In a LETTER to the

vol. xiii. 1743.

T would not be found useless in the learned world,


a moderator could be selected, who might in some degree superintend the debate, restrain all needless excursions, repress all personal reflections, and at last recapitulate the arguments on each side; and who, though he should not assume the province of deciding the question, might at least exhibit it in its true state.

This reflection arose in my mind upon the consideration of Mr. Crousaz's Commentary on the Essay on Man, and Mr. Warburton's Answer to it. The importance of the subject, the reputation and abilities of the controvertists, and perhaps the ardour with which each has endeavoured to support

his cause, have made an attempt of this kind necessary for the information of the greatest number of Mr. Pope's readers.

Among the duties of a moderator, I have mentioned that of recalling the disputants to the subject, and cutting off the excrescences of a debate, which Mr. Crousaz will not suffer to be long unemployed, and the repression of personal invectives, which have not been very carefully avoided on either part; and are less excusable, because it has not been proved, that either the poet, or his commentator, wrote with any other design than that of promoting happiness by cultivating reason and piety:

Mr. Warburton has indeed so much depressed the character of his adversary, that before I consider the controversy between them, I think it necessary to 'exhibit some specimens of Mr. Crousaz's sentiments, by which it will probably be shown, that he is far from deserving either indignation or contempt; that his notions are just, though they are sometimes introduced without necessity; and defended when they are not opposed; and that his abilities and parts are such as may entitle him to reverence from those who think his criticisms superfluous.

In page 35 of the English translation, he exhibits an observation which every writer ought to impress upon his mind, and which may afford a sufficient apology for his commentary.

On the notion of a ruling passion he offers this remark: Nothing so much hinders men from : obtaining a complete victory over their ruling


• passion, as that all the advantages gained in their

days of retreat, by just and sober reflections, whether • struck out by their own minds, or borrowed from

good books, or from the conversation of men of • merit, are destroyed in a few moments by a free • intercourse and acquaintance with libertines; and

thus the work is always to be begun anew. A gainester resolves to leave off play, by which he

finds his health impaired, his family ruined, and • his passions inflamed; in this resolution he persists

a few days, but soon yields to an invitation, which • will give his prevailing inclination an opportunity

of reviving in all its force. The case is the same . with other men: but is reason to be charged with « these calamities and follies, or rather the man who • refuses to listen to its voice in opposition to imper• tinent solicitations ?'

On the means recommended for the attainment of happiness, he observes, that the abilities which ' ôur Maker has given us, and the internal and s external advantages with which he has invested • us, are of two very different kinds , those of one • kind âré bestowed in conimon upon us and the • braite creation, but the other exalt us far above

other animals. To disregard any of these gifts • would be ingratitude; but to neglect those of

greater excellence, to go no farther than the gross " satisfactions of sense, and the functions of mere ' animal life, would be a far greater crime. We are • formed by our Creator capable of acquiring know

ledge, and regulating our conduct by reasonable i tulesit is therefore our duty to cultivate our un




derstandings, and exalt our virtues. We need but • make the experiment to find, that the greatest pleasures will arise from such endeavours.

It is trifling to allege, in opposition to this truth, * that knowledge cannot be acquired, nor virtue

pursued, without toil and efforts, and that all efforts produce fatigue. God requires nothing dis

proportioned to the powers he has given, and in - the exercise of those powers consists the highest 6 satisfaction.

Toil and weariness are the effects of vanity : when a man has formed a design of excelling

others in merit, he is disquieted by their advances, - and leaves nothing unattempted, that he may step

before them: this occasions a thousand unreason• able emotions, which justly bring their punishment along with them. · But let a man study and labour to cultivate and improve his abilities in the eye of his Maker, and < with the prospect of his approbation; let him atten

tively reflect on the infinite value of that approba

tion, and the highest encomiums that men can • bestow will vanish into nothing at the comparison. . When we live in this manner, we find that we live s for a great and glorious end.

When this is our frame of mind, we find it no longer difficult to restrain ourselves in the gratifica« tions of eating and drinking, the most gross enjoy6 ments of sense. We take what is necessary to pre• serve health and vigour, but are not to give our• selves up to pleasures that weaken the attention, s and dull the understanding.' VOL. II. S


And the true sense of Mr. Pope's assertion, that Whatever is, is right, and I believe the sense in which it was written, is thus explained :- A sacred and

adorable order is established in the government of " mankind. These are certain and unvaried truths : - he that seeks God, and makes it his happiness to « live in obedience to him, shall obtain what he en

deavours after, in a degree far above his present

comprehension. He that turns his back upon his • Creator, neglects to obey him, and perseveres in his • disobedience, shall obtain no other happiness than - he can receive from enjoyments of his own procuring; void of satisfaction, weary of life, wasted by empty cares and remorses equally harassing and just, he will experience the certain consequences • of his own choice. Thus will justice and good

ness resume their empire, and that order be • restored which men have broken.'

I am afraid of wearying you or your readers with more quotations, but if you shall inform me that a continuation of my correspondence will be well received, I shall descend to particular passages, show how Mr. Pope gave sometimes occasion to mistakes, and how Mr. Crousaz was misled by his suspicion of the system of fatality.

I am, SIR, your's, &c.

« VorigeDoorgaan »