Page images

Foundation being once establish'd, the human Soul is strait obliged, by the View of this present State, to presage a future : For when it observes in the Government of this lower World, or in this part of the divine OEconomy, that in the Distribution of Good and Evil 'the Laws of Justice and Equity are not preserv'd; it easily from thence concludes, that there is something still remaining, that all the Parts of this Drama are not compleated, that the grand Catastrophe is still to come: Thus the Soul is exalted by the Expectation of things which will come to pass in a future State, as it were in a Scene that is next to follow.

The Goods of Fortune and external Happiness do not, in this Life, accompany Wifdom and Virtue. They are neither less, nor less frequently enjoy'd by foolish and wicked Men. But if human Happiness were ultimately placed in these, and were to be finally determined here, the supream Governor of the World, and the same a most righteous Judge, would never endure so great Confusion in the Order of Things. That the Good should be happy, and the Wicked miserable, is the Voice of God, the Voice of Man, and the Voice of universal Nature : But witness Heaven, and witness Earth, and witness ye conscious Stars, that this eternal and most facred Law, among us miserable Mortals, in the Compass of this Life, is never kept inviolable ; therefore grant me but this, that God is just and holy, and the necessary Consequence of it must be, that there will be Rewards and Punishments in another Life, and that human Happiness and human Misery do not altogether depend upon this present transitory State.


NOR do we here complain of our own Times; as unhapyy Men are often wont to do; nor do we believe the Age which we live in more corrupt or more profligate than several which have preceded it: The World is now what it always was. Run through the Records of all Times, of all Nations, the Grecian, the Roman, whatever Country you please, you will find in them all the Socrates's, the Cato's, Men that were plac'd at the Top of their Species, renown'd for the Excellence of their Nature, and distinguish'd by the fingular Endowments of their Minds and Manners; these you will find by the Iniquity of Fortune oppress’d, hated by the impious and noisy Vulgar, and persecuted by Envy, with her blackest Calumnies: Nor can Tyrants, and Men in Power endure the Freedom of a noble Spirit, tenacious of Truth and Virtue. This is the miserable Condition of human Affairs.

BESIDES, as the promiscuous Fortune that attends the Virtuous and Wicked could not be agreeable to divine Justice and Righteousness, if it were to have no Alteration; so the Meanness, the Littleness, and, if I may so.

B 3


express myself, the Vileness of the present Condition of Mortals, if it were solitary, first to none, and second to none, would neither answer to the Dignity of God the Creator, nor to the Dignity of Earth's Inhabitants, that is, of human Sauls. If you believe that God has created innumerable Worlds besides this in which you live, the Difficulty under which you labour will not be altogether fo great. But they who, besides this Globe of Earth, (an Atom, with respest to ịts Littleness, a Dunghil, with regard to its Filthiness, ) acknowledge no inhabitable World, own no ļnhabitants in any other Part of the Immensity of the Universe; these Persons are greatly injurious to the divine Majesty, and fancy a God inferior to a magnanimous Man.

And then if, besides the Earth itself, you observe those human Affairs which are transacted on it, you will find them so trifling, or so confus’d, or so miserable, you would suspect they were by some wicked Deity appointed, and by some impotent one endur'd: For what is there but Blood and Slaughter among Princes? what among private Men but Contentions, Quarrels, Reproaches, Calumnies, and daily litigious Disputes ? and too frequently about the veriest Trifles. A great deal of Folly and Trifle every where! of Wisdom a very little! And, which is more grievous to be endur'd, Pleasures very short and rare ; many and lasting are our Griefs, and Complaints


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

proceeding from Diseafes, Poverty, Enmity, and such like Evils incident to human Nature: So that the Drama of this Life, if you abstract from it all Consequences, and its Connexion with a future State, is neither worthy to have God for its Author, nor even for its Spectator.

But I go farther still: The little Affairs, and the triðing Business of this Life, if you take from it the Hope and Prospect of a future, are so far from being worthy of God, that they are unworthy of a human Soul. We are depress’d in this mortal State beneath the Rank, and the Degree, and the Excellence of our Nature. From whence is that Shame which we discover in some of our Actions, and some of our natural Affections? From whence that Modesty, or that Disturbance in human Nature ? and not only when we fin, but when we obey the Desires or the Necessities of Nature herself? Why are we afham'd of ourselves, and our own Nature, if we act nothing beneath our native Dignity ? if we are not capable of a more excellent State ? if we never had, and are never to have å worthier ? Besides, we are destin'd in this Life to be employ'd about Toys and Trifles, which neither become nor fatisfy a reasonable Soul, capable of Employments infinitely better, and infinitely more exalted. 'That which is most excellent, most noble, and even divine in us, is ready to sink under the Burden and Care of the Body;

and by B4


mean and little Affairs, which are necessary for the feeding and clothing the Body, and the Preservation of Health. * And yet the Soul stands in need of none of all these, but is forc'd into Servitude as a Slave to the Body. She is subjected to Vanity here, under which she groans, and under her Occupation, about vile and paltry Matters. But to what Purpose is that sublime Understanding, by which she contemplates celestial and eternal Beings, by which she measures Heaven and Earth? To what Purpose is that noble Fire, and that aspiring to Things of the greatest and most exalted Nature ? To what Purpose is that Thirst of Immortality, which is never to be satisfied ? To what Purpose that heroick Virtue which

appears in some, which surmounts and undervalues all private Advantage for the publick


[ocr errors]

* Can there be any one who believes that Man was born for no other End than to digest what he eats and drinks, than to watch the Winds, and pursue all his Life-time perishing and fallacious Hopes; and that after this short Madnefs is over, he must be laid once more in the Earth from which he was taken, and disolu'd into his original Duft? And yet this, forfooth, is the End of Man, and the Ne-plus ultra of Humanity! “ We were not created, says

Cicero, either rafhly or fortuitously, but there was pre“ fent á Power divine, which consulted the Advantage “ and Happiness of Mankind; nor would he produce

or provide for that, which, after it bad endur'd all « Fatigues, borne all the Calamities of Life, and had « becn victorious over them all, was at last to lie down “ in Death's eternal Sleep.” Cic. Quæst. Tusc. I. in

« PreviousContinue »