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following objection having some appearance of reason, an attempt will be made to refute it.
From observing that vicious, cruel, and tyrannical men are often seated on thrones, and have it in their power thereby to oppress and render unhappy a large portion of the human race, some people have presumed to arraign the providence of God; but these persons do not appear to consider, that this cannot be prevented, whilst man is a free agent, without such a constant and immediate interposition on the part of God, as it may be inconsistent with his own dignity and pleasure to make. If the Deity had not given man reason and conscience in such full measure, as to shew him the absurdity and folly of tyranny and vice, and the beauty and expediency of virtue: if he had not in all ages appointed men to display the wisdom of every monarch's acting justly, mercifully, and piously; to the Jewish kings, his prophets; and to other kings, such men as Zoroaster, Confucius, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, and others: if the universal opinion of all mankind, high and low, rich and poor, was not, that a virtuous conduct is right, and a vicious and tyrannical one wrong, confirmed by the suggestion, intima
tion, and conclusion of every man's reason and conscience: if God Almighty has so interwoven this opinion into the human heart, that all mankind admit it as a truth: and if, with respect to the princes of Christendom, this opinion is so strengthened by the page of Revelation, that it can never be violated without conscious guilt: further, if this particular warning is given to princes, both in sacred and profane history, that the reigns of very bad kings have not in general been long, and that tyrants not only live but usually die miserably, and for the most part come to an untimely end ; an assertion proved by the Roman history; for out of fifty-seven successive emperors, from Julius Cæsar to Augustulus, thirty-eight were murdered, only. nineteen dying naturally: if God has thus fenced virtue and piety, and given such a preponderating bias in their favour, no man ought to think his goodness at all impeached by the vicious conduct of bad kings, or by the abuse of the great power with which they are invested. For, as before observed, without a constant miraculous interposition on the part of God, which it may not please him to adopt, being perhaps in consistent with his own dignity, and with
that degree of free will and free agency he chooses man should possess, and which indeed is the sine quâ non of his character, human conduct on the part of a king, in common with the rest of the species, must be left to the free will of the agent. God has in short told all classes of men, without exception, how they should regulate their conduct towards him, their neighbour, and them selves, so as to promote their own temporal and eternal happiness, and that of others : he has informed the whole species, that he requires it to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him; and if princes wilfully neglect to obey his commandments, are guilty of acts of oppression and injustice, or engage in war merely from ambitious motives, and in consequence the prince and the people suffer, this suffering ought not to be laid to the charge of God, since it is plain that his will is, and has always been, that each man should act, and motives sufficiently strong have been urged and propounded to the mind of every man to act, agreeably to the laws of justice, mercy, and piety : and if man would attend to this will of God, which he now may, and ever might have done, the misery arising from injustice, cruelty, and
impiety, would not exist in the manner we find it does. As to the trite and common-place argument, that things have always been so from time immemorial, this is a petitio principii : the true point at issue is, whether when God, the Lord and Creator of man, has plainly and incontestibly required him as a free agent to act in one way, and he will nevertheless act in another, whether the evil which arises from this disobedient conduct is or is not chargeable on the providence of God, or is any fair and just argument for an inference, that the world is governed by chance? I am perfectly convinced it is not, and that it cannot be so considered in the judgment of impartial, candid reason. We are to have splendid and magnificent ideas of the providence of God, not mean and abject ones; and if the information we derive from astronomers is to be depended on, that in the immensity of the universe the non-existence even of our whole solar system would scarcely be missed, we ought not to consider our little planet and its concerns of such importance, as to induce God to work perpetual miracles on our account : surely it is quite sufficient on his part, if he has decidedly and unambiguously made his will known, as to the
conduct he orders and requires his creature man to observe. Princes therefore, as well as other men, having good and evil set before them, are left to themselves as to the means their free agency enables them to adopt in the exercise of the power with which they are invested; and if they are guilty of unnecessary cruelties, or adopt any other course of conduct than that which reason, conscience, and Scripture sanctions, both the letter and spirit of Solomon's observation in Ecclesiastes strictly applies to them in these words, “ Know thou, that for all these things “ God will bring thee into judgment:" like all other men they will be accountable and punished for their conscious violation of that conduct God has ordered them to ob
But nothing but a very wrong, a very narrow, and illiberal way of thinking can induce any man to imagine, that the providence of God is in any degree liable to be impugned, if, on his part, he has made his will clearly known to a free agent, as to the conduct he requires him to observe, and that free agent presumes rashly and audaciously to act in direct defiance and disobedience to that will, and to that course of conduct he is peremptorily ordered to obey.