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If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortunes, 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; but either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing is left for it but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness, and made for them the provision he has made, with that view and for that purpose. This is the argument in brief; but it deserves to be displayed somewhat more at large ; for, I trust, the more it is considered, the more satisfactory it will be found. The world about us was certainly made, and made by God, and there are three suppositions, and only three possible suppositions, as to the disposition and design with which he made it; either from a delight in the misery and torment of his creatures, or with a total unconcern what became of them one way or the other, or with the good and gracious will and wish that they should enjoy and be happy in the existence which he was giving them. If these are the only three possible suppositions, and the first two can be made out incredible, it will follow that the third is the true One. Now the supposition of a malicious purpose, like what we sometimes hear of in eastern tyrants, a pleasure in the sufferings of others, without any conceivable end and advantage to be answered to themselves, though it be possible he can do such a thing, is actual mischief, is the perverseness and corruption of the human heart. Yet it is absolutely excluded from being the case here ; because the same power which framed and contrived our several faculties, and made us susceptible of so many pleasures, and placed so many pleasing objects within our reach, could, if he had been so minded, have converted any one of these into instruments of torment and disgust. The power cannot be questioned, because he who could do one could do the other; he who could make a creature happy, or capable of happiness, could make it miserable and destined to inevitable misery. The first supposition, therefore, I think is clearly out of the question. Some may think that there is more probability in the second, namely, that our Creator was unconcerned and indifferent about either our happiness or misery. I believe, upon inquiry, it will be found that there is not much more likelihood in this than in the other; for suppose the Divine Being to have had no regard, or affection, or solicitude for the happiness of the creatures he was producing, there was nothing but chance for it, or good fortune as I may say, that we are so well as we are ; for, as to design in our favor, you say there was none. Now reflect for a moment how the chances stand ; what likelihood was there that such an organ as the eye, for instance, fitted and contrived for so many valuable purposes both of convenience and pleasure, should have been the effect of chance That is, can we imagine that the author of all things, when he planned and fabricated the useful and exquisite mechanism of this precious sense, did not forsee and contemplate the uses it was to serve, and did not mean and intend that the creature to whom he gave it should receive happiness and enjoyment from it Was there but this instance in the world, it would be sufficient to confute the notion that God meant and intended nothing about our happiness and enjoyment at all. But the eye is but one sense of five, seeing is but one faculty out of many ; our hearing, speech, hands, feet, together with the several endowments of our minds and understandings, all admit of the same observation. If this alone was so small that we could accidentally receive one such important faculty, how out of all proportion and calculation is it, that we should thus find ourselves in possession of so many | Nor is this all. Suppose we had the several senses, still they had stood us in little stead, if we had not been placed amidst objects precisely suited to them ; our eyesight, for instance, might as well have been denied us, if the objects which constantly surround us had been too great or too small, too near or too distant to be perceived. Our taste and smell had better have been out of the composition, if the meats that had generally been presented to the one had been nauseous or insipid, and the odors which exhaled from objects had continually offended us. It is only particular things that can, from their nature, please and gratify our senses; and out of the infinite variety which the capacity of nature allowed us, how extraordinary is it, suppose intention and design to have us. happy to be laid out of the case, that the particular things should have been created, and still more that we should find ourselves in the midst of them . These instances appertain to the human species, because it is the disposition of the Deity towards his rational creatures which we are inquiring after, and precisely concerned in ; but all nature speaks the same language. Every animal may, to the lowest reptile, possess some faculty or other, some means of gratification, which would not have been given it by a malevolent being who delighted in misery, and which it would not have received, without a degree
of good fortune of which we see no example, from a being who produced it without any concern about its happiness or misery at all. By the goodness of God, we see his kindness to his creatures; and as the world, which we see now, could not have been constituted at first, either with an evil design, or without design at all, what other conclusion is left, but that our Creator intended and wished our happiness when he made us, and that the same will and wish continue, so long as the same creation and order of things is upheld by him for any change in his counsels and character, were it possible, would be immediately followed by a corresponding alteration in the laws and order of nature. But after all is said, evil, and pain, and misery exist among us still; diseases and sickness, and maladies and misfortunes, are not done away by reasoning about them, or by any opinion we entertain of the divine goodness; how are these to be reconciled with the beneficence which we attribute to the divine character Now I think there is one observation which will go a great way to take off the edge of the objection ; namely, that evil is never the object of contrivance. We can never trace out a train of contrivances to bring about an evil purpose. The world abounds with contrivances of nature ; and all the contrivances we are acquainted with, will conduce to beneficial purposes. As this is a distinction of great consequence, I will endeavour to illustrate it. If you had occasion to describe the instruments of husbandry you would hardly say, this is to cut or wound the laborer’s hand, this to bruise his limbs, this to break his bones; though, from the construction of several implements of husbandry, and the manner of using them, these misfortunes commonly happen; the mischief that it does, however, is not the object of the contrivance. Whereas, if it was necessary to describe engines of torture, you would say of one, this is to extend the sinews, this to dislocate the joints, this to search the flesh. Here pain and misery is the very object of the contrivance, which is a different case from the former one, though the same result may actually follow it. Now nothing of this kind is to be found in the works of nature ; nothing where there appears contrivance to bring about mischief. Of the beneficial faculties, the contrivance is often evident. Ask after our eyesight, the anatomist will show you the structure of the eye, its coats, humors, nerves, and muscles, all fabricated and put together for the purpose of vision, as plainly as a telescope or microscope for assisting it, and in the very same way. Ask after the
hearing, the same skill will teach you how sound is propagated through the air, how the drum of the ear receives the stroke, how the auditory passage carries it to the brain. There can be no doubt either of the contrivance or object of it. The same of our smelling, tasting, speech, hands, and feet, and all our beneficial faculties. But now ask after any disease, or pain, or infirmity, and I defy any man to show you the train of contrivance to bring about, or contribute to that end. Ask after the gout, the stone; no anatomy could ever show you a system of vessels or organization calculated to produce these. Can any say, this gland is to secrete the humor which forms the gout? this bag is to contain, this duct is to convey and disperse it round the body ? And the like holds of any maladies of the human body. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache ; their aching may be incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it; or let it be called a defect in the contrivance, it is not the object of it. And this observation, extends to many evils which are beside our subject. It is true of earthquakes, volcanos; they all show the effect of a visible train of contrivances. Now contrivance proves design, and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The disposition of the designer is to be judged of, not from the accidental effects of the contrivance, not from the inseparable consequences of the contrivance, nor from any other defect where it may be supposed liable to any, but from the end, aim, and object of the contrivance, which, in the works of nature, or, in other words, in the works of God, are always beneficial. What I would add, by way of a concluding remark, is this; that if there be other evils, which do not fall within the above observation, if there be the unmerited misery of the good and pious, and the still more unaccountable prosperity of the wicked, is it not more than probable that there will come a time when God will, as he certainly can, rectify the irregularity ? Are not the thousand and ten thousand proofs of bounty and benevolence, which we see about us, enough to found a persuasion that the few examples which seem of a contrary cast will hereafter be cleared up, and contemplated so as to reduce the whole to one entire and uniform plan of love, and kindness, and good will to the work of his almighty hand
THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
PsALM XXXIII. 5.
HAVING explained the argument by which the goodness of our Almighty Governor is proved from the light of nature ; or, in other words, from those specimens of his intentions which we are able to observe, connect, and comprehend, in the world around us; I shall now proceed to state some of the many declarations of revelation, in which the same divine attributes, though under various forms, names, and modifications, are repeated and described. And these are material to be known and stated ; for whatever intimation and reasonable evidence of God’s goodness the order of the universe may surnish to a contemplative mind, it must be acknowledged that pointed proofs of the same kind are to be found in the revealed word of God, and the fidelity and certainty of that word is, in return, also proved by the light of nature; for it is not conceivable, nor contended indeed by any, that a being who, in such remarkable instances, had testified his love to his rational creatures, and care for their happiness, should go about, by mysterious attempts, to mislead and deceive them in accounts of that which most nearly concerns them, and in which it is impossible for them to detect the deceit.
Now, the divine goodness, as it is excited towards the human species, parts itself into six great branches, justice, bounty, fidelity patience, placability, mercy ; these all spring from the same root, the divine desire and provision for the happiness of his creatures; in other words, the love of God. We will now see what the scriptures have to tell us of each of them.
The justice of the Deity is the foundation of all religion; yet this was a point in which the apprehensions of many in ancient times labored under some uncertainty. Many of the vulgar, and some of the wise men, conceived of the Deity as not regulating the treatment of his creatures by any steady rules of justice, but as bestowing his favors capriciously, and actuated entirely by partial affections, such as we feel and conceive