« ForrigeFortsett »
to the use he has made of his talents and opportunities in this preparatory stage. Life, therefore, is with great propriety described as a race in which a prize is to be contended for; as a season for sowing the seeds of a future and immortal harvest; as a journey, in which mankind are merely pilgrims; as a warfare, in which the combatants must arm themselves with all the virtues, and employ them with zealous courage and enduring patience, that they may be fitted to partake hereafter in the glories of an eternal triumph.
This double consideration, of the nature of the human faculties as requiring culture and exercise, and of the purport of this life as a state of discipline, is absolutely necessary as a clue to any inquiry into the actual appearance of the world. In all questions which relate to the skill of any contrivance, it is pre-supposed, that the intention and execution of the work are alike understood, and considered together. The most harmonious movements or the wisest
arrangements may be mistaken for chance and confusion, by those who are unacquainted with the design to which they are directed. It is evident, that if the present state is not final, if its object is discipline, what might appear to us the happiest, or easiest, or best condition for the human race in an immediate view, would not be the most suitable to the ultimate intention of the Creator. The object which would be present to the divine mind, in determining the circumstances in which it were expedient to place mankind, would be, to assign them that state of being which was best suited to render this world the stage of discipline it was designed to prove: one that should most effectually and inevitably work out the powers, exercise the virtues, and display the character of man.
And it might be expected from what we see in other instances of the Creator's wis. dom, that he would place mankind in circumstances through which the order of things best calculated to further this design, should naturally establish itself, without any such immediate interference as might disturb the spontaneity of human actions.
I think it may be rendered evident that He has done so : and the proof of Wisdom I shall endeavour to illustrate, is this; that the order of things, in which the human race arrives at the highest degree of improvement, and has the widest scope for moral and intellectual perfection, is inevitably, and with some trifling exceptions, universally established, by the operation of a single principle, and the instinctive force of a single natural desire.
Whether Equality, or Inequality, of Ranks and
Fortunes, is the Condition best suited to the Developement and Improvement of the human Faculties.
BEFORE I proceed to explain the action of a principle on which so much depends, and the mode of its operation, it will be requisite to institute a careful inquiry as to the situation most favourable to the exercise of the talents and virtues of the human race. so intimately affecting their condition, it is not sufficient to prove the wise subservience of the means to the end, unless the end itself be wisely proposed. It is not enough that the contrivance should be aptly suited to the object, unless the effect of the whole prove beneficial. However we might applaud, for example, the exquisite skill with which a tyrant had contrived his implements of torture, we should certainly hesitate to call his contrivance wisdom.
Supposing it then to be the design of the Creator, as laid down in the preceding chapter, to develope the faculties and virtues of mankind in this stage of existence, as preparatory to another ; what shall we affirm to be the condition of human life, which appears best calculated to answer this purpose? Is it society, or is it solitude ? Is it a separation of tribes, or an union of many ? Is it a state of equality, or a state consisting of various degrees of rank and fortune?
If this question were to be decided à priori, and without reference to experience and observation, it would certainly be determined in favour of equality. For what can be more promising as an ideal picture, than a state in which tyranny and servility, penury and super