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FOURTH LONDON EDITION.
THE more I have contemplated the view wisdom, and of perfect goodness. I have enof the divine character and government which | deavoured to lead the mind to the calm and seis exhibited in the following pages, and the rious consideration of principles which seem more the engagements of life have brought adequate to divest it of doubt, where doubt me acquainted with the wants of the human must be unhappiness, and to conduct it to a mind in this state of discipline, and therefore conclusion which, if once embraced from conof vicissitude and suffering, the more deep viction, must secure it from misery. has become my conviction, that, were the I look back to the quiet and contemplative opinions which it is the object of this work hours which were devoted to these inquiries to establish, generally believed and consider- with the feeling, not unmixed with melanchoed, they would promote, in an incalculable ly, with which we reflect on our departed measure, the virtue and happiness of man- pleasures. And yet there is a closer connexkind. This conviction coincides with that of ion than there might at first seem, between the wisest and best men whom I have the these subjects and those which now much pleasure of knowing. My sense of the im- more exclusively occupy my attention. The portance of rendering this view of the moral real end of both is the same; for the object government of the Deity as complete as pos- of each is alike to extend the knowledge, to sible, is therefore stronger than ever; and un- mitigate the suffering, and to increase the hapder this impresssion, I have entered, in this piness, of mankind; and without doubt this edition, into a more close and connected in- is the great business of life. Whoever sucvestigation of the origin, the nature, and the ceeds in it most is the wisest, the ablest, and tendency of evil. I have considered, sepa- the happiest of his race; and even he whose rately and in detail, the several classes of measure of success is not great, cannot be evil, namely, natural and moral evil, and the without satisfaction, so long as he is conevils which have hitherto been found insepa-scious of the wish and the effort to accomplish rable from the social state, namely, poverty, dependence, and servitude. I have endeavoured to show why these evils exist in the creation of a Being of almighty power, of infinite
London, Trinity Square,
Is it be reasonable to refer the formation of the earth, and of all the objects and beings on its surface, to an intelligent agent, and if we cannot doubt that we are entirely dependent upon our Creator for all which we possess and hope, it must be of unspeakable importance, to ascertain what his character really is; and if there be indeed reason to believe that, in fashioning our frame, and appointing that it should undergo at a certain period total disorganization, he do not by that change design to destroy us, but to qualify us for a higher state and for nobler pursuits, no inquiry can be so interesting as that which relates to our destiny in the ages which are before us.
Were it possible to arm ourselves against the calamities of life, as Perseus is fabled to have been armed by the gods, for his far-famed expedition, he who should commence the career of existence without his helmet, falchion and ægis, would be universally regarded as destitute of reason; but that individual is infinitely better prepared to encounter the evil with which he has to combat, who believes in the doctrine of a Providence, and knows the ground of his belief that is, who views all events with the eye, and meets them with the feeling, of a Christian philosopher. With this belief, no combination of circumstances can make him, for any considerable period
unhappy without it, nothing can afford him a pleasure of which Wisdom ought not to fear to participate, and with which Philosophy ought not to blush to be content.
charity are, among theologians, scarcely anything but a name.
The author would particularly solicit the attention of his readers, and especially of It was under the influence of this convic- those who may be believers in the doctrine of tion, that the author of the following work Limited Punishment, terminated by Destruccommenced it with a trembling mind, afraid tion, to that part of the work in which this to undertake a task of so much magnitude subject is discussed. He has there endeavourand interest. But appearing to himself to ed to meet, fairly and fully, all the arguments, have formed a clear, consistent, and cheering as far as he has been able to learn them, which view of the nature and object of the dispensa- are urged in support of the hypothesis.tions of the great Parent of mankind, and Feeling, as he does, a thorough persuasion, having, in the retirement of private life, been that each is satisfactorily answered, and that, a witness, on occasions which to him were on the other hand, difficulties are stated deeply impressive, of the tendency of that against the doctrine, which are insuperable, view to heighten the pleasure of the hour of he cannot but think that the reasoning which enjoyment, and to sustain the mind in the day appears to his own mind so forcible may pos of sorrow, he thought that, by directing sibly make some impression on that of the the attention of his fellow-Christians to a candid and patient inquirer. He is well comprehensive and connected investigation of aware, however, of the different estimate the subject, he might possibly contribute which different persons form of the force of something to the removal of their doubts and the same arguments, and, instead of cherishthe confirmation of their faith. If, in any de- ing a positive, feeling that he is right, he is gree, he have succeeded in this object, his much more disposed to bear in mind the posSuccess will ever appear to him invaluable. sibility of his being under those common influences by which we impose upon ourselves respecting the conclusiveness of our own reasonings, and to attend with thankfulness to any one who may do him the favour to correct any mistake into which he may have fallen.
In one part of the work, an expression or two occur, which some persons may consider strong, and perhaps uncandid, relative to doctrines which appear to him unjust, malevolent, and immoral; but he trusts the spirit which this volume breathes will secure him To the friends who encouraged him to profrom the suspicion of attributing anything of ceed with this work, by honouring him with injustice, malevolence, or immorality, to the their names as subscribers to it, as soon as persons who maintain the opinions which he they heard it was projected, the author recondemns. The intelligent inquirer will have turns his thanks; and the ardent testimony of made but little progress in his religious in- approbation which he has received from some vestigation, before he learns the necessity of of them, since its publication, has excited the distinguishing between rectitude of character hope, that he has not written wholly in vain, and excellence of system-between the ma- and that these pages may perhaps be the means lignant tendency of a creed, and the benigni- of speaking peace to the perturbed mind, and ty of the heart which embraces it. Neither of solacing the sorrows of the mourner, when justice nor charity can exist, unless this dis- the hand which penned them is motionless, and tinction be constantly kept up; and it is be- the heart which dictated them shall have cause it is so seldom made, that justice and ceased to beat with human emotion.
THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT.
Of the Proof of the Government of God.
whatever it is possible for wisdom and power to accomplish. We have therefore no diffculty in conceiving, that the Author of this part of the creation is the Author of the universe, however unlimited it be, or however amazing the degree of wisdom and power necessary to the production of it; for, though
In endeavoring to account for the existence of the world, we find it impossible to resist the conclusion, that it is the production of a Being of almighty power and of perfect good-other worlds may be much greater in magniness. It is evident that it did not create it- tude than this, and may contain much higher self, for creation necessarily supposes a pre- and nobler displays of wisdom, (which may existing intelligence. It is evident that the possibly be the case, though we can scarcely creatures on its surface did not give being to conceive how even infinite wisdom can go theinselves, for they do not comprehend the beyond some contrivances with which we are mode of their own existence. They must acquainted,) yet there are in this globe suffitherefore derive their origin from some Being cient appearances of it, to account for any who understood their nature, and who endow- which may exist in other parts of the creation, ed them with the faculties they possess. however glorious they may be.
The discoveries of modern science have ex
The simplest ideas we seem capable of forming of this Being are, that he is intelli-hibited in the most striking light these indicagent, and that he is uncaused. Intelligent he tions of wisdom in the economy of nature, and must be, for there are in his works proofs of education, which is now generally diffused, exquisite and amazing skill; and, if there be has rendered them so familiar, that few are any thing of which we may be certain, it is, entirely ignorant of them. Amidst all these that, wherever there is contrivance, there must wonders, in nothing, perhaps, is the matchless be a Contriver, and that an adaption of means skill of the Creator more admirably displayed, to an end cannot possibly exist without the than in the simplicity of the means which he operation of a Being who perceived and design- has adopted to accomplish his vast and mighty ed the end, and fitted the means to accomplish purposes. By one single principle he preserves the planets in their orbits, regulates and adjusts their various movements, determines the descent of bodies to the earth, and retains them at its surface. By a similar, if not the same principle, he causes the particles of matter of which bodies are composed to cohere, and, by the same power, exerted between particles of different kinds, all existing and all possible combinations of matter are formed. The same sun, which gives stability to the system of which it is the centre, furnishes it with light and heat. The same air, which sustains animal life in respiration, alike promotes the process of vegetation, supports combustion, equalizes temperature over the globe, dissolves, elevates, and diffuses water, deposits it again in the form of dew or rain, and thus enriches and beautifies the earth. Though by respiration, by the process of vegetation, and by many other chemical changes which take place without ceasing at the earth's surface, there is a constant consumption of one of the constituent principles of this air, and as constant a production of another, yet it is never deteriorated; because, by an arrangement which, if subsequent investigation shall establish its correctness, must be ranked amongst one of the most admirable adjust ments in the whole economy of nature, t part of air which is no longer fitted fo
That the Great First Cause of all things must be himself uncaused, is also a truth which we are obliged to admit; for, if we imagine that the immediate Creator of the world derives his existence and power from some superior being, we must suppose, either that this superior being is uncaused-in which case it is he who will answer to our conception of the Deity-or that he is dependent upon a third, and that this third is dependent on a fourth, and so on in an infinite series. But this infinite succession of dependent beings requires a first and independent cause, as much as any one in the series; and, however far we may choose to carry our thoughts backward, we must at length come to the conclusion, that there is some one independent, underived Being, the peculiarity of whose nature we endeavour to express by saying that he is self-existent. It is this Being that we term God, and that we suppose to be the Creator of the world.
If, in this visible creation, there be proofs of such contrivance as cannot but convince the mind that it is the production of infinite intelligence, it likewise contains indications of such power as we must acknowledge to be altogether without limits. He who could create such a world as this must be able to do
function of respiration, but which would prove | inanimate world is continually in motion, and deleterious to animals, is the very part which every movement must influence, in a greater ministers to the nourishment of plants; and or less degree, the enjoyment of the animal that part which plants exhale, animals inhale. creation. He, therefore, who constructed the Neither is the air in the least degree exhaust- wonderful fabric of the world, and so admiraed by the constant expenditure of it, either by bly adapted it to the enjoyment of the the two tribes of animated beings, or by the innumerable beings it contains, continually innumerable processes which are constantly watches over the movements which take place taking place, and to which it affords the ma- within it, that they may not break in upon the terials; but, by the disengagement of its sim- order, nor impair the happiness he has estaple gases in other processes, and their re-blished. union, the necessary supply, the just equilibrium, is kept up.
The same comprehensive wisdom is seen in the means which have been provided to secure the constant fertility of the earth, by the appointment of the law, that the destruction of one vegetable shall afford nourishment to another, and in like manner to keep up the supply of food for animals, by the appointment of the law, that they shall furnish sub-it being evident that the material* is made sistence to each other. for the animal creation-that the material world is continually changing, thereby pro ducing a change in the animal-that the animal world itself is endowed with the property of changing its situation, and every change of state being necessarily attended with a change of sensation-the doctrine which an enlightened philosophy teaches, is, that the Deity, with a view of making that sensation just what he has seen fit to appoint, continually superintends the changes which induce it.
If every particle of matter in the globe be more or less in motion, and if we can fix our eye on no spot where there is not organized and conscious existence, the view which is here given of divine providence is large enough to take in the superintendence of the myriads of changes which, according to this supposition, must be taking place in every instant of time. If every star which shines in the firmament of heaven be a world crowded with inhabitants-if every fixed star be a sun, which illumines a system of worlds, as our sun illumines our system, and if these worlds and systems be filled with organized and happy creatures, (which is at once the most sublime and the most probable view it is possible to take of the creation,) this account of the divine administration is sufficient to comprehend the superintendence of all the events which must be taking place, in every instant of time, throughout this universe of being, to the extent of which we can set no limits, and in the contemplation of which all our faculties are lost.
Were it necessary, in this argument, to descend to the consideration of the structure of individual bodies belonging to the animal or vegetable kingdom, it would be easy to point out, in both, instances of such consummate skill, as no mind could possibly contemplate without the highest admiration.
The proof of the goodness of the Creator is as complete as that of his wisdom, and even of his existence itself. We infer his existence from the appearance of design in his works, and his wisdom from the exquisiteness of that design; but every proof of design is equally a proof of benevolence, because the object of every contrivance is the production of good. We are not, therefore, more certain of the existence and wisdom of the Deity, than of his goodness; for the very facts on which we ground our belief of the former equally establish the latter.
But the animal creation itself is likewise continually in motion. An animal possesses the power of originating motion, by which sometimes its existence, and always its happiness, in a greater or less degree, are affected. The care of the Deity must therefore extend to the movements of the animal, no less than those of the material world.
Such, then, being the constitution of things
If, then, the world be indeed the production of a Being who is infinite in wisdom, power, and goodness, the proof of his constant and perfect superintendence of it seems to be irresistible. For, since he is perfect in wisdom, he could not have created it without some design; and that design, whatever it be, he must be careful to accomplish. Whether we suppose he created it with a view to display to his intelligent creatures his wisdom and power, or with a design to impart enjoyment to an inconceivable number and variety of beings, we must believe, in the one case, that he will at all times provide against the interruption of that order which alone can illustrate his perfection, and the destruction of those faculties which are necessary to perceive them, and in the other, that he will suffer no event to happen, which can prevent or impair the happiness he determines to bestow. In every successive period, therefore, he must have exactly the same reason to superintend the events which take place in his creation, as he had at first to perform the glorious work.
Nothing is more evident, than that the inanimate and insensible part of the creation is fitted up for the accommodation, and designed to promote the happiness, of the sentient. The
Whoever believes that the system of the universe did not start into being without a designing cause, acknowledges that its Author is every where present. Omnipresence is an attribute which seems essential to the very notion of a God. It is true, we cannot understand how, at one and the same instant, he is present in every part of the universe; but this difficulty in conceiving of the mode of the
that part of the world which is supposed to be By material creation is here always meant without sensation, whether organized or unor. ganized.
ficulty of conceiving how a Being can operate where he is not; but if we admit the hypothesis now proposed, we can readily believe that the Deity operates every where; for, according to it, he is every where.
In whatever manner, however, we may conceive of the omnipresence of the Deity, we must all admit the fact itself, that by the necessity of his nature he is every where, and that by the necessity he knows every thing. And no other admission is requisite, to establish, in the most satisfactory manner, his universal and perfect government. His
fact neither does nor ought to bring any doubt upon our belief of the fact itself, because our comprehension of every subject whatever is equally obscure and imperfect. We understand nothing of the mode of the existence of any being. We know that we ourselves exist, but we have no conception of the manner in which the wonderful phenomena of life are produced and continued. Of the existence of the Deity, it is impossible to doubt. We see his works-we feel his power; but in what manner he exists we do not know, because we have no data upon which to form even a conjecture respecting the mode of his exist-benevolent eye is upon me-his almighty arm ence. The reason that we do not know how is beneath me; with the situation in which I he is every where present, is because we do am placed, he is infinitely better acquainted not know how he is present any where; that in all its parts, than I am with any single ciris, because we do not at all comprehend the cumstance in it. He knows that a certain mode of his existence. event is about to befal me; he understands its nature; he foresees its consequences; he is perfectly wise; he is infinitely good. Would he then permit it to happen, did he not foresee it would answer some wise and benevolent purpose? Can we conceive that he is every where present without acting? that he knows every thing. without availing himself of the power he possesses, to prevent what is wrong, and to accomplish what is right? that, though he is perfectly acquainted with every evil which is about to arise, and perfectly able to prevent it, he will not stretch out his hand to do so? that the original source of all activity is the only inactive Being in the universe, and the source of all energy the only Being who does not exert his power r?
If this opinion be absurd in itself, and unsupported by the shadow of reason, there is but one other conclusion which can be adopted, namely, that every event, which happens to every creature, takes place according to the appointment of the Deity. Nothing can be more frivolous than the objection, that the watchfulness which this supposes over the most trifling concerns of the most insignificant creature is unworthy of the Sovereign of the universe. Whatever it was not beneath him to create, it cannot be beneath him to provide for and to protect; and whatever is of any importance, either to the present or the future comfort of any being, is worthy of care in the degree in which it may be the means of enjoyment or the cause of suffering. Its minuteness cannot render it unworthy of notice, if it be of any consequence; and what would detract from the dignity and greatness of the Governor of the universe would be, not his taking care of the minute concerns, but his neglecting them.
We see that man is bound to a spot of earth, and that his presence at one time is restricted to that spot. This being the only kind of existence with which our senses have made us acquainted, it is natural that we should find it difficult to conceive how a Being can at the same moment be here, and in the most distant part of the globe, and in the most distant planet. But, whatever be the mode of the existence of the Deity, we must necessarily conceive of it as different from our own. For at all events he has been present in this globe -in the planets which form our system, in the sun which is its centre, in every fixed star -in a word, wherever we behold a planet or a star. Whatever these bodies are, they are something; some of them are of immense magnitude, and are placed at such distances from each other, as to be beyond our power of calculation; and no one will contend that they placed themselves where they are. Now he who could place them there-he, the constitution of whose nature admits of his ever having been present at these inconceivable distances, must possess a nature so essentially different from ours, that we ought to have no difficulty in supposing that it may allow of his being present at them at one and the same time, as easily as at successive periods. As our mode of existence confines our presence to one spot at one time, his may be such as necessarily makes him present in every part of the uni
Many writers on this subject appear needlessly to have magnified the difficulty which attends our conception of it. They seem in general to think that the Deity bears no relation whatever to space-that, in fact, he is actually present no where, and that of course it is only in a figurative sense that he is omnipresent. But surely it is more just to conceive of him as really pervading all space-as actually present in every part of the universe. This idea is at least distinct, and enables us to conceive, in a satisfactory manner, of his universal operation, while the view commonly entertained is extremely confused; for, do what we will, we can form no idea of a Being who bears no relation to space; and, if we could, we should still be pressed with the dif
A great part of animal enjoyment depends upon what we are accustomed to consider as little things. A great number of little things particularly if they often recur, become of greater importance than any single event, however vast or momentous; they produce, taken together, a large sum of enjoyment, and there seems no possible way of taking care of this collective sum, but by taking care of particular events. And, indeed, the superintendence of minute events implies as