Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Why Man Fell
By Sir George Mackenzie (16361691)
From The Religious Stoic
THAT brain hath too little pia mater, that is too curious to know why God, who evidences so great a desire to save poor man, and is so powerful as that his salvation needed never have run the hazard, if his infinite wisdom had so decreed, did yet suffer him to fall: for if we enter once the list of that debate, our reason is too weak to bear the burden of so great a difficulty. And albeit it may be answered, that God might have restrained man, but that restraint did not stand with the freedom of mans will which God hath bestowed upon him; yet, this answer stops not the mouth of the difficulty. For certainly, if one should detain a madman from running over a precipice, he could not be thereby said to have wronged his liberty: and seeing man is, by many divines, allowed a freedom of will, albeit he must of necessity do what is evil, and that his freedom is salved by a liberty to choose only one of more evils, it would appear strange why his liberty might not have consisted well enough with a moral impossibility of sinning, and might not have been abundantly conserved in his freedom to choose one of more goods: yet, these reasonings are the calling God to an account; and so impious. For, if God had first created man surrounded with our present infirmities, could we have complained? Why then should we now complain, seeing we are but fallen to a better estate than we deserved; seeing we stumbled not for want of light, but because we extinguished our own light; and seeing our Saviours dying for us may yet reinstate us in a happier estate than that from which we are now fallen?
Albeit the glass of my years hath not yet turned five and twenty, yet the curiosity I have to know the different limbos of departed souls, and to view the card of the region of death, would give me abundance of courage to encounter this king of terrors, though I were a pagan; but when I consider what joys are prepared for them who fear the Almighty; and what craziness attends such as sleep in Methusalems cradle, I pity them who make long life one of the oftest repeated petitions of their Paternoster; and yet those sure are the more advanced in folly, who desire to have their names enshrined, after death, in the airy monument of fame: whereas it is one of the promises made to the elect, that they shall rest from their labours, and their works shall follow them. Most mens mouths are so foul, that it is a punishment to be much in them: for my own part, I desire the same good offices from my good name that I do from my clothes; which is to screen me from the violence of exterior accidents.
As those criminals might be judged distracted, who, being condemned to die, would spend their short reprival in disputing about the situation and fabric of their gibbets: so may I justly think those literati mad, who spend the short time allotted them for repentance, in debating about the seat of hell, and the torments of tortured spirits. To satisfy my curiosity, I was once resolved, with the Platonic, to take the promise of some dying friend, that he should return and satisfy me in all my private doubts, concerning hell and heaven; yet I was justly afraid that he might have returned me the same answer which Abraham returned to Dives, Have they not Moses and the Prophets? If they hear not them; wherefore will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead?