Andrew Fuller Friday: On the Inconsistency of Deism

If there is a God he ought to be worshipped. This is a principle which no man will be able to eradicate from his bosom, or even to suppress, but at great labour and expense. The Scriptures, it is well known, both inculcate and inspire the worship of God. Their language is, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” “Give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him all the earth.” “Give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the people.” “Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face evermore.”

The spirit also which the Scriptures inspire is favourable to Divine worship. The grand lesson which they teach is love; and love to God delights to express itself in acts of obedience, adoration, supplication, and praise. The natural language of a heart well affected to God is, “I will call upon him as long as I live.” “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”

Is it thus with our adversaries? They speak, indeed, of “true and fabulous theology,” and of “true and false religion;” and often talk of adoring” the Supreme Being. But if there be no true religion among Christians, where are we to look for it? Surely not among deists. Their “adorations” seem to be a kind of exercises much resembling the benevolent acts of certain persons, who are so extremely averse from ostentation, that nobody knows of their being charitable but themselves.

Mr. Paine professes to believe in the equality of man, and that religious duty consists in “doing justice, loving mercy”—and what? I thought to be sure he was going to add “walking humbly with God.” But I was mistaken. Mr. Paine supplies the place of walking humbly with God, by adding, “and endeavouring to make our fellow creatures happy.”* Some people would have thought that this was included in doing justice and loving mercy; but Mr. Paine had rather use words without meaning than write in favour of godliness. “Walking humbly with God” is not comprehended in the list of his “religious duties.” The very phrase offends him. It is that to him, in quoting Scripture, which a nonconductor is to the electrical fluid: it causes him to fly off in an oblique direction; and, rather than say any thing on so offensive a subject, to deal in unmeaning tautology.

Mr. Paine not only avoids the mention of “walking humbly with God,” but attempts to load the practice itself with the foulest abuse.† He does not consider himself as “an outcast, a beggar, or a worm;” he does not approach his Maker through a Mediator; he considers “redemption as a fable,” and himself as standing in an honourable situation with regard to his relation to the Deity. Some of this may be true, but not the whole. The latter part is only a piece of religious gasconade. If Mr. Paine really thinks so well of his situation as he pretends, the belief of an hereafter would not render him the slave of terror.‡ But, allowing the whole to be true, it proves nothing. A high conceit of oneself is no proof of excellence. If he choose to rest upon this foundation, he must abide the consequence; but he had better have forborne to calumniate others. What is it that has transported this child of reason into a paroxysm of fury against devout people? By what spirit is he inspired, in pouring forth such a torrent of slander? Why is it that he must accuse their humility of “ingratitude,” their grief of “affectation,” and their prayers of being “dictatorial” to the Almighty? “Cain hated his brother. And wherefore hated he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Prayer and devotion are things that Mr. Paine should have let alone, as being out of his province. By attempting, however, to deprecate them, he has borne witness to the devotion of Christians, and fulfilled what is written in a book which he affects to despise, “Speaking evil of the things which he understands not.”

To admit a God, and yet refuse to worship him, is a modern and inconsistent practice. It is a dictate of reason as well as of revelation, “If the Lord be God, worship him; and if Baal, worship him.” It never was made a question, whether the God in whom we believe should receive our adorations. All nations, in all ages, paid religious homage to the respective deities, or supposed deities, in which they believed. Modern unbelievers are the only men who have deviated from this practice. How this is to be accounted for is a subject worthy of inquiry. To me it appears as follows:—

In former times, when men were weary of the worship of the true God, they exchanged it for that of idols. I know of no account of the origin of idolatry so rational as that which is given by revelation. “Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge; therefore they were given up to a mind void of judgment; to change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four-footed beasts, and creeping things; and to defile themselves by abominable wickedness.”* It was thus with the people who came to inhabit the country of Samaria after the Israelites were carried captives into Assyria. At first, they seemed desirous to know and fear the God of Israel; but when they came to be informed of his holy character, and what kind of worship he required, they presently discovered their dislike. They pretended to fear him, but it was mere pretence; for every nation “made gods of their own.”† Now gods of their own making would doubtless be characterized according to their own mind: they would be patrons of such vices as their makers wished to indulge; gods whom they could approach without fear, and in addressing whom they could “be more at ease,” as Hume says, than in addressing the one living and true God; gods, in fine, the worship of whom might be accompanied with banquetings, revelings, drunkenness, and lewdness. These, I conceive, rather than the mere falling down to an idol, were the exercises that interested the passions of the worshippers. These were the exercises that seduced the ungodly part of the Israelitish nation to an imitation of the heathens. They found it extremely disagreeable to be constantly employed in the worship of a holy God. Such worship would awe their spirits, damp their pleasures, and restrain their inclinations. It is not surprising, therefore, that they should be continually departing from the worship of Jehovah, and leaning towards that which was more congenial with their propensities. But the situation of modern unbelievers is singular. Things are so circumstanced with them that they cannot worship the gods which they prefer. They never can fail to discover a strong partiality in favour of heathens, but they have not the face to practise or defend their absurd idolatries. The doctrine of one living and true God has appeared in the world, by means of the preaching of the gospel, with such a blaze of evidence, that it has forced itself into the minds of men, whatever has been the temper of their hearts. The stupid idolatry of past ages is exploded. Christianity has driven it out of Europe. The consequence is, great numbers are obliged to acknowledge a God whom they cannot find in their hearts to worship.

If the light that has gone abroad in the earth would permit the rearing of temples to Venus, or Bacchus, or any of the rabble of heathen deities, there is little doubt but that modern unbelievers would, in great numbers, become their devotees; but seeing they cannot have a god whose worship shall accord with their inclinations, they seem determined not to worship at all. And, to come off with as good a grace as the affair will admit, they compliment the Deity out of his sovereign prerogatives; professing to “love him for his giving them existence, and all their properties, without interest, and without subjecting them to any thing but their own nature.”‡

The introduction of so large a portion of heathen mythology into the songs and other entertainments of the stage sufficiently shows the bias of people’s hearts. The house of God gives them no pleasure; but the resurrection of the obscenities, intrigues, and Bacchanalian revels of the old heathens affords them exquisite delight. In a country where Christian worship abounds, this is plainly saying, ‘What a weariness is it! Oh that it were no more! Since, however, we cannot introduce the worship of the gods, we will neglect all worship, and celebrate the praises of our favourite deities in another form.’ In a country where deism has gained the ascendency, this principle is carried still further. Its language there is, ‘Seeing we cannot, for shame, worship any other than the one living and true God, let us abolish the day of worship, and substitute in its place one day in ten, which shall be devoted chiefly to theatrical entertainments, in which we can introduce as much heathenism as we please.’

Mr. Hume acknowledges the justice of considering the Deity as infinitely superior to mankind; but he represents it, at the same time, as very generally attended with unpleasant effects, and magnifies the advantages of having gods which are only a little superior to ourselves. He says, “While the Deity is represented as infinitely superior to mankind, this belief, though altogether just, is apt, when joined with superstitious terrors, to sink the human mind into the lowest submission and abasement, and to represent the monkish virtues of mortification, penance, humility, and passive suffering, as the only qualities which are acceptable to him. But where the gods are conceived to be only a little superior to mankind, and to have been many of them advanced from that inferior rank, we are more at our ease in our addresses to them, and may even, without profaneness, aspire sometimes to a rivalship and emulation of them. Hence activity, spirit, courage, magnanimity, love of liberty, and all the virtues which aggrandize a people.”* It is easy to perceive, from this passage, that though Mr. Hume acknowledges the justice of conceiving of a God infinitely superior to us, yet his inclination is the other way. At least, in a nation the bulk of which will be supposed to be inclined to superstition, it is better, according to his reasoning, and more friendly to virtue, to promote the worship of a number of imaginary deities, than of the one only living and true God. Thus “the fool saith in his heart, No God!”

The sum of the whole is this: Modern unbelievers are deists in theory, pagans in inclination, and atheists in practice.

Excerpt from: The Gospel Its Own Witness, Chapter 2.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 2, pp. 11–14). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

By |September 25th, 2020|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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