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according to our Works, is a neceffary Reason to confider well what we do, and what Account we can give of our Actions, when God comes to judge the World; which will poffefs our Souls with a Holy and Religious Fear of God, and make us Wife for Eternity.
This is the very fame Argument which the Belief of a Future State fuggefts to us, To deny all ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live foberly, righteously, and godly in this prefent world; looking for that bleffed hope, and glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jefus Chrift. And feeing all these things fhall be diffolved, what manner of perfons ought we to be in all oly converfation and godliness? And therefore knowing the terrors of the Lord, we perfuade men.
But though a Future Judgment, and the Rewards and Punishments of the next Life, be the very fame Argument; for the whole of the Argument is, that Good Men fhall be rewarded, and the Wicked punished; yet a particular Confideration of Heaven and Hell, either makes it a new Argument, or gives new Force to it. The general Argument is Rewards and Punishments: but this Argument differs according to the different degrees of Rewards and Punishments; for the greatest Rewards and Punishments are always the greatest and most powerful Arguments. And therefore, after a Discourse of Death and Judgment, to give the full Strength and Force to the Argument, it will be of great Ufe to take as near a Profpect of the other World as we can; to contemplate the unconceivable Happiness of Good Men, and the aftonishing Miseries of the Damned, which is the greatest Argument that can be used, because the Happiness and the Miferies are the greatest.
Now though we do not know enough of the other World to gratify the Curiosity of Mankind, yet what our Saviour has revealed, (which is all that can be known of it) is abundantly fufficient to raise our Hopes, and inflame our Defires, and awaken our Fears. For if that Account be true which the Gospel gives us of the Happiness and Miseries of the next Life, it is the greatest Happiness and the greatest Misery which human Nature is capable of; as will appear hereafter.
Concerning the true Reafon and Foundation of our Faith and Hope of Immortal Life.
That we must refolve the Certainty of our Faith as to another Life, wholly into a Divine Revelation.
Efore I proceed particularly to examine those Defcriptions our Saviour has given us of the Happiness of Good Men, and the Miseries of the Wicked in the next World, the Infidelity of the Age makes it neceffary to establish the Belief of a future State.
St. Paul tells us, that the Gofpel of our Saviour contains the laft and great Confirmation of another Life; for he hath brought Life and Immortality to light by the Gospel. And this is the only
only fure Foundation of our Hopes. We want no other Arguments but this: and it feems almoft as impertinent and fuperfluous to use them, as it would be to prove that by Reason which we know by Senfe; or to infift on fome Probabilities and Moral Arguments, when we can demonftrate.
There are many Arguments, as you fhall hear, for another Life, which though they cannot demonstrate the absolute Certainty of it, nor force an Affent, yet do very strongly perfuade, and have all the Degrees of Probability, and the utmoft Evidence that can be had on this fide Senfe, Demonstration, and Faith: and these are Arguments of good ufe, and not to be wholly rejected; tho' we must not put the Belief of another Life upon this Iffue, because we have better, more certain, and more convincing Evidence. Our Saviour and his Apoftles never appeal to these Moral Proofs of another Life; which, how reafonable foever they may be, those who please may dispute them, and thofe who have no mind to believe may reject them. Whereas that Faith which must govern our Lives, and conquer this World, ought to reft upon a fure and immovable Foundation; and fuch the Gofpel Revelation is. If God has exprefly promised another Life, that puts an End to all Difputes, or at most leaves but one, Whether God has made fuch a Revelation of his Will; which is much more easily and more ceatainly proved, than we can prove a Future State without it.
Whoever believes the Gofpel of Chrift, cannot poffibly doubt whether there be another World, where Good Men fhall be rewarded, and the Wicked punished; and therefore he needs no other Arguments to prove this; and, which is
not well confider'd, ought not to build his Faith upon any other; which is of very little Ufe, and of very dangerous Confequence. And it will not be time ill spent to lay this Matter plainly before you; for I have great Reafon to fear, that the Mifcarriages of this Nature have given great Advantage to Infidelity.
Of what other ufe the Natural Arguments for the Immortality of the Soul, and a Future State, are, I fhall confider hereafter: at prefent my Business is to fhew you, of what dangerous Confequence it is to want any other Arguments, or to build our Faith upon any other. Arguments, than the Gospel Revelation.
1. For in the first Place this is a Spice of Infidelity; it is an Inclination towards it, and fuch Men are difpofed to be Infidels, or at leaft to be practifed on by Infidels. For did we heartily believe the Gofpel, we could want no other Arguments of a Future State, and fhould be fatisfied we could have no better. And would Men then fo greedily catch at every Story of an Apparition, and contend as zealously for it, as if the belief of another World depended upon it? As if they wanted some better Evidence, or fome more credible Story, than the Refurrection of our Saviour? Would Men want any Philofophical Arguments to prove the Immortality of the Soul, and think it a mighty Difparagement to their Faith, if a witty Infidel ftarts fuch Objections, as it may be, they know not how to anfwer? This is at laft, whatever we pretend, to refolve our Faith into Reason, not into Revelation, and at beft to hazard our Faith in a doubtful Difpute; which may prove very Fatal, if we meet with a Man who underftands the Philofophy of Nature better than we do. For if we want PhiB 3
lofophy to make us Chriftians, it is poffible to exchange our Faith for fome fmall fhews and appearances of Reafon. We may difpute fuch Matters as thefe, if we be fkilled in them, with Atheists and Infidels; but fhould let them know, that however the Difpute ends, our Faith is not concerned in it: for where there is a plain and express Revelation, all Men must grant, that no Arguments can prevail against Revelation which do not confute it. When God has promised Eternal Life, whether I can by Nature and Philofophy prove the Soul to be Immortal or not, the Cafe is the fame; it is to be believed neither more nor Jefs for that, for God can and will do what he hath promifed. Had there been no Revelation the beft Arguments must have prevailed; but when there is, or is pretended to be a Revelation, the greatest Wit and Subtilty muft give place to Revelation, and the only Difpute that can be admitted, is, whether it be a Divine Revelation or not.
I confefs, could any Man prove, that it is abfolutely impoffible, that the Soul fhould live in a State of Separation from the Body, this would be a confiderable Objection against the Truth of the Revelation, which teaches fuch a Life after Death: But without confuting the Gofpel Revelation, it is impoffible to confute the Immortality of the Soul, and a Future State; and it is certain no Man can, and indeed no Man pretends to prove the Impoffibility of a Life after Death; and then all Men must allow this poffible, fince no Man pretends to prove it to be impoffible. And then what natural Reason does not deny to be poffible, and what Revelation affirms to be true and certain, is a proper Object of Faith, if there be any fuch thing as a