« VorigeDoorgaan »
returned with increased exacerbations during the next and the following year, and by which he was agonised for longer or shorter intervals during the remainder of his life. His last and, perhaps, greatest work, entitled “ Natural Theology," was principally composed during the period in which he was subject to attacks of this terrible malady. These attacks must occasionally have impeded the progress of the work; but it is probable that he had been long previously revolving the materials in his mind. In this, as well as in his other publications, he has made large use of the labours of others; but he has illuminated what they left obscure, enriched what was jejune, amplified what was scanty, invigorated what was weak, and condensed what was diffuse. The proofs, which he adduces of the Divine Attributes, are clear and cogent, and calculated to
carry conviction to
every capacity. These proofs are not so arranged as to distract by the multiplicity of the parts, or to confound by the enormity of the mass. They consist of a few simple expositions, but of such a nature as to interest every reader, and to edify both the young and the old in the prosecution of the argument. Natural theology can never be dull or uninteresting when it is occupied in illustrating the perfectious of the Deity by his works, and does not diverge into the subtleties of metaphysics, or lose itself in the labyrinths of interminable speculation.
was never more at home than in the composition of this work. The materials, with which he was furnished by what he had read, and by what he had observed, were so various and ample, that it was more diffi
cult for bim to select than to amplify, to methodise than to vary, and to compress than to dilate. Though the proofs of the Divine power and wisdom are so many, so vast, and so luminous, that they hardly need any explanation, yet there is no one who can peruse the demonstrative evidence which Dr. Paley has produced of these attributes, without being more deeply impressed with the sentiment of their presence than he was before.
The chapter on the Divine Goodness, though it evinces strong marks of the same unclouded and powerful intellect that predominates in other parts of the work, is perhaps upon the whole less copious and satisfactory than the rest. The evidence in this division of the subject is, in fact, more perplexed by conflicting arguments, and more exposed to contradictory conclusions. Dr. Paley has well remarked, that when we consider the benevolence of the Deity, we can consider it only in relation to sensitive beings. Without this reference the term has no meaning; for it would otherwise be without any medium through which it could operate, by which its influence could be felt, or its presence ascertained. Gross matter, as long as it remains inanimate and insentient, can never be an object of good or evil, of pleasure or of pain. It is alike unconscious of the one and the other. But, while the arguments for the power and wisdom of the Deity are so completely satisfactory as not to leave a doubt upon the mind, yet there are various appearances which seem hardly compatible with the idea of unlimited benevolence, and which it is difficult to accord with that supposition, except by travelling out of this visible diurnal sphere, and connecting the present life with a life beyond the grave. That the plurality and the preponderance of sensations in all the different classes of beings is in favour of happiness, cannot reasonably be denied; but if pain and misery are the lot of many, or only of a few, for a whole life, or even for short intervals, the argument recurs, how is this partial or temporary suffering to be reconciled to the theory of Infinite Benevolence? If pain and misery exist in instances collectively numerous, or in portions however minute, yet vast in the aggregate, how is this to be reconciled with the attribute of Unbounded Goodness, unless we connect an eternity of existence with the present transient scene? If evil exists, it is hardly a satisfactory solution of the difficulty to say, that it is not an object of contrivance,
when the world is so constituted that it is more or less one of the ingredients, or accessories, in the condition of all sensitive beings. If the evil is not a part of the original intent, it seems an adjunct that cannot be disjoined from the present scheme; and if it be an adjunct of the present scheme, that scheme cannot be said to be a proof of Infinite Benevolence, unless we consider it only as part of a greater whole, and infer that the present is only the commencement of our sensitive and reflective existence.
In the works of human genius or industry, the object of the contrivance may differ from the effect, owing to the imperfection of the human faculties; but when we consider the operations of the Divine Mind, we cannot separate the object and the end: or say that one thing was designed and another produced, without impeaching the Supreme Power of weakness, or the Supreme Intellect of inconsistency. If in any particular contrivances in the creation, good was the object while evil is the result, can wereverentially affirm, that God willed one thing, but that a different was produced? If God is the author of all things, the evil must be regarded as much his contrivance as the good. If God made the teeth, he made them to ache as well as to masticate. The good of mastication is the principal object of the contrivance, but is not the evil of aching the occasional effect? In considering the sensitive works of the Great Creator in the present world, all that we can truly say is, that good, or pleasure, is the PREDOMINANT design, the primary object, but that evil or pain is one of the concomitant effects, or subordinate accessories. There is too much good in the world to admit the supposition of malevolence in the Great Author of the scheme; and there is too much evil not to lead us to expect a state of future retribution. Those phenomena in the present state of things, which militate against the theory of Infinite Benevolence, appear to be only presages of the good that is to come. If the good even here greatly predominates over the evil, it is reasonable to infer, that in some future period the evil will disappear, and the Divine Benevolence be resplendent, without any apparent spot or limitation, in the condition of every individual.
In the commencement of the year 1805, while Dr. Paley was resident at Lincoln, he experienced a violent paroxysm of his agonising malady, which could not be appeased by the usual remedies: and symptoms appeared that his end was approaching. He languished, however, in a state of debility and disease, till the period of his return to Bishop Wearmouth, where he expired on the 25th of May. His mental faculties suffered little, if any, diminution to the last moment of his existence; but if his intellectual vision underwent no eclipse, his corporeal sight is said to have failed for a few days before his death.
It cannot be said of Dr. Paley that he lived in vain !- His was a mind of great powers; and in general he employed it for the noblest ends. He was particularly active in diffusing that knowledge which tends most to exalt the dignity of man; and raise him highest in the scale of virtue and intelligence. His moral and theological works reflect the highest honour on his memory; and if he betrayed a little seeming political versatility in smaller and more ephemeral productions, we may find some apology for his inconsistency in the times in which he lived; in his solicitude for the welfare of a large family; and in circumstances of which few have sufficient energy to control the agency or to resist the influence.
In person, Dr. Paley was above the middle size, and latterly inclined to corpulence. The best likeness of him is by Romney, in which he is drawn with a fishing-rod in his hand. As in his domestic arrangements, and in his general habits of expense, he practised what may be called an enlightened economy, and observed a due medium between parsimony and profusion, bis income was more than adequate to all his wants; and he left his family in easy if not in affluent circumstances.