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does he call him a God of mercy, when yet he is ob served to perform the identical actions which procure for a human being the undisputed character of the most revolting cruelty?

Probably the deist may reply, that the cruelty of an action depends upon its intent: for the very same deed, which under some circumstances is horribly cruel, under other circumstances will present an aspect wholly the reverse. Thus the tyrant, who delights wantonly to torture his victims and to feast upon their groans, we denominate cruel: but the skilful practitioner, who inflicts even the most acute pain upon a diseased patient, we respect as a man both of science and humanity. On this principle, we are not to suppose that God sends bodily suffering upon his creatures because he has any abstract delight in their misery but he sends it, as a powerful instrument of moral discipline, to reclaim them from error, and to draw them more closely to himself.

Such an answer (and, I think, we may safely assert it to be the only possible answer to the present difficulty) is perfectly valid and conclusive in the mouth of a Christian*: but it is not quite so easy to conceive the propriety of its appearance in the mouth of a deist, who systematically discards revelation. If the life of man be confined to his present state of existence, we may well doubt the moral utility of a protracted and painful sickness which terminates only with the death of the subject. We may readily indeed comprehend the beneficial effects of such a malady, provided it occurs in youth or in middle age, and provided the sufferer be finally restored to sound

*Heb. xii. 5-11. The same answer, when given by a Christian, is perfectly conclusive also in regard to the absolute justice of God both in this world and in the next, as discussed under the last head: for, when the doctrine of moral discipline is introduced (a doctrine, taught explicitly in Scripture, but incapable of any legitimate proof on deistical principles); we readily perceive, that the trials of the good, and the prosperity of the bad, during the present state of things, are no impeachment of the divine justice.


health: but we shall not very readily comprehend them, if the malady end only with death, and if death be followed by annihilation. Allow a future state: and then, no doubt, every difficulty will vanish: for pain and sickness will then appear under their proper aspect of a merciful moral discipline, by which the aspirant is weaned from this world, and gradually fitted for the glories of a better world; just as, analogically, boys are fitted, by the severe and irksome discipline of school, honourably to play their parts in the future state of manhood. But I see not, how a deist can consistently avail himself of this solution. Before he can be allowed to argue from a future state of retribution, he must prove its existence. But its existence he never can prove upon his principles. For he will encounter precisely the same difficulty in vindicating the mercy of God, as he encountered in vindicating his justice. He cannot demonstrate the mercy of God, save through the medium of a future state of retribution and he cannot prove the existence of a future state of retribution, save by the vicious and inconclusive expedient of reasoning in a circle; that is to say, by alternately demonstrating a future retributory state from the moral attributes of God and the moral atíributes of God from a future retributory state.

3. The deist again, and the Christian equally maintain, that God is a God of goodness: but still, as before, the arguments of the deist will be found, I fear, to labour.

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In the prosecution of this topic, he may indeed expatiate largely upon the beneficence so conspicuous in the works of the creation, and he may urge that moral arrangement by which virtue is its own best reward but we may doubt, whether, with his scanty materials, he can effect more than the probability that God is a being of a mixed nature. Much, certainly, may be said on the side of his goodness: but then, unfortunately, much also may be said on the other

side of the question. If God be good, we may ask the deist, why does he so often stamp the impress of his seeming approbation upon vice, by suffering it to be prosperous and triumphant? If God be good, why does he so often stamp the impress of his seeming disapprobation upon virtue, by suffering it to be afflicted and depressed and trampled under foot? If God be good, why has he created man with such a strange tendency to evil, that, in despite of his better judgment, he is ever prone to choose the bad and to reject the good? If God be good, why has he made the road of virtue even proverbially rough and difficult and disagreeable, while the road of vice is pleasant and smooth and easy and inviting?* If God be good, why are populous cities with all their inhabitants swallowed up by earthquakes; why are the tremendous devastations of volcanoes permitted; why does the tempestuous ocean yearly ingulph thousands in one word, why is death with all its horrors permitted; why, if the existence of man be designedly finite, is he not quietly dismissed at the appointed time, without any circumstances of pain and sickness to himself, without any circumstances of anxious terror and secret misgivings to the survivors? It is not enough to say, that it is natural for a man to fall sick and to die, as it is for him to be born. A palpable truism, framed upon his present condition, is no answer to a difficulty. The question will still recur, if God be good, WHY did he make it natural for man to sicken and to die: WHY did he send him into the world, circumstanced as we all know by mournful experience that he is circumstanced: WHY did he form him with a propensity to evil, rather than to good? We want not to be told,

* Την μεντοι κακοτητα και ιλαδον εστιν έλεσθαι
Ρηϊδίως· ολιγη μεν όδος, μαλα δ ̓ εγγυθι ναιει.
Της δ' αρετης {δρωτα θεοι προπαροιθεν εθηκαν
Αθανατοι· μακρος δε και ορθιος οιμος επ' αυτην·
Και τρηχυς.

Hesiod. Oper, et dier. lib. i. ver, 284-239.


that such things are: we rather want to be told, if God be indeed a God of goodness, WHY suchthings are.

All these difficulties are solved by revelation: but as the deist rejects revelation, he stands pledged, either to account for them satisfactorily by the unassisted light of human reason, or else to acknowledge himself incapable of proving that God possesses the moral attribute of goodness. By what process he will seek to establish his point I pretend not to say on deistical principles I see not how we can reach higher than the probability that God is a being of a mixed nature, not very unlikely to man himself (as in truth the old pagans feigned their deities to be), partly good and partly bad.

III. Thus wholly unable to ascertain the moral attributes of the Godlead, the deist cannot but be utterly in the dark, as to what service will be most acceptable to him: for if he be ignorant of the nature of those attributes, he must plainly be ignorant also, as to what actions will be pleasing or displeasing to the Divinity.

The bare difference indeed between virtue and vice, justice and injustice, mercy and cruelty, he can readily discern; just as he can perceive the difference between hot and cold, wet and dry, hard and soft. He can likewise discern the social utility of virtue and virtuous actions; whence he will be led to praise those human laws, which encourage rectitude and which punish crimes. But I see not, how, upon his principles, he can ever be a virtuous man in reference to the Deity in other words, I see not, how, upon his principles, it is possible for him to have any religion properly so called. The reason is obvious. He cannot be certain that he will please God by acting justly, until he first knows, that God is a God of justice. He cannot be certain that he will please God by acting mercifully; until he first knows, that God is merciful, and that he delights in mercy. He cannot be certain

that he will please God by labouring after goodness; until he first knows that God is a God of goodness. Without a previous certain knowledge, in short, of the moral attributes of the Deity, it is wholly impossible for him to determine, what line of conduct will be most pleasing to his creator. Doubtless, if God be just and good and merciful, then justice and goodness and mercy will be acceptable to him: for like ever delights in like. But here is the difficulty. The deist has no means of ascertaining, whether God be just and good and merciful, or whether he be unjust and bad and unmerciful. Nay, he cannot so much as tell, whether there may not be many Gods, concurring indeed in the creation of the world, but widely differing in their moral attributes; he cannot tell, whether there may not be two independent principles of good and evil. Under these circumstances of total ignorance, how is he to frame a religion for himself? He may fondly imagine, that, by cultivating virtue, he is rendering an acceptable service to the Deity: when, all the while, he is doing what is most abhorrent from the divine nature, and therefore most displeasing. He can have no certainty, that the very actions which gratify one God, may not offend another.

Perhaps he will say, that, as it is much more simple and much more probable, that there should be one God rather than many Gods; so it is much more probable, that that one God should be a lover of virtue than a lover of vice. Consequently, since for want of better evidence a wise man will act upon the greater probability, a prudent deist will prefer and cultivate virtue.

Now what is this but a confession, that the sole religion, which Deism can produce, is a religion of mere probabilities? Such being the case, the matter of probability may be very differently estimated by different persons. One may deem it by far the most probable conjecture, that there is only one God, and

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