Billeder på siden

bilities on the other, this is fufficient to determine a wife Man which fide to chufe, when he can have no better Evidence. And therefore to lay this Matter plainly before you, I fhall 1. Confider what is faid against the Belief of another Life; and fhew you, That there is not the least appearance of Reason on that fide. And, 2 fhew you, What Natural Evidence we have for another Life; and answer the Objections against it: and I hope I may expect a fair hearing, while I am pleading the Caufe of Mankind, and of Human Nature, against those who would rob us of thefe glorious Hopes and Expectations of Immortality.


That there is no Appearance of Reafon against the Belief of another Life.



O confider what is faid against the Belief of another Life; and that there is not the leaft Appearance of Reason on that fide,

1. Now in the first place, it will not be amifs to confider what it is, that perfuades Men out of the Belief of Immortality, and makes them not only contented to be mortal, but very defirous to prove themselves fo. This is a Secret which our modern Infidels are not willing to own, but Lucretius has honestly confeffed the Truth.

Et metus ille foras præceps Acherontis agendus
Funditùs, humanam qui vitam turbat ab imo,
Omnia fuffundens mortis nigrore, neq; ullam
Effe voluptatem liquidam puramque relinquit.


That is, that the Fear of Punishment in the next World, which disturbs bad Men in the fecure Enjoyment of their Lufts, and fpoils all the Pleasures and Comforts of Life, makes them very unwilling and afraid that there fhould be another World; and that easily perfuades them, that there is none. But I appeal to you all, whether this be not a very bad Foundation for Infidelity, and a reafonable Prejudice against the most plaufible Arguments that can be urged for it; for it has all the Symptoms and Indications, that any thing can have, of its being unnatural. As

1. It is against the Natural Senfe of our Minds, that there is an effential difference between Good and Evil, and that good Men deferve to be rewarded and the wicked punished. This is the Caufe of their Fear; this makes them tremble at the Thoughts of another World, where they fhall receive according to their Works. If their own Minds do not condemn them for their Wickedness, and threaten the Judgments of God against them, why do they fear another World? If they do, why do they not begin with the Causes of their Fears, and confute thofe fuperftitious Notions of the difference between Good and Evil, and their different Deserts? If there be no difference between Good and Evil, there is no Pretence for Rewards and Punishments; and then there can be no occafion for their Fears. But they begin at the wrong End, when they endeavour to filence their natural Senfe of Guilt, and natural Fears of Punishment, by denying another Life: This is to dispute against the Senfe of Nature, and to prove, that bad Men shall not be punished, not because they don't deserve it, but because there is no other State to punish them in. But let any Man judge, whether it be not more reasonable and natural to conclude, that if Wickedness deserves to be punished, and natural Confci


once threatens bad Men with a juft Vengeance, there is another State, wherein they shall receive their juft Rewards. I grant, that it is a very effectual way to stifle the Senfe of Good and Evil, if we can prove that there are no future Rewards or Punishments; but it will be impoffible to fatisfy any Man of this, who acknowledges a difference be-. tween Good and Evil; for Men will fear Punishment, when they know they deferve it. It is the hardest thing in the World to get rid of the Natural Senfe of the difference between Good and Evil because every particular Man, when he has any Kindness or any Injury done him, feels the difference; and all well govern'd Societies are forced, for their own Preservation, to make a difference between them: And it is a very hard thing for any Man to perfuade himself that there are no Rewards or Punishments for good or bad Men, when he is convinced that they deserve Rewards and Punishments. And this is the true Reason why thefe Fears fo often return upon Atheists and Infidels after all the care they can take to fortify themselves with Arguments against the Belief of another World; efpecially when any great fufferings, overtake them in this World, or they have a near Profpect of Death and Judgment; because the Natural Senfe of Good and Evil, and of the Rewards and Punishments due to good and bad Men is against them. And indeed it is fo natural to think,. that if there be any difference between Good and Evil, good Men shall be rewarded, and the wicked punished, that, till they can confute this, it is in vain for them to endeavour to perfuade themselves or others, that there are no Rewards or Punishments in the next World; for this is to confute the Senfe of Nature, which may be filenced for fome time, but will never be confuted; and when Men pretend only to Reafon from Nature, fuch Argu


ments as contradict the fenfe of Nature, can never be natural Arguments.

2. This is also a very unnatural Effect of Fear; to perfuade our felves to reject the Belief of another World, because we are afraid of it. Fear is naturally very jealous and credulous, as Atheists and Infidels themselves confefs, when they afcribe the Belief of a God and of another World to Natural Fears; Primus in Orbe Deos fecit Timor; That the Belief of a God was at firft owing to Fear. This indeed is a very falfe Account of it; for it was the Natural Senfe of a Deity that poffeffed Men with a Religious Fear and Reverence; but it had been much more probable, had they said, that Fear made Devils, than that it made a God, who is the best of Beings, and a more proper Object of the Love, and Delight, and Admiration of Mankind, than of their Fear. But fo far they are in the right, that it is more natural to Fear to make fome frightful and terrible Objects, than it is to laugh or difpute them away; and if, as they fay, the univerfal Belief of a God and of another World be owing to the Natural Superstition, and to the Natural Fears of Mankind, it must certainly be very unnatural, and a great force upon Nature, for Men to turn Atheists and Infidels, to cure the Fears of God, and of another World. Infidelity is acknowledged to be the Effect of Fear, and to be intended for the Cure of it; but it is a very unnatural Effect, if we may judge of Nature by all the reft of Mankind.

But let them adjust this Difpute between Faith and Infidelity, as they can, that Fear made a God, and that Fear banishes the God it had made out of the World again; tho' they find great Difficulty in this, and when they have done all they can, the Apparition of a God does very often fcare them; yet thus much we know, that though Fear did not make a God, it is the Natural Principle of that Homage


and Worship we pay to him. And if Religion be the Natural Effect of the Fear of God, (and it is a good Sign that is Natural which is Univerfal) then Infidelity cannot be founded in Nature. If the Natural Fear of God teaches us to Worship him, that is an unnatural Fear which denies his Being.

3. This is alfo a very unnatural Cure for thefe Fears. Men are afraid of the Punishments of the next World, and therefore will not believe another Life; and this is one way indeed to cure these Fears, but a very bad one.

1. For this is not the Remedy which Nature teaches us against thefe Fears. Another Life, which is Endless and Eternal, is not in it felf confidered, the Object of our Fears, but of our Hopes; it is only Guilt that makes us fear; and the natural Way to cure thefe guilty Fears, is not to difpute away another World, but to remove our Guilt, to repent of all our paft Sins, to ceafe to do evil, and to learn to do well; and then Fear will give place to Hope, and we shall as earnestly and paffionately defire another World, as bad Men reject the Belief of it. This is the proper Natural Cure of guilty Fears, and this reconciles us to another World; this is the first Natural Thought which fuch guilty Fears fuggeft to us, as every Man may feel in himfelf; and there-i fore Repentance, not Infidelity, is the Voice of Nature. But Men never think of rejecting another Life, till they lay aside the Thoughts of Repentance; and certainly that is not natural. To repent, is an eafy, natural, infallible Cure: To disbelieve another World, is a Work of Art and Difficulty, and a force i upon Nature, and at best an uncertain Cure; for Infidelity can give Men no greater Security against Fear, than it does against another World; and those remaining Jealoufies and Sufpicions, and the fre


« ForrigeFortsæt »