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find reason, at every step of this private retrospect, to confess the agency of a beneficent Providence, and may even see to a very great extent, how "all things have worked together for good." And when all these results of Divine Providence are connected with the felicities of the Eternal world, he may, without difficulty, conceive of the course through which he has been led, as having been, all circumstances considered, the very best. And so far this survey may accord with the superintendence of a Being infinitely good and wise. Hence he may derive powerful arguments for the existence of such a Providence, and for its specific quality, as particular. It is in the same view, also, he will find the most touching and efficient motives to gratitude and future confidence. But at every step beyond the circumference of this contracted circle, our difficulties increase in a more than geometrical ratio. We become bewildered in a world of figures of all shapes and dimensions, which we know not how to reduce to any order, or to any conceivable system. We see the agency of Providence so indefinitely varied, capable of aspects and interpretations so different, so many points of intersection and counteraction between Divine volition and human volition, and, in the vast majority of cases, so mournful a predominance of evil, that we cannot profess, from such a survey alone, to support the doctrine in question.
Though, from the dictates of Revelation, we feel impelled to believe in such a superintendence of human affairs, as is perfectly good, and consistent with the attributes of the great Moral Governor, yet, the issues of his government, as they are seen only in this life, and in the present state of things, and without a knowledge of their relations to other parts of the universe, leave us utterly incapable of inferring the infinite goodness of that government. We feel perfectly confident that, if there is a system and a plan pursued by the great Governor, it must have its chief and ultimate respect to the future and eternal state; and this reference must with him be universal and supreme, as to the parts of the present system; for this reason, therefore, no detached part can be a criterion of the whole, no view can be complete which is not as wide as HIS,* and no survey of the
We ought to possess not much less than his omniscience to be able to comprehend the reasons which have guided, in every instance, the determinations of his Providence. It should be enough to us to know that, whatever these reasons are, they must be worthy of infinite intelligence, or at least, of a piece with that perfection of wisdom and art which we see in the whole of the inanimate creation.'-Price (Dr.) on Providence. p. 13.
ends of this system can be correct, which does not embrace the ends which HE is pursuing: how then, are they to be appre hended by creatures like ourselves?
We wish not to be misunderstood, as if we were for prohibiting all endeavours to trace in the great political and moral changes, which are so continually taking place, the presiding wisdom and over-ruling power of the great Lord of all, or as if we thought that no visible progress is taking place in the accomplishment of his profound and gracious designs. Far otherwise. We think that, inspected by the light of Revelation, the page of history will afford many impressive and grand exhibitions of a presiding Providence, and that the whole past scene will supply adequate proofs of design and system; perhaps we ought to say, rational proofs of a good design; but not, by itself, sufficient proof to warrant the inference, that the whole is the best that infinite goodness could possibly have devised. Surely, it is not in any of those isolated or, rather, fragmentary views of the mighty plan, which we are capable of taking, that any argument can be grounded one way or the other. We, therefore, deprecate resting the proof of the doctrine of Providence, or of the perfect and infinite goodness of Providence, upon any survey that does not take in the whole, that does not view present events in their future, and remote, and eternal issues.
None can believe more firmly than ourselves, in the doctrine of Providence, and in its particularity; but we feel constrained to say, that, in many cases, and indeed as the doctrine bears upon the mighty mass of created intelligences, it is pure belief; for we confess our absolute incompetence to say from actual observation, and in the train of fair inference, how far the best has been done. To us, in a multitude of instances, better seems conceivable. And yet, the doctrine implies the belief, that the greatest possible good shall be effected. We are sure, a priori,' that it is so. But to prove it so by induction from fact, is what we dare not attempt, and what we are strongly disposed to assert, no finite mind can do. Nay, we feel inclined to think it somewhat probable, that this very subject will be a problem of sufficient complexity, to engage in its solution the perfected faculties of human, and of angelic intelligences, through the eternity to which they are destined. And, even then, the final issues, perhaps, of the amazing scheme, may be remote or concealed from their concentrated inspection;' since it is conceivable, that, at the utmost imaginable distance forward in that Eternity, these intelligences may be as far as ever from a comprehension of those essential principles in the system, which have their origin in the abysses of the Diving
Essence, where we are sure there will be found insurmountable obstacles to a full understanding either of God or of any one of his attributes. We admit, indeed, that the fact of the unceasing, omnipotent, and universal agency of the Supreme Being, is sufficiently exhibited in every department of the creation. Let these parts be contemplated individually, and analyzed to the utmost possible minuteness; or let any number of them be viewed in their physical relations, in their fitness to one another, in their barmony and systematic beauty, in their multiplied and diverse uses, in their connexion with the material universe; and then, let the subserviency of the whole to the intellectual and moral economy of man be considered; and let these relations among animate and inanimate, material and intellectual things, be connected, as they manifestly are, with the highest possible interests of the rational being, his immortality, his eternal happiness; and we shall have, indeed, magnificent illustrations, and irresistible proofs of the Being and Attributes of Deity. But when we enter, what may not unfitly be denominated the region of combined agencies, when we consider human volition and human power in combination with those of angelic beings, both good and bad, and all these in an infinite variety of ways, connected with, and subject to the Divine Agency; when all these distinct, opposing, or combined powers, are viewed in a state of incessant and intense action, through the whole system of the moral world, or even as they may bear upon one single event, we must confess, that like an untaught eye looking on a complex piece of machinery, we can only see one wheel moving one way, and one another, and numberless intricate evolutions, which have no visible tendency to the end for which the whole is designed. We conceive, that though, here and there, an event may be seen which illustrates the doctrine of Divine Providence, in a very striking manner, yet, it will not do to pursue the doctrine through each distinct event of the moral and political world. We may believe that the whole is harmonious, and is tending to one distinct point; but it is not in contemplating the units of this wonderful series of transactions; it is not in viewing the plan of the Almighty in detached sections or periods, that we can gain a truly rational proof of the doctrine in question, or a consistent idea of the infinite goodness of that Being, who presides over the whole. This must, in a system which has admitted the existence of evil, be a matter of faith, and until the issue of the whole scheme arrives, must rest on the assurance he has himself given, and which reason confirms, that he is infinitely good. This point our readers may see ably argued by Dr. Samuel Clarke in his twelfth Proposition of the Being and Attributes of God.
The volume before us does not indeed profess to offer any reasonings upon the ultimate ends of God in the Reformation, nor any abstract speculations upon the system of Providence. It does not even attempt to view the Reformation effected in this country, in any of its relations to the system of Providence at large, or to the advancement of a similar reformation in the other nations of Europe; it does not attempt to detail the actual, or the principal benefits already derived by this country, or yet to be derived, from that event; but taking it, we suppose, as an admitted fact, that, upon the whole, the benefits of the Reformation have been very great, and hinting in no very obscure terms, that the production of the English Episcopal Church, was the chef d'œuvre of the whole series of events, from the Reformation to the Revolution in 1688, he proceeds throughout the volume, to detail those great events and circumstances, both antecedent and concurrent, which tended to the accomplishment of the end! which Providence is supposed to have bad in view-the Establishment of the Episcopal Church in its present state.
The following is the development of the Author's intentions, and exhibits a specimen of the mode of reasoning which he every where pursues, though not always with equal success.
In order to avoid the dangers of mistake, or oversight, I have confined myself to a period, within which, a distinct and definite portion of one of the systems of providential government, which are pursued, is, as I conceive, comprehended. It is a period, within which, changes have taken place in our religion and government, incalculably the most momentous that have ever occurred. shall have occasion to consider the rise and progress of the Reformation, together with those principles of civil liberty, which began to prevail about the same time; and how they both, from small be. ginnings, proceeded, gradually increasing in strength, until they at length terminated, the one in that happy settlement of religious affairs, which is at present established by law; the other in that wise and equitable adjustment of political rights, which is recognised in the constitution. In the course of these changes, it will be found, that the events, out of which they arose, were marvellously accommodated to the gradual and complete development of the principles which were in the end successful. And from the singular aids which the system of religious and political improvement received, at its commencement, throughout its progress, and until its accomplishment, we may fairly conclude, that it was upheld and promoted by the Supreme Being, who can make the perverse actions, and the interested policy of man, subservient to his gracious purposes, and 'convert events, which are apparently fraught with the most direful con sequences, into the happy means of ameliorating the moral and political condition of the human race. But in order to proceed in a matter of this importance, with all due caution, it will be first necessary to
ascertain of what nature and character those events must be, from which we are authorized to conclude, that sublunary affairs are, in reality, under the immediate controul of providence.
If any number of individuals should conspire to forward a particular scheme, and should, through a series of ingenious devices, at length effectually accomplish it; this being the result of human contrivance, and human foresight merely, we could not with propriety, refer it to providence. If many individuals, even without concert, appeared occasionally to assist in promoting some desirable end, whilst they were respectively intent on other objects, we might think it extraordinary, and regard it as one of those lucky accidents which sometimes occur in life; but we would argue rashly, if we from thence concluded, that it was intended by providence. These things we often experience, and it is not in the nature of chance, to prevent combinations of events from taking place, which, if considered in themselves, have many appearances of design about them. Thus, if two persons, ignorant of the game of chess, should sit down to a chess table, and amuse themselves pushing the men about, they might accidentally, in some few instances, appear to be playing a game with skill; the men might be occasionally disposed in good order. / This, however, could only be momentary, and these appearances must vanish very soon, insomuch, that if two such persons kept up the appearance of skilful play for half a game together, it would be looked upon as next to a miracle. But if the principal ministers in the several courts in Europe, seemed, by their measures, to be acting in concert, for some beneficial end; if these appearances were kept up by their successors, for a great number of years together; if the great men, who figured on the theatre of public life, seemed to be called into action, and to disappear, just as the exigencies of this system required; if the course of events, over which they had little controul, was wonderfully favourable to its successful accomplishment; and if, at the same time, we had the most satisfactory proof, that this was done without any concert; that such concert was altogether impossible; and that the agents concerned in it, always had other, and frequently adverse ends in view, I would as soon believe, that the two persons above mentioned, could play a series of difficult and interesting games of chess, by shuffling the men about promiscuously, as that chance could have given birth to this wisely concerted scheme, which had been carried on so long, in which nothing appeared undesigned, but in which every thing indicated the most profound design, and the most skilful arrangement. No, though chance does not preclude occasional appearances of design, in things which are purely accidental, yet as chance never acts uniformly and consistently, so we should never attribute to it those systems which have been contrived with wisdom, and pursued with regularity, for any considerable length of time; and if such systems are not referrible to the intentional co-operation of the agents concerned in them, they must be attributed unreservedly to the wisdom and goodness of providence.
The reader will judge, whether the system which I have attempted to develop, corresponds in any remarkable manner, to the case just