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“ this means is the nature of all human virtue and “ vice contrived, that their rewards and punish
ments are woven as it were in their very essence; “ their immediate effects give us a foretaste of their “ future, and their fruits in the present life are the
proper samples of what they must unavoidably produce in another. We have reason given us to
distinguish these consequences, and regulate our “ conduct; and, lest that should neglect its post, con" science also is appointed as an instinctive kind of “ monitor, perpetually to remind us both of our in« terest and our duty.”
Si sic omnia dixisset! To this account of the essence of vice and virtue, it is only necessary to add, that the consequences of human actions being sometimes uncertain, and sometimes remote, it is not possible in many cases for most men, nor in all cases for any man to determine what actions will ultimately produce happiness, and therefore it was proper that revelation should lay down a rule to be followed invariably in opposition to appearances, and in every change of circumstances, by which we may be certain to promote the general felicity, and be set free from the dangerous temptation of doing Evil that Good may come.
Because it may easily happen, and in effect will happen very frequently, that our own private happiness may be promoted by an act injurious to others, when yet no man can be obliged by nature to prefer ultimately the happiness of others to bis own; therefore, to the instructions of infinite wisdom it was necessary that infinite power should add penal sanctions. That every man to whom those
instructions shall be imparted may know that he can never ultimately injure himself by benefiting others, or ultimately by injuring others benefit himself; but that however the lot of the good and bad may be huddled together in the seeming confusion of our present state, the time shall undoubtedly come, when the most virtuous will be most happy.
I am sorry that the remaining part of this Letter is not equal to the first. The author has indeed engaged in a disquisition in which we need not wonder if he fails, in the solution of questions on which philosophers have employed their abilities from the earliest times,
And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost.
He denies that man was created perfect, because the system requires subordination, and because the power of losing his perfection, of rendering himself wicked and miserable, is the highest imperfection imaginable. Besides, the regular gradations of the scale of being required somewhere such a creature as man with all his infirmities about him, and the total removal of those would be altering his nature, and when he became perfect he must cease to be man.
I have already spent some considerations on the scale of being, of which yet I am obliged to renew the mention whenever a new argument is made to rest upon it; and I must therefore again remark, that consequences cannot have greater certainty than the postulate from which they are drawn, and that no system can be more hypothetical than this, and perhaps no hypothesis more absurd.
He again deceives himself with respect to the perfection with which man is held to be originally vested. That man came perfect, that is, endued with all possible perfection, out of the hands of his Creator, is a false notion, derived from the philosophers. The universal system required subordina. tion, and consequently comparative imperfection. That man was ever endued with all possible perfection, that is, with all perfection of which the idea is not contradictory or destructive of itself, is undoubtedly false. But it can hardly be called a false notion, because no man ever thought it, nor can it be derived from the philosophers; for without pretending to guess what philosophers he may mean, it is very safe to affirm, that no philosopher ever said it. Of those who now maintain that man was once perfect, who may very easily be found, let the author enquire whether man was ever omniscient, whether he was ever omnipotent, whether he ever had even the lower power of archangels or angels. Their answers will soon inform him, that the supposed perfection of man was not absolute, but respective, that he was perfect in a sense consistent enough with subordination, perfect, not as compared with different beings, but with himself in his present degeneracy; not perfect, as an angel, but perfect as man.
From this perfection, whatever it was, he thinks it necessary that man should be debarred, because pain is necessary to the good of the universe; and the pain of one order of beings extending its salutary influence to innumerable orders above and be
low, low, it was necessary that man should suffer ; but because it is not suitable to justice that pain should be inflicted on innocence, it was necessary that man should be criminal.
This is given as a satisfactory account of the Original of moral Evil, which amounts only to this, that God created beings whose guilt he foreknew, in order that he might have proper objects of pain, because the pain of part is, no man knows how or why, necessary to the felicity of the whole.
The perfection which man once had, may be so easily conceived, that without any unusual strain of imagination we can figure its revival. All the duties to God or man that are neglected we may fancy performed; all the crimes that are committed we may conceive forborn. Man will then be restored to his moral perfections: and into what head can it enter, that by this change the universal system would be shaken, or the condition of any order of beings altered for the worse?
He comes in the fifth Letter to political, and in the sixth to religious Evils. Of political Evil, if we suppose the Origin of moral Evil discovered, the account is by no means difficult: polity being only the conduct of immoral men in publick affairs. The Evils of each particular kind of government are very clearly and elegantly displayed, and from their secondary causes very rationally deduced; but the first cause lies still in its ancient obscurity. There is in this Letter nothing new, nor any thing eminently instructive; one of his practical deductions, that from government Evils cannot be eradicated, and their
excess only can be prevented, has been always allowed; the question upon which all dissension arises is, when that excess begins, at what point men shall cease to bear, and attempt to remedy.
Another of his precepts, though not new, well deserves to be transcribed, because it cannot be too frequently impressed.
“ What has here been said of their imperfections “ and abuses, is by no means intended as a defence “ of them : every wise man ought to redress them “ to the utmost of his power; which can be effected
by one method only; that is, by a reformation of
manners: for as all political Evils derive their ori“ ginal from moral, these can never be removed, « until those are first amended. He, therefore, who " strictly adheres to virtue and sobriety in his con“ duct, and enforces them by his example, does more “ real service to a state, than he who displaces a “ minister, or dethrones a tyrant ; this gives but a “ temporary relief, but that exterminates the cause “ of the disease. No immoral man then can possibly “ be a true patriot; and all those who profess out
rageous zeal for the liberty and prosperity of their “ country, and at the same time infringe her laws, « affront her religion, and debauch her people, are “ but despicable quacks, by fraud or ignorance in. “ creasing the disorders they pretend to remedy."
Of religion he has said nothing but what he has learned, or might have learned from the divines; that it is not universal, because it must be received upon conviction, and successively received by those whom conviction reached; that its evidences and