Imatges de pàgina
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II. Four Differtations. I. On Providence. II. On Prayer. III.

On the Reasons for expecting that virtuous Men fall meet after
Death in a State of Happiness. IV, On the Importance of Chrif-
tianity, the Nature of Hiftorical Evidence, and Miracles. By
Richard Price, F. R. S. 8vo. Pr. 6s. Cadell,
T cannot, as this writèr very justly obferves, but be a matter of

anxious enquiry with every considerate person, how far he has reason to think well of that world in which he exists, and of its laws and administration. If about this no satisfaction can be obtained, there will be an end of all the chief comforts and hopes of reasonable beings; the course of events must be viewed with fufpicion, and the world contemplated with disgust and pain. The doctrine of Providence; therefore, is plainly of the highest importance ; and this author can want no apology for attempting to explain and defend it.

In pursuance of his design he endeavours to prove, all the occurrences in nature are under perfe&ly wise and good direction.”

There are two ways of proving this. One, from the confideration of the Divine perfections; the other, from what falls under our notice of the frame and constitution of the world.

In the first section he shews, that the perfect character of the Deity cannot be maintained without allowing an all-directing and unerring Providence.

The design of the second is to give an account of such arguments for providence, as may be gathered from considering the general laws and constitution of the world.

Under this head he endeavours to evince, that there is not only a plan or constitution of nature, by which beings are fupported, and a general direction given to events, but that there is an influence of the Deity constantly exerted to maintain this constitution ; or, in other words, that the Deity is always prefent, and always active, in all places ; and that his energy is the firf mover in every motion, and the true source of all the powers and laws which take place in the material world.

In oppofition to this doctrine it has been alledged, “ that it is impairing the beauty of the world, and representing it as a production more imperfect than any work of human art, to maintain that it cannot subsist of itself, or that it requires the hand of its maker to be always employed, to continue its motions and order."

The author thinks, the full answer to this objection is, that to every machine or perpetual movement for answering any particular purpose, there always belongs some first mover, some weight or spring, or other power, which is continually acting

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upon it, and from which all its motions are derived ; and that, without such a power, is it possible to have an idea of any

such machine ? The machine of the universe then, like all besides analogous to it of which we have any idea, must have a forf

This first-mover cannot be matter itself, for matter is inaclive ; it follows, therefore, that'this objection is so far from being of any force, that it leads us to the very conclusion which it is brought to overthrow.

mirna Having concluded his proof, that the Deity pervades and actuates the whole material world, and that his unremitting energy is the cause to which every effect in it must be traced, he subjoins the following observation.—' The spiritual world is, without doubt, of greater consequence. Is his energy then wanting here ? Is there not one atom of matter on which he does not act ; and is there then one living being about which he has no concern ? Does not a fone fall without him ; and does then a man Juffer without him? Are such influences as may be necessary to bring about a just regulation of events in the moral world, less likely than those influences which we know to be exerted continually to maintain the order of the inanimate world ? The truth is, the inanimate world is of no consequence abstracted from its subserviency to the animate and reasonable world. The former, therefore, must be preserved and governed entirely with a view to the latter.";

This leads his to a farther argument on this subject, which offers itself to us, upon considering the wisdom manifested in the structure of every object in the inanimate creation. , ' How beautiful, says he, is the form of every vegetable, and how curiously arranged its parts? What exquisite mechanism, what nice workmanship and amazing art appear in every leaf and ipire of grafs? --Let us now ask ourselves; has God, on objects in themselves so worthless, poured forth such a profusion of wisdom and skill, and is he sparing of these in the concerns of reafonable beings ? or does he less regard order and fitness in the determination of their states t-It is not posible to imagine this. - Whatever appearance the affairs of men 'may at present make, to'us, we may be certain that they are directed by the same wisdom with that which we observe in the rest of nature ; thagisi by a wisdom which we know to be infinitely superior to ours; by, a wisdom which, in the lowest objects, is exact and incomprehensible, and which, therefore, must be as much inore fo, in higher objects, as they are of greater value.

The subject of the third section is, the manner in wbich providence is administered.

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Many wise and good men are strongly prejudiced against the fuppofition, that there have been any interpositions of Divine power since the creation, in directing affairs, as implying an impotence, unskilfulness, and operoseness unworthy of infinite wisdom. They, therefore, choose to frame a notion of the laws, and order of the material world, as having been at first adjusted in exact correspondence to what should happen in the moral world, and the whole scheme including all events as originally designed and laid in the best manner, and now continually going on to open and unfold itself agreeably to the Divine idea, without any occasion for such interpofitions.

• But, says this ingenious author, it must surely be very evident, that influences, consistent with the free agency of beings and uniformly exerted to exclude every event fit to be exclud. ed, and to produce perfect order in the administration of the world, are fo far from unbecoming the almighty and omnipresent Parent, that we can conceive of nothing more worthy of him, or that can make his character appear more amiable. Nor is there any more reason to be prejudiced against them, than against the influence which the constitution of the world allows to every agent over events, in proportion to his power and knowledge. There is no person who does not influence in various ways what passes within the circle of his friends, and acquaintance, and it has never yet been thought that the liberty of mankind, or their scope for action, is affected by it. Invi, sible and superior Beings may also be frequently employed in directing occurrences among mankind. Now, the influence of Divine Providence is a fact of the same kind with these, and seems not to be on any account more liable to objections. Shall we acknowledge the influence of every agent on events, and deny that of the Supreme?? Was it indeed fit that by one original act he should exclude himself from all further concern with his works; or can it be posible to imagine that the Being who is the fountain of all energy, and whose nature is perfect, activity and power, should be the only inactive Being in the uni verse? Is it not, on the contrary, much more rational to believe, that his influence over events extends as inuch further than that

other Being, and is as much more constant, as the relation in which he stands to Beings is nearer, and his power and widom greater?

But what almost decides the question I am considering, is a point which has been already at large insisted upon ; namely, is that the cause froin which the general laws that govern the material world are derived, is the im wediate, power of the Deity exerted every where." It has, I hope, been fewn in the lait fe&tion, that we have clear and strong evidence for this -To

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what was there faid, I will beg leave to add, on the present occasion, that it is from this cause also, in particular, must be derived that constant succeflion of vegetables and animals which is kept up in the world. There is not one fact in nature which can be completely accounted for by the inere powers of mechanisin. Most certainly then this fact cannot be thus accounted for: 'Tis utterly inconceivable, that works of such stupendous art as the bodies of vegetables and animals, myriads of which are continually formed about us, should be derived from laws planted at the creation in dead matter, which have ever fince executed themselves. Those who say this, say they know not what. They make unmeaning words ftand for causes, and attribute to matter infinitely more than it is capable of. Every few vegetable or animal, therefore, I consider as a new proš duction of Divine Power, acting constantly and regularly ac? cording to an order or scheme at first fixed by his wifdom. But there is particular reason to think thus with respect to the confcious and living principles of animals. · 'Tis just as poslible that thefe should arise into existence, in consequence of laws established at the creation, without any immediate exertion of Divine Power, as it is that they should arise into existence of themselves without any cause at all. On this account, the prefervation of all things appears to be indeed but

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little different from a continual création ; for was creative power to cease operating, the consequence would be, that no more new beings would make their appearance in the world, and that this earth would foon become a wild and horrid desart.

The conclufion arising from these observations is very obvious. · Divine Power, we fee, did not cease operating at the creation. It appears, on the contrary, that there is a constant exertion of it through all nature.'

In the fourth section the author considers the objections 2gainst Providence.

It would, he thinks, preclude much that has been objected on this subject to remember, that the directions of Providence are, as it is certainly beft they should be, concealed and invisible; and that, therefore, we cannot in particular cases determine in what manner its influence has been exerted, or what its intentions are.

Among other arguments in answer to the objections which are taken from the irregularities and evils, natural and moral, which we fee in the world, he insists, that were we acquainted with the whole of nature, or had faculties for entering into the counfels of Providence, and discovering the connections and dependences of all its parts, every irregularity would disappear, and all that now puzzles us be found completely right and

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good; that it is unreafonable and abfurd to expect, that the Deity should act in every single instance, to the utmost extent of his power, and communicate the greatest possible happiness ; and that it was necessary, there should be a real contingency of events in the creation, and such a subordination of beings to one another, and precarioufnefs of their states, as could not but subject them in many instances, and especially in the infancy of their existence, to the danger of moral defection and a failure of happiness; otherwise there could not have been room for

proper exertion of the powers of beings, or for that moral excellence by which they most nearly resemble the fountain of all perfection ; nor, in short, any method of attaining the righteft and the greatef happiness. · He comes now to consider the objection against Providence, arifing from the final loss of a great part of mankind which religion teaches us to expect. As this is a matter of the greatest importance, we shall make no apology for the length of the following extract :

• How great a part of mankind will be loft can be known only to that Being who sees through all futurity, and who searches all hearts.—When I consider the general carelessness which feems to prevail with respect to religious virtue ; the inexcusable defects of many who are ranked among the better sort of inen ; the scope of the christian doctrine, and several intimations of scripture ; I am indeed forced to entertain melancholy reflections. Every benevolent mind will, however, endeavour to think on this subject as favourably as possible. There is enough in the fact, as it must appear to the largest charity, to render it in the higheft degree alarming, and to awaken in us the deepest concern for ourselves and our fellowmen. Millions of reafonable Beings, naturally immortal and capable of infinite improvement, bereaved of all their hopes, cut off from every blessing of existence, cait away for ever from God and bliss, and sunk in irrecoverable destruction ! -What can be imagined more shocking ?-But though such a faet cannot but greatly affect an attentive mind, it furnishes with no just reasons for censuring Providence. God, notwithstanding, appears to be good, infinitely good. No conclusion to the contrary could be drawn, were there ever so great a disproportion between the number of those who shall be saved, and those who will be lost. One may even venture to affert, that it would have been worth while to have created this world for the {ake of only one person * to be faved out of it, and fitted in it

This seems to be a strange affertion, it is not to be conceived how the destruction of millions should be counterbal. lanced by the happiness of one.

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