« PreviousContinue »
queftion whether he does not excel the gods themselves, who "cannot defcend to earth, without quitting their celeftial manfions; "whereas he measures heaven, without forfaking his earthly taber"nacle; so that, in truth, he is a kind of a mortal god, and they of immortal men."-And he concludes,-man's body is mortal, his foul immortal; and the fubftantial and true man is inftantaneoufly produced by the Supreme Being as light by the fun.”— And Chalcidius reports, that, at his death, he used this expreffion; -“ I am returning to my native country, where my best parents " and relations dwell."
We have only fome fragments of ZOROASTER, who was a more ancient author than Hermes; yet he is reported to have held, not only the immortality of the foul, but the refurrection of the body likewife. And the oracles of the WISE MEN OF CHALDEA, who were his difciples and adherents plainly intimate as much. “Return, "without delay, fays one to your heavenly father, who has infused “in you a foul from above, endued with a bright understanding.” "Seek heaven, fays another, which is the proper habitation for the
foul." And a third fays ;-" The foul has the Deity, as it were, "within it, and is no ways liable to mortality." A fourth declares,
"It is a bright flame produced by the Father, who is in heaven; "that it is incorruptible, and almost contains the vast universe "within it--and at length afferts, that the bodies of the righteous "fhall be glorified hereafter."-All these oracles are mentioned by the Platonills; but more particularly by Pfellus.-They likewise acknowledged, that Pythagoras and Plato learned them from the Chaldeans; and some think, that PLATO referred to them, when he fays, we must believe what the ancient holy oracles have de"clared ;-namely, that the foul is immortal, and must give an ac"count of itself to God in the future ftate."-We can scarce fay more; who live under the Gofpel, which has brought life and immortality to light.
Thus fings HOMER-through his inimitable Translator.
""Tis true, 'tis certain; man, tho' dead, retains.
POPE'S ILIAD. Book XXIII.
"Now I the ftrength of HERCULES behold,
ODYSS. Book XI.
A variety of fimilar paffages might be adduced not only from his fublime works but alfo from the writings of ORPHEUS, HESIOD, PINDAR, and the reft of the ancient poets, which would abundantly demonstrate that the doctrine of a future ftate was universally received in the ages and countries wherein they lived. PYTHAGORAS was of the fame opinion, and held, that the foul was united to the body as a punishment for fuch fins as were committed in a state of pre-existence.—And it is conjectured by many, that he did not hold a transmigration of fouls, notw handing that doctrine cannot be faid to be repugnant to the immortality of the foul-Anu 24. mæus of Locres, one of his difciples, affirms, that his master did not hold it. However that be in his verfes he teaches, that man is of an heavenly extraction, and that he was fent into this world. to contemplate the Deity-One of his difciples fays, "that God, inspired man with reafon." Another, that the ancient divines and prophets held, that the foul was united to, and, as it were,
entombed in the body for its fins.-EPICHARMES fays, "if your foul be endued with virtue, death can have no dominion over you, but you will live to all eternity in heaven." This was the opinion of the philofophers in general, and scarce any of the ancients were so hardy as to maintain the contrary. The noblest testimony, however, of this great truth truth may be collected from the difcourfes of SOCRATES, recorded by Plato, which no doubt, produced the defired effect on those who heard them; fince he confirmed what he afferted, by the refignation of his life with the greateft prefence and tranquility of mind.-As the death of Socrates may furnish many of our contemplative hearers with useful reflections, we fhall venture at an abstract of that affecting narrative, without further apology.-Socrates was condemned to die by his countrymen, the Athenians, for too presumptuously attempting to give them a more awful and adequate idea of the Deity, than what they had received from their poets and philofophers :-He paffed great part of the day appointed for his execution among his friends, and entertained them with his ufual chearfulness.-The subject of their conversation was the immortality of the soul :-What gave rise to this discourse, was a question started, in a manner, by mere accident; namely, Whether it was not the part of a true philosopher to covet death.—As this propofition, taken too literally, implied, that a philofopher might be justified in the act of self-murder; Socrates endeavours to demonstrate, that nothing could poffibly be more unjust, or more absurd, than the indulgence of such a notion; and that, as man was wholly dependent on God, who formed and placed him with his own hand, in the fituation he poffeffes, he could not abandon his poft without his permiffion, nor lay down his life without his abfolute injunction :-What is it then that can induce a philofopher to entertain such a longing after death ?—Nothing, doubtless, but the hope or rather the profpect of that happiness which he ex
pects in another life; and that hope can be founded upon nothing less than a firm belief of the foul's immortality.
In the profecution of his discourse, he explained to his friends all the arguments that could be advanced in favour of what he had afferted, and refuted all the objections of his gain fayers.-And upon fumming up the evidence, he concludes, in terms to this, or the like effect:-"If what I advance upon the immortality of the "foul should prove true, the belief of it cannot but be highly advantageous; and if, after my death, it should prove false, I should "still have the fatisfaction of being lefs fenfible here of the evils "which generally attend this tranfitory life. If what I fay be true,
my gain is immense, my hazard but a trifle; if false, my loss “inconsiderable, and not worthy of regard;-nay, even then I
shall be a gainer.--My friends, continued he, there is one thing "still which juftly deferves our most serious attention: if the foul be "immortal, it requires to be cultivated with the utmost care, not only for its happy ftate in this prefent life, but that which is to 66 come, I mean eternity; and the least neglect in this one par"ticular may be attended with fuch confequences as may prove
fatal, and beyond repair. Were death the final diffolution of "our beings, the wicked would be thereby confiderable gainers; "inasmuch as they would be delivered at once from their bodies, "their fouls, and their vices; but fince the foul is immortal, it "can no other ways be freed from its evils, nor can there be any fecurity for it, through any other means than by the perfon, "whom it animates, becoming very good, and very wife; for it "can carry nothing away with it, except its good or bad deeds, "its virtues or its vices, which are commonly the confequences "of the cultivation it has received, and the grounds on which its "eternal happiness or mifery principally depends.
"When the dead are arrived at the fatal rendezvous of departed fouls, to which their DEMON conducts them, they are all judged. VOL. III, P
"Those who have led their lives in a manner neither wholly "criminal, nor abfolutely innocent, are transported to a place "where they fuffer torments in proportion to their demerits, till "being thoroughly cleansed from all their impurities and after"wards released from their confinement, they receive the reward "of the good actions they have done in the body. Such as are "judged to be beyond all cure, on account of the heinous nature "of their crimes ;-fuch as have been guilty of facrileges, mur“ders, and other offences of fo black a dye; the fatal deftinies, "who pronounce fentence upon them, hurl them headlong into "Tartarus, from whence they can never be discharged. Such, "however, as are criminals indeed, but whofe tranfgreffions are "remiffible; to wit, such as have committed violences only in "the transports of their rage, or have even killed their antagonists " in a heat of paffion, and afterwards repented of their outrage; ❝even fuch are punished, and configned to the fame gloomy place "with the laft; but then it is for a time only, till by their prayers **and fupplications, they have obtained forgiveness from those " whom they have fo unfortunately injured.
"But as for those whofe confciences are clear and blameless, " who have faithfully discharged their duty, as far as in them lay, "both to the gods and to their fellow-creatures, fuch are admitted ❝ into a more refined region; where, as philofophy has fufficiently "purified them, they live difencumbered from their bodies, through "all eternity, in fuch an uninterrupted feries of delights as is not
easy to be described, and which the shortness of my time will not permit me to explain more, at large.
"What I have faid, however, will fuffice, I prefume, to prove "that it is our bounden duty to ufe our utmost endeavours, "throughout the whole courfe of our lives, to acquire virtue and how great a
wisdom; for by this time you must be fenfible, reward, and how high an hope is propofed to us.