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membered, that as the inanimate world is made to concur with the Divine scheme in a mechanical, and the animal in an instinctive, manner, so rational beings, if they concur at all, must concur in a manner suitable to their nature; I mean, in a rational, free, and voluntary manner.
It has likewise been said, Why did not the scheme of the moral government of the world take in such a succession of continual interpositions, as would have effectually forced men to have been virtuous? To this may be answered, first, That miracles continued would soon be no miracles, and consequently would have no effects different from those produced by the common course of nature and, secondly, That if Omnipotence were continually, from time to time, to strike offenders dead, it is to be questioned whether abstinence from vice, and the forced practice of virtue, which would be the consequence, would be sufficient, in the nature of things, to render moral agents capable of any high degree of happiness. For, suppose it were affirmed, that there is a natural absurdity, or inconsistency, in proposing to bestow upon an order of creatures a very high degree of happiness, upon any other footing than in consequence of their having passed with honour and victory through a state of probation, in which there was some difficulty and danger, though not unsurmountable: suppose it were alleged, that there is a necessity in the nature of things, that the happiness of all rational beings be proportioned and suited to their state of probation: who could contradict this, or show the bare possibility how such a creature as man could, in a constancy with his own nature, and the Divine Rectitude, come to such a degree and kind of happiness, as we believe to be intended for him, without such a preparation as he is to pass through in the present state? If we judge according to what experience teaches us of our own turn of mind, which in all probability is universal, we cannot suppose the happiness even of heaven itself would prove a happiness to beings who should attain it too easily. When a prince, educated from his infancy in expectation of the regal dignity, comes to mount the throne of his ancestors, we do not find that it gives him any greater joy, than an heir to a very small fortune has
in entering upon his estate. But suppose a private person unexpectedly raised from poverty, and even from the fear of death, to an imperial throne; the transport of an elevation so unexpected, from circumstances so grievous, will be likely to endanger his losing his senses. It is to be supposed that, to a species of beings created in heaven, or transported thither they knew not how, it would in reality be no heaven: nor is there any possibility of conceiving of an order of being raised to a station of happiness without passing through a state of trial, who should not be in danger of falling from it again, for want of having been disciplined to virtue, and in a rational, as well as habitual manner attached to goodness and obedience. So that trial and discipline seem necessary to be gone through by every species (I do not say by every individual) throughout the rational creation, sooner or later.
It has likewise been asked on this subject, how the justice of the immensely different fates of two persons, one of which proves obedient, and the other wicked, appears; since it may often be supposed that he who has actually proved virtuous, might, in more disadvantageous circumstances, have been overcome by the severity of his trial, and been a reprobate; and he, who, by the force of very powerful temptations, has been seduced, might, in circumstances more favourable to virtue, have stood his ground, and in the end come to happiness?
This seeming difficulty is not very hard to obviate : for, first, as to him who comes to happiness, no one ever thought of injustice in the case of a benefit bestowed. And he, who is Lord of all, may, without question, do with his own what he will; he may give to one of his creatures such advantages as shall in the event produce the effect of qualifying him for final happiness. But the other, whose advantages were inferior, will not he have just ground for complaint? By no means. If the advantages, he enjoyed, were fully sufficient, he stands self-condemned for having abused them; nor could he in reason expect them to be more than sufficient, much less to be greatly above what was sufficient, and least of all, to be equal to the greatest advantages ever allowed to any other person. Upon the whole, nothing is more evident than that the
being, who has actually proved obedient, by whatever means he has been brought to goodness, is, according to the nature and fitness of things, rewardable; and that the soul, which sins, does in strict justice deserve to die.
The case of that very considerable part of the human species, which is cut off in immature age, without any opportunity of going through any trial in life, seems, at first view, to lessen the force of what I have been saying of the necessity of a state of discipline, to form the mind to virtue. For what is to become of those who die in infancy? Are they annihilated? Are they happy or miserable in a future state, who have done neither good or evil? Or do they go through a state of discipline in their separate existence?
To what may be said on this point, I have the following brief answers to offer: First, what I have above said of the necessity of a state of discipline, must be understood to be meant of a species in general. Perhaps the circumstances of the bulk of a species' having gone through a state of discipline, may be sufficient for making such an impression upon the other, who happened to escape it, as may keep them to the steady practice of virtue in all future states. This may be the case; and yet it might be absurd to imagine a whole species raised to happiness without at least a considerable part of them going through a discipline for virtue, and thereby being qualified to instruct their more unexperienced fellow-beings in the importance of keeping to their duty, and the fatal danger and direful effects of swerving from it. So that what was above said of the necessity of a state of discipline for every species of rational agents in the universe, stands upon the same footing, notwithstanding this difficulty.
But if every period of the existence of a free agent be, in fact, a state of trial and discipline, in which it is possible (though still less and less probable, according to their farther improvements in virtue,) that they should fall; we may then conceive of the possibility of surmounting this difficulty by supposing that those of the human species, who do not go through a state of discipline in this life, may be hereafter made partakers of a lower degree of happiness, (as we are in Scripture informed, that the mansions of fu
ture bliss are various,) which may prove their state of trial, as the paradisiacal was intended to have been for our species, and the angelic was of Satan and his angels. And as Adam, and the rebellious angels, fell from a higher state than that which we are placed in, so may many of those of our species, whose first state of discipline may commence after this life is over, and after our world is judged and brought to its consummation. If so, those of us who have past through this mortal life in such a manner as to be found fit objects of the Divine Mercy, will have great reason to congratulate ourselves on our having passed the danger, and being more secure of our happiness, than those whom we are now apt to envy for their getting out of life so easily for we know not what we ought to wish for, but He, who made us, knows.
If any reader should imagine, that I intended to establish any one hypothesis as the real account of this matter, he mistakes my design. All I mean by what I have advanced, is only to show, that the circumstance of a considerable part of our species' passing through no state of discipline in this life, does not invalidate the necessity of a discipline to be gone through by every species of free creatures, in order to their being effectually attached to virtue, and so fitted for higher degrees of happiness and glory.
If after all that has been said, and more which might be offered, if it were proper, there should remain difficulties with respect to the august economy of the infinitely wise and good Governor of the world; if such short-sighted beings as we are, should no way be able to reconcile the seeming contradictions, and surmount the supposed difficulties; this is no more than might have been expected. We are, through the meanness of our faculties, ignorant of infinitely more particulars than we know, in all extensive subjects; and we see but part of one scene in the immense drama of the moral world. But in what little we see, we observe a thousand times more than would have been sufficient to prove a wise and good government already begun, and going on to perfection. If, therefore, we have any candour, or any judgment to form a reasonable deduction of one thing from another, we cannot avoid concluding, that what we do not comprehend of the Divine
Scheme, is of a piece with what we do comprehend, and that the whole is established upon, and conducted by, perfect and unerring rectitude.
The very circumstance of the difficulty we find in comprehending the whole of the Divine Scheme, both in the natural and moral world, while at the same time we find we can enter into them so far, and see so much of wisdom and contrivance, is a beauty, and a proof that the Author is one whose ways are immensely above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts.
Considering the superabundant care that has been taken for putting, and keeping us in the way to happiness, I think it may be fairly concluded, that whoever is not satisfied with the Divine wisdom and goodness apparent in the conduct of the moral world, would not be satisfied with any possible degree of them. And it is only going on in the same way of finding fault, wherever we do not understand, and we shall at last take exception against all possibility of guilt and consequent unhappiness, and blame our Maker, if we are not brought into the world at once perfect seraphs; if this earth is not the third region of the heavens; if we cannot give ourselves up to the most sordid lusts and passions, and yet be prepared for, and admitted to the conversation of angels and archangels. But when weak short-sighted man has racked his narrow invention to start or to solve a thousand imaginary difficulties in the economy of the infinite Governor of the Universe, it will be found at last, that though clouds and darkness are around about him, yet righteousness and justice are the habitation of his throne.
Wherein the requisite Concurrence of moral Agents consists. Our Species under a threefold Obligation; the first respecting themselves, the second their Fellow-creatures, and the third, their Creator. Of the first of these, to wit, The due Care and regulation of the mental and animal Natures.
THE requisite concurrence of moral agents, of whatever rank or order, or their conformity to the grand design of the Universal Governor, which is the ground-work of universal harmony, perfection, and happiness throughout