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TF goodness, or benevolence, be the great
governing principle, or spring of action in the divine being, happiness must prevail amongst those of his creatures that are capable of it. If it were possible that there hould be, upon the whole, more misery than happiness in the creation, it would be an argument that the supreme being was malevolent. For since all the tendencies and issues of things were, from the first, perfectly known to him, he would, supposing him to be benevolent, have produced no system at all, rather than one in which misery might prevail. No scheme, therefore, which supposes the greater number of the creatures of God to be miserable upon the whole, can be consistent with the supposition of the divine benevolence. The means, or the manner by which the creatures of God are involved in misery makes
no difference in this case; for if it arise even from themselves, it arises from the nature that God has given them. If he had foreseen that the constitution which he gave them would, in the circumstances in which he placed them, issue in their final ruin, he would not have given them that constitution, or have disposed of them in that manner; unless he had intended that they should be finally miserable ; that is, unless he himself had taken pleasure in misery, in consequence of his being of a malevolent disposition.
It must be impossible, for the same reafon, that the divine being should be capable of facrificing the interests of a greater number, to that of a few of his creatures; though it may, perhaps, be necessary, that' the interests of a few give place to that of a greater number. For if he had a desire to produce happiness at all, it seems to be an evident consequence, that he must prefer a greater degree of happiness to a less; and a greater sum of happiness can exist in a greater number, than in a smaller.
For the same reason, also, the goodness of God must be impartial. Since the supreme being stands in an equal relation to all his creatures and offspring, he muß be incapable of that kind of partiality, by which we often give the preference to one person above another. There must be a good reason for every thing that looks like preference in the conduct and government of God; and no reason can be a good one, with respect to a benevolent being, but what is founded upon benevolence. If, therefore, some creatures enjoy more happiness than others, it must be because the happiness of the creation in general requires that they should have that preference, and because a less sum of good would have been produced upon any other disposition of things.
Thus it is prcbable that a variety in the ranks of creatures, whereby some have a much greater capacity of happiness than others, and are therefore more favoured by divine providence than others, makes a better Sistem, and one more favourable to general
happiness, happiness, than any other, in which there should have been a perfect equality in all advantages and enjoyments. We are not, therefore, to say that God is partial to men, because they have greater powers, and enjoy more happiness than worms; but must suppose, that the system in which there was provision for the greatest sum of happiness required that there should be some creatures in the rank of men, and others in the rank of worms; and that each has reason to rejoice in the divine goodness, though they partake of it in different degrees. Indeed, it were absurd to suppose, that, properly speaking, there was any thing like preference in the divine being chusing to make this a man, and the other a worm ; because they had no being before they were created; and therefore it could not be any thing' like affection to the one more than the other that determined his conduct. In reality it is improper to say that God chose to make this a man, and that a worm ; for the proper expression is, that he chose to make a man, and a worm.
Among creatures of the same general class or rank, there may be differences in advantages and in happiness; but they must be founded on the same confiderations with the differences in the ranks themselves; that is, it must be favourable to the happiness of the whole that there should be those differences; and it cannot arise from any arbitrary or partial preference of one to another, independent of a regard to the happiness of the whole; which is what we mean by an arbitrary and partial affection.
There is a variety of cases in which we may plainly see, that the happiness of one has a reference to, and is productive of the happiness of others; as in the principle of benevolence, whereby we are naturally disposed to rejoice in the happiness of others. For we cannot procure ourselves these sympathetic pleasures, at least, in any considerable degree, without contributing to the happiness of those around us. This, being a source of pleasure to ourselves, is a constant motive to benevolent actions.