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kind, any dependency upon supernatural aid, by unfixing those motives which promote exertion, or by relaxing those habits which engender patient industry, might introduce negligence, inactivity, and disorder, into the most useful occupations of human life; and thereby deteriorate the condition of human life itself.
As moral agents we should experience a still greater alteration, of which more will be faid under the next article.
Although therefore the Deity, who possesses the power of winding and turning,as he pleases, the course of causes which issue from himself, do in fact interpose to alter or intercept effects, which without such interposition would have taken place, yet is it by no means incredible, that his Providence, which always rests upon final good, may have made a reserve with respect to the manisestation of his interserence, a part of the very plan which he has appointed for our terrestrial existence, and a part conformable with, or, in some sort, required by, other parts of the fame plan. It is at any rate evident, that a large and ample province remains for the exercise of Providence, without its being naturally perceptible by us; because obscurity, when applied to the interruption of
laws, laws, bears a necessary proportion to the imperfection of our knowledge when applied to the laws themselves, or rather to the effects, which these laws, under their various and incalculable combinations, would of their own accord produce. And if it be faid, that the doctrine of divine Providence, by reason of the ambiguity under which its exertions present themselves, can be attended with no practical influence upon our conduct; that, al» though we believe ever so firmly that there is a Providence; we must prepare, and provide, and act, as if there were none; I answer, that this is'admitted: and that we further alledge, that so to prepare, and so to provide, is consistent with the most perfect assurance of the reality of a Providence; and not only so, but that it is, probably, one advantage of the present state of our information, that our proviT sions and preparations are not disturbed by it. Or if it be still asked, of what use at all then is the doctrine, if it neither alter our measures nor regulate our conduct, I answer again, that it is of the greatest use, but that, it is a doctrine of sentiment and piety, not (immediately at least) of action or conduct; that it applies to the consolation of men's minds, to their
devotions, devotions, to the excitement of gratitude, the support of patience, the keeping alive and the strengthening of every motive for endeavouring to please our Maker; and that these are great uses.
Of all views under which human life has ever been considered, the most reasonable in my judgment is that, which regards it as a , state of probation. If the course of the world were separated from the contrivances of nature, I do not know that it would be necessary to look for any other account of it, than what, if it may be called an account, is contained in the answer, that events rise up by chance. But since the contrivances of nature decidedly evince intention; and since the course of the world and the contrivances of nature have the fame author; we are, by the force of this connection, led to believe, that the appearance, under which events take place, is reconcileable with the supposition of design on the part of the Deity, it is enough that they be reconcileable with this supposition (and it is undoubtedly true, that they may be reconcileable, though we cannot reconcile them): the mind, however, which contemplates the works of nature, and, in those works, sees so much of means directed to
2 O ends, ends, of beneficial effects brought about by wise expedients, of concerted trains of causes terminating in the happiest results; so much, in a word, of counsel, intention, and benevolence: a mind, I fay, drawn into the habit of thought which these observations excite, can hardly turn its view to the condition of our own species, without endeavouring to suggest to itself some purpose, some design, for which the state in which we are placed is fitted, and which it is made to serve. Now we assert the most probable supposition to be, that it is a state of moral probation; and that many things in it suit with this hypothesis, which suit with no other. It is not a state of unmixed happiness, or of happiness simply: it is not a slate of designed misery, or of misery simply; it is not a state of retribution; it is not a state of punishment. "It suits with none of these suppositions. It accords much better with the idea of its being a condition calculated for the production, exercise, and improvement, of moral qualities, with a view to a future state, in which, these qualities, after being so produced, exercised, and improved, may, by a new and more favoring constitution of things, receive their reward,
or become their own. If it be said, that this is to enter upon a religious rather than a philosophical consideration, I answer that the name of religion ought to form no objection, if it shall turn put to be the case, that the more religious our views ate, the more probable they become. The degree of beneficence, of benevolent intention, and of power, exercised in the construction of sensitive beings, goes strongly in favor, not only of a creative, but of a continuing care, that is, of a ruling Piovidence. The degree of chance which appears to prevail in the world requires to be reconciled with this hypothesis. Now it is one thing to maintain the doctrine of Providence along' with that of a future state, and another thing without it. In my opinion the two doctrines must stand or fall together. For although more of this apparent chance, may perhaps, upon other principles, be accounted for, than is generally supposed, yet a future state alone rectifies all disorders; and if it can be shewn that the appearance of disorder, is consistent with the uses of life, as a preparatory state, or that in some respects it promotes these uses, then, so far as this hypothesis may be accepted, the ground of the difficulty is done away.