« IndietroContinua »
our Souls should live after the Death of our Bodies : For if it be not impossible, then it may be ; and that is no Demonstration, which admits of a contrary may be. This is a very considerable Difference between proving the Immortality and the Mortality of the Soul. To prove the Soul Immortal, we are not obliged to prove that it is impossible the Soul should ever die, or fall into a State of perfect Insensibility ; but only that there are very great Reafons to believe that it shall not. Plato acknowledged even of his inferior Immortal Gods, that they owed their Immortality to the Will and Pleasure of the Supreme God: For whatever was created out of nothing, may be reduced to nothing again : And we must own more especially, that this is the State of embodied Spirits. But those who undertake to demonstrate that the Soul is Mortal, must demonstrate not only against the Nature of the Soul, but against the Will and the Power of God, (if they own any such Being:) That God neither can, nor will preserve Human Souls Immortal. Nothing is impossible, which is not imposible to God; and then we can prove nothing impossible, which does not imply a manifest Contradiction ; and I suppose no Man will say, that the Immortality of the Soul implies a Contradiction.
4. Having seen what kind of Evidence these Men ought to produce against the Immortality of the Soul, and a future State ; let us now consider what kind of Evidence they have, and whether it amount as it ought to do, to strict Demonstration.
Now, I observę, that these Men never pretend to any Moral, but only Natural Arguments : They plainly enough acknowledge that all Moral Arguments are against them ; such as the difference between Good and Evil ; the Nature of Rewards and Punishments; the Justice and Providence of God in
governing governing the World: Nay they reject some of the best Natural Arguments, such as the Natural Belief and Persuasion of Immortality, which is common to all Mankind; and all Natural Hopes and Fears; which may be called either Natural or Moral Arguments, as being implanted in a Moral Nature.
But the chief Arguments which they place their greatest Confidence in, are purely Natural, which relate to the Philofophy of Soul and Body; and this will satisfy any Man, who understands never so little of the Philosophy of Nature, how shorç such Arguments as these muft fall of Demonstration. What variety of Opinions are there among the ancient Philosophers, about the Nature of the Soul ? And how zealous foever they were for their own Hypothesis, none of them ever pretended to Demonstration. The Philosophy of Nature is a great Secret, and we can know no more of it, than what Observation and Experiment teaches ; which cannot certainly inform us in the Nature and Causes of Things. There may be high Degrees of Probability in fome Hypotheses, above others; but our Knowledge of Nature, at beft, is very imperfect, and far from Demonstration: And is not he a wise Man who will venture his Soul upon his understanding the Philosophy of a Human Soul ?
5. This will still be more evident, if we consider what those Natural Arguments are, whereby they prove the Mortality of the Soul : Which may be reduced to two; its Corporeity; and its perfect Dependance on the Body in all its Actings. And iť few Words will shew you how far these are from Demonstrations.
1. That the Soul is Corporeal, or mere Matter, and therefore muft die with the Body, and cannot live in Separation from it.
As for this Opinion of the Corporeity of the Soul, I may consider it more hereafter; but tho' we
should suppose the Soul to be mere Matter, the Consequence is very far from a Demonstration, That therefore it must die with the Body. Those Philosophers indeed, who made the Soul nothing but the Crasis and harmonious Temperament of the Body, not any distinct Being of it self, but to result as Health does, from the due and equal Composition of the whole, had reason to say, that the Soul must be dissolved together with the Body; for when the Composition is diffolved, the Soul, which owes its Being to that Composition, must diffolve with it. But this was so abfurd and senseless an Opinion, that both Epicurus and Lucretius rejected it; and asferted the Soul, though material, yet to be diftinct from the rest of the Body, and compounded of a peculiar and finer Sort of Atoms. Now though the Soul were Matter, but distinct from the Body, and of a different Sort of Matter from the rest of the Body, why may it not survive the Body? Why may not Human Souls be as Immortal and Incorruptible as the Epicurean Gods, which are as mere Matter as Human Souls? And Aristotle himself thought that there was incorruptible Matter; for luch he made the Heavens, and Heavenly Bodies. However, no Man, who believes there is a God, can doubt, whether the Soul be Body or Spirit, but that God can make it Immortal, if he pleases. It is more reasonable to think, that an Immortal Soul has nothing Mortal or Corruptible in its Constitution, and therefore is not Matter but Spirit. But all Philosophers grant, that Matter it self, though it is variously changed and transformed, does not perish. And tho' all material Compositions may be diffolved, as Spirits themselves may be annihilated by that Power that made them, yet no confidering Man will pretend to demonstrate, that God cannot make a material Soul of such a firm Conftitu. tion, as to be naturally Immortal. And therefore though we should grant the Soul to be Corporeal, this does not prove that it is necessarily Mortal, and muft die with the Body.
2. The second Argument to prove the Soul Mortal, is its dependance upon the Body in all its Actings ; which proves that it cannot subsist and act separately from the Body, and confequently that it must die, or fall into a State of Insensibility with it. Lucretius branches this into about twenty Arguments which are so many Instances of the Soul's dependance on the Body ; some of which are very Childish and Absurd, as well as Unphilofophical ; and none of them prove the main Conclusion which he aims at; as I may have occasion to shew hereafter.
If the Soul and Body are vitally united, whether the Soul be Matter or Spirit, there must be a most near and intimate Sympathy between them ; the Soul must feel all the Impressions of the Body; must rejoice and suffer with it ; its Senfes must be lock'd up with Sleep ; its Understanding must increase and decay with Bodily Organs, which in this State of Union are the Instruments of Action : But this does not prove that the Soul is Corporeal; for thus it must be, though the Soul were Spirit, if it be vitally united to Matter ; for there can be no Vital Union without it. And it is
And it is very absurd to conclude from the dependance of the Soul on the Body in a State of Union, that therefore it can never subsist nor act without its Body, but must live and die with it; when it is demonstrable, that tho' the Soul be Immortal, and can live and act in a separate State from the Body, yet there must be this mutual Sympathy and Dependance of Soul and Body in a State of Union: And nothing can prove
the Soul to be Corporeal and Mortal, which in the fame State would be the very fame in an Immaterial and Immortal Soul. This may suffice to shew you, that the Infidel has no positive Evidence, no fair Probabilities, much less Demonstration, for the Mortality of the Soul: And when there is no Proof that the Soul is mortal, much less Evidence will ferve to persuade us of its Immortality ; though we want not Arguments of all sorts.
The first natural Argument for Immortality,
from the Nature of the Soul.
2. ET us now consider the Natural and Moral
Arguments for a Future State, or that our Souls shall live after Death: That what we call Death, does not extinguish the Soul, but is only a Separation of Soul and Body; that the Body returns unto Dust, and the Spirit returns unto God who gave it.
These Arguments are very well known to all who have ever considered this Matter; and may be reduced to four Heads. 1. From the Nature of the Soul. 2. From the Universal Consent of Mankind in this Belief. 3. From the natural Desire of Immortality. And 4. From the Justice and Providence of God. And I shall distinctly, but briefly consider, what the true Force of each of these Arguments is.
1. First then, we argue from the Nature of human Souls, That they are Immortal, and can and shall live in a separate State after the Death of the Body. There are several Arguments of this Nature'; the first is purely Physical and Philosophical; the rest are of a mix'd Nature, both Natural and Moral.