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If the great end be human Happiness,
was saying no more than what all our divines confess concerning the incomprehensibility of predestination.”
Ver. 150. Then Nature deviates, &c.] “While comets move in very eccentric orbs, in all manner of positions, blind Fate could never make all the planets move one and the same way in orbs concentric; some inconsiderable irregularities excepted, which may have risen from the mutual actions of comets and planets upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this system wants a reformation.” Sir Isaac Newton's Optics, Quest. ult.
Ver. 155. If plagues, &c.] What hath misled Mr. De Crousaz in his censure of this passage, is his supposing the comparison to be between the effects of two things in this sublunary world; when not only the elegancy, but the justness of it, consists in its being between the effects of a thing in the universe at large, and the familiar known effects of one in this sublunary world. For the position enforced in these lines is this, that partial evil tends to the good of the whole:
“Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,
May, must be right, as relative to all.” Wer. 51. How does the Poet enforce it? If you will believe this Critic, in illustrating the effects of partial moral evil in a particular system, by that of partial natural evil in the same system, and so he leaves his position in the lurch. But the Poet reasons at another rate. The way to prove his point, he knew, was to illustrate the effect of partial moral evil in the universe, by partial natural evil in a particular system. Whether partial moral evil tend to the good of the Universe, being a question which, by reason of our igno
Who knows but He, whose hand the lightning
forms, Who heaves old Ocean, and who wings the storms; Pours fierce Ambition in a Caesar's mind, Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge man
kind 7 160
rance of many parts of that Universe, we cannot decide but from known effects; the rules of good reasoning require that it be proved by analogy, i.e. setting it by, and comparing it with, a thing clear and certain ; and it is a thing clear and certain, that partial natural evil tends to the good of our particular system. W. “All ills arise from the order of the universe, which is absolutely perfect. Would you wish to disturb so divine an order for the sake of your own particular interest ? What if the ills I suffer arise from malice or oppression? But the vices and imperfections of men are also comprehended in the order of the universe. “If plagues,’ &c. Let this be allowed, and my own vices will be also a part of the same order.” Such is the commentary of the academist on these famous lines. Voltaire, having written his poem on the dreadful earthquake at Lisbon, in direct opposition to the maxim of “Whatever is, is right,” speaks of it thus in a letter to his friend, M. de Cideville, 1756; “Comme je ne suis pas en tout de l'avis de Pope, malgré l'amitié que j'ai eu pour sa personne, et l'estime sincere que je conserverai toute ma vie pour ses ouvrages, j'ai cru devoir lui rendre justice dans ma preface, aussi-bien qu'à notre illustre ami M. l'Abbé du Resnel, qui lui a fait l'honneur de le traduire, et souvent lui a rendu le service d'adoucir les duretés des sessentimens.” Ver. 157. Who knows but He, &c.] The sublimity with which the great Author of Nature is here characterized, is but the second beauty of this fine passage. The greatest is the making the very dispensation objected to, the periphrasis of his title. W.
From pride, from pride, our very reas'ning springs;
Ver. 162. Account for moral, Their natures are so very dissimilar, that they cannot, and ought not, to be accounted for by the same arguments. Men suffer and feel; elements, and unconscious inanimate beings, cannot. Evil must be felt before it is evil. Such different objects require different treatment. “If Nature,” says the commentator, “ or the inanimate system on which God hath imposed his laws, which it obeys, as a machine obeys the hand of the workman, may, in course of time, deviate from its first direction, as the best philosophy shews it may, where is the wonder that man, who was created a free agent, and hath it in his power every moment to transgress the eternal rule of right, should sometimes go out of order ?” Are free agents, and beings accountable, because they are free, to be put on the same footing as the inanimate system? The infidel is for ever asking, Why was man endowed with a faculty so damgerous, and so easily abused ? Ver. 167. That never air or ocean] An acute critic asks if it should not be—That never earth or ocean?—not air. Ver. 169. But All subsists, &c.] See this subject extended in Epistle ii. from Wer. 90 to 112, 155, &c. Wer. 171. The general Order, It seems utterly impossible to explain these two remarkable lines in a way at all reconcilable to the doctrine of a lapsed condition of man, which opinion is
VI. What would this Man? Now upward will he
Soar, And little less than Angels, would be more ; Now looking downwards, just as griev'd appears 175 To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears. Made for his use all creatures if he call, Say, what their use, had he the pow'rs of all; Nature to these, without profusion, kind, The proper organs, proper pow'rs assign'd; 180 Each seeming want compensated of course, Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force;
the chief foundation of the Christian revelation, and the capital argument for the necessity of redemption.
“That system of philosophy,” says an able writer, “which professes to justify the ways of God to man, without having recourse to the doctrine of a future state, must ever be considered as in the highest degree inimical to religion, whose very nature and essence it is to direct our views beyond the narrow limits of the present state of existence.” See Essays Philosophical, Historical, and Literary, p. 399, for some very acute observations on the Essay on Man.
Pope in these lines uses almost the very words of Bolingbroke: “To think worthily of God, we must think that the natural order of things has always been the same; and that a being of infinite wisdom and knowledge, to whom the past and the future are like the present, and who wants no experience to inform him, can have no reason to alter what infinite wisdom and knowledge have once done.” Section 58. Essays to Pope.
Ver. 174. And little less than Angels, &c.] Thou hast made him a little lower than the Angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Psalm viii. 9.
Ver. 182. Here with degrees of swiftness, &c.] It is a certain axiom in the anatomy of creatures, that in proportion as they are formed for strength, their swiftness is lessened; or as they are formed for swiftness, their strength is abated. P.
All in exact proportion to the state ;
Ver. 183. All in exact proportion] I cannot forbear thinking, that a little French treatise on Providence, published at Paris, 1728, formed on the principles of Leibnitz, somewhat moderated, had fallen into the hands both of Bolingbroke and Pope, from the great similarity of the reasoning there employed.
Ver, 186. Is Heav'n unkind to Man, Cudworth, Leibnitz, King, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Balguy, have all strenuously argued for the prepollency of good to evil in our present system; but none more forcibly than Balguy from p. 103 to p. 125 of his Divine Benevolence.
Ver. 202. And stunn'd him] The argument certainly required an instance drawn from real sound, and not from the imaginary music of the spheres. Locke's illustration of this doctrine is not