« AnteriorContinuar »
darkness that must follow that. These seemed to be the natural results of such several courses of life, as well as the effects of divine justice, rewarding op punishing. For, fince he believed the soul had a distinct subsistence, separated from the body, upon its diffolution, there was no reason to think it passed into a state of utter oblivion of what it had been in formerly : but that, as the reflections on the good or evil it had done must raise joy or horror in it, so those good or ill dispositions accompanying the departed fouls, they must either rise up to a higher perfection or sink to a more depraved and miserable ftate. In this life variety of affairs and objects do much cool and divert our minds; and are, on the one hand, often great temptations to the good, and give the bad seme case in their trouble; but, in a ftate wherein the foul shall be separated from fenfible things, and employed in a more quick and sublime way of operation, this must very much exalt the joys and improvements of the good, and as much heighten the horror and rage of the wicked. So that it seemed a vain thing to pretend to believe a Supreme Being, that is wife and good, as well as great, and not to think a discrimination will be made between the good and the bad, which it is manifest is not fully done in this life.
As for the government of the world, if we believe the Supreme Power made it, there is no reason to
think he does not govern it; for all that we can fancy againlt it is the distraction which that infinite variety of second causes, and the care of their con. cernments, must give to fae first, if it inspects them all. But as, among men, those of weaker capacities are wholly taken up with some one thing, whereas those of more inlarged powers can without distraction have many things within their care, as the eye can at one view receive a great variety of objects in that narrow compass without confufion, --so, if we conceive the divine understanding to be as far above our's as his power of creating and framing the whole univerle is above our limited activity, we will no more think the government of the world a distraction to him; and, if we have once overcome this prejudice, we shall be ready to acknowledge a providence dire&ting all affairs a care well becoming the Great Creator.
As for worshipping him, if we imagine our worship is a thing that adds to his happiness, or gives him such a fond pleasure as weak people have to hear themselves commended, or that our repeated addrerses do overcome him through our mere importunity, we have certainly very unworthy thoughts of him. The true ends of worship come within another confideration, which is this : a man is never entirely reformed till a new principle governs his thoughts ;* nothing makes that principle so strong as deep and
frequent meditations of God, whose nature, though it be far above our comprehension, yet his goodness and wisdom are fuch perfections as fall within our imagination: and he, that hinks often of God, and considers him as governing the world and as ever observing all his actions, will feel a very sensible effect of such meditations, as they grow inore lively and frequent with him; so the end of religious worship, either public or private, is to make the apprehensions of God have a deeper root and a stronger infuence
The frequent returns of these are neceffary, left, if we allow too long intervals between them, these impressions may grow feebler, and other fuggestions may come in their room ; and the returns of prayer are not to be considered as favours extorted by mere importunity, but as rewards conferred on men so well disposed and prepared for them, according to the promises that God has made for answering our prayers; thereby to engage and nourish a devout temper
which is the chief root of all true ho. liness and virtue.
It is true, we cannot have suitable notions of the divine essence; as indeed we have no juft idea of any essence whatsoever, since we commonly consider all things either by their outward figure or by their effects, and from thence make inferences what their nature must be: sothough we cannot frame any perfect image in our minds of the divinity, yet we
may, from the discoveries God has made of himself, form such conceptions of him, as may possess our minds with great reverence for him, and beget in us such a love of those perfections as to engage us to imitate them. For, when we say we love God, the meaning is, we love that being that is holy, just, good, wise, and infinitely perfect : and loving these attributes in that object will certainly carry us to defire them in ourselves. For, whatever we love in another, we naturally, according to the degree of our love, endeavour to resemble it. In some, the loving and worshipping God, though they are just and reasonable returns and expresiions of the sense we have of his goodness to us, yet they are exacted of us not only as a tribute to God, but as a mean to beget in us a conformity to his nature, which is the chief end of pure and undefiled religion.
Jf some men have at several times found out inventions to corrupt this, and cheat the world, it is nothing but what occurs in every sort of employment to which men betake themselves : mounte. banks corrupt physic; pettifoggers have entangled the matters of property; and all professions have been vitiated by the knaveries of a number of their calling
With all these discourses he was not equally fatisfied: he seemed convinced that the impreslions of God being much in mens minds would be the
powerful means to reform the world, and did not feem determined against providence. But, for the next state, he thought it more likely that the foul began anew, and that, her sense of what she had done in this body lying in the figures that are made in the brain, as soon as the dislodged all these perished, and that the soul went into some other state, to begin a new course. But I said, on this head, that this was at best a conjecture, raised in him by his fancy; for he could give no reason to prove it true : nor was all the remembrance our souls had of past things seated in some material figures lodged in the brain; though it could not be denied but a great deal of it lay in the brain. That we have many abstraced notions and ideas of iminaterial things which depend not on bodily figures : fome fins, such as falsehood and ill-nature, were seated in the mind, as luft and appetite were in the body; and, as the whole body was the receptacle of the foul, and the eyes and ears were the organs of seeing and hearing, so was the brain the seat of memory: yet the power and faculty of memory, as well as of seeing and hearing, lay in the mind; and so it was no unconceivable thing, that either the soul, by its own strength, or by the means of some fubtiler organs which might be fitted for it in another state, should still remember as well as think. But indeed we know so little of the nature of our