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Sect. III.-—On the Importance of distinguishing Providence from Necessity ..........
............. 391 Sect. IV.- Containing some relieving Considerations,
drawn from particular Topics ;-from the Pliability of Man to his external Situation ;—from the great and good Eramples frequently displayed in a hostile Period;—and from the general Vanity and Unimportance of the World.........
........... 412 Sect. V.- Reliéving Considerations, amidst the many
literary, political, and religious Contentions thut so often agitate human Life ; with some concluding Reflections....
CONTAINING A VIEW OF CIVIL GOVERN
MENT IN ITS INFLUENCE ON VIRTUE AND HAPPINESS, CHIEFLY FROM THE RELATION IT BEARS TO LIBERTY AND PROPERTY,
To determine the practical efficiency of
T'any art, it is necessary to consider, besides the art abstractedly in itself, the materials with which it is provided. For want of this it happens, that our most ingenious projects seldom succeed to the extent of our expectations, and that sometimes they are found utterly impracticable. In speculative mechanics, it is demonstrated that the smallest power may be so applied as to balance the greatest weight; yet no engine can be constructed that will put an atom in equilibrium with a mountain; nor can any skill in architecture erect a house as commodious and durable with mud and straw, as with good brick and cement: so likewise the political art is limited in its effects by the subject on which it operates, namely, man, his natural powers and moral dispositions.
Some who have formed flattering ideas of their own species, are forward to charge the miseries of society chiefly on defective legişlation. They will not allow that any incurable perverseness in human nature is perpetually thwarting, and oftentimes defeating, the end of the best institutions. On the contrary, they affect to persuade us, that, were a right system of polity established, but few evils would remain to disturb human life; neither poverty, nor toil, nor oppression would any longer be known; every one would sit contented under his
non vine and fig-tree, in all the dignity of independence
Though it is not probable this was ever seriously believed, yet men being generally dissatisfied with their condition, and unwilling to discover the cause in themselves, they are disposed to seek it in things around them, and sometimes boldly to resolve it into the unhappy state of the public. The inequity and partial execution of the laws, the expence of government, the corruption and incapacity of ministers, the inadequate representation of the people, the discouragement of commerce, and the want of general liberty and equality, are perversely represented as the great sources of private calamity.
That the happiness of every member of civil society is partly dependent on its government and laws, cannot justly be disputed; nor that it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the care of the public, to do all in their power to promote its welfare;-by relieving its burdens; by duly enforcing former regulations, and framing such as are wanting; for it is not to be sup
posed that any nation ever yet arrived at that pitch of political perfection, as not to be capable of further improvements. · But while the ruler is proposing to himself the best models, and endeavouring to copy them as closely as possible, the subject should learn to regulate his expectations by what is practicable in the existing circumstances; he should consider, that all Utopian theories, however pleasing in contemplation, are dangerous in their tendency; as, by laying a ground for disappointment, they are calculated to generate secret discontents, which may proceed to open murmurs, to seditions, to rebellions, to anarchy, and ruin. Every man, therefore, should beware how he listens to such fantastic theories as may lead him to sacrifice real blessings to delusive hopes, and thus to lose the substance by catching at the shadow.
Let us then endeavour calmly to consider, not what might be done if men were what they ought to be, disposed to universal benevolence, and directed by reason and justice; or how much the happiness of so ciety might be advanced and secured, if