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See SIDNEY bleeds amid the martial strife!
What makes all physical or moral ill ?
COMMENTARY. ried them into dangers. Secondly, That if they will still persist in ascribing untimely death to Virtue; they must needs, on the same principle, likewise ascribe long life to it : consequently, as the argument, in fact, concludes both ways, in logic it concludes neither.
Say, was it Virtue, more tho Heav'n ne'er gave,
Why, full of days and honour, lives the Sire ? Ver. 111. What makes all physical or moral ill?] 2. He exposes their folly (from Ý 100 to 131) by considerations drawn
NOTES. VER. 110. Lent Heav'n a where a tribute of piety to a paparent &c.] This last instance rent is paid in a return of of the poet's illustration of the thanks to, and made subserways of Providence, the reader vient of, his vindication of, the fees, has a peculiar elegance ; | Great Giver and Father of all
God sends not ill; if rightly understood,
115 Short, and but rare, till Man improv'd it all.
COMMENTARY. from the system of Nature; and these twofold, natural and moral. You accuse God, says he, because the good man is subject to natural and moral evil. Let us see whence these proceed: Natural evil is the necessary consequence of a material world so constituted : But that this constitution was best, we have proved in the first Epistle. Moral evil ariseth from the depraved will of Man: Therefore neither the one nor the other from God.
But you say (adds the poet, to these impious complainers) that though it be fit Man should fuffer the miseries which he brings upon himself by the commiffion of moral evil, yet it seems unfit that his innocent posterity should bear a share of them. To this, says he, I reply,
We just as wisely might of Heav'n complain,
the dire disease.
will still say, why doth not God either prevent, or immediately repair these evils ? You may as well ask why he doth not work continual miracles, and every moment reverse the established laws of Nature :
Shall burning Ætna, if a fage requires, &c.
NOTE s. phings. The Mother of the and charity, died the year this author, a person of great piety | poem was finished, viz. 1733;
We just as wisely might of Heav'n complain
we, like some weak Prince, th’Eternal Cause, Prone for his fav’rites to reverse his laws ?
Shall burning Ætna, if a fage requires, Forget to thunder, and recall her fires ? On air or sea new motions be imprest, 125 Oh blameless Bethel ! to relieve thy breast ? When the loose mountain trembles from on high, Shall gravitation cease, if you go by ? Or some old temple, nodding to its fall, For Chartres' head reserve the hanging wall ? 130
COMMENTARY. This is the force of the poet's reasoning ; and these the men to whom he addresseth it ; namely, the Libertine Cavillers against Providence.
NOTES. VER. 121. Think we, like ordinary dispensations to ManSome weak Prince, &c.] Agree-kind. ably hereunto, holy Scripture, VER. 123. Shall burning in its account of things under Ætna, &c.] Alluding to the the common Providence of fate of those two great NatuHeaven, never represents mi- ralists, Empedocles and Pliny, racles as wrought for the fake who both perished by too near of him who is the object of an approach to Ætna and Vethem, but in order to give suvius, while they were explocredit to some of God's extra ring the cause of their eruptions.
But still this world (so fitted for the knave)
VER. 131. But still this world &c.] II. But now, so unhappy is the condition of our corrupt nature, that these are not the only complainers. ReligIOUS Men are but too apt, if not to speak out, yet sometimes secretly to murmur against Providence, and say, its ways are not equal; especially the more inordinately devoted to a sect or party are fcandalized that the Just (for such they esteem themselves) who are to judge the world, have no better portion in their own inheritance: The poet therefore now leave those more profligate complainers, and turns (from Ý 130 to 149) to the religious, in these words :
But still this world (so fitted for the knave) &c. As the more Impious wanted external goods to be the reward of Virtue for the Moral man; so These want them for the Pious, in order to have a kingdom of the Juft: To this the poet holds it fufficient to answer ; Pray first agree among yourselves, who those Just are.
As this is the case, he bids them rest satisfied ; remember his fundamental principle, that whatever is, is right; and content themselves as their religion teaches them to profess a more than ordinary submission to the will of Providence) with that common answer which he, with so much reason and piety, gives to every kind of Complainer.
However, though there be yet no kingdom of the Juft, there is still no kingdom of the Unjust: both the Virtuous and the Vicious (whatsoever becomes of those whom every sect calls the Faithful) have their shares in external goods; and what is more, the Virtuous have infinitely the most enjoyment of them,
- This world, 'tis true,
The good must merit God's peculiar care ; 135
best will variously incline,
Give each a System, all must be at strife;
COMMENTARY. I have been the more solicitous to explain this last argument, and to thew against whom it is directed, because much depends upon it for the illustration of the sense, and the juft defence of the poet. For if we suppose him still addressing himself to those IMPIOUS complainers, confuted in the forty preceding lines, we should make him guilty of a paralogism in the argument about the Just; and in the illustration of it by the case of Calvin. For then the Libertines ask, Why the Just, that is, the moral man, is not rewarded? The answer is, That none but God can tell, who the Juít, that is, the truly faithful man, is. Where the Term is changed, in order to support the argument; for about the truly moral man there is no dispute ; about the truly faithful or the orthodox, a great deal. But take the poet right, as arguing here against RELIGIOUS complainers, and the reasoning is strict and logical. They ask, Why the truly faithful are not rewarded ? he answereth, They may be, for ought you know; for none but God can tell who they are.