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plants, dangerous animals abound, and all the elements are filled with incalculable legions of insects,—the beings of the lowest capacity far exceeding those who are susceptible of the higher kinds of happiness, while the former also, by their numbers and powers of annoyance, prove greatly vexatious, nay often destructive, to the latter."
If all this be supposed to belong to the original constitution of the world, it will become the atheist to inquire, by proper means, into the destiny of this part of the universe, and to consider whether a Deity might not have some design to accomplish, in a particular department of his works, to which such a state of things was either essential, or at least greatly subservient. Our views as theists on this subject will be afterwards explained, chiefly from Scripture, and the atheist
then judge whether such a design could be worthy of a Deity ; for if it be, the state of things which it necessarily infers can be no argument against his existence.
Reserving therefore to the next division of our subject the existence of noxious plants, animals, and insects, with the manner in which they may be judicially employed by a Deity, we only remark at present, that even in this state of disorder, and things being as they are, there is a sort of optimism in the supposed objectionable subjects, inasmuch as they are really beneficial, and in various respects necessary, to the comfort of mankind. “ It has been demanded, why should beasts of prey exist? They are exceedingly useful. Were it not for these the earth would be covered with the dead bodies of animals. Every year one-twentieth at least of quadrupeds perishes ; a tenth part of birds and an infinite number of insects, most of the species of which live only a single year, some but a single day. As the rains carry down these spoils to the rivers, and the rivers convey them to the shores of the sea, it is there chiefly that nature has assembled the animals who devour them. Most ferocious beasts descend from the mountains by night, and direct their researches toward the shores. There are even many classes which seem to be expressly created for those places, such are amphibious creatures, white bears, otters, crocodiles, &c. It is particularly in hot countries, where corruption is most rapid and most dangerous, that nature has multiplied carnivorous animals. Then it is to be remarked, that beasts of prey shun the haunts of man; that there are few who come out in the day-time; and that they have all striking characters which announce their approach. Some have strong odours, others piercing cries which are heard in
the night at a great distance, others streaks of harsh colours which are perceptible also from afar on the yellow ground of their skin. After all, what imports their ferocity to us? Has not nature given us dogs? have we not arms that they cannot resist ?-Serpents, centipeds, scorpions, toads, inhabit scarcely any other than humid and unhealthy places, from which they keep us at a distance, or which they admonish us to render salubrious." Noxious plants enter much into the Materia Medica rendered so necessary for man under the present constitution of things. And as for insects, if their power be sometimes irresistible, their utility is not less conspicuous. "Man has been able in some instances to make them subservient to his will. The bee collects honey for his use; the moth, under his influence, affords him silk; the cantharis, an active drug; the cochineal insect, the most brilliant of his dyes. Even where they are totally beyond his control, they minister indirectly to his wants. Under the form of eggs, grubs, caterpillars, maggots, aureliæ, and flies, they furnish food to innumerable creatures who augment his comforts in a thousand ways. But it is as the scavengers of this part of the universe that these puny beings become chiefly salutary to man and all other animated nature. Without their unceasing aid in this respect, the air would become quickly tainted with the most noxious effluviæ, which would soon put an end to animal existence."+
See at large the interesting speculations of ST. PIERRE on this subject. Studies of Nature. Stud. vi.—Dr. PALEY, Nat. Theol. ch. vii. discusses the question on broader grounds. He observes, 1. That beasts must die in one of three ways,-by acute disease, to which animals are not much subject, -or by violence,-or by decay. In decay what misery does the animal feel, and how is that misery prolonged, without assistance as in human sickness and infirmity. It is much better that they be devoured, than that the world should be filled with drooping, superannuated, half-starved, helpless and unhelped animals. 2. The existence of beasts of prey gives room for a special system of activity on both sides, in pursuit and defence. The pleasure of animals lies greatly in activity, and the fear of danger does not much affect them but for the time. A hare, though constantly exposed, is as playful an animal as any other. 3. Destruction is to be taken in connexion with superfecundity, which is of great use and even necessary, yet would, if left without a counteracting system, overburden nature and prove dangerous.-These remarks have considerable weight in solving the difficulty, though they do not account for the present state of diminished felicities; nor indeed are they so satisfactory as other parts of the work, in which the very able author has exerted all his circumspection to preclude the possibility of rejoinder.
+ ANDERSON'S Recreations. No. 1. Introduction to Natural History. He takes up the subject again, No. 11. page 356 of that department of the work.
1. “ The structure of the human body doth not look like the workmanship of a Deity. We have only five senses, and these not so perfect as in some animals; we are liable to distempers, to deformity, and to death. What a want of goodness and wisdom, which should have been able to prevent this imperfection! We resemble some ordinary piece of clockwork, which has but few motions of use, these continually out of order, and soon at an end."
On this objection the same remark must be made with which we commenced on the former. We ought next to recall to mind the view already given of the wisdom and goodness apparent in the human structure. The alleged defect with regard to the senses will not then detain us long. Although the power of a Deity be infinite, the case is otherwise with the subject in or by which that power is displayed. Senses are relative to their objects, and these are necessarily limited. Though we had more senses than we have, (and what the additional ones should be we cannot conceive, much less their use,) there would still be room for the same complaint. As the Creator must stop somewhere, his wisdom is sufficiently displayed if the senses he bestows be adapted in number and variety to our state; and his goodness, if we feel no want. Those which we have received possess the proper degree of perfection. Though the eye could descry objects hundreds of miles distant on the surface of the earth, this vast power would be useless, since the view would be interrupted by other intervening objects, and necessarily terminated sooner by the convexity of the globe. If the eye again were like a microscope, it would be a curse to man rather than a blessing,—we would not see above an inch at once, it would take a long time to survey any object, -we would be a terror to ourselves. For particular purposes, the senses are capable of being improved or assisted ; and their present state gives place to invention. To an atheist diseases and death cannot but be terrible, as his happiness must be chiefly if not solely in sensual pleasures, which are marred by the former, and terminated by the latter. Most distempers, however, are of our own making, and in truth the effects of abused luxury and plenty—the very results of divine munificence. Means exist for alleviating the evil, even when we bring it on ourselves. May not distempers also have moral purposes? Or to accommodate our language to the notions of the atheist, may they not be beneficial in teaching us to avoid habits physically destructive, and the indulgence of propensities inimical to the existence of the human race ?
Prolong the present life even for ages, it will still be too short for the atheist, who restricts to it the whole duration or his intellectual and sensitive being. But its brevity is evidently adjusted to the present state of population ; and taken in connexion with our natural capacities of improvement, the hope inseparable from these, and the inextinguishable desire, “ the longing after immortality” engendered by both ; much more in connexion with our moral state, and the dictates of conscience on the heads of reward and retribution ;-it may indicate a future existence, in relation to which the short duration of their present exposed and often afflicted condition, will be a blessing to the truly virtuous part of mankind.*
As the perfection which still exists in the structure of the human frame is sufficient to prove the wisdom and goodness of a Deity, it may lead us to presume that diseases and liability to death have been somehow superinduced on our original constitution. The fact can only be ascertained by history. And the Holy Scriptures pourtray the primitive condition of man, account for the entrance of death and all our woes, proclaim the reality of a future state, and at the same time delineate a plan of divine government, according to which mortality and all human distempers, while they hold a conspicuous place in the judicial procedure of the Almighty, are wondrously counterbalanced, and even sanctified to the most desirable purposes, in the happy experience of all who serve him,-converted, as one has not inelegantly said, into blessings in disguise. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. As by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They who sleep in Jesus are not perished. The body is sown in corruption, it shall be raised in glory. There is first a natural, and next a spiritual body. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. Neither life nor death shall separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory!” Rom. v. viii.
1 Thess. iv.
1 Cor. xv.
VI. Before passing to the next division of our subject, we
• The author is satisfied that there are good reasons for rejecting Dr. PALEY's mode of solving the difficulty with regard to death, and he believes it can be well attested that Dr. Paley himself relinquished the systein of religious opinions with which that solution is connected. Consult ratber Bentley's Confutation of Atheism, pp. 95-98.
may mention one difficulty more, which though not precisely of the same complexion with those we have been considering, is yet related to them, as it is founded on the necessary imperfection or finitude of matter and spirit. We will suppose then, that in thinking on the awfully grand subject of Deity, it may occur to the mind, that this is a subject which somehow implicates,-thus, “a Deity must be an all-sufficient Being, omnipotent, all-wise, infinitely good ; yet such a Being will be destitute of the power of giving any adequate display of himself,— he can neither devise nor command the means. There can be no image of him in his works,—no true representation of him as he is.”
This difficulty ought not to occasion the smallest hesitation, even upon natural principles, although we had no other aid for removing it, since in regard to the universe physically considered, it amounts only to this, that a Deity cannot perform contradictions, which certainly was not to be expected. He must be infinite, and therefore every thing exterior to himself must on this very ground be finite, for it is impossible for one infinite being to produce another, or for two to coexist.
Let us see, however, what can be said. If the difficulty refer to the extent of manifestation, matter it will be allowed is very limited, and can be the medium of displaying only a few of the perfections which should belong to a Deity. But spirit will admit of a more ample discovery. From it may be reflected some faint image, not only of his natural perfectionsspirituality, intelligence, free agency, and immortality, but of his moral attributes also-justice, holiness, goodness, &c. Take the difficulty, however, in its true bearing, which is not on extent, but rather on adequacy of manifestation ; what if there be facts which may show that even this has not been found impossible with God? What if a plan of operations exist, in which all the divine perfections shine forth in harmonious and full manifestation ? For the knowledge of a plan so confessedly above nature, not capable of being developed in works of creation, we must resort to some other means of discovery. The plan, supposing it to exist, could never be known, from its very complexion, but by revelation. To this, therefore, and to the wonderful constitution of things which it hath disclosed, we must turn our attention. And the atheist would do well to consider, whether the very disclosure of such a plan hath not shown, that it is at least possible for a Deity without any contradiction to glorify himself to the utmost in his works ; whether, being possible, it were not worthy of him to do so ;