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seems, indeed, nothing from whence we can so much as make a conjecture, whether all creatures, actions, and events, throughout the whole of nature, have relations to each other. But, as it is abvious that all events have future unknown consequences, so, if we trace any, as far as we can go, into what is connected with it, we shall find, that if such event were not connected with somewhat farther in nature unknown to us, somewhat both past and present, such event could not possibly have been at all.
Nor can we give the whole account of any one thing whatever; of all its causes, ends, and necessary adjuncts ; those adjuncts, I mean, without which it could not have been. By this most astonishing connexion, these reciprocal correspondences and mutual relations, every thing which we see in the course of nature, is actually brought about. And things, seemingly the most insignificant imaginable, are perpetually.observed to be necessary conditions to other things of the greatest importance; so that any one thing whatever may, for aught we know to the contrary, be a necessary condition to any other. The natural world, then, and natural government of it, being such an incomprehensible scheme; so incomprehensible, that a man must really, in the literal sense, know nothing at all, who is not sensible of his ignorance in it: this immediately suggests, and strongly shews the credibility, that the moral world and government of it may be so too. Indeed, the natural and moral constitution and government of the world are so connected, as to make up together but one scheme : and it is highly probable, that the first is formed and carried on merely in subserviency to the latter, as the vegetable world is for the animal, and organized bodies for minds. But the thing intended here is, without inquiring how far the administration of the natural world is subordinate to that of the moral, only to observe the credibility, that one should be analogous or similar to the other : that, therefore, every act of divine justice and goodness may be supposed to look
much beyond itself and its immediate object; may have some reference to other parts of God's moral administration, and to a general moral plan: and that every
circumstance of this his moral government may be adjusted before hand with a view to the whole of it. Thus, for example: the determined length of time, and the degrees and ways in which virtue is to remain in a state of warfare and discipline, and in which wickedness is permitted to have its progress; the times appointed for the execution of justice; the appointed instruments of it ;, the kinds of rewards and punishments, and the manners of their distribution ; all particular instances of divine justice and goodness, and every circumstance of them, may have such respects to each other, as to make up
altogether a whole, connected and related in all its parts; a scheme, or system, which is as properly one as the natural world is, and of the like kind. And supposing this to be the case, it is most evident that we are not competent judges of this scheme, from the small parts of it which come within our view in the present life,; and therefore no objections against any of these parts can be insisted upon by reasonable men.
This our ignorance, and the consequence here drawn from it, are universally acknowledged upon other occasions; and, though scarce denied, yet are universally forgot, when persons come to argue against religion. And it is not perhaps easy, even for the most reasonable
men, always to bear in mind the degree of our ignorance, and make due allowances. for it. Upon these accounts, it may not be useless to go on a little farther, in order to shew more distinctly, how just an answer our ignorance is, to objections against the scheme of Providence. Suppose, then, a person boldly to assert, that the things complained of, the origin and continuance of evil, might easily have been prevented by repeated interpositions;
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interpositions so guarded and circumstanced, as would preclude all mischief arising from them: or, if this were impracticable, that a scheme of government is itself an imperfection; since more good might have been produced without any scheme, system, or constitution at all, by continued single unrelated acts of distributive justice and goodness; because these would have occasioned no irregularities. And farther than this, it is presumed, the objections would not be carried. Yet the answer is obvious ; that, were these assertions "true, still the observations above, concerning our ignorance in the scheme of divine government, and the consequence drawn from it, would hold in great measure, enough to vindicate religion against all objections from the disorders of the present state. Were these assertions true, yet the government of the world might be just and good notwithstanding; for, at the most, they would infer nothing more, than that it might have been better. But, indeed, they are mere arbitrary assertions; no man being sufficiently acquainted with the possibilities of things, to bring any proof of them to the lowest degree of probability. For, however possible what is asserted may seem, yet many instances may be alleged, in things much less out of our reach, of suppositions absolutely impossible, and reducible to the most palpable self-contradictions, which not every one by any means would perceive to be such, nor perlaps any one at first sight suspect.
From these things it is easy to see distinctly, how our ignorance, as it is the common, is really a satisfactory answer to all objections against the justice and goodness of Providence. man, contemplating any one providential dispensation, which had no relation to any others, should object, that he discerned in it a disregard to justice, or a deficiency of goodness, nothing would be less an answer to such objection, than our ignorance in other parts of Providence, or in the possibilities of things, no way related to what he was contemplating. But when we know not but the parts objected against may be re
lative to other parts unknown to us, and when we are unacquainted with what is, in the nature of the thing, practicable in the case before us; then our ig- : norance is a satisfaetory answer; because some unknown relation, or some unknown impossibility, may render what is objected against just and good ; nay, good in the highest practicable degree.
II. And how little weight is to be laid upon such objections will farther appear, by a more distinct observation of some particular things contained in the natural government of God, the like to which may be supposed, from analogy, to be contained in his moral government.
First, As, in the scheme of the natural world, no ends appear to be accomplished without means ; so we find that means very undesirable often conduce to bring about ends, in such a measure desirable, as greatly to overbalance the disagreeableness of the means.
And in cases - where such means are conducive to such ends, it is not reason, but experienee, which shews us that they are thus conducire. Experience also shews many means to be conducive and necessary to accomplish ends, which means, before experience, we should have thought would have had even a contrary tendency. Now, from these observations relating to the natural scheme of the world, the moral being supposed analogous to it, arises a great credibility, that the putting our misery in each other's power to the degree it is, and making men liable to vice to the degree we are ; and, in general, that those things which are objected against the moral scheme of Providence, may be, upon the whole, friendly and assistant to--virtue, and productive of an over-balance of happiness ; i. e. the things objected against may be means by which an over-balance of good will, in the end, be found produced. And, from the same observations, it appears to be no presumption against this, that we do not, if indeed we do not, see those means to have any such tendency, or that they seem
to us to have a contrary one. Thus, those things. which we call irregularities, may not be so at all ; because they may be means of accomplishing wise and good ends more considerable. And it may be added, as above, that they may also be the only means by which these wise and good ends are capable of being accomplished.
After these observations it may be proper to add, in order to obviate an absurd and wicked conclusion from
any of them, that though the constitution of our nature, from whence we are capable of vice and misery, may, as it undoubtedly does, contribute to the perfection and happiness of the world, and though the actual permission of evil may be beneficial to it, (i. e. it would have been more mischievous, not that a wicked person had himself abstained from his own wickedness, but that any one had forcibly prevented it, than that it was permitted); yet, notwithstanding, it might have been much better for the world if this very evil had never been done. Nay, it is most clearly conceivable, that the very commission of wickedness
be beneficial to the world, and yet that it would be infinitely more beneficial for men to re-. frain from it. For thus, in the wise and good constitution of the natural world, there are disorders which bring their own cures ; diseases, which are themselves remedies. Many a man would have died,, had it not been for the gout or a fever ; yet it would be thought madness to assert, that sickness is a better or more perfect state than healtht; though the like, with regard to the moral world, has been asserted. But,
Secondly, The natural government of the world is carried on by general laws. For this there may be wise and good reasons; the wisest and best, for aught we know to the contrary.
And that there are such rea
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