תמונות בעמוד

believe on this evidence the certainty of all those things in the world which themselves have not seen, that is, of most things in the world.

Now this evidence, where it is perfect, that is, where there is sufficient number of credible witnesses to the thing in question, falls very little short of the evidence of sense. You can observe, I believe, no difference that men make between many things which they take on the credit of others, and the things which they receive from the information of their own senses; which shows that this kind of evidence may be so strong as to leave no room for doubts or suspicions.

Now then urge your objections against the things of another world, that they are not seen, and therefore not to be preferred to the things of this world, which seen; where lies the reason and sense of this argument ? If the things of this world are seen, they have their proper evidence : if the things of the next world are not seen, they do not therefore want their proper evidence. If there be a sufficient evidence that is proper to them, and they have that evidence, they are not the worse for not being seen, that is, for not having that evidence which does not belong to them.

If then the things of another world, though they are such as eye hath not seen, are yet nevertheless capable of as good proof and evidence as the things which are seen, it is extreme folly, and want of thought and consideration, to pursue the objects of sense in opposition to things unseen, without well examining into the evidence and certainty of these unseen things. When we tell you that for the glories and blessings of another life we have the certainty of reason and faith, you must needs own that we urge proper arguments: the nature of our proof you cannot suspect. If we have enough of reason, and enough of the evidence of faith, you must acknowlege our proof to be demonstrative, because it is a proof which in all other cases you admit for things not seen, reason and faith.

The things of another world may be objects of sense to those of the other world, and therefore are capable of having the evidence of eye-witnesses : nor should I easily be convinced of absurdity, should I assert that there may possibly be a communication between the two worlds. Suppose then one should come down from heaven, and report the state of things there ; this would be an eye-witness, and the evidence exactly the same with that which


admit in other cases. He must give good proof indeed of his coming from heaven; and that in this case is supposed.

Consider farther, that this question concerning the future rewards and punishments of another life is not the first or principal question in religion; it supposes the belief and knowlege of God : for unless we believe the being of a God, who is the just judge of the world, there is no room for this question of rewards and punishments. In this argument then the being of a God is presupposed; and a question then will arise, whether God can qualify men to be witnesses to the world of these unseen things ? It is not to be denied but that God can, if he pleases, reveal these things to men: and were the world satisfied that God had indeed revealed such things to such and such men, they could not scruple admitting them as good witnesses in that case. It comes then to this point, whether it be possible that men can give satisfaction to the world, that God has indeed spoken to them ? And if there be any one thing that


God can do, and man cannot do, this will be no dispute: for should God do that thing by the man he appoints to be his witness, the hand of God working with him would be a full proof that he spoke by the voice of God, and declared not his own, but the things of God. And this would be a sufficient ground for our faith.

Since then these things are capable of such good evidence, it will be worth your while to inquire whether they have it or no: and I suppose it will not be thought the effect of reason or wisdom to reject them unheard, and to follow the impressions of sense and appetite at the hazard of being finally ruined and destroyed.

Every man who has eyes and ears is attached by the evidence of sense; and therefore it would be strange if any man doubted of the things, the evidence of which is so continually thrust in at his eyes and ears. But to arrive at the evidence of reason and faith, requires that we should exercise the faculties of our understanding; requires our diligence and attention; because

you will

world ;

these proofs lie more remote, out of the common road, and are not to be had without seeking for.

This is a just account of the reason why most inen act by the evidence of sense, and follow and admire the things of this and so few



any heart or zeal, the invisible things of another : not that the things of this world are in themselves more real or certain than the things of another world ; but because men are sure and certain of the things of this world, not being able to exclude the impressions of them ; and are dubious of the things of futurity, not being able to attend to the proofs of them.

But how well this becomes men of thought and education let

any one judge; or what account they will be able to give of their neglect, in not so much as proving and trying the things which make for their salvation, is hard to say. Why should your eyes run away with your reason and understanding ? If you had been to be directed merely by your eyes, God need not have given you the power of reflexion; and since he has given you this ability, he will not excuse your resigning tamely to sense ; which was given not to govern, but to serve man. If the things of another world are capable of being proved, it concerns you to know whether they are proved or no; especially considering the vast disproportion there is between the things of this life and the next. The argument for present enjoyment is so far good, that in things of equal value a wise man would secure his share as soon as he could, and take the first opportunity of enjoying the happiness which would not improve by being stayed for. But here the case is


different: the things of this world are seen' indeed; but that is all : no sooner are they seen but they are gone, and leave the man more restless after the fruition than he was before : but he things of futurity are of endless duration, and once enjoyed will never desert the possessor.

And therefore it is worth a wise man's labor to restrain himself from the present allurement of life, to suspend his happiness for a time, which will so greatly increase by the delay, and pay such interest for the present self-denial which he exercises : For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.'



The second thing to be inquired into is, whether the value of the things which are not seen’ be so great, that we ought in prudence to forego the enjoyment of the things which are present with us.'

There can be no ground or foundation to persuade men to renounce the pleasures of this life, and to expose themselves to the troubles and inconveniences which often are the companions of virtue and holiness, in hopes of future glory and happiness, unless this future glory and happiness are so great and valuable as to recompense all the losses and sufferings which men must sustain in the pursuit of them. But if this be the case, if the rewards of Heaven are infinitely to be preferred to the things of this world, it will then be but agreeable to the common maxims of wisdom and prudence to choose the greatest though not the present good, and to prefer the severe duties of virtue and religion to the soft allurements of vice and pleasure ; since our light afflictions in this life can be but for a moment, and will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory And it is on this principle that the Apostle argues in the text ; . For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal :' by this he justifies his own practice and behavior : he suffered persecution gladly for the sake of Christ and his truth : he stripped himself of all the comforts of this life, and yielded himself up to all the hardships and evils that man can suffer : but it was on the prospect of future glory. He was not so dead to the sense of nature, as to think the good things of this world worth nothing ; or so void of feeling, as to delight in ill usage : but he knew the value of the rewards for which he labored; that they were so great, as to justify the choice he made, of suffering for Christ's sake, rather than of enjoying the pleasures of sin for a


The Apostle's argument is founded on the different duration

or of

of the things of this world and the other. Now it must be: agreed that we have the same evidence of the uncertain, and, at best, the short duration of the things of this life, as we have for the existence of them ; that is, the evidence of sense. If the voluptuous man has this advantage, that in following after the things of this life he follows things which he sees, and by the evidence of every sense knows to be real, it must be acknow-'. leged that religion at least has this advantage, that by the same. evidence of sense it proves these things to be scarce worth following after or enjoying, since they so soon vanish away, and withdraw from being either the objects of sense pleasure : so that, as to this part of the argument, the allowances must be equal on both sides. The men of this world have the certain evidence of sense for the reality of the things of this world, and that they do exist; but they must grant, on their part, that we have the same certain evidence, of sense that these things will not long exist; but that both they and their enjoyments must shortly perish together.

Since this then is a clear case on both sides, and the principles are undisputed, let us take this part of the argument alone, and examine what are the conclusions of reason from this head, that the things which are seen are temporal.'

To estimate the happiness of man, we must take into the account the nature of his desires and inclinations, and the nature of those objects which he pursues. If there be such a due proportion between these two, that the object is capable of satisfying the desire, then the object obtained is capable of making a man happy. To be restless and uneasy, and still wanting something that we have not, will not, I suppose, be thought a good description of a happy life ; and yet this must always be the case when our desires are fixed on such objects as do not answer and correspond to them, but fall short of affording such a pleasure as may fill and content the mind. Now there are different passions and desires incident to man: these are not the same in all men, but vary according to the various tempers and habits of men, and depend on the circumstances of youth and age, and the like : but these passions being so uncertain and mutable, cannot enter into this inquiry, which is after the natural happiness of man, which must be estimated by his

« הקודםהמשך »