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Submit.--In this, or any other sphere,
productive of Good, are conclusive ; from whence one certain truth results, in spite of all the pride and cavils of vain reason, That WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.
That the reader may see in one view the exactness of the method, as well as force of the argument, I shall here draw up a short synopsis of this Epistle. The Poet begins by telling us, his subject is an Essay on Man: That his end of writing is to vindicate Providence : That he intends to derive his arguments from the visible things of God seen in this system : Lays down this próposition, That of all possible systems, infinite Wisdom has formed the best : Draws from thence two consequences ; 1. That there must needs be somewhere such a creature as Man; 2. That the moral Evil, which he is author of, is productive of the Good of the Whole. This
but to display its own variety and fecundity: but we are like unskilful spectators of a picture, who condemn the limner, because he hath not put bright colours every where; whereas he had suited his colours to every part respectively, giving to each such as belonged to it. Or else are we like those who would blame a comedy or tragedy, because they were not all kings or heroes that acted in it, but some servants and rustic clowns introduced also, talking after their rude fashion. Whereas the dramatic
would neither be complete, nor elegant and delightful, were all those worser parts taken out of it.”
The learned reader will be highly gratified by turning to a fine passage on this subject in Plutarch, De Animi Tranquillitate, vol. ii. p. 473, folio, 1620, and to the noble lines of Euripides there quoted ; and would be gratified still more by attentively perusing the short treatise of Aristotle, Περί Κοσμώ, concerning the beauty and concord of the Universe arising from Contrarieties ; which treatise, notwithstanding the different form of its composition, ought to be ascribed to this philosopher, for the reasons assigned by Petit in his Observations, B. ii.; and by a dissertation of Daniel Heinsius, as well as the opinion of our truly learned Bishop Berkeley.
Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow'r,
is his general Thesis ; from whence he forms this conclusion, That Man should rest submissive and content, and make the hopes of Futurity his comfort; but not suffer this to be the occasion of PRIDE, which is the cause of all his impious complaints.
He proceeds to confirm his Thesis-Previously endeavours to abate our wonder at the phenomenon of moral Evil; shews, first, its use to the perfection of the Universe, by analogy, from the use of physical Evil in this particular system :-Secondly, its use in this system, where it is turned, providentially, from its natural bias, to promote virtue. Then goes on to vindicate Providence from the imputation of certain supposed natural Evils; as he had before justified it for the permission of real moral Evil, in shewing that, though the atheist's complaint against Providence be on pretence of real moral Evil, yet the true cause is his impatience under imaginary natural Evil; the issue of a depraved appetite for fantastical advantages, which, if obtained, would be useless or hurtful to man, and deforming of, and destructive to, the Universe, as breaking into that order by which it is supported. -He describes that order, harmony, and close connexion of the parts; and by shewing the intimate presence of God to his whole creation, gives a reason for an Universe so amazingly beautiful and perfect. From all this he deduces his general conclusion, That Nature being neither a blind chain of Causes and Effects, nor yet the fortuitous result of wandering atoms, but the wonderful art and direction of an all-wise, all-good, and free Being ; WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT, with regard to the disposition of God, and its ultimate tendency; which once granted, all complaints against Providence are at an end.
Ver. 287. Safe in the hand] “ Be there two worlds, or be there twenty, the same God is the God of all; and wherever we are, we are equally in his power. Far from fearing my Creator, that allperfect Being whom I adore, I should fear to be no longer his creature.” BOLINGBROKE. Si sic omnia dixisset!
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
Ver. 289. All Nature is but Art,] Cudworth observes, upon Lucretius's having said,
Usque adeo res humanas vis abdita quædam
Obterit,”that here he reeled and staggered in his atheism ; or was indeed a Theist, and knew it not.
“ Nature is the art whereby God governs the world,” says Hobbes.
Warton. Ver. 291. All Discord, Harmony] The words of Plato, in the Theot. are, και το μεγίσης τέχνης αγαθο ποιείν τα κακά. “ This must be acknowledged to be the greatest of all arts, to be able to bonifie evils, or tincture them with good.”
CUDWORTH, p. 221. Intellectual System. I was surprised to see this philosophical doctrine amply illustrated in one of our quaint old writers, Feltham, in his Resolves, p. 130. 1633.
“ The whole world is kept in order by Discord ; and every part of it is but a more particular composed jarre. Not a man, not beast, not a creature, but have something to ballast their light
One scale is not alwaies in depression, nor the other lifted ever high, but the alternate wave of the beame keepes it ever in the play of motion. From the pismire on the tufted hill, to the monarch in the raised throne, nothing but hath somewhat to awe it. Wee are all here like birds that boyes let Aye in strings: when we mount too high, wee have that which puls us downe againe. What man is it which lives so happily, which feares not something that would sadden his soule if it fell? Nor is there any whom calamity doth so much tristitiate, as that hee never sees the flashes of some warming joy. Beasts with beasts are terrified and delighted. Man with man is awed and defended. States with states are bounded and upholded. And, in all these, it makes greatly for the Maker's glory that such an admirable harmony should bee produced out of such an infinite discord. The world is both a perpetuall warre, and a wedding. Heraclitus called a Discord and Concord the universal Parents. And “ to raile on
All Discord, Harmony not understood;
Discord,” saies the Father of the Poets, " is to speake ill of Nature. As in musicke sometimes one string is lowder, sometimes another; yet never one long, nor never all at once; so sometimes one state gets a monarchy, sometimes another : sometimes one element is violent, now another : yet never was the whole world under one long; nor were all the elements raging together. Every string has his use, and his tune, and his turne.”
Feltham, we may imagine, did not know that this was a doctrine so old as Heraclitus, who speaks of Ilanívaporos & provia xóque, a versatile harmony of the world, whereby things reciprocate backwards and forwards, &c.; quoted by Cudworth, Chap. iv. B. i. from Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, of two principles, a good God and an evil Dæmon; the Manichean doctrine. Warton.
Ver. 294. One truth is clear, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.] It will be difficult to think any caviller should have objected to this conclusion ; especially when the author, in this very epistle, has himself thus explained it:
Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,
'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.” But without any regard to the evidence of this illustration, M. de Crousaz exclaims : “ See the general conclusion, All that is, is right. So that at the sight of Charles the First losing his head on the scaffold, we must have said, this is right; at the sight too of his judges condemning him, we must have said, this is right ; at the sight of some of these judges, taken and condemned for the action which he had owned to be right, we must have cried out, this is doubly right.” Never was any thing more amazing than that the absurdities arising from the sense in which this critic takes
the great principle, of whatever is, is right, did not shew him his mistake. For could any one in his senses employ a proposition in a meaning from whence such evident absurdities immediately arise ? I have observed, that this conclusion, whatever is, is right, is a consequence of these premises, that partial Evil tends to universal Good; which the author employs as a principle to humble the pride of Man, who would impiously make God accountable for his creation. What then does common sense teach us to understand by whateder is, is right? Did the Poet mean right with regard to Man, or right with regard to God; right with regard to itself, or right with regard to its ultimate tendency ? Surely, WITH REGARD TO God; for he tells us his design is to vindicate the ways of God to Man. Surely with regard to its ULTIMATE TENDENCY ; for he tells us again, all partial ill is universal good, Ver. 291. Now is this any encouragement to Vice? Or does it take off from the crime of him who commits it, that God providentially produces Good out of Evil ? Had Mr. Pope abruptly said in his conclusion, the result of all is, that whatever is, is right, the objector had even then been inexcusable for putting so absurd a sense upon the words, when he might have seen that it was a conclusion from the general principle abovementioned ; and therefore must necessarily have another meaning. But what must we think of him, when the Poet, to prevent mistakes, had delivered, in this very place, the principle itself, together with this conclusion as the consequence of it?
“ All Discord, Harmony not understood ;
All partial Evil, universal Good;
One truth is clear,Whatever Is, is Right."