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680 Mr. Howe in Answer to Y. N.'s Oljection to the Divine Government. present not so many hundreds are THAT human life is a chequered raised from the same sources for the scene of good and evil, of pleasure and same purposes.
pain, of the exhilarations of hope and JOHN THOMSON. the mortification of disappointment, P. S. A friend, whose name is well is a point of no doubtful disputation. known to your readers, and which, The most unfortunate of our fellow did I feel at liberty without his per- creatures have some comforts or other mission to mention, would insure remaining, to sweeten the bitter cup attention to the subject, favoured me which is given them to drink, whilst with the following remarks in reply to imperfection and uncertainty characa rough sketch of the project detailed terize the enjoyments of the most above." The increase of calls on Uni- prosperous. The estimate of the haptarian benevolence is a pleasing sign of piness or infelicity of the present the advancement of truth, but I agree condition of men, is much influenced, with you that as at present carried on I think, by the peculiar constitution they arust exhaust and weary. To all and state of mind of the person who religious societies, indeed, the ad- makes it, and the views he entertains vice is applicable; but to small asso- of the divine government. If he be ciations of detached converts who are subject to depression of the apimal at too great a distance to join an spirits, and also has embraced a rigid established congregation, and not yet system of religion, looking on the Deily sufficiently numerous or opulent to as an object rather of dread than of build a place and maintain a minister, love, dooming the greatest part of I would particularly recommend St. mankind, by an eternal and irreverPaul's advice to the Corinthians about sible decree, for the offence of their • collecting for the saints,” (1 Cor. first progenitor, to unavoidable and xvi. 2.) On every first day of the endless misery; the estimate of human week let every one lay by as God life formed by such a one will probahath prospered him.' Let them bly partake of the gloom of his disponever fail to meet regularly for public sition and the rigour of his creed. worship every Lord's day, &c. Let Good Dr. Watts was in one of his there be a box with a slit in the lid melancholy moods, and had not the into which every one may put in most cheerful views of religion, when according to individual discretion and he composed the hymn containing the convenience, from a halfpenny up- following lines. · wards, and without any one knowing “ Lord, what a wretched land is this, its amount but himself. Let it be
That yields us no supply, periodically opened by appointed No cheering fruits, no wholesome trees, officers, and a regular account kept Nor streams of living joy! of its produce. What is more than
But pricking thorns through all the is wanted for the relief of occasional
ground, distress, or for benevolence to other And mortal poisons grow, charities, should be carefully put out And all the rivers that are found, to interest and managed to the best With dang 'rous waters flow. advantage: and thus without any
Yet the dear path to thine abode, burden upon them, a fund would in
Lies through this horrid land. tiine be raised equal to all their wants. In already established larger congre
Long nights and darkness dwell below,
With scarce a twinkling ray." gations, I greatly approve your regula
Watts, H, 53.-B. . iions for the fellowship fund."
Your Correspondent, Y. N. in the SIR, Bridport, Sept. 26, 1816. Monthly Repository for May last,
F you think the observa 277, seems to have thoroughjections to the divine government, of quoted, He looks at human life one of your. Correspondents, whose through a gloomy medium, and sees signature is Y. N. [p: 277,) and “to nothing in it bút evil. As 'to the vindicate the ways of God to man,” inquiry he proposes for discussion, by inserting them in your truly liberal whether happiness or misery prevails Repository, you will'oblige,
in the present state (but which he Your's respectfully, does not hesitate to decide himself in THOMAS HOWE. a
most unfavourable for
Mr. Howe in Answer to Y. N.'s Objection to the Divine Government. 581 mankind) it must be determined by multiply much faster, than their the knowledge of the actual feelings means of subsistence.” He is however of men in general, during the whole mistaken in supposing that no writers of their mortal existence, as far as on this subject have attempted to these can by any means be ascer answer this argument. The fact is tained. Should it appear that good admitted by Dr. Paley, in his “ Napreponderates over evil, and happiness lural Theology," and ihe observations outweighs the miseries of life, a strong which he makes on this part of the presumptive argument is hereby fur- constitution of things I shall trannished for perfect ultimate félicity, scribe, as tending at least to abate the when the scheme of the divine force of the objection. « The order government respecting man is com- of generation proceeds by something pleted. Should the reverse however like a geometrical progression. The be established, and it be clearly shewn increase of provision under circumthat evil prevails more than good, stances even the most advantageous, pain and distress more than ease and can only assume the form of an arithcomfort; even in this case so many
metic series. Whence it follows that proofs present themselves of the bene- the population will always overtake volence of God in the constitution of na- the provision, will pass beyond the ture, and the salutary tendencies of evils line of plenty, and will continue to themselves, that we should be justified increase, till checked by the difficulty in inferring the necessity of thein to such' of procuring subsistence.”—Paley's an extent, in this introductory scene, Nat. Theol. p. 548. but not in concluding that therefore “ In what concerns the human èvil will eventually triumph over good. species, it may be a part of the scheine As to the estimate of which I am of Providence, that the earth should treating, let the comparison be fairly be inhabited by a shifting or perhaps made on an enlarged view of the a circulating population.
In this aggregate of mankind, and the evi- economy, it is possible there may be. dence, I think, appears in favour of the following advantages ; when old the comforts of life exceeding its countries are become exceedingly infelicities. On this extensive scale corrupt, simpler modes of life, purer should the inquiry be conducted, and morals and better institutions may rise not confined to the peculiarly sad up in new ones, whilst fresh soils. condition of certain individual suffer- . reward the cultivator with inore ers, or to such times as the present, plentiful returns. Thus the different when more than usual distress prevails. portions of the globe come into use Neither is it necessary, in order to in succession as the residence of man." vindicate the wisdom and goodness –P. 520. of our heavenly Father, or to prove
When a country possesses a greater the prevalence of happiness over population than the means of affordmisery, to assert that the pleasing ing it provisions, distress must be ihe sensations of wery human being, result to a portion of its inhabitants. whether he remains on the stage of The evils however arising from such a life for a longer or shorter period, state of things will not, generally exceed his painful feelings. That in speaking, rush on them suddenly, but some particular cases the latter should approach by gradual steps. As the excced the former seems unavoidable, difficulties increase of procuring a unless the Deity deviated from those livelihood, many of the lower classes general laws which he has established, of society, especially mechanics and and according to which he sees it best husbandmen, are induced to remove to to act.
countries less thickly inhabited, and I now proceed to the examination which promise to reward their exerof the first and principal of the objec- tions with a more comfortable subtions, (and indeed chiefly the foun. sistence. Hereby, the barren desert dation of the others) which Y. N. becomes a fruitful field, and the wilstates against the divine government, derness, before the haunt of beasts of as it respects the happiness of the pre- prey, in due time is changed into a sent state. “In contemplating human safe and commodious habitation for society," says he, “the first considera- , man; “ joy and gladness," in the tion that offers itself is, that men like all' words of the prophet, “ are found other animals, increase in number or therein, thanksgiving, and the voice
588 Mr. House in Answer to X. N.'s Objection to the Divine Government of melody." Countless millions of Be it known however to my readers, human beings are hereby brought that the present writer is a bachelor our into existence, Y. N. thinks to be the wrong side, as it is usually tarmed, miserable, but more justly I trust it of fgty, yet. (let: every one speak for may be said, to partake of the boun- himself)' he could tell Y. 'N. that ties of Providence here, and to be he has not experienced that overwhelmtrained up, by, a course of moral dis- ing misery, which is the unavoidable cipline begun' in time and completed in lot: it seems, of all those who are eternity, to glorify God and enjoy doomed to pass singly through life's him for ever." This law of the divine varied scenes. As to the generality of government, then, by wbich popula- those who are in the same pitiable tion increases in a greater proportion situation with myself, I do not perthan the means of subsistence, pro- ceive such very glooiny. and desponde ducing no doubt many partial evils, ing countenances, as indicate their effects most extensive and general being weary of existence. With good. On a large scale comprehend- respect to marrier persons also, as ing the whole of this habitable globe, far as my observation reaches, their it is a law which evinces both the cup of life has mingled ingredients wisdom and goodness of the common of bitter and sweet, with so great a Parent of mankind, by being favour- proportion of the latter however, as to able to the production of a greater sum inake it upon the whole. tolerably: of human happiness. Yet to Y. N. palatable. ** Another objection to the “it appears with so dreadful an present constitution of things, is the aspect, that he says the statement of it appointment of the separation of the is horrible."
parties, if happily: coupled, by the Considering the misery which he unsparing hand of death. « Disease supposes to be our lot after arriving and death come,” says Y. N. “and: at a certain age, he must surely view the survivor is doomed to wear out a. the following statement of his, as a wretched life in aggravared solitude.” great blessing to the children who thus Instances of this kind are no doubt to meet with an early grave, however be met with, which cannot but excite. much it may be regretted by their the sympathy of every one who has a parents. “ It is calculated that not heart to feel. As Y. N. looks around less than one fourth part of the buman him and draws his inferences from species perish, before they become nioral agents, before four years of The present writer has in the courso age." Granting this, there is good of his life, known a considerable number reason to conclude, that their sum of of married persons in different ranks, enjoyment exceeds their painful sen- chiefly in the middle and lower classes of sations, during their short scene of society. The result of his observations is. mortal existence; the balance there. this, that in a few instances matrimony fore in respect of happiness is in their produces somewhat like a heaven upon, favour. That some of them (not earth. " many" comparatively)" perlsh by “ How blest the sacred tie that binds, diseases brought on by want,” may be
In union sweet according minds! admitted as a melancholy fact, with
How swift - the heav'nly course they out its disproving the position just run, stated.
Whose hearts, whose faith, whose hopes I now proceed with Y. N. to consider the condition of those who
Mrs. Barbauld. arrive at the period of youth and man
This on the other hand is balanced by. hood. In his view, both the single the union of parties so ill-sorted, that as and the married must necessarily be Dr. Watts says, in his celebrated lines miserable: the former because they are on “Few Happy Matches," “ As well, single and have no “ help meet for may heav'nly consorts spring, From two them;" the latter, because the parties besides the bass." The great majority of
old lutes with ne'er a string, Or none are often ill-sorted, or have great marriages are, I believe neither the one ansieties respecting their children, or
nor the other; neither characterized by their connexion is embittered by di- any great degree of felicity or of misery : sease or dissolved by death. Alas! for but in which, as might be expected from poor mortals, let them do as they will, au institution of the benevolent Parent of iheir condition must be sad indeed. . mankind, happiness preponderates.
are one !"
Mt. Howe in Answer to Y. N.'s Oljection to the Divine Government. 583 what he conceives to be real life, I specting the present constitution of shall adopt the same mode. As to things, I shall not enter on the statethe generality of widowers and widows ment of the many and forcible proofs then, judging of those I do not know, both positive and presumptive of the from the persons of this description I prevalence of happiness over misery do know, however much affected at the in this varied scene, introductory to a painful separation, time and reflection future and more perfect state of being. alleviate their grief, and they are not For that satisfaction on this point such wretched oljects as this gloomy which the present writer has himself painter draws them. Many of them received, he takes leave earnestly to indeed, not altogether relishing the recommend to Y. N. the attentive
solitude” in which they are left, perusal of the chapter, “on the Goodhave no objection to repair their lossness of the Deity,” in Dr. Palęy's by another imion, a proof by the way “Natural Theology,” Mr. Lindsey“ on that they were not led by experience the Divine Government,” and more to entertain such formidable, terrific especially “Illustrations of the Diideas of matrimony as your Corre: vine Government,” by T. Sonthwood spondent Y. N.
Smith, a work which was judiciously I shall not enter into the argument reviewed in the Monthly Repository to which he refers of Mr. Lindsey for August, and which may be justly and others, that the comparatively few ranked among the most masterly instances of suicide, furnish a proof productions of the age, on this imof mankind in general not being un. portant subject. happy. Some who are weary of their Many useful reflections and much mortal existence are no doubt restrain- moral improvement may be derived, ed from rushing on death for relief, from the inquiry proposed by Y. N. from fear of the consequences hereafter, Whether happiness or misery really which“ makes them rather bear preponderates, it becomes us as men those ills they have, than fly to others and professing Christians, to learn, with they know not of.” I cannot how- the Apostle Paul, “ in whatsoever ever agree with Y. N. in thinking, state we are to be therewith content," that if self-murder was “ not disre- as the appointment of a Being whose putable, and if a general conviction wisdom cannot err, whose providence prevailed that this world ends all isumiversal, and whose goodness is human feeling, hundreds of thou- infinite and unchangeable. In formsands would thus die.” Happy for ing a due estimate of human life, let mankind the experiment is not likely us guard against mistaking the excepto be made ; but even in this supposa- tions to the usual course of things, for ble case, the love of life is I conceive the general rule, and deducing our so strong and ardent, and there is such inferences from the former instead of a natural dread of losing that exist- the latter. This it appears to me ence and those active powers we pos- Y. N. has done, which has led him sess, as would prevent those hundreds to his gloomy conclusions. It has of thousands of whom he speaks, from pleased the Supreme Lord of the effecting self-destruction. The wisdom universe to act by general laws which Y. N. applauds of those phi- (excepting peculiar cases of miraculous losophers who said “the best thing operation) : and that this mode of possible was never to be born, and the government is the wisest and best of next best to die the hour of one's any conceivable plans, Dr. Priestley birth," will be very differently appre- adduces many solid arguments to ciated, I presume, by most of my prove, in the first volume of his readers who believe in the infinite « Letters to a Philosophical Unbewisdom and goodness of our Creator, liever." It is evident, however, that and the pure doctrines of the Christ. this constitution of things, must be iau revelation, teaching us that man attended with unavoidable partial is destined for an immortal life, for evils. The same element of fire for the enjovment of which he is fur- instance which is of incalculable uti'ity nished with the means of preparing, in to the world, will sometimes conthis state of trial and probation. sume the comfortable habitations of
As the design of this paper is chiefly men and occasion great distress. Are to obviate the leading objections of we therefore justified from the latter Y. N. to the divine government re. accidental circumstance, in reasoning
On Doctrinal or Controversial Preaching. against the wisdom and goodness of reigneth, let the earth rejoice ; let the God in this invaluable blessing, or multitude of isles be glad thereof. for his not miraculously interposing at Clouds and darkness are round about all times of threatening injury to him; righteousness and judgment are individuals, to counteract its natural the habitation of his throne. effects ? Let us not confine our views Convinced by abundant satisfactory to the evils which we see around us, proofs, that the communication of hap ör know by our own experience, with- piness is the great leading object of the out considering the salutary tendency divine administration, it becomes us of these evils themselves, and how to co-operate in the .gracious designs much they are overbalanced by bless of the Deity, by discharging the duty ings, from the Author of nature"" who we owe to society, of contributing as is good to all, and whose tender much as lies in our power, to lessen mercies are over all his works." its evils and increase its comforts. While contemplating any part of the This is incumbent on us as children plan of the divine administration, let of the same gracious Parent, and us make due allowance for the narrow therefore brethren of the same family limits of the human understanding of mankind, as members of the same We shall not be then surprised to community, and I may add professors find some of the dispensations of of the religion of the gospel, the chief Providence respecting both nations characteristic of which is love. The and individuals, to our view involved happiness of society is promoted by in clouds and darknesss. Can a finite improvements made in the arts of mind comprehend infinity? How few civilized life, by the education of the links do we see of that amazing chain rising generation among all ranks and of causes and effects, which is sus- conditions, by the diffusion of general pended from the throne of God, and knowledge, and more especially by extends from everlasting to everlast- the spread of just and worthy sentiing: To censure therefore any of the ments respecting God and religion. proceedings of Heaven, because we The estimate of human life, I doubt do not immediately perceive the recti- not, as to the preponderance of its tude, wisdom and goodness of them, sum of enjoyments over its evils, will would be more unreasonable and be proportionally more favourable, as presumptuous, than for an ignorant attention is paid to the important peasant, seeing only a single wheel or objects just mentioned. To a state of spring of an ingenious complicated society greatly more enlightened, more machine, to pronounce this wheel or improved in moral excellence, and conspring useless, though really so con- sequently happier, than in any precenected with other parts, that without it ding period of the world ; to a state of the whole piece of machinery would society distinguished by the prevalence cease to move. The instructive pages of truth, peace and righteousness, of history, sacred and profane, present inspired prophecy directs our views : us with many events of direful' aspect and the many pious and benevolent when viewed separately by them- institutions which do honour to this selves, which, under the disposals age and country (among which may of the propitious Power that presides be ranked those that are established over the world, and is continually for the promotion of free inquiry, of educing good from apparent evil, have . pure Christianity, and the practice of been made to produce invaluable bless- virtue as not of the least importance), ings to mankind. That this will be are some of the means which the the actual result of those astonishing Supreme Disposer of all things will changes and revolutions (attended probably adopt, for bringing about with atrocities and calamities deplored this auspicious era. by every friend to humanity and liberty) which have for many years SIR, Bristol, September 10, 1816. past agitated Europe, is as
T was with much pleasure I read able to conclude from the wisdom the article on Doctrinal or Conand goodness of the Most High troversial Preaching, in the Reposiwho ruleth in the kingdom of men, tory for last month, [p. 456,] the and giveth it to whomsoever he will," writer of which is entitled (I feel no as it is consolatory to the pious and hesitation in saying) to the most benevolent Christian. "The Lord cordial thanks of all those who