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cre a plea can be set up in their defence. Thus were the arguments for the abolition of the Slave-trade answered, and in this manner was that iniquitous traffic defended in the British Parliament. Doubtless there is a woe hanging over the heads of those men who thus called evil good and good evil ; nevertheless. we see even in their conduct the amiablenefs of righteousness, and the impoflibility of fairly opposing it.
Christianity reveals a God, glorious in Holiness : but
Deism, though it acknowledges a God, yet denies or overlooks his Moral Character.
THERE are certain perfections which all
who acknowledge a God agree in attributing to him : such are those of wisdom, power, immutability, &c. These by Christian divines are usually termed his natural perfections. There are others which no less evidently belong to deity, such as goodness, justice, veracity, &c. all which may be expressed in one word, holiness; and these are usually termed his moral perfections. Both natural and moral attributes tend to display the glory of the divine character, but especially the latter.
Wisdom and power in the Supreme Being render him a proper object of admiration ; but justice, veracity, and goodness attract our love. No being is beloved for his greatness, but for his goodness. Moral excellence is the highest glory of any intelligent being, created or uncreated. Without this, wisdom would be sub
tilty, power tyranny, and immutability the same thing as being unchangeably wicked.
We account it the glory of Revelation, that while it displays the natural perfections of God in a way superior to any thing that has been called religion, it exhibits his moral excellencies in a manner peculiar to itself. It was with good reason that Mofes affirmed in behalf of Israel, Their rock is not as our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges. The God or Rock of Israel is conftantly described as a Being glorious in holiness, and as requiring pure and holy worship. The Lord, the Lord God, merci ful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and in truth – The Lord our God is holy-Holy and reverend is his name-Glory ye in his holy name
And one cried to another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hofts; the whole earth is full of his glory—He is of purer eyes than to behold evil; and can not look on iniquity— A God of truth, and without iniquity ; juft and right is he. Is any thing like this to be found in the writings of the ancient heathens ? No. The generality of their deities were the patrons of vice, and their worship was accompanied with the fouleft abominations that could disgrace the nature of man. Justice, benevolence, and veracity were not considered as necessary in any part of their religion; and a large proportion of it consisted in drunkennefs, lewdness, and the offering up of human facrifices.
The object of Christian adoration is JEHOVAH, the God of Israel ; whose character for holiness, justice, and goodness is displayed in the doctrines. and precepts of the gospel in a more affecting light than by any of the preceding dispensations. But who or what is the God of deists? It is true they have been shamed out of the polytheism of the heathens. They have reduced their thirty thousand deities into one : but what is his character? What attributes do they ascribe to him ? For any thing that appears in their writings, he is as far from the holy, the just and the good, as those of their heathen predecessors. They enjoy a pleasure, it is allowed, in contemplating the productions of wisdom and power; but as to holiness, it is foreign from their enquiries : A holy God does not appear to be suited to their wishes.
Lord Bolingbroke acknowledges a God, but is for reducing all his attributes to wisdom and power ; blaming divines for distinguishing between his phyfical and moral attributes; asserting that “we can
not ascribe goodness and justice to God, accord
ing to our ideas of them, nor argue with any “ certainty about them; and that it is abfurd to “ deduce moral obligations from the moral attri“butes of God, or to pretend to imitate him in "6 those attributes."
Voltaire admits “A supreme, eternal, incomprehensible intelligence ;” but passes over his moral character.t
Mr. Paine fays, “ I believe in one God, and no more;"I and in the course of his work ascribes to him the natural perfections of wisdom and power ; but is very sparing in what he says of his moral excellence, of his being the moral governor of the world, and of man's being an accountable creature. He affects indeed to be shocked at the impurity of the ideas and expressions of the Bible, and to feel for “ the honour of his Creator in having fuch a book called after his name.”* This is the only parfage, that I recollect, in which he expresses any concern for the moral character of God; and whether this would have appeared but for the sake of giving an edge to reproach, let the reader judge.
* See Lelands Review, Let. xxiii. f Ignor. Philos. Nos. xv, xvi, xvii. # Age of Reason, Part I. p. 1.
How are we to account for these writers thus dea. nying or overlooking the moral character of the Deity, but by fuppofing that a holy God is not suited to their inclinations? If we bear a fincere regard to moral excellence, we shall regard every being in proportion as he appears to possess it; and if we consider the Divine Being as poffefling it supremely, and as the source of it to all other beings, it will be natural for us to love him with supreme affection, and all other beings in fubferviency to him. And if we love him fupremely on account of his moral character, it will be no less natural to take pleasure in contemplating him under that character..
On the other hand, if we be enemies to moral excellence, it will render every being who possesses it unlovely in our eyes. Virtuous or holy characters may indeed command our respect, and even ado miration ; but will not attract our affection. Whatever regard we may bear to them it will not be on account of their virtue, but of other qualities of which they may be pofseffed. Virtuous characters may be also wife and mighty ; and we may adınire their ingenuity, be delighted with their splendor, and take pleasure in visiting them that we may infpect their curiosities : but in such cases the more
things of a moral nature are kept at a distance, the more agreeable will be our visit. Much the same may be said of the Supreme Being. If we be enemies to moral excellence, God, as a holy Being, will poffefs no loveliness in our eyes. We may ad- . mire him with that kind of admiration which is paid to a great genius, and may feel a pleasure in tracing the grandeur and ingenuity of his operations: but the farther his moral character is kept out of sight, the more agreeable it will be to us.
Lord Shaftesbury, not contented with overlooking, attempts to satirize the scripture representations of the divine character. “ One would think, he says, “ it were easy to understand that provocation and “ offence, anger, revenge, jealousy in point of ho
nour or power, love of fame, glory, and the like, “ belong only to limited beings, and are necessa“ rily excluded a Being which is perfect and uni“ verfal.”* That many things are attributed to
. the divine Being in a figurative style, speaking inerely after the manner of men, and that they are so understood by Christians, Lord Shaftesbury must have well known. We do not think it lawful, however, fo to explain away these expressions as to consider the Great Supreme as incapable of being of fended with fin and sinners, as destitute of pleasure or displeasure, or as unconcerned about his own glory, the exercise of which involves the general good of the universe. A Being of this description would be neither loved nor feared, but would become the object of universal contempt.
It is no part of the imperfection of our nature that we are susceptible of provocation and offence,
* Characterisici, Vol. I. § V.