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(Far more than e'er can by yourself be guess'd,)
This when the various god had urg'd in vain, He straight assum'd his native form again ;
Such, and so bright an aspect now he bears,
AN ESSAY ON MAN,
IN FOUR EPISTLES,
TO H. ST. JOHN, LORD BOLINGBROTE.
OF THE NATURE AND STATE OF MAN WITH RESPECT
TO THE UNIVERSE.
The Argument Of man in the abstract. — I. That we can judge
only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things. II. 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. III. 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. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of man's errour 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. V. 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. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand he demands the perfection of the angels, and on the other the bodily qualifications of the brutes ; though, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miserable. VII. That throughout the whole visible world, an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is 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. VIII. How much farther 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. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire. X. 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
A wild, where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot;
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? II. Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou
find, Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind ?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Of systems possible, if 'tis confest,
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call May, must be right, as relative to all. In human works, though labour'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. (strains
When the proud steed shall know why man reHis 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 Ægypt's god : Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend His actions', passions', being's, use and end ; Why doing, suffering, check’d, impellid ; and why This hour a slave, the next a deity.