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according to our Works, is a necessary Reason to consider well what we do, and what Account we can give of our Actions, when God comes to judge the World; which will possess our Souls with a Holy and Religious Fear of God, and make us Wise for Eternity.
This is the very fame Argument which the Belief of a Future State suggests to us, To deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. And seeing all these things shall be disolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and gidliness? And therefore knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.
But though a Future Judgment, and the Rewards and Punishments of the next Life, be the very same Argument; for the whole of the Argument is, that Good Men shall be rewarded, and the Wicked punished; yet a particular Consideration 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 Use to take as near a Prospect of the other World as we can ; to contemplate the unconceivable Happiness of Good Men, and the astonishing Miferies of the Damned, which is the greatest Argument that can be used, because the Happiness and the Miseries 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 Reason and Foun
dation of our Faith and Hope of Immortal Life.
S E C T. I.
That we must resolve the Certainty of our
Faith as to another Life, wholly into a
Efore I proceed particularly to examine those
Descriptions 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 necessary to establish the Belief of a future State.
St. Paul tells us, that the Gospel of our Saviour contains the last and great Confirmation of another Life; for he hath brought Life and Immortality to light by the Gospel. And this is the
only sure Foundation of our Hopes. We want no other Arguments but this: and it seems almost as impertinent and superfluous to use then, as it would be to prove that by Reason which wę know by Sense ; or to insist on some Probabilities and Moral Arguments, when we can demonstrate.
There are many Arguments, as you shall hear, for another Life, which though they cannot demonstrate the absolute Certainty of it, nor force an Affent, yet do very strongly persuade, and have all the Degrees of Probability, and the utmost Evidence that can be had on this side Sense, Demonítration, and Faith: and these are Arguments of good use, and not to be wholly rejected; tho' we must not put the Belief of another Life upon this Ilue, 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 reasonable soever they may be, those who please may dispute them, and those who have no mind to believe may reject them. Whereas that Faith which must govern our Lives, and conquer this World, ought to rest upon a sure and immovable Foundation; and such the Gospel Revelation is. If God has expresly promised another Life, that puts an End to all Disputes, or at most leaves but one, Whether God has made such 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 Gospel of Christ, cannot poffibly doubt whether there be another World, where Good Men shall be rewarded, and the Wicked punished; and therefore he needs no other Arguments to prove this; and, which is
not well consider'd, ought not to build his Faith upon any other; which is of very little Use, and of very dangerous Consequence. And it will not be time ill spent to lay this Matter plainly before you; for I have great Reason to fear, that the Miscarriages of this Nature have given great Advantage to Infidelity.
Of what other use the Natural Arguments for the Immortality of the Soul, and a Future State, åre, I shall consider hereafter:' at present my Business is to shew you, of what dangerous Consequence 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 fach Men are disposed to be Infidels, or at least to be praćtised on by Infidels. For did we heartily believe the Gospel, we could want no other Arguments of a Future State, and should be satisfied we could have no better. And would Men then so 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 some more credible Story, than the Resurrection of our Saviour ? Would Men want any Philosophical Arguments to prove the Immortality of the Soul, and think it a mighty Disparagement to their Faith, if a witty Infidel starts such Objections, as it may be, they know not how to answer? This is at last, whatever we pretend, to resolve our Faith into Reason, not into Revelation, and at best to hazard our Faith in a doubtful Difpute; which may prove very Fatal, if we meet with a Man who understands the Philosophy of Nature better than we do. For if we want Phi
losophy lofophy to make us Christians, it is posible to exchange our Faith for some small shews and appearances of Reason. We may dispute such Matters as thefe, if we be skilled in them, with Atheists and Infidels; but should let them know, that however the Dispute 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 Philosophy prove the Soul to be Immortal or not, the Cafe is the fame; it is to be believed neither more nor less for that, for God can and will do what he hath promised. Had there been no Revelation the best Arguments must have prevailed; but when there is, or is pretended to be a Revelation, the greatest Wit and Subtilty must give place to Revelation, and the only Dispute that can be admitted, is, whether it be a Divine Revelation or not.
I confess, could any Man prove, that it is absolutely impoffible, that the Soul should live in a State of Separation from the Body, this would be a congderable Objection against the Truth of the Revelation, which teaches such a Life after Death: But without confuting the Gospel Revelation, it is impossible to confute the Imniortality of the Soul, and a Future State; and it is certain no Man can, and indeed no Man pretends to prove the Impossibility of a Life after Death; and then all Men must allow this posible, since no Man pretends to prove it to be impoffible. And then what natural Reason does not deny to be possible, and what Revelation affirms to be true and certain, is a proper Object of Faith, if there be any such thing as a