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

“Our pretences for complaint could be of this only, that we are not so high in the scale of existence as our ignorant ambition may desire; a pretence which must eternally subsist, because, were we ever so much higher, there would be still room for infinite power to exalt us; and, since no link in the chain can be broke, the same reason for disquiet must remain to those who succeed to that chasm, which must be occasioned by our preferment. A man can have no reason to repine, that he is not an angel; nor a horse, that he is not a man; much less, that, in their several stations, they possess not the faculties of another; for this would be an insufferable misfortune.”

This doctrine of the regular subordination of beings, the scale of existence, and the chain of nature, I have often considered, but always left the inquiry in doubt and uncertainty.

That every being not infinite, compared with infinity, must be imperfect, is evident to intuition; that, whatever is imperfect must have a certain line which it cannot pass, is equally certain. But the reason which determined this limit, and for which such being was suffered to advance thus far, and no farther, we shall never be able to discern. Our discoverers tell us, the creator has made beings of all orders, and that, therefore, one of them must be such as man; but this system seems to be established on a concession, which, if it be refused, cannot be extorted.

Every reason which can be brought to prove, that there are beings of every possible sort, will prove, that there is the greatest number possible of every sort of beings; but this, with respect to man, we know, if we know any thing, not to be true.

It does not appear, even to the imagination, that of three orders of being, the first and the third receive any advantage from the imperfection of the second, or that, indeed, they may not equally exist, though the second had never been, or should cease to be; and why should that be concluded necessary, which cannot be proved even to be useful?

The scale of existence, from infinity to nothing, cannot possibly have being. The highest being not infinite, must be, as has been often observed, at an infinite distance below infinity. Cheyne, who, with the desire inherent in mathematicians to reduce every thing to mathematical images, considers all existence as a cone; allows that the basis is at an infinite distance from the body; and in this distance between finite and infinite, there will be room, for ever, for an infinite series of indefinable existence.

Between the lowest positive existence and nothing, wherever we suppose positive existence to cease, is another chasm infinitely deep; where there is room again for endless orders of subordinate nature, continued for ever and for ever, and yet infinitely superiour to nonexistence.

To these meditations humanity is unequal. But yet we may ask, not of our maker, but of each other, since, on the one side, creation, wherever it stops, must stop infinitely below infinity, and on the other, infinitely above nothing, what necessity there is, that it should proceed so far, either way, that beings so high or so low should ever have existed? We may ask; but, I believe, no created wisdom can give an adequate answer.

Nor is this all. In the scale, wherever it begins or ends, are infinite vacuities. At whatever distance we suppose the next order of beings to be above man, there is room for an intermediate order of beings between them; and if for one order, then for infinite orders; since every thing that admits of more or less, and consequently all the parts of that which admits them, may be infinitely divided. So that, as far as we can judge, there may be room in the vacuity between any two steps of the scale, or between any two points of the cone of being, for infinite exertion of infinite power.