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To such a Centaur of an opinion, what shall we reply *? There is indeed but little probability, that opinions so mon-, Straus, so inconsistent, and so absurd, can find an asylum in any intelligent and impartial minds,
From having thus traced, or more than traced, a connexion between the Deity and his works, (for he tells us, p. 422, that God is All and is All that exists,) Mr. Forsyth calls our attention to what he denominates " Duties of Religion." But like a prudent architect, that he may not lay his foundation on fallacious ground, he takes care to remove that rubbish which men of less elevated minds have been accustomed to denominate sacred.
. " The following practices (he observes, p. 425.) are usually inculcated as religious duties: To revtrence, to worship, and to love God. First, it is unnecessary to command us to respect or to reverence the Deity; we ought to be commanded or advised to endeavour to understand his character. To require this respect as a duty is therefore idle and unnecessary, seeing it is the natural and involuntary consequence of the acquisition of knowledge, and will of itself come of course, if we proceed to improve cur rational nature. Secondly, what is called the worship of God is an expression of fear or respect towards the Deity. So far as worship expresses fear or terror of the Deity, it is improper, because that sentiment is improper. Thirdly, (p. 428.) it ought to be remembered that love or affection is an involuntary sentiment, produced by habit, which cannot fee' excited or refrained from at pleasure."
Such are the methods which the author takes to discard reverence, worship, and the love of God, from the list of religious duties, and such is the rubbish which he removes!
The positive duties of religion, come next under consideration; and of these he tells us (p. 431.) there can be no doubt respecting the two following, "resignation to the will of the Deity; and imitation, so far as it is practicable, of the Divine character." Our resignation consists, in bearing with fortitude those various calamities and afflictions, of which God is the author, but which embitter life; and which God has sent " as the most powerful stimulant to activity and improvement." Here, as in many other pages, Mr. F.'s system betrays its essential absurdity. Resignation would be right enough,, if happiness were the object of pursuit, but it is death to intellectual energy and active improvement!
But of imitation we must take a wider survey, especially as we are assured that it is " a most important religious duty.'''' Yet how the Deity is to be imitated,—since he is neither good, nor benevolent, and loves not his creatures, and since it is no part
, . * " Say what revenge on Dennis can be had,
<* Too dull for laughter, for reply too mad:" Pop*.
ef our duty to reference, worship, or love him,—may perhaps occasion some perplexity to our readers. We readily confess, that when we had advanced thus far, we were in the same predicament. The author, however, can satisfy all inquiries, and we give his opinion in his own words.
"The universe is his great laboratory, in which a thousand transmutations and the most curious operations, are continually goin^ on. Dust is converted into grass, the grass of the field into a sheep, the sheep into a man, and the man into dust again. Let us observe accurately the operations of this great artist, and we shall learn the rules by which he proceeds. In proportion to the accuracy of our observation, we shall posses* the same knowledge that he possesses." (p. 438.) "By observing the tendency of the arrangements contained in the universe, and the effect* which its constitution is formed to produce on the mind of mm, we shall discover the objects which the Deity himself is pursuing; what that i» which he approves, and what is the nature of his character, and consequently of perfection. We shall perceive his general purpose to be, that our bodies should be. healthful, our species numerous, and our minds ealightened." p. 437.
■ But our imitation of the Deity does not terminate here.
"To resemble the Deity, it is not enough to obtain a knowledge of his thoughts; ive must also act as he acts, and employ ourselves in the same business in which he is engaged. For this purpose, we must particularly study to find out the schemes of wisdom by which he is occupied; and endeavour, as far as he may have placed it in our power to assist in completing them. This indeed is, perhaps, the only rule of morality, that is altogether unexceptionable, to endeavour to discover the purposes of the author of nature, in the formation of this world, and to account it our only business to labour along tuilh him in accomplishing it. The great purpose for which he has evidently formed our nature and this world, is to train Tip many beings to wisdom or to the possession of much perfection. When we reflect upon the nature of intellectual excellence, we can perceive that it is good, and worthy to fill the universe. The Deity accordingly labours to extend its empire, as the best employment of his skill, and in Trig labour we are permitted to engage. He, no doubt, is the creator, the preserver, and the instructor of the human race; but the parents who bring a child into the world, who provide for the wants of his early years, and train up his understanding to knowledge, are also to be regarded, according to the measure of their power, as beings employed in creating, preserving, and enlightening the new inhabitants of the universe." p. 441.
We will not stoop to condemn the follies and assumptions of this system, but appeal to thee—virtuous reader!—What thinkest thou of these principles of moral science? The author has told us, that " there is no such thing as moral evil;"—■ "That the author of the universe is the author of every thing that occurs within its wide circuit;"—" That man when lea captive by mere appetite and blind affection, is ruled by that superior power which contrived the human constitution;"—and "that he is as good as the author of his being intended him to be." He now tells us that " religious duty, consists in an imitation of the Deity, and that those parents imitate him, who iring a child into the world /" Art thou a father? Would'^t thou recommend the principles of this volume to thy sons and daughters? Art thou a brother? Would'st thou offer thy sisters to the first passenger, and think that thou performedst a religious rite? The feelings of thy bosom must revolt at the idea, of metamorphosing brothels into temples, and temples into bro^thels, and the indignity of thy soul, must stifle even the energy of execration, and blast such principles with the significant silence of horror.
In his sjxth chapter, the author compares what he calls different religions together. He has, however, told us, (p. 426) that, " almost all the religions originate among the ignorant, tor in a rude state of society; all religions have therefore adopted the same ceremonies." We have therefore not much to hope in favour of Christianity. In this chapter he has travelled over three quarters of the world, and his final conclusion is, "That Christianity possesses the negative excellence of not being the worst system that is in the world." For such a being as Mr. Forsyth to praise it, would indeed have shaken our admiration of its excellence, and our faith in its divinity.
We now turn to his last chapter, in which he contemplates a future state of existence. That he should admit the possibility of a future state, after having discarded from his system, both moral evil, and every prospect of punishment and reward, may seem problematical; but the author can give a full solution of the difficulty. That the belief of immortality is very an, cient, he admits, in p. 470; and he thus accounts for the origin of these delusive conceptions.
*' Under a fever or any temporary derangement of our voluntary powers, ■jve sometimes ir/agine We have seen what actually never appeared to us, Even in health, a dream is sometimes mistaken for a waking perception, particularly by the weary, the anxious, and the splitary—ra circumstance which will probably account for some visions, or preternatural events reT forded in history, such as the appearance of his evil genius to the younger Brutus, before the battle of Philippi, and the conversation, of Balaam with his ass, recorded in the sacred scriptures." p. 474.
\ Revelation, then, from first to last, is nothing but the dream of some solitary recluse, or the fancy of a man ill with a fever \ After having thus accounted, in his way, for our original ideas of immortality, the author proceeds to discard thpse arguments which have generally been advanced in favour of the fa/ct, Hope, he dispatcher \i\ sixteen lines; many young pertons, he says, hope they shall one day be rich and powerful, while their hopes prove delusive. The benevolence of the Deity is excluded from affording any foundation, because it has no existence. Rewards and punishments, are prevented from giving evidence, because sin has no existerice; and because, (p. 475.) "The world and its inhabitants are precisely what God intended them to be." . Justice shares the same fate; and for the same reason; and because " Man can have no such thing as merit or demerit in the eyes of his maker." Immaterial substance next feels the stroke, because we have no sure means of investigating the substance or essence of the power* that act in nature. The changes which insects undergo are prohibited from becoming witnesses, because these insects finally die, to rise no more. To refute these silly and stale objections would be foreign to the nature of a literary journal, and is indeed unnecessary. We cannot however take our leave, without asking the author this question, Whether he cart form any conception, that consciousness can result from any divisible substance, without involving that conception in an absurdity or a contradiction? If he can, as he has threatened the world with another volume, we pledge ourselves to enter into the question; if not, we shall consider th$ question as withdrawn.
It is not, however, his intention, he assures us, to discard the immortality of the soul. Hitherto, he has only been removing rubbish. A capacity in the human mind for Unlimited improvement, he considers as affording an argument which is conclusive. To the force of this argument, we most readily subscribe, though without concurring in the application of it. But what kind of immortality does the author intend?
"7 he species, (he observes, p. 480.) of the oak, of the willow, and of the cat, are all immortal, and never pass away, although every individual of the species perishes. The same is true of the human species. The individuals are lost in death, but the species endures, by the succession of children to their parents without end. Society at large has a progress toward* excellence."
Thus far we have an immortality made applicable to human nature, which, it is admitted, no human being can possibly enjoy!
It is fair, however, to state, that this is not the only view which the author has taken of immortality. In p 435, he pre»umes that a period will arrive,
« When there will be nothing more left for man to learn upon this globe, merely because it is of narrow extent, and because human society must at length exhibit upon it every possible variety of character which it* magnitude permits. Hence it seems fair to conclude, that as the continual succession of one generation to another in this world, will not afford an opportunity of carrying on the human mind, in an endless progress to excellence, the Author of nature must have devised some other mode of accomplishing this end; and the most evident mode seems to be that of preserving us alive in a more enlarged state of existence in spite of death, and of that destruction to all our powers, which it apparently brings along with it."
However unequivocal, and individually applicable, this language may appear, we shall soon find that it is not so extensive in its application as the reader might be induced to imagine. Though Mr. F. has expressly told us, that neither merit nor demerit can have any existence with relation to God; though manis asgood and as perfect as his maker intended him; and though we have not the smallest reason to expect a state of punishments end rewards, he now frankly informs us that this Elysium, i» reserved only for the enjoyment of the wise! The wise he has told us are few. On these only the gift of immortality will be bestowed; all besides will sink into a state of torpor, and death will become an eternal sletp; " for on them (he says) we may fairly conclude, that the valuable gift of immortality will not be idly thrown away." Such is the progress, and such, is the inconsistency, of error!
Mr. F. states that a time will come, when the individuals of the human race can derive no more knowledge bjr residing in this world, from which therefore they will one day be removed. It would appear, then, that there is no immortality for any person now living; for no person now living has acquired all the wisdom which this world can furnish. If, therefore, this world was contrived to improve the intellect of man, he should be permitted to remain here. If this is the grand object of man, and immortality is to be the means to the fortunate sages of future times, why not make man immortal now? Even to double his age of activity, would hasten the progress of improvement in a very rapid ratio. What might not Newton have 'accomplished in philosophy, or Johnson displayed in character, or Jones revealed in language and manners, if their lives had been only fifty years longer. With regard to the improvement of the human race, our researches and experience availbut little to our successors. Our labours are buried with us; and the following generations are compelled to repeat nearly the same toils, for nearly the same result; and successively bequeath to posterity, not their acquisitions, but only the memorial of them. Now if the immortality of the human race, or of individuals, would greatly hasten a general improvement, and if its decay and renewal greatly impedes this progress, may we not conclude, with certainty, that the ajjae-