Sidor som bilder

and what, if we will act at all, we cannot but act upon in the common pursuits of life; being evidently conclusive, in various degrees, proportionable to the degree and exactness of the whole analogy or likeness; and having so great authority for its introduction into the subject of religion, even revealed religion; my design is to apply it to that subject in general, both natural and revealed; taking for proved, that there is an intelligent Author of nature, and natural Governor of the world. For as there is no presumption against this prior to the proof of it, so it has been often proved with accumulated evidence; from this argument of analogy and final causes; from abstract reasonings: from the most ancient tradition and testimony, and from the general consent of mankind. Nor does it appear, so far as I can find, to be denied, by the generality of those who profess themselves dissatisfied with the evidence of religion.

As there are soine, who, instead of thus attending to what is in fact the constitution of nature,form their notions of God's government upon hypothesis; so there are others, who indulge themselves in vain and idle speculations, how the world might possibly have been framed otherwise than it is; and upon supposition that things might, in imag, ining that they should, have been disposed and carried on after a better model than what appears in the present disposition and conduct of them. Suppose now a person of such a turn of mind, to go on with his reveries, tili he had at length fixed upon some particular plan of nature, as appearing to him the best; one shall scarce be thought guilty of detraction against human understanding, if one should say, even beforehand, that the plan which this speculative person would fix upon, though he were the wisest of the sons of men, probably would not be the very best, even according to his own notions of best; whether he thought that to be so, which afforded occasions and motives for the exercise of the greatest virtue, or which was productive of the greatest happiness, or that these two were necessarily connected, and run up into one and the same plan. However, it may not be amiss once for all to see, what would be the amount of these emen. dations and imaginary improvements upon the system of nature, or how far they would mislead us. And it seems there could be no stopping, till we came to some such conclusions as these: that all creatures should at first be made as perfect and as happy as they were capable of ever being: that nothing, to be sure, of hazard or danger should be put upon them to do; some indolent persons would perhaps think nothing at all; or certainly, that effectual care should be taken, that they should, whether necessarily or not, yet eventually and in fact, always do what was right and most conducive to happiness, which would be thought easy for infinite power to effect; either by not giving them any principles which would endanger their going wrong, or by laying the right motive of action in every instance before their minds continually in so strong a manner, as would never fail of inducing them to act conformably to it; and that the whole method of government by punishments should be rejected as absurd, as an awkward round-about method of carrying things on; nay, as contrary to a principal purpose, for which it would be supposed creatures were made, namely happiness.

Now, without considering what is to be said in particular to the

several parts of this train of folly and extravagance, what has been above intimated, is a full, direct, general answer to it, namely, that we may see beforehand that we have not faculties for this kind of speculation. For though it be admitted, that from the first principles of our nature, we unavoidably judge or determine some ends to be absolutely in themselves preferable to others, and that the ends now mentioned, or if they run up into one, that this one is absolutely the best; and consequently that we must conclude the ultimate end designed, in the constitution of nature and conduct of Providence, is the most virtue and happiness possible: yet we are far from being able to judge, what particular disposition of things would be most friendly and assistant to virtue; or what means might be absolutely necessary to produce the most happiness in a system of such ex: tent as our own world may be, taking in all that is past and to come, though we should suppose it detached from the whole of things. Indeed we are so far from being able to judge of this, that we are not judges what may the necessary means of raising and conducting one person to the highest perfection and happiness of his nature. Nay, even in the little affairs of the present life, we find men of different educations and ranks are not competent judges of the conduct of each other. Our whole nature leads us to ascribe all moral perfection to God, and to deny all imperfection of him. And this will forever be a practical proof of his moral character, to such as will consider what a practical proof is; because it is the voice of God speaking in us. And from hence we conclude, that virtue must be the happiness, and vice the misery of every creature; and that regularity and order and right cannot but prevail finally in a universe under his government. But we are in no sort judges, what are the necessary means of accomplishing this end.

Let us then, instead of that idle and not very innocent employment of forming imaginary models of a world, and schemes of governing it, turn our thoughts to what we experience to be the conduct of nature with respect to intelligent creatures; which may be resolved into general laws or rules of administration, in the same way as many of the laws of nature respecting inanimate matter may be collected from experiments. And let us compare the known constitution and course of things, with what is said to be the moral system of nature; the acknowledged dispensations of Providence, or that government which we find ourselves under, with what religion teaches to believe and expect; and see whether they are not analagous and of a piece. And upon such a comparison, it will I think be found, that they are very much so; that both may be traced up to the same general laws, and resolved into the same principles of divine conduct.

The analogy here proposed to be considered is of pretty large extent, and consists of several parts; in some more, in others less exact. In some few instances, perhaps, it may amount to a real practical proof; in others not so. Yet in these it is a confirmation of what is proved other ways. It will undeniably show, what too many want to have shown them, that the system of religion, both natural and revealed, considered only as a system, and prior to the proof of it, is not a subject of ridicule, unless that of nature be so too. And it will afford an answer to almost all objections against the sys

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

tem both of natural and revealed religion; though not perhaps an answer in so great a degree, yet in a very considerable degree an answer to the objections against the evidence of it: for objections against a proof, and objections against what is said to be proved, the reader will observe are different things.

Now the divine government of the world, implied in the notion of religion in general and of Christianity, contains in it,-- That mankind is appointed to live in a future state;* that there, every one shall be rewarded or punished;t rewarded or punished respectively for all that behaviour here,which we comprehend under the words, virtuous or vicious, morally good or evil;ł that our present life is a probation, a state of trial, and of discipline.ll for that future one; notwithstanding the objections, which men may fancy they have, from notions of necessity, against there being any such moral plan as this at all;** and whatever objections may appear to lie against the wisdom and goodness of it, as it stands so imperfectly made known to us at present:ft that this world being in a state of apostacy and wickedness, and consequently of ruin, and the sense both of their condition and duty being greatly corrupted amongst men; this gave occasion for an additional dispensation of Providence; of the utmost importance;tt proved by miracles;SS but containing in it many things appearing to us strange and not to have been expected;*** a dispensation of Providence,which is a scheme or system of things;ttt carried on by the mediation of a divine person, the Messiah, in order to the recovery of the world;t17 yet not revealed to all men, nor proved with the strongest possible evidence to all those to whom it is revealed; but only to such a part of mankind, and with such particular evidence as the wisdom of God thought fit.SSS The design then of the following Treatise will be to shew, that the several parts principally objected against in this moral and Christian dispensation, including its scheme, its publication, and the proof which God has afforded us of its truth; that the particular parts principally objected against in this whole dispensation, are analagous to what is experienced in the constitution and course of nature, or providence; that the chief objections themselves which are alleged against the former, are no other than what may be alleged with justness against the latter, where they are found in fact to be inconclusive; and that this argument from analogy is in general unanswerable, and undoubtedly of weight on the side of religion!!I notwithstanding the objections which may seem to lie against it, and the real ground which there may be for difference of opinion, as to the particular degree of weight which is to be laid upon it. This is a general account of what may be looked for in the following Treatise; and I shall begin it with that which is the foundation of all our hopes and of all our fears, all our hopes and fears which are of any consideration, I mean a future life.

Chap i. + Chap. ii. # Chap ini. § Chap. iv.

1 Chap. v. * # Chap vi

# Chap. vii. ## Part II Chap i $$ Chap. ij. *** Chap. ii. tt Chap. is. *** Chap. V. $$$ Chap. vi vij, |||| Chap. viij.







of a Future Life. STRANGE difficulties have been raised by some concerning personal identity, or the sameness of living agents, implied in the notion of our existing now and hereafter, or in any two successive moments; which, whoever thinks it worth while,may see considered in the first Dissertation at the end of this 'Treatise. But without regard to any of them here, let us consider what the analogy of nature, and the several changes which we have undergone, and those which we know we may undergo without being destroyed, suggest, as to the effect which death may or may not have upon us; and whether it be not from thence probable, that we may survive this change, and exist in a future state of life and perception.

I. From our being born into the present world in the helpless imperfect state of infancy, and having arrived from thence to mature age, we find it to be a general law of nature in our own species, that the same creatures, the same individuals, should exist in degrees of life and perception, with capacities of action, of enjoyment and suffering, in one period of their being, greatly different from those appointed them in another period of it. And in other creatures the same law holds. For the difference of their capacities and states of life at their birth (to go no higher) and in maturity; the change of worms into flies, and the vast enlargement of their locomotive powers by such change; and birds and insects bursting the shell, their habitation, and by this means entering into a new world, furnished with new accommodations for them, and finding a new sphere of action assigned them; these are instances of this general law of nature. Thus all the various and wonderful transformations of animals are to be taken into consideration here. But the states of life in which we ourselves existed formerly in the womb and in our infancy, are almost as different from our present in mature age, as it is possible

to conceive any two states or degrees of life can be. Therefore, that we are to exist hereafter in a state as different (suppose) from our present, as this is from our former, is but according to the analogy of nature; according to a natural order or appointment of the very same kind with what we have already experienced.

II. We know we are endued with capacities of action, of happiness and misery; for we are conscious of acting, of enjoying pleasure, and suffering pain. Now that we have these powers and capa. ties before death, is a presumption that we shall retain them through and after death; indeed a probability of it abundantly sufficient to act upon, unless there be some positive reason to think that death is the destruction of those living powers; because there is in every case a probability, that all things will continue as we experience they are, in all respects, except those in which we have some reason to think they will be altered." This is that kinds of presumption or probability from analogy, expressed in the very word continuance, which seems our only natural reason for believing the course of the world will continue tomorrow, as it has done so far as our experience er knowledge of history can carry us back. Nay, it seems our only reason for believing that any one substance now existing will continue to exist a moment longer, the self-existent substance only excepted. Thus if men were assured that the unknown event, death, was not the destruction of our faculties of perception and of action, there would be no apprehension that any other power or event uncon nected with this of death, would destroy these faculties just at the instant of each creature's death, and therefore no doubt but that they would remain after it; which shows the high probability that our living powers will continue after death, unless there be some ground to think that death is their destruction. For, if it would be in a manner certain that we should survive death, provided it were certain that death would not be our destruction, it must be highly probable we shall survive it, if there be no ground to think death will be our destruction.

Now, though I think it must be acknowledged, that prior to the natural and moral proofs of a future life commonly insisted upon, there would arise a general confused suspicion, that in the great shock and alteration which we shall undergo by death, we, i. e. our living powers, might be wholly destroyed; yet, even prior to those proofs, there is really no particular distinct ground or reason for this apprehension at all, so far as I can find. If there be, it must arise either from the reason of the thing, or from the analogy of nature.

[ocr errors]


say kind of presumption or probability; for I do not mean to affirm that there is the same degree of conviction, that our living powers will continue after death, as there is, that our substances will.

| Destruction of living powers, is a manner of expression unavoidably ambiguous; and may signify either the destruction of a living being, so as that the same living being shall be uncapable of ever perceiving or acting again at all; or, the destruction of those means and instruments by which it is capable of its present life, of its present state of perception and of action. It is here used in the former sense. When it is rised in the latter, the epithet present is added. The loss of a man's eye, is a destruce tion of living powers in the latter sense. But we have no reason to think the destruc. tion of living powers in the former sense, to be possible. We have no more reason to think a being endued with living powers ever loses them during its whole existence, than to believe that a stone ever acquires them.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »