounded on divers texts of scripture.
A MAN may, and indeed must, be in the utmost fear of a being who he apprehends will make him eternally miserable: but is it possible, that he Thould entertain any love, esteem, and reverence for such a one? Nay, fuppofing it is in the power of this being to prevent his becoming thus miserable, and he doth it not,-can he even then have any real veneration for him? If a fon believed or
knew that his father would punish him with the most extreme torments, or, tho' it were in his power, would not save him from suffering them, what filial respect or veneration could he have for such a parent? And is not God much more intimately related to his creatures, than an earthly parent to his children? And may not creatures reasonably hope for and expect more care and affection from their Creator, than children from their parents? And is it not mens belief, that they are under the protection of the Deity, and receive from him all the good things they poffefs, and that he will bestow upon them all the happiness they shall hereafter enjoy, which is the foundation of true religion? · If therefore there are any texts of scripture, which seem to threaten, that God, who is a being of infinite goodness, will punish men with everlasting torments, we shall leave divines to settle the point, whether such paffages, as before-mentioned, are not wrong translated, interpolated, or misunderstood, But however that may be, had not the learned and judicious Dr. Middleton reason to say? " It is a principle constantly laid down by « all the expositors of sacred writ, that every
part of it must be expounded in such a $ manner as to render it confiftent with reafon, and the known attributes of the Deity; 3
$6 and whatever will not admit of that inter
pretation, cannot be received as of divine $ authority. If this be true," saith the same author, it follows, that our notion of God « and his attributes is not to be drawn ori
ginally from the scriptures, but from nature st and reason, previously to our study of fcrip
tures, which otherwise would be apt to « lead us into dangerous errors b."
DANGEROUS errors indeed! For the want of observing this rule, of drawing our sentiments of God and his attributes from nature and reason, and not originally from the scrip tures, has been one principal cause of our afcribing the human passions, and even the worst of them, such as anger, jealousy, hatred, revenge, &c. to the Deity. These pallions the scriptures in a multitude of places have ascribed to him,“ with whom,” they have also told us, and truly told us,
that there is no variableness, neither shadow of $ turning.”
Did not men entertain unreasonable and absurd opinions of God, they would not imagine him to be cruel ; and did they not sup, pose him to be cruel, they could not believe he would punish them with eternal torments,
Dr. Middleton's works, vol. II. p. 123.
or even suffer the works of his hands to be for ever miserable '.
To avoid the force of this argument, some advocates for the doctrine of eternal damnation say, that EVERLASTING MISERY is not an arbitrary punishment by God, but a natural consequence of fin, and agreeable to the
nature & A zealous advocate for this doctrine of Endless Torments, before quoted, tells us, “ that the inhabi“ tants of the old world even FORCED THE ALMIGHTY, “in vindication of his justice, to cut them utterly off “ from the face of the earth. They had, by such long
repeated abominations, REDUCED HEAVEN TO THIS “UNAVOIDABLE DILEMMA, either of contending with “ them by threatnings and punisaments, even to eter“nity, had he continued them upon earth ; or else de
Iroying them utterly out of this world, and shifting " the scene of those torments to the land of ETERNAL “ HORROR.” And in another place he says, that whether the number of finners who fall under the sentence of ETERNAL MISERY “ be greater or less, it does not,
as is pretended, at all impeach the goodness of God, “ because it is a punishment which the objects of it even “ TORCED divine justice to inflict, and wilfully called “ down upon themselves, in spite of every merciful me“thod of conviction a thousand times repeated. And I u doubt not,” says our author, “ but the objects of this “ punishment will fully discover its cquitableness, ac"knowledge God's justice in this affair, and even THANK
THE ALMIGHTY that it was not, as to its kind and DEGREE, of a more dreadful nature.” Yet, of these torments he tells us, “ that in duration they will be end« less, and in DEGREE INFINITELY GREAT." The Doctrine of endless Torments freely and impartially debated, &c. By John Maud, M. A. Vicar of St. Neots, &c. p. 110, 398 and 412.