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Viete of the Origin of Evil
86 in these instances an atonement for nutes only of rain and pain, and even each other; for the gospel, for the those minutes generally beneficial, truth, and even for Christ himself? and eventually, in most cases, even to Does it require the aid of learning and the sufferers themselves ? a new translation of the passage to · But if his Lordship meant to shake prore the fallacy and gross absurdity and loosen the prevailing opinion of of the imputed orthodox meaning ? the origin of evil, by representing not
The true meaning then of the terms, the God of nature, but the God of cer“As God for Christ's sake forgave tain theologians, then it may
be allow. you," is, "Be kind, be courteous to able to ask, whether satisfactory aneach other, imitate the benevolence of swers, to Cain's bitter questions inay God, and forgive one another, as he, not be found in the following succinct in or by Christ, has forgiven you.” view of the origin of evil, which I sub
D. EATON. mitted to my young friend's considera
tion soon after reading the work ? I Sm,
am not aware that any author treating ANY years have elapsed since of this subject has given a similar view my attention. Should you, notwith Suppose then an intelligent first standing that circumstance, think the cause employing his energies in creatfollowing observations admissible into ing : it transcends contradiction and your useful miscellany, as calculated dispute that his creatures must be to induce persons to discuss the sub- either perfect or imperfect; an interject who are better qualified for the mediate condition of neither perfect work, they are at your service; de nor imperfect cannot exist under any claring, however, that I do not mean of the possible modes of existence. to become theological polemic. It is a plain contradiction, an impos.
A young friend visiting me in the sibility. But perfect they could not country, brought with him and read to be unless equal to the Creator. Equal
me Lord Byror's “ Cain." Although to the Creator !!!! Most absurd · I am not stiffened with the illiberality thought. Let me ask, how is infinity
of either Peter or Martin, qor yet to be created? How can a creature's with that of their co-adjutors in Jack's existence equal its Creator's? How tattered coat, I was surprised at some can independence be created ? Surely part of its contents.
these questions involve contradictions Notwithstanding, also, that I have insuperable. So thought Jesns Christ long since renounced the odious prac when he declared, there is none good tice of imputing bad motives and or perfect but God. Creation implies wicked intentions to those who differ commencement of being: how can from me in opinion, considering such creatures then be infinite a And if imputations, when unsupported by the creature's existence, be posterior, other proofs of evil designs, calumnious it is evident that his powers must be and cruel; still I own that it is matter inferior to the Creator's. Creation of regret to me when I observe great and dependence are correlatives, Now talents employed, either by orthodox mark the consequence, the inevitable or heterodox, in giving such represen- consequence, if the creature, however tations of the Deity as tend to excite exalted his powers, has less knowstrong mental disgust and abhorrence: ledge, less wisdom, &c.; the liability to and if such were his Lordship's inten- mistake, to err, to fall, must exist, tion, it induces the questions-Will with all the evil resulting from such an the best interests of society be pro- unavoidable constitution of things, if moted? Will our moral relations ever his knowledge, wisdom and power be strengthened, or our benevolent be called into action.
The creature affections improved, by effacing from must be necessarily imperfect. Adam our minds those impressions of vene was innocent only, not perfect. Immation and esteem for the Deity, which perfection involves the idea of incon. almost all receive and many cherish venience, of evil. Thus we arrive at mder a just persuasion that benevom the conclusion I had in view, that if bence predominates in the world, the Creator employs his energies in years of sunshine and comfort, mi creating, without attributing malig
nity to his scheme or defect to his one in disposition. The latter is repower, except the defect of working presented as exerting himself to make absurdities and contradictions, which others miserable, without benefit to is no defect in truth, the result of cre- himself, from mere malignancy of naation must be such as we find it. ture. To represent the Deity as voWith reverence I add, the Deity had luntarily adopting a plan productive no option ; evil must occasionally ap- of misery, when a better one was in pear, but no more than the nature his power, is exhibiting him in the of things necessarily generates. If my samne light, and thus, without intendprinciples be correct, and I think them ing so to do, they degrade the beneroincontestably so, then,
lent God into an Almighty Devil.
Horrible even in idea! « In spite of pride, in erring reason's
But to affirm that the Deity did not spite, One thing 'is clear, whatever is, is foresee what would actually take
as it depended upon inan's free will,
is only removing the difficulty to a Consequently, to interpret literally greater distance. It is similar to the the beautiful allegory of the fall, con- Indian's mode of supporting the world tained in the Book of Genesis, must by placing under it an elephant, crobe wrong. This the advocates of a codile and camel. The objection inliteral interpretation virtually admit. troduces us to a new kind of God, a They attribute the introduction of all sort of demi-god, who knows the reevil, moral and physical, to Adam's sults of part of his scheme only; but transgression, and yet place the rebel- this is not a God of infinite knowledge. lion of the Devil and his angels ante- It supposes him ignorant of what is rior to that event. If so, Adam's actually to take place till illustrated lapse was not the origin of evil, for by the event. How can it be predi-. crime, by their own shewing, had been cated of such a being that “ he knows previously committed, and of course the END from the BEGINNING”, which evil existed prior to his fall. It has been the Scripture asserts, if events are and is still pertinaciously maintained strictly uncertain, unless it be uneant by many, that the Devil, in the form that they are known as uncertainties? of a serpent, tempted Eve to take the On such remarks I have neither time forbidden fruit. This itself was evil, nor inclination to comment. and pronounced by themselves to be Besides, this doctrine does not re
lieve the case of any of its difficulty. Again, the advocates of a literal Can that benevolence be infinite which meaning, who allow the fore-know- places creatures in stations, of risk, ledge of God, differ in sound more when it might have placed them in than in sense from the scheme I pro- security? In equivocal circumstances, pose. They maintain as I do, that the the result of which is unknown, may Deity possesses ALL PERFECTIONS— be happiness or may be ineffable miinfinite knowledge, wisdom, goodness, sery? Is this the work of beneficence power, &c., and yet he has produced that is infinite ? But all those and the present system of things. Now, similar difficulties are obviated by the the very fact of its existence, as the considerations which I have proposed.. work of such a Being, proves its They place the condition of all creapre-eminence, that it is the best. tures and the infinite benevolence of Shew me how, under the influence of God in perfect harmony: hitherto a. SUCH ATTRIBUTES in its formation, it questio vexata. could be otherwise. To attribute to A highly respectable and highly him the ability to devise and execute esteemed friend objected to my hypothe best scheme, and at the same time thesis as incompatible with the Scripto charge him with the adoption of a ture representation of our improved worse, this is indeed, if I understand knowledge and happiness in a future. the term, the most fearful and blackest state. I look forward with some deblasphemy. This is to rob the Divi- gree of hope to that futurity; but in nity of its brightest attribute, INFINITE contemplating the figurative descripGoodness. This is to identify the tions of Scripture on that head, I conDeity and the theologian's Devil, as fess ļam at a loss what limits to
View of the Origin of Evil. assign its metaphors. Knowledge, in will consist in placing us where we acquisition and communication, is a may sleep soundly, spend an inter. source of great, of the purest enjoy- minable existence in looking one at ment; but if my hypothesis be reject- the other calmly, or in playing on ed and the literal meaning of the me. harps undisturbedly? taphors maintained, this source must Let us view in connexion with this fail in a future state, for all will be subject the popular creed which refers inspired. Knowledge is experience the introduction of all evil, moral and evolved, and in its progress furnishes physical, to Adam's transgression. us with many a delightful day and re- Its ahettors admit that man, in capatrospect. According to my views, city and knowledge, was superior to experience is the tree of knowledge of all in this world, yet he mistook, erred good and evil, never to be extirpated. and fell. They admit also, that the That inspiration is to supersede expe- angels who fell were of a class and rience and render it useless, appears order superior in these respects to to me impossible, unless it prove an man. Here then are two cases aceverlasting narcotic. I do strenuously cording to that creed, which prove insist, that an infinitely wise and good that the Scripture representation of Being will always do that which is best increased knowledge in another state and possible ; and what is best now does not militate against my theory, must be best hercafter, for with him but against theirs who place such conthere is no variation : scripture and fident hopes of security on our future reason concur in proof thereof. “We vast accessions of knowledge. Knowcan reason only from what we know.” ledge has failed to preserve in innoMental inactivity is not happiness. cence. The angels have failed in obeIf it were, the dormouse in winter is dience, though, as asserted, in the imperfectly happy. Inspired knowledge mediate presence and favour of God. would leave us in the dead sea of tor. It is certainly difficult to conceive how pidity and listlessness. But we know in such circumstances they could be that'" life's cares are comforts, such tempted to deviate from duty, but by by Heaven designed; he that has none, that liability to inistake, to err, which must make them or be wretched." is inherent in all creatures, and which Without them there is no escape from must be co-existent with every state the deadly tædium vitæ.
and condition; and which, with reveThis raises the question, of what use rence I repeat, Omnipotence cannot can that sort of knowledge be? It prevent, unless it could work contracannot benefit others, for they will be dictions. That such and that similar equally inspired; nor ourselves, for events have taken place in every part we and others shall be placed, accord- of the animated universe, appears to ing to the popular notion, beyond the me more than probable, being conreach of temptation, perplexity and sistent with reason, consonant with doubt. But knowledge and wisdom Scripture, and in full accordance with in their useful application, import dif- the infinite perfections of God. ficulty and the necessity of selecting. Another objection may be urged Superior knowledge and wisdom ap- from the possible seasonable interposipear in the judicious selection and tion of Divine Power to preserve his adroit application of means to a de- creatures from evil. To those who sired end, eluding evil and securing believe that the perfections of God good. But aecording to the objection, are infinite, there is a short answer. there will be no difficulty to make He has not nor does he apparently so demands on our wisdom and know- interpose in favour of man, nor, acledge
Then the high degrees of cording to the popular creed, in favour knowledge talked of as peculiar to of angels. I therefore fearlessly avow that state, will stagnate and become my belief, that it cannot be done conputrid; that is, useless as to any be-sistently with lis general scheme; if it deficial application. And is our in- could, an infinitely wise and beneficent proved happiness to consist in useless. Being would mark his presence by a MESS? Is there any imagination so preventive interference. Reasoning romantic as to suppose that the great à priori, we should be conducted to improvement in our future condition that conclusion, and reasoning à por
teriori, facts in abundance present and thereby to obviate all doubt of his themselves to establish its validity, benignity; a settled anxiety to repress Even those events which have borne the presumption of creatures who, the strongest marks of such a charac- with finite and very limited faculties, ter, may have been no more than the dare arraign and condemn the ineagradual developement of the varied or sures of an Infinite Mind. When our dinations of a grand whole, attended knowledge and wisdom become infiby circumstances not familiar to ob- nite, then, and then only, shall we be servation, and consequently attracting qualified to decide. general attention.
After I had written the preceding To these views of the subject, it observations, it occurred to me as may be objected that they weaken the probable, that it will be objected to sense of our dependence on the Divine this scheme, that it requires an interpower,
This I cannot admit. Sub- pretation of various passages of Scrip. stitute expectation of Divine interpo ture inconsistent with their general sitions for sense of dependence, and I tenor. I am not aware that it will grant it is weakened. The preceding require greater latitude of construcviews certainly rebuke the practice of tion than has been used on other ocinvoking when we ought to be labour- casions by the most pious and judiciing, of kneeling when we ought to be ous interpreters of Scripture of all shouldering the wheel. They make denominations: for instance, it was unceasing demands on our activity declared to Adam, “on the day thou and care as the basis of our well-being eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die;" here and hereafter. Nor have I ever but Adam did not die on that day. known a single instance of a fool hav- Here a positive averment and denuning been made wise, an ignoramus ciation is construed figuratively to relearned, a poor man rich, a distem- concile it with the actual event. One pered constitution healthful, by invo- of the apostles writes thus, "for as cation, without the use of the proper in Adam All die, so in Christ shall means. Of the objectors I challenge ALL be made alive." Interpreters the proof of such a fact, without re generally allow the word all, in the ferring to what took place at the first first sentence, to be a term of striet promulgation of Christianity, and with- universality, as far as relates to the out considering its aid as a collateral animated beings of our planet, and at mean. With consequences I have not the same time insist that the same any thing to do: I leave them where word, in the second sentence, is not a I find them, in much better hands : I term of such universality, but of par. am anxious only to relieve the human tial import only, not even implying a mind from the apprehensions which majority, but the contrary; and this is the foul aspersions cast on the Divine done to reduce it to a consistency with character, sometimnes produce.
Again, Christ said, Bigots will, I know, censure what I “ This is my body, this is my blood," have written. It is not to them I ad- referring to the bread and wine. The dress anyself. . They are afraid to rea- Papists interpret both phrases literally. son, and their fears and selfishness Most other Christians, to render them make them unjust. Had they been compatible with fact and common accustomed to offer their children to sense, put a figurative construction on Moloch, to Moloch would they conti- them. The Scripture declares that nue to offer the unnatural and horrid the wicked shall be cast into unsacrifice. I address those who are quenchable fire, into everlasting fire. perplexed by the subject, as I have But many good men have maintained, been. If the principle of my theory that such phrases do not refer to the be right, it will find abler advocates durability of its inflictive agency, but and prevail : if erroneous, let it sink to the intensity of its destructive for ever. Such an event, however, powers. It certainly appears to me I do not anticipate. Whatever be the that no greater licence in the exposiresult, I shall always feel the satisfac- tion of Scripture will be required to tion of having been influenced by the support my hypothesis, than has purest motives -an ardent wish to been taken and allowed in expoundvindicate the ways of God to man, ing the preceding passages, and many,
Dissenters, Register of Births.
89 very many others which might be ad- . VI. and Elizabeth, and directed by the duced, but which the limits of a letter canons of 1603. At that tiine, to diswill not allow.
sent from the Established Church was RUSTICUS. a crime in the eyes of the Legislature
of great magnitude, and continued to SIR,
Feb. 12, 1323. be considered so, until the glorious A
GREEING completely with the reign of William III., when the Act
statement of A Di enter and a of Toleration was passed, which, acParent, p. 33, that "it has again and cording to the words of Lord Mansagain been laid down that any regis. field in the Sheriff's Case, “ renders ter of a birth may be, under certain that, which was illegal before, now circumstances, good evidence : the legal : the Dissenters' way of worship hand-writing of a father in a family- is permitted and allowed by this Act'; bible or pocket-book has been re- it is not only exempted from punishceived: and it cannot therefore be that ment, but rendered innocent and law so regular and formal a registry as ful; it is established ; it is put under that at the Library, in Red-Cross the protection, and is not merely under Street, should be invalid:” the only the connivance of the law.”. And furremark I have to make upon it is this, ther, “ Dissenters within the descripthat eren Sir Thoinas Plumer never tion of the Toleration Act are restored denied the Register to be evidence; to a legal consideration and capacity; what he refused, was a copy of that and an hundred consequences will Register.
from thence follow, which are not Whether his decision was founded mentioned in the Act.” On this imon legal principle, it is now my inten- portant subject I hope your readers tion to consider; and, for that pur- will excuse my quoting the opinion pose, it must be determined under also of Mr. Onslow, once Speaker of what class of instruments, whether of the House of Commons, (from Dr. a private or of a public nature, the Furneaux's admirable Letters to Mr. Register at Dr. Williams's Library Justice Blackstone,) “ that as far as should be placed.
the law could go, in point of protecIf it should be considered a private tion, the Dissenters were as truly instrument, of the same nature as a established as the Church of England; family-bible or a pocket-book, then and that an Established Church, as 1 allow, according to the doctrine of distinguished from their places of worChief Justice Holt, 3 Salkeld's Re- ship, was, properly speaking, only ports, p. 154, that a copy is not evi- an endowed church; a church, which dence, unless the original is lost or the law not only protected, but endestroyed. I, however, maintain that dowed with temporalities for its pecuthis Register is of a public nature, liar support and encouragement." and would be evidence, if produced, If, then, the effect of the Toleration and therefore, according to the doc- Act is such as Lord Mansfield and Mr. trine of the same learned Judge, an Onslow considered it, it must follow immediate sworn copy will be equally not only that the rites and ceremonies admitted. The question then appears of Dissenters, as distinguished from to turn upon the meaning of the word those of the Church, are legal and public. According to some, that in established, but also the omission of law is only public which is recognized such ceremonies, as conscientious Disby the Legislature in an Act of Parlia- senters consider unnecessary, and even ment. Though this definition is not contrary to the meaning of scripture, sufficiently comprehensive, to include is perunitted and legal. every thing of a public nature, let us Now, church baptism is inconsistent at present consider, whether it does with the profession of Dissent, and, not virtually comprehend the Register indeed, in the opinion of many conat Dr. Williams's Library.
scientious Dissenters, baptism is not The Church of England is establish- enjoined by any part of the Scriptures. ed by Act of Parliament, and the keep- These persons could never submit ing of parish registers for entries of themselves or their children to be births and christenings commenced in baptized, or at least not according to the reign of Henry VHl., was en- the form prescribed by the Church of forced by injunctions from Edward England, but then their names 'could