תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

which is life and pleasure for evermore : but neither can our eyes see these rewards; and therefore they fall short of raising men to that degree of virtue and holiness which in reason they ought to do.

The advantage which the things of this world have in this respect is not to be dissembled: they play and sport before the senses: the man of thought and reflexion cannot but see them; and the man of no thought sees nothing else. This advantage the Apostle seems to acknowlege, by styling the things of this world the things which are seen,' and the rewards of the gospel the things which are not seen. In this lies all the force and strength of worldly temptations and pleasures ; for were the enjoyments of this world and the next equally remote, there could be no competition between them. This most men would find to be true, would they but observe a little what passes in themselves and others. There are few but would be well content that that part of their life which is past and gone had been spent in virtue and sobriety : they find no comfort in recollecting the lewd frolics and extravagant vices of their youth ; yet still they cannot resist the present temptations of pleasure, but go on adding to the account of their folly and sin. And is not this a decision of the question ? Does not reason determine against the world and the enjoyments of it? And it not mere sense that turns the scale of the world's side ? If it be true now, that you do wisely in preferring the pleasures of life to the hopes and expectations of futurity, it will then be true fifty years hence, that you did wisely in choosing this world, and renouncing the pretences to heaven ; for truth is always the same: and yet, if you live to see that time, it is great odds but that you judge otherwise, and condemn yourself of folly and indiscretion for all your past vices and sinful pleasures. This is a judgment which we see men make every day: they pursue the things that are present; but no sooner are they gone, but they condemn themselves, wishing they could recal the time, that they might apply it to better purposes.

And whence arises this difference but from hence ; that in one case reason is excluded by sense and the prevailing power of present objects, but in the other case is free and unrestrained, and judges from the truth and nature of things? Throw out sense and appetite, and let the cause be heard at the bar of reason ; and the question then, between the things which are seen, and the things which are not seen,' will be reduced to these two points :

First, whether we can have such sufficient evidence for the existence of the things not seen, as may make them capable of being brought into competition with the things which are seen, the existence of which, in this question, is out of doubt ?

Secondly, whether the value of the things that are not seen' be so great, that we ought in prudence to forego the enjoyment of the things which are present with us?'

There are several ways by which we satisfy ourselves of the existence of things without us: the chief of these is sense. This evidence extends to this world and the things of it: and though some have taken great pains to doubt of the existence of things which they saw and felt, yet it may well be questioned whether ever any man did indeed arrive to that perfection of scepticism? This evidence may be styled the strongest in one respect, as it most universally affects mankind, who much more readily receive the reports of sense than the conclusions of

Not but that the evidence of reason in some cases is altogether as strong and conclusive for the existence of things not seen, as sense is for the things which are seen. This is manifest in the proof of a first Cause; where, from the visible works of the creation, the being of an eternal Cause is proved to a demonstration, from such principles as sense and reason cannot resist. So likewise, from the testimony and credit of others, we arrive to a certainty of the existence of some things which they have seen, but we have not ; which evidence is properly the evidence of faith, and may be so circumstantiated as to admit no doubt or scruple. On this evidence men act in their dearest concerns in this world; and are as well satisfied of the existence of some persons and places which they never saw, as they are of the persons and places they every day converse with. And from hence it follows that it is no manner of proof or presumption that things do not exist, because they are not seen; for there are several ways of being satisfied of the existence of things; and seeing them is but one way: and things which admit not of this proof may admit of another :

reason.

SHERL.

VOL. III.

H

and therefore it is great weakness to suspect the reality and existence of things merely because we do not see them.

And yet the greatest piece of wisdom that the voluptuous man has to boast of is founded in this prejudice: he thinks it wisdom to be on the surest side, and not to part with a certainty for an uncertainty. The things of this world he sees and feels; and in renouncing them he is sure he renounces what might afford him certain pleasure and enjoyment: but he has not this notice nor evidence of future things : they lie out of the way of his senses ; and therefore he looks on them to have much less of certainty in them than' the present objects of life; and concludes very solidly, that it is best to make sure of something, and not to forego his present possession for the distant hope of enjoying the uncertain blessings of futurity. Now sense is the measure of his certainty; or else how comes he to take it for granted that there is more certainty of the things which are seen than of the things which are not seen? His senses only prove to him that he lives at present in this world : they cannot possibly prove to him that he shall not live hereafter in another. So that the evidence of sense reaches but to one side of the question, to assure him of his present being; and yet from this evidence he concludes in prejudice to the other world; which is very absurd, since the evidence of sense cannot, one way or other, affect the belief of future rewards and glories. Now in all comparisons men ought to weigh the reasons on both sides : but the comparing and preferring visible things before invisible, for the sake of the evidence of sense, is comparing and preferring one to another on seeing only the reason of one side ; for sense only extends to visible things, and has nothing to do with invisible : and therefore the judgment that men are apt hastily to make in this case, when brought to the test of reason, must appear to be groundless and precarious.

Since then, in the question between things visible and invisible, it is evident that sense can judge but of one side; it follows that sense can be no rule of judging in this dispute : for a rule must be the common measure of the things to be estimated, and applicable to both; but sense is applicable to sensible objects only, and therefore can be no rule in any question

live now

between the things that are, and the things that are not, the objects of sense.

Allow sense to prove, as strongly as you would have it, the existence of this world and the things of it: but how can that affect the belief of another world ? The existence of this world will not prove that there is no other world. That

you is no argument that you shall not live hereafter. And therefore the evidence of sense for this world ought to be no prejudice against the belief of another.

The advantage of this evidence of sense is great, because it is the first that men come to the use and application of; and by the constant and familiar use of it, they learn to depend on it, and trust to it in all cases. It is much later that men come to the use of reason: and this evidence of reason they have less occasion for, and still use it less than they have occasion: so that they are not equally acquainted with the certainty of this evidence, as they are with the demonstrations of sense ; and therefore are seldom so perfectly satisfied with the deductions of reason as with the reports of sense. This is the true state of the question between the evidence of sense and the evidence of reason, and the preference the world gives to the deductions of one and the other.

Now, if there can be no evidence for unseen things, which may be of equal weight with the evidence of sense ; then indeed the things which are not seen can never be made so evident as to stand in competition with the things which are seen. But the means by which we arrive to the knowlege of things which we do not see, are reason and faith'; and these may afford an evidence equal to the evidence of sense.

There are many things which can be known only from reason, which yet are as well received as any report of sense. We see many productions and works of nature every day, the cause of which is secret and remote, and not discoverable by the senses ; and yet no man doubts but that all these effects have

You can no more suppose, against the evidence of your reason, that these things came into being without any cause, than you can suppose, against the evidence of your senses, that these things which you see have no being. Here then the evidence for the thing not seen is equal to the evi

causes.

dence for the thing seen. So then a thing's not being seen can be no prejudice or presumption against its existence; since some things which are not seen are capable of being demonstrated.

Hence it follows, that though the things of this world be always before our eyes, and we have no reason to doubt of their existence; and the things of the other world are at a distance, and hid from us; yet this is no reason to prefer the things of this world before the things of another; since there is an evidence which extends to things not seen, which is equal to the evidence of sense ; and, for aught we know, this evidence may belong to these unseen things of another world; and if it does, then the things of another world, in point of certainty, stand on an equal bottom with the things which are seen.

This makes it very unreasonable to take up with the enjoyments of this world as the surer and more certain enjoyments, and to suffer ourselves to be imposed on by our senses, and prejudiced in favor of present objects: because, till we have proved and examined the evidences for the things not seen, we cannot conclude that the things seen are more certain than they ; since they are capable of being made as evident by other arguments, as sensible objects are by the sense.

Another evidence for things not seen is faith; an evidence that the world in temporal affairs pays great respect to, however shy they are of admitting it for a principle of religion : for there is no man but who believes a great deal more concerning this world, and the affairs of it, on the report made from other people's senses, than he does from his own. It is a narrow sphere that a man acts in, and his senses go but a very little farther than he himself goes : and a man's knowlege would be extremely confined, were he to know and believe nothing but what he saw and heard himself. Now there are things in this world which all people believe to be in the world, and yet not one in ten thousand ever saw them. What evidence do they believe on then ? not on the evidence of sense ; for these things never fell under their senses; but they believe on the report and credit of others, that is, on the evidence of faith.

Here, then is another evidence, which the world cannot refuse to admit as good evidence for things not seen; since men

« הקודםהמשך »