IT is a Dilemma frequently urged against Versions of this kind, that when a Subject lies remote from Vulgar Consideration, Persons of Learning will pursue the Knowledge of it in the Learned Languages, while Others must remain equally Strangers to it in all. Which yet abates, proportionally, of its Force, according as either the Original Performance has been less fortunate in Style; or as the Improvements of a Modern Tongue have been able to extend themselves to the abstrusest Reasonings, and to speak even of Philosophy with the Advantages of Eloquence. As there is a Concurrence, of these two Conditions, to justify the present Attempt, so the second of them, which, thro' Personal Inability, may have been impair'd, seems yet to be recompensed, by a peculiar Weight and Prevalency in the first. For the Commendation of our Author's Judgment has scarce been more Universal, than the Censure of his Composition; which tho', by All, acknowledg'd to be Expressive, yet to most appears so difficult and discouraging, that they sometimes fancy the Sense to have broken its way thro the Phrase, and to have left these irregularities, as the Tokens of its Violence. It is true, He has not fail'd, in the very Entrance of His Work, to apologize for this Defeat of Ornament; but the Plea He offers is, what may better excuse the necessary Roughness of a Subject, than the particular Unhappiness of a Writer. Another visible Disadvantage there was, which call'd for Relief. Our Author having publish'd the first Draught of this great Undertaking in the Year MDCLX, with the Title of Elementa Jurisprudentiæ, having also imploy'd the Labour and Collections of Twelve Years, in bringing it to its present Method and Name, was not content to have drawn to gether all Assistances, which were of direct and immediate Use, from the Stores of Morality, Politicks, and Law; but engaged Himself in a longer and wider Search, running thro the whole Circle of Philological Authors, Ancient and Modern, and disposing, under the Heads of His Work, the most remote Examples, and Illustrations. Hence every Page came to be loaded, not only with numerous Citations at large, but with disorderly Marks of Addition, Reference, Companion, and the like: as if the Confusion of a swelling Margin had run over, and discharg'd it self upon the Text. Thus the Periods were frequently disjointed, the Argument interrupted or obscured, and the greatest part of the main Body thrown into the disagreeable Figure of a Common Place.
Some Endeavours have been here applied towards the lessening of both these Imperfections. In respect of Style, it is hoped, that the Mettal, how rude soever and incapable of being polish'd to exact Beauty, yet after a second melting , may appear less deform'd, and may pass into more General Use. But 'tis beyond Doubt, that the other Inequality has been farther rectified, by our casting under the Page the needless and mis-shapen mass of Foreign Supplies: which it might have been no unpardonable boldness utterly to have pared away; but that we ought to be cautious of practising upon an Author, and to take care, least by cutting off an Excrescency, we should endanger the Life of a Design.
Custom has not so far prevailed over Decency, as to engage the Translators in proclaiming the Justice of their Choice, and Merit of their Author. Much less would they ground his Character on the invidious Argument of Comparison. To contend with the admired Names of Grotius, Selden, and the Right Reverend the present Lord Bishop of Peterborough, is what He ought to decline in point of Modesty, if not of Safety. Yet this seems to have fallen out to his Advantage, that no One of those Great Men attempted a complete Body of Moral, or Political Doctrine. The First chose rather to insist on Authorities, taken from the Historians, Civilians and Canonists, than on Philosophical Deductions, from the Nature of Men, and the Reasons of Things. The Second entred no farther into this Subject, than as the Jewish Institutions directed His View. My Lord of Peterborough, having overthrown the deceitful Fabrick of a late Treacherous Builder, and settled the Science of Morality, on its truest and deepest Foundations, left the Superstructure to be raised by Inferior Hands. Thus, while each had a particular Boundary to his own Enquiries, All contributed to the Perfection of our Authors System: in which, as He abstains not from grateful Remembrances of these, and other Learned Benefactors, so He now teaches the Publisher of this Translation most gladly to acknowledg the Favour and Assistance of his Friends; of whom Two especially, the Reverend Mr. Percivale, and the Reverend Mr. Itchiner, by entirely rendring the Fifth and Eighth Books, have, with the same Kindness, accepted a part in his Burthen, and allow'd him a share in their Reputation and Success.
Law of Nature and Nations:
Containing some Thoughts on the Usefulness of the Subject; as also the Unreasonableness of its being perverted to the Service of Irreligion.
Qu'en exerçant ma foy je montre ma raison! Godeau.
Introduction to PUFENDORF, &c.
THE Desire of Knowledge, the great Beauty and Ornament of Reason, seem's often to have made its greatest Blemish. There is no Chase, in which Men are so heated and rais'd, and in which they discover so much Violence of Pursuit, as in that of Truth: whence, if they happen to mistake the Scent, the more vigorously they proceed, the more effectually they are deluded. It hath been the Study of all Ages to repress and restrain so diffusive an Evil; either by slopping the Tide of Curiosity, or by turning it into a limited Channel and a governable Course. The Prospect of obtaining this Assistance first brought the Forces of Philosophy into Service: Which promising no less Success from their Arms, than they carried Modesty in their Banner and Inscription, had not fail'd to act victoriously against Error, but that, charging with more Courage than Discipline, when they had brought off Others, they were unable to disengage themselves. Methodized Systems and Elaborate Sciences did but draw the Mischief within their own Province and Circle. The whole Storm gather'd over the Schools, and the Multitude look'd on without Danger, or Care. The Walks, the Porches, the Gardens, the Seats of Grecian Wisdom, which seemed able to afford a Shelter, at least, against the Common Enemy, were rather so many Hospitals, fill'd with those who had been maim'd and batter'd in the Conflict: And, as much as Ignorance seems to be a more eligible Misery than Perplexity and Confusion, as much the Vulgar had the Advantage above their Teachers.
Nor was it strange the Enterprize should miscarry, when the Attack was begun in the wrong place. The main Stroke was level'd against the Difficulties of Natural Speculation , not against the Mistakes in Action and Duty. The Philosophers were first for making the World, before they would instruct Men how to live in it: And they amused themselves so long, and so unsuccessfully about the former Search, that they had neither Leisure nor Spirit for the latter. They took the Style of Nature's Priests; to Her they address'd their Worship and their Vows: But they stood admiring the Temple, when they should have been consulting the Oracle: they neglected the Precepts of the Fair Goddess, to remain idle Gazers on her Charms. Thus the Points, which disposed the Sects and Orders to mortal Variance, and set them in array against each other, lay, for the most part, without the Sphere of Human Practice. The first Seeds and Elements of Things were diversified into endless Contentions: but the Principles of Justice and Honesty seem to have been settled with better Agreement. And tho' we meet with many Verbal Disputes, even upon this Head, amongst the three famous Tribes of Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno; yet the excellent Piece of Tully's Offices, is a lasting Proof how happily they may be all made to conspire in establishing a compleat Summary of Morals. It is true the Moral Doctrine of the Epicureans, was what Tully himself has not the Art of reconciling to Reason: He think's it not possible to find in that Herd a good Man , or a good Citizen, where Honesty is confounded with Profit, and both with Pleasure. Yet could we favourably suppose even this Hypothesis of Manners, to have been such as some Modern Apologists represent it, in its pure and primitive State, before it was made the Plea of Vice and the Shelter of Idleness; if, by a Life of Pleasure, we might be content to understand a Life led according to the belt Direction of our Powers, in order to the Attainment of true Tranquility; the most rigid Stoicks would be brought to an Accommodation with their Enemies, and to follow Nature might, at the same time, compose the Character of Cato and of Mæcenas.
We esteem it the Glory of Christian Doctrine that it reform'd the Understanding as well as the Will of Men: And in both these happy Changes, as the same Power atchiev'd, so the same Wisdom guided the Work. Vain Flights and Extravagancies were equally banish'd from Knowledge and from Duty. The Will was sanctified; but not in order to the amusing it self with superstitious Services: the Understanding was enlightened; but not that it might spend the Divine Ray in a Search either Unprofitable or Dangerous. The Nature of GOD, our selves, and the World about us, was so far recommended to our Speculation, as might enforce and enliven our Practice; and no Distinction was admitted between the being Wise and the being Good. Yet was there here no Design of levelling in Knowledge, or of breaking up the ancient Bounds, which separated the Learned from the Illiterate. Lofty Attainments did not lose their just Praise and Respect, tho' modest Simplicity was most courted and loved. The Treasures of the Mind were consider'd with this Resemblance to grosser Riches; that the Use, not the Possession was esteem'd, and Competency therefore only preferr'd to Abundance, because less apt to be misemploy'd. Thus Philosophy was made to undergo a just Trial; and being melted down into its first Principles, the more wild and the more rude Notions, the Vapour and the Dross, were thrown off, and the founder Parts, all that was rational, discreet and sober, incorporated into the Substance of Religion.
It is an Argument, managed by such Hands as could give it the greatest Advantage, that our Christian Faith and Practice derive not only a Lustre and Ornament, but a Strength and Confirmation from Natural Inquiries. In as much as the strictest Examiners of Things are the ablest Witnesses to the Truths of Religion; in which, as in the Natures which they contemplate, their deepest Researches] will be the most entertaining and the most satisfactory. And he must betray a base Envy to those favourite Studies of the present Age, who does not concur in the Justice of this Acknowledgment. Especially, since our later Memory, when the Principles of one Philosopher, and the Lecture of another (both which Posterity will record amongst the greatest Benefactions to pious Uses,) have given so much, and promise more: When they have wrought a Conversion upon the Mechanical Hypothesis; and made its genuine Course, and regular Service atone for the Injuries of its Abuse: When they have demonstrably evinced, that of Epicurus's two Principles, Body, and Space, the former, of it self and without the Divine Impression, is no less unactive and insignificant than the latter; and that his fickle Power of Chance, conceiv'd in his Brain to so great Hopes, and so vast an Empire, proved an abortive Birth, the Blind, Foolish and Unfinish'd Sister of Pallas: because, in the Methods of Nature, as well as of Providence, Even Causal things come from Heaven, and what we call Fortune hath another Name above *. On the other hand, it is notorious that there has sprung up a Race of Men, who with an usurp'd Title, and under false Colours, calling themselves the Champions of Natural Science, and promising nothing less than to deliver Human Minds from Ancient Bondage, and to knock off the Fetters of the Schools, have run into all kinds of Extravagance; not reflecting that their Folly ought to be held in Servitude, and their Madness to be confined with Chains. Religious Enthusiasm, tho' one of the most unhappy Spectacles of Human Weakness and Pride; yet was never so dangerous as Philosophical. Because the Designs of the latter, as they are more deeply laid, To they are carried on with more assured Secresy, under more artful Disguizes, and with a better composed Aspect and Address. Whereas, the former is wont to exert its whole Fury in some one open and desperate Enterprize; which engages the Civil Arm to oppose it, and soon ends in its own Destruction. Yet should we, on both sides, abstract from the Consequences, the Disproportion will be more visible in the Crimes. Both make use of very wrong means: but then the one is directed to the Honour of GOD; the other to the Contempt of all that is Sacred. Both are Effects of a fatal Ignorance: but then the one seems to be alleviated by some Degree of Misfortune; the other is altogether wilful and presumptuous. They constitute the most remote Extremes of sober Piety; the one is transported to the wildest Heights of Superstition, the other sink's into the lowest Prophaneness: and we know that all the Wisdom of my Lord Bacon, while employ'd to prove the latter of these the more excusable, hath only shown how much the Advocate was better than the Cause.
* Dr. Donn.
When GOD, in Scripture, is pleas'd to urge an Instance of His Superior Power and Wisdom, He appeals not only to his Creation of Things, but to His Knowledge of All that He has created. Hast thou entred into the springs of the sea; or hast thou walk'd in the search of the depth? Hast thou perceiv'd the breadth of the earth? declare, if thou knowest at all. Where is the way, where light dwells; and as for darkness, where is the place thereof? Has thou entred into the treasures of the snow; or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail? Hath the rain a father? or, who hath begotten the drops of dew? out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven who bath gendred it? Job. XXXVIII. But we have seen many of these Adventurers hardy enough to gird up their loins and answer him, and to accept the Challenge, made in behalf of both those His infinite Perfections. Nor are they satisfied with taking in pieces the Divine Mechanism, but often presume to constitute themselves Overseers and Directors of the Building: prescribing to their Maker the Laws of their own Frame; and sometimes correcting and censuring the Almighty Architect; while under the seeming Accuracy of their Rules, they covertly introduce Nature murmuring against her Author, saying to Him that fashion'd Her, why hast thou made me thus? 'Tis possible, that some may fall into an opposite Extravagance, of no less mischievous Effect Their Accuracy in surveying the Greatness of the Visible World, may strike their Thoughts with an Apprehension rather of the Power than the Goodness of GOD, and may erect a Philosophical Admiration upon the Ruines of a Christian Piety. The astonishing Disproportion between the Earth and the other parts of the Universe may tempt them to conceive, that Mankind, who inherit so petty and worthless a Possession, cannot be highly regarded by the Common Lord. And having given up their Title to His Favour, they will gladly proceed to withdraw themselves from his Notice: whence the Divinity framed by them, in good Earnest, will be the same which the Epicureans are said to have admitted in Complaisance;
Semota à rebus nostris sejunctaque longè:
As certainly Epicurus's Philosophy would have been more consistent with his Prophaneness, if instead of contracting the Heavenly Bodies into those narrow Dimensions, which they bear towards our Eye, he had, on the contrary, pronounced the Earth, the Seat of his ignoble Happiness, to be no more considerable than one of the Atoms in his System. Now should Men once allow themselves to harbour such a Mistrust, to over-look their Habitation with Contempt, and to bury their Hopes and Privileges in a dark and desponding Suspicion; no Human Reflexions could bring them to their Senses: their Melancholy could only yield to the Power of Religion, and the Light of Scripture, Say not thou 1 will hide my self from the Lord; shall any remember me from above? I shall not be remembred among so many people; for what is my soul amongst such an infinite number of creatures? Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens, the deep, and the earth and all that therein is, shall be moved when he shall visit. The mountains also and foundations of the earth shall be shaken with trembling, when the Lord looketh upon them. No heart can think upon these things worthily, and who is able to conceive his ways? It is a tempest which no man can see; for the most part of his works are hid. He that wantetb understanding will think upon vain things; and a foolish man erring imagineth follies. Ecclus. XVI. 'Tis not affirm'd, that the Pursuit of Natural Studies does always betray even bad Men to these Degrees of Impiety. But, if when-ever it meets with a roving Imagination or vicious Mind, it has a fatal Tendency towards lessening the Reverence of Religion, weakning the Guard of Conscience, and undermining the Pillar and Ground of Truth, the Fear is too just to be dissembled. And therefore, it would not seem derogatory to the Great Masters of Nature, or to those Arts and Ornaments of Life, which the World dayly owe's to their Successful Labours; if Men, who have by no means the same Strength, should be caution'd against perishing in the same Undertakings. On the contrary, the abating somewhat of that Edge with which Persons, rather Curious than Wise, are carried towards so delightful a Field, as it would be of Service to Honest thinking and acting, so it would vindicate the Science it self; by taking away its Protection from those Intruders, who are really the Pest and Vermine of Nature, hanging upon her comely Fruits, not to survey or to admire, but to defile and to destroy. Now there is nothing which might give such a Turn to Mens Thoughts, or so happily slacken the Warmth and Eagerness of this Disposition, as if they were generally convinced of the solid Worth of Moral Enquiry. It is the Saying of a Great Person, who in asserting the Pre-eminence, our Nation hold's in Philosophy, has at the same time demonstrated its Superiority in Eloquence, that the Natural Philosopher begins where the Moral ends *: And, were things allowed to take place according to their just Weight and Dignity, to invert this Order would appear no less absurd, than for an Actor to stare on a gay Scene till he forget's his Part: or, for a Mariner, cast away upon an unknown Shore, to contemplate the Rarities of the Country e'er he applies himself to the Natives; to gratifie his Curiosity, before he provide's for his Subsistence. We style it Ill-Breeding for a Person in Company, to affect particular Meditation, or separate Business, to imploy his Mind or his Hands after another way than his Fellows. And he, certainly, who defects the Study of Human Practice, to please a false Appetite of Natural Discoveries, forgets his Being as well as his Manners, and seems to offer a general Affront to his own Kind.
* Hist. of the Royal Society.
It seems now to be agreed amongst the Knowing World, that no Hypothesis of Nature can be admitted as neither precarious in its Title nor weak in its Performance, but that which is built upon the Principles of Mathematics; to which a living Genius, of our own Country has, by an uncommon Force, at once given Birth and Perfection. Now the Process of this Natural Doctrine supposing before hand, a familiar Acquaintance with that other most Elaborate Science, those who are so prepar'd will be able to demonstrate the Regular Course of Nature, no less than the Miraculous Interruption of it, to be the Finger of GOD. On the other side, those who have only learnt to raise a Dust with Matter and Motion, and to skirmish against Religion with Second Causes, being too weak or too willful, by these Degrees to climb and soar to the First, are obliged to quit the Field, as they would avoid the Scandal of fighting with Weapons which they never understood. In the mean while, 'tis hoped, that the greater part of considering Men who have neither Leisure nor Inclination to fathom the Depths of Natural Secrets, as they will rejoice to see the greatest Professors using them in the best Service, to here Philosophy Preaching that Faith which it once destroyed; so they will chiefly busie themselves in contemplating moral Truths, and in drawing them out into proper Actions: not thinking it a surer Mark of a great and comprehensive Mind to grasp the whole Chain of Visible Appearances, than to conceive the full Extent of Duty, to enlarge itself to the vast Compass of Relations which it bear's either to Heaven or Earth. Seek not out the Things that are too hard for thee, neither search the Things that are above thy Strength: But what is commanded thee think thereupon with Reverence; for it is not needful for thee to see with thine Eyes the Things that are in secret. For many are deceived by their own vain Opinion, and an evil Suspicion has overthrown their Judgment. Ecclus. III.
These Foundations of Morality in their general Sense, as they abstract from Divine and Human Institution make up that most necessary Doctrine, which, as branched out by our Author, beginning at the explication of our Rational Being, and of the two ruling Powers, the Understanding and the Will, discloseth the grounds of Moral Actions, the Springs of Good and Evil, with all the numerous Train of Circumstances which vary the nature of any Performance, and serve either for Aggravation or Excuse. In the next place, it discover's the Origine of Society, examin's the several Links of that Chain, which holds the Moral World together; like the gravitating or attracting Principle in Systems of Nature. And having laid so wide and so firm a Basis, it proceeds to raise the universal Frame of Rights and Duties; the firm Acknowledgment of the Divine Attributes, and the Acts of Religion founded in each Perfection: the Care and Culture we owe our own Minds and Bodies; the general Offices of Humanity to others; the Matter, Form, and Obligation of Covenants, Promises, and Oaths, and just regulation of common Speech, the Settlement and the Measures of Property, with the ways of passing it over, or of transmitting it down to other Hands; the Affair of Money, and the Laws of Merchandise and Trade; the Principles of Government, according to the Steps it takes from the House, the Family, and the Bed, to the Palace, the Nation, and the Throne; the Power of Sovereigns and the Duty of Subjects; the Essentials and Requisites of Civil Laws and Constitutions; the just management of War and the secure Measures of Peace.
It hath been observ'd concerning these Studies by a great Judge of Human Knowledge and Life, that they qualify a Man to be turned loose into the World, with Assurance of finding every where Imployment and Esteem *. The Civil Law own's so near a Relation to them, that they compose the principal part of its Essence and Character. Nor does the Law of our own Kingdom refuse their Direction; the Oracles of which are ever ready to maintain its advantage above all others in Conformity to Nature and Reason. Again, it's visible, that a great share of the Enquiries but now reckoned up, run thro' all the Honourable and Useful Capacities of the Nobility and Gentry. Neither can the industrious Spirits imploy'd in Traffick, ever pursue their Designs with less difficulty, or with better effect, than when, to their Experience of Persons and Things, they add the Knowledg of those Original Rules, which Nature herself established, when she ordained the wise necessity of Intercourse and Commerce amongst Men. And how much the regulation of Coin, the great Victory and Glory of our late War, is beholden to this Science, and to this Author, is known by all who are acquainted with the accurate management of that Debate. The Foundations of Government are the Subject of every Wise Man's Enquiry and Concern; who yet can never shew his Wisdom more, than by sinking his general Notions in the Ancient and just Constitution of his Country. Lastly, the great Assistance, which the sacred Profession derives from the same Fountain of Natural Law, will be allow'd upon this single Testimony; that the most judicious Bishop Sanderson recommended those two eminent parts of it, that which treats of the Nature of Human Actions, and that which explains the Essence, Obligation and difference of Laws, as the strongest Pillars which Secular Learning could supply, for the Support of a truly solid and useful Divine. So that laying these Considerations together, we seem to be furnished with a common Rationale of Knowledge, and an Universal Introduction to Business. It would be needless, to enlarge farther upon an Advantage, of which particular Persons may have so many Evidences, as there are different ways to which their Genius and Professions determine them to apply it. And therefore, the Reader had not been thus troubled with a Preparatory Adress in a ruled and acknowledged Case, but upon higher Motives; of which it may be now time to give an Account.
* Essay of Education.
See Bishop Barlow's Letter annex'd to the Life of Bishop Sanderson, by Mr. Walton.
There have not been wanting Men of too suspicious a Zeal, who were inclin'd to condemn these general Draughts of Natural Duty, as so many Encouragements to a Neglect of Sublimer Truths, and to that Contention of Reason with Religion, which the Enemies of both have set up, between so good Friends and so kind Assistants. Nor has our Author met with so much Justice, as to escape the Reach of this Imputation. A grave Writer, amongst our selves, has, by branding Him with the Name of Hobbesianus, rank'd Him in the most infamous Crew, that ever scandalized Reason and Wisdom. Whereas whoever considers, how irrecoverably He hath defeated the whole pernicious System of Principles, advanced by that Philosopher and his Clan, will consent he should wear the same Title, after the ancient manner, in the way of Honour and Triumph, as a Token and a Reward of his Victory. Moral Knowledge, 'tis confess'd, has had its Abuse as well as Natural. Yet the former of these Corruptions seem's to be less common, because the latter is more enticing, and satisfy'd with a meaner Degree of Parts and Sagacity in its Votaries. If we compare them to two Distempers, that is the more fierce and violent; this the more stubborn and inveterate, and therefore not so capable of Application or Cure. For he that opposeth Religion, upon Rational or Moral Rules, does by admitting those Rules in some sort qualify himself for a fair Debate, and may be brought to discern his Error by the Light of his own Principles. Whereas the Natural Sceptick leave's no place for an Argument to take hold on him, but the farther he goes, the more fatally he is lost; and because he is got out of his Depth and cannot feel the Bottom of things, he is left to plunge and struggle in a miserable Uncertainty. However, as it has been observ'd that a diligent Enquiry into Natural Law would, in a great measure, correct the Levity, and prevent the Danger of Natural Experiments; so, if whilst it restrain'd the Exorbitancy of Sense, it should more immediately promote the Deceitfulness of Reason, tho' we might be Gainers upon the Comparison, yet we ought to be ashamed of the Advantage. Which Reflexion engage's us to enter into the Grounds of this whole Dispute; so far as less experienced Advocates may, with Modesty, open a Cause, which they leave to be fully argued by the Skilful. The Subject under view is reducible to one General Question Whether or no the Consideration of a future State, enters into the Sanction of the Law of Nature? The Resolution of which seem's to lie within the following Assertions.
I. That, The Question is not strictly necessary:
II. That, If the Question be admitted, the Affirmative side must be acknowledged for true:
III. That, The Arguments alledg'd in favour of the Negative, are altogether weak and un concluding:
IV. That, The Negative, tho' supposed, yet would be no manner of Apology for Modern Libertines:
I. The Question is not strictly necessary: because there cannot be assign'd any Instance of Men guided barely by the Dictates of Nature. The Scripture giving the History of Man's Creation, when he was made upright, and fill'd with the clearest Light of Rational Precepts, immediately report's the Delivery of a Positive Command. Whether this Addition of a reveal'd Rule arose from the arbitrary Pleasure of the Creator or from the Necessities of Nature even in Innocence, is a Doubt which only Modesty ought to determine. We are safe at least, if we conceive, that it attend's the Nature of created Intelligent Beings, to require the Divine Assistance and Instructions, in the Method of extraordinary Communication. 'Tis certain, the Order of Good and Perfect Spirits act, not only by the inward Dictate of their Powers, but by the Divine Suggestion, occasionally inspired. On the one side, if their intuitive Knowledge extended to an equal Compass with their Duty, they must commence Omniscient, and invade the Prerogative of Him whom they serve: On the other side, if they, were not honour'd with these express Commissions, they would ever wish what they could never obtain; the Excellency of their Nature, would, by aspiring to unbidden Services, disturb and perplex it, and their immortal Duration might prove a State of endless Disquiet. And as, in shadowing out our lost Condition, we delight to copy after Angelical Purity, which is now made the Measure of our restored and final Perfection; so, as to this particular, the Notion we frame of Unfallen Angels and Men, represents both enjoying the Heavenly Converse, in different Degrees; both attending the Oracles of Divine Wisdom, tho' not as Disciples of the same Class; both admitted, tho' at unequal Distances, to the Presence of their Master.
But it is more profitable, instead of searching out such means of Spiritual Instruction as Man in his primitive Integrity possess'd, to reflect on those which were vouchsafed to his Succeeding Weakness and Want. The Change, introduced by the first Offence discover'd it self most visibly in the Perverseness of Man's Affections, and in the Blindness of his Apprehension. Natural Desires were embased; Natural Principles were obscured; Ignorance and Wickedness flourish'd by mutual Aid; and Reason was only left so far in Possession, as to remain capable of being its own Shame and Punishment. Now to rectify this Disorder, to repair the Original Breach, and save a noble Part of the Creation from perishing without Pity or Remedy, GOD was pleas'd to display so early a Mercy, that the very Authors of the Infirmity seem themselves to have tailed of the Cure: They were shown the Triumphs of their own Race, and beheld a Conquerour rising from the Captive Line. And because their broken and crazy Intellect was now fallen, in a great measure, under the Dominion of Sense, the Bounty of Providence appointed some Visible Institutions, and set such Marks in their way, as should, on every Occasion, remind them who had been their Guide. That Sacrifices, those at least of the Expiatory kind, owe their rise to this gracious Provision, is by Learned Men, with great Reason, conceiv'd. Which Instance seems a proper Clue to lead to the full Discovery of what we assert. For our first Parents did not, certainly, recommend to their Off-spring this Positive Rite, (received, with other Commands, from the Oracle of Heaven,) without instilling, at the fame time, the Methods of a purer Worship, engaging them in the Practice of the sublimest Virtues, instructing them in the History of the Beginning of All Things, and in the shameful, but useful Memory of their own Fall. These traditional Truths, handed down to Posterity, tho' by a Succession of wicked Descendants exceedingly impair'd, yet seem to have been never utterly extinguish'd; because that instituted Rite or Observance, which pass'd along with them, appear's to have prevail'd amongst all Generations of Men. We find, in the Process of Sacred History, that Nature sunk when unsupported by Education: That the Common Notions of Good and Evil were easily stifled, when these means of exciting and improving them fell under Neglect: And, that at length, GOD brought in the Flood upon the World of the Ungodly, not only for offering Violence to their Natural Principles, and for suppressing the inward Voice of Reason; but likewise for abusing the ordinary Methods, by which these Instruments should have been kept in Motion and Play; for stopping the Course by which practical Doctrines were convey'd; and, above all, for rejecting Noah, the Great Preacher of Righteousness, and Messenger of Reveal'd Instructions.
Upon the new Increase of Men from the Branches of one Family, the way lies easie for our traceing the progress of communicated Knowledge: the Better Race, receiving the Heavenly Truths by a renewed Title and an improving Right. The Repairer and second Father of Human Kind, obtained this Honour as the Reward of an unparalelled and inflexible Goodness: which durst maintain the Cause of Truth against a World sinking towards Ruine. His frequent Intercourse with Heaven, joined to the strong impression of his wonderful Rescue from the common Vengeance, gave Him the greatest Ability and Inclination to revive a Spirit of Piety in the restored World: And the Authority he bore as Lord of his Race, impowered Him effectually to discharge his Universal Trust. The Confusion of Tongues and Dispersion of Nations, tho' they were the Punishment of very presuming Impiety, yet gave Occasion to the dividing Multitudes to spread some Fundamental Truths thro' all the Soils in which they planted their scatter'd Progeny. And then, the erecting of States and the introducing of Civil Government inforced the necessity of Education, guarded the performance of Mutual Offices, adorned the Publick Worship, and consecrated the Reliques of Religion.
In the mean time, the Mercy of Providence was ingaged in fencing Human Duty with a stronger Bulwark, and a Holier Discipline. A Chosen Seed, was separated from the Nations, and trained up under a long Succession of Patriarchs, so familiarly conversant with Revelation, that the cheif of them has the Honour to be styled the Friend of GOD. The fame Peculiar People, when their Circumstances seem'd to call for a more lasting Provision, Receiv'd A Law by the Disposition of Angels, and liv'd under a State of Miracles for its Confirmation. Now that the Civil and the Ceremonial Parts of this Law should be thus solemnly deliver'd, or thus wonderfully preserv'd, seem's no more than the things themselves, having no intrinsic Recommendation, might of necessity require. But it was a Noble Argument of Divine Goodness and of Human Infirmity, that the defaced Characters of Morality should be stamped anew with so Strong and Royal a Hand; that what was legible below, in the Book of Creatures, should be proclaimed with Power and Majesty from Heaven; that, Nature should shake at the Terrour of her own Voice, reflected by the Voice of GOD. If we observe, how this Oeconomy was fitted for the Instruction of the most remote People in Fundamental Doctrines, whilst without distinction, it introduced All into the Court of the Temple, inureing them Mirari limen Olympi, to admire the Entrance of Paradise and Gate of Bliss; and how it kept open the way for the best and most perfect Institution, for the Hope and Desire of all Nations; the Argument concludes with reasonable Force. And it seems the most blessed Entertainment of a Free Genius and Elevated Mind, not so much to contemplate the Changes and Revolutions of Natural Things; to watch the Birth of a rising World, or to sift the Ashes of its Funeral Flame; as to survey the Grand System of Providence; to approach, with humble Caution, the Fountains of Divine Counsels; to trace the History of the second Covenant, and the Footsteps of the Messiah's Kingdom; and, with a Joy not to be expressed, to look thro' those Scenes of Mercy, which were laid before all Ages, for Human Benefit and Happiness.
What hath been offer'd will be set in a fairer Light, by clearing an Objection or two which seem to lye against it. First then, it may be thought to injure the General Subject and Design of our Author: Secondly, to oppose what has been sometimes deliver'd by learned Men, and what seems to be contained in some Expressions of Scripture: Thirdly, to Countenance the Doctrine of Oral Tradition; and, Fourthly, to disparage Natural Religion, that it may recommend Revelation with more Advantage.
As to the first Exception, it is by no means the same thing, to abstract in our Mind the Scheme of Natural Precepts from Positive Institutions; and to affirm, that Men were or are guided purely by the Native Results and Reflections of Reason. For, as the latter can never be evinced, so the former is of excellent service There is the like difference between maintaining, that such or such Duties are discoverable by the bare Light of Nature; and that they are agreeable to it, by what means soever discover'd. The latter is sufficient to denominate such Duties Natural: and thus Divines often style Christianity, the Crown, Perfection, and Consummation of the Law of Nature; and declare that it adds no positive Ordinance besides the Holy Sacraments and Essential Rites of the Church. Again, they who would have Nature look no farther than one Life, must conceive, (tho' falsly, upon their Supposition,) that she is arm'd with sufficient Strength to direct and influence, in due manner, the Affairs of that vanishing Period: and they who most thankfully imbrace the Aid of Revelation, and the Hope of Immortality, are willing to search into the Rational Grounds of Action, tho' they profess a higher Principle; and to contemplate the Seeds of Piety and Honesty, as they lie sown in our Being, tho' they acknowledg that it is GOD alone who gives the Fruit and Increase. So that, on all Hands, the Law of Nature is admitted for a necessary Doctrine: and They, certainly, are the most just Assertors of its Worth, who confine it to proper Limits, invigorate it with Noble Assistances, and rescue it from Corruption and Abuse.
It is, indeed, not unusual with Learned Men, to affirm, that under the Patriarchal Age, the Law of Nature only prevail'd: as also, that Reason, or Moral Conscience, was the great Directress of the Heathen World. But then they neither intend to exclude extraordinary Revelations, in the former Case, nor the ordinary Means of conveyance and propagation, in the latter. And it is remarkable, that in all the Histories of past Ages, and credible Discoveries of the present, we meet with no Corruptions so grosly Brutal and Stupid, as that under them we may not discern some Footsteps of Original Tradition, some Shadows at least of Primitive and Heavenly Light. So likewise, when the Apostle observes, that the Gentiles who have not the (Mosaical) Law, do by Nature the things contain'd in the Law, and thus are a Law unto themselves; 'Tis hardly probable that He useth the Term Nature with so abstracted and Philosophical a strictness, as to divest it of the common Attendants of its Signification, those Supplies and Helps of Nature, which have gone along with it in the Course of Things. Nor would the Criticks themselves be willing to afford protection to this Cavil. For they tell us, on the contrary, that the Word of Nature is sometimes taken for bare Custom, as distinct: from any Precept of Nature: * and then, much rather, may it import: the same Precepts as strengthened and transmitted by Custom.
Rom. II. 14.
* See Dr. Hammond on 1 Cor. XI. 14.
As for Tradition, such as is taught in the Church of Rome, the Danger of it is readily acknowledged, when usurping the same Authority with the written Rule of Faith, and aspiring to build on that Foundation with equal Strength and Certainty. But this Secret Tradition which a great Author * has so well resembled to a Silent Thunder, does not affect our Question: And he who would deny all Tradition, must deprive Human Life of one necessary Instrument, for Knowledge and for Practice: The Holy Scriptures themselves disdain not this conveyance, which to reject, when clear in its Evidence, and modest in its Pretensions, is to set up for the first of our Race, and to refuse all Commerce with our Fore-fathers.
* Mr. Chillingworth.
Nor, Lastly, do we use so ungenerous a Method of Argument, as to lessen the force of Natural Religion, that we may raise the Value of Revelation; like the Over-heated Disputant against Judaism, who, betwixt Wit and Anger, denied the Authority of the Old Testament, when his unreasonable Adversary, with so much Perverseness rejected the New. The Charge of defameing and debaseing the Majesty of Nature, really lie's with full force against the Opinion which we now oppose: as will appear, when we come to examine how far Natural Light, duly observ'd, would be able to lead its Followers. In the mean while, it must, with great Humility, be confessed, that we live in fæce Adami, in the Dregs of Human Perfection, and the Ruines of Reason. Noble Lessons, are no doubt, imprinted on our Souls: but the Dispute is, who shall wipe off the Original Dust, refresh the Characters of Duty, raise and revive the decayed Image of Eternal Truth. We are now enquireing what Means GOD has been pleased to afford us of recovering our impair'd Stock; how His Strength is made perfect in our Weakness. And whilst we proceed on this Foot, we can no more seem to injure the Excellence of Nature, by advancing the Triumphs of Grace, than we should wrong the Pleasures of this Life, by meditating on the Joys of Heaven.
What hath been hitherto attempted seem's to suggest two proper Remarks. The First is, that the present Argument hold's with no less Strength against those, whom Pride and Infidelity have inclined to question the Records of Holy Scripture. For, unless they suppose Man to have been, either from an Eternal Succession, or from a Chance Production; (both which Fables the loosest Sceptics have long since disclaim'd, tot so much in common Modesty, as in Deference to their own Parts and Judgments;) whenever He came from under the Creating Hand, He stood in need of some Communication with His Author: and especially, if (as such Men assert,) He came into the World with these Visible Corruptions about Him. It is a most ravishing Strain of Poesy, which introduce's Adam under the joyful Surprize of his first Existence, calling upon the more Early Natures with which He was encompassed, to inform Him of his Original, and to direct his Gratitude and Worship:
Thou Sun, fair Light, And thou enlighten'd Earth, so fresh and gay; Ye Hills and Dales, Ye Rivers, Woods and Plains; And Ye that live and move, fair Creatures, tell, Tell, if Ye saw, how came I thus, how here? Not of my self; by some great Maker then, In Goodness and in Power Pre-eminent: Tell me, how may I know Him, how adore; From whom I have that thus I move and live, And feel that I am Happier than I know!
Milton's Paradise Lost, B. VIII.
But, whatever Difference might arise from his Primitive Perfections, yet to those who explode the History of a Fail, it ought not to seem unreasonably presumed, that the First Man, could not so much as have known Himself to be so, or have claim'd this most ancient Prerogative of Honour, without his Maker's Information. He might sooner have fancied the Marks and Footsteps of his Predecessors to have been casually obliterated; than have look'd on himself as the first-form'd Father of the World, the great Source and Fountain of his Kind; or have imagin'd, seeing himself cast on so Strange a Scene, that He was to begin the Act, without either Assistants or Spectators. To say the Truth, they who are so bold with their great Progenitors, as to set them immediately to work, by Rules implanted in their Being, without any Correspondence with their Creator, do, in effect, bring themselves down to the Level of Irrational Creatures, spurr'd on by blind Instinct; and introduce that dark and debasing Hypothesis of Atheism, about a Soul of the World; such a Fatal Necessity in Moral Things, as is the Resemblance and Counterpart of their Plastic Principle in Natural.
The other Remark which may be offered, is, that there lurk's a very wicked Fallacy at the bottom, when our new Projectors for Paganism, lay themselves out with so much studied Eloquence, in cautioning us against the Prejudices of Authority, the Colours and Tinctures of Education, and the Prepossessions derived from our Teachers. As, in general, those Arguments are most Popular, that assert the Freedom of the Auditor, and flatter the Understanding which they would convince; so this has a particular Grace and Advantage, in as much as the Methods which it condemn's, may indeed be unhappily applied, and are so full of real Danger on some Occasions. Yet these are such Means as the Frame of our Nature require's, in propagating the Sublimest Truths: and the Reason, which every Man is to exercise in the Choice of his Religion, ought not to lay them by, but to govern and rectify them; as a Traveller uses his Eyes when he follows a Guide. Nor can Epictetus's or Mr. Chillingworth's so much applauded Traveller's Indifference import any more, than that we should impartially apply our best Judgment to the Trial of all the Lights afforded us in our Course, and guard against every thing that may betray or mislead us. Whereas he who is so full of himself, as to deny their due weight and influence to the ordinary Means of Information, and who rejecting the common Fund of Truth, frame's his Creed out of his own separate Stock, is for cutting down the Tree of Knowledg, that he may indulge the Nicety of surveying it's Root; is content to turn Apostate, that he may commence Rational Beleiver: and seem's to imitate the Presumption and Folly of some Empirics, who, to support the Force of their Medicines, and Credit of their Art, have gorged themselves with Poysons, which they could never totally expel.
II. If the Question be admitted, the Affirmative Side must be acknowledged for true. And that for these two evident Reasons, because otherwise Man, in a Natural State, would be alike uncapable of Goodness and of Happiness. Did Nature so contract the Prospects which Religion open's to our View, as to let Death close the Scenes and shut out all beyond, to exspect so unprofitable an Honesty, would be to look for the Stream, when we stopp'd up the Fountain. All the Reasons and Measures of acting, which arise from the Temporal Condition of things must be finally resolv'd into Interest: to which tho' Virtue points out the safe and infallible Path, yet Vice, as better Skill'd in By-ways, is too often the more expeditious Guide. A Natural Man, if he neither believe's nor hope's farther than he see's, cannot have fairer means of being what he will, than by doing what he list's. He observe's his Mark just before him, and had rather seize upon it at one Leap, than hast in Shackles, and keep the sober Pace of Duty. Slow and Sure, is dull Principle for his Active Spirit. Tell him of the Pleasure of Expectation; and he bid's you preach that Philosophy to Tantalus: as for himself, he is much more sensible of the Torment of Delay. Besides, He values a Satisfaction purchased with Danger: and a Fall or a Bruise in the Pursuit only sweeten's and recommend's the Enjoyment. And therefore the Fear of Shame or Pain would in this Case prove a weak Motive of Practice. Secresy might evade the force of the one, Pleasure might weigh against the other; and Gold, Honour, and Empire, the Prize of some Fortunate Villany, might defy both. Thus the Rules of Goodness would be confin'd to Persons, in Vulgar Esteem, of narrow Aims, and of contracted Thoughts; such as could satisfy themselves with being upon the Defensive, with keeping the low and safe Road, whilst others pursu'd the Victory thro' all Opposition: Virtue, would be thought a kind Name for abject Weakness, and Innocence, the Apology of a Coward. But 'tis past Dispute, that the greatest pare would be of the aspiring Temper, ambitious of making what Noise or Blaze they could, to astonish or terrify those about them; and at last, to vanish in Smoak, or, as they might call it, to survive in Fame. To go farther; should we for Argument's sake, suppose, that in a Condition of meer Nature, Men would be honest out of Policy, and be content to take the Guard of Virtue, for the security of their Persons and Fortunes; this sordid and ungenerous Necessity could reach but short Degrees of Perfection, All the sublime and improv'd Attainments, would be as much above their Practice as they were contrary to their Design. Where should we here of One that would oppose Injustice or Oppression, when his own Effects were out of Danger; and by affording shelter to others, draw the Storm upon himself? Would any Man Hand in the Breach, who had but one Life to support his Courage? Would not to succour distressed Innocence be true Knight Errantry? Would there be such a Virtue as Fortitude, except on the Stage? Nay, the Poets of Old were better Philosophers; for when 'twas agreed amongst them to lay out all their Art upon one Heroe, and to form a common Hercules out of the joint Stock; they knew this World could not be Worth his winning, which was not Worth his enjoying; and therefore they wisely feign'd Him the Son of Jove, and laid up the Prize of his Labours amongst the Treasures of his Father's Kingdom.
Thus would our Temporary Hypothesis afford no Example of Illustrious Beneficence, of Generous and Un-interest'd Valour, or of Passive Greatness. Much less could it lay any Claim to the Charms of of an inward and secret Goodness, to Purity of Heart, Sincerity of Intention, Calmness of Affections, and Resignation of Desire. These are Exercises which disdain all Relation to a Mortal State; they are perform'd upon higher Views; and, if deprived of those, would be so many Adventures into a Faery Land; would expose a Man to that lessening Character of being a Stranger in his own Country, and Curious in the Search of an imaginary Scene. The same must be said with regard to the Acts of Piety towards GOD, that Holy Intercourse which unite's Heaven to Earth, and connect's Eternity with Time; without which (in the Words of One, who adorn'd the sublimest Piety with an equal Judgment and Eloquence;) Were it possible that all the Ornaments of Mind might be had in full Perfection, the Mind that should possess them divorced from it, could be but A Spectacle of Commiseration: men as that Body is, which, adorn'd with sundry other admirable Beauties, wanteth Eye-Sight, the chiefest Grace, that Nature hath, in that kind, to bestow *. The Ends of Government would be engaged, to keep up a Face of outward Worship: but all the Life and Comfort of real Devotion must expire, and leave Superstition and Prophaneness to divide the World. On the whole, this degrading System, whatever Pretences it may make of vindicating the Law of Nature, and restoring it to its just Command, does really evacuate its Obligation, disarm its Sanctions, and would, in time, extinguish its Light. Wicked Men, as they are remarkable for the Talent of confuting themselves, have proved these Consequences to be no less visible in Fact, than they are necessary in Reason. For having once blinded their Understandings, with the dark Prospect of their miserable Hope, Annihilation; they have improved that into an Argument which was invented for an Excuse. They have made Nature change the Severity of her Discipline and Voice; and, like a fond Mother, give no other Command to her Sons, but that, in order to making the best of a little Life, they should, by refined Satisfactions, improve its Relish, and deceive its Speed; stopping the Flight of every Moment, by catching hold of some untasted Pleasure. They have not been ashamed to urge, that Human Perfection consists in gratifying the Appetites and Inclinations of the Body. They have bribed Common Speech to be of their Party, and have stamp'd their adulterate Notion upon the very Names of Living and Enjoying, With them, the Soul is no better than a necessary Slave, imploy'd in hunting and catering for the Luxury of Sense; their exquisite Discernment was given them to raise the Delicacy of Vice; their Lamp of Reason to light them to Excess. We pretend not to decide whether they argue right from so wrong a Principle: it being a most peculiar Impertinence to state the Consequences of an impossible Supposition. Bur thus much we may clearly gather from their Discourse, that what some have affirm'd, through a Verbal Mistake, that The Law of Nature is Common to Beasts and Men , they assert to the utmost Strictness, and with full Intention. Which is to say, that the Business of the latter differs from that of the former, not in Kind but in Degree: and, that Virtue has no more to do with Kingdoms or Cities, than with the Forrest. or the Stalls. And this seem's the best account, how, amongst all the Models of Atheism, the Epicurean should be embraced with almost a general Preference to others; as more agreeable and entertaining, by being less diffident and apprehensive. The rest pretend to a Loftiness of Thought and Mind; and thus, by leaving some Uneasiness of Reflection, and Suspicion of Danger, do not exclude all Possibility of Redress: The Patient is not senseless, and therefore the Cure not desperate. But this, like the most noisom Distempers, is founded in the Degeneracy of Nature, and lives and thrives upon Corruption. It has the Art of curing Pain by a Lethargy: And having first engaged Men in a Succession of Amusements, it easily persuades them, that they need not look about them, in so smooth a Road, so pleasant a Passage; and, in the End, leads them Blindfold to the Precipice of another State.
* Mr. Hooker, Eccl. Pol. B. V.
See this way of speaking confuted by the Author, B. XI. C. III. S. III.
Let us single One out of the Herd, and hear him running over the Short of his Persuasion. 'Who has sent me into the World I know not; what the World is I know not; nor what I am my self. I am under an astonishing and terrifying Ignorance of All Things. I know not what my Body is, what my Senses, or my Soul: and this very Part of me which thinks what I speak, which reflects upon every thing else, and even upon it self, yet is as meer a Stranger to its own Nature, as the dullest thing I carry about me, 1 behold these frightful Spaces of the Universe with which I am encompass'd; and I find my self chain'd to one little Corner of the vast Extent, without understanding why I am placed in this Seat, rather than in any other; or why this Moment of Time given me to live, was assign'd rather at such a Point, than at any other of the whole Eternity which was before me, or, of all that which is come after me. I see nothing but Infinities on all sides; which devour and swallow me up, like an Atom; or like a Shadow, which endures but a single Instant, and is never to return. The Summ of my Knowledge is, that I must shortly dye: but, that which I am moil ignorant of is this very Death, which I feel my self unable to decline. As I know not whence I came, so I know not whether I go: only this I know, that at my Departure out of the World, I must either fall for ever into nothing, or into the Hands of an Incensed GOD; without being capable of deciding, which of these two Conditions shall eternally be my Portion. Such is my State: full of Weakness, Obscurity, and Wretchedness. And from all this I conclude, that I ought, therefore, to pass all the Days of my Life, without considering what is hereafter to befal me; and that I have nothing to do, but to follow my Inclinations, without Reflexion or Disquiet, in doing all that, which if what Men say of a miserable Eternity prove true, will infallibly plunge me into it. 'Tis possible I might find some Light to clear up my Doubts: but I shall not take a Minute's Pains, nor stir one Foot in the Search of it. On the contrary, I am resolv'd to treat those with Scorn and Derision who labour in this Enquiry and Care; and, so to run, without Fear or Foresight, upon the Trial of the Grand Event; permitting my self to be led softly on to Death, utterly uncertain as to the eternal Issue of my future Condition.
Thus is the Case of such a Prodigy of Reason impartially represented, by a Gentleman whose profound and universal Genius stands more honourably possess'd of the same Title. And this is the Reflexion with which he concludes his View: In earned, 'tis a Glory to Religion, to have so unreasonable Men for its profess'd Enemies: and their Opposition is of so little Danger, that it serves to illustrate the principal Truths which our Religion teaches. For the main Scope of Christian Faith is to establish these two Principles, the Corruption of Nature, and the Redemption by Jesus Christ: And these Opposers, if they are of no Use towards demonstrating the Truth of the Redemption, by the Sanctity of their Lives; yet, are, at least, admirably useful in shewing the Corruption of Nature, by so unnatural Sentiments and Suggestions *.
* Pense de Monfrem Paschal, Cap. 1.
We have seen, in some measure, that the Earth which we tread upon is but a hopeless Soil, for the Production of things Great and Generous. And now, if a terminated Condition be no way charming enough to make us Good, the Dispute seems already over, whether it be any way rich enough to make us Happy. But what if we suffer one Part of the Argument to decline this Advantage of borrowing the Testimony of the other? it will certainly be no Loser by the Courtesy, but will only draw back, to come on again with recruited Force and redoubled Speed. Let it be supposed then, that Nature could secure the Effects of her Laws, by Temporal Sanctions: the result must needs be such a lean and barren Virtue, as could only promise to make Men more sensibly miserable. For, besides, that the External Rewards of Goodness must be left to the cruel Mercy of the Wicked; granting them to be, by some good Chance, obtain'd, Reason could never be satisfy'd with the Possession. So that the whole Matter would rest on the inward Peace and Comfort of Mind. And this, at length, must either sink into the Epicurean Indolence, or be supported by the Pleasure of Conscience. The former, (abating its Immorality,) is a pure Negative; a fortunate Expression for the Happiness, not of the Philosopher, but of his Statue. The latter must either feed on a promis'd Reserve, or confine its Appetite to the Shortness of its present Provision. If the first, the Point is gain'd: if the second, the Pleasure is lost. For the Thought of being no more, strikes with so fatal a Malignancy, as not only to check and kill the Joy, but to arraign the Wisdom of Virtue: It tells us, we have used the Means without any Title to the End: That, we have made a Fool's Shot, over-gone our Mark, and spent the invaluable Oil of Life upon false and fading Colours. At least all the fancied Relief it gives, is only to turn the Fault from our own Conduct, upon the Rigour of a certain Step-Dame-Nature, which imbitters our Life, abridges our Inheritance, and impairs our very Mind and Sense. For it insinuates, that we were born to be deceiv'd, and live and dye to be disappointed: which is certainly the Hell of Virtue, tho' it may seem the Paradise of Vice. All the World have agreed to explode the Stoick's Boast of maintaining his Happiness in Phalaris's Bull: Not because the thing was impossible, for Christian Faith has, upon the like Experiments, pronounced it easy; but because the Persons were absurd, in that they pretended to out-brave the Trial, when their Principles gave them no Certainty as to the Event. In which Case, the very Doubt of Non-existence would, to a wise Man, be more terrible than the Monster of Torment. But when Epicurus, quitting his Roses for such a Bed of Honour, instead of uttering a hideous Farewel to his Being, sings the like Philosophical Note, Quam suave est hoc! quam hoc non curo! he only appears the Mimic of the graver Sect, and can have no farther Intention, than (as Tully observes *, ) to make us merry. Life is an arrant Coward, unless inspired with Immortality. It is sick of it self; shrinks from its own Support; nauseats the mean Circulations of Trifles; grows weary of the World, yet abhors to leave it. And as for Fame, that Idol to which so many of the Ancients sacrificed themselves, the Satisfaction of this Prospect without a better, is not so wise a Bargain, as for a Man to give his Life in Purchase for his Picture. When Children or Fools are tickled with the Mockery of an Eccho, or with admiring their Shadow, as it sports and shoots beyond their Body; we smile at the Pardonable Weakness of Age or Nature. But for a Mortal of advanced Years, and, in other Respects, of perfect Judgment, to value himself upon a Sound that is not to begin 'till he is for ever out of hearing, and to blow away all his Breath into the Trumpet of future Memory; is worse than Child's Play, and Folly insupportable.
* Tusc. Quæst. 11.
Achilles in Homer, reflecting at the same time on the Shortness of his destin'd Age, and on the Affronts and Grievances He suffer'd under it; at first has the Boldness to charge Jove with Injustice to his Face; but, soon forgets the Fierceness of his Character, and addresses his Mother's Pity, in her own Eloquence of Tears. Scaliger may please himself with this Occasion of Severity: But if the wise Story holds out the Glass and Image of Human Life and Greatness, both the Heroe and the Poet seem more justifiable than the Critic. And certainly, those other Fables, common to the Ancient Poesy and Philosophy, about the Soul's being sent into the Body as a Punishment for the Errors of a former State; about the Purgation of Souls after Death, and their taking the Forgetful Draught, to reconcile them to the Hardship of a new Confinement; do all afford the same useful Moral: that the Best of Mortal Men are only Candidates and Probationers of Happiness to come; and that, excluding these Hopes, one Part of our Being is not only the Prison, but the Rack and Torture of the other. Nor is it easie to judge, how Nature should escape the Imputation of that Tyrant's detested Cruelty, who Bound the Living to the Dead; were the Soul condemn'd first to be tied to a Body which it can never please or satisfy, and then,
Complexu in misero longâ sic morte necari,
To suffer a Lingring Death in the miserable Embrace.
For an Illustration of this Argument we may appeal to the most celebrated Paradox of Modern Wit, the Satyr against Mankind. We have there the true State of Reason without Conscience, or of Sence without Reason, exhibited with more Logic, than there is in the Leviathan, and with an Elegance equal to that of Lucretius. And the whole Process amounts to this, that if Sense be the Light of Nature, and if Reason be to take from thence its Rules of Good and Ill, (having been given us only to assist the Appetite in Enjoying and Renewing its Pleasures,) then the Human Species is less eligible than any Shape in the Animal Creation. Whoever goes thro' the Piece, and observes it to conclude with the Character of a truly Pious and Humble Man, cannot but infer that either the Noble Poet had already begun his Repentance; or, that a Panegyric upon Libertinism will ever be a better Sarcasm in Spight of the Author; and that no consistent Discourse can begin with a Complaint of the Miseries of Human Nature, but it must end with the Commendation of Religion.
III. The Reasons alledg'd for the Negative of this Question are weak and unconeluding. We find them proposed by our Author , tho' with that Modesty and Diffidence, as to cast no blemishing Suspicion on the Sincerity of his Design. They are,
'First, That the Ratio a priori, is not demonstrative, tho' highly probable.
'Secondly, That all such Punishment as does not arise from a Natural and Necessary Consequence, being Arbitrary, presupposes a positive Determination of the Divine Will, which we are hardly capable of apprehending, without a particular Revelation.
Book II. Cap. III. Sect. 21.
The former Reason, that the Evidence of a future State, under the Law of Nature, is not Demonstrative, falls of course, if the Arguments prosecuted amount to a Demonstration. For, if they do; such a Demonstration will be à priori, being built upon the Wisdom and Goodness of GOD, which have not suffered Man to be incapable of performing his Duty and obtaining his Perfection. If they do not; then, Nature only leaves us to doubt, whether we ought not to curse our Being, as a common Calamity; and whether the excellent Faculties bestowed on us, are not the same Privilege which Nero granted to a miserable Creature at his Execution; Ut se sentiat mori, the Benefit of Feeling himself dye: Or whether we should not rather suspect the very Reality of Existence, and rank our selves amongst the Aery People of the Poet's Elysium,
Tenues & sine nomine vitas,
Fleeting Shadows of Life, and unfinish'd Draughts of Humanity, not yet fix'd in a Person, or distinguish'd by a Name.
If it seem strange, that the Moral Reason from the End of Man and the Justice of Providence, was rather pitched on, than the Physical Proof from the Immateriality of the Soul: as the Subject of our Author required this Proceeding, and as Great Precedents might be offer'd who have imbraced it, without such a Determination on their Choice; so it is certainly the most intelligible, and the most convincing. In the former respect, it descends to the lowest Apprehensions, which more abstracted Reasonings might rather confound than persuade. In the latter; it has for its Basis nothing less than the Divine Attributes; Principles, not to be equal'd in the Philosophical Store. Indeed the Advantage is so visible; that they who prefer the Other Conduct, must at last repose their cheif Strength in This. For it would be in vain to have shown, that we consist of two so very different Parts, as Spirit and Body, unless we could afterwards infer, that the Creator of both will actually preserve the one in a State of separate Existence from the other; of which State He has made it, in its Nature capable. Therefore the Physical Arguments can never subdue Him, who obstinately holds out against the Moral. Because, if the present imperfect and unsettled Face of Affairs, does not prevail with Him to believe, that all Inequalities will be rectified in the last Act and Close of things; were he able rightly to apprehend his Spiritual Part, he might no less stubbornly conceive, that it should either cease and be extinct with the Corporeal, tho' by a different Manner of Dissolution; or else be removed to perform the same Vital Offices in another Frame. For these two Consequences seem alike Necessary: if the Divine Disposer of all things, has, after this Surface of Time, finally appointed us to an unchangeable Condition; then, whatever the Constitution of our Nature may seem, He is able to execute His own Decree: on the other hand, if He has confin'd us to this short Period of Subsistence, 'tis vain Flattery to look on ourselves as so very fit for an Immortal Duration, whilst He stands immutably resolv'd to baffle our Hopes and our Arguments together. The boasted Capacity of the Subject can no more oblige or determine His Will, than the pretended Incapacity can resist or retrain His Power.
It is true, the World can never pay sufficient Acknowledgments and Honours to those worthy Persons, who have successfully used the unerring Principles of Nature, to enlarge the Victories of Faith. Yet 'tis the just remark of these excellent Men, that they hope rather to confirm Persons of Honest tho' doubtful Minds, than to reclaim actual Deserters, such as are already Gone after Satan. Because, the revolting from Religion upon professed Principles, is nothing else but the wise Art of Reasoning a Man's self into a Brute: and a Creature thus degenerate has lost the very Capacity of being persuaded. Besides, these refined Speculations have a particular unaptness to influence the Apostate. In as much as by yielding to them, He mud confess himself out-done at his own Weapons: an Infamy, which his high Conceit cannot brook or support. And therefore, He will be sure to out-brave the Argument so long, as not to be sensible of its Strength: as Children blind themselves with looking on the Sun 'till they forget that He shines. For, if it be known, to a Proverb, that some Men by confidently reporting Lies, have brought themselves to credit them; why may not others by an habitual perverseness in denying the Truth, attain really to disbelieve it? Or, should any Reserve of Modesty with-hold them from this Extravagance; yet, after all, Infidelity runs in a manifest Circle, where Reason cannot follow. First, it demands the mod Strict and Philosophical Proofs; and if such are alledg'd, as in the Foundation of Religion they often have been, then it plays the Counter-part, and rejects the Evidence, on the very Score of its being thus refined, and remote from common Observation. And as it has a peculiar Talent at opposing the Divine Perfections to each other, hoping to escape in the Contention; so here, its Plea Before was, that the Goodness of GOD seems engag'd to allow Men the highest certainty in this Respect, that their Faculties can obtain; Now, it changes its Style, and asserts that the Justice of GOD cannot but exhibit such Grounds of Religious Persuasion, as lie within Compass, to Understandings of the shorted Range and most contracted Sphere.
It seems clear, then, that the Moral Demonstration of a Future State is the most likely Remedy that can be applied, where the Case is not desperate; or where there is still left Ingenium Sanabile, (in the Phrase of the Incomparable Grotius,) a Frame of Mind not past Cure and Conviction. If it be still urg'd, that we can hereby arrive only at an Indubitable, not an Infallible Certainty, whereas the latter seem, to be required in every Demonstrative Proof: the Answer is ready; that altho' in many of those which we term Moral Arguments, this Distinction is of admirable Use, to shew Men the unaccountable Folly of suspending their Assent, when there is but a bare possibility that things may be otherwise; yet the main Principles of Natural Religion, and especially this, their common Basis, are Infallibly as well as Indubitably certain. For, that we are design'd to a settled Condition, after these days of Tryal, and that we now see or hear such a Colour or Sound, are Truths which differ only as to our manner of receiving them; the one requiring Attention of Mind and Ingenuity of Temper; the other superseding our very Choice; and therefore, the one being a Point of Virtue, the other of Necessity. But as for the Evidence of things themselves, it is either the same in both Cases; or rather it is so much greater in the former, as we are more strongly inclin'd to believe, that He who made our Senses true, has not made our Reason false.
But, because the Wealth of Truth is so great, that she cannot injure Herself by discreet Bounties; it may be no prejudice to the Argument, if we carry it on thro' these farther Concessions.
First, That were the Evidence of a Future State,under the Law of Nature, but Highly probable ( as our Author affirms,) then, it would want nothing of being a proper Sanction to that Law.
Secondly, That were it in any degree probable, this might sufficiently engage Men to act in expectance of it.
First, Were the Evidence of a Future State, under the Law of Nature, Highly probable, then it would want nothing of becoming a proper Sanction to that Law. Because, the Force of Temporary Sanctions does by no Means rise above this degree of Assurance. All the Happy Attendants of Virtue and all the Plagues and Scourges of Vice, do not follow by so infallible a Connexion, as never to break, in any one Link of the Chain. Otherwise the Stoical Assertion would be no Paradox, that every Vicious Man is really Non compos. But, indeed, the main force of those Motives turns upon a Point of Prudence, which advises Men to imploy such Instruments as generally, or for the most part, produce the desired Effect; or however, which promise much more fairly, than the contrary Application. Now, if we have equal Evidence that Human Nature is determin'd to a Future Life, and that (for instance,) Temperance will considerably prolong the Present; then surely we cannot answer it to Reason, if we are less influenced by the prospect of living for ever, than by the hope of patching up a perishable Fabric. And should it be urg'd, that the former, tho' exceedingly credible, yet does not seem to depend on so Natural a Consequence as the latter; yet the Advantage and the Danger which terminate the Immortal View, (both greater than the Mind of Man can conceive,) would prodigiously over-ballance any such inequality in the Proof. But, not to insist on that Prerogative; the Comparison is carried wonderfully to the same side, by this weight of this Consideration; that, every Step we take towards evincing the Authority of the Eternal Sanction, confirms the Power of the Temporal: In Cases where this is deficient, that falls in and supplies all Irregularities: Where this is unsatisfying, that heightens the Rational Appetite, by promising an After-relish of unchangeable Sweetness. So that, as, in Natural Bodies, a Force not so great as that which began the Motion, will vastly increase the Speed; so when the Mind is already bent on the Pursuit of Goodness, by the Encouragements which this World extends, should we take the other into the Accompt, (tho' allowing for it Remoteness in Proportion to its Price,) we could not but be bribed more powerfully, and carried on more irresistibly through the Course of Duty. One Thought beyond the Grave, wisely improved, would clear up all Unevenness in the way thither; nothing being really able to make Life easy, that has not, at the same time, the Power of making Death supportable. In fine, the Difference between those (if any such may come into a Supposition,) who would imbrace Virtue upon merely Secular Aims, and those who would suffer themselves to be directed by a future Issue, must be apparently this: The former would be content with these Semblances and Shadows of Reward; as if a Merchant, when he is summing up his Debts, should kindly pay himself in full, with the Counters: The latter, as they would not be behind hand in enjoying the present Advantages of Integrity, so they would farther look on them as so many Tallies to be produced hereafter, and so be then answered in a real and a lasting Treasure.
Secondly, Did the Evidence of a Future State, under the Law of Nature, appear in any degree probable, this might sufficiently engage Men to act in Expectance of it. Nothing seems more obvious, than that there is a Subordination of Moral, as well as Natural Causes. In most Instances of Actions, we pursue a whole Train of Ends, at once; and all, within different Degrees of Certainty and Success. The Lottery of Business sometimes throws us up one Prize, sometimes another; often, it barely casts us back what we ventured; and more frequently it gives us the Disappointment of a Blank. Yet we are still willing to be Adventurers; and to allow such a Latitude for our Aim, as answers the Greatness of our Mark. In Objects of Hope, as in those of Sight, some strike us more forcibly at a distance, than others at the closest View: And we can always justify our Prudence, if we hazard more for a Valuable Uncertainty, than we would pay for a Petty Possession. Now if there be such an unmeasurable Disproportion between Heaven and Earth, Eternity and Mortal Life, as that, One is ever lost in the Contest, and yet the Other gains no Accession by Victory; then, whatever we can do or suffer on this Changeable Scene, is a low Price for the Possibility of another, which, should it ever arrive, is never to pass away. But it is visible, that the Case docs not rest on these, seemingly, hard Conditions. For, excepting that one Duty of suffering Death for Virtue, (it not being conceivable how a Temporary Religion should produce a Martyr;) the Prospect of a better Life ties Men to nothing else but what Nature before required, for an inferior and a bounded Happiness. So that to ad upon those additional Expectations how wide soever they might appear, would be no more, than to perform that, on the Hope of an infinitely greater Reward, which they were however oblig'd to attempt on the Assurance of a less. And this Reasoning will improve its Strength, if we pursue it thro' some particular Instance. Let a Man, therefore, have undertaken the Exercise of any one Virtue, as suppose of Beneficence, for the Noble and Generous Nature of the Practice itself, for the Approbation of all the Wise and the Good, and for his own outward Safety and inward Satisfaction: If to these nearer Motives, he can add the distant Probability, either of exciting others by his Example, to the like worthy Designs; by which Means he will become the Fountain of all the Good that streams thro' their Charity, and so multiply the Pleasures of his Conscience to an Infinity of Delight: or of recommending his Character to the Notice and Favour of his Prince; which Advantage may enlarge his Circle of Personal Kindnesses, augment the Redundancies of his Fortune, and enable Him to become the Universal Patron of the Distressed: would not these remote Considerations inspire new Life into his Virtue, refresh in his Mind the Image of Suffering Innocence, and strengthen his Hands already stretched out to its Support? But if he had still a farther, tho' a more obscure Sight of an immortal Reward, if He apprehended it barely to lie within the Sphere of things possible, that he should, by thus imitating the Supreme Benefactor, obtain to Awake up after his likeness in a blessed State; how would it invigorate and exalt his Spirit to reflect, that by studying to compleat the Copy of divine Bounty, which he had begun, and by still refineing on himself, he might at length form so bright a Resemblance, as to be qualify'd for bearing some part in the Glory of the Original?
If then the chief Affairs of Common Life are govern'd by probable Events, and if Reason is satisfy'd with such a dependance; it is certain, beyond all Cavil, that did Men act up to the Light of Nature, and did that Light afford them but the fainted Glimpse of another State; they must in the highest manner be moved by so vastly rich a Reversion, when they were to stake no Possession for the Purchase. Unless we can imagine, that they would esteem it (as we now do,) a considerable Happiness to be of kin to an Estate, which by a thousand Accidents might pass into other Hands; and yet that they would be sensible of no Advantage, in being ( in what Degree, or at what distance soever,) Heirs to Heaven, and upon the Line of Immortality.
If to have thus preferr'd the Consideration of Future Rewards to that of Future Punishments, be condemn'd, as a Failure in Point of Accuracy, or rather as a design'd Omission of what would weaken the main Cause, while the former only pass under the Name of Sanctions in stricter Use: it may, in return, be observ'd;
First, That if, by the Sanction of a Law, we understand the Inducements to Obedience, Rewards are the principal Sanctions of all Laws. Because the chief Motive of Action, to a Rational Man, is the Desire of Happiness in all his Capacities and Relations: of which Happiness his several Compliances with the Commands of GOD, and His Superiors are so many necessary Means. This is the Judgment of the Right Reverend and Learned the Lord Bishop of Peterborough : which tho' our Author, accustom'd to the Method of the Civilians, seems unwilling to admit in general; yet, afterwards, as to the Law of Nature in particular, he finds himself obliged to embrace and confirm.
De Leg. Nat. Polegom.
Secondly, That the Appropriation of the Term to Punishments only is owing to the Forms of Civil Statutes, each of which the Legislator is wont to strengthen with some Penal Clause, to secure them from the Insolence of the Wicked; the Obedience of the Good arising from other Principles, such as the Duty of Subjection, the Love of the Publick, and the Advantages of Government. In which Sense, The Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly, and for sinners*. For the Matter of Civil Laws being either some Duty before enjoin'd by GOD, or by Nature His Instrument, or else some indifferent Action; if it be the former, 'tis evident they are made on account of the Wicked, the Good not standing in need of this secondary Obligation: so that Human Laws, are thus far, so many Penal Sanctions, annex'd by Civil Authority, to the Divine. If the latter; they are indeed necessary, both in respect of the Wicked and of the Good; but upon very different Scores; to the Good, for Instruction and Information, to the Wicked for Terror and Compulsion. But the Law of Nature may be said to be made, chiefly at least, for a Righteous Man. It works upon Decency and Ingenuity; loves rather to promise than to threat, and, in respect of Human Decrees, seems to observe the same Difference, that there is between those ordinary Commands of a Father, by which He directs the good and virtuous Tempers of his Family, and those occasional Injunctions, in which, by a menacing Severity, he awes the more stubborn and refractory Dispositions.
* 1 Tim. Chap. I. Ver. 9.
Thirdly, In as much as Negatives and Privatives are understood by the Nature of the opposite Positives, and since the Fear of losing the happy Consequences of Goodness, must, in some measure, always; go along with the Hopes of gaining them, and bear a kind of secondary Influence and Effect; therefore the Argument from Future Punishments must be acknowledg'd either to run parallel to that of Future Rewards, or to be included in it.
Fourthly, Besides the Loss or Privation of Happiness, the Light of Nature farther discovers a Necessity of positive Sufferings in another State, tho' it cannot determin the kind and manner of them. And therefore the Argument might as strongly proceed upon these Wages of Unrighteousness; without which, neither the Goodness nor the Happiness of Men, (the Points before insisted on,) could be fully secured: not the former, because the Apprehension of the Divine Judgments might restrain many from Sin, whom neither the Rewards of Virtue could invite, nor the bare Loss of those Rewards sufficiently deter: not the latter, because these Evil Men would disturb and interrupt Others in the present Advantages of Obedience, as well as cut themselves off from the future; as also, because the Fear of Punishment would not only awe many Persons into a Forbearance of greater Enormities, but being improved into a better Principle, might be the Occasion, at least, of making some Men actually Good, and, by Consequence, Happy.
Lastly, Supposing the Arguments from Rewards, and from Punishments to be of equal weight; yet in Disputes with Men who are tempted to deny both, the former are rather to be proposed. He who goes about to engage a Man's Compliance with the Laws of the State will not shew such a Suspicion of his Temper; as to urge the Penalties denounced; bur will choose to insist on the Reasonableness, the Pleasure and the Benefit of what is commanded. It would be the same Fault against Manners, and a much greater against Prudence, to alledge only that Wrath which is to consume the Ungodly, to One who has denied the Faith, purely to discharge and disenthral himself from these Apprehensions. For tho' the avoiding extreme Danger be a very just Motive, and might prevail over the greatest Corruptions in Practice, yet One who has backed an ungodly Life with ungodly Principles, and thus strengthen'd himself in his Wickedness, will rank all you say to him on this Head of Terror, amongst the Monsters in the dark, which the very Children amongst the Ancient Heathens were taught, at length, to despise;
Manes, & subterranea regna,
Et contum, & Stygio ranas in gurgite nigras, Atque unâ transire vadum tot millia cymbâ .
Pale Spectres; Realms where Night and Horrour rule;
Charon's relentless Pole that mocks the Shore;
Black croaking Swarms, which clog the Stygian Pool;
And in a single Bottom Millions Ferrying o'er.
Juvenal Sat. II.
He desires You would not speak to his Fears but to his Reason; which You cannot do more effectually, than by shewing Him, that Religion is the real Dignity of his Nature, the only thing which can justify his high Esteem of himself; which can make the Gift of Life worth taking, or hinder one Moment of Existence from running in vain: and, therefore, that by quitting so Illustrious Pretensions, He strikes out his Honours and Titles, forfeits the Quality, and attaints the Blood of Human Race.
There needs not any Reply to the second Reason on the Negative fide, 'That all Punishment, which does not arise from a Natural and Necessary Consequence, being Arbitrary, presupposes a positive Determination of the Divine Will, which we are hardly capable of apprehending, without a particular Revelation.['] Because this, if admitted, would overturn the whole Doctrine of the Law of Nature. For the main Principle which supports that Scheme of Duties, and which our Author therefore so often presses with the greatest earnestness and strength, is the firm Belief of GOD's Providence, not only as concern'd for Mankind in common, but as extended over every individual Person. And the summ of this Belief, is, that as he who gave us our Lives has the clearest Knowledg of every Transaction in them, so He will assist and protect us, while we maintain an habitual Integrity, and will as certainly check and discountenance notorious Transgressions or Neglects. Now is this particular Exercise of Providence arbitrary or necessary? If necessary; it must be so either in respect of the Divine Attributes, or in respect of human Actions producing it by a Natural Causality. Both which Imputations, are in the highest Degree injurious to the Honour of GOD: the one confining Him to a fatal and indispensable method of Working, the other making Him suffer the most unworthy Constraint and Violence from his Creatures. But if Persons under a Natural State, must acknowledge the Present Acts of Providence to be Arbitrary, they cannot, by alledging that Condition, entertain any scruple concerning the Future. On the contrary, the Future will thence be strongly inferr'd; because, under the Present, thro' the Necessities of Nature, and Mixture of Interests and Affairs, the Reasons of Events lie so deep, that for the most part, we are not able to fix on any certain mark of the Divine Favour or Displeasure.
As, therefore, when we suppose Persons to stand in no Civil Relation to each other, we must assign them such Natural Grounds of acting, as shall preserve Peace and Society, and secure the Intercourse of friendly Offices and Aid; so if we conceive others, as living without express Declarations of the Divine Will, we cannot in Reason deny them those Principles that are necessary to guard their Duty, and to procure their Perfection; of which Principles we have found the Belief of another State to be the Chief.
And yet the opposite Mistake seems justly Chargeable with most of that profane Liberty, in Opinions and in Morals, which has exercised the Courage and the Complaints of Good Men. For, as 'tis suspicious that some very wicked Persons have been brib'd to turn Proselytes to a certain Corrupt Church, by the Promise of Large Forgiveness; so it's manifest that others have been induced to profess themselves of No Church, upon the Hope of being obnoxious, to no Account. It will not therefore seem an unnecessary Vindication either of the common Truth, or of our Author's Subject and Design, if we endeavour, in the last place, to evince, that this Leaven of the Sudducees this Hypothesis of Mortality, should it be granted, would be no Plea for modern Libertinism;
First, Because the Persons who urge it in their own Defence, enjoy the Benefit of a greater Light:
Secondly, Because Nature itself leads and directs them to this greater Light: Which Enquiries will equally concern both the Sects of Men professing themselves the Votaries of Natural Guidance, such as give up their Hopes with their Breath; and such as, for the Credit of their Philosophy, are content more generously to lengthen out the Chain of their Existence: tho' immediately directed against the former Tribe, those who seem to be the Common Rout of Nature, for Number, and for Ignorance.
For tho' after any such Attempt to state the Connexion between the Progress of Reason and the Evidence of things not seen, some Adventurer, who is hot in Pursuit of clear and distinct Ideas, who has learnt the Modish Phrase of styling what is above Reason, a Contradiction; all Faith, Credulity; and all Authority, Imposition; supposes that what has been said may be fully answer'd with one such of Wit, as,
All this we know
From more Pathetic Pens;
Yet if he is not satisfy'd with Mr. Chillingworth's Answer, that Truth cannot be Thredbare, nor Reason ever worn out; let him be pleased to reflect, whether it be not a greater Argument of Charity in others to imagin that he wants this Information, than 'tis of Honour or Prudence in him to own that he has abused it. And as for the resuming those Subjects which have already come, with all their Grace and Ornament, thro' the Hands of the greatest Masters; 'tis certain, the best Prescriptions, in many Distempers, are not successful without frequent Repetition: and, he whom this tedious Necessity shall disgust or grieve, will be no less modest if he require, that the Nature of things should every day alter, to accommodate him with the Pleasure of Variety.
First, then, Whosoever shall urge that the Light of Nature affords no satisfactory Proof of another State, is inexcusable if he acts by that Persuasion, because he enjoys the Benefit of a greater Light.
That Reveal'd Religion, could it make good its Pretensions, is the Noblest Discipline which Man can wish or enjoy, and, in this respect, a greater Light than that of Nature, such a Person is ready to acknowledge: And therefore his Modesty suggests, that it is too great to be real; or, that, whatsoever it may be in it self, it is not a greater Light to him, being removed to so vast a Distance from his Apprehension and Discovery. The long Indulgence of a Romantic Genius and ungovern'd Thoughts, founded on ill Actions, and supported by ill Books and Men, have furnish'd him with a confused Round of Arguments, drawn from the Divisions of Christians; the Extremes of mad Superstition and Pharisaical Sanctity; the Difficulties of Mystery and Inspiration, of the Origine of Mankind, of the drowning the first, and peopling the second Earth; the Corruption of Scripture, and the Artifice of Priests. A little Wit or Elegance, well husbanded, cannot but set an Edge on these Exceptions; especially if they wear the Masque of a Generous Freedom of Temper, and a Noble Compassion for the Errors of Mankind. But when You shew him, that there is nothing in all this which affects the main Cause, the Resolution of the whole being so very easily divided between the Power of GOD, and the Weakness of Man; You may then expect he should give You an account, how reasonable it was, that the grand Illusion should commence at the height of the Wit and Glory of Rome: that it should convert the World with the specious and tempting Promises of Persecution, Poverty, Disgrace and Death! that its humble Doctrine should out-do his own admired Scheme of Morality; and, being confirm'd by supernatural Effects, should obtain the Attestation, either of Heaven, if it be false, or, if it be good, of Hell! Whence it came to pass, that the Heresies, which sprung up with it, should not corrupt and destroy, but purify and strengthen, its Articles of Belief! how, the united Violence and Opposition of all Civil Powers, for three hundred Years, should rather confirm than suppress the Growth of an impotent Faction: and what a Strain of Policy it was, in those States and Empires to bend their whole Force against a harmless Mistake, which, if credited and pursued, would only make Men better Neighbours and better Subjects! How, Philosophy, when advanced to a nobler Perfection than in all former Ages, should vanish before an Irrational Institution! Why the Honest Simplicity of Epictetus and the August Virtue of Antoninus, did not out-shine the faint Endeavours of weak Innocence and deluded Piety! What Wealth or Interest bribed Celsus and Porphyry, to suffer a shameful Foil in their Disputes!
How Julian became an Idolater, as soon as an Apostate: whether the Brightness of his Reason, or the Darkness of his Imagination made him a Convert to the Pagan Rites; whether he deserted Christianity through Hatred or through Love of Superstition! Where lurks the Inequality of the Case, that so many Thousands of Sufferers, who, by the Report of their Enemies, lived with Integrity and died with Bravery, should not be able to match the Example of his single Confessor and Martyr Socrates! Especially when You surprize him with this Remark, that those Armies of truly gallant Men, who adorn the Registers, either of Uncorrupted or of Reformed Christianity, laid down their Lives in Confirmation of Natural, as well as Instituted, Religion; the same Test being offer'd in both Cases, a Compliance with Ancient and Modern Idolaters, which is a Sin against Nature as well as against Grace. When he has thus overthrown the Authority of the pure and early Times, he may dilate upon the Ignorance and Errors of darker Ages. And here, if he could content himself with tracing the Progress of corrupted Doctrines, and the Establishment of the Papal Chair on the Ruins of the Imperial Throne; we might commend his Zeal, tho' we should excuse his Assistance. But if he scorns the Meanness of a juster Victory, let him, again, apply himself to demonstrating, by what Necessity of Events it happen'd, that none of these Convulsions in Government, on the one hand, none of these Decays of Arts and Learning on the other, should shake, or over-run the Foundations of Faith! that, when Arms and Wit threw off their Rust together, and the Greatness of Kingdoms revived with the Glory of Letters, a Reformation should be set on foot and happily accomplish'd, not according to the Model of Natural but of Christian Worship! 'Tis true, (and he will not fail to let You know it, with some Exultation,) that immediately upon the first Dawn of these bright Days, the sprightly Genius of Italy produced his own refined Sect, in the List of which he can shew You Secretaries to Infallibility, and perhaps Infallibility itself at the Head. But you will observe to his Mortification, that it was not strange if, at that particular Juncture, some Men, rather of quick and gay, than of deep and piercing Spirits, having just open'd their Eyes upon the Romish Errors, and not knowing well where to fix them else, should run into a general Carelesness and Distrust: whom therefore you will be inclin'd to compare to the Poets Monsters, which they say the Earth brought forth at first sinking of the Deluge, while she was irregularly fertile, and had not recovered Strength, for a just and Natural Birth. So that He is engag'd to offer some probable Account, how these Assertors of Human Reason and Liberty should advance by so feeble Steps in rescuing the World from an universal Imposition! To what Fate or Chance it ought to be ascrib'd, that, in all the Varieties of Governments, and of Religions, no Empire or Kingdom, not one Common-wealth should establish itself upon their Project; and that tho' they may seem to have gain'd the Silence of some Laws, yet they could never bribe the Approbation of any: That, on the contrary, all Civil Constitutions should be jealous of their Design, as aiming to unloose Subjection and to disband Society! Nay, that, when despairing of their own single Strength, they have brought over a mixt Multitude to their Assistance, having made Tools of canting Hypocrites, and wild Enthusiasts; having, according to the Policy of the Apostate Emperour, imploy'd Judaism to confront Christianity, admitting into their present Tribe, Those that say they Are Jews, and are not, but are the Synagogue of Satan! lastly, having imbrac'd a Comprehension with the Heresie of the Age; (the Socinian owning the Deist for a Christian, and the Deist in Requital acknowledging the Socinian for a Philosopher;) yet this whole Confederate Body should make no Impression on the Opposite Forces; serving only to alarm and excite their Vigilance, to improve their Discipline, and to sharpen their Courage without endangering their Safety!
For it is now become the Comfort of the Pious, and the Condemnation of the Impious, that the late Unlearned and Unstable Infidelity has excited so invincible Patrons of Truth, as are not to be match'd but by the Primitive Apologists, and could not be enabled and upheld, but by the same Assistance and Support. They have excell'd at all Weapons, and been Victorious upon all Grounds. Some (whose Merit was before occasionally acknowledg'd,) have traced the latent Properties of Matter, and have compell'd the Ancient Proteus, to correct the Prophaneness of his Song. Some, with unwearied Labour, have won a Passage into the strong Hold of Early Chronology; and there discomfited the Monsters of Egypt, the spurious Race of Phnicia, and the Bravo's of Lying Greece. Some, following the no less useful Bent of their peculiar Studies, have measur'd the Full Stature of Christianity by its Shadow, the Law; have attended Moses thro' the Ordinances and Services of his Wordly Sanctuary; arid observ'd Him making all Things, According to the Divine Pattern show'd Him in the Mount; where He seems to have been vouchsafed a happier Fore-sight, than that of Pisgah, tho' at his coming down He put a Veil over his Face . These judicious Views into the Legal Rudiments, as established under a preparatory Imperfection, and waiting the Accomplishment of Better Promises, have added a strong Guard to the Outworks of Faith: while, the Jews themselves are made a Stumbling-block, and Exceptions to the high Claims and Royal Estate of the Gospel, are taken from the pretended Obscurity of it's Birth. At the same time, their agreeable Dependence and Connexion, yields no less a delightful Ornament than a solid Defence: they create a Pleasure resembling that of the famous Italian Paint, which, in one Light, represents the many Types and Figures of the Great Sacrifice, and in another, our Lord offering Himself up Once for all. Some have imploy'd their Eastern Talent in displaying from Authentic Records, the Absurd Imposture, whose long Tyranny has exhausted the Arts and Genius of so flourishing a Soil: to convince Those who oppose themselves, that, we have not followed, cunningly devised Fables; to crush the Blasphemy of their insinuated Companions; and to recall their reduced Judgment, if they may yet recover themselves from the Snare of the Original Deceiver.
Id significare videtur Deus cum illi præscribens formam extruendi Templi, loquitur hunc in modum, Vide ut facias omnia secundum exemplar quod ostensum est tibi in monte. Viderat enim Moses spiritualibus oculis aliud sanctius Templi genus, aliud Victimarum ac Sacerdotii genus, ad quorum exemplar crassam aliquam rerum imaginem interim adumbraret, donec v niret tempus quo v sum est umbras veris cedere. Erasm. Paraph. in Heb. VIII. 5.
Others have declin'd the less accessible Retreats of Nature, History, and Languages, to engage in the open Field of Reason. Here we are all Spectators of the Combat, we are all Witnesses of the Success, we are all Sharers in the Triumph. Whether they illustrate the Dignity and the Propriety of the sacred Style, with a Sublimity which seems to partake of the Eloquence which it defends: or whether, with the strong and piercing Eye of a profound Understanding, they turn themselves to see the Great Sight, the Glory of Divine Miracles, vindicating their Reality stateing their Necessity;and putting to Silence the revived insolence of that Demand, Master we would see a sign from thee, by evincing, that the same unchangeable Wisdom, which open'd their Course was no less justified in sealing up their Store. Or, whether they shew the Sect of the Saducees how greatly they err; by asserting the Catholic Doctrine of the Resurrection with a Judgment, so accurate and so discerning, that as the Heathen Disputant said in another Sense, Credas eos jam revixisse *; they seem to speak from the other side of the Veil, or, to have been brighten'd with an earlier Ray from the Glory of the Saints.
* Cæcilius in Min. Felix.
Thus has the Temple been covered from Defilement, the Heathen sunk in their own Pit, and taken in their own Snare. And should there remain any Field for future Bravery, we seem possess'd of the Heroic Line, and may promise ourselves a Succession of Conquerors. Every day, Sons of the Prophets arise to rebuke the Mockers: Great Young Men, of equal Genius and Study, take the Alarm, and repair betimes to the common Defence. Insomuch, that, whereas heretofore Pious and Learned Persons, as the Excellent Mr. Hooker || complains, found Some Unreadiness, when suddenly and beside Expectation, they were put upon the proof of such things, as being most certain in themselves, were presum'd to be granted by All; it is at length become a familiar Exercise, to trace one of these Curious Impertinents, thro' his whole Course of Evasions, and oblige Him either to disown his Cavils or his Senses: the Lame and the Blind (as he may scornfully term them,) being now able to guard the Walls, and no Defendant, (of what Profession soever,) being so Contemptible as these Assailants.
|| Eccl. Pol. Book V.
Secondly, They who urge that the Light of Nature affords no satisfactory Proof of Another State, are inexcusable, if they act by that Persuasion, not only because they enjoy the Benefit of greater Light, but also because Nature it self leads and directs them to this greater Light.
The Case of Divine Instruction seems, in this respect, nearly allied to that of Civil Government: both are added by the special Mercy of Providence, to correct the Tardiness of inward Reflexion, to set the Springs of the Mind on work, which are so apt to be embarass'd with the Dust of the Body; to draw out the Force of Reason; to clear and open the Understanding, and to pour in so powerful Conviction, as shall influence all Characters and Capacities, and, in a great measure, fill up the Interval between the Wise and Ignorant. The Voice of Nature seems to be first imploy'd in calling for both these Assistances: the helpless Condition, under which Man comes into the World, engages Him to stretch one Hand towards Heaven and the other towards Earth, begging of the Supreme Powers in both, Instruction in his Duty, and Protection from his Fears, On which account, the most restless Disturbers of well-constituted Stages, are, and ever have been those, who have profess'd the same Enmity to Reveal'd Religion; the firmest Basis of just Establishments, and the chief Pillar of the Throne. Now a short Acquaintance with Nature will inform us, that she opens only the first Scenes of Piety, and entertains us with Spiritual things in a confused and distant Light: that, like the Poet's Sybil, she is ever ready with her Acknowledgment of, DEUS! ecce DEUS! but is soon lost in Astonishment, and sinks down at the Threshold of the Temple. And tho' the sage Application of a Philosopher might be able to recover Her from this Swoon, and to engage Her in the rehearsal of noble and useful Secrets; yet never could she deliver Her self without Pain; her Discoveries would be a constant Force upon her Powers; and She must generally be silent, while so few understood the Art of bringing Her to Confession. And, what is more unfortunate, those few, who with so much Labour, had rais'd themselves above the Measure of Vulgar Reason, would find it necessary, upon most Occasions of Action, either to come down from that Eminence, or to stand alone, and starve upon their Privilege. The Heathen Masters never shew'd a more dexterous Address, than in getting over this Difficulty, which lay as a Bar in their way to the World, and seem'd to cut off their Communication with their Species. They talk'd largely of purging themselves from Popular Defilements; but they had the same Common Race of Life to run with others, and saw, that to boast of Advantage might prove a means of excluding them the Lists; unless they would contentedly receive back again part of the old Burthen, and carry Weight enough to make them a Match for the grosser Multitude. Now, that they might neither be obnoxious by Merit, nor yet disarm themselves of all Pretensions, they devised a very saving Medium: when they had finish'd their Draughts of Morality, they set upon framing Systems of Government; and, the Result is easily guess'd; while these could not take place, they silently confess'd those to be impracticable: they could be Just, and Patient, and Temperate; if the Times would bear so rigorus a Virtue, if the State would accept their Model for Reformation. That is, they were Heroes in their own notional Common-wealths; bur, in all others submitted to the Frailty of those about them. And tho' some truly great and mortified Spirits chose to banish themselves from a World, which they could not honestly please; yet, by this very Retirement, they were still incapable of any large and extended Influence. Thus the Abstruseness of their Doctrine, and either the Inconsistency, or at best the Weakness and Singularity of their Example, all concurr'd in the illustrating that only Truth, which ever did and ever will obtain, that tho' Reason be the fittest to command, yet Sense cannot fail to hold the largest Empire. This was the hard Necessity of Nature, while confin'd to the Wealth of her own Product, which, as it lay too deep for common Discovery, so it was either imbezil'd or suppress'd by those few Hands into which it fell. And this Necessity having made a Religion of external Growth, and of no less than Heavenly Birth, the common Expectation of all the World; it requires little Art to demonstrate, that no Religion can come up to these Expectations, but the Christian which exceeds them.
The Jewish Law, having a shadow of good things to come, serv'd as a constant Witness to the Reality of what it prefigured; clearing up and breaking away, by Degrees, till the Introduction of a perfect Day. And as for all other Schemes of Worship, which pretend to a Divine Commission; if their Foundation were not known to be deceitful, yet it would betray its own Weakness, by sinking under the Impure Burthen which it sustains. Natural Judgment, then, as it could not rest in the imperfect Hopes of a true Revelation; so to the usurping Claim of those which were false, it could only submit as a Slave, while either awed by the Terror of Arms, or chain'd down to a Politic Ignorance. It remains therefore, that we hear Nature making her own Demands; and observe her Author interposing in every Instance, and answering her Requests, with such Proposals of Happiness, as are in this respect only, disproportion'd to the Needs and Capacities of the Receiver, that they bear a nearer Resemblance to the Bounty and Majesty of the Giver. The Companion is worthy to be enlarged upon in many Views; of which it may be now sufficient to point out the two principal, the Knowledge of GOD, and of our selves.
Nature requires, that she may no longer worship she knows not what. She finds her self vastly remov'd from her Sovereigns Residence, and her own Infirmity lengthens the Distance, and darkens the Prospect. She has heard the Voice of every Sublunary Creature, proclaiming the Great King of the whole Earth; she has seen the Tokens of His Magnificence, the Monuments of His Power: but she is too much a Stranger to His Character and Person, to His Counsels and Designs. It is the Word of Faith alone which teaches Her to know what she worships: displaying the Divine Prerogatives, both as to their Absolute and their Relative Character, with the fullest Evidence, and the justest Advantage, and making the nearest Flights towards the seeing him who is invisible. Yet, in no Feature, opposing the incomplete Pourtraict of found Reason; but filling up those fainter Out-Lines and ruder Traces, with lively Colours and comely Proportions; and, at length, drawing the Veil of Mortal Apprehension over unexpresiible Light and Beauty. Were Natural Judgment able to make out its boasted Penetration into the Secrets of Heaven, yet to contemplate the Glories of GOD's Essence, without discovering the Riches of His Mercy in CHRIST, would be an Entertainment of no more Comfort, than what the vain Astronomer proposed, if by flying so near the Sun, as to observe His Perfection and Lustre, He might have been drawn into the devouring Orb, and have expired, like Phaeton, in the Flame. This was a most Romantic Extravagance, in which his very Supposition destroy'd the Reasonableness of his Wish: 'Twas to make a barbarous Tyrant of his admired Planetary Monarch, and to desire Access to his Sovereign's Person, for the miserable Favour of his own Execution. To turn so groundless a Madness into a generous Passion, a sublime Appetite to Beauty and Truth, he ought to have conceiv'd the Great Prince of his Schemes, as Kind and Benign in his immediate Majesty, as in his remoter Influence, as Gracious in his Court, as He is Bounteous in His Reign. The fatal Rashness of the Example seems to be continued in those Men, who relying upon the unseconded Force of Nature, attempt to break into the thick Cloud where GOD is, only that they may behold, and wonder and perish. On the other hand, Christian Contemplation ennobles the Curiosity, and consecrates the Desire; by introducing us into the Divine Presence with Confidence of Access, through Him who, while He is the Brightness of the Everlasting Light, and the unspotted Mirrour of the Power of GOD, is no less the Image of His Goodness.
Again, Nature begs to be instructed in her own Original, present Condition,and final State. And by the Monuments of Religion, She is supply'd with the only true Scheme of her Fortunes, and History of herself. She is ascertained of her Illustrious Extraction and Princely Hopes; that she is the Belov'd Daughter of the most High, and born to a Kingdom which cannot be shaken; tho', for a while, initiated to a baser Scepter, and a probationary Reign. She is made acquainted with the dangerous Wound receiv'd in her Infancy, (of which she has ever felt the Effects, without being able to assign the Cause;) and with the Means of recovering an Immortal Soundness. The very Manner, Continuance and Height of her supreme Felicity, is painted out to the utmost Reach of her Unglorified Faculties, as Magnificently as she is hitherto Able to bear, as evidently as she can now See thro' a Glass, as particularly as it can yet appear what She shall be. To hear Enlighten'd Reason, and Christian Eloquence refuting, by a Goodly Scale of Arguments, the Pretences of Philosophy, which so vainly assay'd to state the Privileges of the Soul under its Divorce, by a Negative Inference from the Encumbrances of its Union, is with Joy to apprehend, in how Sublime a Sense, Life and Immortality have been brought to Light by the Gospel. But could Nature, while thus a Prisoner of Darkness, throughly Philosophize concerning the Releasement and Exaltation of her Nobler Substance, she must however despair of her Earthly Part, and yet without it, after so long and intimate a Conjunction, might complain of a lonely Uneasiness in Separation, and even grudge her own Imperfect Existence:
Quid moror altera, Vix chara posthac, aut superstes Integre?
Here then is the happy Difference, what Philosophy remov'd as an Impediment to the last Promotion of Nature, Christianity restores to augment and consummate it: by reuniting to the Soul its ancient Companion, in a Condition worth the owning; Glorious in Apparel, in Beauty altogether lovely; fortified with the insuperable Charm of a Divinely tempered Health and Youth; enriched with the Dowry of an Exquisite Frame, and Organs fashioned to a Heavenly Fineness; so as no more to press and weigh down the Mind with the Burthen of Earth, but to become a lively Assistant in the most Intense Acts of Bliss, an equal Associate in the new and endless Alliance.
These and the like Considerations, if improv'd, would take off all Colour from that Pagan Surmise, That Christian Doctrine is nothing more than old Morality under a new Name: which Exception as it was started by the Philosophers in the earliest Times of the Church, so has been taken up at Trust from them by some who desire to be ranked in the same Order of Wisdom. And therefore, he who observes the Success of our late excellent Writers, whose milder Eloquence has imploy'd it self in enforceing Christian Practice by Arguments barely Moral, cannot commend the Good Design without lamenting the Ill Effect. In as much as these prescriptions seem so agreeable to a vitiated Relish, that they too frequently rather humour than correct the Disease. When we grow fond of this gentle Art of Persuasion, 'tis a sign we love to be flatter'd, and fear to be convinc'd. Our Vanity utterly over-looks our Safety: Thole are the favourite Instructions which most servilely court our Judgment and our Choice: while at the same time we are sensible, that our Faculty of Judging right is not more Natural, than our Infirmity of Choosing wrong. Whereas, when Nature has conducted us to the Acknowledgment of a more Sacred Rule, tho' we are not to take our leave of it, as incapable of future Aid, yet its Original Power is certainly superseded, its unlimited Commission expires, it changes the Authority of a Guide for the Fidelity of an Interpreter. How much soever we may pride our selves in the Wisdom of merely Rational Conduct, and in the Generosity of our Nature, yet unless the Plan of our Redeem'd State, be always habitually and very often actually present to our Thoughts, by the Information of Scripture, and the instituted Rights and Remembrances of Religious Service, we relapse insensibly into all the Weakness of a corrupted Condition. And this seems the true Reason that Schism should, in many Persons, prove so advanced a Step towards Apostacy: that Men who, in Favour to some secular Cause, have become indifferent to the Methods of established Discipline, should at length so far improve in Moderation, as to esteem the very Nature of a Church an Unnecessary Form, and to accuse the Sacraments themselves of Superstition. But does it become the Nicety of their Genius to have a Passion for utter Repugnancies? Do they expect that Christianity should allow such a Court of Equity, as a Court of the Gentiles? Would they be only Proselytes of the Gate, and be admitted to worship in the Temple, without communicating at the Altar? If they thought it an agreeable Indolence to be always Children in Understanding, cur sic extorta voluptas? Why do they rob themselves of their Pleasure, by aspiring to some Degrees of Christian Knowledg and Strength? Must they be at the labour of forgetting their Proficiency, of sinking back again, to their first Elements, and their lowest Class? Of do they own themselves Christians out of pure Gallantry, and accept the Title only that they may wave the Privilege? 'Till they satisfie us as to these Questions, our Comfort must be, that, for the Justification of Government no less than of Religion,they soon grow as Cold to Temporal, as they are to Spiritual Restraints; they find, that they have the same Right, to declare against the Grievances of Princes, as against the Craft of Priests; and thus, by putting themselves into both States of Nature at once, demonstrate the equal Misery of continuing under either.
When Men, by their own Default, have first lost the Benefit, and then the Knowledge of these Mysteries of Grace, 'tis no wonder if they appear so ready to lessen and debase those of Faith, which they esteem a farther Reproach to their Rational Privileges, and an Invasion of the Sovereignty of Nature. But Nature, again, refuseth the false Empire which they give Her; and easily discerns, that their Aim in setting Her up for an Usurper, is purely to protest themselves in being Rebels. As, before, She was satisfi'd, that what Direction She receiv'd from the Fountain of Truth and Holiness, could not but vastly exceed her own Practical Judgment, without being repugnant to it; so here, She is satisfied, that what Information, She derives from the same Fountain, as it will never contradict her purely Intelligent Faculties, so neither, can it immediately,and distinctly fall within their Reach. And yet, the opposite and most impious Suggestion, has in the purest of Christian Realms, and the brightest of knowing Ages, met with a secret Favour from many, and with an open Defence from One, who was, upon long Experience, judg'd hardy enough to bear the Common Infamy of such a Publication. Nor was the Performance unanswerable to the Subject; producing a Piece, which for ridiculous Absurdity ought to bear the same Character with a later Discourse against the Folly of Dying; did not the palpable wickedness of the Design debar the Author from the like Excuse. Which difference has been observ'd by Good and Learned Men; in as much as they have descended to expose the weak Sophistry of the former Tract, without paying to the Extravagance of the latter any Regard, besides that of Generous Pity. Because they apprehended, that the plausible Pretence of Plain-dealing, the Affectation of a smart Style and a Jocular Wit, together with the Amusements of borrowed and ill-applied Metaphysics, might create some Danger from that Side, which could not be fear'd from this. Otherwise, and if, without considering the Intention, we were strictly to compare the two Opinions advanc'd, the first would really appear more groundless and irrational than the second. For, that Figurative Expressions of Scripture, being expounded in a literal Meaning, should produce many a wild Paradox, Ancient Heresie and Modern Enthusiasm are ample Proofs. But that the Nature or the Acts of GOD should be adequately conceiv'd by a Finite Mind, is what seem'd, 'till now, to lie beyond either the most wandring Error, or the most perverse Opposition. And therefore, if the Author of this Hypothesis, as he was early enough in boasting, promis'd Himself the Honour of becoming Head of a new Sect he has his Wish, and let him enjoy his Reward. The Holy Scriptures pronounce the severest Sentence upon those who exalt themselves against their Maker, and Challenge Omnipotence to the Field: but: such insulting Mockery is no where adjudg'd inferior to open Defiance. This is to Set the Briars and Thorns against the Almighty in Battle; and he himself has told us the Issue of the Day, He will go through them, He will burn them together.
It seem'd needful by these Cautions and Preparations to open a way for our Author amongst us, and to render Him capable of the best Service. The greater Diligence we observe to be imploy'd in disturbing Men's Judgment, and in casting a Cloud before Common Reason, under the pretence of sheltering and defending it; the more it is the Concern of Mankind, to keep up in full Strength, those Original Distinctions of Good and Evil, which preserve the Interest of Virtue, and the Safety of Kingdoms. It is the last Hold of Irreligion, to boast that it has Nature on its Side: and we never so effectually drive it from this Guard, as when, by the Light of Fundamental Principles, we demonstrate that it has only seduc'd the weaker part of Nature, and that the Strong and Manly Faculties, tho' they may, for a time, be pacify'd, yet can never be overcome. Nor is the Satisfaction of this Enquiry, inferior to its Use.
If the Pleasure of a fortunate Experiment could turn Philosophy into Rapture, there are sweeter Extasies of Delight reserv'd for the entertainment of Honest Minds, when, upon a just and impartial Trial, they came to know the certainty of those things in which they have been instructed. And, as in the same Philosophy, no View is so charming, as that which remarks the wise Progress of Nature, how She finishes her noblest Works from the little Patterns She at first sets for her own direction; so, our Religious Discoveries are never more transporting, than when having admir'd the Divine Building of Faith, we draw back, and see it lessening, by fit Proportions, till it end in the first Model, or Plan,of Moral Truth. This is still the Tabernacle of the Christian Temple, inclosing those Tables of the first Covenant, which the Surety of A better came not to deface and destroy, but to beautifie, perfect and fulfil. And thus, every Scribe (every one Skill'd in Moral Principles) which is instructed unto the Kingdom of GOD, is like unto a Man which is an Householder, which bringeth forth out of his Treasure Things new and old.
They, who after all will alledge, that Systems of Politics are things of too Secular a Constitution to be safely trusted in Religious Affairs, do so far countenance our Author and his Subject, as to lament the Effects of false Policy, is to recommend the Study of the true. The Summ of that Art of Business, in which Baser Spirits are wont to place their Principles and their Prudence, may be cast up in these few Conclusions: That, for the preservation of Commerce and Society, it is necessary Dissimulation should be establish'd for the Rule of Life: that no Actor ought to come on the Stage of the World, but in a Mask; and that without these feign'd Parts and Dresses, the Farce of Human Things could not proceed, and the Universal Theatre would have been erected in Vain: that Nature sends her Sons into a sharp World, to seek their Fortune by handsom Deceits; and that he, at length, is the Wisest and Best of Mortals, who can juggle with the cleanest Conveyance and the nicest Hand. Now what can so justly expose these Temporal Hypocrites, as to exhibite the only generous Motives of Action; to shew that a publick Spirit is one of the first Commands of GOD and Nature, and not only the most necessary Cement, but the most charming Beauty of Civil Life; that mutual Faith and Sincerity are not the mean Offspring of Weakness and Cowardice, but the noblest Edicts of Reason, the Graces, as well the Guards, of Virtuous Practice? There are, no doubt, the Parva Politica as well as the Parva Moralia; the inferior Dexterities of Management and Felicities of Address. But to release these from the Awe and Control of those greater and leading Maxims, would be to revive the Rebellion of the Hands and Feet against the Head. We may therefore take our leave of our new Projectors with this single Reflection, that scarce ever was a Person known to set up for a shrewd Intriguer, a cunning Dealer in Publick or Private Craft, who had not at the same time Vanity enough to take a Pride in being so reputed: Thus, as by a special Direction of Providence, he was continually plucking off his own Mask; he warn'd Mankind not to trust, or to love, him; and lost the Fruits of his Subtlety, by affecting the Praise.
Whoever shall have been detain'd by this Imperfect Essay, will allow in Reasoning, the same well-natur'd Fault as in Travelling. In both, Men, through a Desire of communicating what they esteem Useful or Curious, are betray'd to the making those Reports, and advancing those Conjectures, which have been long forestal'd by more experienced Observers, and more discerning Judges. It is true, a great and uncommon Genius will not fail to draw excellent Secrets from every Soil, or Subject: And such, as to the Enquiries here pursued, might have been afforded by our Author's Capacity, had He lived to Execute his own Design.
Those who have shown themselves incapable of supplying Him where He may seem deficient, must declare themselves averse to justifying Him where He is exceptionable: Because, as they undertook not the Translation for the sake of His Errors, so neither will they adopt His Errors for the sake of the Translation.