-- Inter silvas academi quærere verum.
Hor. lib. II. epist.2. v.45.
To search out truth in academic groves.
THE course of my last speculation led me insensibly into a subject upon which I always meditate with great delight, I mean the immortality of the soul. I was yesterday walking alone in one of my friend's woods, and lost myself in it, very agreeably, as I was running over in my mind the several arguments that establish this great point, which is the basis of morality, and the source of all the pleasing hopes and secret joys that can arise in the heart of a reasonable creature. I considered those several proofs drawn,
First, from the nature of the soul itself, and particularly its immateriality, which, though not absolutely necessary to the eternity of its duration, has, I think, been evinced to almost a demonstration.
Secondly, from its passions and sentiments, as particularly from its love of existence, its horror of annihilation, and its hopes of immortality, with that secret satisfaction which it finds in the practice of virtue, and that uneasiness which follows in it upon the commission of vice.
Thirdly, from the nature of the Supreme Being, whole justice, goodness, wisdom and veracity, are all concerned in this great point.
But among these and other excellent arguments for the immortality of the soul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progress of the soul, to its perfection, without a possibility of ever arriving at it; which is a hint that I do not remember to have seen opened and improved by others who have written on this subject, though it seems to me to carry a great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the soul, which is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, shall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created? Are such abilities made for no purpose? A brute arrives at a point of perfection that he can never pass; in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of; and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul thus at a stand in her accomplishments, were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of further enlargements, I could imagine it might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state of annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being, that is in a perpetual progress of improvements, and travelling on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of its Creator, and made a few discoveries of his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, must perish at her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her enquiries?
A man, considered in his present state, seems only sent into the world to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a successor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him.
-- -- Hæres
Hæredem alterius, velut unda supervenit undam.
Hor. lib. II. Epist.2. v.175.
Heir urges on his predecessor heir,
Like wave impelling wave.
He does not seem born to enjoy life, but to deliver it down to others. This is not surprising to consider in animals, which are formed for our use, and can finish their business in a short life. The silk-worm, after having spun her task, lays her eggs and dies. But a man can never have taken in his full measure of knowledge, has not time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage. Would an infinitely wise Being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose? Can he delight in the production of such abortive intelligences, such short-lived reasonable beings? Would he give us talents that are not to be exerted? Capacities that are never to be gratified? How can we find that wisdom, which shines through all his works, in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a nursery for the next, and believing that the several generations of rational creatures, which rise up and disappear in such quick successions, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterwards to be transplanted into a more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity?
There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant consideration in religion than this, of the perpetual progress which the soul makes towards the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at a period in it. To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength, to consider that she is to shine for ever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge; carries in it something wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect pleasing to God himself, to see his creation for ever beautifying in his eyes, and drawing nearer to him, by greater degrees of resemblance.
Methinks this single consideration, of the progress of a finite spirit to perfection, will be sufficient to extinguish all envy in inferior natures, and all contempt in superior. That cherubim, which now appears as a God to a human soul, knows very well, that the period will come about in eternity, when the human soul shall be as perfect as he himself now is: nay, when she shall look down upon that degree of perfection, as much as she now falls short of it. It is true, the higher nature still advances, and by that means preserves his distance and superiority in the scale of being: but be knows how high soever the station is, of which he stands possessed at present, the inferior nature will at length mount up to it, and shine forth in the same degree of glory.
With what astonishment and veneration may we look into our own souls, where there are such hidden stores of virtue and knowledge, such inexhausted sources of perfection! We know not yet what we shall be, nor will it ever enter into the heart of man to conceive the glory that will be always in reserve for him. The soul, considered with its Creator, is like one of those mathematical lines that may draw nearer to another for all eternity, without a possibility of touching it: and can there be a thought so transporting as to consider ourselves in these perpetual approaches to him, who is not only the standard of perfection, but of happiness!
Nescio quomodo inhæret in mentibus quasi seculorum quoddam augurium fututorum; idque in maximis, ingeniis altissimisque animis existit maxime et apparet facillime.
Cic. Tusc. Quæst.
There is, I know not how, deeply imprinted in the minds of men a certain presage, as it were, of a future existence; and this takes the deepen root, and is most discoverable in the greatest geniuses and most elevated minds.
To the SPECTATOR.
|I AM fully persuaded, that one of the best springs of generous and worthy actions, is the having generous and worthy thoughts of ourselves. Whoever has a mean opinion of the dignity of his nature will act in no higher a rank than he has allotted himself in his own estimation. If he considers his being as circumscribed by the uncertain term of a few years, his designs will be contracted into the same narrow span he imagines is to bound his existence. How can he exalt his thoughts to any thing great and noble, who only believes that, after a short turn on the stage of this world, he is to sink into oblivion, and to lose his consciousness for ever?
For this reason, I am of opinion that so useful and elevated a contemplation as that of the soul's immortality cannot be resumed too often. There is not a more improving exercise to the human mind than to be frequently reviving its own great privileges and endowments, nor a more effectual means to awaken in us an ambition raised above low objects and little pursuits, than to value ourselves as heirs of eternity.
It is a very great satisfaction to consider the best and wisest of mankind in all nations and ages, asserting as with one voice this their birth-right, and to find it ratified by an express revelation. At the same time, if we turn our thoughts inward upon ourselves, we may meet with a kind of secret sense concurring with the proofs of our own immortality.
You have in my opinion raised a good presumptive argument from the increasing appetite the mind has to knowledge, and to the extending its own faculties, which cannot be accomplished, as the more restrained perfection of lower creatures may in the limits of a short life. I think another probable conjecture may be raised from our appetite to duration itself, and from a reflection on our progress through the several stages of it. We are complaining, as you observe in a former speculation, of the shortness of life, and yet are perpetually hurrying over the parts of it, to arrive at certain little settlements, or imaginary points of rest, which are dispersed up and down in it.
Now, let us consider what happens to us when we arrive at these imaginary points of rest. Do we stop our motion, and sit down satisfied in the settlement we have gained? or are we not removing the boundary, and marking out new points of rest, to which we press forward with the like eagerness, and which cease to be such as fast as we attain them? Our case is like that of a traveller upon the Alps, who should fancy that the top of the next hill must end his journey, because it terminates his prospect; but he no sooner arrives at it, than he sees new ground and other hills beyond it, and continues to travel on as before.
This is so plainly every man's condition in life, that there is no one who has observed any thing but may observe, that as fast as his time wears away, his appetite to something future remains. The use therefore I would make of it is this, that since nature (as some love to express it) does nothing in vain; or, to speak properly, since the Author of our being has planted no wandering passion in it, no desire which has not its object, futurity is the proper object of the passion so constantly exercised about it; and this restlessness in the present, this assigning ourselves over to farther stages of duration, this successive grasping at something still to come, appears to me (whatever it may to others) as a kind of instinct, or natural symptom, which the mind of man has of its own immortality.
I take it at the same time for granted, that the immortality of the soul is sufficiently established by other arguments: and if so, this appetite, which otherwise would be very unaccountable and absurd, seems very reasonable, and adds strength to the conclusion. But I am amazed when I consider there are creatures capable of thought, who, in spite of every argument, can form to themselves a sullen satisfaction in thinking otherwise. There is something so pitifully mean in the inverted ambition of that man who can hope for annihilation, and please himself to think that his whole fabric shall one day crumble into dust, and mix with the mass of inanimate beings; that it equally deserves our admiration and pity. The mystery of such men's unbelief is not hard to be penetrated; and indeed amounts to nothing more than a sordid hope that they shall not be immortal, because they dare not be so.
This brings me back to my first observation, and gives me occasion to say further, that as worthy actions spring from worthy thoughts, so worthy thoughts are likewise the consequence of worthy actions: but the wretch who has degraded himself below the character of immortality, is very willing to resign his pretensions to it, and to substitute, in its room, a dark negative happiness in the extinction of his being.
The admirable Shakespear has given us a very strong image of the unsupported condition of such a person in his last minutes in the second part of King Henry VI. where Cardinal Beaufort, who had been concerned in the murder of the good Duke Humphrey, is represented on his death-bed. After some short confused speeches, which shew an imagination disturbed with guilt, just as he is expiring, King Henry standing by him full of compassion, says,
Lord Cardinal! if thou thinkest on heaven's bliss,
Hold up thy hand, make signal of that hope!
He dies, and makes no sign!
The despair which is here shewn, without a word or action on the part of the dying person, is beyond what could he painted by the most forcible expressions whatever,
I shall not pursue this thought further, but only add, that as annihilation is not to be had with a wish, so it is the most abject thing in the world to wish it. What are honour, fame, wealth, or power, when compared with the generous expectation of a being without end, and a happiness adequate to that being? I am,
Your most obedient
To live in joyful hope becomes the wise.
THE time present seldom affords sufficient employment to the mind of man. Objects of pain or pleasure, love or admiration, do not lie thick enough together in life to keep the soul in constant action and supply an immediate exercise to its faculties. In order therefore to remedy this defect, that the mind may not want business, but always have materials for thinking, she is endued with certain powers that can recal what is passed, and anticipate what is to come.
That wonderful faculty which we call the memory is perpetual1y looking back, when we have nothing present to entertain us. It is like those repositories in several animals that are filled with stores of their former food, on which they may ruminate when their present pasture fails.
As the memory relieves the mind in her vacant moments, and prevents any chasms of thought by ideas of what is past, we have other faculties that agitate and employ her upon what is to come. These are the passions of hope and fear.
By these two passions we reach forward into futurity, and bring up to our present thoughts objects that lie hid in the remotest depths of time. We suffer misery and enjoy happiness before they are in being: we can set the sun and stars forward, or lose sight of them by wandering into those retired parts of eternity, when the heavens and earth shall be no more.
By the way, who can imagine that the existence of a creature is to be circumscribed by time, whose thoughts are not? But I shall, in this paper, confine myself to that particular passion which goes by the name of hope.
Our actual enjoyments are so few and transient, that man would be a very miserable being were he not endued with this passion, which gives him a taste of those good things that may possibly come into his possession. |We should hope for every thing that is good,| says the old poet Linus, |because there is nothing which may not be hoped for, and nothing but what the gods are able to give us.|
Hope quickens all the still parts of life, and keeps the mind awake in her most remiss and indolent hours. It gives habitual serenity and good humour. It is a kind of vital heat in the soul that cheers and gladdens her, when he does not attend to it. It makes pain easy, and labour pleasant.
Beside these several advantages which rise from hope, there is another which is none of the least, and that is, its great efficacy in preserving us from setting too high a value on present enjoyments. The saying of Cæsar is very well known. When he had given away all his estate in gratuities among his friends, one of them asked what he had left for himself? To which that great man replied, Hope. His natural magnanimity hindered him from prising what he was certainly possessed of, and turned all his thoughts upon something more valuable that he had in view. I question not but every reader will draw a moral from this story, and apply it to himself without my direction.
The old story of Pandora's box (which many of the learned believe was formed among the Heathens upon the tradition of the fall of man) shews us how deplorable a state they thought the present life without hope. To set forth the utmost condition of misery, they tell us that our forefather, according to the Pagan theology, had a great vessel presented him by Pandora upon his lifting up the lid of it, says the fable, there flew out all the calamities and distempers incident to men, from which, till that time, they had been altogether exempt. Hope, who had been inclosed in the cup with so much bad company, instead of flying off with the rest, stuck so close to the lid of it that it was shut down upon her.
I shall make but two reflections upon what I have hitherto said. First, that no kind of life is so happy as that which is full of hope, especially when the hope is well grounded, and when the object of it is of an exalted kind, and in its nature proper to make, the person happy who enjoys it. This proposition must be very evident to those who consider how few are the present enjoyments of the most happy man, and how insufficient to give him an entire satisfaction and acquiescence in them.
My next observation is this, that a religious life is that which most abounds in a well-grounded hope, and such an one as is fixed on objects that are capable of making us entirely happy. This Hope in a religious man, is much more sure and certain than the hope of any temporal blessing, as it is strengthened not only by reason, but by faith. It has at the same time its eye perpetually fixed on that state, which implies, in the very notion of it, the most full and the most complete happiness.
I have before shewn how the influence of hope in general sweetens life, and makes our present condition supportable, if not pleasing; but a religious hope has still greater advantages. It does not only bear up the mind under her sufferings, but makes her rejoice in them, as they may be the instruments of procuring her the great and ultimate end of all her hope.
Religious hope has likewise this advantage above any other kind of hope, that it is able to revive the dying man, and to fill his mind not only with secret comfort and refreshment, but sometimes with rapture and transport. He triumphs in his agonies, whilst the soul springs forward with delight to the great object which she has always had in view, and leaves the body with an expectation of being reunited to her in a glorious and joyful resurrection.
I shall conclude this essay with those emphatical expressions of a lively hope, which the Psalmist made use of in the midst of those dangers and adversities which surrounded him; for the following passage had its present and personal, as well as its future and prophetic sense. |I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.|
For we are his offspring. Acts xvii.28.
To the SPECTATOR.
IT has been usual to remind persons of rank, on great occasions in life, of their race and quality, and to what expectations they were born: that by considering what is worthy of them, they may be withdrawn from mean pursuits, and encouraged to laudable undertakings. This is turning nobility into a principle of virtue, and making it productive of merits, as it is understood to have been originally a reward of it.
It is for the like reason, I imagine, that you have, in some of your speculations, asserted to your readers the dignity of human nature. But you cannot be insensible that this is a controverted doctrine; there are authors who consider human nature in a very different view, and books of maxims have been written to shew the falsity of all human virtues. The reflexions which are made on this subject usually take some tincture from the tempers and characters of those that make them. Politicians can resolve the most shining actions among men into artifice and design; others, who are soured by discontent, repulses, or ill usage, are apt to mistake their spleen for philosophy; men of profligate lives, and such as find themselves incapable of rising to any distinction among their fellow-creatures, are for pulling down all appearances of merit, which seem to upbraid them; and Satirists describe nothing but deformity. From all these hands we have such draughts of mankind as are represented in those burlesque pictures, which the Italians call Caracatures; where the art consists in preserving amidst distorted proportion and aggravated features, some distinguishing likeness of the person, but in such a manner as to transform the most agreeable beauty into the most odious monster.
It is very disingenuous to level the best of mankind with the worst, and for the faults of particulars to degrade the whole species. Such methods tend not only to remove a man's good opinion of others, but to destroy that reverence for himself, which is a great guard of innocence, and a spring of virtue.
It is true indeed, that there are surprising mixtures of beauty and deformity, of wisdom and folly, virtue and vice, in the human make; such a disparity is found among numbers of the same kind; and every individual, in some instances, or at some times, is so unequal to himself, that man seems to be the most wavering and inconsistent being in the whole creation. So that the question in morality, concerning the dignity of our nature, may at first sight appear like some difficult question in Natural Philosophy, in which the arguments on both sides seem to be of equal strength. But as I began with considering this point, as it relates to action, I shall here borrow an admirable reflection from Monsieur Pascal, which I think sets it in its proper light.
It is of dangerous consequence, says he, to represent to man how near he is to the level of beasts, without shewing him at the same time his greatness. It is likewise dangerous to let him see his greatness without his meanness. It is more dangerous yet to leave him ignorant of either; but very beneficial that he should be made sensible of both. Whatever imperfections we may have in our nature, it is the business of religion and virtue to rectify them, as far as is consistent with our present state. In the mean time, it is no small encouragement to generous minds to consider that we shall put them all off with our mortality. That sublime manner of salutation with which the Jews approached their kings,
O king, live for ever!
may be addressed to the lowest and most despised mortal among us, under all the infirmities and distresses with which we see him surrounded. And whoever believes the immortality of the soul, will not need a better argument for the dignity of his nature, nor a stronger incitement to actions suitable to it.
I am naturally led by this reflection to a subject I have already touched upon in a former letter, and cannot without pleasure call to mind the thoughts of Cicero, to this purpose, in the close of his book concerning old age. Every one who is acquainted with his writings will remember, that the elder Cato is introduced in that discourse as the speaker, and Scipio and Lelius as his auditors. This venerable person is represented looking forward as it were from the verge of extreme old age, into a future state, and rising into a contemplation on the unperishable part of his nature, and its existence after death. I shall collect part of his discourse; and, as you have formerly offered some arguments for the soul's immortality, agreeable both to reason and the Christian doctrine, 1 believe your readers will not be displeased to see how the same great truth shines in the pomp of Roman eloquence.
|This, (says Cato,) is my firm persuasion, that since the human soul exerts itself with so great activity, since it has such a remembrance of the past, such a concern for the future; since it is enriched with so many arts, sciences, and discoveries, it is impossible but the being which contains all these must be immortal.
The Elder Cyrus, just before his death, is represented by Xenophon speaking after this manner. Think not, my dearest children, that when I depart from you, I shall be no more, but remember, that my soul, even while I lived among you, was invisible to you; yet by my actions you were sensible it existed in this body. Believe it therefore existing still, though it be still unseen. How quickly would the honours of illustrious men perish after death, if their souls performed nothing to preserve their fame? For my, own part I could never think that the soul, which in a mortal body, lives: but when departed out of it, dies: or that its conscioulness is lost when it is discharged out of an unconscious habitation. But when it is freed from all corporeal alliance, then it truly exists. Further, since the human frame is broken by death, tell us what becomes of its parts? It is visible where the materials of other beings are translated, namely, to the source from whence they had their birth. The soul alone, either present or departed, is not the object of our eyes.
Thus Cyrus. But to proceed. No one shall persuade me, Scipio, that your worthy father, or your grandfathers, Paulus and Africanus, or Africanus' father, or uncle, or many other excellent men whom I need not name, performed so many actions to be remembered by posterity, without being sensible that futurity was their right. And, if I may be allowed an old man's privilege, to speak of myself, do you think I would have endured the fatigue of so many wearisome days and nights, both at home and abroad, if I imagined that the same boundary which is set to my life must terminate my glory! Were it not more desirable to have worn out my days in ease and tranquility, free from labour and without emulation? but I know not how, my soul has always raised itself, and looked forward on futurity, in this view and expectation, that when it shall depart out of life; it shall then live for ever; and if this were not true, that the mind is immortal, the souls of the most worthy would not, above all others, have the strongest impulse to glory.
What besides this is the cause that the wisest men die with the greatest equanimity, the ignorant with the greaten concern? Does it not seem, that those minds which have the most extensive views, foresee they are removing to a happier condition, which those of a narrower sight do not perceive! 1, for my part, am transported with the hope of seeing your ancestors, whom I have honoured and loved, and am earnestly desirous of meeting not only those excellent persons whom I have known, but those too of whom I have heard and read, and of whom I myself have written; nor would I be detained from so pleasing a journey. O happy day! when I final escape from this croud, this heap of pollution, and be admitted to that divine assembly of exalted spirits! when I shall go not only to those great persons I have named, but to my Cato, my son, than whom a better man was never born; and whose funeral rites I myself performed, whereas he ought rather to have attended mine. Yet has not his soul deserted me, but seeming to call back a look on me, is gone before to those habitations to which it was sensible I should follow him. And though I might appear to have borne my loss with courage, I was not unaffected with it, but I comforted myself in the assurance that it would not be long before we should meet again, and be divorced no more.|
I am, Sir, &c.
-- Nec morti esse locum -- Virg. Geog. IV. v.262.
No room is left for death. Dryden.
A LEWD young fellow seeing an aged hermit go by him barefooted, |Father,| says he, |you are in a very miserable condition if there is not another world.| True son said the hermit; |but what is thy condition if there is?| Man is a creature designed for two different states of being, or rather for two different lives. His first life is short and transient; his second permanent and lasting. The question we are all concerned in is this: In which of these two lives is it our chief interest to make ourselves happy? Or, in other words, Whether we should endeavour to secure to ourselves the pleasures and gratifications of a life which is uncertain and precarious, and at its utmost length of a very inconsiderable duration; or to secure to ourselves the pleasures of a life which is fixed and settled, and will never end? Every man, upon the first hearing of this question knows very well which side of it he ought to close with. But however right we are in theory, it is plain that in practice we adhere to the wrong side of the question. We make provisions for this life, as though it were never to have an end, and for the other life, as though it were never to have a beginning.
Should a spirit of superior rank, who is a stranger to human nature, accidentally alight upon the earth, and take a survey of its inhabitants, what would his notions of us be? Would not he think that we are a species of beings made for quite different ends and purposes than what we really are? Must not he imagine that we were placed in this world to get riches and honours? Would not he think that it was our duty to toil after wealth, and station, and title? Nay, would not he believe we were forbidden poverty by threats of eternal punishment, and enjoined to pursue our pleasures under pain of damnation! He would certainly imagine that we were influenced by a scheme of duties quite opposite to those which are indeed prescribed to us. And truly, according to such an imagination, he must conclude that we are a species of the most obedient creatures in the universe; that we are constant to our duty, and that we keep a steady eye on the end for which we were sent hither.
But how great would be his astonishment, when he learned that we were beings not designed to exist in this world above threescore and ten years? and that the greatest part of this busy species fall short even of that age? How would he be lost in horror and admiration, when he should know that this set of creatures, who lay out all their endeavours for this life, which scarce deserves the name of existence; when, I say, he should know that this set of creatures are to exist to all eternity in another life, for which they make no preparations? Nothing can be a greater disgrace to reason than that men, who are persuaded of these two different states of being, should be perpetually employed in providing for a life of threescore and ten years, and neglecting to make provision for that which, after many myriads of years, will be still new, and still beginning; especially when we consider that our endeavours for making ourselves great, or rich, or honourable, or whatever else we place our happiness in, may, after all, prove unsuccessful; whereas, if we constantly and sincerely endeavour to make ourselves happy In the other life, we are sure that our endeavours will succeed, and that we shall not be disappointed in our hope.
The following question is started by one of the schoolmen. Supposing the whole body of the earth were a great ball or mass of the finest sand, and that a single grain or particle of this sand should be annihilated every thousand years; supposing then that you had it in your choice to be happy all the while this prodigious mass of sand was Consuming by this slow method till there was not a grain of it left, on condition you were to be miserable for ever after; or supposing that you might be happy for ever after, on condition you would be miserable till the whole mass of sand were thus annihilated at the rate of one sand in a thouand years: which of these two cases would you make your choice?
It must be confessed in this case, so many thousands of years are to the imagination as a kind of eternity, though in reality they do not bear so great a proportion to that duration which is to follow them, as an unit does to the greatest number which you can put together in figures, or as one of those sands to the supposed heap. Reason therefore tells us, without any manner of hesitation, which would be the better part in this choice. However, as I have before intimated, our reason might in such a case be so overset by the imagination, as to dispose some persons to sink under the consideration of the great length of the first part of this duration, and of the great distance of that second duration which is to succeed it. The mind, I say, might give itself up to that happiness which is at hand, considering that it is so very near, and that it would last very long. But when the choice we actually have before us, is this, whether we will chuse to be happy for the space only of threescore and ten, nay, perhaps of only twenty or ten years, I might say of only a day or an hour, and miserable to all eternity; or, on the contrary, miserable for this short term of years, and happy for a whole eternity; what words are sufficient to express that folly and want of consideration, which, in such a case, makes a wrong choice?
1 here put the case even at the worst, by supposing what seldom happens, that a course of virtue makes us miserable in this life; but if we suppose, as it generally happens, that virtue would make us more happy even in this life than a contrary course of vice; how can we sufficiently admire the stupidity or madness of those persons who are capable of making so absurd a choice?
Every wise man therefore will consider this life only as it may conduce to the happiness of the other, and cheerfully sacrifice the pleasures of a few years to those of an eternity.
Sentio te sedem hominum ac domum contemplari, quæ si tibi parva (ut est) ita videtur, hæc coelestia semper spectato; illa humana contemnito.
Cic. Somn. Scip.
I understand, you contemplate the abode and habitation of men; which if it seem so small to you, as indeed it is, direct your views continually to heavenly objects, and contemn those that are earthly.
THE following essay comes from the ingenious author of the letter upon novelty, printed in a late Spectator; the notions are drawn from the Platonic way of thinking, but as they contribute to raise the mind, and may inspire noble sentiments of our own future grandeur and happiness, I think it well deserves to be presented to the public.
|If the universe be the creature of an intelligent mind, this mind could have no immediate regard to himself in producing it. He needed not to make trial of his omnipotence, to be informed what effects were within its reach; the world, as existing in his eternal idea, was then as beautiful as now it is drawn forth into being; and in the immense abyss of his essence are contained far brighter scenes than will be ever set forth to view; it being impossible that the great author of nature should bound his power by giving existence to a system of creatures so perfect, that he cannot improve upon it by any other exertions of his almighty will. Between finite and infinite there is an unmeasured interval, not to be filled up in endless ages; for which reason, the most excellent of God's works must be equally short of what his power is able to produce, as the most imperfect, and may be exceeded with the same ease.
This thought hath made some imagine, (what, it must be confessed, is not impossible,) that the unfathomed space is ever teeming with new births, the younger still inheriting a greater perfection than the elder. But, as this doth not fall within my present view, I shall content myself, with taking notice, that the consideration now mentioned proves undeniably, that the ideal worlds in the divine understanding yield a prospect incomparably more ample, various and delightful than any created world can do; and that therefore, as it is not to be supposed that God should make a world merely of inanimate matter, however diversified or inhabited only by creatures of no higher an order than brutes; so the end for which he designed his reasonable offspring, is the contemplation of his works, the enjoyment of himself, and in both to be happy, having, to this purpose, endued them with correspondent faculties and desires. He can have no greater pleasure from a bare review of his works, than from the survey of his own ideas, but we may be assured that he is well pleased in the satisfaction derived to beings capable of it, and, for whose entertainment, he hath erected this immense theatre. Is not this more than an intimation of our immortality? Man, who when considered as on his probation for a happy existence hereafter, is the most remarkable instance of divine wisdom: if we cut him off from all relation to eternity, is the most wonderful and unaccountable composition in the whole creation. He hath capacities to lodge a much greater variety of knowledge than he will be ever master of, and an unsatisfied curiosity to tread the secret paths of nature and providence; but, with this, his organs, in their present structure, are rather fitted to serve the necessities of a vile body, than to minister to his understanding and, from the little spot to which he is chained, he can frame but wandering guesses concerning the innumerable worlds of light that encompass him, which, though in themselves of a prodigious bigness, do but just glimmer in the remote spaces of the heavens: and when, with a great deal of time and pains, he hath laboured a little way up the steep ascent of truth, and beholds with pity the grovelling multitude beneath, in a moment his foot slides, and he tumbles down headlong into the grave.
Thinking on this, I am obliged to believe, in justice to the Creator of the world, that there is another state when man shall be better situated for contemplation, or rather have it in his power to remove from object to object, and from world to world: and be accommodated with senses, and other helps, for making the quickest and most amazing discoveries. How does such a genius as Sir Isaac Newton, from amidst the darkness that involves human understanding, break forth, and appear like one of another species! The vast machine, we inhabit, lies open to him, he seems not unacquainted with the general laws that govern it; and while with the transport of a philosopher he beholds and admires the glorious work, he is capable of paying at once a more devout and more rational homage to his maker. But alas! how narrow is the prospect even of such a mind? and how obscure to the compass that is taken in by the ken of an angel: or of a soul but newly escaped from its imprisonment in the body! For my part, I freely indulge my soul in the confidence of its future grandeur; it pleases me to think that I, who know so small a portion of the works of the Creator, and with slow and painful steps creep up and down on the surface of this globe, shall ere long shoot away with the swiftness of imagination, trace out the hidden springs of nature's operation, be able to keep pace with the heavenly bodies in the rapidity of their career, be a spectator of the long chain of events in the natural and moral worlds, visit the several apartments of the creation, know how they are furnished and how inhabited, comprehend the order, and measure the magnitudes. and distances of those orbs, which to us seem disposed without any regular design, and set all in the same circle; observe the dependence of the parts of each system, and, if our minds are big enough, to grasp the theory of the several systems upon one another, from whence results the harmony of the universe. In eternity a great deal may be done of this kind. I find it of use to cherish this generous ambition; for besides the secret refreshment it diffuses through my soul, it engages me in an endeavour to improve my faculties, as well as to exercise them conformably to the rank I now hold among reasonable beings, and the hope I have of being once advanced to a more exalted station.
The other, and that the ultimate end of man, is the enjoyment of God, beyond which he cannot form a wish. Dim at best are the conceptions we have of the Supreme Being, who, as it were, keeps his creatures in suspense, neither discovering, nor hiding himself; by which means the Libertine hath a handle to dispute his existence, while the most are content to speak him fair, but in their hearts prefer every trifling satisfaction to the favour of their Maker, and ridicule the good man for the singularity of his choice. Will there not a time come, when the Free-thinker shall see his impious schemes overturned, and be made a convert to the truths he hates; when deluded mortals shall be convinced of the folly of their pursuits, and the few wise who followed the guidance of heaven, and, scorning the blandishments of sense and the sordid bribes of the world, aspired to a celestial abode, shall stand possessed of their utmost wish in the vision of the Creator? Here the mind heaves a thought now and then towards him, and hath some transient glances of his pretence: when in the instant it thinks itself to have the fastest hold, the object eludes its expectations, and it falls back tired and baffled to the ground. Doubtless there is some more perfect way of conversing with heavenly beings. Are not spirits capable of mutual intelligence, unless immersed in bodies, or by their intervention? Must superior natures depend on inferior for the main privilege of sociable beings, that of conversing with, and knowing each other? What would they have done, had matter never been created? I suppose, not have lived in eternal solitude. As incorporeal substances are of a nobler order, so be sure, their manner of intercourse is answerably more expedite and intimate. This method of communication we call intellectual vision, as somewhat analogous to the sense of seeing, which is the medium of our acquaintance with this visible world. And in some such way can God make himself the object of immediate intuition to the blessed; and as he can, it is not improbable that he will, always condescending, in the circumstances of doing it, to the weakness and proportion of finite minds. His works but faintly reflect the image of his perfections, it is a secondhand knowledge; to have a just idea of him, it may be necessary that we see him as he is. But what is that? It is something that never entered into the heart of man to conceive; yet, what we can easily conceive, will be a fountain of unspeakable, of everlasting rapture. All created glories will fade and die away in his presence. Perhaps it will be my happiness to compare the world with the fair exemplar of it in the divine mind! perhaps to view the original plan of those wise designs that have been executing in a long succession of ages. Thus employed in finding out his works, and contemplating their author, how shall I fall prostrate and adoring, my body swallowed up in the immensity of matter, my mind in the infinitude of his perfections!|
Multa putans, sortemque animo miseratus iniquam. Virg. Æneid. VI. v.332.
Revolving in his breast their fate unkind,
A gen'rous pity fills his pious mind.
IN compassion to those gloomy mortals, who by their unbelief are rendered incapable of feeling those impressions of joy and hope, which the celebration of the late glorious Easter festival naturally leaves on the mind of a Christian, I shall in this paper endeavour to evince that there are grounds to expect a future state, without supposing in the reader any faith at all, not even the belief of a Deity. Let the most stedfast unbeliever open his eyes, and take a survey of the sensible world, and then say, if there be not a connexion and adjustment, an exact and constant order discoverable in all the parts of it. Whatever be the cause, the thing itself is evident to all our faculties. Look into the animal system, the passions, senses, and locomotive powers, is not the like contrivance and propriety observable these too! Are they not fitted to certain ends, and are they not by nature directed to proper objects?
Is it possible then that the smallest bodies should, by a management superior to the wit of man, be disposed, in the most excellent manner, agreeable to their respective natures; and yet the spirits or souls of men be neglected, or managed by such rules as fall short of man's understanding? Shall every other passion be rightly placed by nature, and shall that appetite of immortality, natural to all mankind, be alone misplaced, or designed to be frustrated? Shall the industrious application of the inferior animal powers in the meanest vocations be answered by the ends we propose, and shall not the generous efforts of a virtuous mind be rewarded! In a word, shall the corporeal world be all order and harmony, the intellectual discord and confusion? He, who is bigot enough to believe these things, must bid adieu to that natural rule of reasoning from analogy; must run counter to that maxim of common sense, that men ought to form their judgments of things unexperienced from what they have experienced.
If any thing looks like a recompence of calamitious virtue on this side the grave, it s either an assurance that thereby we obtain the favour and protection of Heaven, and shall, whatever befals us in this, in another life meet with a just return, or else that applause and reputation, which is thought to attend virtuous actions. The former of these, our Free-thinkers, out of their singular wisdom and benevolence to mankind, endeavour to erase from the minds of men. The latter can never be justly distributed in this life, where so many ill actions are reputable, and so many good actions disesteemed or misinterpreted; where subtile hypocrisy is placed in the most engaging light, and modest virtue lies concealed; where the heart and the soul are hid from the eyes of men, and the eyes of men are dimmed and vitiated. Plato's sense in relation to this point is contained in his Gorgias, where he introduces Socrates speaking after this manner:
|It was in the reign of Saturn provided by a law, which the gods have since continued down to this time, that they who had lived virtuously and piously upon earth, should after death enjoy a life full of happiness, in certain islands appointed for the habitation of the blessed; but that such as had lived wickedly should go into the receptacle of damned souls, namely Tartarus, there to suffer the punishments they deserved. But in all the reign of Saturn, and in the beginning of the reign of Jove, living judges were appointed, by whom each person was judged in his lifetime in the same day on which he was to die. The consequence of which was, that they often passed wrong judgments. Pluto, therefore, who presided in Tartarus, and the guardians of the blessed islands, finding that, on the other side, many unfit persons were sent to their respective dominions, complained to Jove, who promised to redress the evil. He added, the reason of these unjust proceedings is that men are judged in the body. Hence many conceal the blemishes and imperfections of their minds by beauty, birth and riches; not to mention, that at the time of trial there are crouds of witnesses to attest their having lived well. These things mislead the judges, who being themselves also of the number of the living are surrounded each with his own body, as with a veil thrown over his mind. For the future, therefore, it is my intention that men do not come on their trial till after death, when they shall appear before the judge, disrobed of all their corporeal ornaments. The judge himself too shall be a pure unveiled spirit, beholding the very soul, the naked soul, of the party before him. With this view I have already constituted my sons, Minos and Radamanthus, judges, who are natives of Asia and Æacus, a native of Europe. These, after death, shall hold their court in a certain meadow, from which there are two roads, leading the one to Tartarus, the other to the islands of the blessed.|
From this, as from numberless other passages of his writings, may be seen Plato's opinion of a future date. A thing therefore in regard to us so comfortable, in itself so just and excellent, a thing so agreeable to the analogy of nature, and so universally credited by all orders and ranks of men, of all nations and ages, what is it that should move a few men to reject? Surely there must be something of prejudice in the case. I appeal to the secret thoughts of a Free-thinker, if he does not argue within himself after this manner: The senses and faculties I enjoy at present are visibly designed to repair, or preserve the body from the injuries it is liable to in its present circumstances. But in an eternal state, where no decays are to be repaired, no outward injuries to be fenced against, where there are no flesh and bones, nerves, or blood vessels, there will certainly be none of the senses; and that there should be a state of life without the senses it is inconceivable.
But as this manner of reasoning proceeds from a poverty of imagination, and narrowness of soul in those that use it, I shall endeavour to remedy those defects, and open their views, by laying before them a case which, being naturally possible, may perhaps reconcile them to the belief of what is supernaturally revealed.
Let us suppose a man blind and deaf from his birth, who being grown to a man's estate, is by the dead palsy, or some other cause, deprived of his feeling, tasting, and smelling; and at the same time has the impediment of his hearing removed, and the film taken from his eyes: what the five senses are to us, that the touch, taste, and smell were to him. And any other ways of perception of a more refined and extensive nature were to him as inconceivable, as to us those are, which will one day be adapted to perceive those things which |eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.| And it would be just as reasonable in him to conclude, that the loss of those three senses could not possibly be succeeded by any new inlets of perception; as in a modern Free-thinker to imagine there can be no state of life and perception without the senses he enjoys at present. Let us further suppose the same person's eyes, at their first opening, to be struck with a great variety of the most gay and pleasing objects, and his ears with a melodious concert of vocal and instrumental music: behold him amazed, ravished, transported and you have same distant representation, same faint and glimmering idea of the ecstatic state of the soul in that article in which she emerges from this sepulchre of flesh into life and immortality.
Labitur et labetur in omne volubilus avum.
Hor. epost. II. I.1. v.43.
It glides, and will for ever glide along.
THERE are none of your speculations which please me more than those upon infinitude and eternity. You have already considered that part of eternity which is past; and I wish you would give us your thoughts upon that which is to come.
Your readers will perhaps receive greater pleasure from this view of eternity than the former, since we have every one of us a concern in that which is to come; whereas a speculation on that which is past is rather curious than useful.
Besides, we can easily conceive it possible for successive duration never to have an end though, as you have justly observed, that eternity which never had a beginning is altogether incomprehensible; that is, we can conceive an eternal duration which may be, though we cannot an eternal duration which hath been; or, if I may use the philosophical terms, we may apprehend a potential, though not an actual eternity.
This notion of a future eternity, which is natural to the mind of man, is an unanswerable argument that he is a being designed for it: especially if we consider that he is capable of being virtuous or vicious here; that he hath faculties improvable to all eternity; and, by a proper or wrong employment of them, may be happy or miserable throughout that infinite duration. Our idea indeed of this eternity is not of an adequate or fixed nature, but is perpetually growing and enlarging itself towards the object, which is too big for human comprehension. As we are now in the beginning of existence, so shall we always appear to ourselves as if we were for ever entering upon it. After a million or two of centuries, some considerable things already past may slip out of our memory, which, if it be not strengthened in a wonderful manner, may possibly forget that ever there was a sun or planets, and yet notwithstanding the long race that we shall then have run, we shall still imagine ourselves just starting from the goal, and find no proportion between that space which we know had a beginning, and what we are sure will never have an end.
But I shall leave this subject to your management, and question not but you will throw it into such lights as shall at once improve and entertain your reader.
I have, inclosed, sent you. a translation of the speech of Cato on this occasion, which hath accidentally fallen into my hands, and which, for conciseness, purity, and elegance of phrase, cannot be sufficiently admired.
ACT. V. SCENE I.
CATO solus, &c.
SIC, sic se habere rem necesse prorsus est,
Ratione vincis, do lubens manus, Plato.
Quid enim dedisset. Qua dedit frusta nihil,
Æternitatis insitam cupidinem
Natura? Quorsum hæc duelis expectatio;
Vitæque non explenda melioris sitis?
Quid vult sibi aliud iste redeundi in nihil
Horror, sub imis quemque agens præcordiis?
Cur terita in se refugit anima, cur tremit
Attonita, quoties, morte ne pareat, timet?
Particula nempe est cuique nascenti indita
Divinior; quæ corpus incolens agit;
Hominique, succinit, tua est Æternitas.
Æternitas! O lubricum nimis aspici,
Mixtumque dulci gaudium formidine!
Quæ demigrabitu alia hinc in corpora?
Quæ terra mox incognita? Quis orbis novus,
Manet incolendus? Quanta erit mutatio?
Hæc intuenti spatia mihi quaqua patent
Immensa: sed calignosa nox premit;
Nec luce clara vult videra frugula.
Figendus his pes; certa sunt hæc hactenus:
Si quod gubernet numen humanum genus,
(At, quod gubernet, esse clamant omnia)
Virtute non gaudere certe non potest:
Nec esse non beata, qua gaudet potest
Sed qua beata sede? Quove in tempore?
Hæc quanta quanta terra, tota est Cæsaris.
Quid dubius hæret animus usque adeo? Brevi
Hic nodum hic omnem expediet. Arma en imduor.
[Ensi manum admovens.
In utramque partem facta; quæque vim inserant,
Et quæ propulsent? Dextera intentat necem
Vitam sinistra: vulnus hÆc dabit manus:
Altera medelam vulneris; hic ad exitum
Deducet, ictu simplici; hæc vetant mori.
Secura ridet anima mucronis minas,
Ensesque strictos, interire nescia.
Extinguet ætas sidera diuturnior:
Ætate languens ipse sol obscurius
Emittet orbi consenescenti jubar:
Natura et ipsa sentiet quondam vices
Ætatis; annis ipsa deficiet gravis;
At tibi juventus, at tibi immortalita;
Tibi parta divum est vita. Periment mutuis
Elementa sese et interibunt ictibus:
Tu permanibis sola semper integra,
Tu cunctu rerum quassa cuncta naufraga,
Jum portu in ipso tuta, contemplabere.
Compage rupta, corruent in se invicem,
Orbesque fractic ingerentur orbibus;
Illæsa tu sedebis extra fragmina.
ACT. V. SCENE I.
CATO alone, &c.
IT must be so -- Plato, thou reason'st well --
Else whence this pleasinng hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into nought? Why shrinks the soul
Back on herself and startles at destruction?
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
'Tis heav'n itself that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man.
Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought!
Through what variety of untri'd being,
Through what new scenes and changes must we pass?
The wide, th' unbounded prospect lies before me;
But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.
Here will I hold. If there's a pow'r above us,
(And that there is, all nature cries aloud
Through all her works,) he must delight in virtue;
And that which he delights in must be happy.
But when! or where! -- This world was made for Caesar. I'm weary of conjectures. -- This must end em.
[Laying his hand on his sword.
Thus am I doubly arm'd my death and life,
My bane and antidote are both before me,
This in a moment brings me to an end;
But this informs me I shall never die.
The soul secur'd in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds.
Igneus est ollis vigor, et cælestis origo
Seminibus -- -- Virg. Æneid. VI. v.730.
Th' ethereal vigour is in all the same,
And ev'ry soul is fill'd with equal flame. Dryden.
THE same faculty of reason and understanding which placeth us above the brute part of the creation, doth also subject our minds to greater and more manifold disquiets than creatures of an inferior rank are sensible of. It is by this that we anticipate future disasters, and oft create to ourselves real pain from imaginary evils, as well as multiply the pangs arising from those which cannot be avoided.
It behoves us therefore to make the best use of that sublime talent, which, so long as it continues the instrument of passion, will serve only to make us more miserable, in proportion as we are more excellent than other beings.
It is the privilege of a thinking being to withdraw from the objects that solicit his senses, and turn his thoughts inward on himself. For my own part, I often mitigate the pain arising from the little misfortunes and disappointments that chequer human life by this introversion of my faculties, wherein I regard my own soul as the image of her Creator, and receive great consolation from beholding those perfections which testify her divine original, and lead me into some knowledge of her everlasting archetype.
But there is not any property or circumstance of my being that I contemplate with more joy than my immortality. I can easily overlook my present momentary sorrow, when I reflect that it is in my power to be happy a thousand years hence. If it were not for this thought I had rather be an oyster than a man; the most stupid and senseless of animals, than a reasonable mind, tortured with an extreme innate desire of that perfection which it despairs to obtain.
It is with great pleasure that I behold in reason, and faith, concurring to attest this comfortable truth. It is revealed from heaven, it is discovered by philosophers, and the ignorant unenlightened part of mankind have a natural propensity to believe it. It is an agreeable entertainment to reflect on the various shapes under which this doctrine has appeared in the world. The Pythagorean transmigration, the sensual habitations of the Mahometan, and the shady realms of Pluto, do all agree in the main points, the continuation of our existence, and the distribution of rewards and punishments, proportioned to merits or demerits of men in this life.
But in all these schemes there is something gross and improbable that shocks a reasonable and speculative mind; whereas nothing can be more rational and sublime than the Christian idea of a future state. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered, into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for those that love him. The above mentioned schemes are narrow transcripts of our present state: but in this indefinite description there is something ineffably great and noble. The mind of man must be raised to a higher pitch, not only to partake the enjoyments of the Christian paradise, but even to be able to frame any notion of them.
Nevertheless, in order to gratify our imagination, and by way of condescension to our low way of thinking, the ideas of light, glory, a crown, &c. are made use of to adumbrate that which we cannot directly understand. |The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters: and God than wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away, and behold all things are new. There shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun for the Lord God giveth them light, and shall make them drink of the river of his pleasures: and they shall reign for ever and ever. They shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away.|
These are cheering reflections: and I have often wondered that men could be found so dull and phlegmatic, as to prefer the thought of annihilation before them, or so ill-natured as to endeavour to persuade mankind to the disbelief of what is so pleasing and profitable even in the prospect; or so blind as not to see that there is a Deity, and if there be, that this scheme of things flows from his attributes, and evidently corresponds with the other parts of his creation.
I know not how to account for this absurd turn of thought, except it proceed from a want of other employment, joined with an affectation of singularity. I shall therefore, inform our modern Free-thinkers of two points, whereof they seem to be ignorant. The first is, that it is not the being singular, but being singular for something that argues either extraordinary endowments of nature, or benevolent intententions to mankind, which draws the admiration and esteem of the world. A mistake in this point naturally arises from that confusion of thought which I do not remember to have seen so great instances of in any writers, as in certain modern Free-thinkers.
The other point is, that there are innumerable objects within the reach of a human mind, and each of these objects may be viewed in innumerable lights and positions, and the relations arising between them are innumerable. There is, therefore, an infinity of things whereon to employ their thoughts, if not with advantage to the world, at least with amusement to themselves, and without offence or prejudice to other people. If they proceed to exert their talent of Free-thinking in this way, they may be innocently dull, and no one take any notice of it. But to see men without either wit or argument pretend to run down divine and human laws, and treat their fellow-subjects with contempt for professing a belief of those points on which the present as well as future interest of mankind depends, is not to be endured. For my own part, I shall omit no endeavours, to render their persons as despicable, and their practices as odious, in the eye of the world, as they deserve.
-- Solemque suum, seu sidera norunt. Virg. Ænid. VI. v.641.
Stars of their own, and their own suns they know.
I HAVE already taken a particular pleasure in examining the opinions which men of different religions, different ages, and different countries, have entertained concerning the immortality of the soul, and the state of happiness, which they promise themselves in another world. For whatever prejudices and errors human nature lies under, we find that either reason, or tradition from our first parents, has discovered to all people something in these great points which bears analogy to truth, and to the doctrines opened to us by divine revelation. I was lately discoursing on this subject with a learned person, who has been very much convertsant among the inhabitants of the more western parts of Afric. Upon his conversing with several in that country, he tells me that their notion of heaven, or of a future state of happiness, is this, that every thing we there wish for will immediately present itself to us. We find, say they, our souls are of such a nature that they require variety, and are not capable of being always delighted with the same objects. The Supreme Being, therefore, in compliancy: with this taste of happiness which he has planted in the soul of man, will rise up, from time to time, say they, every gratification which it in the humour to be pleased with. If we wish to be in groves or bowers, among running streams or falls of water, we shall immediately find ourselves in the midst of such a scene as we desire. If we would be entertained with music and the melody of sounds, the concert arises upon our wish, and the whole region about us is filled with harmony. In short, every desire will be followed by fruition, and whatever a man's inclination directs him to, will be present with him. Nor is it material, whether the Supreme Power creates in conformity to our wishes, or whether he only produces such a change in our imagination, as makes us believe ourselves conversant among those scenes which delight us. Our happiness will be the same, whether it proceed from external objects, or from the impressions of the Deity upon our own private fancies. This is the account which I have received from my learned friend. Notwithstanding this system of belief be in general very chimerical and visionary, there is something sublime in its manner of considering the influence of a divine Being on a human soul. It has also, like most other opinions of the Heathen world, upon these important points; it has, I say, its foundation in truth, as it supposes the souls of good men, after this life, to be in a state of perfect happiness; that in this state there will be no barren hopes, no fruitless wishes; and that we shall enjoy every thing we can desire. But the particular circumstance which I am must pleased with in this scheme, and which arises from a just reflection upon human nature, is that variety of pleasures which it supposes the souls of good men will be possessed of in another world. This I think highly probable, from the dictates both of reason and revelation. The soul consists of many faculties, as the understanding and the will, with all the senses, both outward and inward; or, to speak more philosophically, the soul can exert herself in many different ways of action. She can understand, will, imagine, see, and hear, love, and discourse, and apply herself to many other of the like exercises of different kinds and natures but what is more to be considered, the soul is capable of receiving a most exquisite pleasure and satisfaction from the exercise of any of these its powers, when they are gratified with their proper objects: she can be entirely happy by the satisfaction of the memory, the sight, the hearing, or any other mode of perception. Every faculty is as a distinct state in the mind, and hath objects accommodated to its proper relish. Dr. Tillotson somewhere says, that he will not presume to determine in what consists the happiness of the blessed. Because God Almighty is capable of making the soul happy by ten thousand different ways. Besides those several avenues to pleasure which the soul is endued with in this life, it is not impossible, according to the opinions of many eminent divines, but there may be new faculties in the souls of good men made perfect, as well as new senses in their glorified bodies. This we are sure of, that there will be new objects offered to all those faculties which are essential to us.
We are likewise to take notice, that every particular faculty is capable of being employed on a very great variety of objects. The understanding, for example, may be happy in the contemplation of moral, natural, mathematical, and other kinds of truth. The memory likewise may turn itself to an infinite multitude of objects, especially when the soul shall have passed through the space of many millions of years, and shall reflect with pleasure on the days of eternity. Every other faculty may be considered in the same extent.
We cannot question but that the happiness of a soul will be adequate to its nature, and that it is not endued with any faculties which are to lie useless and unemployed. The happiness is to be the happiness of the whole man and we may easily conceive to ourselves the happiness of the soul, while any one of its faculties is in the fruition of its chief good. The happiness may be of a more exalted nature, in proportion as the faculty employed is so; but as the whole soul acts in the exertion of any of its particular powers, the whole soul is happy in the pleasure which arises from any of its particular acts. For notwithstanding, as has been before hinted, and as it has been taken notice of by one of the greater modern philosophers, we divide the soul into several powers and faculties, there is no such division in the soul itself, since it is the whole soul that remembers, understands, wills, or imagines.
Our manner of considering the memory, understanding, will, imagination, and the like faculties, is for the better enabling us to express ourselves in such abstracted subjects of speculation, not that there is any such division in the soul itself.
Seeing then that the soul has many different faculties, or, in other words, many different ways of acting; that it can be intensely pleased, or made happy by all these different faculties, or ways of acting; that it may be endued with several latent faculties, which it is not at present in a condition to exert: that we cannot believe the soul is endued with any faculty which is of no use to it; that whenever any one of these faculties is transcendently pleased, the soul is in a state of happiness; and, in the last place, considering that the happiness of another world is to be the happiness of the whole man, who can question but that there is an infinite variety in those pleasures we are speaking of; and that this fullness of joy will be made up of all those pleasures which the nature of the soul is capable of receiving.
We shall be the more confirmed in this doctrine if we observe the nature of variety with regard to the mind of man. The soul does not care to be always in the same bent? the faculties relieve one another by turns, and receive an additional pleasure from the novelty of those objects about which they are conversant.
Revelation likewise very much confirms this notion under the different views which it gives us of our future happiness. In the description of the throne of God, it represents to us all those objects which are able to gratify the senses and imagination. In very many places it intimates to us all the happiness which the understanding can possibly receive in that state where all things shall be revealed to us, and we shall know even as we are known. The raptures of devotion, of divine love, the pleasure of conversing with our blessed Saviour, with an innumerable host of angels, and with the spirits of just men made perfect, are likewise revealed to us in several parts of the holy writings. There are also mentioned those hierarchies of governments, in which the blessed shall be ranged one above another, and in which we may be sure a great part of our happiness will likewise consist; for it will not be there as in this world, where every one is aiming at power and superiority but, on the contrary, every one will find that station the most proper for him in which he is placed, and will probably think that he could not have been so happy in any other station. These, and many other particulars, are marked in divine revelation, as the several ingredients of our happiness in heaven, which all imply such a variety of joys, and such a gratification of the soul in all its different faculties, as I have been here mentioning.
Some of the Rabbins tell us that the cherubims are a set of angels who know most, and the seraphims a set of angels who love most. Whether this distinction be not altogether imaginary I shall not here examine; but it is highly probable, that among the spirits of good men there may be some who will be more pleased with the employment of one faculty than of another, and this perhaps according to those innocent and virtuous habits or inclinations which have here taken the deepest root.
I might here apply this consideration to the spirits of wicked men with relation to the pain which they shall suffer in every one of their faculties, and the respective miseries which shall be appropriated to each faculty in particular. But leaving this to the reflection of my readers, I shall conclude with observing how we ought to be thankful to our great Creator, and rejoice in the being which he has bestowed upon us, for having made the soul susceptible of pleasure by so many different ways. We see by what a variety of passages, joy and gladness may enter into the thoughts of man; how wonderfully a human spirit is framed to imbibe its proper satisfactions, and taste the goodness of its Creator. We may therefore look into ourselves with rapture and amazement, and cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to him, who has encompassed us with such a profusion blessings, and opened in us so many capacities of enjoying them.
Therecannot be a stronger argument that God has designed us for a state of future happiness, and for that heaven which he has revealed to us, than that he has thus naturally qualified the soul for it, and made it a being capable of receiving so much bliss. He would never have made such faculties in vain, and have endued us with powers that were not to be exerted on such objects as are suited to them. It is very manifest, by the inward frame and constitution of our minds, the he has adapted them to an infinite variety of pleasures and gratifications which are not to be met with in this life. We should therefore at all times take care that we do not disappoint this his gracious purpose and intention towards us, and make those faculties, which he formed as so many qualifications for happiness and rewards, to be the instruments of pain and punishment.