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moreover, charged with inconsistency and self-contradiction through every part. To all this the author replies only, that he is assured, that, if any intelligent reader will peruse the whole letter together with candor, and attention, it will evidently appear that these accusations are entirely groundless. He makes no manner of doubt, but that man is endued with free-will, and is justly punishable for the abuse of it; and hopes he has so expressed himself, through this whole piece, as to leave no uncertainty of his opinion on that question: all he means is, that though the abuse of free-will is undoubtedly the immediate cause of moral evil, yet it cannot from thence derive its original admission into the works of a benevolent creator; because man, not being a selfexistent and independent being, must receive that will itself, together with his nature and formation, from the Supreme Author of all things : for which reason he cannot apprehend, that the general wickedness of mankind can be an accident proceeding from their unforeseen wrong elections, by which the whole benevolent system is defeated ; but must be a part, and a material part too, of the original plan of creation, wisely calculated by the incomprchensible operations of vice and punishment, to promote the good and happiness of the whole. In the latter part of this letter, a few hints are flung out, to show that on the principles of the foregoing theory some of the most abstruse doctrines of the Christian revelation might be rendered reconcileable to reason, and by which possibly some articles of our own church might be proved to be much less incompatible with common sense than they are thought to be by all those, who will not subscribe them, and by many who do* : with this, two classes of men are particularly
* Then it seems, that many who do subscribe them, consider them incompatible with common sense. The fact is, all who hold commissions or places under the British government, are obliged to subscribe to thirty-nine articles, containing the creed of the church of England ; no doubt, a fruitful source of perjury. The author himself, as a member of the parliament, was obligated to support this established imposition--hence, it became prudent for him to treat this church with caution-it will be observed, that he is less ceremonious with dissenters and methodists. [Editors. offended; the rational dissenters, as they please to call themselves, and the methodists; the former of these having arbitrarily ex- . punged out of their bibles every thing, which appears to them contradictory to reason, or in other words, every thing which they cannot understand, are displeased to see those tenets explained, which they have thought proper to reject ; the latter having embraced these very doctrines only because they appeared unintelligible, are unwilling to see them cleared up, and afraid lest those dark and thorny covers should be laid open, under which they have so long sheltered themselves from the
of reason: with either of these all debate would be vain and useless, because the first, though for the most part honest, religious, and learned men, are unable to comprehend any reasoning, which boars above the limits of their own confined literature and education ; and the others are determined to listen to no reasoning at all, having with all reason and common sense declared eternal warfare.
The design of the fifth letter is to shew, that in the government of such imperfect creatures as men over each other, there must be much unavoidable evil : that all human governments, whether of the monarchical, popular, or mixed kinds, were at first founded on force or interest, and must ever be supported by the same means, that is, by compulsion, or corruption, both of which must be productive of innumerable evils: that these ought not to be imputed to God, because he could not have prevented them without the total alteration of human nature ; much less can they be eradicated by men , but that they may in some measure be lessened by the diminution of moral evil, from which all political evils are derived; and therefore we ought quietly to submit to these evils, when they do not arise to any intolerable degree, and to apply principally that remedy to the faults of
govo ernment, which is ever the most effectual, that is, the amendment of our own. It is no wonder, that a lesson so disagreeable to the restless humours of most inen, and so repugnant to the arts and ends of faction, should call up against the author many oppopents, who have liberally bestowed on him the titles of an enemy to liberty, and an advocate for corruption, with the same justice that a physician might be stiled an enemy to health, and an advo..
cate for the gout, who in that distemper prescribes patience and temperance, rather than such inflaming medicines as might convert it into a more dangerous disease. All that he has asserted in this letter amounts to no more than this : that no government can subsist without some principle of governing; that is, that men cannot be governed without some means by which their obedience can be obtained ; a proposition, which seems as incon. Eestible, as that every effect must have a cause.
The sixth and last letter proceeds upon the same plan as the rest, and endeavours to shew, that religious evils, that is, the defects so visible in all human religions, and the mischievous consequences resulting from them, are not owing to any want of wisdom or goodness in our Creator, but proceed, like all others, from our nature and situation, and the impracticability of giving a perfect religion to an imperfect creature. In order to explain this, it was necessary to point out the particular imperfections, which in fact do exist in all human religions, whether natural or revealed; not with any design to depreciate the one, or to invalidate the other, but only to account for them consistently with God's wisdom and benevolence. To those who perceive none of these imperfections, and consequential evils, he means not to write, nor desires to let in any new light on their tender organs, which can serve only to disturb their present repose ; nor does he aspire to the honour of working for those middle-sized understandings, who can be well fitted with ready-made arguments from every pulpit: to the learned, impartial, sagacious, and inquisiTive, he alone applies; the establishing one of whom in a rational and well-grounded belief of the Christian religion does more real service to that cause, than the inlisting legions under that denomination, whose immoveable faith proceeds only from their ige norance; that is, who believing without any reason, can possibly have no reason for doubting.* To account for the corruption of
* By a rational and well grounded belief in the Christian religion, our author undoubtedly means a belief in the morality of the new testament ; for in another work he bestows deserved praise upon it on this account, and observes, “ that the religion
religion, it was necessary to specify the particular abuses, and abusers of it: and here the author could scarcely overlook the clergy: but he hopes that nothing has escaped his pen, that can throw the least reflection upon them as clergy, but as men only, subject to the same imperfections, and actuated by the same passions as other men, and pursuing the ends of self-interest and ambition by the same paths in which all others would have trod, conducted by the same temptations, and opportunities; he has treated them with no more freedom than he has done princes and parliaments, ministers and patriots, conquerors and heroes, and his work would admit of no partiality.
To conclude: the author of this inquiry having heard it so much, and as he thought so unjustly calumniated, has reviewed it with all possible care and impartiality; and though he finds many things in the style, and composition, which have need enough of amendment, he sees nothing in the sentiments which ought to be
herein contained, is totally unconnected with all human policy and government; whereas, Mahomet Numa, and even Moses him. self, blended their religious institutions with their civil, and by them obtained dominion over their respective people.” No great compliment, by the way, to the divinity of the Mosaic institution. We are not disposed to quarrel with our author upon this head ; we freely acknowledge that there are many good moral precepts in the new testament, intermingled, however, with a great deal of nonsense and rant; and that the reputed author of the Christian system was an amiable character, who despised and reprobated the religion of that pretended chosen people, the Jews. As regular and consistent systems of ethics, however, we must decidedly give the preference to those written by Epictetus, Antoninus, Marcus Tullius, Cicero or Seneca; the two former of whom lived long before the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, all the moral sentiments contained in the new testament, may be found in the writings of those men. One sentiment in that book, that of loving our enemies, has been claimed by its advocates as a doctrine peculiar to the Christian religion, and Mr. Sterne said, “ he had so conceived it, till he stumbled upon the same idea in the writings of that rogue Plato."
retracted. His intentions were to reconcile the numerous evils so conspicuous in the creation with the wisdom, power and good. ness of the Creator; to shew, that no more of them are admitted by him, than are necessary towards promoting nniversal good; and from thence to persuade men to an entire resignation to his all-wise, but incomprehensible dispensations. To ascertain the nature of virtue, and to enforce the practice of it: to prove the certainty of a future state, and the justice of the rewards and punishments that will attend it. These were the intentions of the author; and if after all, a work so designed, however unably exe. cuted, should by the united force of ignorance and malevolence, of faction, bigotry and enthusiasm, be represented as introductive of fatalism, immorality, slavery, corruption and infidelity, he shall be little concerned, and shall only look upon it as an additional instance of that imperfection of mankind, which he has here treated of: from them he desires only an exemption from calum. ny: honour and applause he has not the vanity to hope for ; these he knows, they bestow not on their benefactors or instructors, but reserve for those alone, who deceive, disturb and destroy them.
ON EVIL IN GENERAL.
HAVING enjoyed the pleasure of many accidental conferences with you on metaphysical, moral, political and religious subjects ; on which you ever seemed to converse with more sagacity, as well as more candor than is usual on the like occasions, I imagined it might not be unentertaining cither to you, or mye self, to put together my sentiments on these important topicks, and communicate them to you from time to time, as the absence of business, or of more agreeable amusements inay afford me opportunity. This I propose to do under the general title of an inquiry into the nature and origin of evil; an inquiry, which will comprehend them all, and which, I think, has never been attended to with that diligence it deserves, nor with that success,