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alone will haunt us, that for the time past we have been com. forted, but must be for the time to come tormented. Shortlived as men are, they often outlast the world, that is, its enjoyments : this point enlarged on. Concluding reflexions.
II CORINTHIANS, CHAP. IV.–VERSE 18.
For the things which are seen are temporal ; but the things which
are not seen are eternal.
The motives to obedience in all religions are thus far the same, that they depend on the belief of another invisible world, and the different state and condition of good and bad men in it: for though it has been maintained, with some show of reason, that virtue is its own reward, and that man's chief happiness would consist in the practice of it, though there were no other rewards annexed to it, yet this, supposing it to be true, is by much too narrow a foundation to build religion on; for this could influence only men of abstracted thought and reason, who are in comparison a very inconsiderable part of mankind. The generality of the world live by sense, and take their measures of happiness not from the remote conclusions of reason, but from their present feeling, from the impressions which are made on them by the things which they deal and converse with every day; and the rewards and punishments of religion are calculated to this sense and feeling, excepting only that they are distant, and not capable of being made the present objects of sense : for the punishments denounced in the gospel against the unrighteousness of men, are such as nature recoils at; such as, according to the sense the world has of misery and pain, are insupportable evils; and the only reason why they operate so weakly on the minds and affections of men is this, “ that they are not seen. The same may be said of the rewards of the gospel : they contain the very happiness that nature thirsts after, 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 is 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 reason. 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 :
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