« PreviousContinue »
Know thy own point: This kind, this due degree Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee. Submit.- In this, or any other sphere,
285 Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear :
over, all things in me desire good, and every thing reaches to it, according to its power and nature. For the whole world depends upon that first and highest good, the gods themselves, who reign in
my several parts, and all animals and plants, and whatsoever seems to be inanimate in me. For some things in me partake only of being, some of life also, some of sense, some of reason, and some of intellect above reason. But no man ought to require equal things from unequal; nor that the finger should see, but the eye; it being enough for the finger to be a finger, and to perform its own office. As an artificer would not make all things in an animal to be eyes; so neither has the Divine Xóyos, or Spermatic Reason of the World, made all things gods; but some gods, but some demons, and some men, and some lower animals : not out of envy, but to display its own variety and fecundity : but we are like unskilful spectators of a picture, who condemn the limner, because he hath not put bright colours every where; whereas he had suited his colours to every part respectively, giving to each such as belonged to it.
Or else are we like those who would blame a comedy or tragedy, because they were not all kings or heroes that acted in it, but some servants and rustic clowns introduced also, talking after their rude fashion. Whereas the dramatic poeni would neither be complete, nor elegant and delightful, were all those worser parts taken out of it.”
The learned reader will be highly gratified by turning to a fine passage on this subject in Plutarch, De Animi Tranquillitate, vol. ii. p. 473. folio, 1620, and to the noble lines of Euripides there quoted : and would be gratified still more by attentively perusing the short treatise of Aristotle, Περί Κόσμου, concerning the beauty and concord of the Universe arising from Contrarieties; which treatise, notwithstanding the different form of its composition, ought to be ascribed to this philosopher, for the reasons assigned by Petit in his Observations, b. ii.; and by a dissertation of Daniel Heinsius, as well as the opinion of our truly learned Bishop Berkeley.
Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow'r,
Ver. 287. Safe in the hand] “ Be there two worlds, or be there twenty, the same God is the God of all; and wherever we are, we are equally in his power. Far from fearing my Creator, that all-perfect Being whom I adore, I should fear to be no longer his creature." Bolingbroke.
Si sic omnia dixisset! Ver. 289. Atl Nature is but Art,] Cudworth observes, upon Lucretius's having said,
“Usque adeo res humanas vis abdita quædam
Obterit," that here he reeled and staggered in his atheism; or was indeed a Theist, and knew it not.
“ Nature is the art whereby God governs the world;" says Hobbes.
Ver. 291. All Discord, Harmony] The words of Plato, in the Theot, are, και τούτο μεγίστης τέχνης αγαθοποιείν τα κακά. «This must be acknowledged to be the greatest of all arts, to be able to bonifie evils, or tincture them with good."
Cudworth, p. 221. Intellectual System. I was surprised to see this philosophical doctrine amply, illustrated in one of our quaint old writers, Feltham, in his Resolves, p. 130, 1633.
“ The whole world is kept in order by Discord; and every part of it is but a more particular composed jarre. Not a wan, not a beast, not a creature, but have something to ballast their light
One scale is not alwaies in depression, nor the other lifted ever high, but the alternate wave of the beame keepes it ever in the play of motion. From the pismire on the tufted bill, to the monarch in the raised throne, nothing but hath somewhat to awe it. Wee are all here like birds that boys let Aly in strings; when
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
we mount too high wee have that which puls us downe againę. What man is it which lives so happily, which feares not something that would sadden his soule if it fell? Nor is there any whom calamity doth so much tristitiate, as that hee never sees the flashes of some warming joy. Beasts with beasts are terrified and delighted. Man with man is awed and defended. States with states are bounded and upholded. And, in all these, it makes greatly for the Maker's glory that such an admirable harmony should be produced out of such an infinite discord. The world is both a perpetuall warre, and a wedding. Heraclitus call'd a Discord and Concord the universall Parents. And to raile on Discord, saies the Father of the Poets, is to speake ill of Nature. As in musick sometimes one string is lowder, sometimes another; yet never one long, nor never all at once. So sometimes one state gets a monarchy, sometimes another ; sometimes one element is violent, now another; yet never was the whole world under one long ; nor were all the elements raging together. Every string has his use, and his tune, and his turne."
Feltham, we might imagine, did not know that this was a doctrine so old as Heraclitus, who speaks of Ilalívtpomog åpuovia kóguov, a versatile harmony of the world, whereby things reciprocate backwards, and forwards, &c.; quoted by Cudworth, chap. iv. b. i. from Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, of two principles, a good God and an evil Demon; the Manichean doctrine.
BAYLE was the person who, by stating the difficulties concerning the Origin of Evil, in his Dictionary, 1695, with much acuteness and ability, revived the Manichean controversy that had been long dormant. He was soon answered by Le Clerc in his Parrhasiana, and many articles in his Bibliotheques. But by no writer was Bayle so powerfully attacked, as by the excellent Archbishop King, in his Treatise de Origine Mali ,1702. About 1705, Lord Shaftesbury frequently visited Bayle, at Rotterdam, whose wit and learning he admired, and made him a present of an elegant watch by a delicate stratagem; and offered him a fine
collection of books, which that philosopher declined to accept.
In 1720 Dr. John Clarke published his Enquiry into the Cause and Origin of Evil, a work full of sound reasoning; but almost every argument on this most difficult of all subjects had been urged many years before any of the above-mentioned treatises appeared, namely, 1678, by that truly great scholar and divine Cudworth, in that inestimable treasury of learning and philosophy his Intellectual System, to which so many authors have been indebted, without owning their obligations.
I thought this little account of the writers who had preceded Pope, on the subject of this Essay, not improper to be subjoined in this place.
Voltaire wrote his Candide with the professed design of ridiculing the fundamental doctrine of this Essay; and in his philosophical Dictionary; in his poem on the Destruction of Lisbon ; in his additions to the Encyclopedie ; and in many parts of his Works and Letters ; he seized every opportunity of combating
and exposing the opinion of Optimism. And he joined with Hume in saying, “ That the only solid method of accounting for the Origin of Evil, consistently with the other attributes of God, is not to allow that his power is infinite.” “ Sa puissance est très grande ; mais qui nous a dit qu'elle est infinie, quand ses ouvrages nous montrent le contraire ? Certes, j'aime mieux l'adorer borné
ayant agi pour le mieux, n'a pu agir mieux. Cette necessité tranche toutes les difficultés et finit toutes les disputes. Nous n'avons pas le front de dire, Tout est bien ; nous disons tout est le moins mal qu'il se pouvoit." “We ought," says Hume,“ to allow that the Creator of the universe possesses that precise degree of power, intelligence, and benevolence, which actually appears in his workmanship ; nothing farther can ever be justly proved ; and the supposition of farther attributes is mere hypothesis.” Thus endeavouring to deprive us of our most comfortable hopes, and most salutary expectations. But he should remember, that, if this be all that reason and philosophy can be able to prove, life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel. Notwithstanding these loose principles of Voltaire, yet, one is glad to find, from the same hand, a full confutation of the impious tenets advanced in the Systeme de la Nature. Tom. iv. of Questions sur l’Encyclopedie, page 285. And in the beginning of this article, in this same volume, he has confuted Spinoza, and pointed out his many contradictions, sophisms, and obscurities ; proving clearly that he did not understand his own opinions. In vol. vii. of the same work, page 283, he has demolished the artful arguments of Bayle, who endeavoured to prove that atheism was a tenet less mischievous to the happiness of man than idolatry.