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The articles contained in the following SUPPLEMENT have never before appeared in any edition of the author's writings. Some of them were originally printed in the Pennsylrania Gazette. They have all been recently transcribed from a manuscript book in Dr. Franklin's handwriting, now in the possession of Mr. William Duane, Jr. of Philadelphia, and published by Mr. T. W. White of Richmond, in the Southern Literary Messenger. With Mr. Duane's permission they are inserted in the present work. - EDITOR.
PROVIDENCE OF GOD IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD
When I consider my own weakness and the discerning judgment of those who are to be my audience, I cannot help blaming myself considerably for this rash undertaking of mine, being a thing I am altogether unpractised in, and very much unqualified for; but I am especially discouraged when I reflect, that you are all my intimate pot-companions, who have heard me say a thousand silly things in conversation, and therefore have not that laudable partiality and veneration for whatever I shall deliver, that good people commonly have for their spiritual guides; that you have no reverence for my habit, nor for the sanctity of my countenance; that you do not believe me inspired or divinely assisted, and therefore will think yourselves at liberty to assert or dissert, approve or disapprove of any thing I advance, canvassing and sifting it, as the private opinion of one of your acquaintance. These are great disadvantages and discouragements; but I am entered and must proceed, humbly requesting your patience and attention.
I propose, at this time, to discourse on the subject of our last conversation, the Providence of God in the government of the world. It might be judged an affront to your understandings, should I go about to prove this first principle, the existence of a Deity, and that he is the Creator of the universe ; for that would suppose you ignorant of what all mankind in all ages have agreed in. I shall therefore proceed to observe, that he must be a being of infinite wisdom, as appears in his admirable order and disposition of things; whether we consider the heavenly bodies, the stars and planets, and their wonderful regular motions; or this earth, compounded of such an excellent mixture of all the elements; or the admirable structure of animate bodies of such infinite variety, and yet every one adapted to its nature and the way of life it is to be placed in, whether on earth, in the air, or in the water, and so exactly that the highest and most exquisite human reason cannot find a fault, and say this would have been better so, or in such a manner; which whoever considers attentively and thoroughly will be astonished and swallowed up in admiration.
That the Deity is a being of great goodness, appears in his giving life to so many creatures, each of which acknowledges it a benefit, by its unwillingness to leave it; in his providing plentiful sustenance for them all, and making those things that are most useful, most common and easy to be had; such as water, necessary for almost every creature to drink; air, without which few could subsist; the inexpressible benefits of hight and sunshine to almost all animals in general; and to men, the most useful vegetables, such as corn, the most useful of metals, as iron, &c., the most useful animals, as horses, oxen, and sheep, he has made easiest to raise or procure in quantity or numbers; each of which particulars, if considered seriously and carefully, would fill us with the highest love and affection.
That he is a being of infinite power appears in his being able to form and compound such vast masses of matter, as this earth, and the sun, and innumerable stars and planets, and give them such prodigious motion, and yet so to govern them in their greatest velocity, as that they shall not fly out of their appointed bounds, nor dash one against another for their mutual destruction. But it is easy to conceive his power, when we are convinced of his infinite knowledge and wisdom. For, if weak and foolish creatures as we are, by knowing the nature of a few things, can produce such wonderful effects; such as, for instance, by knowing the nature only of nitre and sea-salt mixed we can make a water, which will dissolve the hardest iron, and by adding one ingredient more can make another water, which will dissolve gold and make the most solid bodies fluid; and by knowing the nature of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal, with those mean ingredients mixed we can shake the air in the most terrible manner, destroy ships, houses, and men at a distance, and in an instant overthrow cities, and rend rocks into a thousand pieces, and level the highest mountains; what power must be possess, who not only knows the nature of every thing in the universe, but can make things of new natures with the greatest ease and at his pleasure !
Agreeing, then, that the world was at first made by a Being of infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, which Being we call God, the state of things existing at this time must be in one of these four following manners, namely;
1. Either he unchangeably decreed and appointed every thing that comes to pass, and left nothing to the course of nature, nor allowed any creature free agency;
2. Without decreeing any thing, he left all to general nature and the events of free agency in his creatures, which he never alters or interrupts; or,