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The understanding traces them in vaiir,
Bayle, a man of extraordinary powers of reasoning, of prodigious research, and who had devoted many years to the examination of all the various solutions of it, which have been given to the world either by Pagan philosophers or by Christian divines, lays it down as an incontrovertible position, that “ the manner of reconeiling the moral and physical evils of man with all the attributes of one infinitely perfect principle of all things, is an inconceivable mystery;” and. Dr. Johnson thinks the difficulty attending. it insuperable, « because finite reason cannot comprehend the whole scheme, or all the purposes, of infinite wise dom."
With most profound respect for these very great authorities, I beg leave to recommend to you not to be deterred by
them from your investigation of this momentous subject. For, in truth, to what do their opinions amount? simply to a declaration that neither of them has been able to discover a satisfactory solution of it; but that this solution has not, is no reason why it may
not be discovered. The progress of all sciences would have been at any given time for ever arrested, if the inability of preceding ages to extend them had impressed mankind with a conviction that all efforts to do so must necessarily be abortive.
Johnson, in saying that finite reason cannot comprehend all the purposes of infinite wisdom, admits-what is indeed obvious to every one that it can comprehend some of them; and it remains to be proved that the purpose of Omniscience, in permitting evil physical and moral, is one of those
purposes which finite reason cannot comprehend.
Most sincerely, then, do I wish that the success of your inquiry may demonstrate and reprove the presumption of every man who presumes to mark the precise limits within which God has confined the human intellect; and who arrogantly asserts that a truth is unattainable by that intellect, because it has eluded the search of his
predecessors, his contemporaries, and himself, Do not, then, be discouraged from your endeavors to reconcile the sin and misery of man
.. the thousand natural shocks That Alesh is heir to".
with our ideas of the attributes of an infinitely powerful and good Creator and Governor of the Universe. If the difficulty be
great, recollect that the honor of surmounting it will be proportionably so; and that the man who does surmount it will be a more powerful auxiliary to religion, and do more to
... justify the ways of God to man,"
than any philosopher or theologian that ever existed.
That this honor may be yours, is the sincere wish of your most affectionate friend.
I FULLY concur with you, that the momentous subject of your letter should be discussed with profound humility: to discuss it being, as you observe, to attempt to fathom, with human reason, the councils of Omnipotence. But do we not attempt the same thing, when we examinethe purpose of any
law that God has imposed upon nature; such as the vicissitudes of the seasons, or of any command he has given to his creatures? And so far is man from being necessarily guilty of culpable presumption in such an attempt, that, if made with the reverence due to every thing relating to his Creator, he not only thereby exercises his faculties in the most instruc