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existence, the very nature of his daration; these, and every parti. cular, which regards so divine a Being, are mysterious to men. Finite, weak, and blind cleatures, we ought to humble ourselves in his august presence, and, conscious of our frailties, adore in sileace his infinite perfections, which eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. They are covered in a deep cloud from human curiosity : it is profaneness to attempt penetrating through these sacred obscurities; and next to the impiety of denying his existence, is the temerity of prying into his nature and effence, decrees and attributes.
"The ancient Platonists were the most religious and devout of all the Pagan philosophers : yet many of them, particularly Plotinus, expressly declare, that intellect or understanding is not to be ascribed to the Deity, and that our molt perfect worship of him confitts, not in acts of veneration, reverence, gratitude, or love; but in a certain mysterious self-annihilation, or total extinction of all our faculties,
These ideas are, perhaps, too far stretched; but still it must be ac. knowledged, that, by representing the Deity as comprehensible, and fimilar to a human mind, we are guilty of the grosset and most nar. row partiality, and make ourselves the model of the whole vois verse -
oli is my opinion, that each man feels, in a manner, the truth of religion within his own breast; and from a consciousness of his imbe. cility and misery, rather than from any reasoning, is led to feek protection from that Being, on whom he and all nature is dependent, So anxious, or so tedious, are even the best scenes of life, chat fa. turity is still the object of all our hopes and fears. We incessantly look forward, and endeavour, by prayers, adoration, and sacrifice, to appease those unknown powers, whom we find, by experience, so able to affli&t and oppress us. Wretched creatures that we are ! wbar resource for us amidit the innumerable ills of life, did not religion suggest some méthods of atonement, and appease those terrors, with which we are incessantly agitated and tormented}---The miseries of life, the unhappiness of man, the general corruptions of our nature, the unsatisfactory enjoyment of pleasures, riches, honours; these phrases have become almost proverbial in all languages. And who can doubt of what all men declare from their own immediate feeling and experience i- Look round this library of Cleanthes. I fall venture to affirm, that, exsept Authors of par. ticular sciences, such as chymistry, or botany, who have no occasion to treat of human life, there is scarce one of those innumerable writers, from whom the sense of human misery has not, in some passage or other, extorted a complaint and confeflion of it. At least, the chance is entirely on that fide; and no one. Author has ever, fo far as I can recollect, been fo extravagant as to deny it.---The whole earth, believe me, Philo, is corsed and polluted. A perpetual war is kindled among all living creatures, Neceflity, hunger, want, ftimulate the strong and courageous; fear, anxiety, terror, agitate the weak and infirm. The first entrance into life gives anguish to the new born infant and to its wretcbed parent: weakness, impotence, distress, attend each tage of that life: and 'tis at laft finished in agony and horror.-Though the external insults from animals, from
men, from all the elements, which affault us, form a frightful catalogue of woes, they are nothing in comparison of those, which arise within ourselves, from the difem pered condition of our mind and body. How many lie under the lingering torment of diseases? And the disorders of the mind, though more secret, are not perhaps lefs dismal and vexa'ious. Remorse, shame, anguish, rage, disappointment, anxiety, fear, dejection, despair ; who has ever passed through life without cruel inroads from these tormentors? How many have scarcely ever felt any better sensations. Labour and poverty, ro aba horred by every one, are the certain lot of the far greater number: and those few privileged persons, who enjoy ease and opulence, never reach contentment or true felicity. All the goods of life united would not make a very happy man: but all the ills united would make a wierch indeed; and any one of them almolt (and who can be free from every one :) nay often the absence of one good (and who can possess all :) is sufficient to render life ineligible.
• Nothing can be more surprising than to find a topic like this: concerning the wickednefs and misery of man, charged with no less than atheism and profaneness. Have not all pious divines and preachers, who have indulged their stretoric on so fertile a subject ; have they not easily, I say, given a solution of any difficolties which may attend it? This world is but a point in comparison of the unie verse: this life but a moment in comparison of eternity. The present evil phenomena, therefore, are rectified in other regions, and in some future period of existence. And the eyes of men, being then dpened to larger views of things, see the whole connection of general laws; and trace; with adoration, the benevolence and rectitude of the Deity, through all the mazes and intricacies of his providence.'' '
Such are the sentiments of the rigid, inflexible, orthodox Demea; such are the arguments which he employs to prove, the mysterious, incomprehensible nature of the Deity, and by which he endeavours to fhew, that the infirmities of our nature do not permit us to attain any ideas, which in the least corre spond to the ineffable sublimity of the divine attributes. Let us now hear what the accurate' philosopher CLEANTHES says.
Demea asserts, as we have already mentioned, that the present evil phenomena are rectified in some future period of ex- I istence.-- No! replied Cleanthes, No! There arbitrary rupa pofitions can never be admired, contrary to matter of fact, viliole and uncontroverted. Whence can any cause be known but from its known effects? Whence can any hypothefis be proved but from the apparent phenomena? To establish one hypothesis upon another is building enurely in the air ; and the utmost we ever attain, by these conjectures and fictions, is to ascertain the bare possibility of our opinion; but never can we, upon such terms, establish its reality.
• The only method of supporting divine benevolence (and it is what I willingly embrace), is to deny absolutely the misery and wickedness of man. Your representations are exaggerated : your melancholy views mostly Getitious : your inferences contrary to fact and experience. Health is more common than fickness; pleasure than pain; happiness than misery. And for one vexation, which
we meet with, we attain, upon computation, a hundred enjoy. ments.-
• I have been apt to suspect,' says this accurate pbilosopher, the frequent repetition of the word infinite, which we meet with in all theological writers, to favour more of panegyric than of philosophy, and tha: any purposes of reasoning, and even of religion, would be better served, were we to rest contented with more accurate and more moderate expresions. The terns, admirable, excellent, superlatively great, wise, and boly; these suficiently 6ll the imaginations of men ; and any thing beyond, besides that it leads into' absurdities, kas no influence on the affections or sentiments. Thus, in the present sub. ject, if we abandon all human analogy, as seems your intention, Demea, I am afraid we abandon all religion, and retain no conception of the great object of our adoration. If we preserve human analogy, we must for ever find it impoflible to reconcile any mixture of evil in the universe with infinite attributes; much less, can we ever prove the latter from the former, But supposing the Author of Nature to be finitely perfe&,' (a strange fuppofition, fusely!) • though far exceeding mankind; a fatisfactory account may then be given of natural and moral evil, and every untoward phenomenon be explained and adjufied. A less evil may then be chosen, in order to avoid a greater; inconvenicoces be submitted to, in order to reach a desirable end ; and, in a word, benevolence, regulated by wisdom, and limited by neceflity may produce just such a world as the present.'
The principal points which Cleanthes endeavours to establish are,—that the works of nature are fimilar to those of art ; that the Deity is similar to a human mind and understanding, and that our ideas of his attributes, as far as they go, are just and adequate, and correspondent to his real nature.
• Look round the world, says he, contemplate the whole and every part of it ; you will find it to be noching but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions, to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. All these various machines, and even their most minute parts are adjusted to each other with an accuracy, which ravishes into admiration all men, who have ever contemplaced them. The curious adapring of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exaélly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human cont ivance, of human design, thought, wildoin, and intelligence. Since therefore the effects refemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is fome. what fimilar to the mind of man ; inovgh possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work, which he has executed. By this argument a polleriori, and by this argument alone, do we prove at once the existence of a Deity, and his similarity to human mind and intelligence." 'In regard to the argument a priori, as it is called, Cleanthes endeavours to thew its fallacy, and that it is of very little consequence to the cause of true piety or religion,
'! I shall
• I shall begin, says he, with observing, that there is an evident absurdity in pretending to demonstrate a matter of fact, or to prove it by any argument a priori. Nothing is demonftrable, unless the contrary implies a contradi&tion. Nothing, thar is distinctly con. ceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as exiit. ent, we can also conceive as non-exiftent. There is no being, there. fore, whole non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is no being, whose existence is demonftrable. I propose this argument as, entirely decisive, and am willing to rest the whole controversy upon it.'
Cleanthes, our Readers have already seen, is of opinion that the ascribing of infinite perfections to the Deity leads into absurdities, and has no influence on the affections or sentiments; and that, if we suppose the Author of Nature to be finitely perfect, we may give a satisfactory account of natural and moral evil, explain and adjust every untoward phenomenon. .
Now, if the Author of Nature be finitely perfect, his perfections are limited, or, in other words, he is an imperfect Being; and yet Cleanthes, in another passage, says that he is a Being perfectly good, wife, and powerful.
• The most agreeable reflection, says he, which it is poffible for human imagination to suggest, is that of genuine Theism, which represents us as the workmanship of a Being perfectly good, wise, and powerful ; who created us for happiness, and who, having implanted in us immeasurable desires of good, will prolong our existence to all eternity, and will transfer us into an infinite variety of scenes in order to satisfy those desires, and render our felicity complete and durable. Next to such a Being himself (if the comparison be allowed) the happiest lor which we can imagine, is that of being under his guardianship and protection.'- si SIC OMNIA!
It is not our business to answer Mr. Hume, but it is obvious to remark, that a Being finitely perfect, cannot be perfectly wise and good. The character of Cleanthes, therefore, is not confiftent; nor is it properly supported; for an accurate philosopher should have shewn, clearly and distinctly, upon philosophical principles, by what steps he rose to the idea of a perfectly wise and good Being, and what reasons he had for concluding that this Being would prolong our existence to all eternity, and make us completely happy.
But we now proceed to lay before our Readers Mr. Hume's own sentiments in the character of the careless sceptic,'Philo: -He acknowledges that a purpose, an intention, a design, strikes every where the most stupid thinker, the most careless obferver of nature, that no man can be so hardened in absurd fyftems, as at all times to reject it; that in many views of the universe, and of its parts, particularly the latter, the beauty and fitness of final causes strike us with such irresistible force, that all objetions appear (what he believes they really are)
that make used to lay of the an intentie molt
mere cavils and sophisms; and that we cannot then imagine how it was ever possible for us to lay any stress on them. But there is no view of human life, he tells us, from which, without the greatest violence, we can infer the moral attributes, or learn infinite benevolence, conjoined with infinite power and infinite wisdom, which we must discover by the eyes of faith alone. He thinks it extremely unreasonable to form our ideas of the Author of Nature from our experience of the narrow productions of human design and invention, and says that it is impofible for us to tell, from our limited views, whether the present system of things deserves any considerable praise, if compared to other posible, and even real systems.
• Could a peasant, says he, if the Eneid were read to him, pronounce that poem to be absolutely faultless, or even assign to it its proper rank among the productions of human wit, he, who had gever seen any other production? : . But were chis world ever so perfect a production, it moft ftill semain uncertain, whether all the excellencies of the work can juftly be ascribed to the workmar. If we survey a thip, what an exalted idea must we form of the ingenuity of the carpenter, who framed so complicated, useful, and beautiful a machine! And what surprize must we feel, when we find him a stupid mechanic, who imitated others, and copied an art, which, through a long succellion of ages, after multiplied trials, mittakes, correciions, deliberations, and contro. verlies, had been gradually improving! Many worlds might have been botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this fyftem was ftruck out: much labour loit : many fruitless trials made: and a flow, but continued improvement carried on doring infinite ages in the art of world making. In such subjects, who can determige, where the truth, nay, who can conjecture where the probability, lies, amidt a great number of hypotheses which may be proposed, and a still greater number, which may be imagined
• In a word, CLEANTHES, a man, who follows your hypothesis, is able, perhaps, to affert, or conjecture, that the universe, fome. time, arose from something like design: bạt beyond that position he cannot ascertain one single circumstance, and is left afterwards to fix every point of his theology, by the utmost licence of fancy and hypothesis. This world, for aught he knows, is very faulty and imperfect, compared to a superior standard ; and was only the first rude effay of some infant Deity, who' afterwards, abandoned it, alhamed of his lame performance: it is the work only of some dependent, inferior Deity; and is the object of derision to his superiors: it is the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated Deity; and ever fince his death, has run on at adventure, from the first impulse and active force, which is received from him. You juftly give signs of horror, DeMEA, at these strange suppositions: but shese, and a thousand more of the same kind, are CLEANThes's fuppofitions, not mine.
* There occurs to me another hypothesis, which must acquire an air of probability from the method of reasoning so much inlifted on