« AnteriorContinuar »
versal system, they must have been liable to the same inconveniencies.”
In all this there is nothing that can silence the inquiries of curiosity, or calm the perturbations of doubt. - Whether subordination implies imperfection may be disputed. The means respecting themselves may be as perfect as the end. The weed as a weed is no less perfect than the oak as an oak. That imperfection implies · Evil, and Evil suffering, is by no means evident.
Imperfection may imply privative Evil, or the absence of some good, but this privation produces no suffering, but by the help of knowledge. An infant at the breast is yet an imperfect man, but there is no reason for belief that he is unhappy by his immaturity, unless some positive pain be superadded.
When this author presumes to speak of the universe, I would advise him a little to distrust his own faculties, however large and comprehensive. Many words easily understood on common occasion, become uncertain and figurative when applied to the works of Omnipotence. Subordination in human affairs is well understood; but when it is attributed to the universal system, its meaning grows less certain, like the petty distinctions of locality, which are of good use upon our own globe, but have no meaning with regard to infinite space, in which nothing is high or low.
That if man, by exaltation to a higher nature, were exempted from the evils which he now suffers, some other being must suffer them; that if man were not · man, some other being must be man, is a position
arising from his established notion of the scale of being. A notion to which Pope has given some importance by adopting it, and of which I have therefore endeavoured to shew the uncertainty and inconsistency. · This scale of being I have demonstrated to be raised by
presumptuous imagination, to rest on nothing at the bottom, to lean on nothing at the top, and to have vacuities from step to step through which any order of being may sink into nihility without any inconvenience, so far as we can judge, to the next rank above or below it. We are therefore little enlightened by a writer who tells us, that any being in the state of man must suffer what man suffers, when the only question that requires
to be resolved is, Why any being is in this state ? • Of poverty and labour he gives just and elegant re. presentations, which yet do not remove the difficulty of the first and fundamental question, though supposing the present state of man necessary, they may supply some motives to content.
“ Poverty is what all could not possibly have been exempted from, not only by reason of the fluctuating nature of human possessions, but because the world - could not subsist without it; for had all been rich, none could have submitted to the commands of another, or the necessary drudgeries of life; thence all governments must have been dissolved, arts neglected, and lands uncultivated, and so an universal penury have overwhelmed all, instead of now and then pinching a few. Hence, by the by, appears the great excellence of charity, by which men are enabled by a particular distribution of the blessings and enjoyments of life, on proper occasions, to prevent that poverty which by a general one Omnipotence itself could never have prevented : so that, by enforcing this duty, God as it were demands our assistance to promote universal happiness, and to shut out misery at every door, where it strives to intrude itself.
“ Labour, indeed, God might easily have excused us from, since, at his command the earth would readily have poured forth all her treasures without our incon.. siderable assistance : but if the severest labour cannot sufficiently subdue the malignity of human nature, what plots and machinations, what wars, rapine, and devastation, what profligacy and licentiousness, must have been the consequences of universal idleness! so that Jabour ought only to be looked upon as a task kindly imposed upon us by our indulgent Creator, necessary to preserve our health, our safety, and our innocence."
I am afraid that the latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning. If God could easily have excused us from labour, I do not comprehend why he could not possibly have exempted all from poverty. For poverty, in its easier and more tolerable degree, is little more than necessity of labour; and in its more severe and deplorable state, little more than inability for labour. To be poor is to work for others, or to want the succour of others without work. And the same exuberant fertility which would make work unneces. sary, might make poverty impossible.
Surely a man who seems not completely master of his own opinion, should have spoken more cautiously of Omnipotence, nor have presumed to say what it could perform, or what it could prevent. I am in doubt. whether those who stand highest in the scule of being speak thus confidently of the dispensations of their Maker:
For fools rush in, where angels fear to tread.
Of our inquietudes of mind his account is still less reasonable. “Whilst men are injured, they must be inflamed with anger; and whilst they see .cruelties, they must be melted with pity; whilst they perceive danger, they must be sensible of fear.” This is to give a reason for all Evil, by shewing that one Evil produces
another. If there is danger there ought to be fear ; but if fear is an Evil, why should there be danger? His vindication of pain is of the same kind : pain is useful to alarm us, that we may shun greater evils, but those greater evils must be presupposed, that the fitness of pain may appear. '
Treating on death, he has expressed the known and true doctrine with sprightliness of fancy, and neatness of diction. I shall therefore insert it. There are truths which, as they are always necessary, do not grow stale by repetition.
« Death, the last and most dreadful of all Evils, is so far from being one, that it is the infallible cure for all others.
To die, is landing on some silent shore,
For, abstracted from the sickness and sufferings usually attending it, it is no more than the expiration of that term of life God was pleased to bestow on us, without any claim or merit on our part. But was it an evil ever so great, it could not be remedied but by one much greater, which is by living for ever; by which means our wickedness, unrestrained by the prospect of a future state, would grow so insupportable, our sufferings so intolerable by perseverance, and our pleasures so tire. some by repetition, that no being in the universe could be so completely miserable as a species of immortal men. We have no reason, therefore, to look upon death as an Evil, or to fear it as a punishment, even without any supposition of a future life : but if we consider it as a passage to a more perfect state, or a remove only in an eternal succession of still-improving states, (for
which we have the strongest reasons) it will then appear a new favour from the divine munificence; and a man must be as absurd to repine at dying, as a traveller would be, who proposed to himself a delightful tour through various unknown countries, to lament that he cannot take up his residence at the first dirty inn which he baits at on the road.
« The instability of human life, or of the changes of its successive periods, of which we so frequently complain, are no more than the necessary progress of it to this necessary conclusion; and are so far from being Evils deserving these complaints, that they are the source of our greatest pleasures, as they are the source of all novelty, from which our greatest pleasures are ever derived. The continual succession of seasons in the human life, by daily presenting to us new scenes render it agreeable, and like those of the year, afford us delights by their change, which the choicest of them could not give us by their continuance. In the spring of life, the gilding of the sun-shine, the verdure of the fields, and the variegated paintings of the sky, are so exquisite in the eyes of infants at their first looking abroad into a new world, as nothing perhaps afterwards can equal. The heat and vigour of the succeeding summer of youth ripens for us new pleasures, the blooming maid, the nigtly revel, and the jovial chace : the serene autumn of complete manhood feasts us with the golden harvests of our wordly pursuits : nor is the hoary winter of old age destitute of its peculiar comforts and enjoyments, of which the recollection and relation of those past are perhaps none of the least; and at last death opens to us a new prospect, from whence we shall probably look back upon the diversions and occupations of this world with the same contempt we do now on our tops and hobby-horses, and with the