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of the Deity, reason could discover very little.
The goodness of God is indeed evident in the works of creation; for, as the Apostle observed to the citizens of Lystra, "God left not him"self without a witness, in that he ,f did good, and gave us rain from "heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling "our hearts with food and gladness." But these blessings, from their regularity, and constancy of revolution,, seemed to require no immediate operation of divine power; and were expected and received as things of course. It was in the earthquake and the whirlwind, the destructive tempest and the raging storm, that the power of Deity appeared conspicuous; nor was the hand of God seen or acknowledged until terror shook the feeble heart. To pacify the wrath of this avenging spirit was then the sole object of religious worship; and horrid were the rites to which this mistaken notion of the divine nature gave rise. Altars raised to the God of heaven were polluted by human blood. Nor was it the blood of enemies alone that flowed upon them. The innocence of infancy, and the bloom of youth, as offerings of higher value, were deemed more acceptable in the eyes of an avenging Deity; and such was the power of superstition in eradicating those tender affections which seem most deeply implanted in the human heart, that parents resigned their children to the murderous knife, in the full persuasion that they should most certainly recommend themselves to the favour of the Deity, by stifling every emotion of humanity.
Such cruelties could not fail to make the people cruel; nor could
they they be just, who believed that God delighted in injustice.
After the lapse of many ages, a few nations of the world became more enlightened. Literature and the arts, wherever they were introduced, ameliorated in some degree the ferocity of the human mind. By the exercise of the intellectual powers, the heart was softened and enlarged; the sensibility of the moral feelings was restored; and such of the moral virtues as were found necessary to the existence and happiness of society, were strongly enforced, and in some instances eminently practised.
You may perhaps imagine, that when reason had thus far advanced, those who made such distinguished use of her powers must doubtless have employed them to advantage in discovering the attributes of the Deity, and in forming such a rational system
of of religious worship as would improve the virtue of the people. Alas! reason atchieved nothing of all this.
Of all the ancient nations, none were more celebrated for their wisdom than the Romans: but how little a way this wisdom had penetrated into divine things, is well known to all who are in any degree acquainted with history. A very brief and apposite account of it is given by St. Paul, in his Epistle addressed to that nation, in which he justly reproaches them, "Because that when they "knew God, (or might from the "works of creation have known "him,) they glorified him not as . "God, neither were they thankful, "but became vain in their imagina- "tions, and their foolish heart was "darkened. Professing themselves "to be wise, they became fools; and M changed the glory of the uncor.
"ruptible God into an image qf corruptible man, and to birds, and "beasts, and creeping things."
These are the people to whose superior genius we are indebted for almost all we know. Great in all the arts of war and peace; renowned for wisdom and for penetration j whose daring minds were free, and at full liberty to search for truth, and to declare it, If their notions of the Supreme Being were so unworthy, if their worship was so impure, well may we say, with David, "Who can by M searching find out God; who can M find out the Almighty unto per-* ** fection )"
Their belief in a future state was, like their belief in the Supreme Being, darkened with many errors; and, as it was not capable of receiving any confirmation from the evidence of the senses, was less generally received;