« ZurückWeiter »
bounded within a narrower compass, and do seldom stay long, or return with any force upon the mind, after the removal of the objects that occasioned them.
Hence then the satisfactions, or stings of conscience severally arise : they are the sanctions, as it were, and enforcements of that eternal law of good and evil, to which we are subjected ; the natural rewards and punishments originally annexed to the observance, or breach of that law, by the great promulger of it; and which, being thus joined and twisted together by God, can scarce by any arts, endeavours, or practices of men be put asunder. The prophet therefore explains good and evil by sweet and bitter. "Wo be to them that call evil good, and good evil: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!' Implying that the former of these do as naturally and sensibly affect the soul, as the latter do the palate, and leave as grateful, or .displeasing a relish behind them. · But there is no need of arguments to evince this truth; the universal experience and feeling of mankind bears witness to it. For say, did ever any of you break the power of a darling lust, resist a pressing temptation, or perform any act of a conspicuous and distinguishing virtue, but that you found it soon turn to account to you? Did not your minds swell with a secret satisfaction at the moment when you were doing it?And was not a reflection upon it afterwards always sweet and refreshing ? On the contrary, did you ever indulge a criminal appetite, or allow yourselves sedately in any practice which you
knew to be unlawful, but that you felt an inward struggle and strong reluctances of mind before the attempt, and bitter pangs of remorse attending it? Though no eye saw what you did, and you were sure no mortal could discover it, did not shame and confusion secretly lay hold of you? Was not your own conscience instead of a thou. sand witnesses to you? Did it not plead with you face to face, as it were, and upbraid you?
The jolly and voluptuous livers, the men who set up for freedom of thought, and for disengaging themselves from the prejudices of education, and superstitious opinions, may pretend to dispute this truth, and perhaps in the gaiety of their hearts may venture even to deride it; but they cannot, however, get rid of their inward convictions of it; they must feel it sometimes, though they will not own it. There is no possibility of reasoning ourselves out of our own experience, or of laughing down a principle woven so closely into the make and frame of our natures. Notwithstanding our endeavours to conceal and stifle it, it will break out sometimes, and discover itself, to a careful observer, through all our, pretences and disguises.
Look at one of these men, who would be thought to have made his ill practices and ill principles perfectly consistent; to have shaken off all regard to the dictates of his own mind, concerning good and evil, and to have gotten above the reproofs of his conscience; and you will find a thousand things in his actions and discourses testifying against him. If he be, indeed, as he pretends, at .bis ease in his enjoyments, from whence come those disorders and unevennesses in his life and conduct; those vicissitudes of good and bad · humour, mirth and thoughtfulness; that perpetual pursuit of little, mean, insipid amusements, that restless desire of changing the scene, and the objects, of his pleasures? those sudden eruptions of · passion and rage upon the least disappointments ? Certainly, all is not right within, or else there would be a greater calm, and serenity without. If his mind were not in an unnatural situation, and under contrary influences, it would not be thus tossed and disquieted. For what reason doth be contrive for himself such a chain and succession of entertainments, and take care to be delivered over from one folly, one diversion, to another, -without intermission? Why, but because he dreads to leave any void spaces of life unfilled, lest conscience should find work for his mind at those intervals? He hath no way to fence against guilty reflections, but by stopping up all the avenues at which they might enter. Hence his strong addiction to company; his aversion to darkness and solitude; which recollect the thoughts, and turn the mind inward upon itself, by shutting out external objects and impressions. It is not because the pleasures of society are always new and grateful to him, that he pursues them thus keenly; for they soon lose their relish, and grow flat and insipid by repetition. They are not his choice, but his refuge; for the truth is, hė dares not long converse with himself, and with his own thoughts; and the worst company in the world is better to him than that of a reproving conscience.
tain writer, who set up for delivering men from those fantastic terrours; and was on that account, for a season, much read and applauded. But it is plain, that he could not work that effect in him. self, which he pretended to work in others : for his books manifestly show, that his mind was over-run with gloomy and terrible ideas of dominion and power; and that he wrote in a perpetual fright against those very principles which he pretended to contradict and deride: and such as knew his conversation well have assured ns, that nothing was so dreadful to him, as to be in the dark, and to give his natural fears an opportunity of recoiling upon him. That he was timorous to an excess is certain; he himself owns it, in the account which he wrote of himself, and which is in every one's hands : but he did not care to own the true reason of it, and therefore lays it upon a mighty fright, which seized his mother when the Spaniards attempted their famous invasion, in the year 1588, the year in which he was born. The more probable account of it is, that it naturally sprung from his own conduct, and method of thinking. He had been endeavouring all his lifetime, to get rid of those religious principles, under which he was carefully educated by his father, a divine of the church of England, and to set up a new system and sect, which was to be built upon the ruins of all those truths, that were then, and had ever been, held sacred by the best and wisest of men. It was vanity, pushed him on to this attempt; but he could not compass it. He was able, here and there, to delude a superficial thinker with his new terms and reasonings; but the hard
est task of all was thoroughly to deceive himself. His understanding could not be completely imposed upon, even by its own artifices; and his conscience, every now and then, got the better of him in the struggle; so he lived in a perpetual suspicion and dread of those truths, which he represented as figments; and, while he made sport of that kingdom of darkness, as he loved to call another world, trembled, in good earnest, at the thought of it.*.
ATHEISM IMPRUDENT. ATHEISM is imprudent, because it is unsafe in the issue. The atheist contends against the religious man, that there is no God; but upon strange inequality and odds ; for he ventures his eternal interest; whereas the religious man only ventures the loss of his lusts, (which it is much better for him to be without) or at the utmost of some temporal convenience; and all this while is inwardly more contented and happy, and usually more healthful, and perhaps meets with more respect and more faithful friends, and lives in a more secure and flourishing condition, and more free from the evils and punishments of this world, than the atheistical person does. However, it is not much that he ventures; and after this life, if there be no God, is as well as he; but if there be a God, is infinitely better, even as much as unspeakable and eternal happiness is better than extreme and endless misery. So that
# The author alludes to the celebrated Hobbes.