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SECT. IX. The excellency of the reward proposed.
To begin with the reward, that is, with the end proposed to man; because, as we are used to say, that which is the last in execution is the first in intention.—Moses,225225 Deut. xi. and xxviii. Heb. viii. 6. in his institution of the Jewish religion, if we regard the express condition of the law, made no promises beyond the good things of this life; such as a fruitful land, abundance of riches, victory over their enemies, long life and health, and hope of their posterities surviving them. And if there be any thing more, it is only obscurely hinted, and must be collected from wise and strong arguing: which is the reason why many, who professed to follow the law of Moses, (as the Sadducees,226226 Matt. xxii. 23. Luke, in Acts xxiii. 8. Josephus: “The Sadducces argue, that the soul perishes with the body.” And, in another place, “They deny the soul’s immortality, and rewards and punishments in another life.” Jerom says of them, “That they believe the soul perishes with the body.”) cast off all hope of enjoying any good after this life. The Greeks, who derived their learning from the Chaldeans and Egyptians, and who had some hope of another life after this, spoke very doubtfully concerning it,227227 This is observed by Chrysostom, on 1 Cor. i. 25. as is evident from the disputes of Socrates,228228 In Plato’s Phædon: “Now I would have you to understand, that I hope to go amongst good men; but I will not be too positive in affirming it.” And afterwards, “If those things I am speaking of should prove true, it is very well to be thus persuaded concerning them; but if there be nothing after death, yet I shah always be the less concerned for the present things of this life; and this my ignorance will not continue long, (for that would be bad), but will shortly vanish.” And Tertullian, concerning the soul: “From such a firm steadiness and goodness of mind did that wisdom of Socrates proceed, and not from any certain discovery of the truth.” The same is observed of Socrates, in the exhortation among the works of Justin. and from 92the writings of Tully,229229 In his first Tusculan question; “Shew me first, if you can, and it be not too troublesome, that souls remain after death; or, if you cannot prove this, (for it is difficult), declare how there is no evil in death.” And a little after: “I know not what mighty thing they have got by it, who teach, that, when the time of death comes, they shall entirely perish; which, if it should be, (for I do not say any thing to the contrary), what ground of joy or glorying does it afford?” And again, “Now suppose the soul should perish with the body, can there be any pain, or can there be any sense at all in the body after death? Nobody will say so.” Lactantius, book vii. chap. 8. cites the following passage out of the same Cicero, spoken after a dispute about the soul: “Which of these opinions is true, God only knows.” Seneca,230230 Epistle lxiii. “And perhaps (if the report of wise men be true, and any place receives us) that which we think perishes, is only sent before.” and others.231231 Justin Martyr says in general, in his dialogue with Trypho: “The philosophers knew nothing of these things, nor can they tell what the soul is.” And, though they searched diligently for arguments to prove it, they could offer nothing of certainty. For those which they allege hold generally as strong for beasts as they do for men.232232 As that argument of Socrates to Plato, that “that which moves of itself is eternal.” See Lactantius, in the fore-mentioned place. Which when some of them considered, it is no wonder that they imagined that souls passed out of men into beasts, and out of beasts into men.233233 As the Brachmans of old, and now also; from whom Pythagoras and his scholars had it. Again; because this could not be proved by any testimonies, nor by any certain arguments, and yet it could not be denied but that there must be some end proposed for man; therefore others were led to say, that virtue was its own reward, and that a wise man was very happy, though in Phalaris’s bull.234234 See Tully’s second Tusc. question; and Lactantius’s institutions, book iii. chap. 27. where he strenuously disputes against this opinion; and Augustin, epist. lii. 93But others disliked this, and not without reason; for they saw very well, that happiness, especially in the highest degree, (unless we regard only the sound of words, without any meaning), could not consist in that which is attended with danger, loss, torment, and death:235235 Lactantius, boor iii. chap. 12. “Virtue Is not its own happiness, because the whole power of it consists, as I said, in bearing evils.” And a little after, when he had quoted a place of Seneca’s, he adds: “But the stoics, whom he follows, deny that any one can be happy without virtue. Therefore the reward of virtue is a happy life; if virtue, as is rightly said, makes life happy. Virtue, therefore, is not to be desired for its own sake, as they affirm, but for the sake of a happy life, which necessarily attends virtue: which argument might instruct them what is the chief good. But this present bodily life cannot be happy, because it is subject to evils, by means of the body.” Pliny, in his nat. hist. book vii. chap. 40. says well, “That no mortal man is happy.” and therefore they placed the chief good and end of man in sensual pleasure. And this opinion likewise was solidly confuted by very many, as a thing which overthrew all virtue, the seeds of which are planted in the mind; and degraded man, who was made for nobler purposes, to the rank of brute creatures, who look no further than the earth. In so many doubts and uncertainties did mankind at that time wander, till Christ discovered the true knowledge of their end; promising to his disciples and followers another life after this, in which there should be no more death, pain, or sorrow, but accompanied with the highest joy; and this not only to one part of man, that is, his soul, of whose happiness after this life there was some hope, partly front conjecture, and partly from tradition; but also to the body, and that very justly, that the body, which oftentimes ought to endure great losses, torments, and death, for the sake of the divine law, might not go without a recompence. And the joys which are promised are not such mean things as those feasts which the duller Jews hoped for after this life,236236 The places are quoted beneath, in the fifth book. and the embraces which the Mahometans promise to themselves;237237 See the Alcoran, Azoara ii. v. xlvii. liv. lxv. lxvi. 94for these are only proper remedies for the mortality of this frail life; the former, for the preservation of particular animals, and the latter, for the continuance of their species: but the body will be in a perpetual vigour, and its brightness will exceed the stars. The mind will have a knowledge of God and of Divine Providence, and of whatever is now hidden from it, without any mistake; the will will be calm, employed in wonder and praises, in beholding God; in a word, all things will be much greater and better than can be convinced by comparing them with the greatest and best here.
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