Imatges de pÓgina
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It is in vain for men to turn aside their thoughts from this eternity which awaits them, as if they were able to destroy it by denying it a place in their imagination: it subsists in spite of them; it advanceth unobserved; and death, which is to draw the eurtain from it, will in a short time infallibly reduce them to the dreadful necessity of being for ever nothing, or for ever miserable.

We have here a doubt of the most affrighting consequence, and which, therefore, to entertain, may be well esteemed the most grievous of misfortunes: but, at the same time, it is our indispensable duty not to lie under it, without struggling for deliverance.

He then who doubts, and yet seeks not to be resolved, is equally unhappy and unjust: but if withal he appears easy and composed, if he freely declares his indifference, nay, if he takes a vanity of professing it, and seems to make this most deplorable condition the subject of his pleasure and joy, I have not words to fix a name on so extravagant a creature. Where is the very possibility of entering into these thoughts and resolutions? What delight is there in expecting misery without end? What vanity in finding one's self encompassed with impenetrable darkness? Or what consolation in despairing for ever of a comforter? To sit down with some sort of acquiescence under so fatal an ignorance, is a thing unaccountable beyond all expressions; and they who live with such a disposition, ought to be made sensible of its absurdity and stupidity, by having their inward reflections laid open to them, that they may grow wise by the prospect of their own folly. For behold how men are wont to reason, while they obstinately remain thus ignorant of what they are, and refuse all methods of instruction and illumination.

Who has sent me into the world I know not; what the world is I know not, nor what I am myself. I am under an astonishing and terrifying ignorance of all things. I know not what my body is, what my senses, or my soul: this very part of me which thinks what I speak, which reflects upon every thing else, and even upon itself, yet is as mere a stranger to its own nature, as the dullest thing I carry about me. I behold these frightful spaces of the universe with which I am encompassed, and I find myself chained to one little corner of the vast extent, without understanding why I am placed in this seat, ra

ther than in any other; or why this moment of time given me to live, was assigned rather at such a point, than at any other of the whole eternity which was before me, or of all that which is to 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 sum of my knowledge is, that I must shortly die: but that which I am most ignorant of is this very death, which I feel unable to decline.

As I know not whence I came, so I know not whither 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 befall me; and that I have nothing to do, but to follow my inclinations without reflection or disquiet, in doing all that, which, if what men say of a miserable eternity prove true, will infallibly plunge me into it. It is 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 resolved to treat those with scorn and derision who labourin this inquiry and care; and, so to run without fear or foresight, upon the trial of the grand event; permitting myself to be led softly on to death, utterly uncertain as to the eternal issue of my future condition.

In earnest, it is a glory to religion to have so unreasonable men for its professed 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 those 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.

Nothing is so important to any man as his own estate and condition; nothing so great, so amazing, as eternity. If, therefore, we find persons indifferent to the loss of their being, and to the danger of endless

misery, it is impossible that this temper should be natural. They are quite other men in all other regards, they fear the smallest inconveniences, they see them as they approach, and feel them if they arrive, and he who passeth days and nights in chagrin or despair, for the loss of an employment, or for some imaginary blemish in his honour, is the very same mortal who knows that he must lose all by death, and yet remains without disquiet, resentment, or emotion. This wonderful insensibility, with respect to things of the most fatal consequence, in a heart so nicely sensible of the meanest trifles, is an astonishing prodigy, an unintelligible enchantment, a supernatural blindness and infatuation.

A man in a close dungeon, who knows not whether sentence of death has passed upon him, who is allowed but one hour's space to inform himself concerning it, and that one hour sufficient, in case it have passed, to obtain its reverse, would act contrary to nature and sense, should he make use of this hour not to procure information, but to pursue his vanity or sport. And yet such is the condition of the persons whom we are now describing; only with this difference, that the evils with which they are every moment threatened, do infinitely surpass the bare loss of life, and that transient punishment which the prisoner is supposed to apprehend; yet they run thoughtless upon the precipice, having only cast a veil over their eyes, to hinder them from discerning it, and divert themselves with the officiousness of such as charitably warn them of their danger.

Thus not the zeal alone of those who heartily seek God demonstrates the truth of religion, but likewise the blindness of those who utterly forbear to seek him, and who pass their days under so horrible a neglect. There must needs be a strange turn and revolution in human nature, before men can submit to such a condition, much more ere they can applaud and value themselves upon it. For supposing them to have obtained an absolute certainty, that there was no fear after death, but of falling into nothing, ought not this to be the subject rather of despair than of jollity? And is it not therefore the highest pitch of senseless extravagance, while we want the certainty, to glory in our doubt and distrust?

And yet, after all, it is too visible, that man has so far declined from his original nature, and as it were departed from him

self, to nourish in his heart a secret seed-
plot of joy, springing up from the libertine
reflections. This brutal ease, or indolence,
between the fear of hell, and annihilation,
carries somewhat so tempting in it, that
not only those who have the misfortune to
be sceptically inclined, but even those who
cannot unsettle their judgment, do yet
esteem it reputable to take up a counterfeit
diffidence. For we may observe the largest
part of the herd to be of this latter kind,
false pretenders to infidelity, and mere hy-
pocrites in atheism.
There are persons
whom we have heard declare, that the gen-
teel way of the world consists in thus act-
ing the bravo. This is that which they
term throwing off the yoke, and which the
greater number of them profess, not so
much out of opinion, as out of gallantry
and complaisance.

Yet, if they have the least reserve of common sense, it will not be difficult to make them apprehend how miserably they abuse themselves by laying so false a foundation of applause and esteem. For this is not the way to raise a character, even with worldly men, who, as they are able to pass a shrewd judgment on things, so they easily discern that the only method of succeeding in our temporal affairs, is to prove ourselves honest, faithful, prudent, and capable of advancing the interest of our friends; because men naturally love nothing but that which some way contributes to their use and benefit. But now what benefit can we any way derive from hearing a man confess that he has eased himself of the burden of religion; that he believes no God, as the witness and inspector of his conduct; that he considers himself as absolute master of what he does, and accountable for it only to his own mind? Will he fancy that we shall be hence induced to repose a greater degree of confidence in him hereafter? or to depend on his comfort, his advice, or assistance, in the necessities of life? Can he imagine us to take any great delight or complacency when he tells us, that he doubts whether our very soul be any thing more than a little wind and smoke? Nay, when he tells it us with an air of assurance, and a voice that tes

tifies the contentment of his heart? Is

this a thing to be spoke of with pleasantry? or ought it not rather to be lamented with the deepest sadness, as the most melancholic reflection that can strike our thoughts?

If they would compose themselves to se

rious consideration, they must perceive the method in which they are engaged to be so very ill chosen, so repugnant to gentility, and so remote even from that good air and grace which they pursue, that, on the contrary, nothing can more effectually expose them to the contempt and aversion of mankind, or mark them out for persons defective in parts and judgment. And, indeed, should we demand from them an account of their sentiments, and of the reasons which they have to entertain this suspicion in religious matters, what they offered would appear so miserably weak and trifling, as rather to confirm us in our belief. This is no more than what one of their own fraternity told them, with great smartness, on such an occasion: If you continue (says he) to dispute at this rate, you will infallibly make me a Christian. And the gentleman was in the right: for who would not tremble to find himself embarked in the same cause, with so forlorn, so despicablé companions?

And thus it is evident, that they who wear no more than the outward mask of these principles, are the most unhappy counterfeits in the world; inasmuch as they are obliged to put a continual force and constraint on their genius, only that they may render themselves the most impertinent of all men living.

If they are heartily and sincerely troubled at their want of light, let them not dissemble the disease. Such a confession could not be reputed shameful; for there really is no shame, but in being shameless. Nothing betrays so much weakness of soul, as not to apprehend the misery of man, while living without God in the world: nothing is a surer token of extreme baseness of spirit, than not to hope for the reality of external promises: no man is so stigmatized a coward, as he that acts the bravo against heaven. Let them therefore leave these impieties to those who are born with so unhappy a judgment, as to be capable of entertaining them in earnest. If they cannot be Christian men, let them, however, be men of honour: and let them, in conclusion, acknowledge, that there are but two sorts of persons, who deserve to be styled reasonable, either those who serve God with all their heart, because they know him; or those who seek him with all their heart, because as yet they know

him not.

If then there are persons who sincerely

inquire after God, and who, being truly sensible of their misery, affectionately desire to be rescued from it; it is to these alone that we can in justice afford our labour and service, for their direction in finding out that light of which they feel the want.

But as for those who live without either knowing God or endeavouring to know him, they look on themselves as so little deserving their own care, that they cannot but be unworthy the care of others: and it requires all the charity of the religion which they despise, not to despise them to such a degree, as even to abandon them to their own folly : but since the same religion obliges us to consider them, while they remain in this life, as still capable of God's enlightening grace; and to acknowledge it as very possible, that, in the course of a few days they may be replenished with a fuller measure of faith than we now enjoy; and we ourselves, on the other side, fall into the depths of their present blindness and misery; we ought to do for them, what we desire should be done to us in their case; to entreat them that they would take pity on themselves, and would at least advance a step or two forward, if perchance they may come into the light. For which end it is wished, that they would employ in the perusal of this piece, some few of those hours, which they spend so unprofitably in other pursuits. It is possible they may gain somewhat by the reading; at least, they cannot be great losers: but if any shall apply themselves to it, with perfect sincerity, and with an unfeigned desire of knowing the truth, I despair not of their satisfaction, or of their being convinced by so many proofs of our divine religion, as they will here find laid together.

Mons. Pascal.

§ 119. On the Old and New Testament.

The Old Testament hath, by the general consent of learned men, all the marks of purest antiquity; there being nothing in the world which in this respect is equal to it, or which may pretend to be compared with it; all other the most ancient monuments of antiquity coming short of it by many ages. It was written in the first and most ancient language; from which the very alphabets and letters of all other languages were derived.

This book contains, as the most an

cient, so the most exact story of the world, the propagation of men, and the dispersing of families into the several parts of the earth.

And though this book were written in several ages and places, by several persons; yet doth the doctrine of it accord together, with a most excellent harmony, without any dissonance or inconsistency.

And for the manner of delivering the things contained in it, 'tis so solemn, reverend, and majestic, so exactly suited to the nature of things, as may justly provoke our wonder and acknowledgment of its divine original.

And as for the New Testament; those various correspondences, which it bears to the chief things of the Old Testament, may sufficiently evidence that mutual relation, dependence, and affinity which there is between them. That in such an age there was such a man as Christ, who preached such a doctrine, wrought many miracles, suffered an ignominious death, and was afterwards worshipped as God, having abundance of disciples and followers, at first chiefly among the vulgar, but, a while after, amongst several of the most wise and learned men; who in a short space of time did propagate their belief and doctrine into the most remote parts of the world: I say, all this is for the truth of the matter of fact, not so much as doubted or called into question, by Julian, or Celsus, or the Jews themselves, or any other of the most avowed enemies of Christianity. But we have it by as good certainty as any rational man can wish or hope for, that is, by universal testimony, as well of enemies. as friends.

And if these things were so, as to the matter of fact, the common principles of nature will assure us, that 'tis not consistent with the nature of the Deity, his truth, wisdom, or justice, to work such miracles in confirmation of a lie or imposture.

Nor can it be reasonably objected that these miracles are now ceased; and we have not any such extraordinary way to confirm the truth of our religion. "Tis sufficient that they were upon the first plantation of it, when men were to be instituted and confirmed in this new doctrine. And there may be as much of the wisdom of Providence in the forbearing them now, as in working them then: it being not reasonable to think that the universal laws of nature, by which things

are to be regularly guided in their natural course, should frequently, or upon every little occasion, be violated or disordered.

To which may be added that wonderful way whereby this religion hath been propagated in the world with much simplicity and infirmity in the first publishers of it; without arms, or faction, or favour of great men, or the persuasions of philosophers or orators; only by the naked proposal of plain, evident truth, with a firm resolution of suffering and dying for it, by which it hath subdued all kind of persecutions and oppositions, and surmounted whatever discouragement or resistance could be laid in its way, or made against it.

The excellency of the things contained in the Gospel are also so suitable to a rational being, as no other religion or profession whatsoever hath thought of, or so expressly insisted upon.

Some of the learned Heathens have placed the happiness of man in the external sensual delights of this world.

Others of the wiser Heathens have spoken sometimes doubtfully concerning a future state, and therefore have placed the reward of virtue in the doing of virtuous things. Virtue is its own reward. Wherein, though there be much of truth, yet it doth not afford encouragement enough for the vast desires of a rational soul.

Others, who have owned a state after this life, have placed the happiness of it in gross and sensual pleasures, feasts, and gardens, and company, and other such low and gross enjoyments.

Whereas the doctrine of Christianity doth fix it upon things that are much more spiritual and sublime; the beatific vision, a clear unerring understanding, a perfect tranquillity of mind, a conformity to God, a perpetual admiring and praising of him: than which the mind of man cannot fancy any thing that is more excellent or desirable."

As to the duties that are enjoined in reference to divine worship, they are so full of sanctity and spiritual devotion, as may shame all the pompous solemnities of other religions, in their costly sacrifices, their dark wild mysteries, and external observances. Whereas this refers chiefly to the holiness of the mind, resignation to God, love of him, dependence upon him, submission to his will, endeavouring to be like him.

And as for the duties of the second table, which concern our mutual conversation towards one another, it allows nothing that is hurtful or noxious, either to ourselves or others; forbids all kind of injury or revenge; commands to overcome evil with good; to pray for enemies and persecutors; doth not admit of any mental, much less any corporal uncleanness; doth not tolerate any immodest or uncomely word or gesture; forbids us to wrong others in their goods and possessions, or to misspend our own; requires us to be very tender both of our own and other men's reputations; in brief, it enjoins nothing but what is helpful, and useful, and good for mankind. Whatever any philosophers have prescribed concerning their moral virtues of temperance, and prudence, and patience, and the duties of several relations, is here enjoined, in a far more eminent, sublime, and comprehensive manner: besides such examples and incitations to piety as are not to be paralleled elsewhere; the whole system of its doctrines being transcendently excellent, and so exactly conformable to the highest, purest reason, that in those very things wherein it goes beyond the rules of moral philosophy, we cannot in our best judgment but consent to submit to it.

In brief; it doth in every respect so fully answer the chief scope and design of religion, in giving all imaginable honour and submission to the Deity, promoting the good of mankind, satisfying and supporting the mind of man with the highest kind of enjoyments, that a rational soul can wish or hope for, as no other religion or profession whatsoever can pretend

unto.

thing which he inquires about is capable of: and that man is to be looked upon as froward and contentious, who will not rest satisfied in such kind of evidence as is counted sufficient, either by all others, or by most, or by the wisest men.

If we suppose God to have made any revelation of his will to mankind, can any man propose or fancy any better way for conveying down to posterity the certainty of it, than that clear and universal tradition which we have for the history of the gospel? And must not that man be very unreasonable, who will not be content with as much evidence for an ancient book or matter of fact, as any thing of that nature is capable of? If it be only infallible and mathematical certainty that can settle his mind, why should he believe that he was born of such parents, and belongs to such a family? 'Tis possible men might have combined together to delude him with such a tradition. Why may he not as well think, that he was born a prince and not a subject, and consequently deny all duties of subjection and obedience to those above him? There is nothing so wild and extravagant, to which men may not expose themselves by such a kind of nice and scrupulous incredulity.

Whereas, if to the inquiries about religion a man would but bring with him the same candour and ingenuity, the same readiness to be instructed, which he doth to the study of human arts and sciences, that is, a mind free from violent prejudices, and a desire of contention; it can hardly be imagined, but that he must be convinced and subdued by those clear evidences, which offer themselves to every inquisitive mind, concerning the truth of the principles of religion in general, and concerning the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the Christian religion. Bishop Wilkins.

Gentlemen,

Age.

Infidels pretend want of clear and infallible evidence for the truth of Christianity; than which nothing can be more absurd and unworthy of a rational man. For let it be but impartially considered; what is it, that such men would have? Do § 120. To the Sceptics and Infidels of the they expect mathematical proof and certainty in moral things? Why, they may as well expect to see with their ears, and hear with their eyes: such kind of things being altogether as disproportioned to such kind of proofs, as the objects of the several senses are to one another. The arguments or proof to be used in several matters are of various and different kinds, according to the nature of the things to be proved. And it will become every rational man to yield to such proofs, as the nature of the

Suppose the mighty work accomplished, the cross trampled upon, Christianity every where proscribed, and the religion of nature once more become the religion of Europe; what advantage will you have derived to your country, or to yourselves from the exchange? I know your answer

you will have freed the world from the hypocrisy of priests, and the tyranny of superstition.-No; you forget that Ly

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