Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

Future State ; and should start such Difficulties as you could not well answer: If you believe the Gospel, you have an Answer to all at once, that

you are sure of the Conclusion, that there is another Life, because God has promised it.

2. And yet these Arguments of a Future State from Reason and Nature are not without their Use. We can believe a Future State without them; Revelation alone will defend our Faith against all the Wit and Arguments of Atheists ; but though there is more Certainty in Revelation, there is a peculiar Agreeableness and Satisfaction in the Proofs of Reafon, and the Natural Indications of Immortality. A reasonable Nature is more gratified with Natural Proofs, when they can be had ; and it becomes Men of Leisure and E. ducation, to study Nature; and there is not a more useful and entertaining part of Knowledge, than the Natural Knowledge of our own Immortality, which gives us the truest Knowledge of our selves.

Though such Arguments alone do not amount to ftrict Demonstration, yet they are very persua

Natural Sense of Immortality disposes us to a more ready, chearful, and firm Affent to the express Promises of Immortality.

If we must live after Death, it is reafonable to think, that Mankind should have some natural Notice of it: And it would have been no small Prejudice against the Revelation of Immortality, had the World never known of, nor suspected any such thing; and had Natural Reason nothing at all to say about it: But the very Suspicions and Hopes of Nature make such a Revelation credible; and Revelation gives greater Force to those Arguments, than they had alone. Nature, fuppose it were no more, strongly inclines us to believe, and hope for, another Life; and this proves, C

that

sive;

that to believe it, is agreeable to Nature; and then there can be no natural Objection against believing such a Revelation: but on the other hand there is a natural Propensity to believe it; which is a great Advantage to the Christian Faith. And when an unquestionable Revelation contains the express Promises of Immortality, this proves, that the Inclinations and Hopes of Nature are not vain ; and shews us such Degrees of Evidence and Certainty in them, as we could not see before. We can study Nature to much greater Advantage with a Revelation, than the Heathens could do without; and these are great Reasons, why we should study and defend the Natural Arguments of Immortality: Not to resolve our Faith into doubtful Disputations; when we have so much better and more certain Evidence: But the Harmony and Consent of Revelation and Nature, will both enlighten our Faith and give a new Strength and Authority to Reason, which will teach us to believe both like Men and Christians, and give infinite Pleasure and Security to our Minds.

3. It is of great Use also in our Disputes with Atheists and Infidels, throughly to understand the Natural and Moral Arguments for a Future State; to know what Stress to lay on them, and to what Purposes to use them.

It betrays the Cause of Christianity, to lay afide Revelation, and to dispute with these Men merely upon the Principles of Reason and Philosophy. For though I doubt not to satisfy every impartial and unprejudiced Enquirer, that if there had been no Revelation concerning another World, all the Reason we have, and can use in this Caufe, is for a Future State ; yet when Men are prejudiced againft this Belief, and are resolved not to believe it, as long as they can possibly disbelieve it, that is, till you can prove as well as persuade; it must not be

[ocr errors]

expected, that mere Natural or Moral Arguments Yhould convince them ; for they are not so demonftrative as to force an Affent: They may represent the Belief of another Life highly probable, fo probable, as seems little less than Demonstration to Men who are disposed to believe ; but they are not direct, absolute, positive Proofs, and theres fore may be rejected by Men who have no mind to believe.

Common Experience teaches, that it generally proves a vain and fruitless Attempt, to convert Infidels by Philosophy. It could not do it before the Publication of the Gospel; nor will ic do it yet if you lay aside Revelation.

But there are two things, which we may, and as I hope to fhew you, we can do from the Principles of Reason, which if they will not convince Infidels, may at least silence them, and dispose them to receive that more perfect Satisfaction which the Gospel gives; that is, to answer all their Cavils and Objections against the Moral Arguments for a Future State ; and to thew them, that though these Arguments are not abfolute Demonstrations, yet they have the highest Degrees of Probability; that there is not the least Appearance or Shadow of an Argument against another Life, and that there are very probable Reafons for it. And it is enough to put a modest Man out of Countenance, to be convinc'd that he difbelieves another World without any Reason, and rejects very probable Reasons for the Belief of another World, when he has not fo much as the least Probabilities, to oppose against it. Thus far I am fure Natural and Moral Arguments are of use, if not to convince, yet to shame Infidels; and when we are engaged with Infidels, the fafest way is never to urge them any farther. If you pretend by such Arguinents, to a direct positive Proof of another Life, they may possibly be able to make some de

fence;

C 2

fence, wnd to fhew you that they are not direct and positive Proofs, and therefore not a sure and certain Foundation of Faith.

Well, suppose this ; the Question then is, Whether these are not very probable Arguments of another Life, or whether they have as probable Arguments against it: For if the best Reason, though it do not amount to Certainty and Demonstration, be for the Belief of another World, and there is no Reason against it, we gain some very considerable Points, which are not much for the Reputation of Infidelity.

1. That these Men must never again pretend to Reason; for they reject and renounce it, and will not believe as Reafon directs them to believe. There are different Degrees of Assent and Faith, as there are different Degrees of Evidence; and Reason requires such an Affent, as bears fome Proportion to our Evidence.

These Men will not believe another Life, because, as they think, they have no certain Proof of it. Now they are so far in the right, not to believe that certain, which they cannot certainly prove: But this is no Reason not to believe it at all ; for if there be probable Reasons for it, nay, very strong Presumptions, and great Probabilities, then they ought to believeit greatly probable; and to disbelieve what is greatly probable, and to believe the contrary, without so much as the least Probability, is not to believe or disbelieve with Reason.

Presumptions and Probabilities are a fufficient Foundation for a probable Faith ; and a probable Faith is of great use in the Government of our Lives. Would not any Man blush to own, that he does not believe that to be probable, which he must confefs there are probable Reasons for? And is it not as great a Reproach to any Man, to have no Regard to Probabilities in Matters of the greatest Concernment to him? If Natural and Moral Arguments make it highly probable, that there is another Life (and that they at least can do,) does not that Man contradict his Reason, who does not believe another Life very probable, when there are very probable Reasons for it? And if it is probable that there is another Life, does not that Man act very unreasonably, who has no regard to another World in what he does? So that if

you can but prove the Probability of another Life, you spoil all the Comfort and Security of Infidelity, and all their vain Boasts and Triumphs of Reason.'

2. Though the Natural and Moral Arguments of another Life were allowed only to be probable Proofs; yet this convinces Infidels of an Aversion to the Belief of another Life, which is as infamous and scandalous a Crime, as any Man can possibly be charg'd with. Can any thing be more unnatural than to hate Life and Being? To desire the Death of a Beaft; to fall into eternal Silence and Forgetfulness? What a contemptible Thing is Man, if he be born to live miserably, and after fome few Years to be no more? Is not this a Reproach to Human Nature, and a Contradiction to the natural Desires of Immortality? And yet it is impossible that any Man should reject the probable Hopes of another Life, who does not hate his own Being, and desire that Death may put an End to him.

Men who desire Immortality, will believe it as long as they can. As Infidels call for Demonstrations to prove another Life, before they will believe it, so they with much more Reason demand a Demonstration that there is no other Life, before they will quit those great Hopes; much less would they reject such Hopes, though they had no more than some probable Arguments of another Life. For in truth, great Probabilities look very like De

monstra

C 3

« FöregåendeFortsätt »