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Some difparity between men compared with one another, and between the creatures in every other clafs confidered, in the like comparative view, might be neceffary to link together the feveral fpecies, fo as to make one coherent chain, without any void or chaẩm.
Or however this be, it is easy to fee the preferableness of the prefent conftitution to its contrary; as being better fitted to promote the happiness of fuch an order of creatures as we are. Were our mental powers fo exactly alike, as that one man could not go beyond another, but every man must have within himself the whole fource of intellectual furniture, there would be no room for that converfe between man and man, which is, in the prefent ftate of things, one of the chief pleasures, as well as improvements, of the mind: to be fure, it could not be carried on with that mutual fatisfaction it now may; nor could it turn out to fo great advantage. Befides, if there was no fuch thing as one man's excelling another, as there could not be upon the prefent fuppofition, the ftrongeft ftimulus, that now prompts us to exert ourfelves in order to enlarge our intellectual powers, would be wanting; and by means thereof our very powers themfelves, fo far as we can judge, must be in' danger of being rendered inactive, and of decreafing in their fitnefs for exercife. And farther, if our capacities had been précifely the fame, that fubordination in the human species, thofe fuperiorities and inferiorities could not have taken place, without which life itfelf could not have been enjoyed, in fuch a world as our's, with tolerable comfort. And what is of yet greater importance, there would not have been the occafion for thofe interchangeable offices of humanity and focial kindness, which, upon the prefent fcheme, not only enlarge our sphere of mutual ferviceableness, but give opportunity for the exercise of many virtues perfective of our nature, and fitted to yield us high degrees of happiness we muft otherwife have been strangers to. The plain truth is, the conveniences and pleasures, poffible to be enjoyed by the human kind, do not seem to have been attainable, in a world conftituted as this is, by an union of counfels and endeavours; every one doing his part in order to promote the good of the whole: and different capacities are the requifite expedient to this purpose. These not only fit the feveral individuals for reciprocal fervices, but fecure their mus tual dependance on each other; hereby properly linking them together, and making way for thofe various exertments which are neceffary for the common benefit. If mankind could at all have enjoyed the advantage of fociety, without this inequality of powers, it is very evident that they could not have enjoyed it to fo good a purpofe as with it. Their being variously endowed, is that which puts it in their power to be variously ufeful to each other, fo as that the happiness of every individual may hereby be increased beyond what it could otherwise U 3
have been. And it is the infufficiency there is in every man for his own happiness by himself fingly, and alone, and his being obliged to depend on others for many things, without which he must be very uncomfortable, that is, in reality, the only effectual bond that unites the human fpecies, fecuring their attachment to each other, and ftimulating them to thofe mutual fervices, upon which the good of all the individuals does very much depend.'
The following paragraphs fet in a strong light the power of common fenfe in the difcernment of moral good and evil, in fome effential respects.
The firft power in our nature [call it common fenfe, moral fenfe, moral difcernment, or give it any other name that may be thought better] is that by which we are enabled at once, without the labour of a long train of reafoning, to distinguish between moral good, and moral evil, in all inftances that are of primary importance, and effentially connected with the good of the moral world.
There is an unalterable difference between virtue and vice, or, what means the fame thing, between moral good and moral evil. They have their respective natures, and are unchangeable oppofites. Vice cannot be made virtue, nor, on the contrary, can virtue be made vice. They are in themselves what they are, and will remain fo without variation, or the shadow of turning. It is, on the one hand, fit and right, that we fhould be pious towards God, righteous towards our fellowmen, and fober with refpect to ourfelves; and, on the other, unfit and wrong, that we should be impious towards the Deity, unjuft in our treatment of men, and intemperate in the gratification of our animal appetites: nor is it poffible this moral order fhould be inverted. No will, no power, either of men or angels, or even the Supreme Ruler himfelf, can make it right to be impious, inftead of pious, towards God; or unrighteous, inftead of righteous, towards men; or intemperate, inftead of fober, in regard of ourselves. To fuppofe this, would be to erafe the foundation of the moral fyftem, to deftroy the relation that fubfifts between the Creator and his creatures, and between the creatures with respect to one another, and to make virtue and vice nothing more than arbitrary names, having in themselves no certainly fixed nature.
And as virtue and vice, moral good and moral evil, are thus different from each other, fo is this difference obviously, and at once, perceivable by all morally intelligent minds, unlefs they have been greatly corrupted. There may indeed be inftances of moral conduct, in matters of compasatively small importance, with refpect to which it may be difficult to diftinguish between the right and wrong. And the analogy here, it may be worthy of notice, is very exact between the natural, and the moral world. Light and darkness may be so mixed,
that one can scarce know which to call it. Sweet and bitter may be fo blended together, that it may be difficult to fay which is prevalent. Colours may be fo dilated, and placed on a portrait, that the eye of a skilful painter may not be able to difcern the precife point where one begins, and another ends. But, notwithstanding thefe mixtures, light is never the fame thing with darkness, nor bitter with fweet, nor one colour that of another; and they are, unless in fuch complicated cafes, readily and at once diflinguifhed from each other. In like manner there may be, and often are, in the moral world, cafes wherein the boundaries between good and evil, and the fpot that divides them, may not be eafily, if at all, difcerned, fo as to be able to fay, with precifion, here virtue runs into vice, and vice into virtue. But this hinders not but that, in the main and effential branches of morality, the virtuous and the vicious conduct may obviously be perceived, where the mind's perceptive power has not been, in a great degree, vitiated, and hurt. And, in very truth, the God of Nature has, in his abundant goodness, fo formed our minds, and given us fuch a power of difcernment, that it must be owing, unlefs we are ideots, or madmen, to fome heinous faultinefs, we ourfelves are juflly chargeable with, if we are not able, without difficulty, to dif cern the difference between right and wrong, in the more important points of moral obligation. Will any man, who has not ftrangely perverted the proper ufe of his perceptive powers, pretend, that he cannot, or that he does not, fee it to be fit and right, on the one hand, that fuch a creature as he is, fo related to God, and dependant on him, should yield to him the love of his heart, and the obedience of his life; and, on the other, that it would be unfit and wrong to withdraw his affection from him, and behave with difrefpect towards him? Will any man, in the due ufe of his difcerning power, calmly and deliberately fay, that he cannot perceive it to be right, that he thould do to others, as he would they fhould do to him, in like circumftances, and wrong, unalterably wrong, that he fhould do otherwife? Will any man, not having darkened his heart, declare, fpeaking the truth, that he does not fee it to be right, that he fhould govern his paffions, and keep his fenfual appetites within the restraints of reafon; and wrong, evidently wrong, to give way to anger, wrath, malice, and to take an unbounded liberty in gratifying his animal nature? That man, be he who he may, if not void of common fenfe, is wholly inattentive to its dictates, who perceives no moral difference between revering, and mocking his Maker; between being honeft and knavifh in his tranfactions with his neighbour; between being chafte and lewd; between living foberly and in the practice of drunkenness; or if he does not perceive the former to be amiable virtues, and the latter deteftable, infamous vices. The moral difference, in these ways of conduct, is felf
felf-evident. There needs no argumentation, no series of intermediate ideas, to point it out.' son
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The object of the third and laft fection, or part of this work is, to answer the principal objections which have been urged against the benevolence of the Deity.
The author, after fome pertinent obfervations on the mixed appearance of good and evil in the world, and a brief refutation. of the Manichean notion of two independent oppofite principles in the univerfe, defires his readers to keep in mind, through the whole of what may follow, this important remark, —‹ That no objection ought to be esteemed fufficient to set aside the pos fitive proof that has been given of the Deity's benevolence, which, when thoroughly examined, will be found finally to terminate in ignorance.' Having difcuffed at large the propriety of the remark juft cited, he proceeds to a diftinct confideration of the partial objections that have been urged againft the benevolence of the Deity.
And they may, he fays, be reduced to these three, viz. the imperfect povers of fo many of the creatures who are capable of happiness; the moral disorders which have taken place in the world; and the natural evils which are fo numerous, and turn fo much to the difadvantage, efpecially of man.
The first objection against the infinite benevolence of the Deity is taken from the imperfection of fo many of the creatures. on this earth of our's What a diminutive creature, comparatively speaking, is even man, the most perfect of them all? how fmall his capacity for happiness? and how much smaller till the capacities of the inferior perceiving beings, through their feveral ranks, in the defcending fcale of fubordination? and could it be thus, if God was infinitely good? could not an infinitely benevolent Creator have communicated nobler capacities for happiness; and if he could, how can his not doing it be reconciled with the idea of him as an infinitely benevolent bing?
In anfwer to this difficulty, it may be faid, the bringinginto exiflence an abfolutely perfect creature is not within the reach of infinite goodness, aided by almighty power. The very idea of a creature is effentially connected with comparative imperfection; as it derives its being from another, is dependent on that other for its continuance in being, and is ne ceffarily finite in its nature and powers. To fuppofe a created being infinite, would be to fuppofe it equal with its creator; which is too abfurd to be admitted. Abfolute perfection, therefore, is an incommunicable glory of the only true God. And fhould there be a creation, comparative imperfection must exist in it, otherwife it could not exift at all. Confequently, if fuch in perfection is an evil, it is fuch an n one as mult take place, or there could be no display of the divine benevolence. But the
trath is, meer imperfection is no evil, to be fure no pofitive one: nor may God, with the leaft propriety, be confidered as the author of it. This matter has been fe fet in a clear and strong point of light by archdeacon Law, in his thirty-fecond note on archbishop King's "Origin of Evil." His words are thefe.. "God is the caufe of perfection only, not of defect, which fo far forth as it is natural to created beings hath no caufe at all, but is meerly a négation, or non-entity. For every created thing was a negation or non-entity, before it had a pofitive being, and it had only fo much of its primitive negation taken away from it, as it had pofitive being conferred on it; and therefore, fo far forth as it is, its being is to be attributed to the fovereign caufe that produced it but fo far forth as it is not, its not being is to be attributed to the original non-entity out of which it was produced. For that which was once nothing would ftill have been nothing, had it not been for the caufe that gave being to it; and therefore, that it is fo far nothing. fill, that is, limited and defective, is only to be attributed to its own primitive nothingnefs. As for inftance, if I give a poor man a hundred pounds, that he is worth fo much money is wholly owing to me, but that he is not worth an hundred more is owing wholly to his own poverty. And just so, that I have fuch and fuch perfections of being is wholly owing to God, who produced me out of nothing; but that I have fuch and fuch defects of being is only owing to that non-entity out of which he produced me."
The doctor goes on to confider the objection in various points of view, and obviates it under each, with answers, at leaft highly plaufible.
He then proceeds to the fecond objection taken from those moral diforders, which, it is pleaded, could not have exiftence in the creation, if it were produced and governed by an infinitely holy and benevolent being.
Such a maker and ruler of the univerfe, it is faid, must have taken effectual care for the prevention of moral evil, and the unhappiness arifing therefrom. It cannot be supposed, that a being infinitely averfe from moral impurity would have fuffered the works of his hands to be defiled with it. It cannot be imagined, that an infinitely benevolent being would have left creatures of his own forming to fuch immoral conduct as would reflect difhonour on his goodnefs, by bringing unhappinels and mifery into a world of his contriving and making? It is not poffible that fuch a being as the Deity is reprefented to be, should place his creatures in circumftances wherein they might pervert their powers, and involve themselves in ruin. Thefe things cannot be. They are not worthy of an infinitely holy and good God: efpecially, if it be confidered, that the exiftence of moral evil cannot be conceived of without permiffion, at leaft, from the Deity: nay, it cannot be fuppofed,