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senseless of animals than a reasonable mind tortured with an extreme innate desire of that perfection which it despairs to obtain.
It is with great pleasure that I behold instinct, reason, and faith concurring to attest this comfortable truth. It is revealed from heaven, it is discovered by philosophers, and the ignorant, unenlightened part of mankind have a natural propensity to believe it. It is an agreeable entertainment to reflect on the various shapes under which this doctrine has appeared in the world. The Pythagorean transmigration, the sensual habitations of the Mahometan, and the shady realms of Pluto, do all agree in the main points, the continuation of our existence and the distribution of rewards and punishments, proportioned to the merits or demerits of men in this life.
But in all these schemes, there is something gross and improbable, that shocks a reasonable and speculative mind. Whereas nothing can be more rational and sublime than the christian idea of a future state. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for those that love him." The above mentioned schemes are narrow transcripts of our present state : but in this indefinite description there is something ineffably great and noble. The mind of man must be raised to a higher pitch , not only to partake the enjoyments of the Christian paradise, but even to be able to frame any notion of them.
Nevertheless, in order to gratify our imagination, and by way of condescension to our low way of thinking, the ideas of light, glory, a crown, Sec. are made use of to adumbrate that which we cannot directly understand. "The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away, and behold all things are new. There shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither lightof the sun: for the Lord God giveth them light, and shall make them drink of the river of his pleasures: and they shall reign for ever and ever. They shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away."'
These are cheering reflections: and I have often wondered that men could be found so dull and phlegmatic, as to prefer the thought of annihilation before them; or so ill-natured, as to endeavour to persuade mankind to the disbelief of what is so pleasing and profitable even in the prospect; or so blind, as not to fee that there is a Deity, and if there be, that this scheme of things flows from his attributes, and evidently corresponds with the other parts of his creation.
I know not how to account for this absurd turn of thought, except it proceed from a want of other employment, joined with an affectation of singularity. I shall,, therefore, inform our modern Freethinkers of two points, whereof they seem to be
ignorant. The first is, that it is not the being singular, but being singular for something that argues either extraordinary enduements of nature, or benevolent intentions to mankind, which draws the admiration and esteem of the world. A mistake in this point naturally arises from that confusion of thought which I do not remember to have seen so great instances of in any writers, as in certain modern Free-thinkers.
The other point is, that there are innumerable objects within the reach of a human mind, and each of these objects may beviewed in innumerable lights and positions, and the relations arising between them are innumerable. There is, therefore, an infinity of things whereon to employ their thoughts, if not with advantage to the world, at least with amusement to themselves, and without offence or prejudice to other people. If they proceed to exert their talent of Free-thinking in this way, they may be innocently dull, and no one take any notice of it. But to fee men withouteither wit or argument pretend to run down divine and human laws, and treat their fellow-subjects with contempt for professing a belief of those points on which the present as well as future interest of mankind depends, is not to be endured. For my own part, I shall omit no endeavours to render their persons as despicable and their practices as odious, in the eye of the world, as they deserve.
I have already taken a particular pleasure in examining the opinions which men of different religions , different ages, and different countries have entertained concerning the immortality of the soul, and the state of happiness which they promise themselves in another world. For whatever prejudices and errors human nature lies under, we find that either reason or tradition from our first parents, has discovered to all people something in these great points which bears analogy to truth, and to the doctrines opened to us by divine revelation. I waslately discoursing on this subject with a learned person, who has been very much conversant among the inhabitants of the more western parts of Afric. Upon his conversing with several in that country, he tells me that their notion of heaven, or of a future state of happiness is this, that every thing we there wish for will immediately present itself to us. We find, say they, our fouls are of such a nature that they require variety , and are not capable of being always delighted with the same objects. The supreme Being , therefore, in compliance with this taste of happiness which he has planted in the foul of man, will raise up, from time to time, say they, every gratification which it is in the humor to be pleased with. If we wish to be in groves or bowers, among running streams or falls of water, we shall immediately find ourselves in the midst of such a scene as we desire. If we would be entertained with music and the melody of sounds, the concert arises upon our wish, and the whole region about us is filled with harmony. In short, every desire will be followed by fruition, and whatever a man's inclination directs him to, will be present with him. Nor is it material, whether the supreme Power creates in conformity to our wishes, or whether he only produces such a change in our imagination, as makes us believe ourselves conversant among those scenes which delight us. Our happiness will be the same, whether it proceed from external objects, or from the impressions of the Deity upon our own private fancies. This is the account which I have received from my learned friend. Notwithstanding this system of belief be in general very chimerical and visionary , there is something sublime in its manner of considering the influence of a divine Being on a human foul. It has also, like most other opinions of the heathen world upon these important points ; it has, I say, its foundation in truth,' as it supposes the fouls of good men after this life to be in a state of perfect happiness; that in this state there will be no barren hopes, nor fruitless wishes, and that we shall enjoy every thing we can desire. But the particular circumstance which I am most pleased with in this scheme, and which arises from a just reflection upon human nature, is that variety of pleasures which it supposes the fouls of good men will be possessed of in another world. This I think highly probable, from the dictates both of reason and revelation. The soul consists of many faculties, as. the understanding and the will, with all the senses both outward and inward; or, to speak more philosophically, the soul can exert herself in many different ways of action. She can understand, will, imagine, see, and hear, love and dis