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ral dispositions implanted in us by the Author of our Being: wrong elections procced from wrong apprehensions, or unruly passions; and these from our original Frame or accidental Education : these must determine all our actions, for wo have no power to act differently, these previous circumstanees continuing exactly the same. Had God thought proper to have made all Men with the same heads, and the same hearts, which he has given to the most virtuous of the species, they would all have excelled in the same virtues. Men, as well as all other animals, are exactly fitted for the purposes they are designed for; and have inclinations and dispositions given them accordingly : He, who implanted patience in the Lamb, obedience in the Horse, fidelity in the Dog, and innocence in the Dove, might as easily have inspired the breast of Man with these and all other virtues; and then his actions would have certainly corresponded with his Formation; therefore, in the strict philosophical sense, we have certainly no Free-will; that is, none independent of our Frame, our Natures, and the Author of them.
But were both these propositions true, were men originally created both perfect and free, yet this would by no means justify the introduction of moral Evil; because, if his perfection was immediately to be destroyed by his Free-will, he might as well never have been possessed of the one, and much better have been prevented from making use of the other: let us dispute therefore as long as we please, it must eternally be the same thing, whether a Creator of infinite power and knowledge created Beings originally wicked and miserable, or gave them a power to make themselves so, foreknowing they would employ that power to their own destruction. • If moral Evil therefore cannot be derived from the Abuse of Free-will in Man, from whence can we trace its origin? Can it proceed from a just, a wise, and a benevolent God? Can such a God form Creatures with dispositions to do Evil, and then punish them for acting in conformity to those evil dispositions? Strange and astonishing indeed must this appear
to us, who know so little of the universal Plan! but it is far, I think, from being irreconcileable with the justice of the Supreme Disposer of all things : for let us but once acknowledge the truth of our first great proposition, (and most certainly true it is) that natural Evils exist from some necessity in the nature of things, which no power can dispense with or prevent, the expediency of moral Evil will perhaps follow of course: for if misery could not be excluded from the works of a benevolent Creator by infinite power, these miseries must be endured by some creatures for the good of the whole.
I presume not by what has been here said to determino on the councils of the Almighty, to triumph in the complete discovery of the Origin of Moral Evil, or to assert that this is the certain or sole cause of its existence; I propose it only as a Guess concerning the reason of its admission, more probable, and less derogatory from the divine wisdom, and justice, than any, that has been hitherto offered for that purpose.
There is undoubtedly something farther in the Depravi. ty of Mankind than we are aware of, and probably many great and wise ends are answered by it to us totally incomprehensible. God, as has been shewn, would never havo permitted the existence of Natural Evil, but from the impossibility of preventing it without the loss of superior Good : and on the same principle the admission of Moral Evil is equally consistent with the divine Goodness : and who is he so knowing in the whole stupendous system of Nature as to assert, that the Wickedness of some Beings may not, by means inconceivable to us, be beneficial to innumerable unknown Orders of others ? Or that the punishments of some may not contribute to the Felicity of numbers infinitely superior ?
If natural Evil owes its existence to necessity, why may not moral? If Misery brings with it its Utility, why may not Wickedness?
“ If storms and carthquakes break not leav'n's design, « Why then a Borgia or a Caialine !"
Wherefore it ought always to be considered, that though Sin in Us, who see no farther than the Evils it produces, is Evil, and justly punishable ; yet in God, who sees the causes and connections of all things, and the necessity of its admission, that admission may be no Evil at all, and that necessity a sufficient vindication of his Goodness. · From this important proposition, that all Natural Evil derives its existence from necessity, and all Moral from expediency arising from that necessity ; I say, from this im- . portant proposition, well considered and pursued, such new lights might be struck out as could not fail, if directed by the hands of Learning and Impartiality, to lead the human Mind through the unknown regions of speculation, and to produce the most surprising and useful discoveries in Ethicks, Metaphysicks, and in Christianity.
In the first place, for instance, the Doctrine* of Original Sin is really nothing more than the very System here laid down, into which we have been led by closely pursuing Reason, and without which the Origin of Moral Evil cannot be accounted for on any principle whatever. Indeed, according to the common notions of the absolute Omnipotence of God, and the absolute Free-will in Man, it is most absurd and impious, as it represents the Deity voluntarily bringing Men into Being with depraved Dispositions, tending to no good purposes, and then arbitrarily punishing them for the sins which they occasion with torments which answer no ends, either of their reformation or utility to the Universe : but when we see, by the foregoing explanation, the difficulties with which Omnipotence was environed, and that it was obliged by the necessity of Natural Evils to admit Moral, all these absur. dities at once vanish.
* Original Sin is a contradiction in terms; Original signifying innate,and Sin the act of an accountable Being : by this expression therefore of Original Sin cannot be meant original or innate Guilt, for that is absolute nonsense, but only an original depravity, or an innate disposition to Sin,
The Doctrine* of Sacrifice, or Vicarious punishment, is the most universal, and yet exclusive of this plan the most absurd, of all religious Tenets that ever entered into the mind of Man : 60 absurd is it, that how it came to be so universal is not easy to be accounted for : Pagans, Jews and Christians, have all agreed in this one point, though differing in all others ; and have all treated it as a self-evident principle, that the Sins of one creature might be atoned for by the sufferings of another : but from whence they derived tris strange opinion, none of them have pretended to give any account or to produce in its defence the least shadow of a reason : for that there should be any manner of connection between the miseries of one Being and the guilt of another; or, that the punishing the innocent, and excusing the guilty, should be a mark of God's detestation of Sin; or, that two acts of the highest injustice should make one of justice, is so fundamentally wrong, so diametrically opposite to commonsense, and all our ideas of justice, that it is equally astonishing that so many should believe it themselves, or impose it upon others. But on the foregoing theory this also may be a little cleared up, and will by no means appear so very inconsistent with Reason. · From what has been here said, I think, it is evident that the Origin of Evil is by no means so difficult to account for as at first sight it appears; for it has been plainly shewn that most of those we usually complain of are Evils of Imperfection, which are rather the absence of comparative advantages than positive Evils, and therefore, properly speaking, no Evils at all ; and as such, ought to be intirely
* If the punishments of the wicked serve not some ends with which we are unacquainted, the sufferings of the innocent can possibly bear no manner of relation to them; and consequently the words Sacrifice, Atonement, Propitiation, and Vicarious Punishments can no more have any ideas affixed to them than the ringing of a bell, or the blowing of a trumpet, but are mere sounds without any meaning at all.
struck out of the Catalogue. It has likewise been made appear, that of natural Evils, which are the sufferings of sensitive Beings, many are but the consequences naturally resulting from the particular circumstances of particular ranks in the scale of existence, which could not have been omitted without the destruction of the whole ; and that many more in all probability necessary, by means to us incomprehensible, to the production of Universal Good. Lastly, it has been suggested, that from this necessity of Natural Evils may arise the expediency of Moral, and moreover that it is probable Moral Evil, as well as Natural, may have some ultimate tendency to the good of the whole ; and that the crimes and punishments of some beings may, by some means or other, totally beyond the reach of our narrow capacities, contribute to the felicity of much greater numbers.
This plan, Sir, I am persuaded is not far distant from the truth ; and on this Foundation, if I mistake not, a system of Morality and Religion, more compleat, solid, and more consistent with Reason, might be erected than any which has yet appeared : I heartily wish that some person of more learning, abilities and leisure than myself, and much more, I am sure, of all it would require) encouraged by your favour, and assisted by your sagacity, would undertake it, and condescend to fill up these out-lines so inaccurately sketched out by,
SIR, &c. [To be Continued, see page 241.]
MORALITY OF MAHOMETANISM.
[Continued from page 195.]
COVET not that which God hath bestowed on some of you preferable to others. Unto the men shall be given a portion of what they shall have gained ; and unto the women shall be given a portion of what they have gained: thero