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Of Systems possible, if 'tis confest
still weaker. And though you see not the reason of this in your
“Ask of thy mother Earth, why oaks are made
Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove ?”
Ver. 53. In human works,] Verbatim from Bolingbroke. Fragments 43 and 63.
So Man, who here seems principal alone,
Ver. 60. 'Tis but a part] A new method of accounting for the origin of evil has been advanced by Hume in his Dialogues,
“I scruple not to allow,” said Cleanthes, “ that I have been apt to suspect the frequent repetition of the word infinite, which we meet with in all theological writers, to savour more of panegyric than of philosophy; and that any purposes of reasoning, and even of religion, would be better served, were we to rest content with more accurate and more moderate expressions. The terms, admirable, excellent, superlatively great, wise, and holy, these sufficiently fill the imaginations of men ; and any thing beyond, besides that it leads into absurdities, has no influence on the affections or sentiments. Thus, in the present subject, if we abandon all human analogy, as it seems your intention, Demea, I am afraid we abandon all religion, and retain no conception of the great object of our adoration. If we preserve human analogy, we must for ever find it impossible to reconcile any mixture of evil in the universe with infinite attributes ; much less can we ever prove the latter from the former. But supposing the Author of Nature to be finitely perfect, though far exceeding mankind, a satisfactory account may then be given of natural and moral evil, and every untoward phenomenon be explained and adjusted. A less evil may then be chosen, in order to avoid a greater : inconveniences be submitted to, in order to reach a desirable end : and, in a word, benevolence, regulated by wisdom and limited by necessity, may produce just such a world as the present.” This seems to have been borrowed from Voltaire. Questions sur l'Encyclopedie, 9 Partie, p. 348. I have heard Dr. Adam Smith say, that these Dialogues concerning Natural Religion were the most laboured of all Hume's works. They were the occasion of Dr. Balguy's publishing that capital treatise, entitled, Divine Benevolence : which benevolence he undertakes to vindicate like this Essay on Man, but with greater consistency, and closeness of reasoning, without having recourse to a future existence. Wollaston, in a celebrated passage, has given a striking and pathetic picture of the evils and
When the proud steed shall know why Man re
strains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains ; When the dull Ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Egypt's God: Then shall Man's pride and dulness comprehend 65 His actions', passion's, being's, use and end; Why doing, suff'ring, check’d, impell’d; and why This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not Man's imperfect, Heaven's in fault; Say rather, Man's as perfect as he ought: 70
Ver. 64. In the former editions,
Now wears a garland an Egyptian God : altered as above for the reason given in the note.
miseries of this present life, in order to shew (as many divines do in their discourses) the absolute necessity of another, for the defence of the dispensations of Providence. Dr. Balguy, from p. 110 to p. 127, has minutely, and step by step, confuted every part of this statement of the evils and miseries of life; and ends by saying, “that Wollaston has only attended to one side of the question. He has dwelt largely on the melancholy parts of human life; but in great measure overlooked its enjoyments. A pen like his could, with equal ease and success, have painted the happiness of our present state, and given it the appearance of a paradise.” This is the passage of Wollaston, which Bolingbroke has so much ridiculed. Works, vol. ii. p. 110.
Ver. 64.-Egypt's God:] Called so, because the God Apis was worshipped universally over the whole land of Egypt. w.
Ver. 70. as he ought :} Consequently man is not in a lapsed or degenerate state. He is as perfect a being as ever his Creator intended him to be ; nor, consequently, did he stand in need of any redemption or atonement. The expression, as he ought, is imperfect; for, ought to be. VOL. III.
His knowledge measur'd to his state and place;
75 As who began a thousand years ago. III. Heay'n from all creatures hides the book of
Fate, All but the page prescribd, their present state : From brutes what men, from men what spirits know: Or who could suffer Being here below?
80 The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to day, Had he thy Reason, would he skip and play? Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food, And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood. Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
85 That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n :
Ver. 74. What matter, soon] But surely, the sooner and the later, with respect to communicating happiness to any being, is, and must be, a circumstance of great consequence.
Ver. 77. the book of Fate,] It would obviate the heavy difficulties in which we are involved, when we argue on the Divine Prescience, and consequent Predestination, if we were to adopt Archbishop King's opinion, and say, " that the knowledge of God is very different from the knowledge of Man, which implies succession, and seeing objects one after another; but the existence and the attributes of the Deity can have no relation to time; for that all things, past, present, and to come, are all at once present to the Divine Mind."
Ver. 81. The lamb thy riot dooms] The tenderness of this striking image, and particularly the circumstance in the last line, has an artful effect in alleviating the dryness of the argumentative parts of the Essay, and interesting the reader. No happier passage can be found in our author's works, though Johnson thought otherwise,
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
After Ver. 88, in the MS.
No great, no little ; 'tïs as much decreed
That Virgil's Gnat should die as Cæsar bleed.
What bliss above he gives not thee to know,
Ver. 87. Who sees with equal eye, &c.] Matt. x. 29.
Ver. 97. The soul (uneasy, and confin'd)] “ In the old editions, it was, confin'd at home, which was altered at the persuasion of the divine, against the sense of the poet. The point to be illustrated is, that hope is implanted in man, to enable him to bear all the evils of life, though it is merely visionary, and has no foundation :
• What future bliss he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.' Thus tan, confined on his own earth, dreams of imaginary mansions in another world. Hope supplies the reality of them. He hopes, upon the same ground as the Indian does, for a heaven, where his dog shall accompany him. Sorry am I to give this view of the author's creed; but it is too true a representation of it. He makes no difference between the certainty of the Christian's heaven and the Indian's. It will be presumption in