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Á É RE E ENQUIRY
İN TO THE
HIS is a Treatise consisting of Six Letters up
on a very difficult and important Question, which I am afraid this Author's Endeavours will not free from the Perplexity, which has intangled the Speculatists of all Ages, and which must always continue while we fee but in part. He calls it a Free Enquiry, and indeed his Freedom is, I think, greater than his Modésty: Though he is far from the contemptible Arrogance, or the impious Licentiousness of Bolingbroke, yet he decides too easily upon Questions out of the Reach of human Determination, with too little Confideration of mortal Weakness, and with too much Vivacity for the neceffary Caution.
In the first Letter on Evil in general, he observes, that, it is the Solution of this important Question, ( whence came Evil, alone, that can ascertain the • moral Characteristic of God, without which there 6 is an End of all Distinction between Good and Vol.I,
• Évil. Yet he begins this Enquiry by this Declaration : ' That there is a Supreme Being, infi.
nitely powerful, wise, and benevolent, the great • Creator and Preserver of all Things, is a Truth <fo clearly demonstrated, that it shall be here taken ' for granted.' What is this but to say, that we have already Reason to grant the Existence of those Attributes of God, which the present Enquiry is designed to prove ? The present Enquiry is then surely made to no Purpose. The Attributes to the Demonstration of which the Solution of this great Question is necessary, have been demonstrated without any Solution, or by means of the Solution of fome former Writer.
He rejects the Manichean System, bur imputes to it an Absurdity, from which, amidst all its Absurdities, it seems to be free, and adopts the Syftem. Mr. Pope. That Pain is no Evil, if asserted with • Regard to the Individuals who suffer it, is down
right Nonsense ; but if confidered as it affects the • universal System, is an undoubted Truth, and
means only that there is no more Pain in it than what is Necessary to the Production of Happiness. How many soever of these Evils then force themfelves into the Creation, so long as the Good pre
ponderates, it is a Work well worthy of infinite · Wisdom and Benevolence; and, notwithstanding
the Imperfections of its Parts, the Whole is moft
undoubtedly Perfect.' And in the former Part of the Letter, he gives the Principle of his System in these Words : Omnipotence cannot work Çontra
dictions, it can only effect all poslible Things. . But so little are we acquainted with the whole
System of Nature, that we know not what are
possible, and what are not : But if we may judge * from that constant Mixture of Pain with Pleasure, and Inconveniency with Advantage, which we ' must observe in every Thing around us, we have
• Reason to conclude, that to endue created Beings with Perfection, that is, to produce Good exo clusive of Evil, is one of those Impossibilities which
even infinite Power cannot accomplish.'
This is elegant and acute, but will by no means calm Discontent, or silence Curiosity; for whether Evil can be wholly separated from Good or not, it is plain that they may be mixed in various Degrees, and as far as human Eyes can judge, the Degree of Evil might have been less without any Impediment to Good.
The second Letter on the Evils of Imperfection, is little more than a Paraphrafe of Pope's Epiftles, or yet less than a Paraphrase, a mere Translation of Poetry into Profe. This is surely to attack Difficulty with very disproportionate Abilities, to cut the Gordian Knot with very blunt Instruments. When we are told of the Insufficiency of former Solutions, why is one of the latest, which no Man can have forgotten, given us again? I am told, that this Pamphlet is not the Effort of Hunger : What can it be then but the Product of Vanity ? and yet how can Vanity be gratified by Plagiarism, or Transcription? When this Speculatist finds himself prompted to another Performance, let him consider whether he is about to disburthen his Mind, or employ his Fingers ; and if I might venture to offer him a Subject, Ỉ should wish that he would solve this Question, Why he that has nothing to write, should desire to be a Writer?
Yet is not this Letter without some Sentiments, which though not new, are of great Importance, and may be read with Pleasure in the thousandth Repetition.
“ Whatever we enjoy is purely a free Gift from our Creator ; but that we enjoy no more, can never fure be deemed an Injury, or a just Rcalon to que!tion his infinite Benevolence. All our Happiness is
owing to his Goodness; but that it is no greatery is owing only to ourselves; that is, to our not having any inherent Right to any Happiness, or even to any Existence at all. This is no more to be imputed to God, than the Wants of a Beggar to the Perfon who has relieved him: That he had something was owing to his Benefactor ; but that he had no more, only to his own original Poverty."
Thus far he speaks what every Man must approve, and what every wise Man has said before him. He then gives us the System of Subordination, not invented, for it was known I think to the Arabian Metaphysicians, but adopted by Pope ; and from him borrowed by the diligent Researches of this great Investigator.
" No System can possibly be formed, even in Imagination, without a Súbordination of Parts. Every animal Body must have different Members, subfervient to each other ; every Picture must be composed of various Colours, and of Light and Shade ; all Harmony must be formed of Trebles, Tenors, and Basses ; every beautiful and useful Edifice must consist of higher and lower, more and less magnificent Apartments. This is in the very Ersence of all created Things, and therefore cannot be prevented by any Means whatever, unless by not creating them at all.”
These Instances are used instead of Pope's Oak and Weeds, or Jupiter and his Satellites; but neither Pope, nor this Writer, have much contributed to folve the Difficulty. Perfection or Imperfection of unconscious Beings has no meaning as referred to themselves ; the Bass and the Treble are equally perfect; the mean and magnificent Apartments feel no Pleasure or Pain from the Comparison. Pope might ask the Weed, why it was less than the Oak, but the Weed would never ask the Question for itself. The Bass and Treble differ only to the Hearer, Meanness