« PreviousContinue »
out our consciousness. Matter, dead and inanimate matter, can do nothing of itself: it belongs only to intelligence to act with purpose and design.
He, who thus forms us and so carefully supports us, cannot be indifferent about our conduct and behaviour.
What the sinner places his firmest confidence in, happens to be one of the most alarming considerations. He fees things roll on in a seemingly promiscuous manner; judgment seldom arrests the transgressor; the virtuous as often fall into affliction. Because sentence againji an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart os the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Eccles. viii. 11. But this of all things should most alarm their fears. The present patience of God should make them dread the heavier punishment in the time of visitation.
He teaches us this in what we fee around us. In nature we fee an unusual stillness precedes his visitations, the ra
vaging tempest, or the earthquake that lays whole towns in ruins. In the animal kingdom the creature, that is slowest to anger, is the fiercest in its rage. L.ong suffering and clemency in man, when it takes up the arms of justice, is proportionably severe in its inflictions. And though wrath has no place in the divine mind, yet something analogous to the passions necessary for the support of order here, must have place in his government.
When we see an earthly magistrate acquit the guilty and condemn the innocent, advance the worthless and oppress the virtuous; every heart burns with indignation, every tongue is loosened to load him with execrations. Now only allow, that God* has as much justice in him as man, that he, who gave us no
•heus, age, responde, minimum est quod scire laboro: De Jove quid sentis ? eftne, ut prxponere cures
Hunc cuiquam ? cuinam? vis Staio?
A 4 tions tions of equity and order, cannot want this perfection himself; and then we must allow with the apostle, that the present forbearance and goodness of God is only meant to lead us to repentance, but that a time must come when he will render to every man according to his deeds. Rom. ii. 6. There are many reasons why his sun should shine and his rain descend indifferently on mankind at present: but a future impartial distribution of rewards and punishments is necessary to justify his ways to man, and place vice and virtue upon their true foundations.
If we turn our eyes from without and survey ourselves within, we find proofs of our future destination in the frame and constitution of our nature.
It is demonstrable that the power of reflexion abates greatly from the enjoyments of a mere sensual life. The sensualist owns it in his favourite maxim; let us eat and drink, fpr to-morrow
we we die; let us enjoy the present hour, and banish all anxious thoughts about the future. But must not the libertine then be condemned out of his own mouth, and confuted upon his own principle ? * For, at this rate, the beasts are certainly better constituted for this life than he: they are without those incumbrances, which he cannot wholly divest himself of, anxious cares and apprehensions : they live not, like him, in a continued fever between fear and hope, expectation and disappointment. They have no disagreeable retrospects to aug
* As this reasoning may be perhaps thought uncommon, I think myself obliged to support it by the authority of an admired author. "The same faculty of rea"son and understanding which placeth us above the "brute part of the creation, doth also subject our minds "to greater and more maliifold disquiets than creatures "of an inferior rank are sensible of. It is by this that "we anticipate future disasters, and oft create to our"selves real pain from imaginary evils, as well as mul"tiply pangs arising from those which cannot be avoid"$d."
Guardian, No. 89.
ment ment their pains; no torturing prospects to diminish their pleasures. Numerous sorrows, which they are unacquainted with, break in at the two inlets of reflexion and anticipation, to disturb the present enjoyment. What then is the proper conclusion? Is reflexion then an enemy to a sensual life? Ye$, the epicure owns it in the best article of his creed; and, in owning this, owns the destination of man. The human powers, too grand as they are for this present abode, must be designed for a higher state; and in the mean time, as the greater according to the natural order of things ever rules the lejfer, the superior understanding must be meant to direct and moderate the lower appetites. Consider man as a mere creature of this earth, and he is the greatest contradiction in the works of God. All his greater privileges are incumbrances. He is the only creature, who has notions of religion: these notions tend but