Volume 2: 1771 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica!


Deists, in the modern sense of the word, are those persons in Christian countries, who, acknowledging all the obligations and duties of natural religion, disbelieve the Christian scheme, or revealed religion.  They are so called from their belief in God alone, in opposition to Christians.  The learned Dr. Clarke taking the denomination in the most extensive signification, distinguishes deists into four sorts.  1.  Such as pretend to believe the existence of an eternal, infinite, independent, intelligent Being; and who teach, that this supreme Being made the world, though they fancy he does not at all concern himself in the management of it.  2.  Those who believe not only the 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 or evil actions of men; these things depending, as they imagine, on the arbitrary constitutions of human laws.  3.  Those who having right apprehensions concerning the natural attributes of God, and his all governing providence, and some notion of his moral perfections also; yet, being prejudiced against the notion of the immortality of the human soul, believe that men perish entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another, without any future restoration  or renovation of things.  4.  Such as believe the existence of a supreme Being, together with his providence in the government of the world, as also 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.  These last are the only true deists; but as the principles of these men would naturally lead them to embrace the Christian revelation, the learned author concludes  there is now no consistent scheme of deism in the world.

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