« VorigeDoorgaan »
somewhere at least, possible. How then am I assured, that 'tis not equally true of man ?-Admit it; and what follows ? If so, then Honour and Justice are my interest-- then the whole train of Moral Virtues are my inter. est ; without some portion of which, not even thieves can maintain society.
But farther still stop not here-l pursue this social interest, as far as I can trace my several relations, I pass from my own stock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth.Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce ; by the general intercourse of arts and letters ; by that common nature, of which we all participate ?-Again-1 must have food and clothing-Without a proper genial warmth, I instantly perish-Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself? To the distapt sun, from whose beams I derive vigour ?-To that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on ? Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment? so absolutely do I depend on this common general welfare.
What then have I to do, but to enlarge Virtue into Piety ? Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, is my interest; but gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and its great Governor, our common Parent.
But if all these moral and divine habits be my interest, I need not surely seek for a better. I have an interest compatible with the spot on which I live have an interest which may exist, without altering the plan of Providence ; without mending or marring the general order of events. I can bear whatever happens with manlike magnanimity; can be contented, and fully happy in the good which I possess ; and can pass through this turbid, this fickle, fleeting period, without bewailings, or envyings, or murmurings, or complaints.
THE SAME SUBJECT.
ALL men pursue good, and would be happy, if they knew how; not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours; but happy, if possible, through every part of their existence. Either therefore there is a good of this steady durable kind, or there is none. If none, then all good must be transcient and uncertain ; and if so, an object of lowest value, which can little deserve either our attention or inquiry. But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeking ; like every other thing, it must be derived from some cause ; and that cause must be either external, internal, or mixed, in as much as except these three, there is no other possible. Now a steady, durable good, cannot be derived from an external cause, by reason all derived from externals must fluctuate, as they fluctuate. By the same rule, not from a mixture of the two ; because the part which is external will proportionally destroy its essence. What then remains but the cause internal; the very cause which we have supposed, when we place the Sovereign Good in Mind-in Rectitude of Conduct ?
ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
AMONG 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, tbw can it enter into to carry a great weinka the thoughts or man, that the soul, which is capable of suar 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 endowmenţs 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 farther 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 ?
Man, considered in his present state, seems only sent into the word to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a successor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him.
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 in this life man can never take in his full measure of knowledge ; nor has he 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 infinite wisę Being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose ? Can be delight in the production of such abor
tive 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 sev. eral 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 forever 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 hehimself 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 stilladvances, and by thatmeans preserves his distance and superiority, in the scale of being; but he knows that, how high soever the station of which he stands possessed at present, the inferior na
Lure 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 souls, where there are such hidden stores of vir, tue 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 in relation to 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?
ON THE BEING OF A GOD.
RETIRE ;The world shut out;Thy thoughts
What am I ? and from whence ?--I nothing know,