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CRITICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL
ESSAY ON MAN:
In which is contained a Vindication of the said ESSAY
from the Misrepresentations of
MR. De RESNEL, the French Translator;
MR. DE CROUSAZ,
in the Academy of Lausanne
Vide quam iniqui sunt divinorum munerum æstimatores
ctiam quidam PROFESSI SAPIENTIAM.Sen,
DIY WORTHY FRIEND,
RALPH ALLEN, ESQ.
SIR, I GIVE myself the pleasure of conversing with you, in this form; as I see you less under the idea of a patron, than of a joint labourer with me in the service of man. kind. For while I attempt to explain the thepry of this divine philosophy of Universal Benevolence, you illustrate it by your practice. At most therefore I can but offer you the Essay on Man, set in a just light, as a mirrour for your cabinet ; where you may behold the perfect image of your own mind : And the works of this Artist, who is beholden only to truth for their polish and their lustre, you are too well acquainted with to suspect them of flattery. To preserve the lustre of this mirrour was the sole purpose of the following Letters. For the dull breath of malice had attempted to defile its purity; and, by staining it with the black imputation of Fatalism, to tarnish every virtue it reflected.
It hath been observed in Physics, that nature never gave an excellence, but she at the same time produced its contrary, with qualities peculiarly adapted to its destruction. As we see how this serves the wise ends of Providence, by keeping us in that state of imperfection and dependence in which it hath pleased the Author of all Things to place us, we need not be much surprised to find the same phænomenon in the moral world: In no instance more apparent than in the doctrine of Fate, which, almost coæval with the practice of virtue, is yet altogether the destruction of it.
But as there is not that decay, nor degeneracy of good, in the natural as in the moral world; so néither is there that increase of evil. I say this chiefly with regard to the doctrine of Fate, which hath been still growing, from
age to age, in absurdity and impiety: And therefore no wonder, that virtue, whose specific bane it is, should proportionably sicken and decline.
Indeed, it stopped not till it became like the Tree in the Chaldæan's vision, which reached to heaven, and extended over the rehole carth; and received all the irrational and impure Creation, birds, beasts, and insects, to its shade and shelter.
To consider fate in its growth and progress, it divides itself into four principal branches.
The first and earliest is that which arose from the strange and prodigious events in the life of Man : Where the amazed beholder observing the ends of human wisdom so perpetually defcated, even when supported by the likeliest means, concluded that nothing less than an overruling fate had traversed his well-conducted designs. This early cc.aclusion concerning God's government here, from observations on civil evenis, was again inferred in after ages, by another set of men, with regard to his governinent hereafter, from their contemplations on religious; while, from an utter inability to penetrate the
designs of Providence in its partial Revelations to man- kind, they concluded that fate or predestination had de
terinined of our future, as well as present happiness. These, which are only dillerent modifications of the same imaginary power, may be called the POPULAR and RELIGIOUS fate.
The sccond kind arose from a supposed moral influence of the heutenly bodies : founded in an early superstition that the hero-goils had migrated into sturs. It was first understood to be confined to communities, as such were the more immediate care of these heroes while living : But the same considerations which produced the first species of fate, in a little time, extended it to particulars. And this is the CIVIL or ASTROLOGIC fate. Hitherto, free-will was only curbed, or rendered useless. To annihilate it quite, needed all the power of philosophy. So true is the observation, that without philosophy Man can hardly become either thoroughly absurd or miserable.
The Sophist, in his profound inquiries into human nature, and on what it is we do, when we judge, deliberate, and resolve, came at length to this short conclusion,
That the mind is no more than a machine, and that its operations are determined in the same manner that a balance is inclined by its weights. This absolute necessity of man's actions is the third species of fate, called the PHILOSOPHIC.
From this, to the last, that is to say, the necessity of God's, was an easy step.
For when, froin the very nature of mind and will
, the philosopher had demonstrated the absurdity of freedom in man, the same conclusion would hold as to all other beings whatsoever. And this is the ATHEISTIC fate.
These, Sir, were the glorious effects of PRIDE: which our incomparable Friend, with so good reason, esteenis the source of all our misery and impiety. The pride of accounting for the ways of Providence begot the two first species: and the pride of comprehending the essences of things, the two latter. Ah! misera mens hominum, quo te Fata sepissimè trahunt! In the name of Paul, if one might be allowed to ask, What shall deliver us from the body of this fate? which hangs about the sous like that punishment of the ancient Tyrant, who bound dead bodies to the living. I answer, the Religion of Jesus: which hath instructed us as clearly in the Nature of Man, as in the Nature of God; in the subject, as well as in the object, of worship. A worship founded, as reason and conscience tell us it ought, on these two great principles, the FREEDOM and the WEAKNESS of Man. The first, making our approach to God a REASONABLE SERVICE; the latter, God's approach to us a COVENANT OF GRACE. And this, Sir, is that glorious Gospel, which you are not ashamed to adore, as able to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
And, in fact, the fashionable reasoner is now gone over to the cause.of Liberty ; but still true to his overweening pride, is gone over--in the other extreme. Let the Fatalist talk what he pleases of the mind's being a balanee; if its operations be mechanical, I am sure it is more like a pendulum, which, when well leaded, is incessantly swinging from one side to the other. For the vain reasoner is now as much disposed to deny the weakness of the mind; as before to deny its freedom. Hence it is, we see the Christian Doctrine of GRACE despised VOL. XI. с