« PreviousContinue »
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 by 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. He had many conversations and disputes with Bayle on the Manichean controversy; and in 1709 wrote the famous Dialogue, intitled, The Moralists, as a direct confutation of the opinions of Bayle; though he had before touched on this subject, 1699, when the first edition of the Enquiry concerning Virtue and Merit was published : as did his disciple Hutcheson, 1725. In 1710, Leibnitz wrote his famous Theodicée ; without entering into the metaphysical refinements of that piece, it may be more amusing to our reader just to mention the agreeable fiction with which he ends his philosophical disquisition. He feigns (in continuance of a Dialogue of Laurentius Valla), that Sextus the son of Tarquin goes to Dodona to complain to Jupiter of the crime which he was destined to commit, the rape of Lucretia. Jupiter answers him, that he had nothing to do but to abstain from going to Rome: but Sextus declares positively, that he could not renounce the hope of being a king, and accordingly to Rome he goes. After his departure, the high priest, Theodorus, asks Jupiter, why he did not give another will to Sextus ? Jupiter sends Theodorus to Athens to consult Minerva; she shews to Theodorus the great palace of the Destinies, in which were placed all the pictures and representations of all possible worlds, from the worst model to the best. Theodorus beholds, in the latter, the crime which Sextus was doomed to commit; from which crime arose the liberty of Rome, and a mighty empire; an event so interesting to a great part of the human race. Theodorus was silenced.
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.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE II.
Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to Himself,
as an Individual.
1. The business of Man not to pry into God, but to study himself.
His Middle Nature; his Powers and Frailties, Ver. 1 to 19. The Limits of his Capacity, Ver. 19, &c. II. The two Principles of Man, Self-love, and Reason, both necessary, Ver. 53, &c. Self-love the stronger, and why, Ver. 67, &c. Their end the same, Ver. 81, &c. III. The PASSIONS, and their use, Ver. 93 to 130. The Predominant Passion, and its force, Ver. 132 to 160. Its Necessity, in directing Men to different purposes, Ver. 165, &c. Its providential use in fixing our Principle, and ascertaining our Virtue, Ver. 177. IV. Virtue and
. Vice joined in our mixed Nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: What is the Office of Reason, Ver. 202 to 216. V. How odious Vice in itself, and how we deceide our selves in it, Ver. 217. VI. That, however, the Ends of Providence and general Good are answered in our Passions and Imperfections, Ver. 238, &c. How usefully these are distributed to all Orders of Men, Ver. 241. How useful they are to Society, Ver. 251. And to Individuals, Ver. 263. In every State, and every age of life, Ver. 273, &c.
1. Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
Ver. 2. The proper study, &c.] The Poet having shewn, in the first epistle, that the ways of God are too high for our comprehension, rightly draws this conclusion ; and methodically makes it the subject of his Introduction to the second, which treats of the Nature of Man.
But here presently the accusers of Providence would be apt to object, and say, “ Admit that we ran into an excess, when we pretended to censure or penetrate the designs of Providence, a matter, perhaps, too high for us; yet have not you gone as far into the opposite extreme, while you only send us to the knowledge of OURSELVES ? You must mock us when you talk of this as a study; for who can doubt but we are intimately acquainted with our own Nature? The proper conclusion, therefore, from your proof of our inability to comprehend the ways of God, is, that we should turn ourselves to the study of the frame of general NATURE.” Thus, I say, would they be apt to object; for, of all
Ver. 3. Plac'd on this isthmus, &c.] As the Poet hath given us this sublime description of Man for the very contrary purpose to what Sceptics are wont to employ such kind of paintings, namely, not to deter men from the search, but to excite them to the discovery of truth; he hath, with great judgment, represented Men
Ver. 2.] Ed. Ist.
The only science of Mankind is Man.