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Discarded by authority of the
E. W. METCALF AND COMPANY,
BEFORE proceeding to my proper subject, I may be permitted to say something in explanation of the large, and perhaps disproportionate space which I have allotted in these volumes* to the Doctrines of Natural Religion. To account for this I have to observe, that this part of my Work contains the substance of Lectures given in the University of Edinburgh in the year 1792-3, and for almost twenty years afterwards; and that my hearers comprised many individuals, not only from England and the United States of America, but not a few from France, Switzerland, the north of Germany, and other parts of Europe. To those who reflect on the state of the world at that period, and who consider the miscellaneous circumstances and characters of my audience, any further explanation on this head is, I trust, unnecessary.
The danger with which I conceived the youth of this country to be threatened by that inundation of sceptical or rather atheistical publications which were then imported from the Continent, was immensely increased by the enthusiasm which, at the dawn of the French Revolution, was naturally excited in young and generous minds. A supposed connexion between an enlightened zeal for Political Liberty and the reckless boldness of the uncompromising freethinker, operated powerfully with the vain and the ignorant in favor of the publications alluded to.
*["The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man" was originally published in two volumes.]
Another circumstance concurred with those which have been mentioned in prompting me to a more full and systematical illustration of these doctrines than had been attempted by any of my predecessors. Certain divines in Scotland were pleased, soon after this critical era, to discover a disposition to set at nought the evidences of Natural Religion, with a professed, and, I doubt not, in many cases, with a sincere view to strengthen the cause of Christianity. Some of these writers were probably not aware that they were only repeating the language of Bayle, Hume, Helvetius, and many other modern authors of the same description, who have endeavoured to cover their attacks upon those essential principles on which all religion is founded, under a pretended zeal for the interests of Revelation. It was not thus, I recollected, that Cudworth, and Barrow, and Locke, and Clarke, and Butler reasoned on the subject; nor those enlightened writers of a later date, who have consecrated their learning and talents to the further illustration of the same argument. "He," says Locke, who has forcibly and concisely expressed their common sentiments, "He that takes away Reason to make way for Revelation puts out the light of both, and does much the same as if we would persuade a man to put out his eyes, the better to receive the light of an invisible star by a telescope.":
This passage from Locke brought to my recollection the memorable words of Melancthon, so remarkably distinguished from most of our other Reformers by the mildness of his temper and the liberality of his opinions: "Wherefore our decision is this; that those precepts which learned men have committed to writing, transcribing them from the common reason and common feelings
Essay on the Human Understanding, Book iv. chap. 19, § 4.