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However, 2dly, This is acknowledged on all Hands, That the Belief of the Soul's Immortali: tity, is as Universal as the Belief of a God, or any religious Worship. The very Idolatries of the Pagan World prove this beyond Dispute ; for their Country Gods were no other than dead Men and Women, Consecrated by the Superstition of the People, and Worshipped with Divine Honours and Religious Ceremonies. And those who made Gods of dead Men, and prayed, and offered Sacrifices to them, and expected to be blessed and protected by them, must believe that they lived after Death; which they could not do without the general Belief of the Immortality of the Soul.
3. I observe farther, That the common People, who were no Philosophers, and never pretende so reason about such Matters, did yet
moft firmly believe this. The Atheistick Philosophers could make very few Profelytes among them. Nature was too powerful for all their Sophiftry; for Men felt something within them, which convinced them of their own Immortality, though they could not Reason or dispute about it. Which shews that it is most natural to Mankind to believe a Fy: ture State, but requires great Art and Industry to be an Infidel. Which makes it reasonable to think, that if ever there were such a People in the World, as never heard of God or another Life, it would be very easy to teach them both. For unprejudiced Nature will easily recover the ImpresGons of Religion, if it find a wise Instructor.
4. I observe farther, That there was no Sect of the Philosophers, except the Epicureans, that de pied the Immortality of the Soul; and they also denied à God, and a Providence; such a God as is the wise and powerful Maker and Governor of the World. There was some difference among the other Philosophers, about the Nature of a Future State ; but they all agreed in this, That the Soul did live after Death. So that we have not only the Consent of the Multitude in this Belief, but of all the wiseft Men in the World, who examined the Reasons and Probabilities of Things, and understood the Sense and Inclination of Nature. And none but a profess’d Atheist, can think the Authority of Epicurus and his School, sufficient to balance all the other Sects of Philosophers.
5. It will add no small Strength to this Argument, to consider, That the better Men were, the more firmly they believed a Future State, Piety and Virtųe even in the Heathen World, raised Men into the more certain Expectations of a happy Life hereafter ; as is evident from Socrates, Plato, and Tully. And this Tully thought a good Argument of the Sense of Nature ; Specimen Naturæ capi debet ex optimâ quâque Natura. It is most reasonable to learn what Nature is, from the most perfect Pattern of Nature. Will you draw a Picture of Human Nature from Nero and Caligula, and such degenerate Monsters, who retain'd nothing of a Man but the external Figure ; or from the great Examples of Wisdom, Prydence, Fortițude, Justice, Temperance, and all other Virtues ? The first only shews the Corruption and Degeneracy of Human Nature ; but in the other we see the Beauties and Perfections of it; and therefore from them also we may best learn what the Belief and Hopes of Nature are. I ain very confident, there cannot one Instance be given, from the Beginning of the World to this Day, of any one truly virtuous Man, who did not believe another Life; and the more firmly believe it, the more yirtuous he was. Though Socrates, as he affected to do in all other Matters, spake doubtfully of a Future State, yet no Man can reasonably question whether he did heartily believe it, when he ventured to die for his Faith; for which he could expect no Reward from God, but in another World. And though wise and virtuous Men, by the mere Light of Reason and Philosophy, could not attain such a full Perfuafion as excluded all Doubt, because their Arguments had not a demonstrative Certainty; yet the strong Sense and Impressions of Nature, and the high Probabilities of Reason, confirmed and strengthened by those Natural Hopes and Expectations of a Reward, created fuch a firm Belief in them, as prevailed over all their Doubts and Jealousies. And this is sufficient to my present Argument. For though this be not a Demonstrative, yet it is the highest Moral Evidence we can have. This, I think, it certainly proves, That Infidelity is not owing to Nature, but to fome unnatural Biass and Inclination ; when not only untaught and unpolished Nature, but the most perfect, the moft refined, the best improved and cultivated Nature, instructs Men in the Belief of a God, and of another World. And if this be true, then the Infidelity of those who have corrupted their Natures, and are fo funk into Flesh and Sense, as to stifle all Natural Impressions; and to Hope, and Fear, and Understand, just as Brutes do, whose Happiness alone they affect and imitate ; is no Objection against the general Consent of Mankind in this Belief
. Nay, 'tis a mighty Argument how strong the Sense of Nature is, that so many Thousands, who by their wicked Lives, have made it their Interest and Choice, that there should be no other Life, yet are not able to deliver themselves from these Fears, but still believe and tremble, as Devils and damned Spirits do.
2. The Univerfal Consent of Mankind in the Belief of the Immortality of the Soul, is nothing less than the Voice and Sense of Nature. For it is unaccountable how all Mankind should agree in this Belief, unless the same Nature which is common to them all, teach this to them all. It is certain all Mankind, all the Nations of the World, never met together in a general Council to agree this Matter, Whether the Soul be Immortal, or not: And therefore this Belief is not Matter of Compact and Agreement. And if it had been so, it had been a very venerable Authority; unless we can think that all Mankind could agree to cheat themselves and all their Pofterity, with such false and groundlefs Hopes.
Now fetting aside this, I can think but of Two possible Reasons for such a general Consent. First, the Senfe of Nature improved and awakened by Reason and Difcourse. For the fame Nature has the same natural Impressions, and therefore will teach or incline them all to believe the same Thing. Or, 2. That this is owing to an universal Tradition, from the Beginning of the World, which in all Ages had been handed down from Father to Son. But the Suppofition of this, which we are willing to own, will do the Infidel no Service, nor us any Harm,
For, I. Such an universal Tradition must suppofe that all Mankind descended from the same common Stock ; as the History of Moses assures us they did : That Adam was the Father of us all: And that gives fome Authority to the Truth of the Mofaical History. For if all Mankind had not the same Original, how should one and the same Tradition be propagated all over the World; especially as to those Nations which for many Ages never conversed with any other Part of the World ; and therefore could not know what the Opinion of the rest of Mankind was, concerning the Immortalịty of the Soul, unless they had carried that Tradition with them into those remote Countries, when they first parted ?
And, 2. If this were a Traditional Doctrine from the Beginning of the World, That the Soul was Immortal, there is great Reason to believe it; for then it must be the Belief of our first Parents, who taught this Doctrine to their Children ; and that is Proof enough that it is owing either to Nature or to Revelation: For the first Man could not have it by Tradition : For if neither Nature taught this, nor God revealed it, how came our first Parents to instruct their Pofterity in it ; and that with such Care, that the Tradition should never be lost ? And yet,
3. It is impossible to imagine, That, were not this Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul founded in the Sense of Nature, it should have been so universally preserved in all the Dispersions of Mankind, through so many successive Generations. There is no doubt that many Thousand Traditions since the beginning of the World, and the Dispersion of Mankind, have been utterly lost; and had not Nature secured this Tradition, it would have been as easily lost as any. For if we may guess at other Ages by our own, there have always been enow in the World, who would have been very glad to lose it. Nay, besides this, when Mankind have lost the very Memory of any such Tradition, and therefore such an ancient Tradition, if there were any such, has lost its Authority, how come all Men still to agree in it, and to believe it so firmly, as never to part with it, if it were not truly the Sense of Nature?