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between our bodily powers of sensation, and present powers of reflection; since these latter may be exercised without any assistance from our body, and that often in a lively manner to the last; there seems no probability that death, (which destroys the body) will even so much as discontinue or suspend the powers of reflection': so that our posthumous life may be only a continuance of our present one, with certain additions; and thus death may correspond to our birth, which does not suspend or totally change the life we had in the womb, but continues it with certain alterations and additions: hence death may introduce us into a more enlarged state of life, and into new scenes, with greater capacities and a more extensive sphere of action.
But even should death suspend all our powers, the experience of a sleep or a swoon shows, that suspension is not destruction.
Hence, leaving speculations, and arguing from experience; as there appears no probability, from the reason of the thing, that living agents will ever cease
1 The destruction of vegetables affords no argument from analogy against this supposition, because they possess not what human beings do, viz. perception and action. Neither, again, with respect to brutes, does it seem in the least probable that they are endued with any latent capacities of a rational and moral nature: the economy of the universe might require such creatures, and all objections may be at once answered by adverting to our own ignorance, and utter incompetency to understand the whole subject.
to be such, so there is none from the analogy of
As religion implies a future state, any presumption against that state, is a presumption against religion. And the foregoing observations remove not only all presumptions of that sort, but also prove, to a very considerable degree of probability, one fundamental doctrine of our religion, viz., the probability of a future state, which if seriously believed, would dispose the mind to attend to the general evidence of the whole.
ARGUMENT.-The probability of a Future Life being established, there are strong arguments from analogy, to prove that it will be one either of happiness or misery, dependent on our actions here. Daily experience shows that God exercises a sort of government over mankind in this world, by His having attached certain painful or pleasurable results to certain modes of conduct. He gives us a capacity of foreseeing, in many cases, the consequences of our actions, and thus makes our happiness or misery here dependent upon our own choice.
Hence, the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future world, is only analogous to what we already experience in this; and there is, therefore, clearly
nothing incredible in what Religion teaches us, viz., "that our happiness or misery hereafter, depends upon our conduct here."
Ir from Analogy, or any thing else, it appears that our happiness or misery hereafter, depends upon our actions here, the consideration of a Future Life is very important; and we should be actively solicitous to behave so, as to escape the misery and secure the happiness, which we thus believe to be put into our own power.
Now, in the present state, all we enjoy, and a great part (though not all) of what we suffer, is put in our own power. For pleasure and pain are the consequences of our actions, and we are endued by the Author of our nature with capacities of foreseeing those consequences. Our lives can only be preserved by care to provide proper sustenance; and objects of gratification can neither be generally obtained nor enjoyed, but by certain exertions on our part. By prudence we can enjoy tolerable ease and quiet; as by rashness, passion, or negligence, we may make ourselves utterly miserable.
Why the Author of Nature does not make his creatures happy without the instrumentality of their actions, and prevent them from bringing misery upon themselves, is a question that might afford ground for
a variety of speculations; but perhaps there may be somewhat in the end and mode of God's government of the world, beyond the reach of our faculties, and as impossible for us to have any conception of, as for a blind man to have conception of colours. However, it is matter of universal experience, that under the Divine administration, we have capacities of foreseeing that from certain modes of conduct, will result certain enjoyments or sufferings.
"But all this is to be ascribed to the general course of nature." True;-yet not surely to the mere words or ideas," course of nature," but to Him who appointed that course of things, called from its uniformity, natural, and necessarily implying an operating Agent. If then the natural course of things be the appointment of God, and our natural faculties of knowledge and experience be given by Him; then the consequences which follow our conduct are His appointment, and our foresight of these consequences, is a warning given us by Him how we are to act.
Hence God having given us to understand that He has appointed the consequences of our actions, either to afford us pleasure or pain, according to the nature of those actions,-which consequences uniformly follow, we learn that we are at present actually under His government; and that, in the strictest sense, He rewards and punishes us for our actions; the previous