Whatever is, is in its Causes just
Since all Things are by Fate; but purblind Man
Sees but a part o’ th’ Chain, the nearest Link,
His Eyes not carrying to the equal Beam
That poises all above.
To Mr. J. R.
I have here, according to your Request, given you my present Thoughts of the general State of Things in the Universe. Such as they are, you have them, and are welcome to ’em; and if they yield you any Pleasure or Satisfaction, I shall think my Trouble sufficiently compensated. I know my Scheme will be liable to many Objections from a less discerning Reader than your self; but it is not design’d for those who can’t understand it. I need not give you any Caution to distinguish the hypothetical Parts of the Argument from the conclusive: You will easily perceive what I design for Demonstration, and what for Probability only. The whole I leave entirely to you, and shall value my self more or less on this account, in proportion to your Esteem and Approbation.
SECT. I. Of Liberty and Necessity.
I. There is said to be a First Mover, who is called GOD, Maker of the Universe.
II. He is said to be all-wise, all-good, all powerful.
These two Propositions being allow’d and asserted by People of almost every Sect and Opinion; I have here suppos’d them granted, and laid them down as the Foundation of my Argument; What follows then, being a Chain of Consequences truly drawn from them, will stand or fall as they are true or false.
III. If He is all-good, whatsoever He doth must be good.
IV. If He is all-wise, whatsoever He doth must be wise.
The Truth of these Propositions, with relation to the two first, I think may be justly call’d evident; since, either that infinite Goodness will act what is ill, or infinite Wisdom what is not wise, is too glaring a Contradiction not to be perceiv’d by any Man of common Sense, and deny’d as soon as understood.
V. If He is all-powerful, there can be nothing either existing or acting in the Universe against or without his Consent; and what He consents to must be good, because He is good; therefore Evil doth not exist.
Unde Malum? has been long a Question, and many of the Learned have perplex’d themselves and Readers to little Purpose in Answer to it. That there are both Things and Actions to which we give the Name of Evil, is not here deny’d, as Pain, Sickness,Want, Theft, Murder, &c. but that these and the like are not in reality Evils, Ills, orDefects in the Order of the Universe, is demonstrated in the next Section, as well as by this and the following Proposition. Indeed, to suppose any Thing to exist or be done,contrary to the Will of the Almighty, is to suppose him not almighty; or that Something (the Cause of Evil) is more mighty than the Almighty; an Inconsistence that I think no One will defend: And to deny any Thing or Action, which he consents to the existence of, to be good, is entirely to destroy his two Attributes of Wisdom and Goodness.
There is nothing done in the Universe, say the Philosophers, but what God either does, or permits to be done. This, as He is Almighty, is certainly true: But what need of this Distinction between doing and permitting? Why, first they take it for granted that many Things in the Universe exist in such a Manner as is not for the best, and that many Actions are done which ought not to be done, or would be better undone; these Things or Actions they cannot ascribe to God as His, because they have already attributed to Him infinite Wisdom and Goodness; Here then is the Use of the Word Permit; Hepermits them to be done, say they. But we will reason thus: If God permits an Action to be done, it is because he wants either Power or Inclination to hinder it; in saying he wants Power, we deny Him to be almighty; and if we say Hewants Inclination orWill, it must be, either because He is not Good, or the Action is not evil, (for all Evil is contrary to the Essence of infinite Goodness.) The former is inconsistent with his before-given Attribute of Goodness, therefore the latter must be true.
It will be said, perhaps, that God permits evil Actions to be done, for wise Ends and Purposes. But this Objection destroys itself; for whatever an infinitely good God hath wise Ends in suffering to be, must be good, is thereby made good, and cannot be otherwise.