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person, or Messiah, for the recovery of the world; yet not revealed to all men, nor yet proved with the strongest possible evidence to those to whom it is revealed; but made known only to such part of mankind, and with such particular evidence, as God thought fit.
The design of the following Treatise will be to show, that in this Dispensation, the parts which are principally objected to (including its scheme, its publication, and the proof given of its truth), are analogous to the known constitution and course of nature, or Providence. That the chief objections against the former, may as justly be urged against the latter, where they will be found inconclusive;—and that this argument from analogy is generally unanswerable, and always of weight on the side of religion. We will begin with the foundation of all our hopes and fears, -a Future Life.
BOOK I.-CHAPTER I.
OF A FUTURE LIFE.
ARGUMENT.-The Analogy of Nature proves that there is nothing improbable in the belief of a future state of existence; it even furnishes a strong presumption in favour of it, leading us to infer that we shall not be destroyed by death, but shall continue to exist in life and perception after that event. It shows,from a consideration of the surprising changes that take place in the animal world, and even from the different circumstances and condition of our own life and constitution at different periods, from the womb to mature age, that a Future Life, (as different from the present, as the state wherein we are, is from those we have passed through) is highly probable, even on natural grounds, independently of what revealed religion teaches us respecting it.
THE Analogy of Nature, and the several changes we have undergone, and those we may undergo, without
being destroyed, make it probable that we may survive the change produced by death, and exist in a future state of life and perception.
I. Man's birth in helpless and imperfect infancy, contrasted with his state of maturity, makes it evident that the same individual can exist, with capacities of action, enjoyment, and suffering at one period, greatly differing from those of another.
This general law of nature in our own species, holds good in other creatures; the change of worms into flies, the bursting of birds and insects from the shell, and indeed all the transformations of animals, are instances of it.
Man's existence in the womb, and in infancy, contrasted with that of his mature age, is as different as any two states can possibly be imagined to be.
Hence, a future state, of existence, as different (probably) from our present one, as our maturity is from our infant or embryo state, is only according to the analogy of Nature.
II. We know we are endued with capacities of action and passion; for we can act, and can feel pleasure or pain. The possession of these capacities before death, affords a presumption, and even a probability that we shall retain them after death; unless it can be shown that death will destroy them: because, as a general rule, there is a probability that every thing will
continue as we experience it, in all respects, except those in which we have some reason to think it will be altered. This indeed is the kind of probability implied in the word continuance, which induces us to believe that the course of the world will continue to-morrow as it has done to-day; or that any one substance now existing will continue to exist a moment longer,-the Self-Existent Substance only excepted.
If therefore death does not destroy our faculties of perception and action, no other power can be imagined likely to do so, just at the instant of each creature's death; and hence would arise a probability of our living powers continuing after death, if death does not destroy them. Now there does not appear any reasonable ground of apprehension that this will be the case-if there be, it must arise either from the reason of the thing, or from the analogy of nature.
But we cannot argue this from the reason of the thing, because we know not what death is in itself, but only some of its effects, as the dissolution of skin, bones, &c.—which in nowise imply the destruction of a living agent. Besides, we are wholly ignorant upon what the exercise of our living powers depends; as we are also upon what the powers themselves depend. A sleep or swoon shows not only that these powers exist, when not exercised, but also that they exist when there is no present capacity of exercising them. Hence the
powers may exist, though the capacity of exercising them, or the actual exercise of them, be suspended.
As our living powers therefore may depend upon something entirely unconnected with death, no probability arises from the reason of the thing, that death will destroy them.
Neither does the analogy of nature afford this probability. We cannot indeed trace what becomes of animals, when death removes them from our view, and thus destroys the sensible proof we had of their ing living powers; but we have not the slightest presumption that these powers are destroyed thereby. Indeed, the possession of them, up to the very moment we are capable of tracing them, creates a probability that they may still retain them: and this is corroborated by the changes we have experienced in ourselves-changes so great, that our existence in another state will be but analogous to what we have already undergone.
From various causes, however, we are possessed with early and lasting prejudices, that death will be our destruction, and it may be well to show how unfounded these prejudices are.
I. If death be the destruction of living beings, it can only be, on the supposition of their being compounded, and thus discerptible.