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Review Of A Free Enquiry Into The Nature And Origin Of Evil
by [?]

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, sure, be deemed an injury, or a just reason to question his infinite benevolence. All our happiness is owing to his goodness; but, that it is no greater, 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 person 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 subordination of parts. Every animal body must have different members, subservient to each other; every picture must be composed of various colours, and of light and shade; all harmony must be formed of trebles, tenours, and bases; every beautiful and useful edifice must consist of higher and lower, more and less magnificent apartments. This is in the very essence 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 solve the difficulty. Perfection, or imperfection, of unconscious beings has no meaning, as referred to themselves; the base 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 base and treble differ only to the hearer, meanness and magnificence only to the inhabitant. There is no evil but must inhere in a conscious being, or be referred to it; that is, evil must be felt, before it is evil. Yet, even on this subject, many questions might be offered, which human understanding has not yet answered, and which the present haste of this extract will not suffer me to dilate.

He proceeds to an humble detail of Pope’s opinion: “The universe is a system, whose very essence consists in subordination; a scale of beings descending, by insensible degrees, from infinite perfection to absolute nothing; in which, though we may justly expect to find perfection in the whole, could we possibly comprehend it; yet would it be the highest absurdity to hope for it in all its parts, because the beauty and happiness of the whole depend altogether on the just inferiority of its parts; that is, on the comparative imperfections of the several beings of which it is composed.

“It would have been no more an instance of God’s wisdom to have created no beings, but of the highest and most perfect order, than it would be of a painter’s art to cover his whole piece with one single colour, the most beautiful he could compose. Had he confined himself to such, nothing could have existed but demi-gods, or archangels, and, then, all inferior orders must have been void and uninhabited; but as it is, surely, more agreeable to infinite benevolence, that all these should be filled up with beings capable of enjoying happiness themselves, and contributing to that of others, they must, necessarily, be filled with inferior beings; that is, with such as are less perfect, but from whose existence, notwithstanding that less perfection, more felicity, upon the whole, accrues to the universe, than if no such had been created. It is, moreover, highly probable, that there is such a connexion between all ranks and orders, by subordinate degrees, that they mutually support each other’s existence, and every one, in its place, is absolutely necessary towards sustaining the whole vast and magnificent fabric.