« AnteriorContinuar »
natural Evidence, distinguished from the Intricacies of Philosophy, is the Thing which we inquire after, and which will stand its Ground, whatever becomes of the private . Notions of learned Men: For Nature may be in the right in giving Notice of a future Life, however Men may be mistaken, when they come to consider and ascertain the Nature and Cause of it; which to do is the Mark and Aim of Philosophy. ss But the common Consent is the V_oice and Law of Nature; for what all agree in must needs derive itself from something that _ is common to all; and what is so, but the Sense and Instinct of Nature? When Men come to Speculation, they differ as much in. the Cast and Turn of their Minds, as they do in the Features and Lineaments of their . Faces; and therefore speculative Reasoning will never produce a common Persuasionr This Belief and Persuasion of the Gertainty of a future Life arose from the common Sense that Men have of the Difference of Good and Evil, and of every Man's being accountable for the Things done in this World; which Account not being taken in this World, as the least Degree of Observation will enable Men to see, they concluded, or
br rather they felt from 'the very Force of Reason and Conscience, 'that there was an Account to be given hereafter, K Such an internal Argument as this, which springs up 'in the Heart and from'thsie Heart' of 'every lVIan, has a greater Weight'in it, than all the Reasonings of Philosophy put together, vand will tie Men down, if not to whope for, yet at least to fear la future Immortality; either of which is the silent Voice of Nature' 'testifying the Reality of a Life to come.
That this is the true Foundation of the universal Belief of a future Life,- may be learnt from hence, That thev Persuafion' of another Life was always connected with the Suppofitiort that there were different States ssfor good and rbad Men z so that, you cannot any-Where trace the Notion of Immortality, but yousi find Evidence also for 'the different Conditions of Men in another Life, according as they have behaved themselves in this. Now, these two Opinions being thus inseparably united, it is easisy to judge which is the natural Sense, and which the Consequence: Let any Man' try, and he will find, that' it is not the Expectation of living that makes Men infer the ReasOna-bleness or Neceffity of a Judgment, but it is the reasonable and natural Expectation of Judgment
O 2 which
which makes them infer the Neceffity and Reality of a future Life. '
Into 'what great Absurdities this natural * Notion grew under the Management of Poets; is well known: They named the Princes and the Judges, and described "the T ortures of the Wicked, as their Fancies led them; and their Inventions became the vulgar Theology. But this still shews the Truth of what I have asserted ; ' for neither would the Poets, whose Business it is to' 'raise fine Scenes upon the Plan and Probability of ' Nature, have so painted the Torments and the Enjoyments of Men departed, neither would the World have received their Inventions, had there been no Foundation in Nature to support the Romance.
i As to such as imagine that the Notion of a future Life arose from the Descriptions and Inventions of Poets, they may e'en as well 'suppose that Eating and Drinking had the same Original, and 'that Men had neVer thought of it but for the fine Feasts and
_ Entertainments which are described in suCh
'_Writers. The Poets werev the Papists of
Antiquity, who corrupted the genuine Ssien'
ssþ timents ssof Nature, and ohscured the Light
Of Reason, 'by introducingthe wild Conc'eits of Folly and Superstition: And, when once
ss 3 they
DISCOURSE VI.'197 they had grafted the Slipsof Superstition upon the Stock. of Nature, theylthrOVe so i fast, vand grew -so rank, that the natural i, Branches were even starved bysthe LuXu-j riancy of this wild Olive. But still the' Root was natural, though the Fruit Was Wild.si All. that Nature teaches is, That there is a future Life, distinguished into different States of Happiness and Misery, in which Men will be rewarded or punished, according asct they have pursued or neglected the Rules of Virtue and Honour. And this ctNotion prevailed where the Fables of Greece' had never been heard of; and wicked Men felt in' 'themselves the Fear of the Wrath which is to come, though they had never so much as learnt the Name of Tahtalus or Szsyphus, or any other Sufferer in the Poets' Scene of Hell.
'The natural Evidence then of Life and Immortality stands equally clear of the Inventions of Poet'ry, and the Subtilties and Refinements of Philosophy; and, though it be allied to both, yet it arose from neither. The Truth of the Case with regard to both is this:v The Poets found Men in posseffion of the Doctrine of a future State with Rewards and Punishments for good and bad Men: Upon this Foundation they went to
O 3 work;
work 3 and the plain Draught of Nature was almost hid under the Shades and Colours ' with which they endeavoured to beautisy and adorn it. The Philosophers found the same Persuasion in themselves and others, and, as their Proseffion led them, sought out for physical Reasons to support the Cause. This Inquiry has furnished us with the variOus Opinions of Antiquity concerning the Nature and Operation of the Soul, its Manner of acting in the Body and out of it, its Eternity and Immortality, and many other curious Pieces of Learning. How far any or all these Inquirers into Nature succeeded in their Attempt to prove the Immortality of the Soul from physical Causes, is another Westion. As to the present Point, 'tis plain the natural Evidence is not concerned in their Success, whatever it is z for the natural Evidence is prior to their Inquiries, and ' stands upon another Foot, upon the cornmon Sense and Apprehension'of Mankind: And the Schools may determine the Soul to, be Fire, or'Air, or Harmony, or what else they please; yet still Nature will make every Man feel that the Grave willnot secure him frorn appearing before the great Tribunal t0._ which he is accountable,