A philosophical species of idolatry, leading to atheism, in which the universe was considered as the Supreme God. Who was the inventor of this absurd system, is, perhaps, not known, but it was of early origin, and differently modified by different philosophers. Some held the universe to be one immense animal, of which the incorporeal soul was properly their god, and the heavens and the earth the body of that god; whilst others held but one substance, partly active and partly passive, and therefore looked upon the visible universe as the only Numen. The earliest Grecian pantheist of whom we read was Orpheus, who called the world the body of God, and its several parts his members, making the whole universe one divine animal. According to Cudworth, Orpheus and his followers believed in the immaterial soul of the world: therein agreeing with Aristotle, who certainly held that God and matter are co-eternal; and that there is some such union between them, as subsists between the souls and bodies of men. An institution, imbibing sentiments nearly of this kind, was set on foot about eighty or ninety years ago, in this kingdom, by a society of philosophical idolaters, who called themselves Pantheists, because they professed the worship of All Nature as their deity. They had Mr. John Toland for their secretary and chaplain. Their liturgy was in Latin: an English translation was published in 1751, from which the following sentiments are extracted:–“The ethereal fire environs all things, and is therefore supreme. The aether is a reviving fire: it rules all things, it disposes all things. In it is soul, mind, prudence. This fire is Horace’s particle of divine breath, and Virgil’s inwardly nourishing spirit. All things are comprised in an intelligent nature.” This force they call the soul of the world; as also, a mind of perfect wisdom, and, consequently, God. Vanini the Italian philosopher, was nearly of this opinion: his god was nature. Some very learned and excellent remarks are made on this error by Mr. Boyle, in his discourse on the vulgarly received notion of nature.
Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.