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have embraced as reasonable and eligible... Now, it must appear evidently contrary to all rules of analogy to reason, from the intentions and projects of man, to those of a Being so different and so much superior.1
Some unknown relation, or some unknown impossibility, may render what is objected against just and good.2
Those things which we call irregularities may not be so at all, because they may be means of accomplishing wise and good ends more considerable.3
From all these things it is easy to see distinctly how our ignorance, as it is the common, is really a satisfactory answer, to all objections against the justice and goodness of Providence.4
The common course of things is in favour of happiness: happiness is the rule, misery the exception. Were the order reversed, our attention would be called to examples of health and competency, instead of disease and want."
One great cause of our insensibility to the goodness of our Creator, is the very extensiveness of his bounty. We prize but little what we share only in common with the rest, or with the generality of our species. When we hear of blessings, we think forthwith of successes,-of prosperous fortunes,-of honours, riches, preferments; i. e. of those advan
1 Hume, of a Providence, &c. Sect. xi. p. 155.
3 Ibid. 177.
tages and superiorities over others which we happen either to possess, or to be in pursuit of, or to covet. The common benefits of our nature entirely escape us. Yet these are the great things; these constitute what most properly ought to be accounted blessings of Providence; - what alone, if we might so speak, are worthy of its care. Nightly rest and daily bread, the ordinary use of our limbs, and senses, and understandings, are gifts which admit of no comparison with any other; yet, because almost every man we meet with possesses these, we leave them out of our enumeration. They raise no sentiment; they move no gratitude. Now herein is our judgment perverted by our selfishness. A blessing ought, in truth, to be the more satisfactory, the bounty at least of the donor is rendered more conspicuous, by its very diffusion, its commonalty, its cheapness; by its falling to the lot, and forming the happiness, of the great bulk and body of our species as well as of ourselves.'
One consideration has always afforded me great satisfaction. Did natural evil prevail in reality as much as it does in appearance, we must expect that the enlargement of natural knowledge would daily discover new instances of bad, as well as of good intention. But the fact is directly otherwise. Our discoveries ascertain us more and more of the benevolence of the Deity, by unfolding beautiful final causes without number; while the
appearances of evil intention vanish like a mist after the sun breaks out. Many things are now found to be curious in their contrivance, and productive of good effects, which formerly appeared useless, or, perhaps, of evil tendency; and, in the gradual progress of learning, we have the strongest reason to expect that many more discoveries of the like kind will be made hereafter. This very consideration, had we nothing else to rely on, ought to make us rest upon the assurance, which our feelings give us, of the benevolence of the Deity; without giving way to the perplexities of a few cross appearances, which, in matters so far beyond our comprehension, ought to be ascribed to our own ignorance, and, by no means, to any malevolence in the Deity.'
With respect to all natural evils, even though we could not at all understand the reasons why God is pleased to permit them, yet, since we are sure they cannot but be. of his permission, we have strong reason, with all patience and resignation, to depend upon Him that he intends, and will direct them for good.2
If we suppose God to be omnipotent (that is, to be able to do whatever involves no contradiction), we must allow him to be able to do many things that no other agent can afford us any examples of; and some of them, perhaps, such as we, who are but
1 Essays (quoted at p. 2.), 362.
2 Clarke, vol. vi. Serm. x.
finite, and are wont to judge of things by analogy, cannot conceive how they can be performed.1
And since we allow the Deity a wisdom equal to this boundless power, it is but reasonable to conceive that these unlimited attributes, conspiring, may produce contrivances and frame designs which we men must be unable (at least of ourselves) sufficiently to understand, and to reach to the bottom of. 2
Moral evils may be NECESSARY to produce those affections from whence man's happiness must spring, agreeably to 1 Cor. xi. 19.3
For if we believe God to be the Author of things, it is rational to conceive that he may have made them commensurate rather to his own designs in them, than to the notions we men may be best able to frame of them.4
I find that the best philosophers have, upon full trial, been made sensible that the darkness of many things is too thick to be discussed by the dim light of their reason.5
As for evils in general, the true original of them is from the necessity of imperfect beings, and the incompassibility of things; but the divine art and skill most of all appeareth in bonifying those evils, and making them, like discords in music, to contribute to the harmony of the whole, and the good of particular persons.
1 Boyle, iv. 159. (4to. ed. 1772).
3 Jebb, ii. 143.
5 Ibid. 683.
4 Boyle, vi. 694.
6 Cudworth, part i. 876.
Governed by those feelings, which have, in every age and region of the world, actuated the human mind, I seek relief, and I find it, in the soothing hope and consolatory opinion that a benevolent Wisdom inflicts the chastisement, as well as bestows the enjoyments, of human life; that superintending Goodness will one day enlighten the darkness which surrounds our nature, and hangs over our prospects; that this dreary life is not the whole of man; that an animal so sagacious and provident, and capable of such proficiency in science and virtue, is not like the beasts that perish; that there is a dwelling place prepared for the spirits of the just, and that the ways of God will yet be vindicated to man.1
1 Mackintosh, Life by his Son, i. 97.