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world, all conduce to the well going on of human affairs, just as the rudder, the sails, and the ballast of a ship, all perform their part in the navigation. Now, since these characters require for their foundation different original talents, different dispositions, perhaps also different bodily constitutions; and since, likewise, it is apparently expedient, that they be promiscuously scattered amongst the different classes of society; can the distribution of talents, dispositions, and the constitutions upon which they depená be better made than by chance?
The opposites of apparent chance are, constancy and sensible interposition; every degree of secret direction being consistent with it. Now, of constancy, or of fixed and known rules, we have seen in some cases the inapplicability; and inconveniences which we do not see, might attend their application in other cases.
Of sensible interposition we may be permitted to remark, that a Providence, always and certainly distinguishable, would be neither more nor less than miracles rendered frequent and common. It is difficult to judge of the state into which this would throw us. It is enough to say, that it would cast us upon a quite different dispensation from that under which we live. It would be a total and radical change. And the change would deeply affect, or perhaps subvert, the whole conduct of human affairs. I can readily believe, that, other circumstances being adapted to it, such a state might be better than our present state. It may be the state of other beings; it may be ours hereafter. But the question with which we are now concerned is, how far it would be consistent with our condition, supposing it in other respects to remain as it is? And in this question there seems to be reasons of great moment on the negative side. For instance; so long as bodily labor continues, on so many accounts, to be necessary for the bulk of mankind, 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 said 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 it is by no means incredible, that his Providence, which always rests upon final good, may have made a reserve with respect to the manifestation of his interference, 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 same 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, 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 said, 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, although 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 farther allege, 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 provisions 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, to the excitement of gratitude, the support of patience, the keeping alive and the strengthening of every motive for endeavouring to please vur 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 contrivan
ces of nature have the same author; we are, by the force of this connexion, led to believe, that the appearance under which events take place, is reconcilable with the supposition of design on the part of the Deity. It is enough that they be reconcilable with this supposition; and it is undoubtedly true, that they may be reconcilable, 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 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 say, 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 no other. It is not a state of unmixed happiness, or of happiness simply: it is not a state 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 out to be the case, that the more religious our views are, the more probability they contain 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 Providence. 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 shown, 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.
In the wide scale of human condition, there is not perhaps one of its manifold diversities which does not bear upon the design here suggested. Virtue is infinitely vari
There is no situation in which a rational being is placed, from that of the best instructed Christian down to the condition of the rudest barbarian, which affords not room for moral agency; for the acquisition, exercise, and display of voluntary qualities, good and bad. Health and sickness, enjoyment and suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilisation and barbarity, have all their offices and duties, all serve for the formation of character: for when we spesk of a state of trial, it must be-remembered, that characters are not only tried, or proved, or detected, but that they are generated also, and formed by circumstan
The best dispositions may subsist under the most depressed, the most afflicted fortunes. A West Indian slave, who, amidst his wrongs, retains his benevolence, I, for my part, look upon, as amongst the foremost of human candidates for the rewards of virtue. The kind master of such a slave, that is, he who, in the exercise of an inordinate authority, postpones in any degree his own interest to his slaves' comfort, is likewise a meritorious character: but still he is inferior to his slave. All however which I contend for is, that these destinies, opposite as they may
be in every other view, are both trials; and equally such. The observation may be applied to every other condition; to the whole range of the scale, not excepting even its lowest extremity. Savages appear to us all alike; but it is owing to the distance at which we view savage life, that we perceive in it no discrimination of character. I make no doubt, but that moral qualities, both good and bad, are called into action as much, and that they subsist in as great a variety in these inartificial societies as they are, or do, in polished life. Certain at least it is, that the good or ill treatment which each individual meets with, depends more upon the choice and voluntary conduct of those about him, than it does, or ought to do, under regular civil institutions, and the coercion of public laws. So again, to turn
vur eyes to the other end of the scale, namely, that part of it which is occupied by mankind enjoying the benefits of learning, together with the lights of revelation, there also, the advantage is all along probationary. Christianity itself, I mean the revelation of Christianity, is not only a blessing, but a trial. It is one of the diversified means by which the character is exercised: and they who require of Christianity, that the revelation of it should be universal, may possibly be found to require, that one species of probation should be adopted, if not to the exclusion of others, at least to the narrowing of that variety which the wisdom of the Deity hath appointed to this part of his moral economy.*
Now if this supposition be well founded; that is, if it be true that our ultimate, or most permanent happiness will depend, not upon the temporary condition into which we are cast, but upon our behavior in it; then is it a much more fit subject of chance than we usually allow or apprehend it to be, in what manner the variety of external circumstances which subsist in the human world, is distributed amongst the individuals of the species. "This life being a state of probation, it is immaterial," says Rousseau, “what kind of trials we experience in it, provided they produce their effects.” Of two agents who stand indifferent to the moral Governor of the universe, one may be exercised by riches, the other by poverty. The treatment of these two shall appear to be very opposite, whilst in truth it is the same: for though, in many respects, there be great disparity between the conditions assigned, in one main article there may be none, viz, in that they are alike trials; have both their duties and temptations, not less arduous or less dangerous in one case than the other; so that if the final award follow the character, the original distribution of the circumstances under which that character is formed, may be defended upon principles not only of justice but of equality. What hinders, therefore, but that mankind may
draw lots for their condition? They take their
* The reader will observe, that I speak of the revelation of Christianity as distinct from Christianity itself. That dispensation may & ready be universal. That part of mankind which never heard of Christ's reme, may nevertheless be redeemed, that is, be placed in a better condition, with respect to their future state, by his intervention; may be the objects of his benignity and intercession, as well as of the propitiatory virtue of his passion. But this is not " natural theology," therefore I will not dwell longer upon it.