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tive of all possible ways, but discharges one of his most ennobling duties; and all his duties are truly ennobling. To deduce, from the manifestations of God's wisdom and goodness, arguments wherewith to silence the atheist and the sceptic, must be an act as acceptable to God as consolatory to the human mind. We are enjoined, by sacred authority, “ to be ready always to give a reason of the hope that is in us;" and this we certainly never can be, without such a consideration of the dispensations of God's providence towards us, as will lead us to form correct notions of his physical, and still more of his moral attributes. He has accordingly fitted our nature to duty, and has implanted in the human mind an appetite for information, an impatience of ignorance, doubt, and perplexity, on subjects that concern us; and a consequent ardor of inquiry that is satisfied only with the certainty of revealed or demonstrated truth. Lord Bacon truly says, “ the human mind doth wonderfully endeavour and extremely covet that it may not be wavering, but that it may light upon some quiescent point, upon something fixed and immoveable."
You observe that you are tempted to believe that a satisfactory mode of reconciling the evil, physical and moral, that afflicts humanity, with the providence of an infinitely perfect Creator, is not necessary in our present state; or that Revelation, instead of simply telling us that “ man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards*,” and that " it needs must that offences come,” would have explained to us the purpose for which such melancholy laws are impressed on our nature. With this opinion I cannot coincide: a full and
* Job v. 7.
satisfactory explanation of these melancholy laws, as you call them, is, I think, indispensable to our formation of correct notions of God's goodness, as well as of his power ; and correct notions of these divine attri. butes are indispensable to human happi
The history of every country in the world proves that corrupt notions of the divine attributes are necessarily attended with pernicious effects on the morals, and consequently on the happiness, of mankind. But we must not forget that Revelation communicates only those truths which are both essential to human happiness, and undiscoverable by human reason; or which, if human reason can discover, it has no authority to sanction. But I have already observed, that it remains to be proved that this important desideratum is undiscoverable by human reason. Nay, I am of opinion, that, though Revelation does not expressly communicate it, it may nevertheless be deduced therefrom; or, more properly speaking, that we may find enough in Revelation fully to confirm a solution of all the difficulties of this question, that is at once simple, satisfactory, and discoverable by the light of nature.
BEFORE I proceed, in compliance with your wishes to submit to your consideration the explication of the cause of evil to which I alluded at the conclusion of my last letter, it will be advisable to examine, as briefly as possible, some of the most celebrated theories on the subject.
The question is this : If we are the creatures of an infinitely good Creator, he must desire our perfect happiness : if he is infinitely powerful, he must be able to effect it. Why, then, are we in a state so very much the reverse of happiness; overwhelmed, as we are, with vice and misery; oppressed by such an immense weight of physical ills, which we have no possibility of resisting