Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

He again deceives himself with respect to the perfection with which man is held to be originally vested. That man came perfect, that is, endued with all posible perfection, out of the hands of his Creator, is a false notion, derived from the philosophers. The universal system required subordination, and consequently comparative imperfection. That man was ever endued with all possible perfection, that is, with all perfection of which the idea is not contradictory or destructive of itself, is undoubtedly false. But it can hardly be called a false notion, because no man ever thought it, nor can it be derived from the philosophers ; for without pretending to guess what philosophers he may mean, it is very safe to affirm, that no philo. fopher ever faid it. Of those who now maintain that man was once perfect, who may very easily be found, let the author enquire whether man was ever omniscient, whether he was ever omnipotent, whether he ever had even the lower power of archangels or angels. Their answers will soon inform him, that the supposed perfection of man was not abfolute, but respective, that he was perfect in a sense consistent enough with subordination, perfect, not as compared with different beings, but with himself in his present degeneracy; not perfect, as an angel, but perfect as man.

From this perfecton, whatever it was, he thinks it neceffary that man should be debarred, because pain is necessary to the good of the universe; and the pain of one order of beings extending its salutary influence to innumerable orders above and below, it was necessary that man should suffer ; but

because

because it is not suitable to justice thať pain should be inflicted on innocence, it was necessary that man should be criminal.

This is given as a satisfactory account of the Original of moral Evil, which amounts only to this, that God created beings whose guilt he foreknew, in order that he might have proper objects of pain, because the pain of part is, no man knows how or why, neceffary to the felicity of the whole.

The perfection which man once had, may be fo easily conceived, that without any unusual strain of imagination we can figure its revival. All the duties to God or man that are neglected we may fancy performed; all the crimes that are committed we may conceive forborn. Man will then be restored to his moral perfections, and into what head can it enter that by this change the universal system would be shaken, or the condition of any order of beings altered for the worse?

He comes in the fifth Letter to political, and in the fixth to religious Evils. Of political Evil, if we suppose the Origin of moral Evil discovered, the account is by no means difficult : polity being only the conduct of iminoral men in publick affairs. The Evils of each particular kind of government are very clearly and elegantly displayed, and from their secondary causes very rationally deduced; but the first cause lies still in its ancient obscurity. There is in this Letter nothing new, nor any thing eminently instructive; one of his practical deductions, that from government Evils cannot be eradicated, and their excess only can be prevented, has been always allowed ; the question upon which all diffenfion arises is, when that

excess

excess begins, at what point men shall cease to bear, and attempt to remedy.

Another of his precepts, though not new, well deserves to be transcribed, because it cannot be too frequently impressed.

6. What has here been said of their imperfections “ and abuses, is by no means intended as a defence “ of them : every wise man ought to redress them “ to the utmost of his power; which can be effected “ by one method only; that is, by a reformation of

manners : for as all political Evils derive their ori

ginal from moral, these can never be removed, “ until those are first amended. He, therefore, who “ strictly adheres to virtue and fobriety in his conduct, “ and enforces them by his example, does more real “ service to a state, than he who displaces a minister,

or dethrones a tyrant; this gives but a temporary " relief, but that exterminates the cause of the disease. “ No immoral man then can possibly be a true pa“ triot; and all those who profess outrageous zeal for “ the liberty and prosperity of their country, and at “ the fame time infringe her laws, affront her religion, “ and debauch her people, are but despicable quacks,

by fraud or ignorance increasing the disorders they “ pretend to remedy."

Of religion he has said nothing but what he has learned, or might have learned from the divines; that it is not univerfal, because it must be received upon conviction, and successively received by those whom conviction reached ; that its evidences and fanctions are not irresistible, because it was intended to induce, not to compel; and that it is obscure, because we want faculties to comprehend it. What he means by his affertion, that it wants policy, I do not well understand; he does not mean to deny that a good christian will be a good governor, or a good subject; and he has before justly observed, that the good man only is a patriot.

because

Religion has been, he says, corrupted by the wickedness of those to whom it was communicated, and has loft part of its efficacy by its connection with temporal interest and human passion.

He justly observes, that from all this, no conclusion can be drawn against the divine original of christianity, since the objections arise not from the nature of the revelation, but of him to whom it is communicated.

All this is known, and all this is true ; but why, we have not yet discovered. Our author, if I understand him right, pursues the argument thus : the religion of man produces evils, because the morality of man is imperfect; his morality is imperfect, that he may be justly a subject of punishment : he is made subject to punishment because the pain of part is necessary to the happiness of the whole ; pain is necessary to happiness no mortal can tell why or how.

Thus, after having clambered with great labour from one step of argumentation to another, instead of rising into the light of knowledge, we are devolved back into dark ignorance ; and all our effort ends in belief, that for the Evils of life there is some good reason, and in confeffion, that the reason cannot be found. This is all that has been produced

by by the revival of Chryfippus's untractableness of matter, and the Arabian scale of existence. A system has been raised, which is so ready to fall to pieces of itself, that no great praise can be derived from its destruction. To object is always easy, and it has been well observed by a late writer, that the hand which cannot build a hovel, may demolish a temple*.

New Practice of Physick.

« PreviousContinue »