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That the Almighty should be thus limited, and circumscribed by the nature of things, of which he himself is the author, may to some seem not very intelligible: but surely it is not at all difficult to conceive, that in every possible method of ordering, disposing, and framing the universal system of things, such numberless inconveniences might necessarily arise, that all that infinite power and wisdom could do, was to make choice of that method, which was attended with the least and fewest ; and this not proceeding from any defect of power in the Creator; but from that imperfection which is inherent in the nature of all created things.
This necessity, I imagine, is what the ancients meant by, fate, to which they fancied that Jupiter, and all the Gods, were obliged to submit, and which was to be controled by no power whatever. The Stoicks seem to have some dark and unintelligi. ble notions of this kind, which they neither understood thenselves, nor knew how to explain to others; that the untractableness of matter was the cause of evil ; that God would have made all things perfect, but that there was in matter an evil bias, repugnant to his benevolence, which drew another way, whence arose all manner of evils. Of the like kind is a maxim of the saine philosophers, that pain is no evil; which, if asserted with regard to the individuals who suffer it, is downright nonsense ; but if considered as it affects the universal system, is an undoubted truth, and means only that there is no more pain in it than what is necessary to the production of happiness. How many soever of these evils then force themselves into the creation, so long as the good preponderates, it is a work well worthy of infinite wisdom and benevolence; and, notwithstanding the imperfections of its parts, the whole is most undoubtedly perfect.
Hence then we may plainly see that much evil may exist, not at all inconsistent with the power and goodness of God: and the further we pursue this clue, the more we shall at every step discern new lights break out, which will discover clearly numberless examples, where the infinite power and goodness of God is fairly reconcileable with the misery and wickedness of his creatures, from the impossibility of preventing them; and, if, in the very small part of the universal system that lies within the reach of our
imperfect capacities, many instances of this kind appear, in whici: they are visibly consistent, we ought with the utmost assurance to conclude, what is undoubtedly true, that they are really so in all, tho' we are not able to comprehend them. This is the kind of faith most worthy of the human understanding, and most meritorious in the sight of God, as it is the offspring of reason as well as the parent of all virtue and resignation to the just, but inscrutable dispensations of Providence.
But, in order more clearly to explain this abstruse speculation, it will be necessary to divide evils into their different species, and bestow on each a separate consideration. This I shall do under the following heads : evils of imperfection, natural evils, moral evils, political evils, and religious evils, which, I think, will comprehend most of those to which human nature is unhappily liable. And now, sir, lest I should add more evil to this melancholy catalogue, which is that of a long and tedious epistle, I shall reserve the examination into each of these particulars for the subject of a future letter; and conclude this by assuring you, that I am, &c.
[To be Continued.]
-But that I am forbid
The Humane Society is composed of individuals of different political and religious sects. They are an honour and an ornament to our city. Their efforts in the cause of humanity ought to be recorded, and their names enrolled in the list of philanthropists; for they have nobly striven to check the torrent of dissipa
tion and vice, and to mitigate those miseries, which, though in a degree unavoidable in populous towns, in a country and government like ours, and in the shape and extent as set forth in the fol. lowing report, are a shocking reproach, and will for ever remain an indelible stain upon the historic annals of our city. Good God! is it possible that the convicted and the accused (and those too often wrongfully accused, to gratify the revengeful disposition of malicious individuals, whose superior cunning and practices in villainy, give them an advantage over the simplicity of their victims,) are indiscriminately surrendered to the discretion of igno. rance and prejudice, where not a single ray of intelligence exists to point out the line of conduct proper to be pursued. To be poor, it is said, constitutes, in the view of some of the keepers of the Bridewell prison, one of the greatest crimes; and that those who are blessed with money, find great account in a liberal expenditure of it. A person who was confined there assures us that he paid seventy-five dollars for certain privileges, which in fact, he never obtained. Others inform us, that money has been often demanded by the turnkeys, for admittance with provisions and other necessaries for the prisoners who were awaiting their trial; and that, in default of payment of the fee, persona charged with these humane commissions were driven from the door! And let it be remembered that hundreds are immured in this prison every year, for no crime ; who, after remaining in it for weeks, and often months, are tried and acquitted.
In short, well informed foreigners assert, that as gross outrages on humanity, are committed in the Bridewell of this city, as in the criminal prisons of the despotic governments of Europe. No American however, could have believed this fact, had not the Humane Society laid open these dark abodes of misery, and exposed the result of their inquiry to the view of their astonished fellow citizens.
But enough,--we will not longer detain our readers from a perusal of the Report of a Committee of that Society, which we record in the pages of the Theophilanthropist, as a monument of just praise to them, and of merited censure on those whose more immediate duty it was to have corrected the evil. At the
same time we congratulate the humane part of the community on the prospect of a reformation, as the different benevolent societies of this city have appointed a joint committee to prepare a memorial to the legislature, representing the necessity of an entire renovation, not only in the Bridewell system, but in the charter of the city, which forms a part of the shameful remains of British tyranny in this country.
REPORT Of a Committee of the Humane Society, appointed to inquire into
the number of Tavern Licenses; the Manner of granting them; their Effects upon the Community; and other sources of Vice and Misery in this City; and to visit Bridewell. Prefaced with an Address to the Citizens of New-York.
ASSOCIATED for the purpose of relieving the indigent, our attention has been naturally drawn to the causes which produce the extreme poverty and misery, which have so much increased among our labouring poor. Of these it appeared to us, that the most prominent, were the excessive multiplication of petty taverns, and the injudicious system of confining in the same apartments of our prison persons suspected or convicted of various degrees of guilt. To obtain more perfect information in relation to these subjects, we lately appointed a committee to investigate them; and their report, containing facts which are not generally known, but which we think important to the community, we now lay before you, hoping that when your attention shall be awakened to a consideration of the evils which it details, you will concur in endeavouring to effect a radical reform.
In order to devise a plan for this purpose, we have determined to request the charitable societies of the city severally to appoint committees to meet each other at the New-York Free School, on Wednesday, the tenth day of January next, at four o'clock, P. M. Feeling, as they must, the magnitude of the evils complained of, and necessarily conversant with such subjects, we hope that a well digested system will be the result of their joint labours; and in that case we confidently hope for the united support of the community in giving it effect.
To destroy inveterate abuses, and to introduce salutary reforms, is always attended with difficulty. The public must not only be convinced of the necessity of a change, and the propriety of the one recommended, but they must also be persuaded to act with earnestness and vigour. We therefore anxiously request your assistance in the work which is proposed for the common benefit, in the accomplishment of which every good citizen of whatever rank, party or condition, is seriously interested. By order of the Humane Society,
M. CLARKSON, President. December 27, 1809.
TO THE HUMANE SOCIETY. THE committee appointed to inquire into the number of tavern licenses; the manner of granting them; their effects upon the community; and the other sources of vice and misery in this city; and to visit the Bridewell,
That to investigate fully all the sources of vice and misery existing in this populous city, would require an acquaintance with facts, more extensive than they possess, or have been able to ac. quire. They have therefore directed their attention principally to the objects more particularly mentioned in the resolution by which they are appointed.
By a just and inflexible law of Providence, misery is ordained to be the companion and the punishment of vice; and in proportion as a community is worrupted, physical as well as moral evil is introduced and propagated among them. Hence it is a duty which every society owes as well to the individuals who compose it as to the great governor of all, to preserve the purity of the public morals, and to abstain from permitting and still more from authorising, whatever may tend to deprave the manners, or destroy the principles of its members.