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I call on you both near and far To show our friends above, that we are all
Anti-reformers, to a fiend !"
What's stated here in print,
Seemed fixed in us for ever.
As here I give
In draughts of sulphur-wine,
With forty-one times forty-one.
Rose to return his thanks.
Quite at my will."
Was most absurd.
Clapping of claws,
Followed the word.
At this the base, Ungentlemanly imps began to titter, Which broke up order. Then commenced a race Of song and riot; war soon shewed her face, And some were carried home upon a litter. It was high noon as Belzebub retired, When lo La sound from earth a gun was fired! Loud shouts “ The King, the King!" Told that his Majesty was just declaring, How a new Bill, that should be just the thing,
Was then preparing!
CONVERSATIONS WITH AN AMBITIOUS STUDENT
IN ILL HBALTH, NO, VI.
THE SEVENTH. It is with a melancholy pleasure that I have been made sensible of the interest that these conversations have excited in the gentler and more thoughtful of the tribe of readers. I have received more anonymous letters than I care to name, complaining of the long silence I have preserved, and urging me to renew Dialogues, already so often repeated, that I might well imagine (knowing how impatient the readers of a periodical generally are of subjects continued in a series) that they had sufficiently exhausted the indulgence of the public. To me individually, there is little that is flattering in any interest these papers may have created. I am but the echo of another; or, to use an old, yet still graceful metaphor, I only furnish the string which keeps the flowers together. The reasons of my silence have been twofold. Amidst the strife and ferment of passing events, the thoughts and feelings, the mental history, of an individual seemed to fade into insignificance; and I deemed it fairer justice to
- to reserve that history to calmer opportunities. If I must name another motive, I will frankly add, that I have not of late had the heart to proceed.
Never more now-but no-I will not anticipate a story which, so far as events and incidents create interest, has so little to recommend it. The reader need fear no farther interruption. All that remains to relate is already prepared, and I have but to send it, portion by portion, to the press, until the whole is concluded,
“And the spell closes with its silent seal.” The reader may recollect, that it was in May that I last addressed him. It is in November that I appear before him again. He must go back with me a little.
“ I know not,” said " what the presentiment of certain death may effect in changing the thoughts and the feelings of other men; but in me the change was instantaneous and complete. Sometimes, in the evening, we see a cloud, on which the setting sun has rested, and has coloured it with gold and vermeil: we look again some minutes afterwards, and the glory is gone; all is cold and grey. That cloud was to me the image of life. The bright delusion that one moment had made the vapour so lovely, vanished the next; and I now cared not how soon it might melt away into air-oh! might I rather say into heaven!
“ With a sigh I closed my more worldly studies. 1 abandoned at once the labours destined never to know completion, and I surrendered my whole heart to the contemplation of that futurity which was not denied me.
Yet even here, one thought startled me: it aroused the doubt, and I bent myself sternly to wrestle with what it roused. And whom has that doubt not startled ? Who, at least, in whom faith is the creature of reason, and who has applied himself dispassionately and seriously to consider the elements of his nature and the causes of his hope ? You guess what I refer to; we have often conversed on it !
Nov.-- VOL. XXXII. NO. CXXXI.
A. The existence of evil in the world, the crime triumphant, and the virtue dejected ?
L. Exactly. This has been, in all ages, the chief cause of scepticism—to such sceptics as are both reflective and sincere. Yet, while I was sadly revolving this truth, a light seemed to break from the heart of the cloud, and in this very source of discontent below, I saw a proof of futurity beyond.
A. Indeed: that will be a new step in theological science.
L. I will explain shortly: but you must give me your whole attention. I come first to an old problem. This world is. It must, therefore, have been created, or it must always have existed. If created, it must have been created either by chance or by design. Now which of these three conjectures is the most probable? First, that the world always existed ; secondly, that it was formed by chance; or thirdly, that it was created by design? You know the old argument of Clarke, in proof that matter cannot be eternal, and that the world, therefore, could not always have existed; but, unhappily, no metaphysician ever read that argument without detecting its fallacies. Fortunately, however, we do not require metaphysics to prove that the world has not always existed. That truth is proved by physical science. Geology makes it probable ; astronomy makes it certain. There must come a time when, in the ordinary course of nature, light alone would destroy the world.* If there is a time when it must end, there must have been a time when it begun. And we come then to the two next suppositions,—if the world has not always existed, was it commenced by chance, or created by design? Which is the more probable conjecture? Let us take the daily evidence of our senses. Does chance, in what we see around us, ever create one uniform, harmonious, unchangeable system? If we see a clock; if we see a house, and we are told the house and the clock were made by chance, by a concurrence of atoms, by nothing intelligent, or contriving in itself
, should we not cry out, “This is a ridiculous fable; every thing that our experience affords as testimony contradicts it." Is the universe less pregnant with art and design than the clock or the house ? Is there less harmony in the changes of the season, in the life of the tides, in the mechanism of nature, than in the handywork of man, which, however skilful, however wondrous, an accident deranges, a blow destroys ? But, what ever stops—what convulsion, what incident ever arrests the auguet regularity of creation, the motion of the stars, the appointed progress of vegetable life? Wherever we look on external nature, we see developed in perfection all that answers to our fullest conception of the word “ design." And is it not, then, an easy and an irresistible conjecture, that by design the world was created ? But design at once necessarily implies something, active, intelligent, and living. And lo! this is our elementary notion of a God!
Having proceeded so far, the rest of my argument is simple. This Being, or this power is, then! What are its unavoidable attributes ?
Singularly enough, the “ Edinburgh Review,” in its last number, has taken up exactly this view of the question. This paper was written months before that Review appeared.
Let us dismiss the word “infinite :" it puzzles, and is not necessary; but That which created this universe must be, according to all our notions of wisdom, greatly wise-wise, above all dream of comparison, beyond the wisest of us, who spend our lives in examining Its works, and can only discover new harmonies without piercing to the cause. According to the same notions, it must likewise be greatly powerful -powerful in the same ratio beyond the power of humanity. This Being, then, is greatly wise and greatly powerful! Is It benevolent? Let us hear what Paley says. He is great on this point. Perhaps it is one of the best passages in a work, rarely indeed profound, but always clear. I have never heard even a plausible answer to it.
“ Contrivance proves design, and the predominaut tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances; and all the contrivances which we are acquainted with are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil no doubt exists; but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache : their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance; perhaps inseparable from it; or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of a sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's fingers, though, from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often happens. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture, or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints ; this to break the bones; this to scorch the soles of the feet. Here pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. 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 is to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout. If, by chance, he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say of it is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or torment."
The general contrivance, then, is benevolent; and the benevolence of the Unseen Being is thus proved. Now, then, we have the three attributes ; wisdom, power, benevolence. So far I have said little that is new : now for my corollary. If a being be greatly wise, greatly powerful, and also benevolent, it must be just. For injustice springs only from three causes ; either because we have not the wisdom to perceive what is just, or the power to enforce it, or the benevolence to will it. Neither of these causes for injustice can be found in a Being wise, powerful, benevolent; and thus justice is unavoidably a fourth attribute of its nature. But the justice is not visible in this world. We bow to the wisdom; we revere the power ; we acknowledge the benevolence; the justice alone we cannot recognize. The lowest vices are often the most triumphant, and sorrow and bitterness are the portions of virtue. Look at the beasts as well as mankind ; they offend not; yet what disease and misery! Again. How implicitly are we the creatures of circumstance! What can be more unjust than such an ordination ;-to be trained to crime from our childhood, as the sons of offenders often are, and to suffer its penalties from following an education we could not resist. How incompatible with all that we know of justice! It is in vain to answer,
that this is not a very general rule; that, in the majority of human instances, virtue and self-interest are one. This is quite sufficient argument for the foundation of human codes and an earthly morality: but it is not a sufficient argument for the justice, in this world, of a being so much greater and wiser than ourselves. It is the misfortune of mankind, that we must adopt general rules, and disregard individual cases. And why? Because our wisdom and our power cannot be so consummate, so complete, as to embrace individual cases. Not so with a Being whose wisdom and whose power are not measured by our low standards. The justice is not visible here in the same proportion as the other attributes. But we have proved, nevertheless, that justice must exist : if not visible here, it must be visible elsewhere. What is that elsewhere ?--AN HEREAFTER !
A. Your deductions are ingenious enough, and I believe new. But recollect, the same argument from which you would deduce an hereafter to man, is equally applicable to the brute tribe. For, as you rightly observe, injustice and the power of evil are no less visibly displayed in their lot upon earth than they are in the fate of mankind.
“I was about to come to that point, and" (continued Lwith that beautiful and touching smile which I never saw upon any other human countenance ; a smile full of the softness, the love, the benevolence, the visionary, the dreaming benevolence of his character-a benevolence that often betrays—but with how tender a grace! the progress of his judgment,)and, (continued L) for my part, I often please myself with fancying that the “ Poor Indian,"
“ Who thinks, admitted to the equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company," is not so “untutored” by the great truths and presentiments of Nature as we imagine. It does not revolt my reason, no nor my pride, to believe that there may be an Eden in the future as well as in the past—a garden where the lion may lie down with the lamb; and there may be at last a blessed suspension of the Universal Law, that holds this world together--the Law that all things shall prey upon each other ;-the Law that makes earth one stupendous slaughter-house, and unites the countless tribes of creation in one family of violence and death. But when we see what evil reigns among the wild things of Nature—not a fish that swims, not a bird that flies, not an insect that springs to life one hour, and perishes the next—that is not subject to the most complicated and often the most agonizing variety of disease ; when we see some whole tribes only marked for sustenance to others, and a life of perpetual fear, the most dreadful of all curses, consummated by a violent and torturing death ;-why should we think it incompatible with the nature of God, that if reparation is due to us, reparation should be due also to them? I own I find nothing irrational in the supposition! Among the many mansions of our fathers' house, there is room for all his creatures. And often when I consider how many noble and endearing traits, even in a dog, we may call forth by kindness, which with all things is the best sort of education, I am at a loss to know why we should give to the human clod the germ of an immortality which we would deny to creatures subject to the same passions, rich in the same instincts, condemned often to