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of our present life. But, in reason, the analogy is so far from holding, that there appears no ground even for the comparison, as to the present question; because one of the two subjects compared is wholly void of that, which is the principal and chief thing in the other, the power of perception and of action; and which is the only thing we are inquiring about the continuance of. So that the destruction of a vegetable is an event not similar, or analogous, to the destruction of a living agent.

But if, as was above intimated, leaving off the delusive custom of substituting imagination in the room of experience, we would confine ourselves to what we do know and understand ; if we would argue only from that, and from that form our expectations, it would appear, at first sight, that as no probability of living beings ever ceasing to be so, can be concluded from the reason of the thing; so none can be collected from the analogy of Nature; because we cannot trace any living beings beyond death. But as we are conscious that we are endued with capacities of perception and of action, and are living persons, what we are to go upon is, that we, shall continue so till we foresee some accident, or event, which will endanger those capacities, or be likely to destroy us; which death does in no wise

appear to be.

And thus, when we go out of this world, we may pass into new scenes, and a new state of life and action, just as naturally as we came into the present. And this new state may naturally be a social

And the advantages of it, advantages of

one.

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every kind, 'may naturally be bestowed, according to some fixed general laws of wisdom, upon every one in proportion to the degrees of his virtue. And though the advantages of that future natural state -should not be bestowed, as these of the present in some measure are, by the will of the society, but entirely by his more immediate action, upon whom the whole frame of nature depends, yet this distribution may be just as natural, as their being distributed here by the instrumentality of men.' And, indeed, though one were to allow any confused rundeterinined sense, which people please to put upon

the word natural, it would be a shortness of thought scarce credible to imagine, that no system or course of things can be so, but only what we see at present;* especially whilst the probability of a future life, or the natural immortality of the soul, is admitted upon the evidence of reason; because this is really both admitting and denying at once, a state of being different from the present to be natural. But the only distinct meaning of that word is, stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e. to effect it continually, or at stated times, as what is supernatural or mira, culous does to effect it for once. And from hence it must follow, that persons' notion of what is natural will be enlarged, in proportion to their greater knowledge of the works of God and the dispensations of his Providence. Nor is there any absur

*

* See Part ii. ch. 2. and Part ii. ch. 3.

dity in supposing, that there may be beings in the universe, whose capacities, and knowledge, and views, may be so extensive, as that the whole Christian dispensation may to them appear natural, i. e. analogous or conformable to God's dealings with other parts of his creation, as natural as the visible known course of things appears to us. For there seems scarce any other possible sense to be put upon the word, but that only in which it is here used; similar, stated, or uniform.

This credibility of a future life, which has been here insisted upon, how little soever it may satisfy our curiosity, seems to answer all the

purposes of religion, in like manner as 'a demonstrative proof would. Indeed, a proof, even a demonstrative one, of a future life, would not be a proof of religion. For, that we are to live hereafter, is just as réconcileable with the scheme of atheism, and as well to be accounted for by it, as that we are now alive is; and therefore nothing can be more absurd than to argue from that scheme, that there can be no future state. But as religion implies a future state, any presumption against such a state is a presumption against religion. And the foregoing observations remove all presumptions of that sort, and prove, to a very considerable degree of probability, one fundamental doctrine of religion; which, if believed, would greatly open and dispose the mind seriously to attend to the general evidence of the whole.

39

CHAP. II.

Of the Government of God by Rewards and Punish

ments; and particularly of the latter.

That which makes the question concerning a future life to be of so great importance to us, is our capacity of happiness and misery. And that which makes the consideration of it to be of so great importance to us, is the supposition of our happiness and misery hereafter, depending upon our actions here. Without this, indeed, curiosity could not but sometimes bring a subject, in which we may be so highly interested, to our thoughts; especially upon the mortality of others, or the near prospect of our own.

But reasonable men would not take any farther thought about hereafter, than what should happen thus occasionally to rise in their minds, if it were certain that our future interest no, way depended upon our present behaviour; whereas, on the contrary, if there be ground, either from analogy or any thing else, to think it does, then there is reason also for the most active thought and solicitude to secure that interest; to behave so as that we may escape that misery, and obtain that happiness in another life, which we not only suppose ourselves capable of, but which we apprehend also is put in our own power. And whether there

be ground for this last apprehension, certainly would deserve to be most seriously considered, were there no other proof of a future life and interest, than that presumptive one which the foregoing observations amount to.

Now, in the present state, all which we enjoy, and a great part of what we suffer, is put in our own power. For pleasure and pain are the consequences of our actions; and we are endued by the Author of our nature with capacities of foreseeing these, consequences. We find, by experience, he does not so much as preserve our lives, exclusively of our own care and attention to provide ourselves with, and to make use of, that sustenance, by which he has appointed our lives shall be preserved, and without which he has appointed they shall not be preserved at all. And in general we foresee, that the external things, which are the objects of our various passions, can neither be obtained nor enjoyed, without exerting ourselves in such and such manners; but by thus exerting ourselves, we obtain and enjoy these objects, in which our natural good consists, or by this means God gives us the possession and enjoyment of them. I know not that we have any one kind or degree of enjoyment, but by the ineans of our own actions. And by prudence and care, we may, for the most part, pass our days in tolerable ease and quiet: or, on the contrary, we may, by rashness, ungoverned passion, wilfulness, or even hy negligence, make ourselves as miserable as ever we please. And many do please to make themselves extremely miserable,

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