Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

oudly seek arguments to skreen them from the wrath to come. The most subtile and determined FREE THINKER cannot but suppose that, if there should be a life after this, it will, doubtless, be a state of everlasting happiness, or endless inisery : this they must be convinced of, who believe there is a power above us; and as that is a truth too evident to be disputed by any rational being, they must suppose likewise that power to be endowed with every perfection; and since man is, beyond all contradi&tion, a free agent, and knows both what is good, and what is evil, he is by nature accountable for his behaviour ; and it is inconsistent with common reason to suppose that the murderer, adulterer, blasphemer, and the like notorious offenders, who wilfully break through all laws, both human and divine, should escape punishment, seeing that a Just God governs the universe and beholds those actions in all their odious colours. Now since it is plain, beyond all dispute, that adequate punishment does not always attend enormous crimes in this life, and fince no man in his senses can ever be prevailed on firmly to believe, that he shall enter into the next, without meeting with wrath and avengement for his past vicious deportment; the wicked have no resource left, but to deny there is a supreme Being, and to affirm, that a future state is a mere chimera ;-nothing more than the artifice of some designing men to keep the world in awe:- As these truths, however, have been considered at large, and every objection we could think of has, I hope, been satisfactorily resolved, I presumé we may now, without any danger, offer a supposition, though absolutely false, in order to set the folly of those in a still more glaring light, who oppose themselves to the voice of nature ; who take pains to deceive their own souls, and vainly hope that there is no life after this.

Let us suppose then for once, a future state to be doubtful ; this I think is the utmost the most hardened infidel can possibly contend for, because to affert absolutely, that there will be no life Q2

after after this, is a presumption that no human being ever yet arrived at.-Let us suppose then, I say, that it be a question whether we Tall live hereafter or not, and even upon that footing, let us see, in regard to this particular, whether he who believes, or he who believes not, be the wiser man.

He that doubts of a future state can have no pleasing prospect, no idea of future happiness. All his felicity, therefore, must center in temporal enjoyments: Is it in his power, however, to prevent sorrow and affliction, pain or sickness ?-Is he not liable to be made the sport of fortune, or will his disbelief secure him from those ills to which all mankind are equally exposed ? Should he lead a sober, regular life, what benefit and advantage will accrue from his infidelity ?-Why, none at all. He is sober to na purpose :- he has excluded himself from every hope of an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven; thrown away, not sold his birthright, and set his soul with all her noble endowments upon a level with the brutes that perish. Should he be overwhelmed with forrows, should his worldly affairs prove ruinous, his children disobedient, his friends unkind and unjust, what consolation can he find within his own breast ?-Why, no more than this, that he shall shortly be upon a level with his fellow-brutes, be reduced to dust and alhes, and all his thoughts be buried with him in the grave.-A poor comfort indeed; a most abject consolation !

But let us view him, when he draws near to what he calls the period of his forrows; when he is arrived within view of the end of his miseries; when he lies on his bed of fickness; when the wheels of life grow out of order, and when all artful prescriptions of medicine prove ineffectual to his cure: what comfort will his foolish and absurd opinion then furnish him with ?--Nay, what despair will it not raise in his bewildered mind? He cannot be sure that there will be no hereafter ; and if there should, to what a dea plorable condition must he be then reduced ?-He cannot be

[ocr errors]

sure that there is no heaven; but he is sure that if there be, he has resigned up all his pretensions to the joys of it, and must never expect to be an inhabitant of that happy place. He cannot be sure that there is no hell ; but if there should, what a condition must he then be in ?-He has justly entitled himself to all the pains of it ;-he has procured himself a place “ where is weeping “ and wailing, and gnashing of teeth ; where the worm never dies : “ where the fire is never quenched.”—He cannot be sure, that there is no God; that there are no glorious angels; but if there should, he is sure that he is not qualified for such blessed company; he has no claim to join in their triumphant hallelujahs ; he cannot be sure there are no demons, but should there be such spirits, what company has he provided for himself ?-What dreadful discord, what infernal conversation must he partake in ?-What ghastly phantoms, what tremendous apparitions, has he provided to shock his affrighted soul upon her landing on the dreadful abyss of a never-ending eternity?

But let us turn our eyes from so gloomy a scene ; God grant that we may never behold it !—and turn then to one more delightful.-Let us see what trivial hazards the believer runs, and what the glorious prospects are which he has in view. He who believes, that is, who believes to purpose, will take all poslible: care to order his behaviour in such a manner as to entitle him to a happy hereafter. Now supposing the worst, suppose there be: no such thing, he has notwithstanding enjoyed a most agreeable. delusion, and is, even in that case, upon a level with his opposite. -He has had moreover a sovereign antidote against all worldly forrows; whenever he was oppressed with the load of any. affliction, he could ease his burden, by reflecting, that the life of man: was but of short duration ;-that the time would soon come, when his forrows would have a happy period. He could say with comfort, that he could be miserable but for a short space of time;: that he Nould soon arrive at the goal of death ; and though his race had been hard and rugged, though he met with many cruel, nay, ihocking disappointments, yet the glorious reward was at hand; the grave could not fright him with its horrors, since his. foul could not be mingled with the dust;—that would return to. its almighty Creator, and rest with him in never-ending joys.-Are not these reflections of a very amiable nature ? Is not this situation of the mind most devoutly to be cherished ?And are not such thoughts as these in every ones power to enjoy? When the believer fees death at hand, he looks on it as the approach of his new birth; he waits with impatience for his glorious change, when he mall quit this vile earth, when he shall drop this load of flesh, and with glorious and immortal angels forever live in blissful regions, adoring his almighty benefactor, his ever-glorious God, his triumphant Redeemer.

that

Another reason why this great truth is so little reflected on, as we find it generally is, may be the pride of one set of men, and the weakness of another: the pride of wit, or what is too often called so. The poets and other writers of romance have contrived fo many representations of the behaviour and condition of departed fouls, that their weak brethren have been apt to think the whole only a poetical fiction. The first view of a future state must fill the mind with awful thoughts of what may be our portion there: but we have been diverted from what ought to inspire our dread or hope. By the buffoonery of such vain scribblers, we have been induced to view this truth in so many lights, that the diffipated and unthoughtful are confounded, and utterly at a loss to determine what they ought to believe. They have made the ideas of death, heaven and hell fo familiar to their readers, that it will require a great deal of time, and much force of argument to recover the minds of men to that solemnity of thought which a proper view of these things must of necessity occasion. It is upon this account that

I have spent so much time in illuftrating this interesting truth, this basis of all religion and virtue; for surely every man, who is fully convinced, that the next stage on which he shall appear must be an everlasting one, will be easily induced to take care that he enters upon it with as much credit as possible.

To conclude ;-I hope I have demonstrated to satisfaction, that God Almighty created man after his own image, in regard to his foul ; and after the likeness of his other creatures, in regard to life, sense, and motion ;-mortal,—so far as he is like the creature; —and immortal fo far as he bears the stamp of the Creator :that he who views the various works of nature, must acknowledge the existence of the Supreme Being; that he who seeth the order of the world, the proportion of man, and the harmony so conspicuous in both cannot doubt but there is an over-ruling providence ; since it would be absurd to think, that God who created them with such beauty, would leave them to the blind guidance of unthinking chance. In short, whoever seriously considers these things will be fully convinced, THAT THERE WILL BE A LIFE AFTER THIS, WHERE THEY THAT BE WISE SHALL SHINE AS THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE FIRMAMENT, AND THEY THAT TURN MANY TO RIGHTEOUSNESS, AS THE STARS FOREVER AND EVER.

“ Indulgent God! Oh how shall mortal' raile
“ His soul to due returns of grateful praise,
“ For bounty so profuse to human kind,
" Thy wondrous gift of an eternal mind ?
“ Shall I; who some few years ago was less
“ Than worm, or mite, or shadow can express
“ Was nothing; shall i live when ev'ry fire
“. Of ev'ry Star shall languilh and expire ?
" When earth's no more, shall I survive above,
6. And through the radiant files of angels move ?

“ Or

« ZurückWeiter »