Page images


dence for things not seen is faith, an evidence to which the world in temporal affairs pays great respect, however shy they may be of admitting it as a principle of religion : this point enlarged on, showing that a man believes more about this world and its affairs, on the report made from other people's senses than he does from his own. This then the world must admit as good evidence for things not seen ; since on it men believe the certainty of most things in the world. Now this evidence, , where it is perfect, falls little short of that of sense; and men

many cases make no difference between them ; which shows that this kind of evidence may be so strong as to leave no room for doubts or suspicions. Where then lies the reason of the objection against the things of another world, because they are not seen, and therefore not to be preferred to the things of this world, which are seen? Neither want their


evidence; and being possessed of it, they are not the worse for not having that evidence which does not belong to them.

If then the case is so, it is extreme folly and want of thought to pursue the objects of sense in opposition to things unseen, without a thorough examination of their evidence and certainty. When you are told that for the blessings of another life we have the certainty of reason and faith, you must own the arguments are proper : the nature of the proof you cannot suspect; and if it be sufficiently strong, you must acknowlege it to be demonstrative in this as in all other like cases. The things of another world

may be objects of sense to those of the other world, and are therefore capable of having the evidence of eye-witnesses : so that, should one come down from Heaven, and report the state of things there, his evidence must be admitted, the proof of his coming from Heaven being supposed. Besides, this question concerning future rewards and punishments is not the principal one in religion : it presupposes the belief and knowlege of God, else there is no room for it : a question then will. arise, whether God can qualify men to be witnesses


to the world of these unseen things ? Doubtless he can reveal these things to men if he pleases; and were the world satisfied that he had revealed such things to such and such men, they must admit them as good witnesses in that case : it comes therefore to this point; can men satisfy the world that God has indeed spoken to them? This enlarged on. Since these things, then, are capable of such good evidence, it will be worth while to inquire whether they have it or no; nor will it be the effect of wisdom to reject them unheard, and to follow the impressions of sense at the hazard of final ruin. It would be strange if a man who has eyes and ears doubted the evidence of things continually thrust in at them. But to arrive at the evidence of reason and faith requires the exercise of thought ; because these proofs lie more out of the common road, and are not to be had without being sought for. This is a just account of the reason why most men act by the evidence of sense, and follow the things of this world, while so few pursue with any heart or zeal the invisible things of another. Not that the former are in themselves more real ; but because men are sure of them, not being able to exclude the impressions of them, but are dubious respecting the things of futurity, not being able to attend to their proofs. How well this becomes men of education, let any one judge : how they will account for their neglect in not even proving and trying the things which make for their salvation, is hard to say.

If it had been intended that we should be directed merely by our eyes, God need not have given us the power of reflexion; and he will not excuse us for resigning ourselves to sense, which was given, not to rule, but to serve man. Concluding observations.


Second subject of inquiry--whether the value of things not seen be so great that we ought in prudence to forego the enjoy

[ocr errors]

ment of the things that are present with us.

There can be no ground to persuade men to renounce the pleasures of life, and expose themselves to troubles, which are often the companions of virtue, in hopes of future glory, unless this glory be great enough to recompense them for the losses and sufferings sustained in its pursuit. If the rewards of Heaven be infinitely preferable to the things of this world, then it is the part of wisdom to choose the greatest, though not the present good, and to prefer the severe duties of religion to the soft allurements of pleasure; since our present afflictions are but momentary, and will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. On this principle the Apostle argues in the text, and justifies his own practice and behavior: he suffered persecution gladly for the sake of Christ and his truth: he suffered on the prospect of future glory; and though not dead to the sense of nature, or void of feeling, yet knowing the value of the rewards for which he labored, he made this choice. The Apostle's argument is founded on the different duration of the things of this world and of the other. It must be allowed that we have the same evidence for the uncertain, and, at best, for the short duration of the things of this life, as for their existence; that is, the evidence of sense : this point enlarged on. Let us then examine what are the conclusions of reason from this head, that the things which are seen are temporal. To estimate the happiness of man, we must take into account the nature of his desires and inclinations, and that of the objects which he pursues : if there be such a due proportion between them, that the object is capable of satisfying the desire, then the object obtained is capable of making a man happy : uneasiness, and the want of something which we have not, cannot do so; which must always be the case when our desires are fixed on objects which do not answer to them, and afford not such a pleasure as may fill and content the mind. There are different passions and desires incident to man; not the same in all, but varying according to temper, habits, age, and the like: these, being so uncertain, enter not into this inquiry, which is after man's natural happiness : this must be estimated by his natural and constant desires ; among which the greatest is the desire of life: this point enlarged on, showing that as life is but short, and must end in death, the life of this world cannot be an adequate object of desire, or make a man happy ; because it does not answer to his natural desire, but leaves him restless and uneasy. Another natural and constant desire, grafted on the former, and springing from it, is that of happiness uninterrupted by afflictions of


kind : hence the fear of losing what we possess often equals the pleasure of the possession ; which shows that no temporary possession can satisfy the mind of man; thus, proving that the natural desire is that of perpetual uninterrupted happiness: nothing less than this can make a man happy; and this the world does not afford. To place our happiness therefore on this life, and the things of it, is, at best, to place it where it cannot be had. We can never free ourselves from the natural desires of life and happiness: this point enlarged on in the case of an atheist, who, retaining the desire of eternal happi-, ness, but denying the possibility of it, reduces himself to a state which cannot afford him happiness: so that to have desires which cannot end in enjoyment for want of suitable objects, is to have desires only to make us miserable. If then this world has nothing that can make us happy, it cannot be the effect of wisdom to seek it there : so that the first conclusion of reason is, that the things of this world being temporal, and our desires adapted to the fruition of things eternal, this world can never make us happy: we must therefore seek where we may meet with objects suited to our desires, and thus arrive at perfect happiness: so that the voice of nature speaks the same language as our Saviour, (Matt. vi, 19. 20): these verses explained. That the things which are seen are temporal, is no sufficient proof that there are things which are not seen which are eter

[ocr errors]


nal; though it is a great presumption that God, not having fitted this world to our desires, has fitted our desires to another world, and has not given us these cravings of nature merely to vex us without the possibility of their being satisfied. The things of this world however being temporal, is a proof that they cannot make us happy. Hence religion becomes a very serious concern, since it alone can furnish objects adapted to our natural desires. Is it not then very unnatural to see a man rejoice and triumph in the thoughts that there is no eternal life or happiness? It is indeed better not be, than to be miserable; the thoughts therefore of dropping into eternal silence may be the refuge of guilty fear, but never can be a natural joy to the soul of man, which longs for everlasting life. The only reason why any man can wish there may be no other world is, that he may more freely enjoy this ; a wise reason, if we consider the value of this world, and how fleeting the things of it are. So little do men gain by gaining this world, or lose by losing it, that its concerns would weigh but light in this question, were not men guided more by the violence of passion than either by reason or the regular desires of nature. For, secondly, suppose that religion were very uncertain, and a man liable to be deceived in his hopes of future rewards ; let us again examine by this rule, that the things which are seen are temporal, the consequence of this mistake, and how much a man would suffer by it. In ordinary life the pleasures that are consistent with innocence will be found to afford more real satisfaction than the vicious man can ever receive from the gratification of his sensual desires. But we will waive this topic, as the text supposes us to give up this world, and submit to many hardships in order to obtain the other; and it is always difficult to submit to the restraints of religion, till men have mastered their appetites, and learned to use this world as not abusing it. Say then, that a man loses the pleasures of this

« PreviousContinue »