Religion (Lat. relego, religo). This word, according to Cicero (Div. Instit. 4), is derived from, or rather compounded of, re and legere, to read over again, to reflect upon or to study the sacred books in which religion is delivered. According to Lactantius (De Civit. Dei, lib. 10:c. 3), it comes from re- ligare, to bind back, because religion is that which furnishes the true ground of obligation.
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 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, 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. SEE NATURAL THEOLOGY. Revealed religion forms the correlate of natural religion, or the religion of reason. It is not the result of human investigation, but being the result of an extraordinary communication from God, is therefore infallible; whereas, on the contrary, all processes of human thought are more or less subjected to error. Hence we can explain why it is that religion gives itself out to be, not a product of the reason merely, not anything which originated from human inquiry and study, but a result of a divine revelation. The religious feeling is undoubtedly a propension of human nature; yet without a divine revelation the mind would sink in dark and perpetual disorder. Of the whole family of man, existing in all ages, and scattered over every quarter of the globe, there is not one well-authenticated exception to the fact that, moved by an inward impulse, and guided by revelation or tradition, man worships something which he believes to be endowed with the attributes of a superior being. Even the occasional gleamings of truth found in the various idolatrous systems are but the traditions of ancient revelations, more or less corrupted, which have descended from the first worshippers. Revealed religion comprehends, besides the doctrines of natural religion, many truths which were beyond the reach of human reason, though not contradictory thereto, and for a knowledge of which we are indebted directly to the Old and New Testaments. While other religions had been variously accommodated to the peculiar countries in which they flourished, Christianity was so framed as to be adapted to the whole human family. It is the one thing needful for the elevation of our race, and is destined alike to universality and perpetuity.
In all forms of religion there is one part, which may be called the doctrine or dogma, which is to be received by faith; and the cultus, or worship, which is the outward expression of the religious sentiment. By religion is also meant that homage to the Deity in all the forms which pertain to the spiritual life, in contrast with theology, the theory of the divine nature and government. SEE THEOLOGY.