Contents

« Prev Proposition IV. Next »

Proposition IV.

IV. Proposition IV. Though in order to establish this suitable difference 229between the fruits or effects of virtue and vice, so reasonable in itself, and so absolutely necessary for the vindication of the honour of God, the nature of things, and the constitution and order of God’s creation, was originally such, that the observance of the eternal rules of justice, equity, and goodness, does indeed of itself tend by direct and natural consequence to make all creatures happy, and the contrary practice to make them miserable; yet since, through some great and general corruption and depravation, (whencesoever that may have arisen,) the condition of men in this present state is such, that the natural order of things in this world is an event manifestly perverted, and virtue and goodness are visibly prevented in great measure from obtaining their proper and due effects in establishing men’s happiness, proportionable to their behaviour and practice; therefore, it is absolutely impossible that the whole view and intention, the original and the final design, of God’s creating such rational beings as men are, and placing them on this globe of earth, as the chief and principal, or indeed (to speak more properly) the only inhabitants, for whose sake alone this part at least of the creation is manifestly fitted up and accommodated; it is absolutely impossible (I say) that the whole of God’s design in all this should be nothing more than to keep up eternally a succession of such short-lived generations of men as we at present are, and those in such a corrupt, confused, and disorderly state of things, as we see the world is now in; without any due observation of the eternal rules of good and evil; without any clear and remarkable effect of the great and most necessary difference of things; and without any final vindication of the honour and laws of God, in the proportionable reward of the best, or punishment of the worst of men. And, consequently, it is certain and necessary (even as certain as the moral attributes of God before demonstrated,) that instead of continuing an eternal succession of new generations in the present form and state of things, 230there must at some time or other be such a revolution and renovation of things, such a future state of existence of the same persons, as that, by an exact distribution of rewards and punishments therein, all the present disorders and inequalities may be set right, and that the whole scheme of providence, which, to us who judge of it by only one small portion of it, seems now so inexplicable and confused, may appear, at its consummation, to be a design worthy of infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness.

1. That, according to the original constitution of things, virtue and vice are attended with natural rewards and punishments. In order to establish a just and suitable difference between the respective fruits or effects of virtue and vice, the nature of things, and the constitution and order of God’s creation, was originally such that the observance of the eternal rules of piety, justice, equity, goodness, and temperance, does of itself plainly tend, by direct and natural consequence, to make all creatures happy, and the contrary practice to make them miserable. This is evident in general; because the practice of universal virtue is (in imitation of the divine goodness) the practice of that which is best in the whole; and that which tends to the benefit of the whole, must, of necessary consequence, originally, and in its own nature, tend also to the benefit of every individual part of the creation. More particularly; a frequent and habitual contemplating the infinitely excellent perfections of the almighty creator and all-wise governor of the world, and our most bountiful benefactor; so as to excite in our minds a suitable adoration, love, and imitation of those perfections; a regular employing all our powers and faculties, in such designs and to such purposes only, as they were originally fitted and intended for by nature; and a due subjecting all our appetites and passions to the government of sober and modest reason; are evidently the directest means to obtain such settled peace and solid satisfaction of mind, as the first foundation, and the principal and most necessary ingredient of all true happiness. The temperate and moderate enjoyment of all the 231good things of this present world, and of the pleasures of life, according to the measures of right reason and simple nature, is plainly and confessedly the certainest and most direct method to preserve the health and strength of the body. And the practice of universal justice, equity, and benevolence, is manifestly (as has been before observed) as direct and adequate a means to promote the general welfare and happiness of men in society, as any physical motion, or geometrical operation, is to produce its natural effect. So that if all men were truly virtuous, and practised these rules in such manner that the miseries and calamities arising usually from the numberless follies and vices of men were prevented, undoubtedly this great truth would evidence itself visibly in fact, and appear experimentally in the happy state and condition of the world. On the contrary; neglect of God, and insensibleness of our relation and duty towards him; abuse and unnatural misapplication of the powers and faculties of our minds; inordinate appetites, and unbridled and furious passions,—necessarily fill the mind with confusion, trouble, and vexation. And intemperance naturally brings weakness, pains, and sicknesses into the body. And mutual injustice and iniquity; fraud, violence, and oppression; wars, and desolation; murders, rapine, and all kinds of cruelty,—are sufficiently plain causes of the miseries and calamities of men in society. So that the original constitution, order, and tendency of things, is evidently enough fitted and designed to establish naturally a just and suitable difference in general between virtue and vice, by their respective fruits or effects.

2. But that now in this present world, the natural order of things is so perverted that vice often flourishes in great prosperity, and virtue falls under the greatest calamities of life. But though originally the constitution and order of God’s creation was indeed such, that virtue and vice are, by the regular tendency of things, followed with natural rewards and punishments; yet, in event, through some great and general corruption and depravation, (whencesoever that may have arisen, of which more hereafter;) the condition of men 232in the present state is plainly such, that this natural order of things in the world is manifestly perverted. Virtue and goodness are visibly prevented in great measure from obtaining their proper and due effect, in establishing men’s happiness proportionable to their behaviour and practice; and wickedness and vice very frequently escape the punishment which the general nature and disposition of things tends to annex unto it. Wicked men, by stupidity, inconsiderateness, and sensual pleasure, often make shift to silence the reproaches of conscience, and feel very little of that confusion and remorse of mind which ought naturally to be consequent upon their vicious practices. By accidental strength and robustness of constitution, they frequently escape the natural ill consequences of intemperance and debauchery; and enjoy the same proportion of health and vigour as those who live up to the rules of strict and unblameable sobriety. And injustice and iniquity, fraud, violence, and cruelty, though they are always attended indeed with sufficiently calamitous consequences in the general; yet the most of those ill consequences fall not always upon such persons in particular as have the greatest share in the guilt of the crimes, but very commonly on those that have the least. On the contrary; virtue and piety, temperance and sobriety, faithfulness, honesty and charity; though they have indeed both in themselves the true springs of happiness, and also the greatest probabilities of outward causes to concur in promoting their temporal prosperity; though they cannot indeed be prevented from affording a man the highest peace and satisfaction of spirit, and many other advantages both of body and mind in respect of his own particular person; yet in respect of those advantages which the mutual practice of social virtues ought to produce in common, it is in experience found true, that the vices of a great part of mankind do so far prevail against nature and reason, as frequently to oppress the virtue of the best; and not only hinder 233them from enjoying those public benefits, which would naturally and regularly be the consequences of their virtue; but oft-times bring upon them the greatest temporal calamities, even for the sake of that very virtue. For it is but too well known that good men are very often afflicted and impoverished, and made a prey to the covetousness and ambition of the wicked; and sometimes most cruelly and maliciously persecuted, even upon account of their goodness itself. In all which affairs the providence of God seems not very evidently to interpose for the protection of the righteous. And not only so, but even in judgments also, which seem more immediately to be inflicted by the hand of heaven, it frequently suffers the righteous to be involved in the same calamities with the wicked, as they are mixed together in business and the affairs of the world.

3. That therefore there must needs be a future state of rewards and punishments.Which things being so; (viz. that there is plainly in event no sufficient distinction made between virtue and vice; no proportionable and certain reward annexed to the one, nor punshment to the other, in this present world:) And yet it being no less undeniably certain in the general, as has been before shown, that if there be a God, (and that God be himself a being of infinite justice and goodness; and it be his will, that all rational creatures should imitate his moral perfections; and he230230   Ἐι δε μὴ λανθάνετον τοὺς θεοὺς, ὁ μεν δ͗καιος θεοφιλὴς ἂν εἔη, ὁ δε ἄδικος θεομισὴς——Τῷ δε θεοφιλεῖ, ὅσα γε ὑπὸ θεῶν γίγνεται, πάντα γίγνεται ὡς οἶόντε, ἄριστα.——Ὅυτως ἅρα ὑποληπτέον περὶ τοῦ δικαίου ἀνδρὸς, ἐάν τ᾽ εν πενία γίγνεται, ἒαν τ᾽ εν νόσοις, ἤ τινι ἄλλῳ τῶν δοκούντων κακῶν, ὡς τούτῳ ταῦτα εἰς ἀγαθόν τι τελευτήσει ζῶντι ἢ καὶ ἀποθανόντι. Ὀυ γὰρ δη ὑπό γε θεῶν ποτὲ ἀμελεῖται, ὃς ἂν προ θυμεῖσθαι ἐθέλῃ δίκαιος γίγνεσθαι, καὶ ἐπιτηδευων ἀρετην είς ὅσον δυνατὸν ἀνθρώπῳ ὁμοιοῦσθαι θεῷ.Plato de Republ. lib. 10. cannot but see and take notice how every creature behaves itself; and cannot but be accordingly pleased with such as obey his will and imitate his nature, and be displeased with such as act contrary thereto;) it being 234certain, I say, that if these things be so, God must needs, in vindication of the honour of his laws and government, signify at some time or other this his approbation or displeasure, by making finally a suitable difference between those who obey him, and those who obey him not; it follows unavoidably, either that all these notions which we frame concerning God, are false; and that there is no providence, and God sees not, or at least has no regard to what is done by his creatures, and consequently the ground of all his own moral attributes is taken away, and even his being itself; or else that there must necessarily be a future state of rewards and punishments after this life, wherein all the present difficulties of providence shall be cleared up, by an exact and impartial administration of justice. But now, that these notions are true, that there is a God, and a providence, and that God is himself a being induced with all moral perfections, and expects and commands that all his rational creatures should govern all their actions by the same rules, has been particularly and distinctly proved already. It is therefore directly demonstrated, that there must be a future state of rewards and punishments. Let not thine heart envy sinners, but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long, for surely there is a reward, and thine expectation shall not be cut off.—Prov.xxiii. 17 and 18.

4. Of the Stoical opinion concerning the self-sufficiency of virtue to its own happiness. This argument is indeed a common one, but it is nevertheless strongly conclusive and unanswerable; so that, whoever denies a future state of rewards and punishments, must, of necessity, by a chain of unavoidable consequences, be forced to recur to down-right atheism. The only middle opinion that can be invented, is that assertion of the Stoics that virtue is self-sufficient to its own happiness, and a full reward to itself in all cases, even under the greatest sufferings that can befal a man for its sake. Men who were not certain of a future state, (though most of them did indeed believe it highly probable,) and 235yet would not give up the cause of virtue, had no other way left to defend it than by asserting that it was in all cases, and under all circumstances, absolutely self-sufficient to its own happiness; whereas, on the contrary, because it is manifestly not self-sufficient, and yet undoubtedly the cause of virtue is not to be given up; therefore, they ought from thence to have concluded the certainty of a future state: That virtue is truly worthy to be chosen, even merely for its own sake, without any respect to any recompense or reward, must indeed necessarily be acknowledged; but it does not from hence follow, that he who dies for the sake of virtue is really any more happy than he that dies for any fond opinion, or any unreasonable humour or obstinacy whatsoever; if he has no other happiness than the bare satisfaction arising from the sense of his resoluteness in persisting to preserve his virtue, and in adhering immoveably to what he judges to be right, and there be no future state wherein he may reap any benefit of that his resolute perseverance. On the contrary, it will only follow, that God has made virtue necessarily amiable, and such as men’s judgment and conscience can never but choose, and yet that he has not annexed to it any sufficient encouragement to support men effectually in that choice. Brave indeed, and admirable, were the things which some of the philosophers have said upon this subject, and which some very few extraordinary men (of which Regulus is a remarkable instance,) seem to have made good in their practice, even beyond the common abilities of human nature; but it is very plain, as I before intimated, that the general practice of virtue in the world can never be supported upon this foot; it being, indeed, neither possible nor truly reasonable that men, by adhering to virtue, should part with their lives,231231   Ὀυκ οἶδα ὅπως μ9ακαρίους ὑπολάβῳ τοὺς μηθὲν ἀπολαύσαντας τῆς ἀρετῆς ἀγαθὸν, δἰ αὐτὴν δὲ ταύτην ἀπολλυμένους.Dionys. Halicarn. if thereby they eternally deprived themselves of all possibility of receiving any advantage from that adherence. Virtue, it is true, in its proper seat, and 236with all its full effects and consequences unhindered, must be confessed to be the chief good, as being truly the enjoyment, as well as the imitation of God; but,232232   Porro ipsa virtus, cum sibi bonorum culmen vendicet humanorum, quid hie agit nisi perpetua bella cum vitiis; nec exterioribus, sed interioribus; nec alienis, sed plane nostris et propriis?——Absit ergo, ut quamdiu in hoc bello intestino sumus, jam nos beatitudinem, ad quam vincendo volumus pervenire, adeptos esse credamus.Augustin de Civitate Dei, lib. 19. c. 4.
   Non enim virtus ipsa est summum bonum, sed effectrix et mater est summi boni, quoniam perveniri ad illud sine virtute non potest.Lactant. lib. 3.
as the practice of it is circumstantiated in this present world, and in the present state of things, it is plain it is not itself the chief good, but only the means to it, as running in a race is not in itself the prize, but the way to obtain it.

5. From whence the certainty of a future state is again concluded. It is therefore absolutely impossible, that the whole view and intention, the original and the final design of God’s creating such rational beings as men are, indued with such noble faculties, and so necessarily conscious of the eternal and unchangeable differences of good and evil; it is absolutely impossible (I say) that the whole design of an infinitely wise, and just, and good God, in all this, should be nothing more than to keep up eternally a succession of new generations of men, and those in such a corrupt, confused, and disorderly state of things as we see the present world is in, without any due and regular observation of the eternal rules of good and evil, without any clear and remarkable effect of the great and most necessary differences of things, without any sufficient discrimination of virtue and vice, by their proper and respective fruits, and without any final vindication of the honour and laws of God, in the proportionable reward of the best, or punishment of the worst of men: And consequently it is certain and necessary, (even as certain as the moral attributes of God before demonstrated,) that instead of continuing an eternal succession of new generations in the present form and state of things, there must at some time or other be such a revolution and renovation 237of things, such a future state of existence of the same persons, as that, by an exact distribution of rewards and punishments therein, all the present disorders and inequalities may be set right; and that the whole scheme of Providence, which to us who judge of it by only one small portion of it, seems now so inexplicable and much confused, may appear at its consummation to be a design worthy of infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness. Without this233233   Ita sit, ut si ab illa rerum summa, quam superiù s comprehendimus, aberraveris; omnis ratio intereat, et ad nihilum omnia revertantur.Lactant. lib. 7.all comes to nothing. If this scheme be once broken, there is no justice, no goodness, no order, no reason, nor any thing upon which any argument in moral matters can be founded, left in the world. Nay, even though we should set aside all consideration of the moral attributes of God, and consider only his natural perfections, his infinite knowledge and wisdom, as framer and builder of the world; it would even in that view only appear infinitely improbable that God should have created such beings as men are, and indued them with such excellent faculties, and placed them on this globe of earth, as the only inhabitants for whose sake this part at least of the creation is manifestly fitted up and accommodated; and all this without any further design234234   Non enim temerè , nec fortuito sati et creati sumns; sed profecto fuit quædam vis, quæ generi consuleret humano; nec id gigneret aut aleret, quod cum exantlavisset omnes labores, tum incideret in mortis malum sempiternum.Cic. Tusc. Quœst. lib. 1. than only for the maintaining a perpetual succession of such short-lived generations of mortals as we at present are; to live in the utmost confusion and disorder for a very few years, and then perish eternally into nothing.235235   Si sine causa gignimur, si in hominibus procreandis providentia nulla versatur, si casu nobismetipsis ac voluptatis nostræ gratia nascimur; si nihil post mortem sumus; quid potest esse tam supervacuum, tam inane, tam vanum, quam humana res est, quam mundus ipse?Lactant. lib. 7. What can be imagined more vain and empty? What more absurd? 238What more void of all marks of wisdom, than the fabric of the world, and the creation of mankind, upon this supposition? But then, take in also the consideration of the moral attributes of God, and it amounts (as I have said) to a complete demonstration that there must be a future state.

6. Why the wisdom of God is not so clearly and plainly seen in his government of the moral, as in the fabric of the natural world. It may here at first sight seem to be a very strange thing, that through the whole system of nature in the material, in the inanimate, in the irrational part of the creation, every single thing should have in itself so many and so obvious, so evident and undeniable marks of the infinitely accurate skill and wisdom of their Almighty Creator, that, from the brightest star in the firmament of heaven to the meanest pebble upon the face of the earth, there is no one piece of matter which does not afford such instances of admirable artifice and exact proportion and contrivance, as exceeds all the wit of man (I do not say to imitate, but even) ever to be able fully to search out and comprehend; and yet, that in the management of the rational and moral world, for the sake of which all the rest was created, and is preserved only to be subservient to it, there should not in many ages be plain evidences enough, either of the wisdom, or of the justice and goodness of God, or of so much as the interposition of his divine providence at all, to convince mankind clearly and generally of the world’s being under his immediate care, inspection, and government. This, I say, may indeed at first sight seem very wonderful. But if we consider the matter more closely and attentively, it will appear not to be so strange and astonishing as we are apt to imagine: For as, in a great machine, contriv ed by the skill of a consummate artificer, fitted up and adjusted with all conceivable accuracy for some very difficult and deep-projected design, and polished and fine wrought in every part of it with admirable niceness and dexterity, any man who saw and examined one or two wheels thereof could not fail to observe, in those single parts of it, the admirable 239art and exact skill of the workman; and yet the excellency of the end or use for which the whole was contrived he would not at all be able, even though he was himself a skilful artificer, to discover and comprehend, without seeing the whole fitted up and put together: So though in every part of the natural world, considered even single and unconnected, the wisdom of the great creator sufficiently appears, yet his wisdom, and justice, and goodness in the disposition and government of the moral world, which necessarily depends on the connexion and issue of the whole scheme, cannot perhaps be distinctly and fully comprehended by any finite and created beings, much less by frail and weak and short-lived mortals, before the period and accomplishment of certain great revolutions. But it is exceedingly reasonable to believe, that as the great discoveries, which by the diligence and sagacity of later ages have been made in astronomy and natural philosophy, have opened surprising scenes of the power and wisdom of the creator, beyond what men could possibly have conceived or imagined in former times; so at the unfolding of the whole scheme of providence in the conclusion of this present state, men will be surprised with the amazing manifestations of justice and goodness which will then appear to have run through the whole series of God’s government of the moral world.

This is the chief and greatest argument on which the natural proof of a future state of rewards and punishments must principally be founded. Yet there are also several other collateral evidences which jointly conspire to render the same thing extremely credible to mere natural reason: As,

1st. Of the immortality of the soul and the natural proofs we have of it. There is very great reason, even from the bare nature of the thing itself, to believe the soul to be immortal, separate from all moral arguments drawn from the attributes of God, and without any consideration of the general system of the world, or of the universal order and constitution, connexion, and dependencies 240of things: The immortality of the soul has been commonly believed in all ages and in all places,236236   Et primum quidem omni antiquitate, &c.Cic. Tusc. Quæst. lib. 1. by the unlearned part of all civilized people, and by the almost general consent of all the most barbarous nations under heaven, from a tradition so ancient and so universal, as cannot be conceived to owe its original either to chance or to vain imagination, or to any other cause than to the author of nature himself: And the most learned and thinking part of mankind, at all times and in all countries, where the study of philosophy has been in any measure cultivated, have almost generally agreed, that it is capable of a just proof from the abstract consideration of the nature and operations of the soul itself: That none of the known qualities of matter can in any possible variation, division, or composition, produce sense, and thought, and reason, is abundantly evident, as has been demonstrated in the former discourse:237237   Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. See also a letter to Mr Dodwell, with the several answers and replies. That matter consists of innumerable, divisible, separable, and for the most part actually disjoined parts, is acknowledged by all philosophers: That, since the powers and faculties of the soul are the most remote and distant from all the known properties of matter that can be imagined, it is at least a putting great violence upon our reason to imagine them superadded by omnipotence to one and the same substance, cannot easily be denied: That it is highly unreasonable and absurd to suppose the soul made up of innumerable consciousnesses, as matter is necessarily made up of innumerable parts; and, on the contrary, that it is highly reasonable to believe the seat of thought to be a simple substance, such as cannot naturally be divided and crumbled into pieces, as all matter is manifestly subject to be, must of necessity be confessed: Consequently the soul will not be liable 241to be dissolved at the dissolution of the body, and therefore it will naturally be immortal. All this seems to follow, at least with the highest degree of probability, from the single consideration of the soul’s being indued with sense, thought, or consciousness. I cannot imagine, saith Cyrus,238238   Ὄυ τοι ἔγωγε, ὧ παῖδες, οὐδὲ τοῦτό πώποτε ἐπέισθην, ὡς ἡ ψυχὴ ἑως ἂν ἐν θ9νητῶ σώματι ἧ ζ

VIEWNAME is workSection