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When he thinks, that God, having enriched the habitable world with innumerable productions of infinite worth to the inhabitant, hath placed man here as a sorereign in a superb palace ; when he considers how admirably God hath proportioned the divers parts of the creation to the construction of the human body, the air to the lungs, aliments to the different humors of the body, the medium, by which objects are rendered visible, to the eyes, that, by which sounds are communicated, to the ears; when he remarks how God hath connected man with his own species, and not with animals of another kind; how he hath distributed talents, so that some requiring the assistance of others, all should be mutually united together; how he hath bound men together by invisible ties, so that one cannot see another in pain without a sympathy that inclines him to relieve him ; when the disciple of natural religion meditates on these grand subjects, he concludes that the Author of nature is a beneficent Being. But, when he sees the innumerable miseries, to which men are subject; when he finds, that every creature, which contributes to support, contributes at the same time to destroy us: when he thinks, that the air, which assists respiration, conveys epidemical diseases, and imperceptible poisons; that aliments, which nourish us, are often our bane; that the animals, that serve us, often turn savage against us; when he observes the perfidiousness of society, the mutual industry of mankind in tormenting each other; the arts, which they invent to deprive one another of life ; when he attempts to reckon up the innumerable maladies, that consume us; when he considers death, which bows the loftiest heads, dissolves the firmest cements, and subverts the best founded fortunes ; when he makes these reflections, he will be apt to doubt, whether
it be goodness, or the contrary attribute, that inclineth the Author of our being to give us existence. When the disciple of natural religion reads those reverses of fortune, of which history furnisheth a great many examples; when he seeth tyrants fall from a pinnacle of grandeur ; wicked men often punished by their own wickedness, the avaricious punished by the objects of their avarice, the ambitious by those of their ambition, the voluptuous by those of their voluptuousness; when he perceives, that the laws of virtue are so essential to public happiness, that without them society would become a banditti, at least, that society is more or less happy or miserable, according to its looser or closer attachment to virtue; when he considers all these cases, he will probably conclude, that the Author of this universe is a just and holy Being. But, when he sees tyranny established, vice enthroned, humility in confusion, pride wearing a crown, and love to holiness sometimes exposing people to many
and intolerable calamities; he will not be able to justify God, amidst the darkness in which his equity is involved in the goverment of the world.
But, of all these mysteries, can one be proposed, which the gospel doth not unfold; or, at least, is there one, on which it doth not give us some principles, which are sufficient to conciliate it with the perfections of the Creator, how opposite soever it may seem ?
Do the disorders of the world puzzle the disciple of natural religion, and produce difficulties in his mind ? With the principles of the gospel I can solve them all. When it is remembered, that this world hath been defiled by the sin of man, and that he is, therefore, an object of divine displeasure; when the principle is admitted, that the world is not now what it was, when it came out of the hands of God;
and that in comparison with its pristine state, it is only a heap of ruins, the truly magnificent, but actually ruinous heap of an edifice of incomparable þeauty, the rubbish of which is far more proper to excite our grief for the loss of its primitive grandeur, than to suit our present wants.
When these reflections are made, can we find any objections, in the disorders of the world, against the wisdom of our Creator?
Are the miseries of man, and is the fatal necessity of death, in contemplation ? With the principles of the gospel, I solve the difficulties, which these sad objects produce in the mind of the disciple of natural religion. If the principles of christianity be admitted, if we allow, that the afflictions of good men are profitable to them, and that, in many cases, prosperity would be fatal to them; if we grant, that the present is a transitory state, and that this momentary life will be succeeded by an immortal state; if we recollect the many similar truths, which the gospel abundantly declares ; can we find, in human miseries, and in the necessity of dying, objections against the goodness of the Creator?
· Do the prosperities of bad men, and the adversities of the good, confuse our ideas of God? With the principles of the gospel I can remove all the difficulties which these different conditions produce in the mind of the disciple of natural religion. If the principles of the gospel be admitted, if we be persuaded that the tyrant, whose prosperity astonisheth us, fulfils the counsel of God; if ecclesiastical history assure us, that Herods and Pilates themselves contributed to the establishment of that very christianity which they meant to destroy ; especially if we admit a state of future rewards and punishments; can the obscurity in which providence hath been pleased to wrap up some of its designs, raise doubts about the justice of the Creator?
In regard, then, to the first object of contemplation, the perfection of the nature of God, revealed religion is infinitely superior to natural religion ; the disciple of the first religion is infinitely wiser than the pupil of the last.
II. Let us consider these two disciples examining the nature of man, and endeavoring to know themselves. The disciple of natural religion cannot know mankind: he cannot perfectly understand the nature, the obligations, the duration of man.
1. The disciple of natural religion can only imperfectly know the nature of man, the difference of the two substances of which he is composed. His reason, indeed, may speculate the matter, and he may perceive that there is no relation between motion and thought, between the dissolution of a few fibres and violent sensations of pain, between an agitation of humors and profound reflections; he may infer from two different effects, that there ought to be two different causes ; a cause of motion, and a cause of sensation, a cause of agi, tating humors, and a cause of reflecting, that there is a body, and that there is a spirit.
But in my opinion, those philosophers, who are best acquainted with the nature of man, cannot account for two difficulties that are proposed to them, when, on the mere principles of reason, they affirm, that man is composed of the two substances of matter and mind. I ask, first, Do you so well understand matter, are your ideas of it so complete, that you can affirm, for certain, it is capable of nothing more than this, or that? Are you sure it
implies a contradiction to affirm, it hath one property which hath escaped your observation ? And consequently, can you actually demonstrate, that the essence of matter is incompatible with thought? Since, when you cannot discover the union of an attribute with a subject, you instantly conclude, that two attributes, which seem to you to have no relation, suppose two different subjects; and since you conclude, that extent and thought compose two different subjects, body and soul, because you can discover no natural relation between extent and thought, if I discover a third attribute, which appears to me entirely unconnected with both extent and thought, I shall have a right, in my turn, to admit three subjects in man; matter, which is the subject of extent, mind, which is the subject of thought, and a third subject, which belongs to the attribute, that seems to me to have no relation to either matter or mind. Now, I do know such an attribute : but I do not know to which of your two subjects I ought to refer it : I mean sensation. I find it in my nature, and I experience it every hour. But I am altogether at a loss, whether I ought to attribute it to body, or to spirit. I perceive no more natural and necessary relation between sensation and motion, than between sensation and thought. There are, then, on your principle, three substances in man, one the substratum, which is the subject of extension ; another, which is the subject of thought; and a third, which is the subject of sensation : or rather, I suspect, there is only one substance in man, which is known to me very imperfectly, to which all these attributes belong, and which are united together, although I am not able to discover their relation.
Revealed religion removes these difficulties, and decides the question. It tells us, that there are two