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EPISTLE I. of the Nature and State of Man with respect to
of man in the abstract. -1. That we can judge only with
regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations
of systems and things.-2. That man is not to be deemed
imperfect, but a being suited to his place and rank in
the creation, agreeable the general order of things,
and conformable to ends and relations to him unknown
3. 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.-4. The pride of
aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more
perfection, the cause of man's error and misery. The
impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and
judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or im-
perfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations.-
5. 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.-6. The onrea-
sonableness of his complaints against Providence, while,
on the one hand, he demands the perfections of the
angels, and, on the other, the bodily qualifications of
the brutes, though to possess any of the sensitive fa-
culties in a higher degree would render him miserable.-
7. 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.-8. How
much further 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.-9. The ex-
travagance, madness, and pride, of such a desire.--10.
The consequence of all, the absolute submission due to
Providence, both as to our present and future state.
WAKE, my St. John! leave all meaner things
To low ambition and the pride of kings.
Let us (since life can little more supply
Thau just to look about us and to die)
Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man ;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan;
Awild where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot;
Or garden tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field,
Try what the open, what the covert yield:
The latent tracks, the giddy heights, explore,
Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar ;
Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise ;
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can,
But vindicate the ways of God to man.
1. Say first, of God above or man below
What can we reason but from what we know?
Of man what see we but his station here,
From which to reason or to which refer?
Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known,
'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He who through vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples every star,
May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are :
But of this frame, the bearings and the ties,
The strong connexions, pice dependencies,
Gradations just, has thy pervading soul
Look'd through; or can a part contain the whole ?
Is the great chain that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God or thee? 2. Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou
Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind!
First, if thou canst the harder reason guess,
Why form'd no weaker, blinder, and no less ?
Ask of thy mother earth why oaks are made
Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade ?
Or ask of yonder argent fields above
Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove !
Of systems possible, if 'tis confest That wisdom infinite must form the best, Where all must full or not coberent be, And all that rises rise in due degree; Then in the scale of reasoning life 'tis plain, There must be, somewhere, such a rank as man; And all the question (wrangle e'er so long) Is only this,If God has plac'd him wrong?
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call, May, must be right, as relative to all. In human works, though labor'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.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains His 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 Egypt's god; Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend His actions', passions', being's, use and end; Why doing, suffering, check’d, impell’d; and why This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault; Say rather man's as perfect as he ought; His knowledge measur’d to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space. If to be perfect in a certain sphere, What matter soon or late, or here or there? The bless'd' to-day is as completely so As who began a thousand years ago.
3. Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of fate, All but the page prescrib'd, their present state : From brutes what men, from men what spirits know; Or who could suffer being here below?