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Can shake, when boldly he relies
THINGS OPPOSED TO THE PLEASURES
Life's a varied, bright illusion,
Catch the pleasures ere they fade.
Smile of bliss, and sorrow's mood;
Why reject the seeming good?
It may be said, that I have given a partial account; that I have exhibited the pleasures of life, but kept its miseries out of sight. Such was my intention; and if the book answers to its title, I am happy. I never intended to say life had no evils; but taking in the whole of life, I think it is evident that the good excessively preponderates over evil. In endeavouring to establish this proposition, I shall make a liberal use of Dr. Paley's chapter on the goodness of the Deity, in his Natural Theology. This author well observes, that "in man the preponderance of health and ease over pain and distress, is evinced by the very notice which calamities excite. What inquiries does the sickness of our friends produce! what conversation their misfortunes! This shews that the common course of things is in favour of happiness; that happiness is the
rule, misery the exception. Were the order reversed, our attention would be called to examples of health and competency, instead of disease and want." With respect to disease, the Doctor observes, "few are fatal." "I have," he says at the time he was writing, "before me the account of a dispensary in the neighbourhood, which states six years' experience as follows: Admitted 6420-Cured 5476-Dead 234. And this I suppose nearly to agree with what other similar institutions exhibit."
These extracts from Paley are not made in the regular order of his work. I have arranged them so as to answer my own purpose. The following is
"When God created the human species, either he wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about either.
"If he had wished our misery, he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment; or by placing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tasted, bitter; every thing we saw, loathsome; every thing we touched, a sting; every smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord.
"If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune (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 produce it.
"But either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view, and for that purpose.
"The same argument may be proposed in different terms, thus: Contrivance proves design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the
disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances; and all the contrivances which we are acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no doubt, exists; but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache, their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it: or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's hand, though, from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often follows. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this, to dislocate the joints; this, to break the bones; this, to scorch the soles of the feet. Here pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivance bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this is to irritate, this to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland, to secrete the humour which forms the gout: if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment."
He further observes, that "of all views under which human life has ever been considered, that is the most reasonable which regards it as a state of moral probation. Many things in it suit with this hypothesis, which suit with no other. It is not a state of unmixed happiness, or of happiness simply; it is not a state of designed misery, or of misery simply; it is not a state of retribution; it is not a state of punishment. It suits with none of these suppositions. It accords much better with the idea of its being a condition cal
culated for the production, exercise, and improvement of moral qualities, with a view to a future state, in which these qualities, after being so produced, exercised, and improved, may, by a new and more favouring constitution of things, receive their reward, or become their own.
"Health and sickness, enjoyment and suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilization and barbarity, have all their offices and duties, all serve for the formation of character: for, when we speak of a state of trial, it must be remembered, that characters are not only tried, or proved, or detected, but that they are generated also, and formed, by circumstances." Human life is subject to various changes.
GOD measures unto all
Their lot of good and ill;
Nor this too great, nor that too small,
As good and evil, therefore, are inseparable in this world, they should be considered in connection, as both together the workmanship of one sovereign mind, and as forming one system. Of the system itself, we are to judge by its prevailing character. According to the predominance of happiness or of misery, we may pronounce it good or evil. And if, upon a fair comparison, we find that, though the existence of misery cannot be denied, there is yet a considerable overbalance of happiness, we may justly conclude that it is the result of a benevolent administration.
How then shall we determine this question? They are but a small number of mankind that we are acquainted with; and, with respect to this number, we are very ill qualified to determine the degree of their sufferings or their enjoyments. We should be greatly at a loss to estimate those of our most intimate friends. We even cannot decide upon the exact pro