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AN ESSAY ON MAN.
OF THE NATURE AND STATE OF MAN, WITH RESPECT
TO THE UNIVERSE.
Of man in the abstract. 1. That we can judge only with
regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things. 2. 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. 3. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happiness in the present depends. 4. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of man's error and misery. 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 dispensations. 5. The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world which is not in the natural. 6. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while, on the one hand, he demands the perfections of the angels, and, on the other, the bodily qualifications of the brutes ; though to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree would render him miserable. 7. That throughout the whole visible world a universal order and gradation in the sensual and meutal faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, reason : that reason alone countervails all the other faculties. 8. How much further this order and subordination 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. 9. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire. 10. The consequence of all, the absolute submission due to Providence, both as to our present and future state.
AWAKE, my St. John ! leave all meaner things
1. Say first, of God above or man below
Through worlds unnumber'd though the God be
known, 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own. He who through vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how system into system runs, What other planets circle other suns, What varied being peoples every star, May tell why Heaven has made us as we are : But of this frame, the bearings and the ties, The strong connexions, nice dependencies, Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Look'd through ; or can a part contain the whole ?
Is the great chain that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God or thee? 2. Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou
Of systems possible, if 'tis confest
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call,
and not a whole.
say not man's imperfect, Heaven in fault; Say rather man's as perfect as he ought; His knowledge measur'd to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space. If to be perfect in a certain sphere, What matter soon or late, or here or there? The blest to-day is as completely so As who began a thousand years ago.
3. Heaven from all creatures hides the book
of fate, All but the page prescrib'd, their present state : From brutes what men, from men what spirits Or who could suffer being here below ? [know; The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day, Had he thy reason would he skip and play? Pleas'd to the last he crops the flowery food, And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood. O blindness to the future! kindly given, That each
may fill the circle mark'd by heaven; Who sees with equal eye, as God of all, A hero perish or a sparrow fall, Atoms or systems into ruin hurld, And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore. What future bliss he gives not thee to know, But gives that hope to be thy blessing now. Hope springs eternal in the human breast : Man never is but always to be blest. The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor'd mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; His soul proud science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk or milky way; Yet simple nature to his hope has given, Behind the cloud-topp'd hill, an humbler heaven;