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freedom which necessity begets, and which a confidence in the person you address will always excite, I communicated to him, without reserve, the state of my mind.
He heard me with great attention; now and then only, as I stated my distress, expressing much pity for my concern on a subject which he considered to be perfectly unnecessary; wondering, as he said, that there should be a single person upon earth, weak enough to interrupt the enjoyment of his own happiness with an anxiety so ill founded; and which, according to his ideas, tended to reflect so greatly upon the goodness of the Deity. "For my part (says he) I have too high notions of God, to imagine that he ever made any creature to be miserable; neither can I fancy the possibility of what some gloomy minds are so much alarmed about—of the doctrine of future punishments. It appears to me altogether inconsistent with the benevolence of the Divine character."—
"Hold, Sir, (I interrupted him,) and pray satisfy my mind on this point, before you go further. I readily join issue with you in the highest acknowledgments of the goodness of God; and am most fully persuaded, that all praise must fall infinitely short in the descriptioh of what it really is. But I see as plainly as though written with a sunbeam, that much misery may, and in fact doth, consist with the Divine Goodness, in the present life. And as I suppose, no one will venture to impeach God's goodness, in the permission of evil here; I cannot form the vestige of an argument, why that goodness may not be as consistent with the existence of evil hereafter .* especially, when revelation comes in to the aid of my feeble reason, declaring in a tone of the most determined and unalterable decision, that 'the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord*'. Can you explain to me, how I am to reconcile these things with your opinion? And do you not imagine that there is great danger in entertaining such unqualified notions of the Divine character—of complimenting God's goodness at the expense of God's truth?"
My neighbour waved the question—taking shelter under the general covering of a supposed inoffensiveness of conduct, and a well intentioned frame of mind. 'I do not (he replied,) trouble myself with matters of this nature. Providence hath blessed me with ample circumstances, and I do all the good I can in my little sphere of usefulness. While therefore I enjoy the present, I am thankful for the past, and fearless for the future. My opinion is formed on that excellent maxim of the poet,
* 3 Thes*. i. 9.
'For God is paid when man receives;
'These are my sentiments, (added my neighbour,) and in the discharge of moral duties, I rest satisfied for the event.'
"It would be very unbecoming in me (I replied,) to controvert your opinion, having called upon you for instruction, and not to instruct. But forgive me if I err in the apprehension, that what you have advanced in the eulogy of moral virtues, relates more to earthly concerns than heavenly—more to the present well-being of man, than to the future enjoyment of God. There is, unquestionably, a loveliness in moral virtue, which cannot fail to gain the esteem of every beholder; and happy would it be for the circumstances of mankind, if its influences were far more general than they are. And while a proper distinction is made between the duties connected with the present world, and the preparations suitable for another, too much the greatest love and harmony with each other; and, not content with the bare practice of moral honesty and justice, are kind, affectionate, friendly, tender, even to the anticipation of what one conceives may promote the other's happiness. But suppose, that in the midst of all this attention to the mutual and general felicity of each other, they are never heard to express an affection towards the person of a father, from whom, as the source, they have derived all their enjoyments; would not any man consider them as deficient in the first and best of all possible obligations? And is not this the very state of those who, priding themselves in the discharge of moral duties to their neighbour, pass by the reverence, the love, the gratitude, and obedience they owe to God.
'Bear with me, I beseech you, Sir, and correct me if I am wrong. I merely state the objections to what you have advanced, as they appear to me, in order that your better judgment may remove them. But, indeed, it hath often struck my mind very forcibly, that there must be some latent principle of evil lurking under a fair form; when I have beheld characters of the greatest respectability, who appear to be every thing which is amiable to their fellow-creatures—generous, noble, affectionate;