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and believed to be guilty of most flagitious actions. The greatest of them were beings to whom human sacrifices, and the grossest abominations, were most pleasing.
Some persons have objected to the evidences of Christianity, but certainly without sufficient reason, the differences of opinion among Christians; since the very same objection may be made to natural religion, and indeed to every thing that has ever been imagined of so much importance as to engage much of the attention of mankind; the consequence of which has always been different conceptions concerning it. Were not the disciples of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato divided among themselves ? Are there not as many sects among the Mohammedans as among the Christians ? And are there not almost as many different opinions among the Papists as among the Protestants, notwithstanding they profess to be possessed of an infallible judge in all controversies of faith? Do not even our ablest lawyers give different opinions concerning the sense of acts of parliament, which were intended to convey the most determinate meaning so as to obviate all cavils? Nay, have we not equal reason to expect that unbelievers should agree in the same system of unbelief! If they say to us, agree first among yourselves, and tell us what Christianity is, and we will tell you what we have to object to it; we have a right to reply,-Do you agree first with respect to what you suppose to be wrong in it, tell us what you object to, and we will then consider of the proper
Extract from the Preface to the History of Electricity.
A philosopher ought to be something greater and better than another man. The contemplation of the works of God should give a sublimity to his virtue, should expand his benevolence, extinguish every thing mean, base, and selfish in his nature, give a dignity to all his sentiments, and teach him to aspire to the moral perfections of the great Author of all things. What great and exalted beings would philosophers be, would they but let the object about which they are conversant, have their proper moral effect upon their minds! A life spent in contemplation of the productions of divine power, wisdom, and goodness, would be a life of devotion. The more we see of the wonderful structure of the world, and the laws of nature, the more clearly do we comprehend their admirable uses, to make all the percipient creation happy; a sentiment which cannot but fill the heart with unbounded love, gratitude, and joy.
Even every thing painful and disagreeable in the world appears to be provided, as a remedy of some other greater inconvenience, or a necessary means of a much greater happiness; so that from this elevated point of view, he sees all temporary evils and inconveniences to vanish, in the glorious prospect of the great good to which they are subservient. Hence, he is able to venerate and rejoice in God, not only in the bright sunshine, but also in the darkest shades of nature, whereas, vulgar minds are apt to be disconcerted with the appearance of evil.
Nor is the cultivation of piety useful to us only as men, it is even useful to us as philosophers; and as the true philosophy tends to promote piety, so a generous and manly piety is reciprocally subservient to the purposes of philosophy; and this both in a direct and indirect manner. While we keep in view the great final cause of all the parts and laws of nature, we have some clue by which to trace the efficient
This is most of all obvious in that part of philosophy which respects the animal creation. As the great and excellent Dr. Hartley observes, “Since this world is a system of benevolence, and consequently its Author the object of unbounded love and adoration, benevolence and piety are our only true guides in our inquiries into it; the only keys that will unlock the mysteries of nature, and clues which lead through her labyrinths. Of this all branches of natural history and natural philosophy afford abundant instances."
In all these inquiries, let the inquirer take it for granted previously, that every thing is right, and the best that can be, cæteris manentibus ; that is, let him with a pious confidence seek for benevolent purposes, and he will be always directed to the right road; and after a due continuance in it, attain to some new and valuable truth : whereas every other principle and motive of examination, being foreign to the great plan on which the universe is constructed, must lead into endless mazes, errors, and perplexities.
Extract from the Preface to Dr. Priestley's latest
As an old man, and one whose increasing infirmities admonish him that he cannot be far from that bourn from which there is no return, I hope I shall be excused if I take this opportunity of saying that, in these circumstances, the advantage arising from a firm belief in revelation, and consequently in a future state, is inexpressible; and by persons wholly’immersed in the business of this life, and fascinated with its vain pursuits and fleeting enjoyments, cannot be conceived, and will not be believed.
The nearer I am to death, the nearer I am continually inking I am to the great scenes that will open to me after
it; and, to my apprehension, immediately after it: when I shall receive from that Jesus, whose divine mission it has been one principal object with me to defend, and by whose precepts, I hope I may say, it has been my habitual endeavour to regulate all my conduct (how imperfect soever has been my success), whatever new station I shall be thought qualified for in the renovated world, and which, I hope, will not be less active, useful, and happy, than that which has been my lot in this.
There, if I have this happiness, I shall meet all my pious friends and benefactors, whose characters and virtues I take pleasure in contemplating; and it has been my happiness to have had among those whom I call my friends, some of the first and fairest of human characters. Their good opinion and encouragement has always been more than a compensation for all the obloquy, and some more serious evils, to which I have occasionally been exposed. These, however, I now look back upon without any resentment with respect to men, and with gratitude to the Sovereign Disposer of all things, for the salutary discipline of which they have been a part. Without such discipline as this, though consisting of many things exceedingly unpleasant and distressing at the time, what would any man be? The best of us would be nothing more than spoiled children, unhappy in ourselves and insufferable to others.
I have no idea of any greater happiness than such society as I have had, and such employments and pursuits as I have been occupied in here. Then, in particular, I shall hope to resume my investigation of the great system of which I am a part, with more advantage than I can at present; and, seeing more of the Creator in his works, feel such an increase of admiration and devotion, as our imperfect knowledge does not admit of at present. There, all the evils, natural and moral, that are incident to the present state, having answered the excellent purpose of discipline, and of forming the mind to true excellence, will be done away.