Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and vice. Patience and composure under distress, affliction, and pain; a steadfast keeping up of -our confidence in God, and of our reliance upon his final goodness, at the time when every thing present is adverse and discouraging; and (what is no less difficult to retain) a cordial desire for the happiness of others, even when we are deprived of our owl'. these dispositions, which constitute, perhaps, the persection of our moral nature, would not have found their proper office and object in a state of avowed retribution; and in which, consequently, endurance of evil would be only submission to punishment.

Again; one man's sufferings may be another man's trial. The family of a sick parent is a school of filial piety. The charities of domestic life, and not only these, but all the social virtues, are called out by distress. But then, misery, to be the proper object of mitigation, or of that benevolence which endeavours to relieve, must be really or apparently casual. It is upon such sufferings alone that benevolence can operate. For were there no evils in the world, but what were punishments, properly and intelligibly such, benevolence would only stand in the way of justice. Such evils, consistently sistently with the administration of moral government, could not be prevented or alleviated, that is to fay, could not be remitted in whole or in part, except by the authority which inflicted them, or by an appellate or superior authority. This consideration, which is founded in our most acknowledged apprehensions of the nature of penal justice, may possess its weight in the Divine councils. Virtue perhaps is the greatest of all ends. In human beings relative virtues form a large part of the whole. Now relative virtue presupposes, not only the existence of evil, without which it could have no object, no material to work upon, but that evils be, apparently at least, misfortunes; that is, the effects of apparent chance. It may be in pursuance, therefore, and in furtherance of the fame scheme of probation, that the evils of life are made so to present themselves, . », .,

I have already observed that, when we let in religious considerations, we often let in light upon the difficulties of nature. So in the fact now to be accounted for, the degree of happiness, which we usually enjoy in this life, maybe better suited to a state of trial and probation, than, a greater degree would be. The truth is, we are rather too much delighted with the world, than too little. Impersect, broken, and precarious as our pleasures are, they are more than sufficient to attach us to the eager pursuit of them. A regard to a future state can hardly keep its place as it is. If we were designed therefore to be influenced by that regard, might not a more indulgent system, a higher, or more uninterrupted state of gratification, have interfered with the design? At least it seems expedient, that mankind would be susceptible of this influence, when presented to them; that the condition of the world should not be such as to exclude its operation, or even to weaken it more than it does. In a religious view (however we may complain of them in every other) privation, difappointment, and fatiety, are not without the most salutary tendencies.

CHAPCHAPTER XXVII.

CONCLUSION.

In all cases, wherein the mind feels itself in danger of being confounded by variety, it is sure to rest upon a few strong points, or perhaps upon a single instance. Amongst a multitude of proofs, it is one that does the business. If we observe in any argument, that hardly two minds fix upon the fame instance, the diversity of choice shows the strength of the argument, because it shows the number and competition of the examples. There is no subject in which the tendency to dwell upon select or single topics is so usual, because there is no subject, of which, in its full extent, the latitude is so great, as that of natural history applied to the proof of an intelligent Creator. For my part, I take my stand in human anatomy: and the examples of mechanism I should be apt to draw out from the copious catalogue which it supplies, are the pivot upon which the head turns, the ligament within the socket of the hip joint, the pulley or trochlear muscle of the eye, the epiglottis, the bandages which tie down the tendons of the wrist and instep, the flit or perforated muscles at the hands and feet, the knitting of the intestines to the mesentery, the course of the chyle into the blood, and the constitution of the sexes as extended throughout the whole of the animal creation. To these instances, the reader's memory will go back, as they are severally set forth in their places: there is not one of the number which I do not think decisive; not one which is not strictly mechanical: nor have I read or heard of any solution of these appearances, which, in the smallest degree, lakes, the conclusion that we build upon them.

But, of the greatest part of those, who, either in this book or any other, read arguments to prove the existence of a God, it will be faid, that they leave off only where they began; that they were never ignorant of this great truth, never doubted of it; that it does not therefore appear, what is gained by researches from which no new opinion is learnt, and upon the subject of which no proofs were wanted. Now I answer, that, by invcjligation, the following points are always gained,

in

« VorigeDoorgaan »