Imatges de pÓgina

Mr. Eaton. The first thing, then, that requires notice is the assertion, that the Deity "might, by the frequent exertion of his power, have perpetuated a future state of felicity from the beginning; and might have rendered permanent, by the same means, such a concurrence of moral circumstances as would, in the first instance, have prevented wrong_volitions of his rational creatures." To this position I give a direct denial, grounded upon the arguments which found the hypothesis, since to perpetuate any particular mode or manner of existence, could be nothing short of conferring the attribute of infinity upon finite beings; and no created being can possibly be capable of receiving "such a concurrence of moral circumstances," as would uniformly prevent wrong volitions; 1st. because his attributes are limited, and must necessarily produce the inevitable effects of limited attributes; and 2ndly. because those limited attributes necessarily require change and transition, grounded upon opposite and contending causes, one of which identifies itself with evil, in order to produce in his mind any volition at all.

but where in the pages of Dr. Smith will Cantabrigiensis find the (as they at first appeared to me, and as I fear they will appear to some of your readers,) almost impious assertions-that it was impossible for Infinite Power in creation to dispense with the existence of evil; that evil is the unavoidable attendant of limited attributes; that it is creation's inevitable consequence; and that there never could be, and never can be, in any state whatever, a creature wholly free from its influence? Cantabrigiensis is perfectly right in supposing that I consider these propositions as incontrovertible; for the more I think of the subject, the more thoroughly am I convinced, that nothing can overturn the hypothesis in question; that it has been shewn to be demonstrably certain; and that the inferences drawn from it stand upon the same immoveable basis: and I have had the daily satisfaction of receiving the concurrent testimony of many persons of competent judgment, among whom have been some eminent theologians, whose opinions have fully confirmed my own convictions. I submit to your en lightened readers, that I am by no means bound to follow Cantabrigiensis in all the loose and desultory remarks he has made upon the hypothesis, until he has fairly met and answered the line of argument upon which it is founded, as I apprehend every writer is bound, in the first in stance, to reply strictly to, and expose the fallacy of, the arguments which support the hypothesis of his opponent, before he has a right to wander through all space for objections, counter arguments and positions: and unless this rule be observed, it will be difficult in argument ever to arrive at any certain conclusion; for poor indeed must be that position or objection, which will not afford, aided with the ingenuity of a cultivated mind, some plausible arguments to controvert or support any theory whatever. However, though I do not consider myself obliged by the rules of argument to follow Cantabrigiensis in his remarks, yet for the further satisfaction of the readers of the Repository, I will undertake this task as far as those remarks remain unanswered by my last communication, in reply to


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2ndly. In reply to Cantabrigiensis's observation, that "the supposition, that misery could not have been prevented in the original formation of the world, must impress the mind with degrading ideas of the attributes of the Supreme Being, and present the most gloomy view of his superintending providence," I need only observe, that as it is agreed, that evil does exist, I will leave the following question for the decision of your readers— Which system tends most to degrade the Divine attributes; presents the most gloomy view of Providence, and most impeaches the Divine benevolence, that which supposes that the Deity had full power to prevent the existence of evil, with all its countless miseries, but would not, or that which supposes, that he could not; but, finding that evil must inevitably arise from limited attributes, made the best of it by contriving its absolute subserviency to the production of good, far surpassing the degree of evil? It must be obvious, I should suppose, to every one, that while the former is totally irreconcileable with the Divine

706 Mr. Hinton on his Hypothesis of the inevitable Existence of Evil.

benevolence, the latter presents a full solution of the difficulty, and is, indeed, the only hypothesis that does or can remove it.


3rdly. Cantabrigiensis asks, "If creatures could not be formed without being subject to the liability to evil, supposed by the hypothesis, in what consisted the necessity (benevolence I suppose is meant) of creating them at all? Non-existence must be preferable to a continued preponderance of pain.” In reply to this, I observe, that neither the hypothesis, nor any thing that I have advanced in support of it, supposes that evil or misery does, or ever will, preponderate over good and happiness, but the very contrary, as Can tabrigiensis would have seen, had he sufficiently considered the hypothesis. Here, then, is an end of this monster, which, it seems, existed only in Cantabrigiensis's own imagination: and, I contend, that the difficulty of the question-Why did God create at all, if he could not create without evil, ceases to exist on the ground of the hypothesis, but absolutely defies solution upon any other ground; for here, to make all things harmonize with infinite goodness, we have only to inquire, whether the existence of all creatures is, or will be, upon the whole of that existence, a blessing and a happiness to them: and whether good does not, and will not ever, preAnd if these ponderate over evil? questions must be answered in the affirmative, the original question is fully solved-Why a God of infinite benevolence could, in strict accordance with that benevolence, create intelligent beings, although he could not make them without evil; while every other hypothesis must for ever remain dumb to the question-Why did not a God of infinite benevolence, and possessed of ample power to create without evil, produce the same happy effects from happier causes, and have dispensed with the existence of evil altogether? I repeat, that every other hypothesis must for ever remain silent to this question, while the hypothesis in dispute presents a solution of the difficulty, so perfectly in unison with the Divine benevolence, that I feel confident it is the only one capable of justifying the ways of God to man. But even if I could give no solution


crease the sum of evil, to say that it
to the question, it surely does not in-
exists inevitably; but Cantabrigiensis
really seems to suppose that it does.

4thly. Cantabrigiensis asserts, that
"it is not within the circumscribed
powers of man to solve the question—
why pain should be essentially instru-
mental in the production of enjoy-
ment." It is not consistent, I appre-
hend, with the rules of argument for
Cantabrigiensis thus to decide, by
mere assertion, the very matter in
question between us, and which he has
undertaken to refute, since the hypo-
thesis certainly proposes to solve this
very important question; and whether
it succeeds in this respect or not is
the proper matter for discussion.

5thly. Cantabrigiensis speaking in allusion to the hypothesis, which he blends with some erroneous notions commonly entertained, says, “It would have been better for mankind that they had never been born;" but that his own notion of the subject, (and which I freely admit is far the best of any that has been heretofore entertained, and was my own till the hypothesis in question suggested itself to "from those degrading conmy mind,) vindicates the Divine attributes ceptions, which it is impossible, on any other scheme, not to entertain." Now, Sir, all this is mere assertion, and feeling, as I do, the pre-eminence of the hypothesis in question over every other theory that has yet been adopted, I am fully convinced that the expres sions he has used in favour of his own notion, belong exclusively to mine: except, indeed, the expression, “it would have been better for mankind that they had never been born," which is, I submit, language which ought not to be used in reference to any mere theory on the subject.

6thly. Cantabrigiensis imagines a difficulty in reconciling my hypothesis with the doctrine of Universal Restitution, of which doctrine he rightly supposes me to be a believer: but how the hypothesis stands, in any manner, opposed to it, I have yet to learn. I really do not see any difficulty at all in reconciling them with each other, since our ideas of final restoration, certainly do not imply a state of infinite and unerring perfec tion, but merely a state in which

moral causes, keeping pace with intellectual improvement, will fit and qualify mankind for the enjoyment of such pure and moral effects, as their several capacities may be susceptible of: and if their powers and employments are made, from time to time, and during an infinite succession of changes, as full of perfection and happiness as those powers and employments, to their utmost extent, can possibly contain, it is all that the most voluptuous in future bliss can desire; it is all that Omnipotence can grant; it is even all that infinite benevolence, with all its varied stores of felicity, can devise.

I now turn to combat the strictures
of my two other opponents, Mr. Eaton
and Mr. J. Johnston, pp. 584 and 585
of your Number for October last.
Mr. Eaton says,
The argument of
what God can do, and what he cannot
do, is scarcely becoming such frail and
ignorant creatures as we are, for the
least flaw in our conception and argu-
ment, destroys our conclusion." "Can
any Christian so safely rely on the
soundness of his metaphysical abstrac-
tions and conclusions, as to place
them in opposition to the plain lan-
guage of Scripture?" "Ought meta-
physical subtilties and speculations to
interfere with the glorious hopes of
the gospel?" "Ought the cold and
baseless speculations of metaphysi-
cians, to be permitted to chill or
becloud such transporting prospects
and assurances?" "After the greatest
thought and labour, if there be one
single error in the premises, the glit-
tering castle tumbles to the ground."
And Mr. Johnston has the following
remarks" They are far above the
measure of the human understanding."
"These mysterious points are far above
the range of human thought." "It
leads us to place no confidence in
many express promises of God," and
many other similarly unfounded asser-
tions. Your readers will perceive that
these gentlemen have first assumed
as true, the objections upon which
these remarks are founded, and that
without one tittle of evidence, (i. e.)
that the subject of my hypothesis does
really possess a flaw, is in opposition
to the plain language of Scripture, is
a metaphysical subtilty, does interfere
with the glorious hopes of the gospel,
is cold and baseless, does chill or

becloud the prospects of the gospel,
is erroneous, is above the measure of
the human understanding, &c., all
which I utterly deny, and challenge
any evidence to the contrary: but I
cannot help remarking, that these ob-
servations come with a peculiarly ill
grace from heretical pens; they are
out of their element; they belong to
orthodoxy, since all the fearful wea-
pons, which these gentlemen have
here opposed to my hypothesis, have
with equal force, and with much more
consistency, been brandished in de-
fence of the doctrine of the Trinity a
thousand times. I certainly am not
aware of any limitation for the human
understanding, nor any boundary for
the operations of reason, where cer-
tain and definite ideas, founded upon
assignable evidence, and reducible to
intelligible language and definite
terms, form the governing principle
of speculation; and while this is or
can be done, it is nothing short of
Popery, to becloud the intellectual vi-
sion with the blindness of mystery,
pretended frailty, and convenient igno-
rance, weakness of the understanding,
&c. Such observations as these might
reconcile us to all the sacred mysteries
of orthodoxy or heathenism, ancient
or modern; and certainly if there be
such an arbitrary boundary to rational
speculation, it may be much more
consistently found within the infallible
pale of Popery, than the uncircum-
scribed range of heterodoxy: and if
the inquirer after truth is to be si-
lenced in this manner, it is a great
reflection upon those of us who have
come out from the regions of mystery
into the pure and unclouded light of
the gospel, in defiance of precisely
similar observations on the part of
reputed orthodoxy: and such persons
cannot reasonably complain of their
Trinitarian brethren, when they at-
tempt to silence them in the same
way. Besides which, this convenient
scepticism and pretended frailty must
inevitably tend to weaken the force of
all truth, certainty and evidence; for
if the plain deductions of reason are
not to be relied on, there is an end of
the only legitimate standard of truth,
and of all inquiry after it; and acting
under the influence of this self-delu-
sion, we should bid fair in time to
arrive at that thorough-paced scepti-
cism, which would dictate a similarly

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ridiculous expression to that of an ancient Heathen, "I know nothing except that I know nothing." And upon this very principle I consider our orthodox brethren as the greatest of all sceptics. The real question is, shall we retain the character of rational theologians, and be ruled by the manifest deductions of reason; or shall we, fearing to offend existing prejudices, bow down and prostrate our understandings, in true orthodoxy form, before the pope-like tyranny of preconceived notions; and suspending the legitimate operation of our rational powers, in the chaos of dark uncertainty, sink into the horrible gloom of universal scepticism? One of these two alternatives we must adopt, and I leave your enlightened readers to take their choice.

2ndly. Mr. Eaton observes, "No one will hesitate to admit, that all created beings, however perfect and exalted, must ever remain finite, and at an immeasurable distance from the peerless glory and excellence of their Creator; but the question is, not whether man will ever possess infinite and abstract perfection, but whether the Deity can place him out of the reach of danger, error and evil." To this I reply that they are both the same question, only differently put; for if it be admitted, "that all created be ings must ever remain finite," it remains for him to shew the possibility of the Deity's placing finite man out of the reach of finite circumstances→→ error and evil, which would be no less than to make him infinite. The fact then is, that he has here admitted all that the hypothesis asserts; and I beg to remind Mr. E., that until the "error in the premises" be clearly pointed out, "the glittering castle" stands on the solid and immoveable rock of truth and certainty.

3rdly. Mr. E.'s feelings are enviable in his anticipations of a state where "nothing shall interfere with the happiness of the righteous," and he adds,

and to give the most absolute se curity from miscalculation, frailty and ill, God will be all in all." Truly sorry should I be to disturb these anticipations, and he will be surprised, perhaps, when I declare my thorough conviction, that my hypothesis best secures all the delightful anticipations of futurity that we can or ought to

conceive: certainly "nothing shall interfere with the happiness of the righteous," because it has been proved by the hypothesis, (and which proof your readers will recollect not only remains unrefuted, but even unassailed, neither of my opponents having even attempted to meet and refute the arguments on which it is grounded,) that the happiness of all beings with limited attributes is, and ever must be, built upon a state of variation and transition; that it could not exist at all in a perfectly unchangeable state; and, therefore, that an unchangeable state would be the most effectual means of interfering with, and destroying, the happiness of the righteous: and, doubtless, God, the author and conductor of that limited state of perfection which must ever be requisite for the welfare of limited attributes, "will be all in all," to secure the most apt and suitable perfection, and best possible happiness, of his creatures. The security of the happiness of the righteous, therefore, by no means warrants the conclusion of a perfectly infinite, invariable or unchangeable state, but the very contrary: I rejoice, however, with Mr. E. in the anticipation of a state where there will be "no more death,” i. e. no change or transition so violent and appalling as death; but surely we are not from hence obliged to conclude that changes and renewals of a more easy nature than death will not be perpetually taking place. That the perfection and happiness of the righte ous will never be infinite or unchangeable, but will ever require a state of change and variation, even to support that happiness, and will necessarily ever remain subject to some degree of "miscalculation, frailty and ill”—the inevitable lot of all finite beings, seem to be tacitly admitted by the almost universal sentiment of all sects and parties, that there will be progressive improvement in heaven; since improvement necessarily supposes imperfection, and progressive improvement the successive changes by which that improvement will be effected. Besides which, perfection not being capable of improvement, and as all imperfection must be the effect of limited attributes, and as limited attributes must be the inheritance of all created beings, however exalted, it

follows, of course, that unerring perfection, absolute freedom from evil, and invariability of condition, can never be the portion of any created intelligence. At the same time, I wish to express my thorough conviction, that the perfection and felicity of the righteous in a future state of bliss, will be all, and even much more than all, we can now conceive of even infinite perfection and happiness, because our ideas, so far from reaching to any just idea of infinity, must fall far short even of the real extent of the future perfection and happiness of finite beings, however short of infinity that may be. I cannot quit Mr. Eaton without acknowledging the very liberal and Christianlike manner in which he has conducted the controversy.

being cannot be less than Deity-such a being must necessarily be equal with God; but the hypothesis proves that the Deity himself could not create an equal. The whole universe, therefore, being under the sole controul of him whose eye, unconfined to space, size, or proportion, perceives as distinctly an atom as a world; to whom no high, no low, no great, no small; who fills, who bounds, connects, and equals all;' and without whose design we are assured, that not even a sparrow can fall, all other beings having only limited attributes, can have neither power to controul surrounding causes, nor prescience to foresee future events; and consequently they must be continually under the influence of those causes, over which they have no controul. These causes, therefore, constantly give motive and produce volition; and consequently beings, with limited attributes, can no more controul either their motives or their volition, than they can the causes which originate them and hence, it is a certain truth, that if they could produce volition, or controul their own motives, even in the smallest matters, independently of these causes, they could as well controul the universe, and usurp the place of the Deity Himself. I am indeed, always shocked when I consider the bold and awfully impious tendency of the free agency or Libertarian scheme, which shuts the Deity out from the manage

In replying to Mr. Johnston, his remarks upon the doctrine of Philosophical Necessity first claim my attention; but after the able statements and illustrations of this enlightened doctrine, by Dr. Priestley, Mr. Belsham, Dr. Southwood Smith, and others, in their publications, and the admirable and incontrovertible effusions of Mr. Cogan and others, in your valuable pages, it cannot be necessary for me to enter upon its general statement or defence; but in justification of the hint I threw out upon this subject in my last communication, I shall merely set forth the inference, which I then stated to be one of the suppressed inferences I had drawn from my hypothesis, (i. e.)


5thly. The foregoing hypothesis demonstrably proves, that as there can be but one Being, possessed of infinite or unlimited attributes, and who controuls the universe and all its causes, all other beings must be, in all respects, dependent upon him and his laws; and, therefore, that it was, and is, beyond the power of Infinity itself to make an independent being or a free agent,* since an independent

Though I have used this term for want of a more definite one, I consider the Necessarian equally as much a free agent as the Libertarian; as I do not see any thing in the doctrine of Philosophical Necessity at all hostile to human liberty: for what idea have we of liberty more than this-to do as we will? and the

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