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course of the world and the contrivances 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 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 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 favouring 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 favour, 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 uscs, 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 various. 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 speak 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 circumstances. 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 slave's 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 variety, in these inartificial societies, as they are, or do, in polished life. Certain at least it is, that the good and 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 our 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 our most permanent happiness, will depend, not upon the temporary condition into which we are cast, but upon our behaviour 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 portion of faculties and opportunities, as any unknown cause, or concourse of causes, or as causes acting for other purposes, may happen to set them out: but the event is governed by that which depends upon themselves, the application of what
* The reader will observe, that I speak of the revelation of Christianity as distinct from Christianity itself. The dispensation may already be universal. That part of mankind which never heard of Christ's name, 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 lunger upon it
they have received. In dividing the talents, no rule was observed: none was necessary : in rewarding the use of them, that of the most correct justice. The chief difference at last appears to be, that the right use of more talents, i. e. of a greater trust, will be more highly rewarded, than the right use of fewer talents, i. e. of a less trust. And since, for other purposes, it is expedient that there be an inequality of concredited talents here, as well, probably, as an inequality of conditions hereafter, though all remuneratory; can any rule, adapted to that inequality, be more agreeable, even to our apprehensions of distributive justice, than this is?
We have said, that the appearance of casualty, which attends the occurrences and events of life, not only does not interfere with its uses, as a state of probation, but that it promotes these uses.
Passive virtues, of all others the severest and the most sublime ; of all others, perhaps, the most acceptable to the Deity; would, it is evident, be excluded from a constitution, in which happiness and misery regularly followed virtue 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 own; these dispositions, which constitute, perhaps, the perfection 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 with the administration of moral government, could not be prevented or alleviated; that is to say, 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 counsels. 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 same 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, may be 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. Imperfect, 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 should 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, disappointment, and satiety, are not without the most salutary tendencies.
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 same instance, the diversity of choice shows the strength of the argument, because it shows the number and competition of the examples.