Full Title: A View of Religions, in Two Parts. Part I. Containing an Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Religious Denominations, Which Have Appeared in the World, From the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day. Part II. Containing a Brief Account of The Different Schemes of Religion Now Embraced Among Mankind. The Whole Collected From the Best Authors, Ancient and Modern. By Hannah Adams. The Second Edition, with Large Additions. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. Apostle Paul, Boston: Printed by John West Folsom.
Part II A VIEW OF RELIGIONS.
The Diests are spread all over Europe, and have multiplied prodigiously among the higher rank in most nations. But the sentiments which are distinguished by this title, are rarely embraced among the common people.
The name Diests is said to have been first assumed about the middle of the sixteenth century, but some gentlemen in France and Italy, in order to avoid the imputation of Atheism. One of the first authors who made use of this name was Peter Viret, a celebrated divine; who, in a work which was published in 1563, speaks of some persons in that time who were called by a new name, that of Diests. these, he tells us, professed to believe a God, but shewed no regard to Jesus Christ, and considered the doctrines of the apostles and evangelists as fables and dreams.
The Lord Edward Herbert, baron of Cherbury, who flourished in the seventeenth century, has been regarded as the most eminent of the deistical writers, and appears to be one of the first who formed Deism into a system; and asserted, the sufficiency, universality, and absolute perfection of natural religion, with a view to discard all extraordinary revelation as useless and needless. He reduced this universal religion to five articles, which he frequently mentioned in his works.
I. That there is one supreme GOD.
II. That he is chiefly to be worshipped.
III. That piety and virtue are the principal parts of his worship.
IV. That we must repent of our sins; and if we do so, God will pardon us.
V. That there are rewards for good men, and punishments for bad men, in a future state.
The Diests are classed by some of their own writers into two sorts — mortals and immortal Deists. — The latter acknowledge a future state — the former deny it, or at least represent it as a very uncertain thing.
The learned Dr. Clarke, taking the denomination in the most extensive signification, distinguishes Deists into four sorts. — The first are, such as pretend to believe the existence of an infinite, eternal, independent, intelligent Being; and who, to avoid the name of Epicurean Atheists, teach also, that this Supreme Being made the world; though, at the same time, they agree with the Epicureans in this, that they fancy God does not at all concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to, or care of, what is done therein.
The second sort of Deists are those who believe not only that being, but also the providence of God, with respect to the natural world; but who, not allowing any difference between moral good and evil, deny that God takes any notice of the morally good and evil actions of men: these things depending, as they imagine, on the arbitrary constitution of human laws.
A third sort of Deists there are, who believe in the natural attributes of God, and his all-governing providence, and have some notion of is moral perfections also; yet deny the immortality of the soul, believing that men perish entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another, without any future restoration or renovation of things.
A fourth, and the last sort of Deists are, such as believe the existence of a Supreme Being, together with his providence in the government of the world, as also all the obligations of natural religion; but so far only as these things are discoverable by the light of nature alone, without believing any divine revelation.
Some of the Deists have attempted to overthrow the christian dispensation, by representing the absolute perfection of natural religion. Others, as Blount, Collins, and Morgan, have endeavoured to gain the same purpose by attacking particular parts of the christian scheme; by explaining away the literal sense and meaning of certain passages; or by placing one portion of the sacred canon in opposition to the other. A third class, wherein we meet with the names of Shaftsbury, and of Bolingbrooke, advancing farther in their progress, expunge from their creed the doctrine of future existence, and annihilate among them all the moral perfections of the Deity.
Many of the modern Deists in Europe, are said to be of that class, who deny the immorality of the soul, and any future state of existence.