« PreviousContinue »
Let us, then, observe the exact state of the case, It can be proved in the most satisfactory manner that the Deity is good, because it can be proved that he has imparted pleasure where it can answer no other purpose than that of promoting the happiness of its recipient; that he has therefore rested in the production of happiness as an ultimate object. One such case is a demonstration of his goodness. On the other hand, it cannot be proved that pain is ever occasioned where no purpose is answered by it but the misery of the sufferer. Not a single example can be found in all nature, from which it can be concluded that pain is rested in as an ultimate object ;* while numberless instances can be adduced, from which it can be demonstrated that it is the means of producing good: the utmost which can be said on the opposite side is, that there are particular cases of such a nature, that we cannot explain how they will terminate in good: even with respect to these, no one can show that they will end in evil, no one can render it probable; but the probability produced by all, which we really know, is altogether against the conclusion. Although we are ignorant of
* “No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization calculated to produce pain and disease : or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, “This is to irritate, this to inflame.'" Paley's Natural Theology, p. 502.
the exact means by which in these cases good is promoted, yet we are equally ignorant of the exact means by which a thousand other things are brought to pass, which we are certain happen: and at all events our ignorance of what we do not know cannot bring doubt upon what we do know; nor can we, without manifest absurdity, conclude that the Deity is not good, merely because we are ignorant of the mode in which, in particular cases, he chooses to accomplish the purposes of benevolence. Belief is founded upon evidence, not upon ignorance ; but the notion that the Deity is not perfectly good, is founded altogether upon our ignorance. Evidence is completely against it ; evidence is wholly in favor of his perfect benignity; evidence amounting to absolute demonstration.'
Thus we have entered into a particular consideration of the various classes of evil. We have seen that the appointment of it is consis. tent with infinite wisdom and goodness; that while its actual amount is by no means so great as is commonly supposed, in every instance in which it does prevail, it produces a preponderance of good, and that it exists only for the sake of that greater good which it is the means of securing. We have seen, then, that the positive proof of the benevolence of the Creator is absolutely irresistible, and that the partial and temporary prevalence of evil, which alone can involve in doubt the perfection of his goodness, is not only not irreconcileable with it, but is as real an evidence of it, as the appointment of the sweetest pleasures of which he has permitted the heart to taste. The human faculties cannot be better employed, than in investigating such subjects; and, perhaps, the review of them that has now been taken, may tend to remove some doubts which may sometimes have perplexed and disturbed the mind, and to render its conviction of the most glorious and cheering of all truths more complete, more impressive, and more stable.
OF THE DESIGN OF GOD IN THE CREATION.
SUPPOSE then the Deity really possesses the atributes which we have endeavored to show must belong to him; suppose that he is self-existent, independent, infinitely powerful, wise, and good, and that he determines to call into existence millions of beings, endowed with such a capacity of happiness, and furnished with such faculties as distinguish man. What could induce in him such a determination ? By the supposition, he is infinitely powerful, wise, and good : he must, therefore, be infinitely happy, because infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, must render him self-sufficient; must supply him, that is, with all the means of happiness, whatever they may be, and at the same time exclude every thing which is incompatible with perfect felicity.
Being, then, infinitely powerful, wise, good, and happy, the inquiry recurs, What could determine him to call into existence a world of sentient and reasonable creatures ? Could it be weakness ? That is impossible ; for by the supe position, he is infinitely wise, and therefore must act not only with some design, but with wise design. Could it be to occasion misery? That also is impossible: for to suppose that a Being who is infinitely wise, good, and happy, can purpose the production of misery for its own sake, is a contradiction. What then could he design? It is impossible to suppose that he could have any other object in view, than the bestowment of happiness : the communication to the creatures his wisdom might form, according to the capaci. ties with which that wisdom might endow them, of a portion of his own felicity.
The happiness of his sentient and reasonable creatures, then, must be God's ultimate end in the creation. It is true, he is sometimes said to have executed this wonderful work in order to display his own glory: but the display of his glory and the happiness of his creatures are identical.
For the reason already assigned he cannot have been induced to give existence to the vast universe in order to satisfy any want in himself, or to add any thing to his own happiness ; because, being self-sufficient he could have no want, and must always have been in himself completely happy. Nor is it possible that the creation should impart to him any thing which he did not originally possess; for all that it is, he made it, and all that it has, he gave it: all the beauty, excellence, and happiness, with which it is adorned, and in which it rejoices, it derives entirely from him; it cannot therefore communicate to him any thing which it did not receive