« AnteriorContinuar »
of the incident alluded to, peculiarly case, the doctrine of a Providence will striking and important, I hope you be entirely rejected ; and if such senwill allow me room in your next timents are true, the universe is a Number for the insertion of the fol. chaos; the character of the Parent of lowing observations.
it is imperfect; all trust in him, and In the first place, I must observe, all supplications to him are absurd, that both your correspondent and the and no part of practical religion has writer in the “ Inquirer" have singu. any good foundation.” larly misconceived the doctrine of a If these views be correct, it follows particular Providence,—at least in the that every thing which has happened, shape in which it is maintained by the or is, to happen in the universe, was excellent person who is the subject immediately contemplated by the Diof their remarks. According to Dr. vine mind, and formed from the beHartley, a general Providence implies ginning an essential part of the gethe adaptation of the circumstances of neral plan; that every individual enthe world to promote the happiness tered separately and distinctly into of the whole ;-a particular Providence the view of his Creator; that not consists in the adaptation of these cir- merely our existence, not merely our cumstances with a view to the greatest welfare in general, but every moment's good of each individual. The latter, existence, every the minutest circumas well as the former, he thinks that stance which ministers to our welfare, sound philosophy and revelation equal- was foreseen and provided for before ly require us to admit. The general time commenced his course. It also arguments for a divine moral govern. follows that the execution, as well as ment, says Dr. Price, (Dissertation the original design, is in the hands of on Providence, Sect. i.), “prove what the same great and wise Being, and has been called a particular, in oppo- that in every event which happens we sion to a general Providence. We behold the immediate exertion of dicannot conceive of any reasons to in vine power. Both those changes which Huence the Deity to exercise any pro- appear to us to involve extensive and vidence over the world, which are not important consequences, and those likewise reasons for extending it to which in our wisdom we denominate all that happens in the world. As trifling and insignificant, the bursting far as it is confined to generals, or of a bubble and of a world are equally overlooks any individual or any event, parts of one system, equally indispenit is incomplete, and therefore, un sable links of the great chain of events suitable to the idea of a perfect Being.” by which the purposes of the Divine In conformity, with the views here government are accomplished, stated, this eminent writer goes on to But the believer in a particular Prorepresent every creature in the universe vidence, thus defined, is not called as equally under the Divine care, and upon to suppose that there are freevery change that takes place as re- quent, or any, deviations from the sulting from the immediate exertion plan originally laid down ; or that any of Divine power. Having adverted events, except those proper miracles, to the hypothesis of those who choose for the reality of which we have scriprather to suppose that the same per- tural evidence, are brought about in a fect direction of affairs takes place manner different from that which our in consequence of an original esta- observation of the ordinary course of blishment, without any subsequent nature would lead us to expect. So divine agency, he observes, “ If an far from it, a belief in permanent and exact foreknowledge of all actions and uniform laws of nature, (considered, events, and such a perfect original however, not as operating causes, but establishment in consequence of it, merely as the modes in which the as I have mentioned, are thought by Divine agency is unceasingly exerted,) any to be impossible; and if, for this forms an essential part of his system. reason, no inore is supposed than that The notion that any interference takes powers were given to beings, and ge- place, to suspend or alter these geneneral laws settled, and then events ral laws, in order to prevent or mosuffered to arise as they would, with dify certain consequences arising from out any particular care or superinten- them which had not been foreseen or dency exercised over them; in this intended, he justly rejects, as upphi
Mr. W. Turner's Reply to “ Remarks on a Particular Providence." 401 losophical and absurd; as unautho- is supposed to have an immediate rerized by any appearances, and incon- ference to some important purpose, sistent with those views which both as implying a miraculous interference. reason and revelation require us to If this be his definition of a miracle, form of the infinite perfections of the there is an end of the argument; for Divine Nature. At the same time that his error will then appear to arise he considers every phenomenon which merely from that indistinctness of attracts his attention as arising froin ideas which is the necessary consethe immediate exertion of divine quence of a vague and inaccurate use power, he perceives that the purposes of language. of infinite wisdom and goodness re According to Mr. L. it was assumquire that these phenomena should ing an unwarrantable degree of persucceed each other according to uni- sonal importance in the author to form and invariable laws. If it were suppose that her preservation could otherwise, the experience of the past be an object of sufficient magnitude to could not form a rule for the future; attract the attention of the Almighty. and this world would no longer bé It would so, if she had imagined that fitted for the education and discipline she was an object of divine superinof rational and moral creatures. tendence in any peculiar or exclusive
These are conclusions which are manner ;- but if shie, at the same evidently as open to him as to the time, believed that every other human believer in a mere general Providence. being, nay, every other creature posAnd it is impossible, I think, to read sessed of life and sense, was an immethe passage referred to with the atten- diate object of its Creator's regard, it is tion which it deserves, without per- obvious that a complete check must ceiving that with the truth of these have been imposed upon all such feelconclusions Mrs. Cappe's mind was ings. For my own part, I should say fully impressed. Not a word do we it indicateu a much more unwarrantathere find of any express or miracu- ble degree of presumption for a finite lous interference ;-on the contrary, mortal to pronounce what objects in every particular of the story, the were, and what were not, of sufficient natural causes of the circumstances, value to deserve the immediate atten(some of them such as we should call tion of the Supreme, or to limit either trivial and minute,) the combination the possible or the actual exercise of of which was necessary to bring about his infinite attributes in watching over the important consequence, are dis- the interests of all the creatures which tinctly related ;--so distinctly, indeed, he hath made. If it is not derogatory that I am at a loss to imagine how to his dignity to suppose that divine your correspondent, who has been at power was employed in the formation ihe pains of transcribing, and, there- even of a worm or an insect, surely it fore, must of course have read the cannot be unreasonable to believe that whole passage, should have so com infinite wisdom and goodness are also pletely misconceived it. Mrs. Cappe displayed in providing for its sustehad too much humility and good sense, nance and enjoyment. And if so, as well as sound philosophy, to sup
would it be irrational or presumptuous pose that a miracle was to be wrought to suppose, even if we had no better for her preservation. Nevertheless, ground than our own unassisted reathe whole of Mr. L.'s subsequent rea son for the persuasion, that he will soning is founded on this false and much more care for the interests of gratuitous assumption. Or, perhaps, the children of men? Indeed, to suphe really considers every event, which pose otherwise would be to destroy
to every practical purpose the belief It is scarcely necessary to observe, God over his creatures. If, then, Mr.
in a moral government exercised by that by this terın I must be understood L. admits that any cases can be proin this place to mean, uot efficient, but physical causes only; or those antecedent posed in which the welfare or presercircumstances which uniformly and inva- vation of an individual human being riably precede the effect. of efficient would be not undeserving of the Dicauses, properly and strictly so called, í vine regard, we are entitled, I think, acknowledge but one.
to presume, from the very bigh but VOL. XVIII.
by no means undeserved terms of re- intended to prepare us for another spect and admiration in which he and more enduring state, can I doubt speaks of the subject of his remarks, that the circumstances in which the that the continuance for ten or twelve heirs of immortality are placed, are years more of such a life as that of regulated with a view to the promoMrs. Cappe would be acknowledged tion of this great and glorious object? by him as one of those cases. But if Why, then, should it be thougbt a this is granted, then it necessarily fol- thing incredible, that one of the purlows (since we are agreed that the poses intended to be answered by the adaptation of this world for a scene dispensations of the present life should of inoral discipline requires that it be to prove in us those dispositions should be governed according to ge- and feelings which may fit us for our neral laws), that all the circumstances heavenly inheritance? From a view which, in conformity with those laws, of the constitution of our bodily frame, must be combined in order to accom natural theology has derived some of plish this purpose, must also have her strongest proofs of the infinite been foreseen and provided for from wisdom and benevolence of our Althe beginning. And however limited nighty Creator; and it is thought not and imperfect our knowledge may be unreasonable to suppose that a Being of the manner in which the various who could have conferred upon us our incidents and changes which occur in various faculties at once, by a fiat of the world are connected with each his omnipotent word, has chosen raother, we cannot fail to perceive that ther to resort to a complex organizaevents of such magnitude that it is tion, in order to afford his rational impossible for any one to suppose creatures an opportunity of tracing them to be overlooked, who believes the marks of wise design, manifested that the Divine Being concerns him- in the works of nature;--why, then, self in the remotest degree with the should it be thought absurd to suppose affairs of his creatures, are continually that in the dispensations of Providependent upon circumstances which, dence, his object has been not merely but for this connexion, would have to accomplish the purpose immedibeen considered as trifling and unim- ately in view, but also to impress portant.
more forcibly on our minds a convicNow, if all this be adınitted, (and tion of our dependence on him for how it is to be disputed by any one every good gift, and to lead us to perwho believes in a Providence at all, I ceive and admire the display of his cannot conceive,) I am at a loss to natural and moral perfections in the understand upon what grounds we can government of the universe? But, it hesitate to assent to Mrs. Cappe's is said, that in many instances we are conclusion in the passage which has unable to perceive this; the ways of given rise to this discussion ; namely, Providence are often inscrutable. It that it was the intention of a gracious is granted; but is this any reason Providence, by these means, at that why, in those cases where we can time, to preserve her life. “ It may trace his counsels, however imperbe asked," she continues, "could not fectly, we should fail to do so? Still life have been preserved in a much more, is there any reason why, in shorter way, by simply preventing the those cases where we have ourselves accident? I answer, undoubtedly; received any sigual benefit, or bave but let it be remembered, that the been delivered from some impending mercy would then have been wholly calamity, we are to refuse to conteniunperceived, and, consequently, that plate in the beneficent dispensation not one of the salutary convictions ihe agency of him in whom we live and would have been felt, which similar move and have our being? In such dangers and similar deliverances are cases are we to rest in second causes ? intended to produce.” Mr. L. finds Are we bound, on pain of being conin this argument only a fit subject for temned as weak and unphilosophical ridicule. To my mind, I confess, it reasoners, to look no further than the suggests graver reflections. When I laws of gravitation or of muscular consider thai the present world is a contraction, and to refrain from lifting scene of trial, probation and discipline, up our thoughts to that great Being
Mr. W. Turner's Reply to “ Remarks on a Particular Providence.” 403 by whom these laws were established, we to ascribe those phenomena, someand of whose inighty energies they are times the instruinents of good, at in fact nothing more than the modes others, in the first instance at least, of operation ?
of evil, of which in popular language Mr. L. has undertaken the very su- these inanimate objects are represented perfluous labour of proposing such a as the causes ? In ascending through case and arguing upon it. Suppose the series of second causes, how can a coach to be overset, carrying six we stop any where till we arrive at passengers-two of them killed on that Infinite Being who hath declared the spot, two maimed for life, and by the mouth of his prophet, “I forin the remaining two totally unhurt. the light and create darkness; I make How is this to be explained " Among peace and create evil; I the Lord do other solutions which he imagines of all these things!" this “ difficult problem,” one is, that Supposing, then, that such a cir“the downfal was the effect of uni. cumstance as this liad actually occurversal rules established by Omnipo- red, and I were called upon to furnish tence as the permanent laws of na a solution of the problem, I should ture ;" another, “ that the accident say, that this, like every other event itself was in the common course of that occurs throughout the universe, cause and effect, but that the Almighty is the result of the immediate exertion interposed his power to save the lives of divine power, directed to the proof the two who escaped, and left the duction of that particular effect, but other four to their fate.” The first is operating according to the uniforin that which he himself adopts; the and regular plan which has been wisely other, he seems to take it for granted, established, in order to render this would have been preferred by Mrs. world a school in which men may Cappe. With respect to his own so- learn wisdom from experience. The lution, it may be sufficient to observe, effect in this instance was awful and that it involves an absurdity in ascribe mysterious ;-I do not presume to ing a physical effect to a mere ab- account for it; but as it constitutes a straction of his own mind. An effect part of the great plan of Previdence, can only be produced by some agent; as it was the necessary consequence now, a rule is not an agent, but only of the previous circumstances, arising the mode according to which some out of them at that particular time agent operates. The laws of motion and place, as infallibly as an eclipse or and gravitation, to which he would a transit, --so I firmly believe that it refer the effect in question, are not was connected with other effects in a beings, and therefore not agents. bigh degree beneficial, and, in fact, They are in reality, as I have just (to adopt the language of a doctrine observed, mere abstractions of our that has often been ridiculed, but can own minds, devised in order to enable never be disproved,) forined an essenus commodiously to express in one tial part of the best possible system.* general proposition, a great variety of As for the other solution, every one phenomena, which present themselves must admit that it is in a high degree to our notice, under circumstances irrational and derogatory to the Divine inore or less closely analogous. Who, perfections, but nothing can be more then, is the agent by whom these ef- remote from the view of a particular fects are produced?' In the case of Providence as maintained by Mrs. the law of gravitation, are we to sup- Cappe. I should not, therefore, have pose that the earth exerts a positive taken any further notice of this part inherent force to draw down every unsupported body to its surface ? Has it intelligence to perceive and obey of the subject, I hope I may be permitted
For some further details on this part the laws which its Maker hath imposed upon it? Is the earth a servant that views of Providence, inserted in the
to refer to an Essay on the Different can hear and understand the coma Monthly Repository for August, 1814. mands of its Almighty Lord? Is it That paper contained my earliest thoughts in a literal sense that the winds are
on this subject, wbich a more matured, his messengers, and the flaming fire and at least annually repeated examinahis minister ? If not, to whom are tion of it, have fully confirmed.
of Mr. L.'s paper, but for a very sin so long as it is stated in the abstract, gular reference to scriptural authority, or veiled in dry and barren generaliwhich deserves to be cited as a re- ties; but whose imaginations, when markable example of the folly of the we attempt to apply it to a particular practice too cominon among all classes, example, are instantly carried away by of quoting from Scripture sentences some of the minor and accidental deand half sentences, as detached apho- tails, and they lose sight of, or hesitate risins, without regard to argument or to admit the general principle. This connexion. “Why presume," says he, is more remarkably the case, when “ on this system of favouritism, when any of the circumstances may be turnthe very authority on which so large a ed into ridicule, or are connected with portion of mankind rests its belief, low and ludicrous images. In the has declared that 'one event happens present instance, it is to be feared alike to all ?!" Whether your corre- that some readers have been more spondent is competent to undertake a occupied by the minute particularities commentary on the difficult book he of the “gristle of a breast of veal,” has here quoted, I know not; but I “the glass of cold water,” &c., thari think no one who reads the whole of by the important and instruetive practhe passage out of which these few tical lesson which the author endeawords are selected,(Eccles. ii. 12-17,) vours to deduce from the incident. will fail to be forcibly struck by the To such minds I do not wonder that thoughtless precipitation with which the whole should appear to savour of the querulous discontented complaints the ludicrous or burlesque. Doubtof a man dissatisfied with himself, less, if Mrs. Cappe had been writing satiated and disappointed with worldly for persons ‘of such refined taste and pleasures and mere worldly business, susceptible imaginations, she would are made to pass for indisputable have abstained from all mention of maxims of divine trnth. “We have these petty and vulgar details. But I it from the same source,” he con suspect her more sober readers would tinues, " that 'not a sparrow falleth have been losers rather than gainers to the ground without our heavenly by this sort of fastidiousness. We Father, and even the hairs of our heads are none of us, perhaps, sufficiently are all numbered."" No, says Mr. L., aware how much of the force and the hairs of our heads are not num value of correct general principles is bered; all that is meant is, that Om- lost, by neglecting to apply them haniscience is capable of numbering bitually and constantly to particular them! In this manner does a fallible
The cases themselves may be mortal presume to explain away the minute, and, if taken separately, may express words of our Lord, and set appear trifling and insignificant; but limits to the Divine Omniscience! the habit of mind which is thus cultiAnd why? Because it derogates from vated, and which can thus alone be the dignity of the Supreme Being to brought to perfection, is often of the suppose him to be i
occupied” with highest importance. Sometimes, as such petty details ; because Divine in the instance before us, the details power must be fatigued, if every mo- may be such as to excite, in those tion and every atom is to be guided . who have not accustomed themselves by such “incessant and watchful re. to view the hand of a Sovereign Disgulations!”
poser in all the events and circumAfter all, there is one point of view stances of their lives, nothing but low in which this passage of Mrs. Cappe's and ludicrous associations ; but there Memoir may possibly be thought lia- are others, I trust, who will be acble to some exception. The correct- tuated by sounder principles and betness of the philosophical principle is, ter feelings. For myself, replete with in my opinion, unquestionable ; but instruction as is the whole of this how far it was judicious to connect it valuable work, I do not hesitate to with the detail of a variety of minute declare that those parts of it appear particulars is a matter of taste, on to me pre-eminently so, in which the which some doabts may perhaps be writer endeavours, from those circunistarted. There are, unfortunately, stances of her life which might othermany persons who are ready enough wise have been considered as uninto acknowlcilge an important maxim, teresting to the public, to deduce“