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CHAPTER IX - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 1: The Principles of Moral Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 1: The Principles of Moral Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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Let us now enquire what judgment ought to be formed concerning death:It now remains to enquire what may be fairly and justly concluded from human nature, and the present constitution of things concerning death or the dissolution of our bodily frame? In order to determine which question, we need only state the phenomenon in a true light. And thus it stands. “We are by nature excellently equipped and furnished for attaining to a very considerable degree of moral perfection, or of knowledge and virtue by the due culture of our natural endowments; and are placed in a very proper situation for that effect,The phenomenon fairly stated. even by having relation to, and communion with the sensible world by means of our bodies: but our bodies are made liable to dissolution: they are not made to endure for ever; but must wear out, and may be destroyed while they are yet sound and vigorous, by different kinds of violence, in consequence of their structure and subjection to the laws of matter and motion.” This is the truth of the case. What judgment then is it reasonable to form of this phenomenon, or of this state and tendency of things with regard to mankind?
Futurity is wisely hid from us.Futuritya is wisely hid from us; it is not fit that infants should know whether they are to live to<228> old age and foresee the fortunes of their lives: In general, it is not fit for us to know such good or bad accidents as are to happen us in consequence of the laws of the sensible world, or our social connexions which are in the nature of things unavoidable.
Or as our own Poet has it,
We know, or may know enough of the settled order and succession of things for the regulation of our conduct, that is, for the common exigencies of natural life, and for avoiding the bad consequences of folly and vice, and reaping the good fruits of prudence and virtue; and that, it is evident, is all the foresight which is convenient, or can be pleasant to us, and therefore our duty and business is as the Poet expresses it.
Now for the same wise reasons that future events in this present life are hid from us, the particular events which are to happen to us after death; that is, the various scenes or changes of being we may be intended to pass through after leaving this state, are likewise beyond our forecast. But tho’ our future state cannot be fully foreseen by us, because such knowledge would neither be agreeable nor convenient for us;<229> yet from the present state, we may infer very probably that death is not a total dissolution of our moral powers and their acquirements, but that these do survive our bodies.Yet we have reason to infer that death is not a dissolution of our moral powers. Because, 1. The dissolution of our bodies is no more than putting an end to our communication with the sensible world, or to one kind of ideas we now receive from without, and the order in which they are conveyed into our minds; and therefore, there can be no reason to infer from hence the total dissolution of all powers. 2. Because this state is but our entrance on life, and having all the appearances of a proper first state of enjoyment, or rather of trial and discipline, for rational beings; it is natural to conclude, that it is but our first state of probation, and not the whole of our existence. 3. Because the ideas of wisdom and good order, which are natural to the human mind, or to which we are led by the consideration of the present state of things wherever we cast our eyes; and in the perswasion of the prevalence of which throughout the universal system, we must be the more confirmed, the more we examine nature, or the fuller view we are able to take of it: All these considerations give us good ground to hope, that beings endowed with such powers as men are, which may survive one method of enjoyment and exercise, were not made to be wilfully destroyed; or are not so totally subjected to the laws of matter and motion, that they cannot subsist any longer than these laws take place. We may indeed fairly put the issue of the question about our future existence upon this footing.It is not analogous to our make to suppose that it is. “Whether it be more probable, that is, more analogous and consistent with the preceeding account of our make to imagine that we are made with moral powers, merely for the entertainments and exercises which we are capable of receiving from a sensible world by our bodies for the short while they only can last; or that it is but our first state of trial, and to be succeeded by another such existence as good order and wisdom<230> in the whole requires?” For surely, if in what we have seen, by enquiring strictly into our constitution, nothing but good order and perfect contrivance and harmony appear, there can be no reason to apprehend that disorder, far less, that cruel destruction, or wilful annihilation, ever can happen under such a wise and benevolent administration, as the present frame of things strongly and clearly bespeaks.
It is proper to consider this matter more fully.But in order to set an affair, of such consequence to the quiet and satisfaction of every thinking person, in a true light, I would offer the following observations, which are but so many corollaries evidently resulting from the account that hath been given of human nature, and of the general laws to which all the effects and appearances belonging to it are reducible.
Our present connexion with a sensible world by means of our bodies, is arbitrary, not necessary.I. We have a thinking part that receives our sensible ideas from without, or upon which they are impressed, according to certain laws. It is not, as ancient philosophers have said,a the eyes, or the<231> ears, or any of our outward senses (properly speaking) which perceive: these are only certain methods<232> or orders, according to which, certain sensations are produced in us. Our thinking part therefore, which is properly ourself, is absolutely distinct from all these sensations which it receives from without. And what follows from thence, but that there can be no natural or necessary connexion between the subsistence of our thinking part, and its having its present sensations from without. But if this be true,We may therefore survive such a connexion. then may it not only survive the prevalence of the order in which our present sensations are conveyed to us; but it cannot otherwise perish, when that order ceases to take place, than in consequence of a positive appointment of nature that our minds should not survive such an order. I need not dwell long upon this head, since it is owned by all philosophers that our present communication with a sensible world, according to the laws of which sensible ideas are produced in our minds, is but an arbitrary connexion.Our perishing totally with it, must be the effect of an arbitrary appointment that it shall be so. For if this be true, it must necessarily follow, that our minds might have existed without any such communication, and may subsist when it no longer takes place. Nay, it must follow, that as the present connexion between our thinking part and a sensible world, by means of our bodily organization, is but an arbitrary connexion; so if we are totally destroyed when our communication with a sensible world by means of our bodies is at an end, that must likewise be the effect of as positive and arbitrary an institution, as our present connexion with a sensible world is. But what reason is there to fear such a destroying will or humour in nature?
There is no reason to apprehend such an annihilating or destroying humour in nature.II. The destruction of material beings cannot properly be called destruction, since existence is lost upon matter, considered by itself as an unperceiving substance; and the end of its creation can be nothing else but its being perceived by some thinking beings. When matter therefore is said to be destroyed, all that can be said to be done is, that perceiving beings<233> have lost a certain class or order of perceptions, conveyed unto them from without, according to certain laws, which now no longer take place.The destruction of matter is not properly destruction. The rules of analogous reasoning surely do not permit us to infer from the most evident symptoms of the destruction of unperceiving substances, the total destruction of perceiving beings, since these latter are the only ones to whom existence can really be any benefit or blessing? But which is more, when we narrowly examine what we call the destruction of matter, we evidently perceive that it is not properly destruction, but change of form.Wherefore the destruction of a perceiving being cannot be inferred from the destruction of matter. And certainly, if there really be no destruction at all, even of what is not benefited by existence, there can be no ground to apprehend the destruction of any being that is. The true state of the case, with regard to matter, as far as we can observe its changes, is,
But there is no ground to think any particle of matter is destroyed: what we call so, is really but change of form.Now if we ought and must reason from analogy, when we see no examples in nature of destruction, but merely of change, it is only change, and not destruction that can be inferred. It is only from a destroying humour prevailing visibly in nature, that the destruction of perceiving beings can be inferred. And therefore if we do not find plain symptoms of<234> a destroying temper in nature; or of delight, not in frugality and preservation, but in waste, and wilful annihilation, we can have no reason to suspect nature to be a destroyer of moral beings and powers? But whence can we have any ground to entertain such a cruel and gloomy idea of its course and tendency;A Fortiori there is no reason to think any perceiving being is destroyed. since it is plain, even unconscious matter, in its seeming dissolution, is not destroyed, but only changed?
All that can be inferred from death is, that a particular order in which certain sensations are now conveyed into our minds, then ceases.III. In reality, all that can be said to be done, when our bodies are dissolved by death is, that a certain method by which our minds are now affected with sensations and passions, ceases to take place. But can the total destruction of moral powers and beings be inferred from the ceasing of one certain method of being affected, or of receiving sensations from without? According to such a way of arguing, no one sense can be lost; but by parity of reason it might be said, the being who hath lost it can no longer exist. For it would be in vain to say, the present question is not about the dissolution of one organ, but of all our organs; for all of them are as distinct from us, that is, from our thinking part, as any one of them; nay, if any one of them be distinct from it, every one of them must be distinct from it, and consequently all of them together must be different from it.Whence a destruction of all thinking powers cannot be deduced. Further, experience tells us, that when all the senses cease to convey sensations from without, imagination, memory and reason can operate, and afford sufficient entertainment and employment to our mind. This happens frequently, not only in sleep, when all the organs of sense are fast locked up; but likewise in serious study, when the mind is intent on the search of truth and knowledge, or conversing with itself about its own actions and duties. How therefore can the destruction of all our moral powers, or of our thinking part, be justly inferred, merely from our ceasing to<235> have communication by our outward organs with a material world? Does any philosopher doubt that certain beings have or may have ideas from without, to which we are utter strangers? Or will any philosopher say, it is impossible even for us to have ideas conveyed to us from without, which we have never yet perceived, and in a quite different way and order from that in which our present ideas of sense are conveyed to us? How then can the total cessation of one way of conveying ideas into the mind from without, prove the total cessation of memory, imagination, reason, and other moral powers, and the absolute annihilation of moral beings! Every presumption which is not founded upon likeness or parity, is allowed in all cases to have no foundation; but what likeness or parity is there, between death, whatever view we take of it, and our total annihilation?There is no likeness between death, and total destruction of our being; whatever view we take of it. Is there any likeness or parity between the destruction of unperceived things not benefited by existence, and perceiving beings, who alone can be said properly to exist, because they alone can properly be said to enjoy? Or is there any likeness, any parity between the constant preservation of inanimate substances, in such a manner that not one particle of matter is lost, but only changes its form, and the total, absolute destruction of perceiving beings? Is there any likeness or parity between the cessation of one manner of being affected with sensations, and the total cessation of all conveyance of ideas into minds from without? Or finally, is there any likeness or parity between the total cessation of all conveyance of sensible ideas from without, and the total destruction of all higher and nobler powers of the intellectual and moral kind?<236>
The objections of Pliny and Lucretius against immortality, absurdly suppose that matter can think.IV. That rant of Pliny the elder,a and of Lucretius before him, in which they affect to crowd a great many absurdities together, as resulting from or included in the supposition of our existence after death, does itself terminate in a very glaring contradiction to all sense and reason: for it proceeds upon the supposition of a necessary, physical connexion between the existence of the present material world to us, and the existence of our thinking part. Our bodies and our minds do indeed grow up together, as it is very fit mates should; and when the one suffers in any degree, the other sympathizes with a most tender fellow-feeling, insomuch that when<237> the body is heavily oppressed and disordered, the mind is bowed down, and cannot raise itself to its highest exercises. But all this only proves that in this present state, our minds and bodies are united together in the closest and most intimate manner: nay, properly speaking, it only proves, that in this present state our minds are variously affected by the various operations of the laws of matter and motion, according to a certain fixed order. For it is our mind, or thinking part, which perceives, or which is touched and affected: matter or body cannot perceive or feel.They only prove a present dependence of our body and mind, according to certain laws of nature. Body, or union with body and matter, can, therefore, only mean a certain order or method, according to which the mind is affected. And therefore to say, that mind must cease to exist when body ceases, is indeed to say, that mind must necessarily cease to exist, when one way of its being affected no longer takes place: or it is to say, that mind itself is not distinct from some of its perceptions, and the order in which these are conveyed to it; both which assertions are equally absurd.
To say with the above-mentioned authors, “What probability is there, that we begin to live when we perish; that we become gods, or at least demi-gods, in comparison of our present state, when we cease to be; or that we are destroyed in order to exist in a more perfect manner?” All this is manifestly begging the question, and taking it as granted that our minds dissolve with our bodies, and consequently, that our thinking part is nothing distinct from its sensible perceptions. But who is not conscious that the principle in him which receives ideas from without, is totally distinct from these passive impressions? Or can any philosopher assert so glaring an absurdity, as to say, passive, unperceiving matter can any otherwise affect a thinking being, than by means of laws appointing a connexion between its operations; or, more properly speaking, operations produced upon it, and certain sensations or<238> passions in minds. But all the idle stuff about matter’s acting has been too long ago exploded by philosophers to be now refuted.
This is a very good first state for such a progressive being as man.V. Let us therefore proceed to such conclusions, as a complete view of our present frame and state suggests, with regard to our surviving the dissolution of our bodies, or the present arbitrary union, by means of our bodies, with a sensible world. Now from what has been proved to be really our constitution, it is plain that we set out with very good furniture for making considerable progress in knowledge and virtue: our very senses are chiefly given us in order to be instruments and means of virtuous exercises in this present state: what therefore is the natural language resulting from such a frame, but that we are made for continual progress in moral perfection, in proportion to our culture, and our situation for culture, in whatever state or circumstances we may be placed? For because death happens, nothing more can be said on that account, than, “That there is a way at present by which our thinking part is affected, according to certain laws, which ceases upon the dissolution of our organical frame by death.”A first state cannot last always, but must give way to another. It cannot be said, merely on that account, that a Being fitted for moral progress, cannot make progress after such a way of being affected from without no more takes place. The more natural conclusion is, that such a way of being affected ceasing, Beings fitted for progress shall be placed in new circumstances of progress and improvement. A progressive being cannot be made to continue always in the same state; and therefore a being so made has no reason to imagine its first state shall be its only state; or to conclude any thing else, when its first state ceases, than that, as a first state ought not to be, nor cannot indeed in the nature of things be the only state of progressive beings; so accordingly it now goes to another, proper to succeed to its first.<239> It is therefore reasonable to think that this state only ceases, as the first state of a progressive being ought to do. This is certainly the conclusion death leads us to, if we take a just view of our moral make; moral powers being evidently made for progress, and therefore not for one state: otherwise we must say, that moral powers, which in themselves look to be designed and fit for perpetual cultivation and improvement, must necessarily cease to be, because, though they must have a first state, and are not made always to continue in one state, but for progression, yet this state ceases to be; which is in effect to say, that because our first state ceases, we are not likely to have another, though it must cease, because it is but a first. In other words, it is to argue thus; we must have a first state, being progressive beings, which state can only be a first state; yet if it ceases, we must cease to be. Than which nothing can be more absurd.
That our death is attended with pain, only proves that the laws of union with body continue to operate till the union is quite dissolved.It is true, our present state is dissolved with concomitant pains; but what follows from thence? but that it is dissolved in consequence of certain laws of matter and motion, which must, till they have no longer any influence upon us, variously affect us with pains and pleasures: it only follows from hence, that the dissolution comes about analogously to, or consistently with the general laws, according to which we are affected with pain or pleasure from without. These pains are no more a proof of the dissolution of the mind, than any other pains proceeding from the same laws, which the mind survives. And our moral fabric plainly bespeaks only a temporary connexion with matter, as a proper first state, for their formation, exercise and improvement. For even during this connexion, our sensible appetites and gratifications are, according to our fabric, made to submit to our moral powers, in such a manner that unless they are directed and governed by them, they afford no true happiness and enjoyment to us; but rather contrariwise bring pain and<240> misery upon us. To illustrate this reasoning more fully, let us consider,
There is a plain reason why there should be such a being as man, or a being with such moral powers united with body.VI. There is an evident reason why, in the scale of existence, there should be such a being as man, that is, a moral being connected for a while with a material world; since were there no such being in the world, there would be a great void in nature: such a kind of being is absolutely necessary in the gradation of life and perfection, which makes the riches, the plenitude of nature; because without such a being, nature would not be full and coherent. But there is no reason, on the other hand, why a being made for progress, should always continue in the same state: nay, it is repugnant to the very nature of a progressive being, or a being made for progress toward perfection proportionably to the culture of its powers, that such a being should always continue in that situation which is its beginning or first state. This present condition of mankind, which is requisite in its place to the fullness and consistence of nature, affords us in our first beginning excellent materials and means of improvement in knowledge and virtue, considered as a beginning. And therefore the question is, why it ought not to be considered merely as a beginning?But there is no reason to think such an union should always continue, or be the only state in which our moral powers are placed. If there is an end to it, as there plainly is by death, what does that prove, but that a beginning or first state of progressive powers does not always last; or that, as it ought not to last, so neither does it? An end to a first state can prove no more, but that it is a first state; its further look must be inferred from the nature of the powers themselves, which make this first state; and therefore it having been found that our powers, sensitive and moral, as they are conjoined in our frame, make an excellent first state, for our formation and improvement in moral perfection; which state is by no means the only state our thinking part, with all its moral powers, can subsist in; it is reasonable<241> to conclude, since this, considered only as a first state, is a very good and proper one, that it is only such. In that view, all is orderly and consonant to the general course and analogy of nature, so far as we can pry into it; and the opposite notion is quite repugnant to the order, beauty and wise administration every where discernible in nature. And therefore this must be the true view of our present state, “That it is indeed our first, which must cease, but not the whole of our existence.”
And it is evident that union with body and a material world cannot always last.VII. But in the next place, as we see a plain reason why the present condition of mankind should take place in nature, which is so fit a state for us to be formed in, or rather to form ourselves in, to a very high degree of perfection, since without such a being as man, nature would not be full and coherent; so we may see a very plain reason, why this state does not always continue: not only a moral reason, why, being a beginning state, it should not continue; but a physical reason why it cannot last always. The existence, that is, the perception of a sensible world, is necessary to the fullness and riches of nature, and the perfection of its works. But this beautiful and useful sensible world, with which we have now communication by means of our bodily organization, must wear out, it cannot last for ever: such is the nature and constitution of matter, or such is the essential law of nature, with regard to all matter that falls within our sense or observation, that it, like artificial machines, is wasted by attrition; all the springs in it decay, become weak, and unable to perform their functions, and at last are quite worn out: nay, this happens to artificial machines, because they are material ones. Such then is the nature of bodies; such is the nature of matter in general.This is a plain consequence of the properties of body or matter. Wherefore the present constitution of our mundan system cannot hold out for ever, its powers will fail, it will at last be no<242> longer able to produce its ends. Or, which is the same thing to us, to all intents and purposes, since the sensible world to us, is the sensible world we are affected by, perceive, and have commerce with; our bodies, by which we have communication with a material world, as they naturally grow up to perfection, so they as naturally decline and dwindle away: nor can we have bodies that must not so waste and consume, composed of any matter we know; or endued with the properties our bodies must necessarily be, to have correspondence with the matter we are acquainted with; since all the matter we know is evidently alterable in its form and texture, by the same laws which render it of any use to us.It is owned by all philosophers. This all philosophers are agreed in, and therefore we need not insist longer upon it.
Hence it is reasonable to conclude, that our moral powers, naturally capable of lasting for ever without wearing out, are only united for a time with bodies, in order to the fulness of nature, and because it is a very proper first state for our powers to be formed and improved in.But what follows from this, when we compare our moral powers with this system of matter with which we are now united, which thus perishes; whereas they are of an unperishing nature, and capable of eternal improvement, without any specific alteration of their present make: what follows from thence, but that we are but for a time, and in our beginning state, united with what, though it cannot last for ever, yet while it lasts; or, which is the same thing to us, while our correspondence with it lasts, affords to our moral powers in their first beginnings, very proper objects to exert themselves about; very proper means and occasions for their improvement. This, certainly, is what alone can be rationally inferred from the complex view of our frame, especially if we add to this,
VIII. That in consequence of the frame of our earth, and the nature of our present united state, all mankind cannot live together on earth; but as it now happens, one generation must make room for another; because the earth would soon be overpeopled, if it were not inhabited as it is, by successions.<243> I need not tell those who have the smallest tincture of natural philosophy,Men must live upon earth by successive generations. that in order to make our earth more capacious, or a proper habitation for a much greater number of inhabitants of various kinds than it now is, that its magnitude must be increased, and consequently the whole constitution of our mundan system, if not of all things that exist, must be changed: for if the proportions of the magnitudes of the bodies which compose it be altered, their distances, orbits, attractions, and in one word, all the laws relative to them, must be changed: and therefore to demand such an alteration with regard to our earth, is in reality to desire, there were no such system in nature as our mundan one, but that its space were entirely void, or filled with another system of a different texture: which will be allowed to be a demand that is physically absurd; since, as far as we can carry our researches, or as analogy can lead us to form any notion of things, nature is full and coherent as it is, and cannot be so if any change were made.Our earth could not be rendered more capacious, without altering our whole mundan system, and in all likelihood the whole universe. But since it is so that mankind must occupy the earth by successive generations, and that the earth which is a fit and proper part of our mundan system; which in its space is the properest system with regard to the whole of nature: what follows from this, according to the rules of analogical reasoning, but that though one generation of men gives place to another, and must do so, and things are likely to continue so, while the earth continues to be a fit habitation for them, which it is likely to be while the laws of our mundan system are able to hold it together in tolerable order; yet our mundan system, and consequently our earth, and all successions of its inhabitants, must have an end at last, and shall be succeeded by another system, formed perhaps out of the ruins of this, which shall be in its place and order of succession, as beautifully, regularly, and beneficially constituted, as this present one is.When our mundan system is able to hold out no longer, there is reason from analogy to think it shall be succeeded by another, proper to succeed to it, perhaps rising out of its ruins. This is<244> indeed, what present order, and the analogy of things naturally lead us to conceive: for why should we apprehend nature to be exhausted by the present production? What reason have we to believe its fecundity so limited and scanty? Or if this be not its only birth, why should we imagine that its future ones shall be less regular, shapely, and sound? But these things I only mention, to shew how analogy leads us to think of nature in general, or with regard to its general order of production, that we may the better feel the force of the presumptions which arise from analogy, with regard to ourselves. For if we have reason to think so of nature in general,But if so, we have yet better reason to think this is but our first state, which shall be succeeded by one very proper to follow it. as hath been suggested, why ought we not to think of nature with regard to ourselves in like manner? What reason have we to fear that the parent who produced us, hath provided so liberally for us, and set us so well at present, cannot provide another habitation for us, when this fails, as well fitted to us as a second state, as this is as a first state? Hath nature, which hath produced our moral powers, and such variety of entertainment and employment for them, no further power, no further fertility? Is it quite drained, is it quite unable to support us longer, or to make further provision for us?
If mankind cease to be at death, there will necessarily be a void, a chasm in nature.IX. Before we proceed to other arguments to corroborate all that hath been said, let us add, that the same principle so easily admitted by all philosophers, with regard to our present state, “That without it nature could not have been full and coherent,” extends a great deal further than some are apt to imagine. It affords an excellent argument for our future existence. For if mankind cease to be at death, or when their bodies are dissolved, there must necessarily, upon that event, be a chasm or blank in nature; since it is only a transition by man from this to another state, suited to him as coming from the present one, which can continue the chain<245> of being without any interruption or breach. It is, upon supposition of our perishing totally by death, broken and discontinued. This opinion concerning the plenitude of nature, and a rising scale of existence through all possible gradations of being, to the highest, is not only an ancient one, but it is what the contemplation of naturenaturally, if not necessarily directs us to: for where do we perceive any void? how nicely, how subtly, or by what imperceptible steps do beings rise to man, the only order of moral agents within our observation in our present state? And if we do not perceive a chasm in the descending gradation of nature, from us to meer vegetative life, why should we dream of any blank in the ascending gradation above us, to which by our imagination (so vast is its expanding power) we can set no bounds.That nature is full and coherent, we have reason to conclude from experience and analogy. This however is certain, that if the maxim be well founded, and there be no reason to think that there ever can be any void in nature; it must likewise be true, that no perceiving being shall ever cease to exist, but shall continue to be, and to pass through the gradations suited to its kind, and consequently to the riches and fullness which makes the perfection of nature. Or whatever may be said of merely sensitive beings of the lower order (to whom, however, why should we begrudge immortality, as if the value of ours would be lessened by its being common to all perceiving beings) at least, it must be true that moral agents cannot cease to be, but must continue for ever, and must pass thro’ the several gradations naturally suited to them, in proportion to their culture and care to improve.Yet that maxim must be false, if man is not made for eternal progress, and ceases to be at death. This must be true, because indeed, not only upon the ceasing of any species, but upon the ceasing of any individual of moral agents to exist, there necessarily would be a chasm, an interruption in the chain of nature; a want, a deficiency, instead of fullness. For a moral being, instead of making the progress it is naturally fitted for, would thus stop short, and<246> so leave nature void of that particular progression it, and it alone, can make or fill up. The progress man, as such, is fitted to make in a succeeding state to this, is no less necessary to the complete fullness and perfection of nature, than that which he is fitted for in this present state; for it is only a being so constituted, that is, it is only man, who can make that progress; and all possible progresses in moral perfection are requisite to make nature full and coherent. That idea involves in it the existence of all capacities of moral perfection which can exist, and consequently of all possible progresses, or all the progresses which may be made by moral powers of all sorts, in proportion to the culture, implied in the very notion of moral perfection, of each according to its kind, and in its particular manner. If therefore the riches and perfection of nature consists in such fullness, and such fullness really be the end pursued by nature, man is not to perish, but to make for ever progress, inproportion to the pains he takes to improve himself.But we have no ground to doubt of the fullness of nature. But, indeed, as we cannot form any other notion of fullness and perfection in nature, but this which hath been described, so the further we advance in the knowledge of nature, the more instances we find of this fullness, riches, and coherence; and consequently, the more must we be confirmed in this opinion of nature, than which nothing can be more delightful.This idea is natural to the mind; it greatly delights in it. Our mind seems to be formed to conceive it, take hold of it, and rejoice in it with unspeakable triumph. Whence else could it afford us the satisfaction and transport it does; how else could it so wonderfully dilate, expand, and quicken our mind, were we not made to be so affected by it? And if it is naturally so pleasing, so exhilarating to the mind, must it not be true? can it be a delusion? Were not nature really as great as this conception, so natural to the human mind, represents it to be, whence could we have that idea? How could we be so great-minded<247> as to form it; how could nature lead us to it as the most natural sentiment?
But by fullness of nature can only be meant a full progress.It is needless, however, to tell philosophers that this notion concerning the fullness of nature, cannot without manifest absurdity, be extended to signify, “That nature hath always been full;” since created beings must begin to be; and that only hath no beginning which is uncreated, and exists by necessity of nature from all eternity: nor to signify, “that nature hath at all times been full, with all kinds of perfection and happiness, or capacities of them:” since moral powers, the chief of all powers, are in their nature progressive; and progress, in the very idea of it, supposes a time preceeding every acquired degree of perfection, in which that did not, nor could not exist; or, in other words, supposes intermediate steps by which the progress is made. The fullness of nature, therefore, can only mean a continued, unbroken progress towards fullness; if which take place, man must be immortal.Which cannot be the case, if man is not immortal. For otherwise a certain, possible progress would not take place; and so nature would not be a perfectly full, and coherent progress, which we have so good reason from the analogy of nature to think it is intended to be.
Hitherto we have only enquired what ought to be inferred from the course of nature by analogy.Hitherto I have only spoken of nature; because reasonings from analogy require no more, but that we argue from the observable state and course of things. And according to this way of reasoning, we see that from nature, considered as a whole, as one frame or constitution of things, there is no ground to imagine that the better or nobler parts in it, moral powers, do not, as well as all its other parts, naturally tend towards their highest and noblest end; or that they shall only last for a while, and then be destroyed: there is no appearance of any such imperfection, any such disorder and waste, any such destroying humour and tendency in nature.But this course of nature proves the Author of nature to be perfectly well disposed. In this way of reasoning, we have abstracted<248> from all consideration of the temper and disposition of the universal mind; and have considered nature itself just as we would consider and argue from any machine, by itself, with respect to its ultimate tendency. But since there can be no established course of things without a mind; and such a settled, wise course of things as we have found human nature and the laws relative to it to be, plainly proves the efficiency and superintendency of a powerful, wise and benevolent mind; let us now see how the conclusion will turn out upon changing the phrase: and if instead of arguing from the stated order and course of things, we reason from the nature of the Author, of which that affords a plain and irresistible proof, “Perfect, good and wise contrivance, is the good contrivance of some mind equal to it; it is therefore the contrivance and effect of a very powerful, wise, and good mind.” Let us therefore no longer leave the governing mind out of the question; and let us now ask ourselves what it is reasonable to think concerning death, since,
Let us therefore consider how the argument will stand when instead of nature, or the course of things, we say the good and wise Author of nature.1. Our frame and contexture shews in every respect an excellent moral disposition in our Maker, provided we are not destroyed by death, but are really intended, as our moral powers evidently seem to be, for eternal progress in moral perfection, proportionable to our care to improve in it; or since, could we but conclude that to be the case, there would be no ground at all to doubt of the perfect goodness of our Author, our present state being, upon that hypothesis, a most excellent first state of trial and formation for our moral powers, and consequently a full proof of an infinitely wise and generous superintendency.
Since, 2dly, We not only can exist after our connexion with a material world by means of our bodies ceases, there being no necessary, but only a voluntary or arbitrary connexion between our moral powers and bodies; or a sensible world, and the<249> dissolution of our bodies is but the necessary effect of the very same laws which render a sensible world, which cannot always last, while it lasts, so fit an occasion and subject for the improvement of our moral powers in this their first state.
Since, 3dly, The very nature of a progress supposes a change of state, the cessation of a first, and a transition to another: since, I say, all those principles are true, let us ask ourselves, whether it is not reasonable to look upon this as our proper first state, which shall be succeeded by another, as fit to follow it as this is to be our first state? Let us ask ourselves, whether this is not a reasonable conclusion from these principles; or what else can be supposed, that is so consonant to the nature of things, and to that temper and disposition of the Maker and Governor of the world which it indicates? For the argument in its weakest form must stand thus, “All nature looks well with respect to virtue, provided death does not annihilate our moral powers, and this be but our first state of trial and formation: all but this one doubtful phaenomenon bespeaks an excellent Maker and Governor.”How the argument must then stand in its weakest form. Now if this be the case, why does this single fact alarm us, or appear frightful to us, since our communion with this sensible world is but an arbitrary connexion; this sensible world cannot last always, but our moral powers may survive its destruction, and we cannot pass into another state without leaving this, which we only do in the manner necessary, in consequence of the very laws which render our present state, while it lasts, so fit a subject and means for the improvement of our powers. This, I say, is the only probable conclusion we can draw concerning death, from the consideration of our present frame, if our present connexion with a sensible world be only an arbitrary connexion. But the strength of conviction this argument carries along with it, in this shape, will encrease upon us, the more we reason the matter with ourselves, from the account that has been given of<250> our constitution, and of the order of things in this our present situation, relative to our moral powers.
It gathers strength from several considerations.For, I. If in the present state of mankind, even those laws of matter and motion, in consequence of which death happens, are so well adjusted to our happiness, or our progress in moral perfection, what reason have we to apprehend such bad management and intention toward man, as his total destruction by death plainly imports? It is only confusion and disorder which forebodes greater confusion and disorder:It is only from confusion and disorder that confusion and disorder can be reasonably inferred. it is only evil dispositions and intentions plainly displayed and evidenced, which can reasonably create fear: present order prognosticates future order; evidences of goodness and kind intention ought to create trust and confidence: seeing therefore man is made for a very noble end here; and since all the laws and powers relative to his situation are excellently fitted to that end, what ground can we have to conceive so ill of the disposition of our Author, as to think he had no other design with regard to us, than to equip and furnish us for everlasting progress, merely to have the pleasure of disappointing us, by demolishing our powers almost as soon as he gave us being; or as we had arrived by the course of things, to a tolerable conception of what our powers may attain to by due culture, if they are not wilfully destroyed. We can draw no just conclusion concerning the dissolution of our bodies at death, in consequence of the laws of the material creation, without taking into our consideration the other parts of our present make, and the ends to which they are adapted; for that would be to reason from a very partial view of the object.Our present state is an excellent first state, considered as such, and therefore it forebodes a good, orderly future state, to succeed it. And therefore the only question with regard to man is, whether there is any ground to think, from the consideration of his many moral faculties, that these are made to be destroyed with our bodily frame; or whether there is not, on the contrary, better reason to think that this state is his first probationary<251> one, or one very fit for him in the beginning of his existence, in order to his being schooled, tried and improved to a very considerable degree of perfection, but not his only one, or the whole of his existence. Now the result of all that has been said of our frame and constitution, and of the laws relative to our present condition prove, that it is an excellent first state, a very proper school for our moral improvement; a state in which we may by proper culture, in consequence of the occasions, materials and means it affords us, arrive at a very considerable degree of perfection as a first state. And why therefore should we think, that when our bodily organization is destroyed, and consequently all the present material objects of gratification or exercise are taken from us, our minds capable of higher pleasures and enjoyments, are also quite destroyed together with what they have only an arbitrary connexion with: a connexion which ought to cease with its end and use; a connexion which cannot in the nature of things always last; and which must of necessity cease if we are progressive beings, as we as plainly appear to be, as any machine appears to be fitted for its end; for a state cannot succeed to another, unless that other give way to it. Would not this indeed be to conclude, that to beings made for progress, and therefore to change states, what may be only a change of state, and what must happen upon the change of our present state according to its very good laws, is not a change, but destruction of being? Is it not, in short, to say, that what is well conducted as a first part, is for that reason not to be looked upon as a well conducted first part, but as a bad whole?
It is no objection again this reasoning, that death comes upon men at all ages.II. We cannot suppose death to be a transition to another state, but the same pains and other circumstances which now attend it, must likewise accompany it on that supposition: since they are the necessary effects of our bodily constitution, and the<252> laws of matter and motion. But it is most consonant to the nature of our moral powers, and to the provision made for their improvement here, to suppose it not a dissolution of our whole frame, but merely of our bodily part, and a transition into another state; and therefore the presumption must be that it is such. Some may imagine that there would not be so much ground for doubting about our future existence, if all mankind lived till their constitutions were quite worn out in old age, and none were destroyed violently.For as this is the necessary effect of good laws, so it may be requisite to general good in a future state. But what tho’ some die in infancy, others in their prime? What tho’ death comes upon men at all ages; since it always happens in consequence of laws of matter and motion necessary to many excellent purposes in our present state; and nature may have adjusted the state into which men pass from this, at whatever period of life, or with whatever temperature of mind, so as that a future life shall make with this a very regular, consistent and well adjusted whole; a compleat drama, as some of the ancients have not improperly expressed it. The only question is, Whether there is not good reason to think so from the present state of things, and no just reason to fear the contrary? Whether our being does not begin in such a manner as forebodes an orderly and proper progress instead of sudden destruction? Upon supposition that this is not the whole of our being, but that there is a future state; or, (to speak more agreeably to what our moral being presages) upon supposition that we are immortal, it is easy on that hypothesis to conceive how mankind’s entering upon a future state, at various ages, may contribute to the happiness, variety and general good of a future state. But death, however it happens, is the effect of the steady operation of the laws of the material system, which are found to be every way well adjusted to it; and it is not inconvenient, but rather necessary to the general well-being of mankind in this state. For which reasons, unless it could be proved that this phenomenon<253> cannot possibly contribute otherwise than to disorder in a future state, it cannot be any ground for calling the good government of the world into question, or of fears with regard to futurity.
To imagine that we are destroyed at death, is to think worse of the Author of nature than we can of any rational creature.III. In fine, if it be true, as I think it hath been sufficiently proved, that man is made in this state (whether it be his only one or not) for progress in virtue; for governing his sensible appetites by reason and a moral sense, and for the generous pursuit of public good; and that all the parts of his frame concur to fit him for that end, push him to pursue it, or afford him means of pursuing it; and consequently of exerting great virtues: if this be true, then there can be no more reason to apprehend that the Author of such a frame and constitution of things, only designed man to make progress in it for a short time, and after that to cease by being destroyed, than there is reason to imagine that he would have made us for moral perfection, and for happiness by so doing, if he had no pleasure in moral creatures and their virtuous improvements and happiness. And sure no other reason could have induced our Author to indue us with reason and a moral sense, but satisfaction in the improvement and happiness of moral beings. But such a motive could never have determined him to set such narrow bounds to our moral improvements, by allowing such a short duration to our existence, as is the case on supposition that we perish with our bodies. Why should we conceive so of our Author; since hardly is there any one among us that would do so, or any thing like it, had we any power analogous to his? For can there be among men goodness surpassing that of the universal parent; benevolence excelling his, who made us capable of forming the idea of benevolence, and delighting in it. We may here apply what the Poet says on another occasion, and ask,
The greater good of the whole cannot make it necessary.IV. It is true, every part of a whole must be submitted to the greater good of that whole. But what reason can we have to imagine, that the greater good of the whole creation to which we belong as a part, can require our destruction after we have existed for some short time; since we may exist, when our relation to this material world no longer subsists? Hardly will any one say, that there may not be room for us, after the destruction of our bodies, in immense space. And certainly the greater good of intelligent beings, in the sum of things, cannot require the annihilation of any particular species capable of moral or intellectual happiness and perfection. The fewer species there are in nature capable of moral happiness, the smaller quantity of capacity for happiness, and consequently of happiness itself, there must be in nature: that is, the less perfect must nature be: but if the greater good of the whole cannot make it necessary that there should be less good in the whole than may be, it can never make it necessary that mankind, capable of existing in another state, should be annihilated. Can the good of intelligent beings demand, that man should be made for acquiring virtue, to improve in many excellent qualifications, and that only that he might cease to be when he is considerably improved? And yet this is the fate of all men, who have given due pains to add virtue to virtue, and to advance in wisdom and goodness, if men perish with their bodies. What can the greatest good of intelligent beings, or of beings in general, mean, but the greatest aggregate or sum of happy beings?’Tis in vain to say, that we who know but a small part cannot judge of the whole. And can the greatest sum of happy beings require that there should be a quantity of happiness wanting which may exist? To assert this, is really the same absurdity as to say, that four is not a greater number than two. ’Tis in vain to say, that if nature had intended the greatest aggregate<255> of good which could exist, there would be no degree of pain or misery in nature:For we are able clearly to determine several truths: For with respect to physical evils or pains, they are the effects of good laws whose uniform operation is absolutely good. And with regard to the greatest aggregate of moral good or happiness which could exist, all that can be done consistently with the very nature and kind of it, was to produce the greatest aggregate that could be of the capacity of it; since moral happiness must, according to its very notion, be a moral progress, a moral acquisition, or the result of the right use moral beings make of their moral powers.
as, that the world must be governed by general laws.V. It is likewise to no purpose to say, we who know but a part, cannot reason about what the greatest good of the whole may or may not require: For tho’ it be very true, that we know but a small part of the immense system of nature, and that our faculties are very narrow, compared with that vast object; yet our knowledge must certainly extend as far as we have clear and distinct ideas, and are able to perceive clearly their agreements and disagreements. And we may form the ideas of a whole, and of universal order and good from the consideration of any part of nature: every part, as for instance, every vegetable, or every animal, being itself a particular whole, tho’ a part of a larger system: or we may form these ideas from the consideration of any machine of human invention: and so soon as we attend to these ideas of whole and universal good, we clearly perceive, 1. That all the interests of intelligent beings require that nature should operate according to general fixed laws; and there cannot be beauty, regularity and perfection in a whole, without the observance of general laws in the disposition, oeconomy and operations of the whole. The very notion of a whole, includes in it an aptitude of parts to a principal end, a fixed design, and regular fixed means operating towards that design in the simplest and steddiest way. In like manner may <256> we conclude concerning a whole of intelligent beings. 2.That no effects of general good laws are evil. That no effects of the general laws necessary to their good are evil with regard to the whole, since all the inconveniencies of the uniformity of such laws are fully compensated by the particular advantages which result from them, together with the general advantages redounding from the universality and uninterrupted operation of laws. 3. That a whole cannot be perfect, if any greater, quantity of happiness could take place in it. In like manner may we conclude, that something must be wanting to the perfection of a whole of intelligent beings, if any additional quantity of happiness could take place in it. 4. In like manner may we conclude, that a whole, consisting of a variety of moral beings, the happiness of whom is made dependent on themselves, or to be acquired by themselves, is a more perfect whole, than one consisting merely of perceiving beings in capable of reflexion, willing, chusing, approving, disapproving affections and actions; or, in a word, who have no dominion, power or sphere of activity.That the good of a moral system ought to be preferred to the good of an inanimate system. All these, and many other such general conclusions may be as certainly laid down as any conclusions whatsoever in any science: they are plain corrolaries from the very idea or definition of a whole, and of general perfection and good. Good must mean the good of some perceiving being; and if one perceiving being may be of a higher order than another, (as very different orders, classes and ranks may be conceived) then is moral perfection, or the capacity of attaining to moral perfection, higher than merely perceptive power, that is, meer capacity of receiving sensations. And if so, the greater quantity of happiness producible, must mean no more, than the greatest quantity of capacity for moral happiness.
VI. Nay, tho’ we are not able to comprehend the whole of nature, there are yet more particular inferences which we may deduce with as great certainty as these general ones concerning the perfection and<257> good of a whole, with reference to our existence after the dissolution of our bodies. 1. It is only the due care of moral beings that can make a perfect whole; for they are the chief beings in rank and dignity; or their happiness is the object of the greatest importance, the greater good. And therefore it is not consistent with good order, not only to suppose the laws of matter not subservient to them, since matter itself is incapable of happiness or enjoyment; but it is likewise so, to suppose the greater quantity of moral happiness to be lessened to make room for, or give place to a quantity of merely perceptive enjoyment. 2.The greater happiness of moral beings cannot require the destruction of moral powers. The happiness of moral beings, their moral instruction, or their encouragement to the improvement of their moral powers, cannot require that any moral being, who in their first state have made good improvements, or have laid themselves out with all sincerity and constancy to make progress towards moral perfection, should so soonas they have done so be destroyed. 3.Or discouragement of virtue in a future state. Far less can any of these ends require, that they should be moved into another state, in which improvement shall be under very great discouragements and disadvantages, and where moral beings who have made considerable improvements shall have less occasions and means of improving in moral qualifications, than in their beginning state. These ends cannot require, that virtue should be necessarily pushed backwards, forced into decline, or deprived of all opportunities of advancing. Nothing can be more repugnant to the idea of a good governor, and of the pursuit of general good, and of a perfect whole, than such administration. 4.Far less the absolute misery of virtue. Far less still can these ends require, that beings furnished, prompted and encouraged, as we are in this state by our make and frame to make progress in virtue, should, after having taken due pains to attain to a certain degree of it, be banished into a state absolutely contrived for the suffering and misery of such moral beings. 5.The general good must make it necessary that tried and improved virtue be promoted. Not only<258> are such propositions diametrically opposite to the notion of a good and perfect whole, and of a wise and perfect governor; but from the very idea of a perfect whole of moral beings, it necessarily follows, that beings who have suffered in their first state by their steady adherence to virtue in spite of all opposition through the vices of others, must have reparation made to them; that is, be placed in such happy circumstances for the exercise and improvement of their virtue, as shall make their reflexion upon their past struggles and sufferings for virtue’s sake exceedingly delightful to them, and greatly contribute to stir them up to redoubled zeal to make higher improvements suitable to so generous a recompense from the governor of the world, by placing them in happier circumstances of improvement. In general, we may conclude, that if the greatest good and perfection of moral beings be intended and pursued, the happy connexions which now take place, in consequence of which virtue is the highest enjoyment or moral perfection, is the greatest happiness, shall not be changed for the worse, or to the disadvantage of moral perfection; nor those which tend to make every degree of vice its own punishment, give place to others, which shall absolutely invite and encourage to vice, and discourage virtuous exercises and improvements.It cannot require that the present connexions of things should be changed in favour of vice. We annot indeed imagine, that moral beings cease to be agents, or are laid even by way of punishment under a fatal, physical necessity of being irreclaimable; that they can be made utterly incapable of reflexion and reformation, or be tied to vice by any other fetters, besides those arising from habit, which hold the wicked so fast intangled. But then there is no reason to think, that their bad contracted habits will not adhere closly to them, and greatly torment them, all the means and objects of their gratification being removed: much less that there will be such a change in a future state in favour of vice, that it shall not so much as suffer in any way<259> analogous to what it suffers here, by being its own tormenter and punisher: but that it shall immediately become happier than it now is or can be; whilst the hatred of it is quite inextinguishable in our minds.
In one word, if we are made for virtue, and so to be happy by attaining to it here to as high a degree of perfection as is consistent with a first state; then to apprehend any succeeding state, in which all the present constitutions in favour of virtue, and the discouragements of vice shall be reversed, is contrary to analogy, to probability, and, in one word, to all our methods of reasoning about beings and things. It is to conclude from wise and good administration, that very bad government shall succeed: it is to infer malice from goodness: it is to deduce grounds of distrust and fear from the plainest symptoms of sincere kindness and good-will.
All these reasonings about futurity must hold good, if in the present state, things are so far constituted in favour of virtue and moral perfection, that there is reason to conclude our Maker and Governor sincerely loves and delights in our moral improvements. Were there not indeed manifest tokens in the present oeconomy and government of our Author with relation to us, and to all beings within our observation, of due regard to virtue; suitable care of its education, improvement and happiness, then truly might we with reason dread a succession of worse government, and fear this were but the prelude to complete misery: but if from what hath been said of human nature, it plainly appears, that while due care is taken of inferior beings in our system, suitable provision is also made for us who are capable of very high moral attainments; that is, for our improvement in many noble moral qualifications, in so much that all the laws of the material system, to which we are subjected by our union with a sensible world, are admirably conducive to our moral improvement and moral happiness; then may we justly not only hope<260> well concerning futurity, but rest satisfied that such an excellent first state of mankind shall be succeeded not by a worse, but by a better with respect to virtue and moral perfection; that is, one suited to tried and proved beings. To apprehend the contrary, would be to fear where there is the best foundation for comfortable expectation. It would be to think worse of the Author of nature than we can think of any man, who has any degree of goodness, any sparks of wisdom, or any benevolence in his constitution. For can he be called good among men, nay, or any thing else than the cruelest of tyrants, who would exercise his power in the manner such suppositions make the Author of nature, and of all the goodness men are capable of, to act with regard to his moral creatures?
The only objections against the preceeding train of argument I can foresee, which deserve our attention, are these two following ones.
Objection I.I. It may be said, that almost all the knowledge we can acquire here, is such knowledge of the material world, and of our present connexions with it, as can only qualify us for living in this state, or in one very similar and analogous to it: It can be of no use to us in one quite new, or absolutely different from this present condition of mankind. How can our present state be considered as a school to form and fit us for another succeeding one, unless we can attain here to such knowledge of our future life as may prepare us for it? For without such instruction, whatever other knowledge we may acquire, we must be as great novices at our entrance on a future state, and as much to begin to learn then how to act or behave ourselves, as we are when we enter upon this present stage. How can that be called a school for a state, in which we cannot possibly acquire any notion of its constitution and laws, or be any way made acquainted with it, but to which we must needs go<261> as much at a loss about every connexion and law in it, as if we had had no schooling at all? But what can we know here of our future condition? All we can learn here hath only relation to this state, and is hardly sufficient for our direction in it.
This objection appears at first sight not unplausible. But it will soon evanish when we consider,
Answer.I. That those powers which, at our entrance upon life, are and must necessarily be but in embrio, rude and shapeless as it were, or quite unformed, may be made very vigorous and perfect here by proper exercise and culture; so as to become fit to be employed about any objects of knowledge of whatever kind, or however different from those which make the present materials of our study and speculation. Insomuch that this state may as properly be said to be a school for forming and perfectionating our rational powers, in order to their being prepared and fitted for exercise about higher objects in a succeeding state; as the first part of our education here is called a school for life, or to prepare us for the affairs of the world and manhood, which are objects far above our reach, till our understanding by proper gradual exercise and employment is considerably ripened, or enlarged and strengthened, which is the proper business of liberal education.
II. But not only is it true, that our understanding may be sharpened, invigorated and improved in this state by suitable culture, so as to be rendered fit for progress in knowledge in an after-life, which rational powers cannot be but in a gradual progressive manner, in consequence of due exercise and culture: But which is more, the knowledge and virtue; or, in one word, the moral perfection of whatever sort we acquire here, can never be lost labour, or be useless to us, however foreign to the present<262> state of mankind any other we go into may be. For, 1. Imagination and memory may retain the idea of the present world, and all the knowledge we have acquired of it, so as to be able to compare the new one with it; as a person, who happens to lose his sight after he had attained to a very considerable acquaintance with the visible world, may always retain that knowledge, of which there are many examples. 2. No state into which moral beings can be supposed to pass, can be absolutely, or in all respects so disanalogous to that from which they go into it, but the knowledge of their own powers, or of the fabrick and constitution of their mind; and all the knowledge of moral powers which analogy can lead us to, must be in several regards of very important use to them. Every state of moral beings must be in many respects analogous to every other state of moral beings; because moral beings, however different they may be from one another, must in several respects bear an analogy or likeness one to another. And as that must be true in general of all moral beings; so must it likewise be true, that every new progressive state of the same moral beings must bear a very particular analogy or likeness to the state immediately preceeding it: Therefore, as much knowledge of the common properties, relations and laws relative to all moral beings, and all moral endowments; and as thorough a knowledge of ourselves in particular; that is, as extensive a moral knowledge as we can attain to in this state, must be of very great consequence to us upon our entrance into any new one, however different it may be from the present. 3. Tho’, in progress of time, all memory of our present state should be entirely lost or quite effaced; yet beings who have made progress in knowledge, and understand what enquiry into the nature of things means, and how such researches ought to be carried on and pursued, must be so far past schooling, that they shall no more need to learn<263> or be instructed in that art, which however is not only the first and most essential, but the most difficult part of knowledge; without which indeed no progress can be made, and which being acquired, progress is very easy and rather pleasure than toil. This done, the science of advancing in knowledge is mastered, the nature of truth and knowledge is understood; and that being over, the mind is so far very well fitted and prepared for any state, and can never again be such an infant or novice in any state of moral powers, as it must necessarily be at its first existence, before any notion of knowledge, or of the methods and arts of acquiring it is formed; and while its powers are quite weak and uncultivated as moral powers must needs be till they are unfolded and perfected by use and culture. All this will be yet clearer if we reflect, 4. How much is over when beings have learned to reduce appearances to general laws, and to look out for harmonies, analogies and agreements of effects; and are, by practice in induction, become masters of that only way of reasoning by which real knowledge can be attained. For they are thus prepared for unravelling any appearances, and for tracing them to their sources and causes, or general laws; and so are fit for studying any system in order to get the knowledge of its constitution and laws. Into whatever state one may pass, it must certainly be a very high and advantageous preparation for it, to be able to know how to go to work to get real knowledge and to avoid error; to have distinct ideas of general order, beauty and good, and of government by universal laws. Now so far may all advance in this state, who will give due diligence to improve their understanding and reason in the search of nature. 5. Besides, it is evident, that into whatever state one enters, the knowledge of number and proportion must always be of use, since these are properties or relations which must belong to all objects, and to all states. 6. And as for the<264> knowledge of moral duties resulting from moral relations, that science, which of all others is the most becoming moral beings, and ought to be their chief study, it must be of perpetual and unchangeable use. The present virtues and vices must remain essentially the same in every state. Benevolence in all its branches must endure for ever. And what else are all the virtues but acts of generous affection? New relations will produce new obligations and duties; but the nature of moral obligation being well understood, new relations can no sooner present themselves to a mind so well qualified, but the duties resulting from them must immediately be discovered and perceived. 7. And, in the last place, as for the dominion over ourselves, and the inward liberty and power, and all the good habits which may be formed and acquired here by the assiduous study and practice of virtue, to attain to which is our principal business in this our first state, these being once acquired or established, that important work is over; that part of education or schooling, so essential to the happiness of moral beings in whatever state they may be placed, is past; and being accomplished, it must produce its natural good fruits and effects. The happiness resulting from a well-formed mind, and highly improved virtue, cannot take place till virtue is brought by due culture to great maturity and perfection. That is as impossible as it is for any plant to come to its maturity otherwise than by gradual progress, and to yield its fruit before it is grown up to its fruitful state; but when the good seeds of virtue are ripened, then must its happy harvest naturally succeed; then must virtue have its full effect: we must sow before we reap; but as we sow, so shall we reap; such really the constitution of things with regard to us evidently appears to be. So that, in every proper sense, this present state may be called our school, or our state of education for a future state, however new that state may be to us at our first arrival into it: our state of formation,<265> discipline and culture, whether with regard to our understanding or our will; whether with regard to science or temper; knowledge or virtue; our rational faculties, or our appetites, affections and passions. But all that hath been said will be still more evident when we have considered the other objection, to which I therefore proceed.
Another objection.II. It is said, why is not virtue compleatly happy here, and vice, on the other hand, compleatly miserable? Or since it is not so, what reason have we to imagine a succeeding state shall not be of the same mixed kind, in which the vicious may have a great share of pleasure, and the virtuous a large share of uneasiness and suffering, and in which goods and evils shall be as promiscuously dispensed as they are here? If we reason from analogy, let us reason analogously, and not conclude a better state from this confused, promiscuous distribution of things, in which virtuous and vicious persons (to say no more) are not distinguished from one another by any remarkable dispensation of favours to the former, and punishments to the latter. For here do not all things happen alike or indifferently to all men? that is, are not external advantages and disadvantages administered either by no rule at all, or at least, in a way which virtue has but little reason to think particularly in her favour and interest?
Answer.Now in answer to this objection, which hath been often urged in various forms, let it be observed that, were not the present condition of mankind a very proper first state for forming and training up moral powers to great perfection, there would, indeed, be no reason at all to think well of the Author of nature, or to hope well concerning futurity. But, on the contrary, if it really appears to be a very proper first state for the education of our moral powers to a very high degree of perfection, then there must<266> be very good ground to entertain a good opinion of our Creator, and to expect such a state to succeed to this, as is proper to succeed to a state of education and discipline. The whole stress of our argument lies upon that.
Now that this present state is a very proper one for the education, exercise and culture of our moral powers, is manifest: For,
1. We have moral powers capable of improvement to great perfection; and this state affords us excellent means, occasions, subjects and materials for their exercise and culture, in order to their very high improvement. And all the laws relative to the growth and improvement, or the degeneracy and corruption of our moral powers are very suitable to the nature of moral powers, and their progressive formation and course, in general; and to our rank and situation, in particular: insomuch that all the goods and evils which happen to us in this life, may very properly be considered as fit means and occasions of improvement in virtue: not the evils only, but likewise the goods; for as adversity is necessary to form, exercise and improve certain virtues, so is prosperity, to exercise, form and improve other virtues: and in a state of trial, formation and culture, various means of exercise, trial and culture are absolutely necessary. Objectors against providence are apt to represent distresses and afflictions only as trials; but those who take a right view of moral powers, and of the natural progress of virtue to perfection, will consider prosperous circumstances in the same light, with regard to beings, whose first end is to be formed to virtue; that is, by means of trial. Nay, those who have thoroughly studied human nature, have not scrupled to pronounce ease and plenty to be a severer searcher, explorer, and prover of the human mind,a than<267> the more ordinary and tolerable vexations of human life . 2. And yet all the evils complained of in human life, which do not flow from the vices of mankind, and which ought therefore to be considered as its natural and proper bad consequences, it being of the nature of vice to do hurt or mischief: all other evils, I say, do either proceed from the constant operation of the general laws of the material world, which by their steady, unvaried operation, produce an excellent system, without the existence of which, while it can exist, nature would be incomplete and incoherent; an excellent system with respect to our moral powers, and their exercises and improvements, as well as with respect to the sensitive enjoyments it affords us. Or, 3. They are the effects of another most excellent general law; even that universal law of our nature, in consequence of which all moral and natural goods are our own acquisitions; namely, that our industry and application shall gain its end,a and that nothing internal or external shall be procured by us, but in proportion to our diligence to acquire it. For the goods of life which are said to be so unequally distributed, fall no otherwise in great abundance to any vicious person, than in consequence of that universal law, so essential to moral beings, and their powers, by which it is, that whatever we set ourselves to acquire is acquired. They fall to one’s share in the same way that the philosopher hath his beloved pleasure arising from large and extensive knowledge; and that the virtuous man acquires the treasure upon which his soul is solely bent, even a well regulated mind, and consciousness of merit in the eyes of every wise and good being. Good habits, (and all the virtues are such) are formed and established by our own industry to attain them. And if bad habits are acquired by those who set themselves to form them, it is because it is fit that general law should take<268> place with respect to the fruits of our industry and application, that as we sow, so shall we reap.86 Now it is in no other way that external goods fall to the share of any one. It is only because he sets his heart upon them, bestows all his thought, time and care about them, and leaves no stone unturned to procure them: and it is a proper general law, that our goods or evils should chiefly be of our own procurance, or of our own making, and that application should not be successless. 4. But when external goods are acquired in great redundance, they cannot give the true happiness of the rational mind. That can only proceed from improved virtue; and virtue, in order to be formed and improved, must likewise be earnestly contended for and sought after; or due pains must be taken to advance and raise it to perfection. How happily is all this, (which follows so clearly from the account that hath been given of our nature and frame in this Essay) expressed by our incomparable Poet.
Here is, in a few words, (in a short, clear, but most extensive reasoning) a full solution, to all who are able to pursue it in their thoughts throughout all its consequences, of all the objections brought against the present distribution of goods and evils; a full vindication of the ways of God to man. 5. But let it also be considered, that as education must precede perfection, and virtue cannot be formed but by degrees and in proportion to culture; so the fruits of improved virtue arising from its proper exercises, cannot take place till virtue is brought to its maturity. That is as impossible as it is in nature for harvest to precede seed-time and due husbandry. Virtue cannot yield the fruits and advantages of complete virtue, nor be fit for the exercises and employments from which its happiness must arise, till it is such. The good habits, whence the felicity is to arise, must first be formed or acquired before the happiness which can only result from their proper exercises can take place. The foundation must be laid before the superstructure can be raised. But proper exercises to form, school, discipline, try and improve moral powers, having the suitable degrees of enjoyment attending them as such, as properly or naturally prognosticate a harvest of virtue, a moral ripeness and its fruits, as such, to succeed to this state of moral culture, as seed-time and industry promise a harvest in the natural world. 6. And finally, as no state can be blamed in which the after-reaping is proportionable to, and of a kind with the sowing, or in which it is the general law of nature with respect to moral beings, that their future perfection and happiness shall be in proportion to the foundation they lay by their moral improvements: so, on the other hand, no happiness, but on the contrary, misery<270> alone can be looked for from the total corruption of the mind by vice, from confirmed evil habits and passions, especially after the external means of sensual gratification fail, or are quite removed from them; which is the case, so soon as our minds are divested of our bodies, and separated from a material world. If there be any essential or established differences between virtue and vice, or the improvement and abuse, the perfection and corruption of moral powers; the final effects of these must be as different or contrary, as the roots from which they proceed, are. But these two opposites cannot have their full effect till a certain time of culture, formation and probation is past; because a moral building must advance gradually, as well as a material one; or because a moral harvest requires as necessarily a progress towards it, as a natural one. We must either deny, that the proper adequate happiness of amoral being must be the result of his perfection, or of the high exercises for which greatly improved moral powers are qualified, which is absurdly to distinguish the proper happiness of a rational being from its proper perfection: Or, if we ask, why virtue is not compleatly happy while it is but in a state of formation; we really absurdly ask, why education must precede perfection. But if complete rational happiness must be the natural effect of highly improved virtue suitably placed and employed, what can be expected from a degenerated corrupted mind in a state far removed from all material objects, but the natural effects of disorderly passions, depraved habits, and the consciousness of deformity and guilt: a harvest of corruption and proportionable misery?
Thus therefore, in whatever light we consider our present state, there is good reason to think it our first state only, and a very proper one as our first state: our moral seed-time to which our after-harvest shall be proportioned. For this is evidently the law of nature with regard to us, That as we sow, so<271> we shall reap. The moral improvements, from which alone the happiness truly suited and proportioned to our moral frame can spring, must be acquired by due culture and exercise. They cannot have their complete and perfect effect till they are arrived to perfection: But a proper state for their education to perfection, plainly betokens a succeeding state, in which effects shall be congruous and proportionate to the culture passed through, and its fruits.
Let us only add to all this, that the hope or presentiment of future existence is natural to man: and whence else can this proceed, but from the care of our Maker, who will not disappoint any instinct, desire, or hope he hath implanted in his creatures? It is Heaven that points out an hereafter, and dictates eternity to mankind; ’tis Heaven hath inspired us with this pleasing hope, this longing after immortality, which is so noble a spur and excitement to virtuous labours and deeds. And search all nature throughout, and shew one instance, if you can, where it works in vain ; or merely to disappoint even bodily instincts, much less well governed rational affections and desires.
Conclusion.Man therefore is made for eternal progress in moral perfection proportionally to his care and diligence to improve in it. And with respect to death, we have reason to say with an excellent Ancient, “Eo itaque simus animo, ut horribilem illum diem aliis, nobis faustum putemus: Non enim temere, nec fortuito sati & creati sumus; sed profecto fuit quaedam vis quae generi consulerit humano: nec id gigneret, aut aleret, quod cum exanclavisset omneis labores, tum incideret in mortis malum sempiternum—portum potius paratum nobis & perfugium putemus.90
The End of the First Part.<273><274>
A further vindication of Human Nature; in which the chief objections made against it are examined, and proved to be absurd.
Quod si mundi partes naturâ administrantur, necesse est mundum ipsum naturâ administrari: cujus quidem administratio nihil habet in se, quod reprehendi possit. Ex iis enim naturis, quae erant, quod effici potuit, optimum, effectum est. Doceat ergo aliquis potuisse melius, sed nemo unquam docebit, & si quis corrigere aliquid volet, aut deterius faciet, aut id quod fieri non potuit desiderabit.
Cicero de natura Deorum, Lib. II.1
[a. ]See Cicero de divinatione, Lib. 2. No. 9. Atque ego ne utilem quidem arbitror esse nobis futurarum rerum scientiam. Quae enim vita fuisset Priamo, si ab adulescentia scisset, quos eventus senectutis esset habiturus? &c. [Cicero, De divinatione, II.ix.22: “And further, for my part, I think that a knowledge of the future would be a disadvantage. Consider, for example, what Priam’s life would have been if he had known from youth what dire events his old age held in store for him!”]
[81. ]Horace, Odes, III.xxix.29–30: “With wise purpose does the god bury in the shades of night the future’s outcome.” Horace, Odes and Epodes, trans. C. E. Bennett, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1968).
[82. ]Pope, Essay on Man, I.77–80, 85–86.
[83. ]Horace, Odes, III.xxix.32–33: “Remember to settle with tranquil heart the problem of the hour!”
[a. ]The chief arguments from which the ancients inferred the immortality of the soul shall be taken notice of, because some have said, no good arguments are to be found among them, to render it so much as probable. The first was, universal consent: Sed ut Deos esse natura opinamur, qualesque sint, ratione cognoscimus: sic permanere animos arbitramur consensu nationum omnium: qua in sede maneant, qualesque sint, ratione discendum est. Cujus ignoratio finxit inferos, &c. Enim autem in re consensio omnium gentium, lex naturae putanda est. Tusc. Quaest. Lib. I. No. 16.
[84. ]Pope, Essay on Man, III.7–18.
[a. ]Pliny in his Natural history, and Lucretius, Lib. III
To which it is sufficient to oppose one excellent passage of Cicero, which is so just an account of human nature, and of what may be inferred from it concerning futurity, that I cannot chuse but add it to what hath been already quoted, to shew how just notions they had of religion and virtue, of mankind, and the Author of nature. Quid multa? sic mihi persuasi, sic sentio, cum tanta celeritas animorum sit, tanta memoria praeteritorum, futurorumque prudentia, tot artes, tantae scientiae, tot inventa, non posse eam naturam, quae res eas contineat, esse mortalem:—Et cum simplex animi natura sit, neque haberet in se quidquam admixtum dispar sui, atque dissimile, non posse eum dividi: quod si non possit, non posse interire. Cicero de senectute, No. 21. These arguments do certainly amount to a very great degree of probability, and must have had a very persuasive influence on minds so well disposed, as to look upon those who taught the mortality of our souls to be Minuti Philosophi, because they had pleasure in promoting a doctrine so opposite to the natural greatness of the human mind, and tending to cramp it most miserably: and who were so inclinable to entertain the other chearful and quickening belief, that they could say with Cicero, (ibidem) Quod si in hoc erro, animos hominum immortalis esse credam, libenter erro: nec mihi hunc errorem, quo delector, dum vivo, extorqueri volo. Sin mortuus (ut quidam minuti philosophi censent) nihil sentiam: non vereor, ne hunc errorem meum mortui philosophi irrideant. [Lucretius, De rerum natura, III.445–46: “Besides, we feel that the mind is begotten along with the body, and grows up with it, and with it grows old.” Lucretius, De rerum natura, trans. W. H. D. Rouse, rev. Martin Ferguson Smith, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: Heinemann, 1975).
[85. ]Persius, Satires, II.17–20: “Come now, answer me this question: it is a very little thing that I want to know; What is your opinion of Jupiter? Would you rank him above—‘Above whom?’—Above whom, you ask? Well, shall we say Staius? or do you stick at that? Could you name a more upright judge than Staius; or one more fitted to be a guardian to an orphan family?” Juvenal and Persius, trans. G. G. Ramsay, rev. ed., Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940).
[a. ]So Salust. Secundae res animum sapientis fatigant. So Tacitus, Hist. lib 1. Fortunam adhuc tantam adversam tulisti secundae res acrioribus stimulis animum explorant. Quia miseriae tolerantur, felicitate corrumpimur, &c. [Sallust, The War with Catiline, xi.7: “Prosperity tries the souls even of the wise.” Sallust, trans. J. C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam, 1920). Tacitus, Histories, I.xv: “Thus far you have known only adversity; prosperity tests the spirit with sharper goads, because we simply endure misfortune, but are corrupted by success.” Tacitus, The Histories, trans. Clifford M. Moore, 2 vols., Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam, 1925).]
[a. ]The law explained in the beginning of the first chapter.
[86. ]Gal. 6.7.
[87. ]Pope, Essay on Man, IV.145–56, 168–70, 189–92.
[88. ]Pope, Essay on Man, I.93–98.
[89. ]Ibid., IV.341–52.
[90. ]Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes, I.xlix.118–19: “let us all the same make up our minds to regard that day as auspicious for us, though to others it seems terrible. . . . For not to blind hazard or accident is our birth and our creation due, but assuredly there is a power to watch over mankind, and not one that would beget and maintain a race which, after exhausting the full burden of sorrows, should then fall into the everlasting evil of death: let us regard it rather as a haven and a place of refuge prepared for us.” Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, trans. J. E. King, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam, 1927).
[1. ]Cicero, De natura deorum, II.xxxiv.86–87: “But if the parts of the world are governed by nature, the world itself must needs be governed by nature. Now the government of the world contains nothing that could possibly be censured; given the existing elements, the best that could be produced from them has been produced. Let someone therefore prove that it could have been better. But no one will ever prove this, and anyone who essays to improve some detail will either make it worse or will be demanding an improvement impossible in the nature of things.” Cicero, Denatura deorum, Academica, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam, 1933).
[2. ]Pope, Essay on Man, I.51–52.