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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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Is a Latin word, derived, according to Cicero, from rilegere, "to re-consider;" but according to Servius and most modern grammarians, from religare, "to bind fast." If the Ciceronian etymology be the true one, the word religion will denote the diligent study whatever pertains to the worship of God; but, according to the other derivation, it denotes that obligation which we feel on our minds from the relation in which we stand to some superior power. The word is sometimes used as synonymous with sect; but, in a practical sense, it is generally considered as the same with godliness, or a life devoted to the worship and fear of God. Dr. Doddridge thus defines it: "Religion consists in the resolution of the will for God, and in a constant care to avoid whatever we are persuaded he would disapprove, to despatch the work he has assigned us in life, and to promote his glory in the happiness of mankind."

See GODLINESS.) The foundation of all religion rests on the belief of the existence of God. As we have, however, already considered the evidences of the divine existence, they need not be enumerated again in this place; the reader will find them under the article EXISTENCE OF GOD. Religion has been divided into natural and revealed. By natural religion is meant that knowledge, veneration, and love of God, and the practice of those duties to him, our fellow-creatures, and ourselves, which are discoverable by the right exercise of our rational faculties, from considering the nature and perfections of God, and our relation to him and to one another.

By revealed religion is understood that discovery which he has made to us of his mind and will in the Holy Scriptures. As it respects natural religion, some doubt whether, properly speaking, there can be any such thing; since, through the fall, reason is so depraved, that man without revelation is under the greatest darkness and misery, as may be easily seen by considering the history of those nations who are destitute of it, and who are given up to barbarism, ignorance, cruelty, and evils of every kind. So far as this, however, may be observed, that the light of nature can give us no proper ideas of God, nor inform us what worship will be acceptable to him. It does not tell us how man became a fallen sinful creature, as he is, nor how he can be recovered. It affords us no intelligence as to the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future state of happiness and misery. The apostle, indeed, observes, that the Gentiles have the law written on their hearts, and are a law unto themselves; yet the greatest moralists among them were so blinded as to be guilty of, and actually to countenance the greatest vices. Such a system, therefore, it is supposed, can hardly be said to be religious which leaves man in such uncertainty, ignorance, and impiety. (


On the other side it is observed, "that, though it is in the highest degree probable that the parents of mankind received all their theological knowledge by supernatural means, it is yet obvious that some parts of that knowledge must have been capable of a proof purely rational, otherwise not a single religious truth could have been conveyed through the succeeding generations of the human race but by the immediate inspiration of each individual. We, indeed, admit may propositions as certainly true, upon the sole authority of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and we receive these Scriptures with gratitude as the lively oracles of God; but it is self-evident that we could not do either the one or the other, were we not convinced by natural means that God exists; that he is a being of goodness, justice, and power; and that he inspired with divine wisdom the penmen of these sacred volumes.

Now, though it is very possible that no man, or body of men, left to themselves from infancy in a desert world, would ever have made a theological discovery, yet, whatever propositions relating to the being and attributes of the First Cause and duty of man, can be demonstrated by human reason, independent of written revelation, may be called natural theology, and are of the utmost importance, as being to us the first principles of all religion. Natural theology, in this sense of the word, is the foundation of the Christian revelation; for, without a previous knowledge of it, we could have no evidence that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are indeed the word of God." The religions which exist in the world have been generally divided into four, the Pagan, the Jewish, the Mahometan, and the Christian; to which articles the reader is referred. The various duties of the Christian religion also are stated in their different places.

See also, as connected with this article, the articles INSPIRATION, REVELATION, and THEOLOGY, and books there recommended.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Religion'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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