« PreviousContinue »
for a Teafon: the day will come, when we shall appear again."As this great man grew near to the day of his diffolution, his idea of the true birth feemed proportionably clearer. For, in his last words he speaks of it with more certainty and confidence than ever.
"There is nothing truly great in this world, fays FAVORINUS, "but man, nor any thing valuable in him, except his foul.-If "thou mountest up to that, thou foarest above the heavens; if "thou stoopest down to the case in which it is lodged, and comparest it with the heavenly bodies, it is lefs than the smallest "infect." By which he more than implies, that in this frail tabernacle of clay there is a divine and incorruptible nature; for how could it otherwife be nobler than the universe?
But not to trespass on your patience by too great a number of quotations, let it fuffice, that all nations in the earliest ages, as well as this in which we now live, had fome kind of religious rites and ceremonies; that they all acknowledged there was some gloomy place fet apart for the torment of the vicious, and fome inexpreffibly happy and delightful fhades for the reception of the virtuous. The more fuperftitious they were, the more firm was their belief in these important particulars; for superstition, as well as true religion, is feated in the foul, and supposes its immortality.It is recorded of fome indian nations that their CHIEFS committed themselves voluntarily to the flames, before they arrived at extreme old age, and called this deliberate action a happy release from a vexatious world, and a discharge of the foul from the body, in which it was imprisoned; and he was deemed the wisest man, who put this act in execution fooneft.-In fome other parts of the world, the very flaves bury themselves alive with their deceased masters without the leaft reluctance; which they, doubtlefs, would never do were they not in fome measure convinced that their fouls were immortal.-The THRACIANS wept at the birth, and rejoiced at
the death of their children, esteeming the latter an happy birth:And HERODOTUs tells us, they were called the immortalizing Thracians. They were of opinion, that when they departed this life, they went to their faviour, the liberal donor of health and happiness.-The GAULS and their DRUIDS; the ETRURIANS and their PRIESTS; the SCYTHIANS and their SAGES, founded all their wisdom on this doctrine, which was fo deeply imprinted on the minds of men, that it was univerfally received.-The difciples of HEGESIAS, the Cyrenian, died with pleasure after hearing him discourse on the immortality of the foul; by which they fhewed how fully they were convinced of fo important a truth. And those few wretches who have difgraced humanity by daring to affert a contrary doctrine never arrived at fo defperate a point of baseness till they had made themselves ftupid and senseless, by a diffolute and irregular courfe of life.
Thus we fee, that all nations were of opinion, that the foul was immortal; though the manner in which it should be glorified remained a, fecret, till the illuftrious Gofpel of our bleffed Saviour was fpread all over the habitable world.-From that time life and immortality were fo brought to light, that ST. AUSTIN, triumphing, as it were, over infidelity, cries out, "Where is now the fool "or wretch fo hardened, as to doubt of the foul's being im"mortal?"-EPICTETUS, a famous ftoic philofopher, has abundance of expreffions to the fame purpose." Are we not ashamed, " fays he, to lead a vicious courfe of life, or to defpair in adverfity, fince we are allied to the Deity; fince we came from him, "and may, if we are not wanting to ourfelves, return to him "again."
An infinite number of inftances of the like kind might be produced from the ancients, were we difpofed to quote, or had you patience to hear them, wherein they fpeak of a future judgment, an heaven, and an hell; the one fet apart as a reward for the VOL. III, Q
righteous, and the other as a place of torment for the wicked, which supposes the immortality of the foul. This doctrine is not only taught in the KORAN of the TURKS, ARABIANS and PERSIANS, but even firmly believed by the barbarous CANIBALS; is no invention of artful philofophers to amufe their difciples, and received by tradition only; but is obvious to reafon without any additional light, and as easy to be believed, as that we have faces, when we behold them in a glass.
Here we shall conclude our quotations; and much I fear, you have thought me too tedious on this topic; but as the proof of the immortality of the foul is the foundation of all religion, we shall think our labour well-bestowed, if we have but confirmed onewavering perfon, or caufed any one, unthoughtful before, to reflect properly on this momentous fubject. Though we are fully convinced, that in this enlightened age there are very few cultivated minds who totally disbelieve this doctrine; none that can bring arguments worthy of notice, or indeed of any weight against it; yet, at the fame time fo prevailing is the fpirit of diffipation that there are multitudes, who never admit the least thought about fuch ferious matters, and too many likewife that endeavour to fifle the evidences of it in their own minds, and flatter themselves that it may poffibly be otherwife. But as we have produced. arguments fufficient, as we imagine, to convince any attentive hearer, that there is no poffibility of the foul's dying. I fhall conclude with accounting, in fome measure, for the obftinate beha-viour, and perverfe opinions of wicked men, and lay before you the reafons, if they may deferve that name, why there have been, in all ages, and even ftill are, fome perfons fo wilfully blind as readily to join with the Sadducees, and affert so abhorrent a doctrine as that there is no refurrection, neither angel nor fpirit."
Firft then, as the belief of a future ftate is no small check, to wicked men in the purfuit of their lawless pleasures, they industri
ously feek arguments to fkreen them from the wrath to come.The most fubtile and determined FREE THINKER cannot but fuppofe that, if there fhould be a life after this, it will, doubtless, be a state of everlasting happiness, or endless mifery: this they must be convinced of, who believe there is a power above us; and as that is a truth too evident to be difputed by any rational being, they must fuppofe likewife that power to be endowed with every perfection; and fince man is, beyond all contradiction, a free agent, and knows both what is good, and what is evil, he is by nature accountable for his behaviour; and it is inconfiftent with common reason to fuppofe that the murderer, adulterer, blafphemer, and the like notorious offenders, who wilfully break through all laws, both human and divine, fhould efcape punishment, seeing that a JUST GOD governs the univerfe and beholds thofe actions in all their odious colours. Now fince it is plain, beyond all difpute, that adequate punishment does not always attend enormous crimes in this life, and fince no man in his fenfes can ever be prevailed on firmly to believe, that he fhall enter into the next, without meeting with wrath and avengement for his paft vicious deportment; the wicked have no refource left, but to deny there is a fupreme Being, and to affirm, that a future ftate is a mere chimera ;-nothing more than the artifice of fome defigning men to keep the world in awe:-As thefe truths, however, have been confidered at large, and every objection we could think of has, I hope, been fatisfactorily refolved, I prefume we may now, without any danger, offer a fuppofition, though abfolutely falfe, in order to fet the folly of thofe in a still more glaring light, who oppofe themselves to the voice of nature; who take pains to deceive their own fouls, and vainly hope that there is no life after this.
Let us fuppofe then for once, a future ftate to be doubtful; this I think is the utmost the most hardened infidel can poffibly contend for, because to affert abfolutely, that there will be no life Q2 after
after this, is a prefumption that no human being ever yet arrived at.-Let us suppose then, I say, that it be a question whether we shall live hereafter or not, and even upon that footing, let us fee, in regard to this particular, whether he who believes, or he who believes not, be the wiser man.
He that doubts of a future ftate can have no pleafing profpect, no idea of future happiness. All his felicity, therefore, must center in temporal enjoyments: Is it in his power, however, to prevent forrow and affliction, pain or fickness?-Is he not liable to be made the fport of fortune, or will his difbelief fecure him from those ills to which all mankind are equally expofed? Should he lead a fober, regular life, what benefit and advantage will accrue from his infidelity?-Why, none at all. He is fober to na purpose:—he has excluded himself from every hope of an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven; thrown away, not fold his birthright, and fet his foul with all her noble endowments upon a level with the brutes that perish. Should he be overwhelmed with forrows, should his worldly affairs prove ruinous, his children disobedient, his friends unkind and unjust, what confolation can he find within his own breast ?-Why, no more than this, that he shall shortly be upon a level with his fellow-brutes, be reduced to dust and ashes, and all his thoughts be buried with him in the grave. A poor comfort indeed; a most abject confolation!
But let us view him, when he draws near to what he calls the period of his forrows; when he is arrived within view of the end of his miferies; when he lies on his bed of fickness; when the wheels of life grow out of order, and when all artful prescriptions of medicine prove ineffectual to his cure: what comfort will his foolish and abfurd opinion then furnish him with ?-Nay, what despair will it not raise in his bewildered mind? He cannot be fure that there will be no hereafter; and if there fhould, to what a deplorable condition must he be then reduced?-He cannot be Lure