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God hath in no Cafe given us natural Difpofitions and Hopes, which he purpofed at the fame Time to dif appoint: much lefs, when they are fuch, that the wifeft and best Men feel the most of them, and are made still wifer and better by them.
Befides, there are plainly in our Souls Capacities for vaftly higher Improvements, both in Knowledge and Goodness, than any one arrives at in this Life. The best inclined, and moft induftrious, undeniably have not near Time enough to become what they could be. And is it likely, that Beings qualified for doing fo much, fhould have fo little Opportunity for it; and fink into Nothing, without ever attaining their proper Maturity and Perfection? But further: not to urge, that Happinefs here is very unequally divided between Perfons equally entitled to it; which yet is hard to reconcile with God's impartial Bounty: it hath been already obferved, in fpeaking of the Judgment to come, that though, in general, the Courfe of Things in this World doth bear Witness to God's Love of Virtue, and Hatred of Sin; yet, in Multitudes of particular Cafes, nothing of this Kind appears. Not only good Perfons often undergo, in common with others, the largest Shares of Evil in Life; and bad Perfons enjoy, in common with others, the highest Degrees of Profperity in it but the former are frequently Sufferers, and fometimes even to Death, for the very Sake of their Duty ; and the latter gain every Sort of worldly Advantages by the very Means of their Wickednefs. Yet evidently there is a Difference between right Behaviour and wrong and God muft fee this Difference: and his Will must be, that Mankind fhould obferve it: and accordingly we feel ourselves inwardly bound fo to do. Now is it poffible, that a Being of perfect Juftice and Holiness, of infinite Wisdom and Power, fhould have ordered Things So, that obeying him and our own Confciences should ever make us miferable, and difobeying them prove beneficial to us, on the Whole? We cannot furely imagine, that he will permit any one fuch Cafe to happen. And
And therefore fince in this World fuch Cafes do happen; this World is not our final State: but another will come after it, in which every one fhall be recompenfed according to his Works. Without this Belief, Religion and Virtue would often want fufficient Motives with it they never can; and therefore this Belief is true.
Strongly as thefe Arguments prove the Doctrine of a Life after Death; yet it receives a confiderable Additionof Strength from the univerfal Agreement of all Mankind in it, with but few Exceptions, from the very Beginning. Of the earliest Ages indeed we have only fhort Accounts: yet enough to judge, what their Notions of this Point were. What could they be indeed, when they knew, that Abel, with whom God declared' himfelf pleased, was murdered by his Brother for that very Reafon? Surely his Brother's Hatred did not do him more Harm, than God's Love of him did him Good. That would be thinking lowly indeed of the Almighty. And therefore, fince plainly he had not the Benefit of his Piety here, there must be another Place, in which he received it. Again, when Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him: could this peculiar Favour be only depriving him, before his natural Time, of the Enjoyments of the prefent State? Muft it not be admitting him to thofe of a future one? When God called himself, in a diftinguished Sense, the God of Abraham and the Patriarchs, what had they enjoyed in this Life, anfwerable to fo extraordinary at Manner of fpeaking? Many, in all Likelihood, both equalled and exceeded them in worldly Satisfactions: But therefore, as the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches, God was not afbumed to be called their God, because he had prepared for them a heavenly City. When Jacob confessed bimfelf a Pilgrim and Stranger on Earth, he plainly declared, as the fame Epiftle obferves, that he defired a better Country for his Home. Again, when mourning
d Gen. v. 241
• Heb, xi, 13—6.
for the fuppofed Death of his Son Jofeph, he faith, he will go down to him: we tranflate the next Word wrongly, into the Grave, as if he meant to have his Body laid by him that could not be; for he thought him devoured by wild Beats it means, into the invifible State, the State of departed Souls. And in this Senfe it is faid of feveral of the Patriarchs, that they were gathered unto their People; and of all, that Generation, which lived with Jofua, that they were gathered unto their Fathers".
In the Time of Mofes we find, that even the Heathens had a ftrong Notion of another Life. For they had built a fuperftitious Practice upon it, of feeking to the dead, and enquiring of them concerning Things to come. A foolish and wicked Cuftom indeed: but however, it fhews the Belief was deeply rooted in them. And though future Recompences were not, directly and expressly, either promifed to good Perfons, or threatened to bad, in the Law of Mofes: yet that might be, not because they were unknown, but because God thought them fufficiently known; and for Reasons of unfearchable Wildom, did not think proper, that Mofes fhould make any confiderable Addition to that Knowledge: of which there was the lefs Occafion, as temporal Rewards and Punishments were more equally administered by Providence amongst the Jews, than any other People. Befides, a Life to come is not mentioned in the Laws of our own Nation neither: though we know, they were made by fuch, as profeffed firmly to believe it. And the Reafon is, partly that national Laws are more immediately. defigned to procure Men Peace and Profperity on Earth, than Happiness in Heaven: and partly alfo, that they propofe fuch Encouragements, as they are able to beftow; and fuch Penalties, as they are able to inflict; which are thofe of this World only. Mofes indeed went beyond the Sanctions, which are in Man's Power: and affured the Jews. of God's Bleffing on their Obedience,
Gen. xxxvii. 35. Judg. ii. 10.
* Gen. xxv. 8. xxxv, 29. xlix. 29. Deut. xviii, 9-121
and Curses on their Difobedience. But as, in fo doing, he fpoke, not so much to fingle Perfons confidered fingly, as to the whole People in a Body; thefe Bleffings and Curfes could be only, what they were, thofe of the prefent Life: because the Divifion of Mankind into Nations will fubfift no longer; and therefore national Good or Evil can be enjoyed or fuffered only here. But ftill, fince it is evident, through the Whole of his Law, that the Jews had the most serious Belief of a juft Providence; and alfo, from the abovementioned Proofs, that they believed a future State; furely they must believe in general, that this Providence would be fo exerted in that State, as to reward the good, and punish the wicked. More and ftronger Evidences of this will be given under the fecond Particular, the Refurrection of the Body.
At prefent I fhall go on to obferve further, that not only the Jews, but all the Nations of the World, whe ther learned or unlearned, whether known in former Times or difcovered of later Times, appear to have been perfuaded, that the Souls of Men continue after Death. Now this fo univerfal Agreement muft surely have arisen from an inward Principle of Nature, dictating to all Perfons, that they are defigned for a future Existence; and that as they are plainly Creatures accountable for their Actions, yet often do not account here, they must expect to do it hereafter. Or fhould the Notion be supposed to have its Origin from Tradition; that Tradition muft have been derived from what God himself had taught the firft of Men: elfe it had never reached to all Men: and it must have found fome powerful Confirmation in the Minds and Hearts of Men: else in fo great a Length of Time, amidst so many Changes of human Circumftances, it must have been univerfally worn out and forgotten.
Indeed, before our Saviour's Days, Length of Time, and Folly, and Wickedness, had every where obscured and darkened this great Truth, by fabulous Additions and abfurd Alterations; which hindered the good InAuence
fluence of it, on fome Perfons, and difcredited the Belief of it with others. And had there been none of these Obftacles thrown in their Way; though Reafon and Confcience teach the Doctrine of a future State; yet by the Generality of Men, Reafon is little exercifed, and Confcience little confulted, in relation to unwelcome Truths. And though the Old Teftament gave fome further Intimations of it; yet these were neither very clear and explicit, nor known by the greatest Part of the World. No Wonder then if their Conclufions, concerning a Matter fo intirely out of Sight, were often doubtful, and often falfe: and thus they were misled in a Subject of the greatest Importance to them of all others. It is therefore one ineftimable Benefit of the Chriftian Revelation, that our bleffed Lord hath throughly removed the preceding Uncertainties and Errors; and brought Life and Immortality to perfect Light through the Gospel not only confirming by divine Authority whatever had been rationally taught before; but adding, by. the fame Authority, feveral interefting Particulars, which human Faculties could not difcover: and which partly have been mentioned to you, in difcourfing on the general Judgment; and partly will be, in what I fhall further fay under the Heads now proposed.
All that remains to be faid under the firft is, that neither the full Reward of good Perfons deceased is as yet bestowed on them, nor the full Punishment of the wicked as yet inflicted; thefe Things being to follow the general' Refurrection: but that ftill, fince our Saviour defcribes the Soul of Lazarus, as carried by Angels into Abraham's Bofom, and there comforted; fince he promised the penitent Thief, that he fhould be that Day with him in Paradife; and St. Paul speaks of being present with Christ, as the immediate Confequence of Death, and. far better than this Life: therefore the State of thofe,. who die in the Lord, is now a State, not of Infenfibility,
Luke xxiii. 43.
* 2 Tim. i. 10. 2 Cor. v. 8. Phil, i. 23.
1 Luke xvi. 22, 25.