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enjoying; and now rejoices and then moitrns; that reasons and judges. I consult my reason; and it informs me, that this principle, so noble, and, at the same time, so liable to such conflicting agitations, cannot be a particle of matter, round or square, red or blue; a volatized vapour dissolvable into air; a contexture of atoms interwoven or separated by a sportive brain.
My reason informs me, that a being, capable to take in hands the government of a vast empire; to form projects, the success whereof depends on an infinity of different springs, whose motions and accords must be studied and combined, is some* thing mere than a little subtilized mud.
I observe matter with all its mutations and refinements; and I perceive nothing but extension, divisibility, figure, and motion.
My reason tells me, that the combinations of the different particles of matter, let their velocity be ever so great, can never reveal the sacred mysteries of faith; the holy rules of equity; the ideas of piety, order, and justice.
Moreover, reason informs us, that matter is indifferent to motion or rest, to this or that situation. When moved in any direction, the smallest particle of any body or mass oF matter, must yield to the motion of the whole. On the other hand, in our temptations and struggles, amidst the solicitations of sense, and the cravings of appetite, we can say with St. Paul, that we feel an interior conflict und two opposite laws in ourselves: 'the law of the body warring against the
* law of the mind, and attempting to captivate us to the law
* of sin.' Under the inconvenience of such struggles^and conflicts, a part of ourselves still remains the directing prin. ciple, always asserting its rights, and constantly supporting its native title to dominion.
Reconcile, if you can, to the laws of mechanism, to the cohesion of atoms, and to the motions of particles of matter, the infinite capacity of the soul, its strong desires after immortality, its power to infer conclusions from principles, in mathematical demonstrations, and logical arguments; its arbitrary and voluntary determinations, this shifting and changing, those strange and sudden returns, reflections, and transitions in thought, which, by experience, we find it in our power to make.
We all agree, that matter touches in contact, and that whatever moves, is put in motion by another. We know, on the other hand, that, in reasoning, argumentations, demonstrations, &c. wherein we infer one thing from another, and another thing from that inference, and a third from thence, and so on, there is an infinity of different modes of thought. If those different modes of thought be no more than the different states of the solid, figured, divisible parts of matter, with respect to velocity and direction, it is necessary that they should have been put into these different states, by the impulse of some foreign power.
If this mover, which is the cause of motion, be matter, it must be moved or acted on itself: for otherwise it could not produce a change of motion in other contiguous parts of matter. There must still be a mover prior to the former, and another prior to that, and so on to infinity, in every act of reason and argumentation. But a progression to infinity is discarded by all philosophers, both ancient and modern. .:»,■?.■,. •;.' i
To spin out the subject in metaphysical arguments, we re loss of time. Suffice it to say, that we would contradict our reason, and belie our hearts, in supposing that the troubles, agitations, and importunate remorses we feel after the commission of some horrid crime, the secret reproaches of a guilty conscience, which made the Athenian parricide cry out, twenty years after having murdered his father, that the crows upbraided him with his death: we would, I say, only belie our hearts, in supposing such interior punishments, which tread in the heels of guilt, to be no more than an assemblage of little atoms, with hooked or rough surfaces. In supposing that patience and resignation in our afflictions, from an expectation of immortality and the spiritual joys of future bliss, the distant reward of our trials, are the result of smooth atoms gliding through the brain; or that the horrors, which haunt the guilty, proceed from the same cause which produces a pain in the head, back, or stomach.
Further, under the dispensation of a just and powerful God, crimes must be punished, and virtue rewarded. What notion can we form of a God, who makes no distinction between the wretch who strangles his father, in order to take possession of his estate, and the just man who is disposed to prefer death to iniquity, from an apprehension of offending Jus Maker?
Yet the world has seen the greatest sinners elated with prosperity; arrayed with crimes, as with a raiment of glory; swimming in an ocean of pleasures, which the fountains of extortion and injustice supply; strangers to those miseries which, in this world, seem to be the inheritance of the righteous. How many illustrious culprits, whose power and credit silence the authority of the l«ws, whilst the innocent victim is suspended on a tree, upon the deposition oi a perjurer, or from the corruption of a judge! The world has seen a Herod on the throne, after murdering the innocents: and a John the Baptist beheaded, in prison, for exclaiming against incest; a Nero swaying the sceptre of the world, after ripping open his mother's womb; and a Paul bound with chains, for preaching justice, judgment, and chastity.
Virtue, then, being oppressed in this life, and vice unpunished; the silence of a just and all-powerful God points out a future state, where justice is to resume its rights, and reward each according to his works. And, if divine justice points out a future state, the soul must survive the body.
But you inform us that you believe in a future state, though the soul is npthing but a motion of the cerebrum, which perishes along with it: 'for,' says the Doctor, 'God 'will change our bodies into spirits at the hist day, when the 'world will perish for want of vegetable food, on account of 'the mould of the earth being washed into the sea; so that • nothing will remain but the bare rocks;' still, he will not admit that the body will rise; but that God will create a spirit in the room of every body that ever appeared. This extraordinary creed runs through the whole course of his work; and even in his defence he does not retract it. He apologizes, however, for denying the existence of the soul, upon this principle, that his doctrine is the best confutation of that fond and absurd opinion, Purgatory; and though inspiration and prophecy, which unravel future events, are qualities incompatible with corporeal organs, affected only by present objects, ytt the Lord has enlightened his body, in such a manner, as to understand the Revelations of St. John, and to discover tht Pope in the beast with the ten horns, though the most part of the Roman Pontiffs are bald before they are elected, and that no protuberance appears on their foreheads no more than on the foreheads of other men*
One should be apt to imagine, that the Doctor, in his general attack on all religions, would not point his artillery against one more than another. However, as it is customary in a general assault, not to neglect the part of the rampart where less resistance is expected, it was certainly a good stroke of generalship to use a feint, in order to draw off the attention of his antagonists, and induce them by this stratagem to divide their forces. He has partly succeeded; for one of the gentlemen who has entered the lists against the Doctor, and has ably vindicated the divinity of Christ and the immortality of the soul, shakes hands with him, and in a long digression attacks purgatory, with as much warmth as he attacks impiety and materialism. As for my part, with the general defence of Christianity, I shall not blend any particular controverted point between christians. I know full well that the Scripture says, if the tree fall to the North, or to the South, there it shall lie. Obscure passages and similies of the kind are susceptible of different interpretations, and determine nothing. That passage may as well relate to the body, which when fallen by death can never rise, without the intervention of infinite power. Or if it regard the soul, after its separation, by the south we may as well understand the state of salvation, to which a soul that . departs this life in the state of grace, is entitled, though liable to satisfy the divine justice for some venial imperfections. Or it is most likely that, by the tree which falls, is meant death in general, after which we can perform no good works: as the tree, after its fall, when it is quite withered, produces no fruit. For the main drift of the inspired writer is—to enforce good works, during our lives, as appears by the whole tenor of the chapter: 'Cast thy bread 'upon the waters, for thou shalt find it, after many 'days.'*
Spanheim and several other Protestant divines are of opinion, that, in the whole course of this life, the soul is never entirely pure. And whoever reflects seriously on the
* Ecclesinstes, chap.
weakness and frailties of man, will readily coincide in opinion with them, without the imputation of bigotry or superstition.
There is such vanity in our thoughts; such levity in our words; such tincture of self-love in our best actions; that, wh( n the Scrutineer and bearcher of hearts is to make the discernment, and to separate the chaff from the grain, but a small quantity of wheat will, perhaps, be found fit to be stored up in the granary of the Father of the family: whilst, on the other hand, will be exhibited to our view, great heaps of dry and useless straw. Hence, 'the just man falls seven times:' hence, the most virtuous stand in daily need of imploring forgiveness from the Almighty for their daily trespasses: hence, the Apostle declares, that, in saying 'we are without sin, the truth is not in us.' The eyes must be well purged from mortal mists, before the pure essence of the Divinity is displayed to their full view: * for nothing that is polluted can enter the holy city.' The question, then, remains, Whether this purification be wrought in this life, at the last moment, or after death? and this question Spanheim, with other Protestant divines, has left undecided.
Catholics believe that this purification may happen after death, in a place where the prayers and good works of the living may administer relief to the sufferers. Doctor Taylor, the Protestant Bishop of Ely, proves beyond contradiction, that in ail ages the true believers used to offer up prayers for the dead. The famous Thomas Burnet, in his book on the state of the dead, and those that are to rise, proves the same. As to the fathers it is needless to quote them. The same Burnet, and such Protestants as admit none to the full enjoyment of the divine essence, until after the sound of the last trumpet, admit an intermediate state between Heaven and Hell, from death to the resurrection: ir* which state, departed souls have not their full completion of happiness or misery.
Whatever wrangles divines may have about a text of Scripture, they should not indulge their warmth to such a degree, as not to listen to cool reason. It is not contrary to religion or reason to believe that alms and prayers for our deceased friends, can do them no harm. In the very uncer