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Blachow 11- 28-30 a 3050

14c
K 540
1787

P R E F A C E.

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N enquiry into the cause and origin of evil, has

always been esteemed one of the noblest and most important subjects in natural theology. It leads us into several sublime speculations, concerning the Divine Attributes, and the original of things.-It endeavours to discover the true intent of the Deity in creating any thing, and pursues that intent thro' the various works of his creation ;-contemplates the Di. vine æconomy-examines the various plans of Providence in the protection and government of the universe, and takes in the whole compass of nature. Neither is its usefulness inferior to its extent, Nor is it of less moment to every rational being, when he comes to the full use of his reason, and is disposed to employ it to some better purpose, than that of living on merely at random in this transitory world. He will find the knowledge of it to be in some degree necessary, under all the doubts and difficulties that may attend the sub

B

ject,

ject, if he proposes to act upon any serious and settled views here, or to entertain any well grounded hopes of futurity. When I begin to enquire how I came into this world at first, and was doomed to my present station, I am told that an absolutely perfect Being produced me out of nothing, and placed me here to communicate some part of his happiness and perfection to me.—This end is not obtained ;--the contrary full often appears to be faét:-I find myself surrounded with perplexity and confusion, 'want and misery,—by whose fault I know not, nor find how to better my condition; -what comfortable notion of the Divine Attributes can this afford me?-what proper ideas of religion, under such circumstances ?--what folid expectation of any future state? For if God's great aim in producing me be neither his glory, which my present fituation seems to be far from advancing; nor my own good; with which the same seems to be equally inconfiftent; how know I in what marner I am to conduct myfelf? - how must I endeavour to please him ?-or why should I endeavour it at all? For if I must be miserable in this world, as from my present view of things appears to be the case ; what security is there, that I shall not be so in another too, (if there should be one) since if it were the original intention of my Almighty Creator, I might, for aught I fee, have been made capable of happiness in them both ? Such reflections as these, must needs disturb a person that has any real concern for his Maker's honour, or his own ultimate happiness ;-that desires to make some returns of a suitable homage to the Supreme Lord of all, and answer the true end of his own creation ;-in short, that happens to think at all upon these matters, and to think for himself :- an attempt therefore to rid the mind of these perplexities, cannot surely be unacceptable.-But both the usefulness and antiquity of that celebrated controversy, concerning evil, as well as the notorious absurdity of the Manichean method of accounting for it, have been so frequently and fully set forth, that there is no need of enlarging upon them, since all that ever seemed necessary to a complete conquest over those wild Hereticks, and their extravagant Hypothesis, was only fome tolerable solution of the difficulties which drove them into it; and this our Author has accomplished, as I hope to make appear in the sequel. There are two general ways of reasoning, termed arguments, a priori and a pofteriori, or according to what is usually stiled the synthetic and analytic method; the one lays down some previous, self evident principles; and in the next place, descends to the several consequences that may be deduced from them; the other begins with a view of the phænomena themselves, traces them up to their original, and by developing the properties of these phænomena, arrives at the knowledge of their cause. The former of these methods, where it can be had, is evidently preferable, since the latter must depend upon a large induction of particulars, any one of which failing, invalidates the whole ar. gument; a proof therefore that the present subject is capable of the former method, must be

very

desireable; and this our Author seems to have exhibited without any ill-grounded, or precarious hypothesis whatsoever. He first of all enquires into the nature and perfections of the Deity, and the sole design which he can be supposed to have in the creation ;-settles the true notion of a creature, and examines whether any such could be perfeet; and if not, whether all of them fhould have

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been

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'been made equally imperfect, or several placed in vari-
ous classes and degrees of imperfection : 'having proved
the latter of these opinions to be moft reasonable, he
proceeds to the lowest class of beings, viz. material
ones :- enquires into the essential properties of matter,
and the necessary laws of its motion, and thereby directs
us how to account for their effects, when disposed into
various males, and animated bodies. He shews the
unavoidableness of contrary motions, for the same reason
that it had any motion at all, and consequently of at-
* trition, fermentation, corruption, dissolution, and all the
pains, or natural evils, that attend them.

In the next place, from the nature of a self moving
principle, and the manner of its operation, he deduces
all tie irregularities incident to volition. He states at
Jarge the true and only consistent notion of free will,
anú demonstrates the neceflity for it in every rational
creature, in order to its supreme happiness; then ac-
counts for the visible abuses of it, and the moral evils
which arise from thence : - examines all the conceivable
ways of preventing them, and upon the whole makes
it apparent that none of these could have been originally
guarded against, or might afterwards be removed,
without introducing greacer ; and consequently, that
the permission of such evils, and the preservation of
such frail beings, in their present forlorn estate, is an
instance of wisdom, and gocdness.

Now there are not mere arguments, ad ignorantiam ; this is not accepting the person of the Almighty, (a service which he himself disclaims) by profefling our belief, that such and such things are the work of an infinitely wise and gracious Governor of the Universe, where no marks of either wisdom or beneficence appear ;

tho'

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