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such as the bodies of animals, may, from various accidents in their conception and birth, often want that convenient form in the adaption of their parts, from the wonderful contrivance of which, in the various bodies of animals in general, arises so illustrious an evidence of the wisdom and power of the Creator.
Surely then, common sense guided by equitable measure requires us to estimate God's moral Works on the same standard; to consider what the moral constitution is in itself: and (when the question is of God's goodness and justice) to keep that consideration distinct; and not suffer it to be disturbed by the view of any interruptions occasioned by the perverse influence of the passion or action of material or inmaterial Beings. For, here, Both concur to violate the Con stitution: In the natural system, man's Free-will hath no place in the moral, the abuse of Free-will occasions the greatest of it's disorders.
In prosecuting this question, therefore, As, in order to acquire and confirm our ideas of God's wisdom and power, we consider the natural system so far forth only as it's order and harmony is supported by the general Laws of matter and motion; so, in order to acquire and confirm our ideas of his goodness and justice, we should regard the moral system so far forth only as it's order and harmony is supported by that GENERAL LAW, which annexes happiness to virtue, and to vice, misery, and ruin.
Thus much, and only thus much, is God's Work in either system and it is from God's Work, he tells us, we are to demonstrate his Attributes. The rest (where disorders real or apparent obtrude themselves. to obstruct our views in these discoveries) proceed from Matter and Mind,
And it is not to be forgotten, that the conclusion, Religionists draw from hence, in support of their adequate ideas of God's moral attributes, hath the greater strength upon his Lordship's own principles; who holds, that this Constitution arises solely from the WILL of God: For then we are sure that the WILL, which annexes happiness to virtue, and misery to vice, must arise from God's moral rather than from his physical nature.
Having premised thus much; no more, indeed, than necessary to obviate one continued SOPHISM, which runs through all his Lordship's reasonings, against the moral attributes (where, the course and operation of that moral Constitution, as it appears under the disturbances occasioned by man's free-will, is perpetually put for the Constitution itself) I now proceed to shew, that, from GOD'S WORKS, we have as precise ideas of his GOODNESS and JUSTICE as of his power and wisdom.
His Lordship observes, that from every part of the immense Universe, and from the harmony of the Whole, men are led to conclude, with the utmost certainty, that a Being of infinite WISDOM and POWER made; preserved, and governed the System. This, he observes in favour of the natural attributes. And what should hinder men from making the same observation in favour of the moral; viz. That the happiness and misery by the very constitution of nature, attendant on Virtue and on Vice, lead men to conclude, with equal certainty, that a Being of infinite GOODNESS and JUSTICE made, preserves, and governs the system?
The existence of this moral Constitution in the natural connexion between vice and misery, virtue and happiness, his Lordship amply acknowledges. Let us
consider it, therefore, both as it respects BODIES of men, and INDIVIDUALS.
That Communities are always happy or miserable in proportion as their Manners are virtuous or vicious, his Lordship himself is, on all occasions, ready to demonstrate: If such a Constitution of things do not bespeak the Author of it, good and just, how is it possible to conclude any thing of the character of the Creator, from his WORKS? His Lordship thinks, "that from the marks of wisdom and power in the physical system, we learn with the utmost certainty that God is wise and powerful; and he says, that we acquire this knowledge immediately, as it were, by our senses.' Are there not the self-same marks of goodness and justice in this part at least of the moral system, which respects Communities? And do not we come to know as immediately by our senses, and as certainly by our reason, that God is good and just?
If we consider the moral Constitution, as it respects Particulars, we see virtue and vice have the same influence on our happiness and misery. Here, indeed, we find more interruptions, in the means to the end, than in the other part. Our material and our intellectual Natures are here of more force, to disorder the harmony of the System. In Communities, it can rarely be disturbed, but by a Pestilence, or that other, moral, Plague, a Hero or a Conqueror. Amongst Particulars, indeed, physical evil and the abuse of free-will operate more strongly But when once the demonstration of the moral attributes is clearly made from that part of the Constitution which regards Communities, it can never afterwards be shaken by the disorders in that other part which regards Particulars. The established truth is now a Principle for further discoveries ; and
and all we can fairly deduce from these disorders is the CERTAINTY of a future State. But this by
What I insist upon at present is, that, to decide the question concerning God's Attributes, we are to consider the Constitution of things, as it is in itself. This is, properly, God's Work. The disorders in it, occasioned by the abuse of man's free-will, is not his work, but man's. This, his Lordship too, upon another occasion, namely, when he combats the argument of a future state, from an unequal Providence, is perpetually repeating. So that these disorders must, even on his Lordship's own principles, be excluded from the account, when we estimate God's Nature and Attributes, from his Works.
"But we see not those disorders in the natural world, which we both see and feel in the moral." This would be some objection, did God in the moral, as in the natural system, direct immediately, or constitute things mechanically; or had Free-will the same influence on the natural as on the moral system. Did God direct, immediately or mechanically in both Constitutions, or did he direct immediately and mechanically in neither, and that yet the moral remained more subject to disorder than the natural, it might indeed follow that we had not so clear ideas of God's goodness and justice as of his wisdom and power: But since he has thought fit to leave man, FREE; and hath been pleased to suffer the abuse of free-will to affect the moral system, and not the natural; as this, I say, is the case, the greater irregularities in the one do not take off from the equal clearness of the demonstration, which results from the nature of both one and the other Constitution. This difference is not to be ascribed to a
contrary conduct in the Governor of the two Systems, but to the contrary natures of the Subjects. Passive matter being totally inert, it's resistance to the Laws impressed upon it, must be extremely weak: and consequently the disorders arising from that resistance, proportionably slow and unheeded: while that active self-moving principle, the Mind, flies out at once from the centre of its direction, and can every moment deflect from the line of truth and equity. Hence moral disorders began early, became excessive, and have continued, through all ages, to disturb the harmony of the System.
What is here said will, I suppose, be sufficient to confute the following assertions; and to detect the mistake on which they arise.
Every thing (says his Lordship) shews the wisdom "and power of God conformably to our ideas of ❝ wisdom and power in the physical world and in the "moral. But every thing does not shew in like man
ner the justice and goodness conformably to our "ideas of these attributes in either. The physical "attributes are in their nature more glaring and less " equivocal*."
And again; "There is no sufficient foundation in "the phænomena of Nature to connect the moral "attributes with the physical attributes of God. Nay, "the phnomena are in several cases repugnant †.”
But since he goes so far as to talk of the want of a foundation, and even a repugnancy; Before I proceed with the main branch of my reasoning, I will just urge one single argument for the reality and full evidence of the moral attributes: and it shall be taken
• Vol. V. p. 524
↑ Vol. V. p. 316.