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Original of moral Evil, which amounts only to this, that God created beings whose guilt he foreknew, in order that he might have proper objects of pain, because the pain of part is, no man knows how or why, necessary to the felicity of the whole
The perfection which man once had, may be so easily conceived, that without any unusual strain. of imagination we can figure its revival. All the duties to God or man that are neglected we may fancy performed, all the crimes that are committed we may conceive forborn. Man will then be restored to his moral perfections, and into what head can it enter that by this change the universal system would be shaken, or the condition of any order of beings altered for the worse?
He comes in the fifth Letter to political, and in the sixth to religious Evils. Of political Evil, if we suppose the Origin of moral Evil discovered, the account is by no means difficult: polity being only the conduct of immoral men in publick affairs. The Evils of each particular kind of government are very clearly and elegantly displayed, and from their secondary causes very rationally deduced; but the first cause lies still in its ancient obscurity. There is in this Letter nothing new, nor any thing eminently instructive; one of his practical deductions, that from government Evils cannot be eradicated, and their excess only can be prevented, has been always allowed; the question upon which all dissension arises is, when that excess begins, at what point men shall cease to bear, and attempt to res medy.
Another of his precepts, though not new, well deserves to be transcribed, because it cannot be too frequently impressed.
"What has here been said of their imperfections "and abuses, is by no means intended as a defence "of them: every wise man ought to redress them "to the utmost of his power; which can be effect"ed by one method only; that is, by a reformation "of manners: for as all political Evils derive their "original from moral, these can never be removed, "until those are first amended. He, therefore, "who strictly adheres to virtue and sobriety in his 66 conduct, and enforces them by his example, does 86 more real service to a state, than he who dis"6 places a minister, or dethrones a tyrant; this gives but a temporary relief, but that extermin "ates the cause of the disease. No immoral man "then can possibly be a true patriot; and all those "who profess outrageous zeal for the liberty and "prosperity of their country, and at the same time "infringe her laws, affront her religion, and de"bauch her people, are but despicable quacks, by "fraud or ignorance increasing the disorders they "pretend to remedy."
Of religion he has said nothing but what he has learned, or might have learned from the divines; that it is not universal, because it must be received upon conviction, and successively received by those whom conviction reached; that its evidences and sanctions are not irresistible, because it was intended to induce, not to compel; and that it is obscure, because we want faculties to comprehend it. What he means by his assertion, that it wants policy, I de
not well understand; he does not mean to deny that a good Christian will be a good governor, or a good subject; and he has before justly observed, that the good man only is a patriot.
Religion has been, he says, corrupted by the wickedness of those to whom it was communicated, and has lost part of its efficacy by its connection with temporal interest and human passion.
He justly observes, that from all this, no conclusion can be drawn against the divine original of Christianity, since the objections arise not from the nature of the revelation, but of him to whom it is communicated.
All this is known, and all this is true; but why, we have not yet discovered. Our author, if I understand him right, pursues the argument thus: the religion of man produces evils, because the morality of man is imperfect; his morality is imperfect, that he may be justly a subject of punishment: he is made subject to punishment because the pain of part is necessary to the happiness of the whole; pain is necessary to happiness no mortal can tell why or how.
Thus, after having clambered with great labour from one step of argumentation to another, instead of rising into the light of knowledge, we are devolved back into dark ignorance; and all our effort ends in belief, that for the Evils of life there is some good reason, and in confession, that the reason cannot be found. This is all that has been produced by the revival of Chrysippus's untractableness of matter, and the Arabians scale of existence. A system has been raised, which is so ready to fall to
pieces of itself, that no great praise can be derived from its destruction. To object is always easy, and it has been well observed by a late writer, that the hand which cannot build a hovel, may demolish a temple*.
* New Practice of Physick.