Immagini della pagina

bilities on the other, this is sufficient to determine a wise Man which side to chuse, when he can have no better Evidence. And therefore to lay this Matter plainly before you, I shall 1. Consider what is said against the Belief of another Life ; and shew

you, That there is not the least appearance of Reason on that side. And, 2 shew you, What Natural Evidence we have for another Life; and answer the Objections against it: and I hope I may expect a fair hearing, while I am pleading the Cause of Mankind, and of Human Nature, against those who would rob us of these glorious Hopes and Expectations of Immortality.

[ocr errors]

That there is no Appearance of Reason against

the Belief of another Life.


O consider what is said against the Belief of

another Life; and that there is not the least

Appearance of Reason on that side,


1. Now in the first place, it will not be amiss to consider what it is, that persuades Men out of the Belief of Immortality, and makes them not only contented to be mortal, but very desirous to prove themselves fo. This is a Secret which our modern Infidels are not willing to own, but Lucretius has honestly confessed the Truth.

Et metus ille foras præceps Acherontis agendus
Funditùs, bumanam qui

vitam turbat ab imo, Omnia suffundens mortis nigrore, neq; ullam Ele voluptatem liquidam puramque relinquit,

That That is, that the Fear of Punishment in the next World, which disturbs bad Men in the secure Enjoyment of their Lusts, and spoils all the Pleasures and Comforts of Life, makes them very unwilling and afraid that there should be another World; and that easily persuades them, that there is none. But I appeal to you all, whether this be not a very bad Foundation for Infidelity, and a reasonable Prejudice against the most plausible Arguments that can be urged for it ; for it has all the Symptoms and Indications, that any thing can have, of its being unnatural. As

1. It is against the Natural Sense of our Minds, that there is an essential difference between Good and Evil, and that good Men deserve to be rewarded and the wicked punished. This is the Cause of their Fear ; this makes them tremble at the Thoughts of another World, where they shall receive according to their Works. If their own Minds do not condemn them for their Wickedness, and threaten the Judgments of God against them, why do they fear another World ? If they do, why do they not begin with the Causes of their Fears, and confute those superstitious Notions of the difference between Good and Evil, and their different Deserts? If there be no difference between Good and Evil, there is no Pretence for Rewards and Punishments; and then there can be no occasion for their Fears. But they begin at the wrong End, when they endeavour to silence their natural Sense of Guilt, and natural Fears of Punishment, by denying another Life: This is to dispute against the Sense of Nature, and to prove, that bad Men shall not be punished; not because they don't deserve it, but because there is no other State to punish them in. But let any Man judge, whether it be not more reafonable and natural to conclude, that if Wickedness deserves to be punished, and natural Consci


once threatens bad Men with a juft Vengeance, there is another State, wherein they shall receive their juft Rewards. I grant, that it is a very effectual way to ftifle the Sense of Good and Evil, if we can prove that there are no future Rewards or Punishments; but it will be impossible to satisfy any Man of this, who acknowledges a difference between Good and Evil; for Men will fear Punishment, when they know they deserve it. It is the hardest thing in the World to get rid of the Natural Sense of the difference between Good and Evil ; because every particular Man, when he has any Kindness or any Injury done him, feels the difference ; and all wellgovern'd Societies are forced, for their own Preservation, to make a difference between then: And it is a very hard thing for any Man to persuade himself that there are no Rewards or Punishinents for good or bad Men, when he is convinced that they deserve Rewards and Punishments. And this is the true Reason why these Fears fo often return upon Atheists and Infidels after all the care they can take to fortify themselves with Arguments against the Belief ofanother World ; especially when any great sufferings overtake them in this World, or they have a near Prospect of Death and Judgment; because the Natural Sense of Good and Evil, and of the Rewards and Punishinents due to good and bad Men is against them. And indeed it is so natural to think, that if there be any difference between Good and Evil, good Men shall be rewarded, and the wicked punished, that, till they can confute this, it is in vain for them to endeavour to persuade theinfelves or others, that there are no Rewards or Punishments in the next World; for this is to confute the Sense of Nature, which may be filenced for some time, but will never be confuted; and when Men pretend only to Reason from Nature, such Argu

ments ܪ

ments as contradict the sense of Nature, can never be natural Arguments.

2. This is also a very unnatural Effect of Fear ; to persuade our selves to reject the Belief of another World, because we are afraid of it. Fear is naturally very jealous and credulous, as Atheists and Infidels themselves confess, when they ascribe the Belief of a God and of another World to Natural Fears ; Primus in Orbe Deos fecit Timor ; That the Belief of a God was at first owing to Fear. This indeed is a very false Account of it ; for it was the Natural Sense of a Deity that poffeffed Men with a Religious Fear and Reverence; but it had been much more probable, had they said, that Fear made Devils, than that it made a God, who is the best of Beings, and a more proper Object of the Love, and Delight, and Admiration of Mankind, than of their Fear. But fo far they are in the right, that it is more natural to Fear to make some frightful and terrible Objects, than it is to laugh or dispute them away; and if, as they say, the universal Belief of a God and of another World be owing to the Natural Superftition, and to the Natural Fears of Mankind, it must certainly be very unnatural, and a great force upon Nature, for Men to turn Atheists and Infidels, to cure the Fears of God, and of another World. Infidelity is acknowledged to be the Effect of Fear, and to be intended for the Cure of it; but it is a very unnatural Effect, if we may judge of Nature by all the rest of Mankind.

But let them adjust this Dispute between Faith and Infidelity, as they can, that Fear made a God, and that Fear banishes the God it had made out of the World again; tho’they find great Difficulty in this, and when they have done all they can, the Apparition of a God does very often scare them; yet thus much we know, that though Fear did not make a God, it is the Natural Principle of that Homage


[ocr errors]

and Worship we pay to him. And if Religion be the Natural Effect of the Fear of God, and it is a good sign that is Natural which is Universal) then Infidelity cannot be founded in Nature. If the Natural Fear of God teaches us to Worship him, that is an unnatural Fear which denies his Being

3. This is also a very unnatural Cure for these Fears. Men are afraid of the Punishments of the next World, and therefore will not believe another Life ; and this is one way indeed to cure these Fears, but a very bad one.

1. For this is not the Remedy which Nature teaches us against these Fears. Another Life, which is Endless and Eternal, is not in it self considered, the Object ofour Fears, but of our Hopes; it is only Guilt that makes us fear ; and the natural Way to cure these guilty Fears, is not to dispute away another World, but to remove our Guilt, to repent of all. our paft Sins, to cease to do evil, and to learn to do well ; and then Fear will give place to Hope, and we shall as earnestly and passionately desire another World, as bad Men reject the Belief of it. This is the proper Natural Cure of guilty Fears, and this reconciles us to another World ; this is the first Natural Thought which such guilty Fears suggest to us, as every Man may feel in himself; and there-i fore Repentance, not Infidelity, is the Voice of Nature." But Men never think of rejecting another Life, till they lay aside the Thoughts of Repentance; and certainly that is not natural. To repent, is an easy, natural, infallible Cure: To disbelieve another World, is a Work of Art and Difficulty, and a force upon Nature, and at best an uncertain Cure ; for Infidelity can give Men no greater Security against Fear, than it does against another World; and those remaining Jealousies and Suspicions, and the fre



« IndietroContinua »