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As we are at war with the power, it were well if we were at war with the manners of France. A land of levity, is a land of guilt. A serious mind is the native soil of every virtue ; and the single character that does true honour to mankind. The soul's immortality has been the favourite theme with the serious of all ages. Nor is it strange; it is a subject by far the most interesting, and important, that can enter the mind of man. Of highest moment this subject always was, and always will be. Yet this its highest moment seems to admit of increase, at this day ; a sort of occasional importance is superadded to the natural weight of it; if that opinion which is advanced in the preface to the preceding Night, be just. It is there supposed, that all our infidels, whatever scheme, for argument's sake, and to keep themselves in countenance, they patronize, are betrayed into their deplorable error, by some doubts of their immortality, at the bottom. And the more I consider this point, the more I am persuaded of the truth of that opinion. Though the distrust of a futurity is a strange error ; yet it is an error into which bad men may naturally be distressed. For it is impossible to bid defiance to final ruin, without some refuge in imagination, some presumption of es. cape. And what presumption is there? There are but two in nature; but two, within the compass of human thought. And these are,—That either GOD will not, or can not punish. Considering the divine attribution, the first is too gross to be. gested by our strongest wishes. And since omnipotence is as much a divine attribute as holiness, that GOD cannot punish, is as absurd a supposition as the former. GOD certainly can punish as long as wicked men exist. In non-existence, therefore, is their only refuge; and, consequently, non-existence is their strongest wish. And strong wishes have a strange influence on our opinions; they bias the judgment in a manner, almost, incredible. And since on this member of their alternative, there are some very small appearances in their favour, and none at all on the other, they catch at this reed, they lay hold on this chimæra, to save themselves from the shock and horror of an immediate and absolute despair.
On reviewing my subject, by the light which this argument, and others of like tendency, threw upon it, I was more inclin'd than ever to pursue it, as it appear’d to me to strike directly at the main root of all our infidelity. In the following pages it is, accordingly pursu'd at large ; and some arguments for immortality, new at least to me, are ventur'd on in them. There also the writer has made an attempt to set the gross absurdities and horiors of annihilation in a fuller and more affecting view, than is (I think) 10 be met with elsewhere.
The gentlemen, for whose sake this attempt was chiefly made, profess great admiration for the wisdom of heathen antiquity : What pily 'tis they are not sincere! If they were sincere, how would it mortify them to consider, with what contempt, and abhorrence, their notions would have been received by those whom they so much admire? What degree of contempt and abhorrence would fall to their share, may be conjectur'd by the following matter of fact (in my opinion) extremely memorable. Of all their heathen worthies, Socrates, ('tis well known) was the most guarded, dispassionate, and composed: Yet this great master of temper was angry; and angry at his last hour ; and angry with his friends; and angry for what desery'd ac. knowledgınent; angry for a right and tender instance of true
friendship towards him. Is not this surprising? What could be the cause? The cause was for his honour; It was a truly noble, tho', perhaps, a too punctilious, regard for immortality: For his friend asking him, with such an affectionate concern as became a friend, “ Where he should deposit his remains ?” It was resented by Socrates, as implying a dishonourable suppo. sition, that he could be so mean, as to have a regard for any thing, even in himself that was not IMMORTAL.
This fact well considered, would make our infidels withdraw their admiration from Socrates; or make them endeavour, by their imitation of this illustrious exainple, to share his glory: And, consequently, it would incline them to peruse the following pages with candour and impartiality: Which is all I desire ; and that, for their sakes: For I am persuaded, that an unprejudiced infidel must, necessarily, receive some advantageous impressions from them.
July 7, 1744.
OF THE SEVENTH NIGHT.
In the Sixth Night arguments were drawn, from NATURE, in proof of
immortality: Here, others are drawn from Man: From his Discontent, — from his Passions and Powers—from the gradual growth of Reason,—from his fear of Death—from the nature of Hope, and of Virtue—from Knowledge, and Love, as being the most essential properties of the soul from the Order of Creation from the nature of Ambition, Avarice, Pleasure. A digression on the grandeur of the Passions. Immortality alone renders our present state intelligible. An objection from the Stoics disbelief of immortality answered. Endless questions unresolvable, but on supposition of our immortality. The natural, most melancholy, and pathetic complaint of a worthy man, under the persuasion of no futurity. The gross absurdities and horrors of annihilation urg'd home on LORENZO. The soul's vast importance—from whence it arises — The Difficulty of being an infidel—the Infamy—The Cause, and the Character, of an infidel state. What true free-thinking is. The necessary punishment of the false. Man's ruin is from himself. An infidel accuses himself of guilt, and hypocrisy; and that of the worst sort. His obligation to Christians-What danger he incurs by Virtue Vice recommended to him-His high pretences to Virtue, and Benevilence, exploded. The conclusion, on the nature of Faith, — Reasane and Hope; with an apology for this attempt.