Front Page Titles (by Subject) Corolary IV - The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
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Corolary IV - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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From the preceeding account of virtue, it is manifest, that it is represented in the sacred writings to be a progress towards a future state, in which virtue shall have its full reward. It is called, Laying up treasures to ourselves in heaven,—Laying a foundation for eternal happiness,—Being rich towards God,—Rich in the fruits of eternal, incorruptible life,—The fruits of immortality,—Pressing forward toward the perfection, to which suitable endeavours to improve in virtue shall attain in the life to come. And in the progress toward the perfection in holiness and virtue, which the scripture sets before us, as the scope man ought to set before him, and as the glorious end which all shall attain to, who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality; we are commanded to keep our eye always on that noble issue of our labours, and to comfort and animate ourselves with that cheerful blissful hope. Now, sure, none will pretend, that such a hope must not be a very strong incentive to diligent, unwearied, undaunted perseverance in virtue. And that none can be encouraged, animated, or excited by the scripture account of a future state, but those who sincerely love virtue, will appear when we come to consider the scripture account of a future state. Mean time, let us but consider which of these two is the most consistent idea of the present state of things; to suppose man furnished as he is for progress in virtue, and to receive happiness from virtuous exercises, to perish at death with his body; or to consider him as furnished for virtue, or virtuous happiness, as he is, in order to improve in virtue for ever, in proportion to his care to advance in it; and to receive greater happiness in another life from virtuous exercises, than the present circumstances of mankind admit of; which are, however, very proper for the education, trial, and improvement of virtue? One surely needs not ask which of these two is<383> the most comfortable opinion. And that the one gives us a consistent view of the whole of nature, and the other gives such a view of the moral world as we can neither reconcile with the notion of an infinitely good creator and governor, nor with the mani-fold instances we every where see of wisdom and goodness in his administration, is no less evident. Let us now proceed to compare the scripture account of a future state with reason and experience.
The scripture account of a future state compared with reason and experience.
We have of necessity anticipated, in a great measure, the scripture doctrine concerning a future state, in discoursing upon the former heads; so that it will be sufficient to add to what hath been said, some few illustrations on the following propositions, in order to shew, that as they are the doctrines of christianity, so they are exactly agreeable to what experience, analogy, and reason teach us with relation to an after-life.
Let it only be premised, that if the gospel of Jesus Christ does really pretend to be the doctrine of a future state, or to have brought life and immortality to light, it must be highly unreasonable not to give it a fair hearing and examination. If one is absolutely unconcerned about his interest and happiness, the end of his present situation, and what is to happen to him after this life; if one is heedless, and takes no thought about these momentous enquiries, does he deserve to be called a rational being? But how can one be concerned about his interest and happiness, and yet be indifferent with respect<384> to a doctrine which pretends to set not only his present, but his future, his eternal happiness in a satisfying light; or to give a clear and satisfactory account of his way not only to the present greatest felicity, but to immortal glory and blessedness? Now this is what the gospel of Jesus Christ pretends to do. It must therefore be worthy of our most serious attention and impartial scrutiny; or immortal happiness is an object of no moment, which surely no person can be so absurd as to assert. The christian religion doth not exact a blind, precipitant, implicit reception: it only requires, that we should give it such a fair trial, and diligent examination, as the importance of its pretentions evidently makes highly reasonable. Let those, therefore, who having opportunities of being instructed in the gospel of Christ, and the evidences of its truth, quite overlook, neglect, or despise it; let them consider what it is they despise, or refuse to give due attention to. They neglect and despise a doctrine, which, most certainly, merits their examination, if any thing can deserve it. They neglect and despise a doctrine which profers them instruction in matters of the last consequence to them; instruction in life and immortality: i.e. instruction in the way to eternal felicity. I am afterwards to consider the evidences, the plain and full, the truly philosophical evidences which the christian doctrine carries along with it of its truth as such. But in order to excite all thinking persons to enquire honestly and candidly into those evidences, I am now to shew that the gospel of Christ gives an account of a future immortal state that must be acknowledged to merit the attention of every one who desireth happiness, or who cannot approve to himself absolute indifference about his highest concerns, which no reasonable being can. For is it possible that any person who can reason, or think at all, should say, that a doctrine which pretends to make discoveries to us about ourgreatest interest, does not deserve an impartial attentive audience, an unbyassed and careful<385> examination? And yet, this is all that christianity requires of those to whom it is proffer’d: christianity, which pretends to have brought life and immortality to light.
Before we enter upon the grave and momentous enquiry now proposed, it is proper to make this preliminary observation.
A Preliminary Proposition
Nothing can be explained or made intelligible to any beings, which hath not some analogy or likeness to their present state: wherefore, so far only can our future state be laid open, or discovered to us by revelation, as it bears an analogy or likeness to our present condition and circumstances.
All our ideas or conceptions are and must be derived from experience, and analogy to experience. In other words, we cannot form or receive any notion, but either by immediate experience, or by analogy to such ideas as we have received by experience. As we could have no notion of colours and their various modifications, nor of any thing resembling them, had we never received these ideas from without; so is it, in like manner, with regard to all our other perceptions, into whatever classes they are distinguished: they are all of them ultimately owing to experience: and we can have no new ones till we have new experience. Were not we ourselves reflecting, rational beings, we could never have had any idea of rational powers, and their operations. And we cannot form to ourselves any notion of other rational beings, but by ascribing to them powers and operations of powers analogous to those we experience in ourselves. We can frame ideas of beings inferior to us, by imagining them possessed of some of the powers belonging to us, in an inferior degree. And as we can, in that manner, form to ourselves notions of very<386> various orders of beings inferior to man, rising, as it were by steps, nearer and nearer to the qualities and sphere of activity, which constitute us what we really are, or our rank and dignity in nature; so, on the other hand, we are able to form conceptions of various orders of beings ascending above mankind in a regular gradation, by supposing them endued with powers analogous to our rational faculties, indifferent degrees of perfection superior to us. We can thus by imagining powers like to our rational powers, rising one above another in various degrees of perfection, ascend to the idea of an infinitely perfect mind; the source of all created or derived power and perfection, in whom all excellencies meet and are united in their most perfect degree. But how is it we are able to do this, but by conceiving all the intelligent powers we are endued with, and all the perfections we are thereby enabled to acquire, belonging to the first author of all power and perfection, in a way absolutely removed from all imperfection and limitation. In fine, our ideas, the materials of all our knowledge or reasoning, cannot, as all philosophers agree, extend beyond our experience.
Now, from this obvious acknowledged truth, it is manifest, that no rational being, however superior to man, can make his own state known to us any farther than that state bears an analogy or likeness to our present state, and its laws and connexions. And for the same reason, the nature, circumstances, laws and connexions of our future state can no farther be declared, explained, or made intelligible to us at present by any being, however superior to us in the knowledge of nature and providence, than it is analogous or like to our present state. It can only be described to us so far as we are able to conceive or take ideas of it by the help of present experience; for our ideas cannot reach beyond the boundaries of our present experience: it can therefore only be so far described to us as it really hath any similitude to our present state; so far only as analogy<387> to present experience can furnish us with ideas or images of it.
This being certain, beyond all possibility of doubt, these two inferences plainly follow.