Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

there appear no remarkable distinction between them, let them be observed after this principle has been called into action, and has operated for some time. It will then be seen, that in their conceptions, their occupations, and their enjoyments, they totally differ from each other, that they have hardly any thing in common, that there is as great a distinction between them as between the insect which grovels in the dust, and the man who first measured the distances of the stars, and taught us the laws by which the universe is governed. Let the mind look forward to eternity, and suppose, (as always is supposed,) that both will progressively advance, each in his career, through the ages of an endless duration, how immeasurable does the distance between them then become !

Now the difference which is here supposed between two beings of the same species is never found to exist. There is nothing similar to it in the whole range of that part of the creation with which we are acquainted. Differences between individuals of the same species are observable, but there is nothing approaching the immensity of this inconceivable distinction. Whatever differences pre 'ail are those of degree, not of kind. Every individual of the same species has every essential property the same as his fellows; but here a property infinitely more important in its consequences than the addition of a new.

[ocr errors]

sense would be, is given to one and denied to another. This looks not like the work of the Deity. It is a vast and sudden chasm in a plan of wondrous order, for which no preparation is made, to which we are led by no preparatory steps, for which nothing can account, and which nothing can reconcile. It bears upon it traces of the imperfect and short-sighted contrivance of man ; it is contradicted by all which we feel and know of the works of God, and it ought to be driven from the mind of every rational being, that the fair creation of the Deity may no longer be falsified by the deceptive medium through which it is viewed, and that our Maker may not be charged with injustice because our eye is evil !

SECTION VI.

OF THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF FRUSTRATING THE DESIGN OF

THE DEITY.

If the Deity created all men with a design to make them happy, their ultimate felicity is cer-, tain ; for if a being propose to himself the accom-; plishment of a design, he will perform it, unless some motive arise from within to induce him to change it, or some circumstance arise from without to oblige him to change it. Nothing can explain the failure of his purpose, unlesss it be supposed, either that he has voluntarily changed it, or has been forced by some superior power to abandon it.

If the Deity voluntarily change his plan, it must be for the better or for the worse. If for the better, the original plan must have been imperfect; if for the worse, since he knows all things perfectly, and must, therefore, foresee the consequence, it follows, that what he perceives to be a good plan is relinquished for one which he knows to be bad: but the supposition that a wise and good being can thus act, is impossible.

If, on the contrary, he has been forced to change his plan, that which obliged him to do so must be stronger than he ; for no being will

permit his design to be frustrated by a power which is weaker than himself. Whatever therefore it be which frustrates the design of the Deity, must be stronger than omnipotence, which is a contradiction.

In a word, God is a being of perfect goodness. He created man with a design to make him happy.* There is nothing in the universe capable of frustrating his design. However, therefore, that design be opposed ; through whatever long or painful discipline man may be conducted to happiness, he must finally attain it.

It does not seem possible to avoid this conclusion, but by saying that the Deity possesses other attributes, which are of a nature contrary to that upon which the whole of this reasoning is founded ; and in fact this is affirmed. To all the arguments in favor of the final happiness of

* It is nothing to say, that the happiness intended to be bestowed upon his creatures by the Deity is conditional. There can be no doubt that it is so far conditional that no being can be happy until he becomes virtuous. But the circumstances in which men are placed, and the ultimate effect of those cir. cumstances upon their character, were clearly foreseen by the Deity, and if he perceived that any individual, under any particular combination of circumstances, would never become virtuous, he would either have altered his circumstances, or not have called him into existence. One or other of these measures benevolence required.

P

mankind, deduced from the goodness of God, it is replied, that God is a Sovereign, and can do what he pleases ; that he is just, and must maintain the rights of his law ; that he is holy, and must punish sin. All these positions are strictly true : but it is difficult to conceive how they can oppose the conclusions which are de duced from his goodness. They cannot possibly do so, unless the attributes of sovereignty, justice and holiness, are contrary to goodness, and this is what is really affirmed. These perfections are conceived to be tremendous attributes which are different from and opposite to goodness. It would seein like trifling to confute this opinion, and to show that they can be only modifications of benevolence ; yet it is necessary to prove it, and this is attempted in another part of this work. At present it may be sufficient to show in general, that a being of perfect goodness can possess no attribute which is inconsistent with that perfection.

« PoprzedniaDalej »