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Your way. Of all the avenues and green paths
Of this wild wood there is not one but leads,
As to its centre, to the walls of Antioch ;
Take which you
will you cannot miss your road.
And such is ignorance! Even in the sight
Of knowledge it can draw no profit from it.
But, as it still is early, and as I
Have no acquaintances in Antioch,
Being a stranger there, I will even wait
The few surviving hours of the day,
Until the night shall conquer it. I see,
Both by your dress and by the books in which
You find delight and company, that you
Are a great student ;—for my part, I feel
Much sympathy with such pursuits.
No ;—and yet I know enough Not to be wholly ignorant.
Pray, Sir, What science may you know ?
Alas! Much pains must we expend on one alone, And even then attain it not;—but you Have the presumption to assert that you Know many without study.
And with truth; For, in the country whence I come,
sciences Require no learning,--they are known.
Oh, would I were of that bright country! for in this The more we study, we the more discover Our ignorance.
It is so true that I Had so much arrogance as to oppose The chair of the most high Professorship, And obtained many votes, and though I lost, The attempt was still more glorious than the failure Could be dishonourable : if you beliere not, Let us refer it to dispute respecting That which you know best, and although I Know not the opinion you maintain, and though It be the true one, I will take the contrary.
The offer gives me pleasure. I am now
Debating with myself upon a passage
Of Plinius, and my mind is racked with doubt
To understand and know who is the God
Of whom he speaks.
It is a passage, if I recollect it right, couched in these words : “ God is one supreme goodness, one pure essence, One substance, and one sense, all sight, all hands."
What difficulty find you here?
I do not recognize among the Gods
The God defined by Plinius : if he must
Be supreme goodness, even Jupiter
Is not supremely good ; because we see
His deeds are evil, and his attributes
Tainted with mortal weakness. In what manner
Can supreme goodness be consistent with
The passions of humanity ?
The wisdom Of the old world masked with the names of Gods
The attributes of Nature and of Man ;
A sort of popular philosophy.
This reply will not satisfy me, for
Such awe is due to the high name of God,
That ill should never be imputed. Then,
Examining the question with more care,
It follows, that the gods should always will
That which is best, were they supremely good.
How then does one will one thing—one another?
And you may not say that I allege
Poetical or philosophic learning
Consider the ambiguous responses
Of their oracular statues; from two 'shrines
Two armies shall obtain the assurance of
One victory. Is it not indisputable
That two contending wills can never lead
To the same end? And, being opposite,
If one be good is not the other evil ?
Evil in God is inconceivable;
But supreme goodness fails among the gods
Without their union.
I deny your major.
These responses are means towards some end
Unfathomed by our intellectual beam.
They are the work of providence, and more
The battle's loss may profit those who lose,
Than victory advantage those who win.
That I admit, and yet that God should not
(Falsehood is incompatible with deity)
Assure the victory, it would be enough
To have permitted the defeat; if God
Be all sight,-God, who beheld the truth,
Would not have given assurance of an end
Never to be accomplished; thus, although
The Deity may according to his attributes
Be well distinguished into persons, yet,
Even in the minutest circumstance,
His essence must be one.
To attain the end, The affections of the actors in the scene Must have been thus influenced by his voice.
But for a purpose thus subordinate
He might have employed genii, good or evil,-
A sort of spirits called so by the learned,
Who roam about inspiring good or evil,
And from whose influence and existence we
May well infer our immortality :-
Thus God might easily, without descending
To a gross falsehood in his proper person,
Have moved the affections by this mediation
To the just point.