Imagens das páginas

ject 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 supperadded 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 coun: tenance, 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 escape. 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 cannot punish. Considering the divine attributes, the first is too gross to be digest. ed 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 alternanative 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 chimera, to save themselves from the shock and horror of an immediate and and absolute despair.

On reviewing my subject, by the light which this argument, and others of like tendency, threw upon it, I was more inclined than ever to pursue it, as it appeared to me to strike directly at the main root of all our infidelity. In the following pages it is accordingly, pursued at large, and some arguments for immortality, new at least to me, are ventured on in them. There, also, the writer has made an attempt to set the gross absurdities and horrors of annihilation in a fuller and more affecting view than is (I think) to be met with elsewhere.

The gentlemen for whose sake this attempt was chiefly made, profess great admiration for the wisdom of heathen antiquity ; what pity it is they are not sina cere! 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 conjectured by the following matter of fact, (in my opinion) extremely memorable. Of all their heathen worthies, Socrates (it is 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 friend ; and angry for what deserved acknowledgment; 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, though, 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 supposition that he could be so mean as to have re

gard for any thing, even in himself, that was not im, mortal.

This fact, well considered, would make our infidels withdraw their admiration from Socrates, or make them endeavour, by their imitation of this illustrious example, 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.

HEAVEN gives the needful, but neglected call. What day, what hour, but knocks at human hearts, To wake the soul to sense of future scenes ? Deaths stand, like Mercuries, in ev'ry way, And kindly point us to our journey's end. Pope, who couldst make immortals ! art thou dead? I give thee joy ; nor will I take my leave, So soon to follow. Man but dives in death, Dives from the sun, in fairer day to rise, The grave his subterranean road to bliss. Yes, infinite indulgence plann'd it so; Thro' various parts our glorious story runs; Time gives the preface, endless age unrolls The volume (ne'er unrolld) of human fate.

This earth and skies* already have proclaim'd. The world's a prophecy of worlds to come, And who what God foretels (who speaks in things. Still louder than in words) shall dare deny? If Nature's arguments appear too weak, Turn a new leaf, and stronger read in man. If man sleeps on, untaught by what he sees, Can he prove infidel to what he feels ? He, whose blind thought futurity denies, Unconscious bears, Bellerophon! like thee,

* Night the Sixth.

His own indictment; he condemns himself;
Who reads his bosom, reads immortal life ;
Or Nature there, imposing on her sons,
Has written fables: man was made a lie.

Why discontent for ever harbour'd there?
Incurable consumption of our peace!
Resolve me why the cottager and king,
He whom sea-sever'd realms obey, and he
Who steals his whole dominion from the waste,
Repelling winter blasts with mud and straw,
Disquieted alike, draw sigh for sigh,
In fate so distant, in complaint so near?

Is it that things terrestrial can't content:
Deep in rich pasture will thy flocks complain?
Not so: but to their master is deny’d
To share their sweet serene. Man, ill at ease
In this, not his own place, this foreign field,
Where Nature fodders him with other food
Than was ordain’d his cravings to suffice,
Poor in abundance, famish'd at a feast,
Sighs on for something more, when most enjoy’d.
Is heaven then kinder to thy flocks than thee?
Not so; thy pasture richer, but remote;
In part remote; for that remoter part
Man bleats from instinct, though perhaps, debauch'd
By sense, his reason sleeps, nor dreams the cause.

« AnteriorContinuar »