« PreviousContinue »
and conduct the mind into that confusion and error, to which false premises must inevitably lead. Sometimes indeed he has founded his observations upon a solitary feature of the human character, and unfortunately inferred from thence a general conclusion, which spreads both heaven ard earth with a melancholy gloom. But such instances we shall notice hereafter.
It has been through an attempt to account for the vices and absurdities' which are connected with human actions, and to reconcile them with a denial of moral evil, and with the perfections of the Deity, that he has plunged himself into that abyss of blunder which yawns through his pages. A few of bis inconsistencies we have pointed out; but the catalogue might be swelled with ease to double the amount. Declining this tedious task, we shall proceed to give some general outline of the author's theory, confining our observations chiefly to the third part of his voluine, which professedly treats of Religion.
That Mr. Forsyth, from the specimens already quoted, should attempt to speak of religion, or of religious duties, will, in all probability, appear exceedingly strange. But difficulties which may occur on this topic he has already anticipated, and perhaps we may add already obviated, in page 355. Speaking of religion in general, he observes, “ The Birmans are idolaters, and worship the image of one favourite deity, called Budho. They have few or no religious cere. monies. Religion sits as lightly upon them, as upon Protestant Christians, and they persecute nobody for religious opinions or practices.” In the same page he observes, " Their religion, like that of the Hindoos, prohibits the use of animal food, but only as a moral precept, in the same manner as drunkenness is prohibited by the Christian religion." By whom was Mr. Forsyth informed, that drunkenness was viewed by Christianity. with an eye of so much indifference, that its prohibition was nothing more than a mere moral precept ? St. Paul (Gal. v. 21.) has placed it in company with the most atrocious of human enormities; in the preceding verses he has compared it with adultery, which Mr. F. has acknowledged to be the worst of evils ; and in the verse quoted, he ranks it thus, “En.. vyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like, of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in times past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Such is the language of St. Paul. And yet Mr. Forsyth com. pares Christianity to the Idolatry of India.; triumphs that it sits lightly on us, and exults in a fancied affinity, which he
imagines he has discovered, between that Idolatry which he so justly reprehends, and the Religion of Jesus Christ. Thus availing himself of the shelter which Idolatry has afforded, he treacherously endeavours to undermine the Religion of his country, which, in a subsequent chapter, he professes to applaud.
Mr. Forsyth has divided the contents of his volume into three distinct parts. The first treats of General Principles ; the second, of the Private Duties of Men; and the third, of Religion. These general divisions are again subdivided into their subordinate branches ; the whole of which are made subservient to the author's primary design and ultimate object; and hence he proceeds to conclusions which we have in part already noted, but of which we now proceed to take a more particular survey. · Avowing himself an advocate for destiny in the most ri.. gorous acceptation of the term, he makes a God the author of every thing that is in existence," (407); declares, “ that man is as good and as perfect as God intended him to be,” (412); and consequently, that " there is no such thing as moral evil to be found within the empire of creation.” (410.)
In his first chapter, Mr. Forsyth directs our attention to what he has denominated “the ultimate object of human pursuit.” On this point, he delivers himself in the following most unequivocal language. . It appears to me, then, that the great object which the human race ought to pursue, and the attainment of which they ought to regard as the business of their lives, is not to produce happiness, felicity, or pleasure, in themselves or others; but, on the contrary, the end for which they were formed, and which alone they can pursue with success, is the improvement of their whole intellectual faculties, whether speculative or active. In one word, it is the business of man in this world to endeavour to become an excellent being, possessing high powers of energy and intelligence. This is his chief good, and ought to be the great and ultimate object of his pursuit, to which every other consideration ought to be sacrificed. p. 9.
Such are the sentiments of this gentleman on the ultimate ohject of human pursuit! Neither justice, probity, truth, virtue, chastity, nor honour, forms any part of his system. These are not merely passed over with unconscious silence; they are tacitly excluded. Energy and intelligence are the chief good of man ; these are the ultimate object of human pursuit, to which, not merely a few, but every other consideration ought to be sacrificed.” « Morality," he has told us, in his first sentence, " is that branch of science which proposes to regulate the actions of men." But how morality can exist, to
the utter exclusion of the moral virtues, appears somewhat paradoxical. Probably it is the first time, that, in an investigatios of moral science, those virtues which are essential to the very existence of morality were tacitly rejected, or that ever the rulers of nations were informed, as they are in the next paragraph, “ that they misapply their labour, and mistake their duty, when they imagine that their proper business consists in conferring felicity upon their fellow creatures." Let us only imagine to ourselves for a moment, that the principles of this author were actually carried into practice; what scenes of villany and licentiousness would desolate the world! All confidence in established integrity must immediately disappear; truth must forsake the human bosom; justice and injustice must be confounded; and mental and practical anarchy must triumph in eternal dominion.
But why, it may be asked, is Mr. Forsyth induced to make energy and intelligence the chief good of man, to which every other consideration ought to be sacrificed ? It is to oppose the long established opinion, that man was formed for happiness. “ The degree of happiness,” he tells us (page 12) (which nature bestows upon us, cannot be increased by our exertion.” (P. 16.) . This world is not formed to render us happy." (P. 17.) “ The very form of our world is hostile to the idea that its Author created it for the purpose of producing happiness to the human race. Else why are vast regions near the poles rendered uninhabitable by the cold ?" In short, “ Rocks, deserts, frozen seas, and burning sands, wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and death," afford to this gentleman decisive evidence, that happiness never can be the ultimate object of human pursuit.
Of a felicity resulting from a union with the source of power, felicity, and perfection, he seems to have no conception ; and finding no alternative beside the happiness which this world can afford, and the acquirement of a “Vlgorous character," he has abandoned the former, because men are not happy in the present life, and adopted the latter, at the dreadful expense of every thing that is dear and sacred to the virtuous mind.
That a consummation of felicity is not to be obtained in the present life, has uniformly been admitted by those who have contended that God created man with a design to make him happy. This circumstance has been, with the wise and considerate, surveyed as a connective link which unites time with eternity; and through this fact, when united with that justice which is inseparable from God, the virtuous have been taught to " rést and expatiate in a life to come.” In fine, the discords, inhumanities, injustice, oppressions, and wrongs, which are so visible in the present life, have been thought to afford an unanswerable argument in favour of a future state.
But this argument is far from being conclusive with Mr. Forsyth. He has not indeed presumed to pass it over in silence; but in pp. 20, 21, animadverts upon the genera! proposition' in the following manner.
• The Persians asserted that there are two Gods, the one good, and the other evil. The story among the Greeks, of the box of Pandora, is á contrivance of the same kind; and our European ancestors very sagely ascribed all the mischief that occurred in their times, to the Devil, and his associates, the Witches.'
. But the mode in which men have most generally attempted to reconcile the existence of physical evil with the supposed purpose of creation, is this: they have added a second supposition to the first. They confess, that, by some cross accident, the Author of nature has not succeeded in his benevolent plan of producing happiness in this world ; but they alledge that he will certainly produce another world, or a future state of existence, after this shall have terminated, in which every error shall be rectified ; those who are now the disturbers of human happiness will be punished, and the rest will enjoy perfect felicity.
• It must be confessed, however, that this account of matters is very unsatisfactory. We know the Author of nature only from his works; and if He has not succeeded in the plan upon which he formed this world, it is evident He may fail in his plan of making a better world.'
Revelation thus plainly and positively denied, it will be folly to adduce arguments from that source, in favour of a future state of rewards and punishments beyond the grave. But we may surely, without the fear of reprehension, assume the question upon the author's own ground, namely, “ that the Author of nature is known from his works." And if so, the intellectual powers and faculties of the human soul must necessarily form a part. Whatever therefore is a dictate of reason, must be admitted ; and he has told us (p. 405) “ that nothing cau appear right to the Deity, which appears wrong to us." Now we appeal to the world, whether a denial of the existence of moral evil ;-a denial of a future state of punishments and rewards ;-a belief that benevolence is not requisite to the perfection of any intelligent being ;-a belief that whatever occurs within the wide circuit of the universe, must be attributed to God ;-that in the universe, there is no such thing as enmity against God ;—that man is, in all cases, as good and as perfect as the Author of his being intended him to be ;-—that neither truth nor justice can be made the foundation of a system of morality; and finally, that God is neither
good in himself nor does he love his creatures, -are not positions which appear wrong to us when we are fully instructed in the nature of the various cases? These questions can admit of but one answer. The general suffrages of mankind revolt at the author's daring positions, and unite to tell us that there must be another and a better world.
But what reasons, it may be asked, has the author adduced to support a system which even metamorphoses absurdity into a monster? He answers, p. 16.
The world is accurately and skilfully contrived for improving our intellectual nature ; it will therefore follow that this is the object for which we were created; and consequently, that our Creator points out this as our most valuable pursuit, and as an object, which, if we do not attain, he will have formed us in vain. p. 21. • If we consider this world as formed not to confer felicity, but to train up beings to intellectual energy and excellence, every difficulty vanishes; the propriety of our situation be. comes obvious; and the works of the Author of Nature appear complete and perfect. Considered in this point of view, care and toil are no evils, as they are justly numbered among the best means of moral improvement. The cold and sterility of the polar regions, the burning heat of the tropical sun, the dry desart, the rugged mountain and the devouring ocean, are valuable engines for calling forth the intrepidity, the perseverance, the skill, the foresight, and all the best energies of the human mind.' Hence the author proceeds to inquire.
If plagues and earthquakes break not heaven's design ;
Why should a Borgia or a Cataline *}”. From the inanimate parts of creation he proceeds to transfer his theory to man, and thus enforces it in p. 393.
“ Human actions can only be produced by the appetites, the affections, or the understanding of Man. But as these are all the workmanship of the author of the universe, who formed the constitution of man, and prep are this world for his habitation, it is obvious that when we act in consequence of any of these, our actions are truly and ultimately produced by the first cause of all things, and forni a part of the divine operations. Man there's fore in his lowest state, when led captive by mere appetite and blind affection, is ruled by that superior power which contrived the human constitu. tion and its present situation."
Such are the principles of this philosophical “ Advocate," and such are the assertions (for we dare not call them arguments) by which he attempts to give them support! Confident in himself that neither happiness, truth, nor justice, can be the ultimate object of human pursuit, because they have not been attained in general perfection, he has rejected thein altogether; and has substituted vigour and energy in the room of all. But
* Such are Mr. Forsyth's saints !...... Rev.