« ZurückWeiter »
The company after some general conversation, and appointing a day for the further discussion of these subjects, now separated.
WHEN the party was next assembled, Marcellinus desired to express his satisfaction in the progress made in the disquisition before them. It was most pleasing, he said, to see it so clearly made out, that mankind were far from being so miserable or wicked as they were commonly presumed to be, and that the contrary was rather the truth and the fact. But clouds and darkness still hung over the prospect, through which he should be glad to see some light appear. The road through life, which many of the human species were destined to tread, was so dismal and dreary, along such dreadful passages of pain and misery, as to make one shudder at the thought of it; and the dispositions and habits were so depraved, malignant, horridly selfish, cruel, and vicious, which many were seen to carry out of the world with them, that some better solution than had yet appeared was earnestly to be wished for, how such a constitution of things could have its origin from, or be compatible
with, a benevolent principle. - If these evils and disorders were to be attributed, as Some
some philosophers have maintained, to the rugged untractable nature of matter, or of whatever it be, of which we are composed, and that it was through this or some other unavoidable impediment, and not from want of good-will in our Crgator, but of power to exccute to the full his benevolent purposes, that we' were made subject to such harsh conditions of existence, which was said to have been, for some time, the opinion of the late enlightened friend of his country and mankind, Mr. Day *, though he afterwards relinquished it, and embraced juster sentiments of the divine power and goodness: * Or if, as revelation has been thought to inculcate, it was owing to some powerful evil being, whose interference in the affairs of mankind was unavoidable, that we were exposed to such a variety of sufferings and temptations, and oft-times misled to ruin by yielding to them: in either of these cases we must submit, and make the best of what we cannot avoid or amend. But all gloom would vanish and day-light disclose its beautiful rays, if it could be shewn with such evidence as might satisfy the rational mind, that the great whole of things is in such sort from God; that natural and moral evil, pain and suffering, sin and wickedness, are all of his appointment, and permitted for good; he could then cheerfully acquiesce and rest contented, whatever came to pass, secure that we were in the best hands; and that however sad and disastrous at
* Author of Sandford and Merton.
times, and in some particular cases, appearances were, all was for the best, and would in the result turn out favourable and happy. This was the great difficulty; the Gordian knot, which he almost despaired of ever seeing untied. so Photinus, here, who had been observed to be more than ordinarily attentive and wrapt in thought, whilst Marcellinus was speaking, suddenly rose up, and with greater earnestness and solemnity than he was accustomed to ; “Be assured, my friends, says he, that we do not any of us deem so highly of the boundless. mercy and goodness of the sovereign Creator and Parent of all things, as his works, and dealings with us and with all his creatures call for and demand, or we should entertain more exalted thoughts of him, and live under his government with a more uninterrupted: joy and confidence than we seem to do, so as not to, admit any the least doubt or mistrust that his goodness will in the end bear down every opposition. For what do we behold, every where and in alf things, but marks and tokens of wise contrivance and intentions of kindness for the creatures lie has made; and also at the same time, plain indications, that if any comfort or satisfaction be denied or withdrawn. from them that might minister to their present happiness; or pain and misery inflicted in the severest degree, it has been for good These his kind intentions and beneficence to the whole sentient inferior creation, throughout the planet we inhabit, we have lately seen exemplified by a large induction of parti- - cular
cular instances, which might be extended without bounds, and which posterity in their investigations will take pleasure in enlarging throughout all future ages, and literally never be able to exhaust. And with regard to his rational creation, formed in. the image and likeness of their great Creator, and to be happy, may we presume to speak it, with his own happiness; always remembering that such is the frame and constitution bestowed upon us, that our true happiness eannot be a thing infused into us, but must arise from our own voluntary exertions and kabour, in surmounting difficulties in our way, and acquiring those tempers and dispositions wherein it consists, and by which it is confirmed and must be perpetuated; namely, the dispositions of a supreme love to Him who gave us our being and all our powers, and an invincible affection to all our fellowcreatures and to all to whom our good offices can extend ; which effects, the moral discipline we are put under, however painful and severe, from our own passions and the world without us, is exactly calculated to produce : These facts being established; and taking along with us, that this happiness, for which we were made, the highest of which we or any created nature are capable, is a happiness which alone is permanent and for ever increasing: It seems a solid foundation of reasoning, on which we may safely rely, that as the universe and all things in it are the work of a Being of infinite wisdom and power, power, and of the most perfect goodness, and calculated for the best purposes, the happiness of the things he has made; and as there was nothing to over-rule him in his operations, or to induce or cqmpel him to adopt any measures for accomplishing his kind designs, but such as he judged the most proper and suitable : Therefore, as he has placed us in a world, wherein, though happiness greatly preponderates, there is such a mixture of pain and suffering, of vice and misery, as fills us often with melancholy apprehensions and dismay ; we may be fully persuaded, that such a discordant, revolting mixture would not have been admitted into his fair creation, but because he saw it necessary for its perfection, and the fulfilment of his benevolent purposes; or rather, because
those purposes could not be obtained without it: for,
most assuredly, he would not have chosen evil on its own account, the misery and defilement of his creatures, but for the good that he saw would be derived from and procured by it.
And what we thus argue from the character and perfections of the Deity, manifested in his works; that evil, natural and moral, pain and suffering, vice and misery, were only admitted by him on account of the superior good accruing from them, not otherwise to be obtained; we also find to be true in fact
and by experience. For, if there had been no moral evil or wickedness, - mankind