Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a mathematical one. I can no more doubt whether happiness is not preferable to miséry, than whether the whole is not greater than any

of its parts. I can no more doubt, whether a being, who enjoys six degrees of happiness, and at the fame time labours under one degree of misery, is not in a better fcuation than another, who enjoys but three degrees of happiness, and is exposed to one of misery, fuppofing those degrees equal in both, than I can doubt whether a man, who is poffeffed of fix thousand pounds and owes one, or another, who is worth only three thousand pounds and owes one, is the richer. And so of all other cases, where our views and perceptions are clear and distinct. For a truth of one fort is as much a truth, as of another, and, when fully perceived, is as incapable of being doubted of or mistaken.

Yet fome have argued, that though, as to numbers and mathematics, there is a real independent truth in the nature of things, which could not possibly have been otherwise, it is quite different in morals. Though it was impossible in the nature of things, that twice two should be five, it might have been so contrived, that, universally, what is now virtue should have been vice, and what is now vice should have been virtue. That all our natural notions of right and wrong are wholly arbitrary and factitious; a mere instinct or taste; very suitable indeed to the present state

of

of things : but by no means founded in rerum netura, and only the pure effect of a positive ordination of Divine wisdom, to answer certain ends.

It does not suit the design of this work to enter into any long discussion of knotty points. But I would ask those gentlemen, who maintain the above doctrine, Whether the Divine scheme in creating a universe, and communicating happiness to innumerable beings, which before had no existence, was not good, or preferable to the contrary? If they say, there was no good in creating and communicating happiness, they must Thew the wisdom of the infinitely-wise Creator in choosing rather to create than not. They must Thew how (to speak with reverence) he came to choose to create a world. For fince all things appear to him exactly as they are, if it was not in itself wiser and better to create than not, it must have appeared so to him, and if it had appeared so to him, it is certain he never had produced a world.

To this fome answer, that his creating a world was not the consequence of his seeing it to be in itself better to create than not; but he was moved to it by the benevolence of his own nature, which attribute of goodness or benevolence is, as well as benevolence in a good man, according to their nocion of it, no more than a taste or inclination, which happens, they know not how, to be in the Divine nature ; but is in itself indifferent, and abstracting from its consequences, neither amia

ble

[ocr errors]

ble nor odious, good nor bad. To this the reply is easy, to wit, That there is not, nor can be, any attribute in the Divine nature, that could poffibly have been wanting; or the want of which would not have been an imperfection : for whatever is in his nature, is necessary, else it could not be in his nature; necessity being the only ac, count to be given for his existence and attributes. Now what is in its own nature indifferent, cannot be said to exist necessarily; therefore could not exist in God. To question whether goodness or benevolence in the Divine nature is necessary or accidental, is the same, as questioning whether the very existence of the Deity is necessary or accidental. For whatever is in God, is God. And to question whether the Divine attribute of goodness is a real perfection, or a thing indifferent, that is, to doubt, whether the Divine nature might not have been as perfect without, as with it; comes to the same as questioning, whether existence is a thing indifferent to the Deity, or not. His whole nature is excellent; is the abf. tract of excellence; and nothing belonging to him is indifferent. Of which more hereafter.

It is therefore evident, that the benevolence of the Divine nature is in itielf a real excellence or perfection, independent of our ideas of it, and cannot, without the highest absurdity, not to say impiety, be conceived of, as indifferent. It is alfo evident, that it must have been upon the whole better that the universe should be created, and a number of creatures produced in order to be partakers of various degrees and kinds of happiness) than not; elfe God, who sees all things as they are, could not have seen any reason for crea. ting, and therefore would not have created them.

number been

Let it then be supposed, that fome being should, through thoughtlessness and voluntary blindness at first, and afterwards through pride and rebellion, at length work up his malice to that degrée, as to wish to destroy the whole creation, or to subject millions of innocent beings to unspeakable misery ; would this likewise be good? Was it better to create than not ? and is it likewise better to destroy than preserve? Was it good to give being and happiness to innumerable crea. tures ? and would it likewise be good to plunge innumerable innocent creatures into irrecoverable ruin and misery? If these seeming opposites be not entirely the same, then there is in morals a real difference, an eternal and unchangeable truth, proportion, agreement, and disagreement, in the nature of things (of which the Divine nature is the basis) independent on positive will, and which could not have been otherwise; being no more arbitrary or factitious, than what is found in numbers, or mathematics. So that a wickedly. disposed being would, so long as he continued unreformed, have been as really fo in any other ftate of things, and in any other world, as in this in which we live ; and a good being would have been equally amiable and valuable ten thousand years ago, and in the planet Jupiter, as upon earth, and in our times; and the difference between the degrees of goodness and malignity are ás determinate, and as distinctly perceived by superior beings, as between a hundred, a thousand, and a million; of between a linė, a surface, and a cube.

Nothing is more evident, than that we can enter a very great way into the Divine scheme in the natural world, and feë very clearly the wifdom and contrivance, which shine conspicóous in évery part of it. I believe nobody ever took it into his head to doubt, whether the inhabitants of any

other world would not judge the fun to be proper for giving light; the eye for seeing the ear for hearing, and so forth. No one ever doubted whether the angel Gabriel conceived of the wisdom of God in the natural world, in any manner contrary to what we do. Why then should people fill their heads with fancies, about our perceptions of moral truth, any more than of natural. There is no doubt, but we have all our clear and immediate ideas, by our being capable of seeing, or apprehending (within a certain limited sphere) things as they are really and effentially in themselves. And we may be assured, that simple truths do by no means appear to our minds in any state effentially different from or contrary to that in which they appear to the mind of the angel Gabriel.

« AnteriorContinua »