Natural Theology Part Eight

What further shows, that the system of destruction amongst animals holds an express relation to the system of fecundity; that they are parts indeed of one compensatory




Page 481


scheme; is, that, in each species, the fecundity bears a proportion to the smallness of the animal, to the weakness, to the shortness of its natural term of life, and to the dangers and enemies by which it is surrounded. An elephant produces but one calf; a butterfly lays six hundred eggs. Birds of prey seldom produce more than two eggs: the sparrow tribe, and the duck tribe, frequently sit upon a dozen. In the rivers, we meet with a thousand minnows for one pike; in the sea, a million of herrings for a single shark. Compensation obtains throughout. Defencelessness and devastation are repaired by fecundity.


We have dwelt the longer on these considerations, because the subject to which they apply, namely, that of animals devouring one another, forms the chief, if not the only instance, in the works of the Deity, of an    conomy, stamped by marks of design, in which the character of utility can be called in question. The case of venomous animals is of much inferior consequence to the case of prey, and, in some degree, is also included under it. To both cases it is probable that many more reasons belong, than those of which we are in possession.


Our FIRST PROPOSITION, and that which we have hitherto been defending, was,




Page 482


that, in a vast plurality of instances, in which contrivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial.


Our SECOND PROPOSITION is, that the Deity has added pleasure to animal sensations, beyond what was necessary for any other purpose, or when the purpose, so far as it was necessary, might have been effected by the operation of pain.


This proposition may be thus explained: The capacities, which, according to the established course of nature, are necessary to the support or preservation of an animal, however manifestly they may be the result of an organization contrived for the purpose, can only be deemed an act or a part of the same will, as that which decreed the existence of the animal itself; because, whether the creation proceeded from a benevolent of a malevolent being, these capacities must have been given, if the animal existed at all. Animal properties, therefore, which fall under this description, do not strictly prove the goodness of God: they may prove the existence of the Deity; they may prove a high degree of power and intelligence: but they do not prove his goodness; forasmuch as they must have been found in any creation which was capable of continuance, although it is possible




Page 483


to suppose, that such a creation might have been produced by a being whose views rested upon misery.


But there is a class of properties, which may be said to be superadded from an intention expressly directed to happiness; an intention to give a happy existence distinct from the general intention of providing the means of existence; and that is, of capacities for pleasure, in cases wherein, so far as the conservation of the individual or of the species is concerned, they were not wanted, or wherein the purpose might have been secured by the operation of pain. The provision which is made of a variety of objects, not necessary to life, and ministering only to our pleasures; and the properties given to the necessaries of life themselves, by which they contribute to pleasure as well as preservation; show a further design, than that of giving existence(Note: See this topic considered in Dr. Balguy's  Treatise  upon  the  Divine  Benevolence. This  excellent  author  first,  I  think, proposed it; and nearly in the terms in which it is here stated. Some other observations also under this head are taken from that treatise.).


A single instance will make all this clear. Assuming the necessity of food for the support of animal life; it is requisite, that the animal be provided with organs, fitted for the




Page 484


procuring, receiving, and digesting of its food. It may be also necessary, that the animal be impelled by its sensations to exert its organs. But the pain of hunger would do all this. Why add pleasure to the act of eating; sweetness and relish to food? why a new and appropriate sense for the perception of the pleasure? Why should the juice of a peach, applied to the palate, affect the part so differently from what it does when rubbed upon


the palm of the hand? This is a constitution which, so far as appears to me, can be resolved into nothing but the pure benevolence of the Creator. Eating is necessary; but the pleasure attending it is not necessary: and that this pleasure depends, not only upon our being in possession of the sense of taste, which is different from every other, but upon a particular state of the organ in which it resides, a felicitous adaptation of the organ to the object, will be confessed by any one, who may happen to have experienced that vitiation of taste which frequently occurs in fevers, when every taste is irregular, and every one bad.


In mentioning the gratifications of the palate, it may be said that we have made choice of a trifling example. I am not of that opinion. They afford a share of enjoyment




Page 485


to man; but to brutes, I believe that they are of very great importance. A horse at liberty passes a great part of his waking hours in eating. To the ox, the sheep, the deer, and other ruminating animals, the pleasure is doubled. Their whole time almost is divided between browsing upon their pasture and chewing their cud. Whatever the pleasure be, it is spread over a large portion of their existence. If there be animals, such as the lupous fish, which swallow their prey whole, and at once, without any time, as it should seem, for either drawing out, or relishing, the taste in the mouth, is it an improbable conjecture, that the seat of taste with them is in the stomach; or, at least, that a sense of pleasure, whether it be taste or not, accompanies the dissolution of the food in that receptacle, which dissolution in general is carried on very slowly? If this opinion be right, they are more than repaid for the defect of palate. The feast lasts as long as the digestion.


In seeking for argument, we need not stay to insist upon the comparative importance of our example; for, the observation holds equally of all, or of three at least, of the other senses. The necessary purposes of hearing might have been answered without




Page 486


harmony; of smell, without fragrance; of vision without beauty. Now, if the Deity had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune (as all design by this supposition is excluded), both the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to excite it. I allege these as two felicities, for they are different things, yet both necessary: the sense being formed, the objects, which were applied to it, might not have suited it; the objects being fixed, the sense  might  not  have  agreed  with  them.  A  coincidence  is  here  required,  which  no accident can account for. There are three possible suppositions upon the subject, and no more. The first; that the sense, by its original constitution, was made to suit the object: The second; that the object, by its original constitution, was made to suit the sense: The third; that the sense is so constituted, as to be able, either universally, or within certain limits, by habit and familiarity, to render every object pleasant. Which-ever of these


suppositions we adopt, the effect evinces, on the part of the Author of nature, a studious benevolence. If the pleasures which we derive from any of our senses, depend upon an original congruity


Page 487


between the sense and the properties perceived by it, we know only experience, that the adjustment  demanded,  with  respect  to  the  qualities  which  were  conferred  upon  the objects that surround us, not only choice and selection, out of a boundless variety of possible qualities with which these objects might have been endued, but a proportioning also of degree, because an excess or defect of intensity spoils the perception, as much almost as an error in the kind and nature of the quality. Likewise the degree of dulness or acuteness in the sense itself, is no arbitrary thing, but, in order to preserve the congruity here spoken of, requires to be in an exact or near correspondency with the strength of the impression. The dulness of the senses forms the complaint of old age. Persons in fevers, and, I believe, in most maniacal cases, experience great torment from their preternatural acuteness. An increased, no less than an impaired sensibility, induces a state of disease and suffering.


The doctrine of a specific congruity between animal senses and their objects, is strongly favoured by what is observed of insects in the election of their food. Some of these will feed upon one kind of plant or animal, and upon no other: some caterpillars




Page 488


upon the cabbage alone; some upon the black currant alone. The species of caterpillar which eats the vine, will starve upon the elder; nor will that which we find upon fennel, touch the rose-bush. Some insects confine themselves to two or three kinds of plants or animals. Some again show so strong a preference, as to afford reason to believe that, though they may be driven by hunger to others, they are led by the pleasure of taste to a few particular plants alone: and all this, as it should seem, independently of habit or imitation.


But should we accept the third hypothesis, and even carry it so far, as to ascribe every thing which concerns the question to habit (as in certain species, the human species most particularly, there is reason to attribute something), we have then before us an animal capacity, not less perhaps to be admired than the native congruities which the other scheme adopts. It cannot be shown to result from any fixed necessity in nature, that what is frequently applied to the senses should of course become agreeable to them. It is, so far as it subsists, a power of accommodation provided in these senses by the Author of their structure, and forms a part of their perfection.



Page 489


In which-ever way we regard the senses, they appear to be specific gifts, ministering, not only to preservation, but to pleasure. But what we usually call the senses, are probably themselves  far  from  being  the  only  vehicles  of  enjoyment,  or  the  whole  of  our constitution which is calculated for the same purpose. We have many internal sensations of the most agreeable kind, hardly referable to any of the five senses. Some physiologists have holden, that all secretion is pleasurable; and that the complacency which in health, without any external assignable object to excite it, we derive from life itself, is the effect of our secretions going on well within us. All this may be true: but if true, what reason can be assigned for it, except the will of the Creator? It may reasonably be asked, Why is any thing a pleasure? and I know no answer which can be returned to the question, but that which refers it to appointment.


We can give no account whatever of our pleasures in the simple and original perception; and, even when physical sensations are assumed, we can seldom account for them in the secondary and complicated shapes, in which they take the name of diversions. I never yet met with a sportsman, who could




Page 490


tell me in what the sport consisted: who could resolve it into its principle, and state that principle. I have been a great follower of fishing myself, and in its cheerful solitude have passed some of the happiest hours of a sufficiently happy life; but, to this moment, I could never trace out the source of the pleasure which it afforded me.


The  quantum in  rebus  inane!  whether  applied  to  our  amusements,  or  to  our  graver pursuits (to which, in truth, it sometimes equally belongs), is always an unjust complaint. If  trifles  engage,  and  if  trifles  make  us happy,  the  true  reflection  suggested  by  the experiment, is upon the tendency of nature to gratification and enjoyment; which is, in other words, the goodness of its Author towards his sensitive creation.


Rational natures also, as such, exhibit qualities which help to confirm the truth of our position. The degree of understanding found in mankind, is usually much greater than what is necessary for mere preservation. The pleasure of choosing for themselves, and of prosecuting the object of their choice, should seem to be an original source of enjoyment. The pleasures received from things, great, beautiful, or new, from imitation, or




Page 491


from the liberal arts, are, in some measure, not only superadded, but unmixed, gratifications, having no pains to balance them (Note: Balguy on the Divine Benevolence.).


I do not know whether our attachment to property be not something more than the mere dictate of reason, or even than the mere effect of association. Property communicates a charm to whatever is the object of it. It is the first of our abstract ideas; it cleaves to us the closest and the longest. It endears to the child its plaything, to the peasant his cottage, to the landholder his estate. It supplies the place of prospect and scenery. Instead of coveting the beauty of distant situations, it teaches every man to find it in his own. It gives boldness and grandeur to plains and fens, tinge and colouring to clays and fallows.


All these considerations come in aid of our second proposition. The reader will now bear in mind what our two propositions were. They were, firstly, that in a vast plurality of instances, in which contrivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial: secondly, that the Deity has added pleasure to animal sensations beyond what was necessary for any other purpose; or when the purpose,




Page 492


so far as it was necessary, might have been effected by the operation of pain.


Whilst these propositions can be maintained, we are authorized to ascribe to the Deity the character of benevolence: and what is benevolence at all, must in him be infinite benevolence, by reason of the infinite, that is to say, the incalculably great, number of objects, upon which it is exercised.


Of the ORIGIN OF EVIL, no universal solution has been discovered; I mean, no solution which reaches to all cases of complaint. The most comprehensive is that which arises from the consideration of general rules. We may, I think, without much difficulty, be brought to admit the four following points: first, that important advantages may accrue to the universe from the order of nature proceeding according to general laws: secondly, that general laws, however well set and constituted, often thwart and cross one another: thirdly, that from these thwartings and crossings, frequent particular inconveniencies will arise: and, fourthly, that it agrees with our observation to suppose, that some degree of these inconveniencies takes place in the works of nature. These points may be allowed; and




Page 493


it may also be asserted, that the general laws with which we are acquainted, are directed to beneficial ends. On the other hand, with many of these laws we are not acquainted at all, or we are totally unable to trace them in their branches, and in their operation; the effect of which ignorance is, that they cannot be of importance to us as measures by which to regulate our conduct. The conservation of them may be of importance in other respects, or to other beings, but we are uninformed of their value or use; uninformed, consequently, when, and how far, they may or may not be suspended, or their effects turned aside, by a presiding and benevolent will, without incurring greater evils than


those which would be avoided. The consideration, therefore, of general laws, although it may concern the question of the origin of evil very nearly (which I think it does), rests in views disproportionate to our faculties, and in a knowledge which we do not possess. It serves rather to account for the obscurity of the subject, than to supply us with distinct answers to our difficulties. However, whilst we assent to the above-stated propositions as principles, whatever uncertainty we may find in the application, we lay a ground for believing, that cases of apparent evil, for which


Page 494


we can suggest no particular reason, are governed by reasons, which are more general, which lie deeper in the order of second causes, and which on that account, are removed to a greater distance from us.


The doctrine of imperfections, or, as it is called, of evils of imperfection, furnishes an account, founded, like the former, in views of universal nature. The doctrine is briefly this:--It  is  probable,  that  creation  may  be  better  replenished  by  sensitive  beings  of different sorts, than by sensitive beings all of one sort. It is likewise probable, that it may be better replenished, by different orders of beings rising one above another in gradation, than by beings possessed of equal degrees of perfection. Now, a gradation of such beings, implies a gradation of imperfections. No class can justly complain of the imperfections which belong to its place in the scale, unless it were allowable for it to complain, that a scale of being was appointed in nature; for which appointment there appear to be reasons of wisdom and goodness.


In like manner, finiteness, or what is resolvable into finiteness, in inanimate subjects, can never be a just subject of complaint, because if it were ever so, it would be always so: we mean, that we can never reasonably




Page 495


demand that things should be larged or more, when the same demand might be made, whatever the quantity or number was.


And to me it seems, that the sense of mankind has so far acquiesced in these reasons, as that we seldom complain of evils of this class, when we clearly perceive them to be such. What I have to add, therefore, is that we ought not to complain of some other evils, which stand upon the same foot of vindication as evils of confessed imperfection. We never complain, that the globe of our earth is too small: nor should we complain, if it were even much smaller. But where is the difference to us, between a less globe, and part of the present being uninhabitable? The inhabitants of an island may be apt enough to murmur at the sterility of some parts of it, against its rocks, or sands, or swamps: but no one thinks himself authorized to murmur, simply because the island is not large than it is. Yet these are the same griefs.


The  above  are  the  two  metaphysical  answers  which  have  been  given  to  this  great question. They are not the worse for being metaphysical, provided they be founded (which I think they are) in right reasoning:




Page 496


but they are of a nature too wide to be brought under our survey, and it is often difficult to apply them in the detail. Our speculations, therefore, are perhaps better employed when they confine themselves within a narrower circle.


The observations which follow, are of this more limited, but more determinate kind.


Of bodily pain, the principal observation, no doubt, is that which we have already made, and already dwelt upon, viz. that it is seldom the object of contrivance; that when it is so, the contrivance rests ultimately in good.


To which, however, may be added, that the annexing of pain to the means of destruction is a salutary provision; inasmuch as it teaches vigilance and caution; both gives notice of danger, and excites those endeavours which may be necessary to preservation. The evil consequence, which sometimes arises from the want of that timely intimation of danger which pain gives, is known to the inhabitants of cold countries by the example of frost- bitten limbs. I have conversed with patients who have lost toes and fingers by this cause. They have in general told me, that they were totally unconscious of any local uneasiness at the




Page 497


time. Some I have heard declare, that, whilst they were about their employment, neither their situation, nor the state of the air, was unpleasant. They felt no pain; they suspected no mischief; till, by the application of warmth, they discovered, too late, the fatal injury which some of their extremities had suffered. I say that this shows the use of pain, and that we stand in need of such a monitor. I believe also that the use extends further than we suppose, or can now trace; that to disagreeable sensations we, and all animals owe or have owed, many habits of action which are salutary, but which are become so familiar, as not easily to be referred to their origin.


PAIN also itself is not without its alleviations. It may be violent and frequent; but it is seldom  both  violent  and  long-continued:  and  its  pauses  and  intermissions  become positive pleasures. It has the power of shedding a satisfaction over intervals of ease, which, I believe, few enjoyments exceed. A man resting from a fit of the stone or gout, is, for the time, in possession of feelings which undisturbed health cannot impart. They may be dearly bought, but still they are to be set against the price. And, indeed, it depends upon the duration and urgency of



Page 498


the pain, whether they be dearly bought or not. I am far from being sure, that a man is not a gainer by suffering a moderate interruption of bodily ease for a couple of hours out of the four-and-twenty. Two very common observations favour this opinion: one is, that remissions of pain call forth, from those who experience them, stronger expressions of satisfaction and of gratitude towards both the author and the instruments of their relief, than are excited by advantages of any other kind; the second is, that the spirits of sick men do not sink in proportion to the acuteness of their sufferings; but rather appear to be roused and supported, not by pain, but by the high degree of comfort which they derive from its cessation, or even its subsidency, whenever that occurs: and which they taste with a relish, that diffuses some portion of mental complacency over the whole of that mixed state of sensations in which disease has placed them.


In connexion with bodily pain may be considered bodily disease, whether painful or not. Few  diseases  are  fatal.  I  have  before  me  the  account  of  a  dispensary  in  the neighbourhood, which states six years' experience as follows:




Page 499



Admitted                  ..............................6,420Cured                  ..........................5,476Dead


And this I suppose nearly to agree with what other similar institutions exhibit. Now, in all these cases, some disorder must have been felt, or the patients would not have applied for a  remedy;  yet  we  see  how  large  a  proportion  of  the  maladies  which  were  brought forward, have either yielded to proper treatment, or, what is more probable, ceased of their own accord. We owe these frequent recoveries, and, where recovery does not take place, this patience of the human constitution under many of the distempers by which it is visited, to two benefactions of our nature. One is, that she works within certain limits; allows of a certain latitude within which health may be preserved, and within the confines of which it only suffers a graduated diminution. Different quantities of food, different degrees of exercise, different portions of sleep, different states of the atmosphere, are compatible with the possession of health. So likewise is it with the secretions and excretions, with many internal functions of the body, and with the state, probably, of most of its internal organs. They may vary considerably, not only without




Page 500


destroying life, but without occasioning any high degree of inconveniency. The other property of our nature, to which we are still more beholden, is its constant endeavour to restore itself, when disordered, to its regular course. The fluids of the body appear to possess a power of separating and expelling any noxious substance which may have mixed itself with them. This they do, in eruptive fevers, by a kind of despumation, as


Sydenham  calls  it,  analogous  in  some  measure  to  the  intestine  action  by  which fermenting liquors work the yest to the surface. The solids, on their part, when their action is obstructed, not only resume that action, as soon as the obstruction is removed, but they struggle with the impediment. They take an action as near to the true one, as the difficulty and the disorganization, with which they have to contend, will allow of.


Of mortal diseases, the great use is to reconcile us to death. The horror of death proves the value of life. But it is in the power of disease to abate, or even extinguish, this horror; which it does in a wonderful manner, and, oftentimes, by a mild and imperceptible gradation. Every man who has been placed in a situation to observe it, is surprised with the change which has been




Page 501


wrought in himself, when he compares the view which he entertains of death upon a sick- bed, with the heart-sinking dismay with which he should some time ago have met it in health. There is no similitude between the sensations of a man led to execution, and the calm expiring of a patient at the close of his disease. Death to him is only the last of a long train of changes; in his progress through which, it is possible that he may experience no shocks or sudden transitions.


Death itself, as a mode of removal and of succession, is so connected with the whole order of our animal world, that almost every thing in that world must be changed, to be able to do without it. It may seem likewise impossible to separate the fear of death from the enjoyment of life, or the perception of that fear from rational natures. Brutes are in a great  measure  delivered  from all  anxiety  on  this  account  by  the  inferiority  of  their faculties; or rather they seem to be armed with the apprehension of death just sufficiently to put them upon the means of preservation, and no further. But would a human being wish to purchase this immunity at the expense of those mental powers which enable him to look forward to the future?




Page 502


Death implies separation: and the loss of those whom we love, must necessarily, so far as we can conceive, be accompanied with pain. To the brute creation, nature seems to have stepped in with some secret provision for their relief, under the rupture of their attachments. In their instincts towards their offspring, and of their offspring to them, I have often been surprised to observe how ardently they love, and how soon they forget. The pertinacity of human sorrow (upon which, time also, at length, lays its softening hand) is probably, therefore, in some manner connected with the qualities of our rational or moral nature. One thing however is clear, viz. that it is better that we should possess affections, the sources of so many virtues, and so many joys, although they be exposed to the incidents of life, as well as the interruptions of mortality, than, by the want of them, be reduced to a state of selfishness, apathy, and quietism.


Of other external evils (still confining ourselves to what are called physical or natural evils), a considerable part come within the scope of the following observation:--The great principle of human satisfaction is engagement. It is a most just distinction, which the late Mr. Tucker has dwelt upon so largely




Page 503


in his works, between pleasures in which we are passive, and pleasures in which we are active. And, I believe, every attentive observer of human life will assent to his position, that, however grateful the sensations may occasionally be in which we are passive, it is not these, but the latter class of our pleasures, which constitute satisfaction; which supply that regular stream of moderate and miscellaneous enjoyments, in which happiness, as distinguished from voluptuousness, consists. Now for rational occupation, which is, in other words, for the very material of contented existence, there would be no place left, if either  the  things  with  which  we  had  to  do  were  absolutely  impracticable  to  our endeavours, or if they were too obedient to our uses. A world, furnished with advantages on one side, and beset with difficulties, wants, and inconveniences on the other, is the proper  abode  of free,  rational,  and active  natures,  being  the  fittest  to stimulate  and exercise their faculties. The very refractoriness of the objects they have to deal with, contributes to this purpose. A world in which nothing depended upon ourselves, however it might have suited an imaginary race of beings, would not have suited mankind. Their skill, prudence, industry; their various arts,




Page 504


and their best attainments, from the application of which they draw, if not their highest, their most permanent gratifications, would be insignificant, if things could be either moulded by our volitions, or, of their own accord, conformed themselves to our views and wishes. Now it is in this refractoriness that we discern the seed and principle of physicalevil, as far as it arises from that which is external to us.


Civil evils, or the evils of civil life, are much more easily disposed of, than physical evils: because they are, in truth, of much less magnitude, and also because they result, by a kind of necessity, not only from the constitution of our nature, but from a part of that constitution which no one would wish to see altered. The case is this: Mankind will in every country breed up to a certain point of distress. That point may be different in different countries or ages, according to the established usages of life in each. It will also shift upon the scale, so as to admit of a greater or less number of inhabitants, according as the quantity of provision, which is either produced in the country, or supplied to it from other countries, may happen to vary. But there must always be such a point, and the species will always breed up to it.






Page 505


The order of generation proceeds by something like a geometrical progression. The increase of provision, under circumstances even the most advantageous, can only assume the form of an arithmetic series. Whence it follows, that the population will always overtake the provision, will pass beyond the line of plenty, and will continue to increase till checked by the difficulty of procuring subsistence(Note: See a statement of this subject, in a late treatise upon population.). Such difficulty therefore, along with its attendant circumstances, must be found in every old country: and these circumstances constitute what we call poverty, which, necessarily, imposes labour, servitude, restraint.


It seems impossible to people a country with inhabitants who shall be all easy in circumstances. For suppose the thing to be done, there would be such marrying and giving in marriage amongst them, as would in a few years change the face of affairs entirely; i. e. as would increase the consumption of those articles, which supplied the natural or habitual wants of the country, to such a degree of scarcity, as must leave the greatest part of the inhabitants unable to procure




Page 506


them without toilsome endeavours, or, out of the different kinds of these articles, to procure any kind except that which was most easily produced. And this, in fact, describes the condition of the mass of the community in all countries: a condition unavoidably, as it should seem, resulting from the provision which is made in the human, in common with all animal constitutions, for the perpetuity and multiplication of the species.


It need not however dishearten any endeavours for the public service, to know that population naturally treads upon the heels of improvement. If the condition of a people be meliorated, the consequence will be, either that the mean happiness will be increased, or a greater number partake of it; or which is most likely to happen, that both effects will take place together. There may be limits fixed by nature to both, but they are limits not yet attained, nor even approached, in any country of the world.


And when we speak of limits at all, we have respect only to provisions for animal wants. There are sources, and means, and auxiliaries, and augmentations of human happiness, communicable without restriction of numbers; as capable of being possessed by a thousand persons as by one. Such are



Page 507


those, which flow from a mild, contrasted with a tyrannic government, whether civil or domestic; those which spring from religion; those which grow out of a sense of security; those which depend upon habits of virtue, sobriety, moderation, order; those, lastly, which are found in the possession of well-directed tastes and desires, compared with the dominion   of   tormenting,   pernicious,   contradictory,   unsatisfied,   and   unsatisfiable passions.


The distinctions of civil life are apt enough to be regarded as evils, by those who sit under them; but, in my opinion, with very little reason.


In the first place, the advantages which the higher conditions of life are supposed to confer, bear no proportion in value to the advantages which are bestowed by nature. The gifts of nature always surpass the gifts of fortune. How much, for example, is activity better than attendance; beauty than dress; appetite, digestion, and tranquil bowels, than all the studies of cookery, or than the most costly compilation of forced, or far-fetched dainties!


Nature has a strong tendency to equalization. Habit, the instrument of nature, is a great leveller; the familiarity which it induces,




Page 508


taking off the edge both of our pleasures and our sufferings. Indulgences which are habitual, keep us in ease, and cannot be carried much further. So that, with respect to the gratifications of which the senses are capable, the difference is by no means proportionable to the apparatus. Nay, so far as superfluity generates fastidiousness, the difference is on the wrong side.


It is not necessary to contend, that the advantages derived from wealth are none (under due regulations they are certainly considerable), but that they are not greater than they ought to be. Money is the sweetener of human toil; the substitute for coercion; the reconciler of labour with liberty. It is, moreover, the stimulant of enterprise in all projects and undertakings, as well as of diligence in the most beneficial arts and employments. Now did affluence, when possessed, contribute nothing to happiness, or nothing beyond the mere supply of necessaries; and the secret should come to be discovered; we might be in danger of losing great part of the uses, which are, at present, derived to us through this important medium. Not only would the tranquillity of social life be put in peril by the want of a motive to attach men to their private concerns; but the satisfaction



Page 509


which all men receive from success in their respective occupations, which collectively constitutes the great mass of human comfort, would be done away in its very principle.


With respect to station, as it is distinguished from riches, whether it confer authority over others, or be invested with honours which apply solely to sentiment and imagination, the truth is, that what is gained by rising through the ranks of life, is not more than sufficient to draw forth the exertions of those who are engaged in the pursuits which lead to advancement, and which, in general, are such as ought to be encouraged. Distinctions of this  sort  are  subjects  much  more  of  competition  than  of  enjoyment:  and  in  that competition their use consists. It is not, as hath been rightly observed, by what the Lord Mayor feels in his coach, but by what the apprentice feels who gazes at him, that the public is served.


As we approach the summits of human greatness, the comparison of good and evil, with respect to personal comfort, becomes still more problematical; even allowing to ambition all its pleasures. The poet asks, What is grandeur, what is power? The philosopher answers, Constraint and plague:




Page 510


et in maximâ quâque fortunâ minimum licere. One very common error misleads the opinion of mankind on this head, viz. that, universally, authority is pleasant, submission painful. In the general course of human affairs, the very reverse of this is nearer to the truth. Command is anxiety, obedience ease.


Artificial distinctions sometimes promote real quality. Whether they be hereditary, or be the homage paid to office, or the respect attached by public opinion to particular professions, they serve to confront that grand and unavoidable distinction which arises from property, and which is most overbearing where there is no other. It is of the nature of property, not only to be irregularly distributed, but to run into large masses. Public laws should be so constructed as to favour its diffusion as much as they can. But all that can be done by laws consistently with that degree of government of his property which ought to be left to the subject, will not be sufficient to counteract this tendency. There must always therefore be the difference between rich and poor: and this difference will be the more grinding, when no pretension is allowed to be set up against it.


So that the evils, if evils they must be



Page 511


called, which spring either from the necessary subordinations of civil life, or from the distinctions which have, naturally, though not necessarily, grown up in most societies, so long as they are unaccompanied by privileges injurious or oppressive to the rest of the community, are such, as may, even by the most depressed ranks, be endured with very little prejudice to their comfort.


The mischiefs of which mankind are the occasion to one another, by their private wickednesses and cruelties; by tyrannical exercises of power; by rebellions against just authority; by wars; by national jealousies and competitions operating to the destruction of third countries; or by other instances of misconduct either in individuals or societies, are all to be resolved into the character of man as a free agent. Free agency in its very essence contains liability to abuse. Yet, if you deprive man of his free agency, you subvert his nature. You may have order from him and regularity, as you may from the tides or the trade-winds, but you put an end to his moral character, to virtue, to merit, to accountableness, to the use indeed of reason. To which must be added the observation, that even the bad qualities of mankind have an origin in their good ones. The case is




Page 512


this: human passions are either necessary to human welfare, or capable of being made, and, in a great majority of instances, in fact, made, conducive to its happiness. These passions are strong and general; and, perhaps, would not answer their purpose unless they were so. But strength and generality, when it is expedient that particular circumstances should be respected, become, if left to themselves, excess and misdirection. From which excess and misdirection, the vices of mankind (the causes, no doubt, of much misery) appear to spring. This account, whilst it shows us the principle of vice, shows us, at the same time, the province of reason and of self-government: the want also of every support which can be procured to either from the aids of religion; and it shows this, without having recourse to any native, gratuitous malignity in the human constitution. Mr. Hume, in his posthumous dialogues, asserts, indeed, of idleness, or aversion to labour (which he states to lie at the root of a considerable part of the evils which mankind suffer), that it is simple and merely bad. But how does he distinguish idleness from the love of ease? or is he sure, that the love of ease in individuals is not the chief foundation of social tranquillity? It will be found, I believe,


Page 513


to be true, that in every community there is a large class of its members, whose idleness is the best quality about them, being the corrective of other bad ones. If it were possible, in every instance, to give a right determination to industry, we could never have too much of it. But this is not possible, if men are to be free. And without this, nothing would be so


dangerous, as an incessant, universal, indefatigable activity. In the civil world, as well as in the material, it is the vis inerti    which keeps things in their places.

NATURAL THEOLOGY has ever been pressed with this question; Why, under the regency of a supreme and benevolent Will, should there be, in the world, so much, as there is, of the appearance of chance?


The question in its whole compass lies beyond our reach: but there are not wanting, as in the origin of evil, answers which seem to have considerable weight in particular cases, and also to embrace a considerable number of cases.


  1. There must be chance in the midst of design: by which we mean, that events which are not designed, necessarily arise from the pursuit of events which are designed.




Page 514


One man travelling to York, meets another man travelling to London. Their meeting is by chance, is accidental, and so would be called and reckoned, though the journeys which produced the meeting, were, both of them, undertaken with design and from deliberation. The meeting, though accidental, was nevertheless hypothetically necessary (which is the only sort of necessity that is intelligible): for, if the two journeys were commenced at the time, pursued in the direction, and with the speed, in which and with which they were in fact begun and performed, the meeting could not be avoided. There was not, therefore, the less necessity in it for its being by chance. Again, the rencountre might be most unfortunate, though the errands, upon which each party set out upon his journey, were the most innocent or the most laudable. The bye effect may be unfavourable, without impeachment of the proper purpose, for the sake of which the train, from the operation of which these consequences ensued, was put in motion. Although no cause act without a good purpose; accidental consequences, like these, may be either good or bad.


  1. The appearance of chance will always bear a proportion to the ignorance of the observer.




Page 515


The cast of a die as regularly follows the laws of motion, as the going of a watch; yet, because we can trace the operation of those laws through the works and movements of the watch, and cannot trace them in the shaking and throwing of the die (though the laws be the same, and prevail equally in both cases), we call the turning up of the number of the die chance, the pointing of the index of the watch, machinery, order, or by some name which excludes chance. It is the same in those events which depend upon the will of a free and rational agent. The verdict of a jury, the sentence of a judge, the resolution of an assembly, the issue of a contested election, will have more or less of the appearance of chance, might be more or less the subject of a wager, according as we were less or more


acquainted with the reasons which influenced the deliberation. The difference resides in the information of the observer, and not in the thing itself; which, in all the cases proposed, proceeds from intelligence, from mind, from counsel, from design.


Now when this one cause of the appearance of chance, viz. the ignorance of the observer, comes to be applied to the operations of the Deity, it is easy to foresee how fruitful




Page 516


it must prove of difficulties, and of seeming confusion. It is only to think of the Deity, to perceive what variety of objects, what distance of time, what extent of space and action, his  counsels  may,  or  rather  must,  comprehend.  Can  it  be  wondered  at,  that,  of  the purposes which dwell in such a mind as this, so small a part should be known to us? It is only necessary, therefore, to bear in our thought, that in proportion to the inadequateness of our information, will be the quantity, in the world, of apparent chance.


III. In a great variety of cases, and of cases comprehending numerous subdivisions, it a pears, for many reasons, to be better that events rise up by chance, or, more properly speaking with the appearance of chance, than according to any observable rule whatever. This is not seldom the case even in human arrangements. Each person's place and precedency, in a public meeting, may be determined by lot. Work and labour may be allotted. Tasks and burthens may be allotted:-- --Operumque laborem Partibus æquabat justis, aut sorte trahebat.Military service and station may be allotted. The distribution of provision may be made by lot, as it is in a sailor's mess; in some




Page 517


cases also, the distribution of favours may be made by lot. In all these cases, it seems to be acknowledged, that there are advantages in permitting events to chance, superior to those, which would or could arise from regulation. In all these cases, also, though events rise up in the way of chance, it is by appointment that they do so.


In  other  events,  and  such  as  are  independent  of  human  will,  the  reasons  for  this preference of uncertainty to rule, appear to be still stronger. For example, it seems to be expedient that the period of human life should be uncertain. Did mortality follow any fixed rule, it would produce a security in those that were at a distance from it, which would lead to the greatest disorders; and a horror in those who approached it, similar to that which a condemned prisoner feels on the night before his execution: But, that death be uncertain, the young must sometimes die, as well as the old. Also were deaths never sudden, they who are in health, would be too confident of life. The strong and the active, who want most to be warned and checked, would live without apprehension or restraint. On the other hand, were sudden deaths very frequent, the sense of constant jeopardy would interfere too much



Page 518


with the degree of ease and enjoyment intended for us; and human life be too precarious for the business and interests which belong to it. There could not be dependence either upon our own lives, or the lives of those with whom we were connected, sufficient to carry on the regular offices of human society. The manner, therefore, in which death is made to occur, conduces to the purposes of admonition, without overthrowing the necessary stability of human affairs.


Disease being the forerunner of death, there is the same reason for its attacks coming upon us under the appearance of chance, as there is for uncertainty in the time of death itself.


The seasons are a mixture of regularity and chance. They are regular enough to authorize expectation, whilst their being, in a considerable degree, irregular, induces, on the part of the cultivators of the soil, a necessity for personal attendance, for activity, vigilance, precaution. It is this necessity which creates farmers; which divides the profit of the soil between the owner and the occupier; which by requiring expedients, by increasing employment, and by rewarding expenditure, promotes agricultural arts and




Page 519


agricultural life, of all modes of life the best, being the most conducive to health, to virtue, to enjoyment. I believe it to be found in fact, that where the soil is the most fruitful, and the seasons the most constant, there the condition of the cultivators of the earth is the most depressed. Uncertainty, therefore, has its use even to those who sometimes complain of it the most. Seasons of scarcity themselves are not without their advantages. They call forth new exertions; they set contrivance and ingenuity at work; they give birth to improvements in agriculture and    conomy; they promote the investigation and management of public resources.


Again; there are strong intelligible reasons, why there should exist in human society great disparity of wealth and station;not only as these things are acquired in different degrees, but at the first setting out of life. In order, for instance, to answer the various demands of civil life, there ought to be amongst the members of every civil society a diversity of education, which can only belong to an original diversity of circumstances. As this sort of disparity, which ought to take place from the beginning of life, must, ex hypothesi, be previous to the merit or demerit of the persons upon whom




Page 520


it falls, can it be better disposed of than by chance? Parentage is that sort of chance: yet it is the commanding circumstance which in general fixes each man's place in civil life,


along with every thing which appertains to its distinctions. It may be the result of a beneficial rule, that the fortunes or honours of the father devolve upon the son; and, as it should seem, of a still more necessary rule, that the low or laborious condition of the parent be communicated to his family; but with respect to the successor himself, it is the drawing of a ticket in a lottery. Inequalities, therefore, of fortune, at least the greatest part of them, viz. those which attend us from our birth, and depend upon our birth, may be left, as they are left, to chance, without any just cause for questioning the regency of a supreme Disposer of events.


But not only the donation, when by the necessity of the case they must be gifts, but even the acquirability of civil advantages, ought, perhaps, in a considerable degree, to lie at the mercy of chance. Some would have all the virtuous rich, or, at least, removed from the evils of poverty, without perceiving, I suppose, the consequence, that all the poor must be wicked. And how such




Page 521


a society could be kept in subjection to government, has not been shown: for the poor, that is, they who seek their subsistence by constant manual labour, must still form the mass of the community; otherwise the necessary labour of life could not be carried on; the work would not be done, which the wants of mankind in a state of civilization, and still more in a state of refinement, require to be done.


It appears to be also true, that the exigencies of social life call not only for an original diversity of external circumstances, but for a mixture of different faculties, tastes, and tempers. Activity and contemplation, restlessness and quiet, courage and timidity, ambition and contentedness, not to say even indolence and dulness, are all wanted in the world, all conduce to the well going on of human affairs, just as the rudder, the sails and the ballast of a ship, all perform their part in the navigation. Now, since these characters require for their foundation different original talents, different dispositions, perhaps also different bodily constitutions; and since, likewise, it is apparently expedient, that they be promiscuously scattered amongst the different classes of society: can the distribution of talents, dispositions, and the




Page 522


constitutions upon which they depend, be better made than by chance?


The opposites of apparent chance, are constancy and sensible interposition; every degree of secret direction being consistent with it. Now of constancy, or of fixed and known rules, we have seen in some cases the inapplicability: and inconveniences which we do not see, might attend their application in other cases.


Of sensible interposition we may be permitted to remark, that a Providence, always and certainly distinguishable, would be neither more nor less than miracles rendered frequent and common. It is difficult to judge of the state into which this would throw us. It is enough to say, that it would cast us upon a quite different dispensation from that under which we live. It would be a total and radical change. And the change would deeply affect, or perhaps subvert, the whole conduct of human affairs. I can readily believe, that, other circumstances being adapted to it, such a state might be better than our present state. It may be the state of other beings; it may be ours hereafter. But the question with which we are now concerned is, how far it would be consistent with our condition, supposing it




Page 523


in other respects to remain as it is? And in this question there seem to be reasons of great moment on the negative side. For instance, so long as bodily labour continues, on so many accounts, to be necessary for the bulk of mankind, any dependency upon supernatural aid, by unfixing those motives which promote exertion, or by relaxing those habits which engender patient industry, might introduce negligence, inactivity, and disorder, into the most useful occupations of human life; and thereby deteriorate the condition of human life itself.


As moral agents, we should experience a still greater alteration; of which, more will be said under the next article.


Although therefore the Deity, who possesses the power of winding and turning, as he pleases, the course of causes which issue from himself, do in fact interpose to alter or intercept effects, which without such interposition would have taken place; yet it is by no means incredible, that his Providence, which always rests upon final good, may have made a reserve with respect to the manifestation of his interference, a part of the very plan which he has appointed for our terrestrial existence, and a part conformable with, or, in some sort, required by, other parts of the same




Page 524


plan. It is at any rate evident, that a large and ample province remains for the exercise of Providence,  without  its  being  naturally  perceptible  by  us:  because  obscurity,  when applied to the interruption of laws, bears a necessary proportion to the imperfection of our knowledge when applied to the laws themselves, or rather to the effects which these laws, under their various and incalculable combinations, would of their own accord produce. And if it be said, that the doctrine of Divine Providence, by reason of the ambiguity  under  which  its  exertions  present  themselves,  can  be  attended  with  no practical influence upon our conduct; that, although we believe ever so firmly that there is a. Providence, we must prepare, and provide, and act, as if there were none; I answer, that this is admitted: and that we further allege, that so to prepare, and so to provide, is


consistent with the most perfect assurance of the reality of a Providence: and not only so, but that it is, probably, one advantage of the present state of our information, that our provisions and preparations are not disturbed by it. Or if it be still asked, Of what use at all then is the doctrine, if it neither alter our measures nor regulate our conduct? I answer again, that it is of the greatest




Page 525


use, but that it is a doctrine of sentiment and piety, not (immediately at least) of action or conduct; that it applies to the consolation of men's minds, to their devotions, to the excitement of gratitude, the support of patience, the keeping alive and the strengthening of every motive for endeavouring to please our Maker; and that these are great uses.


OF ALL VIEWS under which human life has ever been considered, the most reasonable in my judgement is that, which regards it as a state of probation. If the course of the world was separated from the contrivances of nature, I do not know that it would be necessary to look for any other account of it, than what, if it may be called an account, is contained in  the  answer,  that  events  rise  up  by  chance.  But  since  the  contrivances  of  nature decidedly evince intention; and since the course of the world and the contrivances of nature have the same author; we are, by the force of this connexion, led to believe, that the appearance, under which events take place, is reconcileable with the supposition of design on the part of the Deity. It is enough that they be reconcileable with this supposition; and it is undoubtedly true, that they may be reconcileable, though we cannot reconcile




Page 526


them. The mind, however, which contemplates the works of nature, and, in those works, sees so much of means directed to ends, of beneficial effects brought about by wise expedients, of concerted trains of causes terminating in the happiest results; so much, in a word, of counsel, intention, and benevolence: a mind, I say, drawn into the habit of thought which these observations excite, can hardly turn its view to the condition of our own species, without endeavouring to suggest to itself some purpose, some desiga, for which the state in which we are placed is fitted, and which it is made to serve. Now we assert the most probable supposition to be, that it is a state of moral probation; and that many things in it suit with this hypothesis, which suit no other. It is not a state of unmixed happiness, or of happiness simply: it is not a state of designed misery, or of misery simply: it is not a state of retribution: it is not a state of punishment. It suits with none of these suppositions. It accords much better with the idea of its being a condition calculated for the production, exercise, and improvement of moral qualities, with a view to a future state, in which these qualities, after being so produced, exercised, and improved, may, by a new and




Page 527


more favouring constitution of things, receive their reward, or become their own. If it be said, that this is to enter upon a religious rather than a philosophical consideration, I answer, that the name of Religion ought to form no objection, if it shall turn out to be the case, that the more religious our views are, the more probability they contain. The degree of beneficence, of benevolent intention, and of power, exercised in the construction of sensitive beings, goes strongly in favour, not only of a creative, but of a continuing care, that is, of a ruling Providence. The degree of chance which appears to prevail in the world, requires to be reconciled with this hypothesis. Now it is one thing to maintain the doctrine of Providence along with that of a future state, and another thing without it. In my opinion, the two doctrines must stand or fall together. For although more of this apparent chance may perhaps, upon other principles, be accounted for, than is generally supposed, yet a future state alone rectifies all disorders: and if it can be shown, that the appearance of disorder is consistent with the uses of life as a preparatory state, or that in some respects it promotes these uses, then so far as this hypothesis may be accepted the ground of the difficulty is done away.




Page 528


In the wide scale of human condition, there is not perhaps one of its manifold diversities, which does not bear upon the design here suggested. Virtue is infinitely various. There is no situation in which a rational being is placed, from that of the best-instructed Christian, down to the condition of the rudest barbarian, which affords not room for moral agency; for the acquisition, exercise, and display of voluntary qualities, good and bad. Health and sickness, enjoyment and suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilization and barbarity, have all their offices and duties, all serve for the formation of character: for when we speak of a state of trial, it must be remembered, that characters are not only tried, or proved, or detected, but that they are generated also, and formed, by circumstances. The best dispositions may subsist under the most depressed, the most afflicted fortunes. A West-Indian slave, who, amidst his wrongs, retains his benevolence, I for my part, look upon, as amongst the foremost of human candidates for the rewards of virtue. The kind master of such a slave, that is, he, who in the exercise of an inordinate authority, postpones, in any degree, his own interest




Page 529


to his slave's comfort, is likewise a meritorious character: but still he is inferior to his slave. All however which I contend for, is, that these destinies, opposite as they may be in every other view, are both trials; and equally such. The observation may be applied to every other condition; to the whole range of the scale, not excepting even its lowest extremity. Savages appear to us all alike; but it is owing to the distance at which we view


savage life, that we perceive in it no discrimation of character. I make no doubt, but that moral qualities, both good and bad, are called into action as much, and that they subsist in as great variety, in these inartificial societies, as they are, or do, in polished life. Certain at least it is, that the good and ill treatment which each individual meets with, depends more upon the choice and voluntary conduct of those about him, than it does or ought to do, under regular civil institutions, and the coercion of public laws. So again, to turn our eyes to the other end of the scale, namely, that part of it which is occupied by mankind, enjoying the benefits of learning, together with the lights of revelation, there also, the advantage is all along probationary. Christianity itself, I mean the revelation of Christianity, is not only a blessing




Page 530


but a trial. It is one of the diversified means by which the character is exercised: and they who require of Christianity, that the revelation of it should be universal, may possibly be found to require, that one species of probation should be adopted, if not to the exclusion of others, at least to the narrowing of that variety which the wisdom of the Deity hath appointed to this part of his moral economy(Note: The reader will observe, that I speak of the revelation of Christianity as distinct from Christianity itself. The dispensationmay already be universal. That part of mankind which never heard of CHRIST'S name, may nevertheless be redeemed, that is, be placed in a better condition, with respect to their future state, by his intervention; may be the objects of his benignity and intercession, as well as of the propitiatory virtue of his passion. But this is not natural theology; therefore I will not dwell longer upon it.)


Now if this supposition be well founded: that is, if it be true, that our ultimate, or our most permanent happiness, will depend, not upon the temporary condition into which we are cast, but upon our behaviour in it; then is it a much more fit subject of chance than we usually  allow  or  apprehend  it  to  be,  in  what  manner,  the  variety  of  external circumstances, which subsist in the human world, is distributed amongst the individuals of the species. This life being a state of probation,




Page 531


it is immaterial, says Rousseau, what kind of trials we experience in it, provided they produce their effects. Of two agents who stand indifferent to the moral Governor of the universe, one may be exercised by riches, the other by poverty. The treatment of these two shall appear to be very opposite, whilst in truth it is the same: for though, in many respects, there be great disparity between the conditions assigned, in one main article there may be none, viz. in that they are alike trials; have both their duties and temptations, not less arduous or less dangerous, in one case than the other; so that if the final award follow the character, the original distribution of the circumstances under which that character is formed, may be defended upon principles not only of justice but of equality. What hinders therefore, but that mankind may draw lots for their condition? They take


their portion of faculties and opportunities, as any unknown cause, or concourse of causes, or as causes acting for other purposes, may happen to set them out; but the event is governed by that which depends upon themselves, the application of what they have received. In dividing the talents, no rule was observed; none was necessary: in rewarding the use of them, that of




Page 532


the most correct justice. The chief difference at last appears to be, that the right use of more talents, i. e. of a greater trust, will be more highly rewarded, than the right use of fewer talents, i. e. of a less trust. And since for other purposes, it is expedient, that there be an inequality of concredited talents here, as well, probably, as an inequality of conditions hereafter, though all remuneratory, can any rule, adapted to that inequality, be more agreeable, even to our apprehensions of distributive justice, than this is?


We have said, that the appearance of casualty, which attends the occurrences and events of life, not only does not interfere with its uses, as a state of probation, but that it promotes these uses.


Passive virtues, of all others the severest and the most sublime; of all others, perhaps, the most acceptable to the Deity; would, it is evident, be excluded from a constitution, in which happiness and misery regularly followed virtue and vice. Patience and composure under distress, affliction, and pain; a steadfast keeping up of our confidence in God, and of our reliance upon his final goodness, at the time when every thing present is adverse and discouraging; and (what is no less difficult to retain) a cordial desire




Page 533


for the happiness of others, even when we are deprived of our own: these dispositions, which constitute, perhaps, the perfection of our moral nature, would not have found their proper office and object in a state of avowed retribution; and in which, consequently, endurance of evil would be only submission to punishment.


Again: one man's sufferings may be another man's trial. The family of a sick parent is a school of filial piety. The charities of domestic life, and not only these, but all the social virtues, are called out by distress. But then, misery, to be the proper object of mitigation, or of that benevolence which endeavours to relieve, must be really or apparently casual. It is upon such sufferings alone that benevolence can operate. For were there no evils in the world, but what were punishments, properly and intelligibly such, benevolence would only stand in the way of justice. Such evils, consistently with the administration of moral government, could not be prevented or alleviated, that is to say, could not be remitted in whole or in part, except by the authority which inflicted them, or by an appellate or superior authority. This consideration, which is founded in our most acknowledged apprehensions of



Page 534


the nature of penal justice, may possess its weight in the Divine councils. Virtue perhaps is the greatest of all ends. In human beings, relative virtues form a large part of the whole. Now relative virtue presupposes, not only the existence of evil, without which it could have no object, no material to work upon, but that evils be, apparently at least, misfortunes; that is, the effects of apparent chance. It may be in pursuance, therefore, and in furtherance of the same scheme of probation, that the evils of life are made soto present themselves.


I have already observed, that, when we let in religious considerations, we often let in light upon the difficulties of nature. So in the fact now to be accounted for, the degreeof happiness, which we usually enjoy in this life, may be better suited to a state of trial and probation, than a greater degree would be. The truth is, we are rather too much delighted with the world, than too little. Imperfect, broken, and precarious as our pleasures are, they are more than sufficient to attach us to the eager pursuit of them. A regard to a future state can hardly keep its place as it is. If we were designed therefore to be influenced by that regard, might not a more indulgent system,




Page 535


a higher, or more uninterrupted state of gratification, have interfered with the design? At least it seems expedient, that mankind should be susceptible of this influence, when presented to them: that the condition of the world should not be such, as to exclude its operation, or even to weaken it more than it does. In a religious view (however we may complain of them in every other) privation, disappointment, and satiety, are not without the most salutary tendencies.




IN all cases, wherein the mind feels itself in danger of being confounded by variety, it is sure to rest upon a few strong points, or perhaps upon a single instance. Amongst a multitude of proofs, it is one that does the business. If we observe in any argument, that hardly two minds fix upon the same instance, the diversity of choice shows the strength of the argument, because it shows the number and competition of the examples. There is no subject in which the tendency to dwell upon select or single topics is so usual




Page 536


because there is no subject, of which, in its full extent, the latitude is so great, as that of natural history applied to the proof of an intelligent Creator. For my part, I take my stand in human anatomy: and the examples of mechanism I should be apt to draw out from the copious  catalogue,  which  it  supplies,  are  the  pivot  upon  which  the  head  turns,  the ligament within the socket of the hip-joint, the pulley or trochlear muscles of the eye, the epiglottis, the bandages which tie down the tendons of the wrist and instep, the slit or perforated muscles at the hands and feet, the knitting of the intestines to the mesentery, the course of the chyle into the blood, and the constitution of the sexes as extended throughout the whole of the animal creation. To these instances, the reader's memory will go back, as they are severally set forth in their places; there is not one of the number which I do not think decisive; not one which is not strictly mechanical; nor have I read or heard of any solution of these appearances, which, in the smallest degree, shakes the conclusion that we build upon them.


But, of the greatest part of those, who, either in this book or any other, read arguments to prove the existence of a God, it will be said, that they leave off only where




Page 537


they began; that they were never ignorant of this great truth, never doubted of it; that it does not therefore appear, what is gained by researches from which no new opinion is learnt, and upon the subject of which no proofs were wanted. Now I answer that, by investigation, the following points are always gained, in favour of doctrines even the most generally acknowledged, (supposing them to be true), viz. stability and impression. Occasions will arise to try the firmness of our most habitual opinions. And upon these occasions, it is a matter of incalculable use to feel our foundation; to find a support in argument for what we had taken up upon authority. In the present case, the arguments upon which the conclusion rests, are exactly such, as a truth of universal concern ought to rest upon. They are sufficiently open to the views and capacities of the unlearned, at the same time that they acquire new strength and lustre from the discoveries of the learned. If they had been altogether abstruse and recondite, they would not have found their way to


the understandings of the mass of mankind; if they had been merely popular, they might have wanted solidity.


But, secondly, what is gained by research in the stability of our conclusion, is also gained




Page 538


from it in impression. Physicians tell us, that there is a great deal of difference between taking a medicine, and the medicine getting into the constitution. A difference not unlike which, obtains with respect to those great moral propositions, which ought to form the directing principles of human conduct. It is one thing to assent to a proposition of this sort; another, and a very different thing, to have properly imbibed its influence. I take the case to be this: perhaps almost every man living has a particular train of thought, into which his mind glides and falls, when at leisure from the impressions and ideas that occasionally excite it; perhaps, also, the train of thought here spoken of, more than any other thing, determines the character. It is of the utmost consequence, therefore, that this property of our constitution be well regulated. Now it is by frequent or continued meditation upon a subject, by placing a subject in different points of view, by induction of particulars, by variety of examples, by applying principles to the solution of phænomena, by dwelling upon proofs and consequences, that mental exercise is drawn into any particular channel. It is by these means, at least, that we have any power over it. The train of




Page 539


spontaneous thought, and the choice of that train, may be directed to different ends, and may appear to be more or less judiciously fixed, according to the purpose, in respect of which we consider it: but, in a moral view, I shall not, I believe, be contradicted when I say, that, if one train of thinking be more desirable than another, it is that which regards the phænomena of nature with a constant reference to a supreme intelligent Author. To have made this the ruling, the habitual sentiment of our minds, is to have laid the foundation of every thing which is religious. The world thenceforth becomes a temple, and life itself one continued act of adoration. The change is no less than this, that, whereas formerly God was seldom in our thoughts, we can now scarcely look upon any thing without perceiving its relation to him. Every organized natural body, in the provisions which it contains for its sustentation and propagation, testifies a care, on the part of the Creator, expressly directed to these purposes. We are on all sides surrounded by such bodies; examined in their parts, wonderfully curious; compared with one another, no less wonderfully diversified. So that the mind, as well as the eye, may either expatiate in variety and multitude,



Page 540


or fix itself down to the investigation of particular divisions of the science. And in either case it will rise up from its occupation, possessed by the subject, in a very different manner, and with a very different degree of influence, from what a mere assent to any verbal proposition which can be formed concerning the existence of the Deity, at least that merely complying assent with which those about us are satisfied, and with which we are too apt to satisfy ourselves, will or can produce upon the thoughts. More especially may this difference be perceived, in the degree of admiration and of awe, with which the Divinity is regarded, when represented to the understanding by its own remarks, its own reflections, and its own reasonings, compared with what is excited by any language that can be used by others. The works of nature want only to be contemplated. When contemplated, they have every thing in them which can astonish by their greatness: for, of the vast scale of operation, through which our discoveries carry us, at one end we see an intelligent  Power  arranging  planetary  systems,  fixing,  for  instance,  the  trajectory  of Saturn, or constructing a ring of two hundred thousand miles diameter, to surround his body, and be suspended like a magnificent




Page 541


arch over the heads of his inhabitants; and, at the other, bending a hooked tooth, concerting and providing an appropriate mechanism, for the clasping and reclasping of the filaments of the feather of the humming-bird. We have proof, not only of both these works proceeding from an intelligent agent, but of their proceeding from the same agent; for, in the first place, we can trace an identity of plan, a connexion of system, from Saturn to our own globe: and when arrived upon our globe, we can, in the second place, pursue the  connexion  through  all  the  organized,  especially  the  animated,  bodies  which  it supports. We can observe marks of a common relation, as well to one another, as to the elements of which their habitation is composed. Therefore one mind hath planned, or at least hath prescribed, a general plan for all these productions. One Being has been concerned in all.


Under this stupendous Being we live. Our happiness, our existence, is in his hands. All we expect must come from him. Nor ought we to feel our situation insecure. In every nature, and in every portion of nature, which we can descry, we find attention bestowed upon even the minutest arts. The hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the




Page 542


joints of its antennæ, are as highly wrought, as if the Creator had nothing else to finish. We see no signs or diminution of care by multiplicity of objects, or of distraction of thought by variety. We have no reason to fear, therefore, our being forgotten, or overlooked, or neglected.


The existence and character of the Deity, is, in every view, the most interesting of all human speculations. In none, however, is it more so, than as it facilitates the belief of the fundamental articles of Revelation. It is a step to have it proved, that there must be something in the world more than what we see. It is a further step to know, that, amongst the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent mind, concerned in its production, order, and support. These points being assured to us by Natural Theology, we may well leave to Revelation the disclosure of many particulars, which our researches cannot reach, respecting either the nature of this Being as the original cause of all things, or his character and designs as a moral governor; and not only so, but the more full confirmation of other particulars, of which, though they do not lie altogether beyond our reasonings and our probabilities, the certainty is by no means equal to the importance.




Page 543


The true theist will be the first to listen to any credible communication of Divine knowledge. Nothing which he has learned from Natural Theology, will diminish his desire  of  further  instruction,  or  his  disposition  to  receive  it  with  humility  and thankfulness. He wishes for light: he rejoices in light. His inward veneration of this great Being, will incline him to attend with the utmost seriousness, not only to all that can be discovered  concerning  him by  researches  into  nature,  but  to  all  that  is  taught  by  a revelation, which gives reasonable proof of having proceeded from him.


But, above every other article of revealed religion, does the anterior belief of a Deity bear with  the  strongest  force  upon  that  grand  point,  which  gives  indeed  interest  and importance to all the rest,--the resurrection of the human dead. The thing might appear hopeless, did we not see a power at work adequate to the effect, a power under the guidance of an intelligent will, and a power penetrating the inmost recesses of all substance. I am far from justifying the opinion of those, who thought it a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead: but I admit, that it is first necessary to be persuaded, that there is a God, to do so. This being thoroughly




Page 544


settled in our minds, there seems to be nothing in this process (concealed as we confess it to be) which need to shock our belief. They who have taken up the opinion, that the acts of the human mind depend upon organization, that the mind itself indeed consists in organization, are supposed to find a greater difficulty than others do, in admitting a transition by death to a new state of sentient existence, because the old organization is apparently dissolved. But I do not see that any impracticability need be apprehended even by these; or that the change, even upon their hypothesis, is far removed from the analogy of some other operations, which we know with certainty that the Deity is carrying on. In the ordinary derivation of plants and animals, from one another, a particle, in many cases, minuter than all assignable, all conceivable dimension; an aura, an effluvium, an infinitesimal; determines the organization of a future body: does no less than fix, whether


that which is about to be produced, shall be a vegetable, a merely sentient, or a rational being: an oak, a frog, or a philosopher; makes all these differences; gives to the future body its qualities, and nature and species. And this particle, from which springs, and by which is determined a




Page 545


whole future nature, itself proceeds from, and owes its constitution to, a prior body: nevertheless, which is seen in plants most decisively, the incepted organization, though formed within, and through, and by a preceding organization, is not corrupted by its corruption, or destroyed by its dissolution: but, on the contrary, is sometimes extricated and developed by those very causes; survives and comes into action, when the purpose, for which it was prepared, requires its use. Now an    conomy which nature has adopted, when the purpose was to transfer an organization from one individual to another, may have something analogous to it, when the purpose is to transmit an organization from one state of being to another state: and they who found thought in organization, may see something in this analogy applicable to their difficulties; for, whatever can transmit a similarity of organization will answer their purpose, because, according even to their own theory, it may be the vehicle of consciousness, and because consciousness carries identity and individuality along with it through all changes of form or of visible qualities. In the most general case, that, as we have said, of the derivation of plants and animals from one another, the latent organization is either itself similar




Page 546


to the old organization, or has the power of communicating to new matter the old organic form. But it is not restricted to this rule. There are other cases, especially in the progress of insect life, in which the dormant organization does not much resemble that which encloses it, and still less suits with the situation in which the enclosing body is placed, but suits with a different situation to which it is destined. In the larva of the libellula, which lives constantly, and has still long to live, under water, are descried the wings of a fly, which two years afterwards is to mount into the air. Is there nothing in this analogy? It serves at least to show, that even in the observable course of nature, organizations are formed one beneath another; and, amongst a thousand other instances, it shows completely, that the Deity can mould and fashion the parts of material nature, so as to fulfil any purpose whatever which he is pleased to appoint.


They who refer the operations of mind to a substance totally and essentially different from matter, (as most certainly these operations, though affected by material causes, hold very little affinity to any properties of matter with which we are acquainted), adopt perhaps a juster reasoning and a better philosophy:



Page 547


and by these the considerations above suggested are not wanted, at least in the same degree. But to such as find, which some persons do find, an insuperable difficulty in shaking off an adherence to those analogies, which the corporeal world is continually suggesting to their thoughts; to such, I say, every consideration will be a relief, which manifests the extent of that intelligent power which is acting in nature, the fruitfulness of its resources, the variety, and aptness, and success of its means; most especially every consideration, which tends to show that, in the translation of a conscious existence, there is not, even in their own way of regarding it, any thing greatly beyond, or totally unlike, what takes place in such parts (probably small parts) of the order of nature, as are accessible to our observation.


Again; if there be those who think, that the contractedness and debility of the human faculties in our present state, seem ill to accord with the high destinies which the expectations of religion point out to us, I would only ask them, whether any one, who saw a child two hours after its birth, could suppose that it would ever come to understand fluxions(Note: See Search's Light of Nature, passim.); or who then shall say, what farther




Page 548


amplification of intellectual powers, what accession of knowledge, what advance and improvement, the rational faculty, be its constitution what it will, may not admit of, when placed amidst new objects, and endowed with a sensorium adapted, as it undoubtedly will be, and as our present senses are, to the perception of those substances, and of those properties of things, with which our concern may lie.


Upon the whole; in every thing which respects this awful, but, as we trust, glorious change, we have a wise and powerful Being, (the author, in nature, of infinitely various expedients for infinitely various ends), upon whom to rely for the choice and appointment of means, adequate to the execution of any plan which his goodness or his justice may have formed, for the moral and accountable part of his terrestrial creation. That great office rests with him: be it ours to hope and to prepare, under a firm and settled persuasion, that, living and dying, we are his; that life is passed in his constant presence, that death resigns us to his merciful disposal.















Natural Theology by William Paley Part Seven.


Natural Theology by William Paley Part One.