Later criticism, orthodox and heterodox, upon the English deists inclines to charge them with the conception of a divine absentee, who wound up the machine of nature and left it to run untended.
Not to dwell upon earlier continental " Deists " (mentioned by Viret as quoted first in Bayle's Dictionary and again in the introduction to Leland's View of the Deistical Writers), Lord Herbert of Cherbury (De Veritate, 1624; De Religione Gentilium,.
Deists and orthodox in those days agreed in recognizing not merely natural theology but natural religion - " essential religion," Butler more than once styles it; the expression shows how near he stood intellectually to those he criticized.
The God of Nature, whom deists confess, does punish in time, if they will but look at the facts; why not in eternity ?
Of the so-called deists Shaftesbury was probably the most important, as he was certainly the most plausible and the most respectable.