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tion of what it really is. But I see as plainly as though written with a sunbeam, that much misery may, and in fact doth, consist with the Divine Goodness, in the present life. And as I suppose, no one will venture to impeach God's goodness, in the permission of evil here; I cannot form the vestige of an argument, why that goodness may not be as consistent with the existence of evil hereafter: especially, when revelation comes in to the aid of my feeble reason, declaring in a tone of the most determined and unalterable decision, that the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord*'. Can you explain to me, how I am to reconcile these things with your opinion? And do you not imagine that there is great danger in entertaining such unqualified notions of the Divine character-of complimenting God's goodness at the expense of God's truth?”
My neighbour waved the question-taking. shelter under the general covering of a supposed inoffensiveness of conduct, and a wellintentioned frame of mind. "I do not, (he replied,) trouble myself with matters of this na. "ture. Providence hath blessed me with ample circumstances, and I do all the good I can in
2 Thess. i. 9.
my little sphere of usefulness. While there, fore I enjoy the present, I am thankful for the past, and fearless for the future. My opinion is formed on that excellent maxim of the poet,
"For God is paid when man receives ;
'T' enjoy is to obey.'
• These are my sentiments, (added my neighbour,) and in the discharge of moral duties, I rest satisfied for the event.'
“ It would be very unbecoming in me, (I replied,) to controvert your opinion, having called upon you for instruction, and not to instruct. But forgive me if I err in the apprehension, that what you have advanced in the eulogy of moral virtues, relates more to earthly concerns than heavenly-more to the present well-being of man, than to the fùture enjoyment of God. There is, unquestionably, a loveliness in moral - virtue, which cannot fail to gain the esteem of every beholder; and happy would it be for the circumstances of mankind, if its influences were far more general than they are. And while a proper distinction is made between the duties connected with the present world, and the preparations suitable for another, too much cannot be said in praise of morality. But if, in the sight of God, an imperfect obedience to a moral system could have answered the purposes of futurity ; (I say imperfect obedience, because no one upon earth will venture, I imagine, to think higher of his practical attainments in this science, than that they come short of perfection ;) the religion of Christianity would have been an unnecessary revelation. What nation ever exceeded, in point of morals, the Roman and the Lacedemonian commonwealths? And yet, after all, we can only place them in the class of unenlightened heathens, in respect to religion. Is there not some grand deficiency in that system, which totally shuts out, or at least throws far into the back ground of the piece, the acknowledgment of Him, who, one should suppose, would form the first and principal character ?”
• Permit me to place the argument in a point of view, which may in some measure tend to decide it. If I nistake not, you have a large family of children, all branched out in life; and you have already made for them a most ample provision: and it is by your liberality that they are' enabled to move in a sphere suited to their rank and circumstances. Put the case now, that these children of your's live in
the greatest love and harmony with each other ; and, not content with the care practice of moral honesty and justice, are kind, affectionate, friendly, tender, even to the anticipation of what one conceives may promote the other's happiness. But suppose, that in the midst of all this attention to the inutual and general felicity of each other, they are never heard to express an affection towards the person of a father, from whom, as the source, they have derived all their enjoyments; would not any man consider them as deficient in the first and best of all possible obligations? And is not this the very state of those who, priding themselves in the discharge of moral duties to their neighbour, pass by the reverence, the love, the gratitude, and obedience they owe to God.
• Bear with me, I beseech you, Sir, and correct me if I am wrong. I merely state the objections to what you have advanced, as they appear to me, in order that your better judgment may remove them. But, indeed, it hath often struck my mind very forcibly, that there must be some latent principle of evil lurking under a fair form; when I have beheld characțers of the greatest respectability, who appear to be every thing which is amiable to their fel. low-creatures-generous, noble, affectionate;
but at the same time totally dead to devont sentiments. Often it hath been my lot, in times past, to have been introduced to their tables; where the plentiful provisions of all the bounties of God's providence, seemed to be continually inviting the conversation to some remarks on the goodness of the Great Provider. But, alas! during the many hours which I have sometimes
spent at one meal, 'not a word hath dropped in honour of the Almighty Master of the feast. The gifts have been enjoyed, but the Giver totally forgotten. It hath been frequently ny reproach, I assure you, Sir, when returning from such tables, in the days while I attended them, (for I have long since given them up,) that there must be some baleful principle in the human mind to produce such effects. Will you help me to account for it?';
My neighbour seemed a little hurt at the closeness of the question.
You will excuse me, Sir, (he replied,) it is not my province to preach. I would recommend you rather to the worthy Vicar of our parish, who is allowed by all who attend his church, to be one of the most elegant preachers of the age. Perhaps he may be able to satisfy your inquiries; and I shall very much rejoice, if your mind can be made easy.'