that makes them Infidels; and this is but a timorous fort of Infidelity at best.

But fuppofe they could get rid of the Fears of the other World, does this fet them at perfect Liberty? Have they no Senfe of Modesty or Honour? No Fear of Shame or Punishment? And if our vicious Lufts and Appetites must be under Restraint, what difference is there, whether they be reftrained by the Fears of this World, or of the next? But I must recall that, for there is a great Difference: the Fears of the next World will fubdue and mortify our Lufts; and when that is done, we have no more trouble from them, but Virtue grows easy and pleasant: But the Fear of Men only diffembles our Vices, and that makes them very painful when they are restrained; that it is much more for the Eafe and Pleasure of our Lives, to mortify our Lufts with the Fears and Hopes of another World, than to fin by Stealth under the present Restraints of Shame and Fear. So that their Hopes are very vain, when they promise themselves a free, unconfined, undisturbed Enjoyment of their Lufts: For the Fear of the other World, whether they will or no, will fometimes difturb them; and the more Senfe, and Wit, and Philofophy they have, the more it will disturb them; and if the Fear of God do not disturb them; the Shame and Fear of Men will..

But then they do not confider, that Infidelity destroys more fincere Pleasures than it can give, and draws a very melancholy Veil over human Life.

There is not certainly a more transporting Pleasure in this World, than the Hopes of immortal Life, when we can look beyond the Grave and fee endless Ages of Blifs and Happiness: And next to being miferable for ever, there is not a

D 3


[ocr errors]

more difmal Thought, than falling into Nothing, and this is the best which Infidels hope for; and we may pity, but have no reafon to envy, their Hopes.

If a Man be eafy and profperous in this World, nothing can be more terrible than such a Perfuafion, That Death, which will certainly come, and we know not how foon, will put an end, not only to our prefent Enjoyments, but to our Being: And there are few Men fo miferable, as to defire Death fhould ease them upon thefe Terms, to put an end to their Being and to their Miferies together. Few Men are fo dull, as to be impofed on by Epicurus his Fallacy, That Death does not belong to us, and we ought not to be concerned about it; for while we are, Death is not, and when Death is, we are not: For we may fee and think of Death at a diftance, and if Death be nothing to us, the Thoughts of Death, and of being Nothing, muft and will be grievous while we live.

But there is no Condition in this World so profperous, but a good Man will be contented to change it for a more perfect and endless Happiness; and there is no Condition fo miferable, but the Hopes of immortal Life will fupport us under it: So that Infidelity is fo far from contributing to the Eafe and Pleafure of Life, that whether there be another Life or not, the Belief of it is neceffary to make us eafy and happy in this World. It is impoffible indeed to reconcile bad Men, who have treasured up for themselves Wrath against the Day of Wrath, to the Belief and Hopes of another World: But let them look to that, we have no Reafon to be Infidels for Company, or fuffer our felves to be perfuaded out of the Hopes of Heaven, because they are afraid of Hell.

2. I obferve farther, That Death in itself conAdered, is no Argument against a Future State:


[ocr errors]


that we die, does not prove that we shall not live after Death: Death indeed is the Occafion of this Difpute, whether there be another Life, but is no Argument it felf that there is not; no more than the Winter Decays of Nature are against the Return of the Spring; which would be thought as incredible, did we not fee it done every Year. And therefore no Philofophers make this an Objection against a Future State; tho' it is the only Reafon any Man has to queftion our Immortality, because they see that all Men die: And if the only Reafon of doubting whether we are Immortal or no, is no Proof that we are not, fo far we are equal: and the Infidel is as much concerned to prove that there is no Life after Death, as we are to prove that there


This is worth obferving, because it is much easier to object than to prove; and here the Infidel places his Strength and Confidence; he looks upon himfelf in poffeffion, and not concerned to prove our Mortality, becaufe 'tis vifible that we all die; and therefore flings the whole Proof upon us, who affert a Life after Death; and thinks himself fafe, that there is no other Life, unless we can prove with mathematical Certainty and Infallibility, that there is. But now, if Death be no Argument that there is not another Life, if it be poffible that those who die may live again out of their Bodies; then it is not fufficient to give them any reasonable Affurance though they could anfwer all our Arguments for another Life, unless they could as certainly prove the contrary: For if another Life after this, be poffible, though our Arguments are not strict Demonftrations, the thing may be true, if they have no Demonftration against it.

3. Having brought them under a Neceffity of proving the Mortality of the Soul, and that there is no Life after Death, let us now confider what D 4


[ocr errors][merged small]

Degree of Evidence a wife Man ought to demand for this fide of the Queftion, That the Soul is Mortal, and there is no Life after Death. And I affirm, that no wife Man ought to be fatisfied with lefs than the abfolute Impoffibility that the Soul fhould live after the Death of the Body. When we offer to prove the Immortality of the Soul, nothing will fatisfy thefe Men, but ftrict Demonftration; but they little confider,

1. That there is much lefs Evidence required to induce a wife Man to believe another Life, and to govern his Life by this Perfuafion, than what can reasonably fatisfy a wife Man, that there is no Life after this.

For, 1. The Belief of another Life is much the fafeft fide of the Queftion; if we fhould happen to be mistaken in it, it cofts us nothing: We may live much happier in this World than Infidels do, and please our felves with the entertaining Dreams of Future Happiness; which if they should prove no other but Dreams, are very delightful; and if Death puts an End to us, we fhall escape as well in the Grave as Infidels do; but Eternity, the Lofs of Eternal Happiness, and the Suffering of Eternal Miferies, depend on the other fide of the Queftion: If we believe that we fhall perish in the Grave, and live as those who have no Account to give of their Actions, and fhould find our felves mistaken in the next World, we are undone for ever. We ought certainly to demand the greatest Evidence for that fide of the Queftion, where the Miftake will do us the moft irreparable Mifchief: And therefore though fome good Probabilities and ftrong Prefumptions may be reafon enough for a wife man to believe and hope for another Life, when, though he should be miftaken, he fhall never be fenfible of his Miftake,



nor fuffer any thing by it; yet nothing less than abfolute Demonftration can justify the disbelief of another World; because a Miftake in this Cafe is nothing less than Eternal Mifery.

2. Especially, this abfolute Demonftration is neceffary, when we believe any thing contrary to the Natural Notions, Defires, Inclinations of Human Nature, and contrary to the general Belief and Perfuafion of Mankind. Whether these be good Arguments or no for the proof of another Life, fhall be confidered hereafter; but thus much is certain, that they are very good Reasons to demand the most infallible Demonftration that there can be no Life after this, before we reject the Belief of it: Nothing else will excufe us in believing contrary to the Impreffions of Nature, but an abfolute Certainty that these Defires, and Hopes, and Fears of Nature deceive us. It is great Immodefty to contradict, much more to laugh at the Credulity of Mankind, without being able to oppose Demonstration against Credulity. But the greateft Reafon of all is, that nothing lefs can give us abfolute Security in our Infidelity. The Senfe of Nature, especially when all Mankind have the fame Senfe that we have, will be a Bar against every thing but Demonftration, and would make a modeft Man fufpect even his pretended Demonftrations, when the reft of Mankind don't think them fo. Now unless Men be abfolutely fecure in their Infidelity, Infidelity is worth nothing and nothing lefs than mathematical Demonstrations can give them this Security. High Probabilities and Prefumptions on Nature's fide may create a firm Affent; but mere Probabilities and Conjectures can never prevail against the Sense of Nature.

3. Nor do they confider, that nothing can give us an abfolutely Certainty that there is no other Life after this, but the abfolute Impoffibility that


« VorigeDoorgaan »