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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.4. 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 fa culties in a higher degree would render him miserable.7. That throughout the whole visible world an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties. 15 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.-9. 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
To low ambition and the pride of kings.
Let us (since life can little more supply
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 promiscuous shoot;
Or garden tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field,
Try what the open, what the covert yield:
The latent tracks, the giddy heights, explore,
Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar;
Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise;
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can,
But vindicate the ways of God to man.
1. Say first, of God above or man below
What can we reason but from what we know?
Of man what see we but his station here,
From which to reason or to which refer?
Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' 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 ruus,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples every star,
May tell why Heav'n 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
Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind!
First, if thou canst the harder reason guess,
Why form'd no weaker, blinder, and no less?
Ask of thy mother earth why oaks are made
Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade?
Or ask of yonder argent fields above
Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove!
Of systems possible, if 'tis confest
That wisdom infinite must form the best,
Where all must full or not coherent be,
And all that rises rise in due degree;
Then in the scale of reasoning life 'tis plain,
There must be, somewhere, such a rank as man;
And all the question (wrangle e'er so 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 labor'd on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God's one single can its end produce,
Yet serves to second too some other use:
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal:
Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains
His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains;
When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod,
Is now a victim, and now Egypt's god;
Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend
His actions', passions', being's, use and end;
Why doing, suffering, check'd, impell'd; and why
This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not man's imperfect, Heav'n 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 bless'd to-day is as completely so
As who began a thousand years ago.
3. Heav'n 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 know; Or who could suffer being here below?
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.
Oh! blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n;
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
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 giv❜n,
Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heav'n ;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd,
Some happier island in the watery waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be content's his natural desire;
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
4. Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence ;
Call imperfection what thou fancy'st such;
Say here he gives too little, there too much;
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
Yet cry, if man's unhappy, God's unjust;
If man alone engross not Heav'n's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there;
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the god of God.
In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the bless'd abodes,
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods if angels fell,
Aspiring to be angels men rebel :
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of order, sins against the' Eternal cause.
5. Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine, Earth for whose use?-Pride answers, ""Tis for mine: "For me kind Nature wakes her genial power, "Suckles each herb, and spreads out every flower; "Annual for me the grape, the rose, renew
The juice nectareous and the balmy dew; "For me the mine a thousand treasures brings; "For me health gushes from a thousand springs; "Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise; "My footstool earth, my canopy the skies." But errs not Nature from this gracious end, From burning suas when livid deaths descend, When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep? "No," 'tis replied; "the first Almighty Cause
Acts not by partial but by general laws; "The' exceptions few ; some change since all began ; "And what created perfect?"-Why then man? If the great end be human happiness,
Then Nature deviates; and can man do less?
As much that end a constant course requires
Of showers and sunshine, as of man's desires;
As much eternal springs and cloudless skies,
As men for ever temperate, calm, and wise.
If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav'n's design,
Why then a Borgia or a Catiline?