Page images

and in forming a temperate yet not inconfiftent, and a fhort yet not imperfect, system of Ethics.

This I might have done in profe; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reafons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts fo written, both ftrike the reader more ftrongly at firft, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: The other may feem odd, but it is true; I found I could exprefs them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their concifenefs. I was unable to treat this part of my fubject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without facrificing perfpicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precifion, or breaking the chain of reasoning: If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confefs he will compafs a thing above my capacity.

What is now published, is only to be considered as a general Map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connection, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow. Confequently, thefe Epiftles in their progrefs (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be lefs dry, and more fufceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the paffage. To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their courfe, and to obferve their effects, may be a task more agreeable.







H. St. John, Lord Bolingbroke.




Of the Nature and State of Man with refpe&t to the Universe.

OF Man in the abftract.-I. That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things, ver. 17. &c. II. That Man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a Being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general Order of things, and conformable to Ends and Relations to him unknown, ver. 35, &c. III. That it is partly upon his Ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happinefs in the prefent depends, ver. 77. &c. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to


more Perfection, the cause of Man's error and mifery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his difpenfations, ver. 109, &c. V. The abfurdity of conceiting himself the final caufe of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world, which is not in the natural, ver. 131, &c. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand he demands the Perfection of the Angels, and on the other the bodily qualifications of the Brutes; though, to poffefs any of the fenfitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miferable, ver. 173, &c. VII. That throughout the whole vifible world, an univerfal order and gradation in the fenfual and mental faculties is obferved, which caufes a fubordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to Man. The gradations of fenfe, instinct, thought, reflection, reason; that Reafon alone countervails all the other faculties, ver. 207. VIII. How much farther this order and fubordination of living creatures may extend, above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, ver. 233. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of fuch a defire, ver. 250. X. The confequence of all the abfolute fubmiffion due to Providence, both as to our present and future state, ver. 281, &c. to the end.




WAKE, my St. John! leave all meaner things
To low ambition, and the pride of Kings,

Let us (fince Life can little more fupply

Than just to look about us, and to die)
Expatiate free o'er all this scene of Man;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan;

A Wild, where weeds and flowers promifcuous shoot:
Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field,

Try what the open, what the covert yield!
The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore
Of all who blindly creep, or fightless foar;
Eye Nature's walks, fhoot Folly as it flies,
And catch the Manners living as they rife:
Laugh where we muft, be candid where we can;
But vindicate the ways of God to man.

I. Say first, of God above, or Man below,
What can we reason, but from what we know?
Of Man, what fee we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?

Through worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known,
'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He, who through vaft immenfity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compofe one universe,
Obferve how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other funs,







What vary'd Being peoples every star,

May tell why Heaven has made us as we are.
But of this frame the bearings and the ties,
The ftrong connections, nice dependencies,
Gradations juft, has thy pervading foul

Look'd through? or can a part contain the whole?
Is the great chain, that draws all to agrée,

And drawn fupports, upheld by God, or thee?


II. Prefumptuous Man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why form'd fo weak, fo little, and fo blind?
Firft, if thou canft, the harder reafon guess,

Why form'd no weaker, blinder, and no less?
Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made
Taller or ftronger than the weed's they fhade;
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Why Jove's Satellites are lefs than Jové?

Of Syftems poffible, if 'tis confeft,

That Wisdom infinite must form the best,
Where all must full or not coherent be,



And all that rifes, rife in due degree;

Then, in the scale of reasoning life, 'tis plain,

There must be, fomewhere, fuch a rank as Man :
And all the question (wrangle e'er fo long)
Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong?
Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call


May, must be right, as relative to all.

In human works, though labour'd on with pain,
A thousand movements fcarce one purpose gain;
In God's, one fingle can its end produce;
Yet ferves to fecond too fome other use.



« EelmineJätka »