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IMMORTALITY os the SOUL.
>Y the mere light of reason, it seems difficult to prove the Immortality of the Soul; the arguments for it are commonly derived either from metaphysical topics, or moral or physical. But in reality 'tis the Gospel, and the Gospel alone, that has brought life and immortality to light.
I. Metaphysical topics suppose that the soul is immaterial, and that 'tisimpossible for thought
to belong to a material substance. (1) But
just metaphysics teach us that the notion of substance is wholly confused and imperfect and that we have no other idea of any substance, than as an aggregate of particular qualities, inhering in an unknown something. Matter, therefore, and spirit, are at bottom equally unknown , and we cannot determine what qualities inhere in the one or in the other. ( Q ) They likewise teach us that nothing can be decided a priori concerning any cause or effect, and that experience being the only source of our judgments of this nature, we cannot know from any other principle, whether matter, by its structure or arrangement, may not be the cause of thought. Abstract reasonings cannot decide any question of fact or existence.'—But admitting a spiritual substance to be dispersed throughout the universe, like the etherial fire ^of the Stoics, and to be the only inherent subject of thought, We have reason to conclude from analogy that nature uses it after the manner she does the other substance, matter. She employs it as a kind of paste or clay; modifies it into a variety of forms and existences; dissolves after a time each modification, and from its substance erects a new form. As the same material substance may successively compose the bodies of all animals, the same spiritual substance may compose their minds: Their consciousness, or that system of thought which they formed during life , may be continually dissolved by death. And nothing interests them in the new modification. The most positive assertors of the mortality of the foul, never denied .* the immortality of its substance. And that an
immaterial substance, as well as a material, may lose its memory or consciousness, appears in part from experience, if the foul be immaterial.—Reasoning from the common course of nature, and without supposing any new interposition of the * supreme cause, which ought always to be excluded
from philosophy, what is incorruptible must also be ingenerable. The Soul therefore, if immortal, existed before our birth; and if the former existence
no ways concerned us, neither will the latter — Animals undoubtedly feel, think, love, hate, will, and even reason, though in a more imperfect manner than men; are their souls also immaterial and immortal ? (3)
II Let us now consider the moral arguments, chiefly those derived from the justice of God, which is supposed to be farther interested in the farther punishment of the vicious and reward of the virtuous..--. But these arguments are grounded on the supposition that God has attributes beyond what he has exerted in this universe, with which alone we are acquainted. Whence do we infer the existence of these attributes?—Tis very safe for us to affirm, that whatever we know the Deity to have actually done, is best; but 'tis very dangerous to affirm, that he must always do what to us seems best. In how many instances would this reasoning fail us with regard to the present world? — But if any purpose of nature be clear, we may affirm, that the whole scope and intention of man's creation, so far as we can judge by natural reason, is limited to the present life. With how weak a concern from the original inherent structure of the mind and passions, does he ever look farther? What comparison either for steadiness or efficacy, betwixt so floating an idea, and the most doubtful persuasion of any matter of fact that occurs in common life. There arise indeed in some minds some unaccountable terrors with regard to futurity; but these would quickly vanish were they not artificially fostered by precept and education. And those who folter them, what is their motive? only to grin a livelihood, and to acquire power and riches in this world. Their very zeal and industry therefore is an argument against them.
What cruelty, what iniquity, what injustice in nature, to confine all our concern, as well as all our knowledge, to the present life, if there be another scene still waiting us, of infinitely greater consequence? Ought this barbarous deceit to be ascribed to a beneficent and wise Being? — Observe with what exact proportion the talk to be performed and the performing powers are adjusted throughout all nature. If the reason of man gives him great superiority above other animals, his necessities are proportionably multiplied upon him; his whole time, his whole capacity, activity, courage, and passion , find sufficient employment in fencing against the miseries of his present condition, and frequently, nay almost always are too slender for the business assigned them. — A pair of (hoes perhaps was never yet wrought to the highest degree of perfection which that commodity is capable of attaining. Yet it is necessary, at least very useful, that there should be some politicians and moralists, even some geometers, poets, and philosophers among mankind. The powers of men are no more superior to their wants, considered merely in this life, than those of foxes and hares are, compared to their wants and to their period of existence. The inference from parity of reason is therefore obvious.
On the theory of the Soul's mortality, the inferiority of women's capacity is easily accounted for. Their domestic life requires no higher faculties, either of mind or body. This circumstance vanishes and becomes absolutely insignificant on the religious theory: the one sex has an equal talk to perform as the other; their powers of reason and resolution ought also to have been equal, and both of them infinitely greater than at present. As every effect implies a cause, and that another, till we reach the first cause of all which is the Deity; every thing that happens is ordained by him, and nothing can be the object of his punishment or vengeance. —By what rule are punishments and rewards distributed? What is the divine standard of merit and demerit? Shall we suppose that human sentiments have place in the Deity? How bold that hypothesis. We have no conception of any other sentiments. — According to human sentiments, sense, courage, good manners, industry, prudence, genius, Sec. are essential parts of personal merits. Shall we therefore «rect an elysium for poets and heroes like that of the ancient mythology? Why confine all rewards to one species of virtue? Punishment, without any proper end or purpose, is inconsistent with our ideas of goodness and justice, and no end can be served by it after the whole scene is closed. Punishment, according to our conception , should bear some proportion to the offence. Why then eternal punishment for the temporary offences of so frail a