Page images

But for the violation of truth, I offer no excufe, because I well know, that nothing can excuse it. Nor will I aggravate my crime, by disingenuous pallia, tions. I confefs it, I repent it, and resolve, that my first offence shall be my last. More I cannot pero form, and more therefore cannot be required. I intreat the pardon of all men, whom I have by any means induced to fupport, to countenance, or patronise my frauds, of which I think myself obliged to declare, that not one of my friends was confcious. I hope to deferve, by better conduct and more useful undertakings, that patronage which I have obtained from the most illustrious and venerable names by mifreprefentation and delusion, and to appear hereafter in fuch a character, as shall give you no reason to regret that your name is frequently mentioned with that of,

Reverend Sir,

Dec. 20, 1750

Your most humble servant,







ΤΗ HIS is a treatise confifting of Six Letters upon

a very difficult and important question, which I am afraid this author's endeavours will not free from the perplexity which has intangled the speculatists of all ages, and which must always continue while we see but in part. He calls it a Free Enquiry, and indeed his freedom is, I think, greater than his modesty. Though he is far from the contemptible arrogance, or the impious licentiousness of Bolingbroke, yet he decides too easily upon questions out of the reach of human determination, with too little confideration of mortal weakness, and with too much vivacity for the necessary caution.

In the first letter on Evil in general, he observes, that, “it is the folution of this important question,

whence came Evil, alone, that can ascertain the « moral characteristick of God, without which there « is an end of all diftinction between Good and “ Evil." Yet he begins this Enquiry by this declaration: “ That there is a Supreme Being, in



finitely powerful, wise, and benevolent, the great “ Creator and Preserver of all things, is a truth so “ clearly demonstrated, that it shall be here taken “ for granted.” What is this but to say, that we have already reason to grant the existence of those attributes of God, which the present Enquiry is designed to prove? The present Enquiry is then surely made to no purpose. The attributes, to the demonstration of which the solution of this great question is necessary, have been dernonstrated without any solution, or by means of the solution of fome former writer.

He rejects the Manichean system, but imputes to it an absurdity, from which, amidst all its absurdities, it seems to be free, and adopts the system of Mr. Pope. “That pain is no evil, if asserted with “ regard to the individuals who suffer it, is down

right nonsense ; but if considered as it affects the “ universal system, is an undoubted truth, and “ means only that there is no more pain in it than “ what is necessary to the production of happiness. “ How many soever of these evils then force them“ felves into the creation, so long as the good pre“ ponderates, it is a work well worthy of infinite « wisdom and benevolence; and, notwithstanding “ the 'imperfections of its parts, the whole is most co

undoubtedly perfect.” And in the former part of the Letter he gives the principle of his system in these words : “ Omnipotence cannot work contra

dictions, it can only effect all possible things. " But fo little are we acquainted with the whole

system of nature, that we know not what are poffible, and what are not : but if we may judge

os from

«from that constant mixture of pain with pleasure, and

inconveniency with advantage, which we must ob“ serve in every thing round us, we have reason to « conclude, that to endue created beings with perfec« tion, that is, to produce Good exclusive of Evil, “ is one of those impoflibilities which even infinite

power cannot accomplish.”

This is elegant and acute, but will by no means calm discontent, or filence curiosity; for whether Evil can be wholly separated from Good or not, it is plain that they may be mixed in various degrees, and as far as human eyes can judge, the degree of Evil might have been less without any impediment to Good.

The second Letter on the evils of imperfection, is little more than a paraphrase of Pope's Epistles, or yet less than a paraphrase, a mere translation of poetry into profe. This is surely to attack difficulty with very disproportionate abilities, to cut the Gordian knot with very blunt instruments. When we are told of the insufficiency of former solutions, why is one of the latest, which no inan can have forgotten, given us again? I am told, that this pamphlet is not the effort of hunger : what can it be then but the product of vanity? and yet how can vanity be gratified by plagiarism or transcription? When this speculatist finds himself prompted to another performance, let him consider whether he is about to disburthen his mind, or employ his fingers ; and if I might venture to offer him a subject, I should wish that he would solve this question, Why he that has nothing to write, should desire to be a writer ?


Yet is not this Letter without some fentiments, which, though not new, are of great importance, and may be read with pleafure in the thousandth repetition.

“ Whatever we enjoy is purely a free gift from our ** Creator ; but that we enjoy no more, can never “ sure be deemed an injury, or a juft reason to ques« tion his infinite benevolence. All our happiness is « owing to his goodness; but that it is no greater, “ is owing only to ourselves; that is, to our not

having any inherent right to any happinefs, or

even to any existence at all. This is no more to “ be imputed to God, than the wants of a beggar to « the person who has relieved him : that he had “ something, was owing to his benefactor ; but that he « had no more, only to his own original poverty.

Thus far he speaks what every man must approve, and what every wise man has faid before him. He then gives us the system of subordination, not invented, for it was known I think to the Arabian metaphyficians, but adopted by Pope ; and from him borrowed by the diligent researches of this great invefti. gator.

“ No system can poffibly be formed, even in “ imagination, without a subordination of parts. « Every animal body must have different members “ fubfervient to each other ; every picture must be

composed of various colours, and of light and “ fhade ; all harmony must be formed of trebles,

tenors, and baffes ; every beautiful and ufeful edi“ fice must consist of higher and lower, more and « less magnificent apartments. This is in the very

“ effence

« PreviousContinue »