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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A sect of deists, who, in September 1796, published at Paris a sort of catechism or directory for social worship, under the title of Manuel des Theanthrophiles. This religious breviary found favour; the congregation became numerous; and in the second edition of their Manual they assumed the less harsh denomination of Theophilanthropists, 1: e. lovers of God and man.

According to them, the temple the most worthy of the Divinity is the universe. Abandoned sometimes under the vault of heaven to the contemplation of the beauties of nature, they render its Author the homage of adoration and gratitude. They nevertheless have temples erected by the hands of men, in which it is more commodious for them to assemble, to hear lessons concerning his wisdom. Certain moral inscriptions; a simple altar, on which they deposit, as a sign of gratitude for the benefits of the Creator, such flowers or fruits as the season afford; a tribune for the lectures and discourses, form the whole of the ornaments of their temples. The first inscription, placed above the altar, recalls to remembrance the two religious dogmas which are the foundation of their moral. First inscription. We believe in the existence of God, in the immortality of the soul.

Second inscription. Worship God, cherish your kind, render yourselves useful to your country.

Third inscription. Good is every thing which tends to the preservation or the perfection of man. Evil is every thing which tends to destroy or deteriorate him.

Fourth inscription. Children, honour your fathers and mothers; obey them with affection, comfort their old age. Fathers and mothers, instruct your children.

Fifth inscription. Wives, regard your husbands, the chiefs of your houses. Husbands, love your wives, and render yourselves reciprocally happy. From the concluding part of the Manuel of the Theophilanthropists, we may learn something more of their sentiments. "If any one ask you, " say they, "what is the origin of your religion and of your worship, you can answer him thus: Open the most ancient books which are known, seek there what was the religion, what the worship of the first human beings of which history has preserved the remembrance. There you will see that their religion was what we now call natural religion, because it has for its principle even the Author of nature.

It is he that has engraven it in the heart of the first human beings, in ours, in that of all the inhabitants of the earth; this religion, which consists in worshipping God and cherishing our kind, is what we express by one single word, that of Theophilanthrophy. Thus our religion is that of our first parents; it is yours; it is ours; it is the universal religion. As to our worship, it is also that of our first fathers.

See even in the most ancient writings, that the exterior signs by which they rendered their homage to the Creator, were of great simplicity. They dressed for him an altar of earth; they offered him, in sign of their gratitude and of their submission, some of the productions which they held of his liberal hand. The fathers exhorted their children to virtue; they all encouraged one another, under the auspices of the Divinity, to the accomplishment of their duties. This simple worship, the sages of all nations have not ceased to profess, and they have transmitted it down to us without interruption.

"If they yet ask you of whom you hold your mission, answer, we hold it of God himself, who, in giving us two arms to aid our kind, has also given us intelligence to mutually enlighten us, and the love of good to bring us together to virtue; of God, who has given experience and wisdom to the aged to guide the young, and authority to fathers to conduct their children. "If they are not struck with the force of these reasons, do not farther discuss the subject, and do not engage yourself in controversies, which tend to diminish the love of our neighbours. Our principles are the Eternal Truth; they will subsist, whatever individuals may support or attack them, and the efforts of the wicked will not even prevail against them. Rest firmly attached to them, without attacking or defending any religious system; and remember, that similar discussions have never produced good, and that they have often tinged the earth with the blood of men. Let us lay aside systems, and apply ourselves to doing good: it is the only road to happiness." So much for the divinity of the Theophilanthropists: a system entirely defective, because it wants the true foundation,

the word of God; the grand rule of all our actions, and the only basis on which our hopes and prospects of success can be built.

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

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

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