Imatges de pàgina

ment of indiscretion. I have no objection to a little pungent seasoning in a controversy, but it should be kept strictly within the line of civility and truth. To trifle with such a subject, is, I can truly assure him, as far from my intention as it can be from his; and the utmost I meant to express, was, that I thought she had ventured to expose herself to the charge from other quarters. 1.



Here then I take my leave of the subject and of Mr. T. A volunteer in the cause of truth and virtue, a favourable opportunity seemed to challenge my pen to oppose what I considered an error calculated to produce more mischief than good; and at the same time it served to divert the current of my thoughts from another channel. Having thus stated my reasons, I must leave the dispute to the examination of those who may have the inclination to attend to the arguments advanced on either side. I regret that I never knew the worthy Mrs. Cappe having nearly forty years ago had some intercourse with the family, it ended with placing them high in my estimation. And as to Mr. T., though personally unknown to each other, I freely extend my right hand in imagination half way to York, persuaded that he would not refuse me the ideal grasp of good fellowship.39601

4 5



must they ever remain with many additions, while, not satisfied with general principles, we must seek for a solution of difficulties of our own creating, and be prying into those inscrutable dispensations of Provi dence, which, being totally beyond the reach of our intelligence, it is folly to attempt to scrutinize. I do not presume to say that no such difficulties exist on the hypothesis of a general Providence, but I believe them to be neither so numerous nor so insuperas ble as the other side, of the argument affords. In either case the subject is much too abstruse to authorize such short-sighted mortals as we are to arrogate to ourselves the delusive pretensions to infallibility. As Mr. T. has passed unnoticed what I consider as the most important bearing on the question, I wish here to be allowed most strenuously to repeat it, viz. the doctrine of individual and uni versal responsibility for every being endued with the powers of reflection, and the fears or hopes connected with futurity. It is the safest side of the question; it appears to have the common consent of all mankind, it is the invariable language of revelation, it cannot exist with the tenets advo cated by my opponents; and if Pope was not the soundest philosopher, he was the most practical moralist when he describes Providence by its opera tions:

"Who binding nature fast in fate, Left free the human will."


Mr. T may accuse me of presumption; but to which of the two will the epithet most closely apply I, who seek not to dive into the in scrutable dispensations of Omniscience, who adore its attributes, and acknowledge my unbounded and happy confidence in its universal regula tions and appointments; or he, who, not satisfied with this, must undertake to explain what must to finite beings be incomprehensible? He may taunt me that in Mrs. C.'s state

ment of her particular case, I find

"only a fit subject for ridicule." This charge I repel with a conscious feeling of not deserving it. Here he is unguarded, and if he should think well to continue the controversy through the same channel, I think myself entitled to the acknowledg


P. S. I have hastily glanced over the remarks on Mr. Owen's plan by your correspondent Philadelphus, (pp. 450-457,) and though they contain many ideas I cannot approve, yet the general philanthrophy and good sense they display deserve in my opinion more of the public attention than the imperfect sanction of an anonymous signature is likely to impart. No real name can be so insignificant as a fictitious one.

[blocks in formation]

they by no means consider them as insurmountable. They admit that applications of this nature are numerous and urgent, but still hope for the assistance of that enlightened and most liberal body of Christians with whom they are connected.

17 Y

Allow me then to give the follow ing statement of their present circum, stances. The debt upon the Chapel is still 700, but by their own exertions and engaged assistance on the part of some friends, a list of whom with their subscriptions is now before me, they have it in their power to reduce it below 400, as the sum of 3117. 198. 6d. is already at their .command. This is in proof that they are in earnest, and most anxious to support the sacred cause in which we are all embarked, and still to enjoy the advantages and blessings of a pure and conscientious worship in the place in which they have for many years been accustomed to meet. I am requested to state that the above sum of 3117. 19s. 6d. is engaged for, on condition that the society succeed in their appeal to the liberality of the Unitarian public in carrying it up to 7004, and thus setting them free from the above pressure. Nor will any subscriptions be called for till the whole shall be subscribed. It is also an act of justice to the mortgagee to state here that his subscription is 1007.


499f1.46 96 of pard 505


Could the above be happily accomplished, the society will then find themselves at liberty for the necessary future exertions, and a regular or stated ministry might in no distant period be established among them. But if they unhappily fail, the property must of course be disposed of, and the society be possibly dispersed -a society once flourishing, and who then ever ready to extend to others, in circumstances of pressure, their friendly aid.



the possible power of Infinity itself to create a being not subject to moral and natural ill," or, as he afterwards explains it, to pain and misery.

How far your correspondent Mr. Hinton's claim to novelty in his speculations is well founded, I will not stop to inquire; but I should imagine that those who are acquainted with the pages of Archbishop King, Soame Jenyns, and Dr. Southwood Smith, on this difficult question, will not feel disposed to make so ample a conces sion as he may consider either him. self or Rusticus (p. 85) entitled to receive.

[ocr errors]



If the origin of evil is to be ascribed solely to the inability of the Deity to create an equal, if liability to error and misery must necessarily attach to every being not absolutely perfect; then it follows, that intelligences of the highest order," angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven," must be subject to the danger of erroneous conduct, and all its fatal consequences; and what is still more material, that the state of the righteous hereafter will be a state of uncertainty and peril. The unalloyed felicity which they are taught to ex pect after the present life, cannot, on this supposition, be permanently ensured to them, because it is utterly impossible that their Almighty Benefactor can make them his equals; and they who have been exalted to a condition of bliss, of which we can now form no adequate conception, may possibly in after ages forfeit that elevation, and sink as low in the abyss of wretchedness and horror. With such sentiments let it be observed, the popular creed, rejected by the Unitarians respecting the fate of the fallen angels, is perfectly in uni son. Should it be said, however, that the Deity having promised an eternity of happiness to those who have rendered themselves worthy of it, will assuredly adhere to bis pro mise, I answer that, according to the doctrine advocated by Mr. H., since the Supreme Ruler cannot work ime possibilities, all the energies of Om nipotence will not enable him to give unlimited duration to that happiness which, however exalted, must, from the imperfection of his creatures, be ever liable to interruption and failure.

If, again, it is alleged that he may






LAWRENCE HOLDEN. bung odd August 25, 1823. HE following reflections were suggested by the perusal of a paper in the Monthly Repository for July, (pp. 378-380,) on “the Introduction of Evil," and are chiefly applicable to the proposition which the author evidently considers as incontrovertible, that "it is not in

nevertheless prolong this state of felicity by repeated renewals, and fresh exertions of his power, I reply, that had it been his will he might by the frequent exertion of the same power have perpetuated such a state from the beginning, and might if consistent with his wisdom have rendered permanent by the same means, such a concurrence of moral circumstances as would in the first instance have prevented the wrong volitions of his rational creatures. In short, if it was impossible for the Divine Being to prevent the intrusion of evil into his works at any one period, it will be equally impossible at all times; for no improvements in the human mind, no future expedients adopted in the counsels of the Most High, can ever diminish the absurdity of supposing him capable of communicating to his creatures his own infi nite and adorable attributes

This cause, therefore, I confess, does not appear to me to afford a st tisfactory solution of the difficulty in question. Where a gradation of in telligent creatures is the system adopted, ed, and this we have reason to suppose is the only one consistent with optimism, the evils arising from imperfection must unavoidably exist; but surely the evils proceeding solely from this source, if, indeed, they deserve that name, may easily be imagined to take place, without the necessity of those dreadful ills to which human life is at present subject. The mere negation of higher privileges and bles sings may well consist both with the benevolence of the great Parent of nature, and with the happiness of his offspring; and, indeed, Tam at a loss to conceive why limited attributes are incapable of subsisting with no other ills than those of imperfection, which may be comparatively insignificant, or why they should be altogether in compatible with an exemption from moral and physical evils, in the common acceptation of those terms. The supposition, that the misery of the human race, in all the multifarious forms which it daily assumes, could not possibly be prevented in the original formation of the world, must inevitably impress the mind with degrading ideas of the attributes of the Supreme Being, and present the most

gloomy view of his superintending providence. According to this comfortless theory, the man who is called to endure the exacerbations of some incurable disease, or who is sinking under the destructive oppression of mental anguish, has no other consolation than the reflection that infinite benevolence, though aided by infinite power, could not have prevented the infliction of those ills, and, what is more, can afford no security against their recurrence.



[ocr errors]

Admitting, however, the impossibility of excluding the tortures of body and distraction of mind incident to the species, created as they were with so much inherent imperfection, we may still venture to ask why creative power should proceed so low in the scale of existence, and why it should not have been confined to those parts in the series, of which the unavoidable imperfection does not imply any excess of misery. If the lower ranks in the descending gradation could not be created without subjecting them to the tremendous liability here suppos

may we not inquire, without impiety, in what consisted the necessity of creating them at all? Non-existence must be infinitely preferable to a continued preponderance of pain; and there can be no imaginable cause, therefore, for the creation of so inferior a being as man, except the com munication of happiness. If, then, on the one hand, it be affirmed that the overwhelming evils to which some part of the human race are subject could not be prevented, and cannot be remedied, is not the original purpose of the Creator defeated, and the most glorious of his attributes rendered abortive? On the other hand, if it be alleged that the miseries of which we are speaking can be remedied, then I should contend, that allowing the author of them to be possessed of infinite power, they might with equal ease have been altogether avoided.

It seems to be an opinion authorized by the creed of almost every denomination of Christians, that the imperfections of the human race are so numerous and so predominant, that by far the greater part of the species will fail in securing the ultimate felicity promised to the obedient; and hence, if the first supposition be true, that

liability to misconduet, and the evils resulting from it were inevitable, the inference will be, that the majority of mankind were created, (as every Supralapsarian Calvinist really believes,) with the full purpose of their becoming interminably wretched; for no other motive could operate to call them into existence.

There are, however, persons of more enlightened understandings, and less gloomy temperaments, who consider the natural and moral evils by which we are now surrounded, to be all capable of effectual remedy, and who believe that every order of rational intelligences will be ultimately and completely happy. They admit, indeed, that the evils of imperfection are the necessary results of creation itself, and particularly in a system which consists of a subordination of ranks; but since they perceive that in the human species, though all created with the same liability, many in dividuals are exempt from those dread ful maladies of body and mind to which others are subject, they naturally conclude that these calamities might have been originally avoided, and that, consequently, they are or dained for some wise and benevolent purpose, and which, in truth, can be no other than because they will contribute to render the aggregate sum of felicity greater than it would have been on any other conceivable plan. Why pain should be made essentially instrumental in the production of enjoyment, is a mysterious question, which it is not within the circum scribed powers of man to solve; but that moral and physical evils are, in fact, subservient to great and useful purposes, cannot be doubted by those who have paid any attention to the subject of these remarks. kung

Among the various hypotheses which have been framed to account for the admission of moral evil into the world, there are four only that in the eye of the modern philosopher can be deemed worthy of regard. While some speculatists are of opinion, as we have just seen, that its admission could not have been prevented, even by Omnipotence, as long as imperfect beings are brought into existence, others maintain, (and this is the most prevalent belief,) that it must be attributed to the abuse of

that freedom of the will with which man is endowed as an accountable creature. A third scheme has been proposed by an acute but a fanciful writer, who is better known to the world by his remarks on the internal evidences of Christianity. He contends, that since natural evil was unavoidable, it was necessary, in order to prevent its being inflicted on the innocent, that some persons should be brought into existence, who, by their misconduct, would contract moral depravity, and who would, on that account, merit the misery which it was impossible to exclude altogether from the creation. The last, and, in my opinion, the most satisfactory expla nation of the difficulty before us, represents both moral as well as natural evil, as appointed by the Supreme Being, with the sole view of producing a greater sum of good than could otherwise take place, and teaches us to believe, that by the ultimate restoration of the whole human race to virtue and happiness, evil, in all its numberless and terrific forms, will finally and eternally vanish.

A most formidable objection to the three first of these hypotheses is, that since the ultimate prevalence of unmixed happiness cannot be deduced from them, it follows that with regard to a large proportion of mankind, it would have been better for them that they should not have been born. But if the last can be established, there is no human being to whom the communication of existence will not in the end have been an inestimable blessing, and the divine attributes will be at once vindicated from those degrading conceptions which it is impossible on any other scheme not to entertain.

It is not improbable that your correspondent Mr. H. may hold the doctrine of universal restoration, but it is difficult to say how he can res concile it with the belief that it is beyond the efficacy of Omnipotence itself to exempt inferior beings not only from liability to miscalculation, fallibility and error, but from the moral certainty of feeling their effects.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

shews that though the perfection of the righteous in a future state may be far more exalted than perhaps even the highest created

Stapleton, near Bristol,
Sept. 4, 1823.
N reply to the remarks of your

last Number, (p. 465,) upon the sub
ject of my communication, on the
Introduction of Evil," in your Num-
ber for July last, (pp. 378-380,) I
beg leave to state, that he is mistaken
in supposing that in proposing my
hypothesis, which asserts that evil is
the necessary inheritance of all cre-
ated intelligences, and that every
being not infinite must be liable to
error and evil, I had not "foreseen
or provided for a consequence of the
greatest magnitude," which results
from it (i. e.) the existence of evil in
heaven itself. The fact is, that I had
in the original composition compri-
sing this hypothesis both foreseen and
asserted this inference, and in the
conclusion of my letter to you on this
subject I gave an intimation, that
"there were some other inferences
drawn from the foregoing hypothesis
which I did not think necessary to set
forth," and the necessary existence of
evil in a future state formed one of
these suppressed inferences: my rea-
son for suppressing which, was the
fear that it might shock minds unused
to metaphysical inquiries, and thus
with many other novel truths do in-
jury upon its first promulgation, al-
though I am fully persuaded that
every truth, however shocking to ex-
isting prejudices, must eventually
produce good. I did not, however,
wish to risk the production even of
temporary injury, if it could be avoid-
ed; but our worthy friend having now
forced this inference to come unwil-
lingly from its concealment, I will
give it in the words in which it stands
in the original composition, and shall
fearlessly enter on its justification,
as I am not in the habit of shrink-
ing from any conclusion whatever to
which truth appears to lead (i. e.):
"4thly. The foregoing hypothesis

can now possibly conceive, yet must it fall short of infinite perfection, which belongs alone to God; since the attributes of created intelligences can never become infinite by future glorification, though thereby they will doubtless be matured and improved far beyond all present calculation or conception. Some small degree of alloy must be admitted, since it is contrary to the hypothesis upon which these inferences are drawn, that any created intelligence can exist without some portion of evil; although the portion of evil which may then be necessary by its counteraction to produce pleasure, may be so almost infinitely refined, as not at present to be capable of conception, as distinct from purity and bliss: and thus constitute the highest happiness of which created beings can possibly be susceptible."

Mr. Eaton's feelings are alarmed, as I confess mine were, when this last inference first arose in my mind, at the thought of casting "a doubt upon the unmixed happiness promised to the righteous;" but if that gentleman will keep strictly in view the principle on which my hypothesis founds the existence of happiness, and "justifies the ways of God to man," in the unavoidable existence of evil, he will find that his objection will cease; since it will appear that not only all creation, but that all happiness, is necessarily inseparable from evil; that evil is alike essential to the production of both; that pleasure could not possibly exist without its contrast-pain and anxiety; that it is indeed their legitimate offspring; and that it is beyond the power of infinity itself to produce it without their agency, in minds constructed with limited attributes; since to produce happiness in such minds, change, fluctuation, counteraction and pursuit, causing the sensations of plea

[ocr errors]

Another of these suppressed inferences proves, that the universe must necessarily have bounds, because it is a creature, and every creature can possess only limited attributes; and corrects some philosophical expressions and modes of speech, by shewing that though many things surpass our calculation and conception, nothing can possibly be infinite 3 Y


except God. And another of these inferences substantiates the mechanical nature of the human mind, and the doctrine of philosophical necessity; but your usually crowded columns forbid my transcribing them for insertion.

« AnteriorContinua »