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ties of reason, memory, and affection, do not depend upon our gross body, in the manner in which perception by our organs of sense does; so they do not appear to depend upon it at all in any such manner, as to give ground to think, that the dissolution of this body will be the destruction of these our present powers of reflection, as it will of our powers of sensation; or to give ground to conclude, even that it will be so much as a suspension of the former.
Human creatures exist at present in two states of life and perception, greatly different from each other; each of which has its own peculiar laws, and its own peculiar enjoyments and sufferings. When any of our senses are affected, or appetites gratified with the objects of them, we may be said to exist, or live, in a state of sensation. none of our senses are affected, or appetites gratified, and yet we perceive, and reason, and act, we may be said to exist, or live, in a state of reflection. Now it is by no means certain, that any thing which is dissolved by death is any way necessary to the living being, in this its state of reflection, after ideas are gained. For though, from our present constitution and condition of being, our external organs of sense are necessary for conveying in ideas to our reflecting powers, as carriages, and levers, and scaffolds are in architecture; yet, when these ideas are brought in, we are capable of reflecting in the most intense degree, and of enjoying the greatest pleasure, and feeling the greatest pain, by means of that reflection, without any assistance from our senses; and without any at all, which we know of, from that body, which will be dissolved by death. It does not appear, then, that the relation of this gross body to the reflecting being, is in any degree, necessary to thinking; to our intellectual enjoyments or sufferings: nor, consequently, that the dissolution, or alienation of the former by death, will be the destruction of those present powers, which render us capable of this state of reflection. Further, there are instances of moral diseases, which do not at ali affect our present intellectual powers; and this affords a presumption, that those diseases will not destroy these present powers. Indeed, from the observations made above, it appears, that there is no presumption, from their mutually affecting each other, that the dissolution of the body is the destruction of
the living agent. And by the same reasoning it must ap pear, too, that there is no presumption, from their mutually affecting each other, that the dissolution of the body is the destruction of our present reflecting powers; but instances. of their not affecting each other, afford a presumption of the contrary. Instances of mortal disease not impairing our present reflecting powers, evidently turn our thoughts even from imagining such diseases to be the destruction of them. Several things, indeed, greatly affect all our living powers, and at length, suspend the exercise of them; as, for instance, drowsiness, increasing till it ends in sound sleep: and from hence we might have imagined it would destroy them, till we found, by experience, the weakness of this way of judging. But, in the diseases now mentioned, there is not so much as the shadow of probability, to lead us to any such conclusion, as to the reflecting powers which we have at present; for, in those diseases, persons the moment before death appear to be in the highest vigor of life. They discover apprehension, memory, reason, all entire; with the utmost force of affection; sense of a character, of shame and honor; and the highest mental enjoyments and sufferings, even to the last gasp and these surely prove even greater vigor of life than bodily strength does. Now, what pretence is there for thinking, that a progressive disease, when arrived to such a degree, I mean that degree which is mortal, will destroy those powers, which were not impaired, which were not affected by it, during its whole progress, quite up to that degree? And if death, by diseases of this kind, is not the destruction of our present reflecting powers, it will scarce be thought that death by any other means is.
It is obvious that this general observation may be carried on further and there appears so little connexion between our bodily powers of sensation, and our present powers of reflection, that there is no reason to conclude that death, which destroys the former, does so much as suspend the exercise of the latter, or interrupt our continuing to exist in the like state of reflection which we do now. For, suspension of reason, memory, and the affections which they ex cite, is no part of the idea of death, nor is implied in our notion of it. And our daily experiencing these powers to be exercised, without any assistance, that we know of, fron those bodies which will be dissolved by death; and our find ing often, that the exercise of them is so lively to the last ;these things afford a sensible apprehension, that death may
not perhaps be so much as a discontinuance of the exercise of these powers, nor of the enjoyments and sufferings which it implies;* so that our posthumous life, whatever there may be in it additional to our present, yet may not be entirely beginning anew, but going on. Death may, in some sort, and in some respects, answer to our birth, which is not a suspension of the faculties which we had before it, or a total change of the state of life in which we existed when in the womb, but a continuation of both, with such and such great alterations.
Nay, for ought we know of ourselves, of our present life, and of death, death may immediately, in the natural course of things, put us into a higher and more enlarged state of life, as our birth does ;† a state in which our capacities and sphere of perception, and of action, may be much greater than at present. For, as our relation to our external organs of sense renders us capable of existing in our present state of sensation, so it may be the only natural hindrance to our existing, immediately and of course, in a higher state of reflection. The truth is, reason does not at all show us in what state death naturally leaves us. But were we sure
that it would suspend all our perceptive and active powers, yet the suspension of a power, and the destruction of it, are effects so totally different in kind, as we experience from sleep and a swoon, that we cannot in any wise argue from one to the other; or conclude, even to the lowest degree of probability, that the same kind of force which is sufficient to suspend our faculties, though it be increased ever so much, will be sufficient to destroy them.
These observations together may be sufficient to show, how little presumption there is that death is the destruction
*There are three distinct questions, relating to a future life, here considered: Whether death be the destruction of living agents? If not, Whether it be the destruction of their present powers of reflection, as it certainly is the destruction of their present powers of sensation? And if not, Whether it be the suspension, or discontinuance of the exercise, of these present reflecting powers? Now, if there be no reason to believe the last, there will be, if that were possible, less for the next, and less still for the first.
+ This, according to Strabo, was the opinion of the Brahmans: vopiζειν μεν γαρ δη τον μεν ενθαδε βιον, ὡς αν ακμην κυομενων ειναι τον δε θανατον, γενεσις εις τον οντως βιον, και τον ευδαιμονα τοις φιλοσοφησασι. Lib. XV. ρ. 1039. Ed. Amst. 1707. To which opinion perhaps Antoninus may allude in these words, ὡς νυν περιμένεις, ποτε εμβρυον εκ της γαστρος της γυναικός σε εξέλθη, όπως εκδέχεσθαι την ωραν εν η το ψυχαριον συ το έλυτρα 1978 εκ πεσείται. Lib. IX. c. 3.
of human creatures. However, there is the shadow of an analogy, which may lead us to imagine it is; the supposed likeness which is observed between the decay of vegetables and of living creatures. And this likeness is indeed sufficient to afford the poets very apt allusions to the flowers of the field, in their pictures of the frailty of our present life. But, in reason, the analogy is so far from holding, that there appears no ground even for the comparison, as to the present question; because one of the two subjects compared is wholly void of that, which is the principle and chief thing in the other, the power of perception and action; and which is the only thing we are inquiring about the continuance of So that the destruction of a vegetable is an event not similar, or analogous, to the destruction of a living agent.
But if, as was above intimated, leaving off the delusive custom of substituting imagination in the room of experience, we would confine ourselves to what we do know and understand; if we would argue only from that, and from that form our expectations, it would appear, at first sight, that as no probability of living beings ever ceasing to be so, can be concluded from the reason of the thing; so none can be collected from the analogy of nature; because we cannot trace any living beings beyond death. But as we are conscious that we are endued with capacities of percep tion and of action, and are living persons, what we are to go upon is, that we shall continue so till we foresee some accident, or event, which will endanger those capacities, or be likely to destroy us; which death does in no wise appear to be.
And thus, when we go out of this world, we may pass into new scences, and a new state of life and action, just as naturally as we came into the present. And this new state may naturally be a social one. And the advantages of it, advantages of every kind, may naturally be bestowed, according to some fixed general laws of wisdom, upon every one in proportion to the degrees of his virtue. And though the advantages of that future natural state should not be bestowed, as these of the present in some measure are, by the will of the society, but entirely by his more immediate action, upon whom the whole frame of nature depends, yet this distribution may be just as natural, as their being distributed here by the instru mentality of men. And, indeed, though one were to allow any confused undetermined sense, which people please to put upon the word natural, it would be a shortness of thought
scarce credible to imagine, that no system or course of things can be so, but only what we see at present ;* especially whilst the probability of a future life, or the natural immortality of the soul, is admitted upon the evidence of reason; because this is really both admitting and denying at once, a state of being different from the present to be natural. But the only distinct meaning of that word is, stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires, and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i. e. to effect it continually, or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once. And from hence it must.. follow, that persons' notion of what is natural will be enlarged, in proportion to their greater knowledge of the works of God and the dispensations of his Providence. Nor is there any absurdity in supposing, that there may be beings in the universe, whose capacities, and knowledge, and views, may be so extensive, as that the whole Christian dispensation may to them appear natural, i. e. analogous or conformable to God's dealings with other parts of his creation, as natural as the visible known course of things appears to us. For there seems scarce any other possible sense to be put upon the word, but that only in which it is here used; similar, stated, or uniform.
This credibility of a future life, which has been here insisted upon, how little soever it may satisfy our curiosity, seems to answer all the purposes of religion, in like manner as a demonstrative proof would. Indeed, a proof, even a demonstrative one, of a future life, would not be a proof of religion. For, that we are to live hereafter, is just as reconcilia. ble with the scheme of atheism, and as well to be accounted for by it, as that we are now alive is; and therefore nothing can be more absurd than to argue from that scheme, that there can be no future state. But as religion implies a future state, any presumption against such a state is a presumption against religion. And the foregoing observations remove all presumptions of that sort, and prove, to a very considerable degree of probability, one fundamental doctrine of religion; which if believed, would greatly open and dispose the mind seriously to attend to the general evidence of the whole.
* See Part ii. ch. 2. and Part ii. ch. 3.