Page images

Good, or the Love and Interest of Virtue ? These are the Considerations that convince me, that since God has wrought nothing without Design, and infus'd into us no vain and frivolous Instincts, that the Time will come when we shall be freed from this corporeal Prison; when we shall enjoy a new Light, a more excellent Life, and an everlasting Felicity.

'Tis easy to perceive, that the human Soul, with all its freer Motions, is constrain'd and curb’d, and, if I may use the Expression, suffocated by the Body; and the more it strains to exert itself, the more sensibly does it feel the Weight of such Impediments. To what Purpose then has this Force, this Largeness of Soul been given us, by which 'tis carried beyond the Bounds and Limits of this Life, if nothing remains or exists beyond it? In vain have God and Næture supplied the Soul with such Wings, if we are only allowed to crawl upon Earth, never to raise ourselves above the Ground, and never to take our Flight to Heaven. If this be the Case, they have not only given us these Wings in vain, but to our great Inconvenience; for the more exalted the Soul is, and the more abstracted from the Sense, the less it takes care of earthly Things, and the more unfit it becomes to discharge the common Functions of Life: Then if this is the only Life of which 'tis capable, and the Whole of what belongs to Humanity, the Soul is undone by its own Virtue; and all the Wisdom, but that of the World, and that which regards it, is Folly: A most infamous Affront both to God and Man, and an unpardonable Calumny! Who can bear it that has a Grain of Sense, or a Grain of Generosity in his Nature! Who must not hear with a generous Disdain such Affronts impos'd on himself, and on Humankind! I have only one Thing to add, which is, that if this be the State of human Affairs which is here suppos'd, and I had known this before I was born, I would have rejected with Disdain the Offer of such a Life; neither to live, nor to die, had at all been worth the while.


HITHERTO we have taken our Proofs and our Arguments, for the proving the Certainty of a future State, from the divine and human nature; but now another Method of Reasoning offers itself, from the Confideration of the Nature of Things, in Conjunction with the divine Nature. And thus the Argument stands : If there is a God, then the Reasons and Foundations of Good and Evil are eternal and unchangeable ; the Diftinctions between Vile and Generous, between Just and Unjust, Eternal and Immutable. Now these Things being thus laid down, it follows, if I am not mistaken, that there will be another Order and State of human Affairs, beside what there is at present. Perhaps, at the first View, this Consequence may not appear; but I shall, in a few Words,


[ocr errors]

lay open the Force of it in both Parts of the Arguinent. By the Word God all Men understand the supream Deity, a Being infinitely perfect. Among the rest of his Perfections, they always acknowledge his Wifdom, his Goodness, his Justice, and the brightest Purity; which, since they are Perfections in God, they must be likewise so in

proportion in all those intellectual Natures which have been by God created. There have then been Distinctions from all Eternity, between Good and Evil, Just and Unjust, Vile and Generous Distinctions not constituted nor appointed by human Authority, or human Force, or human Laws, but flowing from the immutable Nature and Perfections of God, Now, since God, or supream Perfection, is the Measure of all Things, and that which is right is the Discoverer of itself, and of that which is crooked; the Things that deviate from this Rule, and the Qualities oppos’d to it, will, by that very Opposition, become Vices, Stains and Errors, lo constituted from all Eternity: And this is the firft Part of our Argument. The second is, that since Things and Actions are thus divided, the human Actors must likewise be divided into two Parties, the Good and the Evil, the Just and the Unjust, the Worthy and the Vile : Those are pleasing to God, these are displeasing; those have his Love, and his Aversion thefe: For that God fhould not love his own Image is altogether impor

sible, sible, or that he should not acknowledge his own Perfections, wherever 'tis that he fees them, and cherish and embrace what he sees conformable to him, and partaking of the divine Nature ; and, on the other Side, reject and abhor whatever is incongruous, difcordant, and oppos’d to his own Nature: But now fince God is the highest Lover of that which is just and equitable, and is one who has all Power in his Hands, 'tis certain that he will not be an unconcern'd Spectator, but will take care that Justice shall be done; nor will bestow the same Felicity upon

his Friends and his Enemies, the Deserving and the Unworthy, but will see that both the Deserving and the Unworthy shall have the Portion due to them; and the more perfect any one is by Virtue, Piety, Wisdom, and the nearer to God by the Excellency of his Nature, by so much the more exalted shall he be, by so much the more happy: But since this is by no Means done in this Life, as is apparent to all the World, 'tis a most certain Consequence, a Consequence firm and immovable as God himself, that it will be done in another.

AND so much for this Sort of Reasoning: But to all this is usually added, by way of Conclusion, and as an Argument of the utmost Weight, the universal Consent of Nations concerning a future State; nor, in my Opinion, is this without very just Reason; for the Voice of Nature, if 'tis rightly un


derstood, is the Evidence and Touchstone of Truth: But the Favourers of the contrary Opinion endeavour, by two Ways, to weaken the Force of this Argument. First they deny that this Opinion, or this Hope of a future Life is universal to all Nations, at least, if the barbarous ones be included; nay, they deny farther, that this Opinion is universal, even among the polite and learned Nations, nay, among the very Philosophers : Some of them, they fay, were more inclin'd to embrace the contrary Opinion

As for what relates to the first, as many Nations as ever worshipp'd a God, or instituted any religious Worship, or any superftitious Rites whatsoever, did, by this very Practice, discover their Hope or their Fear of a future State, and that they expected Rewards or Punishments according as their Actions were pleasing or displeasing to their Gods. As for the other Heathens, who seem to understand nothing of Divinity, they appear to know as little of Humanity, but, like errant Cattle, to lead a bestial Life ; and therefore it would be unjust to take the Value of Humankind from these poor wretched Creatures, and an Estimate of the Virtues and Powers of all the rest from these Dregs of Humanity, nay, the very Dregs of Barbarity. If any one had a Mind to inquire into the Nature and Virtues of an Herb, he would not gather it wither’dand juiceless, in a barren Ground, but so as it grows

« PreviousContinue »