網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

a

go without being destroyed, suggest, as to the effect which death may, or may not, have upon us; and whether it be not from thence probable, that we may survive this change, and exist in a future state of life and perception.

I. From our being born into the present world in the helpless imperfect state of infancy, and having arrived from thence to mature age, we find it to be a general law of nature in our own species, that the same creatures, the same individuals, should exist in degrees of life and perception, with capacities of action, of enjoyment, and suffering, in one period of their being, greatly different from those appointed them in another period of it. And in other creatures the same law holds. For the difference of their capacities and states of life at their birth (to go no higher) and in maturity; the change of worms into flies, and the vast enlargement of their locomotive powers by such change; and birds and insects bursting the shell, their habitation, and .by this means entering into a new world, furnished with new accommodations for them, and finding a new sphere of action assigned them; these are instances of this general law of nature. Thus, all the various and wonderful transformations of ani. mals are to be taken into consideration here. But the states of life in which we ourselves existed formerly, in the womb and in our infancy, are almost as different from our present, in mature age, as it is possible to conceive any two states or degrees of life can be. Therefore, that we are to exist here: after in a state as different (suppose) from our

present, as this is from our former, is but according to the analogy of nature; according to a natural order, or appointment, of the very same kind with what we have already experienced.

II. We know we are endued with capacities of action, of happiness, and misery; for we are conscious of acting, of enjoying pleasure, and suffering pain. Now, that we have these powers and capacities before death, is a presumption that we shall retain them through and after death; indeed, a probability of it abundantly sufficient to act upon, unless there be some positive reason to think that death is the destruction of those living powers; because there is in every case a probability, that all things will continue as we experience they are, in all respects, except those in which we have some reason to think they will be altered. This is that kind* of presumption, or probability, from analogy, expressed in the very word continuance, which seems our only natural reason for believing the course of the world will continue to-morrow, as it has done so far as our experience or knowledge of history can carry us back. Nay, it seems our only reason for believing, that any one substance, now existing, will continue to exist a moment longer; the selfexistent substance only excepted. Thus, if men were assured that the unknown event, death, was not the destruction of our faculties of perception

*

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I say kind of presumption or probability; for I do not mean to affirm, that there is the same degree of conviction that our . living powers will continue after death, as there is, that our substances will.

B

1

and of action, there would be no apprehension that any other power or event, unconnected with this of death, would destroy these faculties just at the instant of each creature's death; and therefore no doubt but that they would remain after it: which shows the high probability that our living powers will continue after death, unless there be some ground to think that death is their destruction.* For, if it would be in a manner certain that we should survive death, provided it were certain that death would not be our destruction, it must be highly probable we shall survive it, if there be no ground to think death will be our destruction.

Now, though I think it must be acknowledged, that prior to the natural and moral proofs of a future life commonly insisted upon, there would arise a general confused suspicion, that, in the great shock and alteration which we shall undergo by death, we, i. e. our living powers, might be wholly destroyed; yet even prior to those proofs, there is

* Destruction of living powers, is a manner of expression unavoidably ambiguous; and may signify either the destruction of a living being, so as that the same living being shall be incapable of ever perceiving or acting again at all; or the destruction of those means and instruments by which it is capable of its present life, of its present state of perception and of action. It is here used in the former sense. When it is used in the latter, the epithet present is added. The loss of a man's eye is a destruction of living powers in the latter sense. But we have no reason to think the destruction of living powers, in the former sense, to be possible. We have no more reason to think a being, endued with living powers, ever loses them during its whole existence, than to believe that a stone ever acquires them.

а

really no particular distinct ground, or reason, for this apprehension at all, so far as I can find. If there be, it must arise either from the reason of the thing, or from the analogy of Nature. : But we cannot argue from the reason of the thing, that death is the destruction of living agents, because we know not at all what death is in itself; but only some of its effects, such as the dissolution of flesh, skin, and bones : And these effects do in no wise appear to imply the destruction of a living agent. And, besides, as we are greatly in the dark upon what the exercise of our living powers depends, so we are wholly ignorant what the powers themselves depend upon; the powers themselves, as distinguished, not only from their actual exercise, but also from the present capacity of exercising them; and as opposed to their destruction: for sleep, or, however, a swoon, shows us, not only that these powers exist when they are not exercised, as the passive power of motion does in inanimate matter ; but shews also that they exist, when there is no present capacity of exercising them ; or that the capacities of exercising them for the present, as well as the actual exercise of them, may be suspended, and yet the powers themselves remain undestroyed. Since, then, we know not at all upon what the existence of our living powers depends, this shews further, there can no probability be collected from the reason of the thing, that death will be their destruction : because their existence may depend upon somewhat in no degree affected by death; upon some

ا

what quite out of the reach of this king of terrors. So that there is nothing more certain, than that the reason of the thing shows us no connexion between death and the destruction of living agents. Nor can we find any thing throughout the whole analogy of Nature, to afford us even the slightest presumption, that animals ever lose their living powers; much less, if it were possible, that they lose them by death ; for we have no faculties

; wherewith to trace any beyond or through it, so as to see what becomes of them. This event re, moves them from our view. It destroys the sensible proof, which we had before their death, of their being possessed of living powers, but does not appear to afford the least reason to believe, that they are then, or by that event, deprived of them.

And our knowing, that they were possessed of these powers, up to the very period to which we have faculties capable of tracing them, is itself a probability of their retaining them beyond it. And this is confirmed, and a sensible credibility is given to it, by observing the very great and astonishing changes which we have experienced ; so great, that our existence in another state of life, of perception and of action, will be but according to a method of providential conduct, the like to which has been already exercised, even with regard to ourselves ; according to a course of nature, the like to which we have already gone through.

However, as one cannot but be greatly sensible, how difficult it is to silence imagination enough to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »