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which we are conversant can lead us to any certain conclusion respecting it. Nature, as such, knows nothing whatever on the subject; and, although philosophers have come to conclusions, which may carry with them something like probability, it is quite certain from the doubts with which these have been met by others, as well as the hollowness of the grounds on which they rest, that either these probabilities were considered weak, or, at best, that the end anticipated was such as to produce no salutary effect on society. In the book, however, which we have been considering, this question rests on very different grounds, as indeed do all its other doctrines. We are there assured of this, as of an event about which there can be no doubt; as an end to which the believer can with certainty direct his view, and of which he is cautioned above all things never to lose sight. In this scene of being, trials, mortifications, sufferings, are constantly dwelt on, as the portion of the true disciple and when we consider what the character of such an one is expected to be, there can be no doubt from the very nature of things, that such will be his portion: history informs us that it ever has been; and reason concludes that it always must be and so (whether true or false is not now the question), it is but reasonable, that another state should be pointed out, dwelt upon, and continually enforced, with the greatest earnestness.
But let us come more immediately to our question, and let us suppose ourselves now to be in the situation only, which the ancient heathens were, highly polished as a nation, great in the arts of commerce and of war; and not inferior to them in all the sciences. Now it may be asked, Is there any thing in the belief or experience of such a people, calculated to raise the mind of man to the high tone of moral virtue and happiness of which it is confessedly capable? The only motives to virtue in such a state of things, must be some one or more of the following, viz. the desire of insuring wealth, influence, or fame. Virtue has indeed been proposed both in ancient and modern times, as something so truly lovely in itself, as to be motive sufficient for regulating the lives of all who are capable of discovering and estimating its worth. This discovery, however, is but seldom made; and when it is, is perhaps still more rarely acted upon. Few
have philosophy enough to put virtue, whatever be its charms, in competition with influence; and the consequence has been, that this theoretic beauty has invariably been called in as a subordinate help to the more popular idolatry of wealth, influence, and fame. Leagued with these, and in professions and appearance at least (for here it can go no further), it has usually been put under contribution, and made to wage continual war upon its own community; and thus like those decoy birds and beasts, which have been schooled for the purpose of destroying their own species, and to promote the wealth of their possessors, has perhaps more effectually contributed to serve the cause of vice, than all the efforts of its professed ministers could ever do. Let us take, therefore, what every one knows to be the only efficient motives to human action, independent of positive commands from above, namely, wealth, influence, and fame; and let us consider in what way these are calculated, either singly or combined, to raise the tone of moral virtue, and to make man what he ought to be, just and good.
It is generally, and indeed very justly, held, that "honesty is the best policy;" that the effects of vice are to prey upon and to ruin its admirers. And the truth is, society is so constituted, as naturally to bring about these results. If, indeed, there were no security, then must there be an entire end to industry, and the consequence inevitably be universal poverty and woe. So far, there can be no debatable question. When, however, we come to inquire how far a mere regard to public honesty will generally go, especially when any shorter and more expeditious way to wealth, influence, or fame, presents itself, and take into consideration the facility with which deceit may be practised, especially on the more generous; we shall have no difficulty in coming to a conclusion, as to whence have originated human laws, public distress and distrust, with their inseparable companion, individual misery. We shall discover, what experience has in every state and nation so circumstanced shewn to be the fact, that the community is in the main dishonest; and that moral virtue is, at the best, scarcely any thing more than a name. Address and management (which imply caution in doing nothing to offend against established customs) have
ever been found to do more for a man in one moment, perhaps, than years of the most indefatigable industry, profound science, or skill in the arts, could bring about; and hence, the less expert in these particulars have not only usually occupied the lower ranks of life, whatever else might be their pretensions, but even this, which in such a case ought rather to be made a measure of their virtue, has also been made decisive as to their deficiencies in intellectual, scientific, or moral attainments. Cunning, artifice, and intrigue, are crimes not cognizable to national laws. Moralists have hitherto devised no means by which these can be detected, exposed, and duly censured. Flattery, which is perhaps the most insidious and successful enemy to virtue, seldom fails of finding access to the heart in one shape or other for alas! human penetration is here unequal to the task of dividing the true from the false. Men can judge only by appearances; and where nothing more certain can be appealed to, these may deceive us. Truth, too, is generally less anxious about consequences, and less active in recommending its own cause, than vice and falsehood are found to be and where this is the case, management and address must and will prevail. The reason is obvious; the best human motives to action involve no law which will reach beyond appearances: and, as appearances are more easily urged, than the less obvious and perhaps less inviting realities may be, the most expert in doing this must necessarily be the most successful in furthering his own ambitious, and otherwise uncontrolled, projects.
Now, it may be affirmed, that not only in heathen states must this be the case, but every where, and for the same reasons, where respect to a future state, and the fear of a heart-searching God, do not control and regulate the mind and the life. Every thing short of this must leave the man the dupe to circumstances, and the slave of deceit. Wealth, influence, and consideration, will be the ruling motives of his heart and of his conduct; and either vaunting success, or hopeless disappointment, or both, will as necessarily be his inseparable companions.
If then human knowledge, as such, has nothing better than this to propose, and the testimony of ages may be cited to prove the fact; is it not reasonable, that something should
have been made known by the Author of our nature, likely to raise the mind of man to that height of moral feeling and of enjoyment, of which it is capable; and without which its capacities must have been given in vain? Is it reasonable, that a being endued with powers so marvellous in their extent, and admitting of such a variety in their application, should have been called into being, only to lament his success or discomfiture in every stage of his existence, and in every day of his experience? To court, it may be and to mourn over, the blandishments of wealth, their inefficiency, and want of duration - the uncertainty of popularity, and even the worthlessness of fame; to fear and admire the unostentatious retreat of indigent, despised, and inflexible, honesty; and to envy and to vilify the conscience void of offence, if such were to be found. To have created, I say, and to have left man thus destitute of motives to honourable exertion, and of the means of real and permanent happiness, would surely have been an anomaly in the Divine proceedings. Philosophy must, in this case, have had nothing to which it could aspire; virtue nothing worth contending for; and life itself have eventually been scarcely worth the trouble and expense of its support. The doctrine of a future life, then, being, as it is, the best and indeed the only efficient motive to human virtue, as well as the only source of real happiness, involving too, as it does, no impossibility in the event proposed, is surely most necessary and most reasonable: and, if it can be shewn, which we shall do hereafter, that it is well grounded, it will, perhaps, be difficult to say, in what way a rational being can excuse himself from adopting it as a point of faith.
ON THE REASONABLENESS OF THE DOCTRINE RESPECTING THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY.
THAT human knowledge or reason can come to no immediate conclusion as to the certainty, or not, of this event, is a truth, to which, perhaps, no objection can be made. Analogy may indeed be resorted to, by way of illustration, and
this has been frequently and successfully done; but analogy can go no further: and therefore here, as in our last question, authority alone must determine what is right or wrong. Our only question, however, now is, whether there is or not any thing unreasonable in the doctrine itself, as proposed for belief in the pages of our Scriptures: and this we now proceed to consider.
In the first place, then, we need not dwell upon the fact of the death and consequent dissolution of the body our first question will therefore be (grounded on this fact), whether it is credible or not, this mass can again be recalled into life, and put in possession of all the faculties which it once possessed? My answer is: Supposing Omnipotence to undertake to do this, I know of no reason why we are to suppose the event itself impossible, or even improbable. He who first created the body and formed it out of the dust, may, for aught we know, again vest it with life and sensibility: and if he have some beneficent end to bring about by this event, perhaps no arguments can be produced to shew that it is improbable. Other difficulties, however, have been started, of which the following seems to be the most formidable. If, it is urged, this identical body is with all its members hereafter to be raised to life, how, upon the supposition of various parts of it having been deposited in different parts of the earth, or devoured by the beasts or the fishes, is the identity to consist or to be known? Are the parts, for instance, so separated, again to be brought together, bone to its bone, sinew to its sinew, and so on in every other particular? And then, when the improbability of this seems to be established, a conclusion is made, that no such thing can reasonably be expected to come to pass, and, consequently, that the doctrine itself is incredible. I believe I have stated this argument with all the force usually ascribed to it by its advocates. Let us now see how far it is, or is not, conclusive.
In the first place, then, the perfect identity of matter here contended for, seems to me to be an unnecessary and unreasonable condition. If, indeed, I am again to be endued with a body, composed out of all, or only part of, the matter, which constitutes that I now possess, having still the same powers, feelings, and capacities, extended and improved it may