« PreviousContinue »
In such a plan, where all was to be full, and no void, or chasm, it is evident, there must be an extenfive variety, and innumerable different degrees of excellence and perfection in things animate and inanimate, suitable to the respective places to be filled by each, higher or lower, rising one above another by a just and easy gradation. This we can accordingly trace in the small part of the scale of being, which our observation takes in. From crude, unprepared duft, or earth, we proceed to various strata impregnated with some higher qualities. From thence to pebbles, and other fosil substances, which seem to be endowed with a sort of vegetative principle. Next we proceed from the lowest
and fimplest of vegetables, up to the highest and most i curious; among which the sensitive plant seems to para
take of something like animal life. As the polype, and some other reptiles, seem to descend a little, as if to meet the vegetable creation. Then we come to animals endowed with the sense of feeling and tasting only, as various shell-fish. After them follow such as have more senses, till we come to those that poffefs somewhat analogous to human faculties, as the faithfulness of dogs, the generous courage of the horse, the fagacity of the elephant, and the mischievous low cunning of the fox and ape. Suppose a human creature, of the meanest natural abilities, from its birth deprived of the faculty of speech, how much would it be fuperior to a monkey? How much is a Hottentot superior ? From such a human mind we may proceed to those which are capable of the common arts of life; and from them onward to such as have some degree of capacity for some one branch of art or science.
Then we may go on to those, who are endowed with minds suíceptible of various parts of knowledge. From which there are a great many degrees of natural capacities, rising one above another, before we reach such a divine spirit as that of a Newton. Perhaps some of the lower orders of angelic natures might not be raised above him at a much greater distance, than he was above some of his species.
Even among the inhabitants of different elements there is an analogy kept up. Various species of fishes
approach very nearly to beasts, who live on dry land, in form and constitution. Several species unite the aquatic and terrestrial characters in one. The bat and owl join the bird and beast kinds; so that the different natures run almost into another; but never meet so elosely, as to confound the distinction.
Thus, so far as we can trace the divine plan of creation, all is full, and all connected !. And we may reasonably conclude, that the same uniformity amidst variety takes place through the universal scale of being, above our species, as well as below it, in other worlds as well as ours. This was to be expected in an univerfal system planned by one immense and all-comprebending mind.
Conlidering the unbounded and unlimited perfections of the first cause, who has existed from eternity, has had an infinite space to act in, an infinity of wisdom to suggest schemes, and infinite power to put those schemes in execution for effecting whatever infinite goodness might excite him to propose: considering these things, what ideas may we form of the actual exertion of such perfections? What may they not have produced; what may they not be every moment producing ; what they may not produce throughout an endless eternity! There is no determinate time we can fix for infinite wisdom, power, and goodness to have begun to exert themselves in creating, but what will imply an eternity past, without any exertion of creating power. And it is not easy to suppose Infinite Goodness to have let an eternity pass without exerting itself in bringing any one creature into existence. Whither then does this lead us? There is no point in eternity past, in which can conceive, that it would have been improper for infinite wisdom, power, and goodness to have been exerted. And he, who from all eternity has had power, in all probability has from all eternity had will or inclination to communicate his goodness. Let us try to imagine then, what may be the whole effect of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, exerted through an infinite duration past, and in an unbounded space. What ought to be the number of productions of infinite power, wisdom,
and goodness, throughout immensity and eternity ? What may we suppose the present degree of perfection of beings, who have exifted from periods distant from the present beyond all reach of human numbers, and have been constantly improving? What degrees of knowledge, of power, of goodness, may fuch beings have by this time acquired ? Let readers, who have accumftomed themselves to such trains of thinking, purfue these views to their full extent. To add here all that may be deduced from such confiderations, may not be necessary.
It is afterwards demonstrated, that the happiness of the proper creatures was the fole view, which the Divine Wisdom could have in producing an universe. Now, happiness being a primary or fimple idea, it neither needs, nor is capable of any explanation, or of being expressed, but by fome fynonymous term; which likewises communicates a simple idea; as fatisfaction, pleasure, or such like. But it is of good use to understand what makes real happiness, and how to attain it. The foundation or ground of happiness, then, is “A “conscious being's finding itself in that state, and fur“nished with all those advantages, which are the most “ suitable to its nature, and the most conducive to its “ improvement and perfection.”
Here is a fubject for an angel to preach upon, and the whole human race to be his audience. It is the very subject, which the Ambassador of heaven came to this world to treat of, and explain to mankind.
Happiness is no imaginary or arbitrary thing. It is what it is by the unalterable nature of things, and the Divine Ordination. In treating of such subjects, it is common to speak of the nature of things separately from the positive will of the Supreme Being. To understand this matter rightly, it is neceffary to remember, that in the nature of things, the Divine Nature is included, or rather is the foundation of all. Thus when it is here said, that happiness is fixed according to the unalterable nature of things, as well as determined by the positive will of God, the meaning is, that the Su3
preme Being, indetermining what should be the liappiness of the creature, and how he should attain it, has acted according to the absolute rectitude of his own nature.
But to return, no creature is, or can be fo formed, as to continue steadily and uniformly happy, through the whole of its existence, at the same time that it is in a state unsuitable to its nature, and deprived of all the advantages necessary for its improvement and perfection. It is a direct and self-evident impossibility, that such a creature should be. Were the foundation of happiness dependent upon the respective imaginations of diiferent creatures, what occasion for all the pompous apparatus we know has been made for preparing the human species for happiness? Had it been possible, or confiftent with the Divine Perfections and nature of things, that mere fancy should have been a foundation for happiness, there had needed no more than to have lulled the creature into a pleasing delusion, a golden dream, out of which he should never have waked. And there is no doubt, but, if the happiness of our species and other rational agents could, properly, have been brought about in this, or any other lefs operose manner, than that which is appointed, there is not the least doubt, I say, but the unbounded Wisdom and Goodness of the Governor of the world, who brought them into being on purpose for happiness, and cannot but choose the easieit and belt ways for gaining his ends, would have brought them to happiness in such a way. But it is evident, that then man could not have been man, that is, an intelligent, free agent; therefore could not have filled his place in the scale of being; for as he stands in the place between angels and brutes, he must have been exactly what he is, or not have been at all. An infinitely perfect Author, if he creates at all, will necessarily produce a work free from chasms and blunders. And to think of the God of Truth as producing a rational, intelligent creature, whose whole happiness should be a deception ; what can be conceived more absurd, or impious? If such a creature is formed for contemplating truth, could he likewise have been brought into existence, to be irrelistibly led into a delusion? To what end a faculty of
reasoning, reasoning, to be, by his very make and state, drawn into unavoidable error?
Besides all this, let any man try to conceive in his own mind the pbfiibility of bringing about a general and universal bappiness upon any other footing, than the concurrence of all things, in one general and uniform course, to one great and important end ; let any man try to conceive this, I say, and he will find it in vain. If the foundation of universal happiness be, Every being's finding itself in such circumstances as best suit its : nature and state, is it pollible, that every being should find itself in those circumstances, if every being acted a part uniuitable to its nature and state? On the contrary, a deviation from that conduct, which suits a reasonable nature, is the very definition of moral evil. And every deviation tends to produce disorder and unhappiness. And every lesser degree of such deviation tends to draw on greater, and this deviation into irregularity would in the end produce universal unhappiness; but that it is over-ruled by superior Wisdom and Goodness. So that, instead of the fophiftical maxim, “ That private vices
are public benefits," we may establish one much more juft; “ That the smallest irregularities, unrestrained, “ and encouraged, tend to produce universal confusion • and misery."
In consequence of the above account of the true foundation of happiness, it is plain, that different natures will require a different provision for their happiness. The mere animal will want only what is necessary for the support of the individual, and the species. Whatever is superadded to that, will be found superfluous and useless, and will go unenjoyed by the animal. But for a higher nature, such as that of man, another sort of apparatus must be provided. Inasmuch as he partakes of the animal, as well as the rational nature, it is plain he cannot be completely happy with a provision made for only one half of his nature, He will therefore need whatever may be requisite for the support and comfort of the body, as well as for the improvement of the mind. For the happiness of an angel, or other superior power, a provision greatly superior, and more