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nature would not be frustrated, notwithstanding the dissolution of his present frame, we cannot but suppose that they would carefully communicate this important discovery to their children, and that it would be delivered down from one generation to another, through a succession of ages, as the invaluable inheritance to which they were born, and the only blessing that could sweeten the miseries of life.
It is reasonable however to suppose, that this doctrine would be most carefully and most joyfully embraced by those families and nations, who adhered to the worship of the true God, and endeavoured to please him by a life of religion and virtue. It was indeed retained, though much weakened and corrupted, and but little regarded as a principle of action, by those who had revolted from the true religion. But among the righteous patriarchs it was preserved in its full force, through very few intervening generations from Adam to Moses. And what is still more, the doctrine of a future life not only received additional confirmations in this period from divine revelation, but the mode or manner of it, by the resurrection from the dead, was typically exhibited to Abraham; and under this notion it was apprehended by the Jews (as plainly appears by the Scriptures), down to the coming of our Saviour.
OUR IMPERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF A FUTURE STATE,
SUITED TO THE CONDITION OF MAN.
The sceptic, who is dissatisfied with the obscurity which divine Providence has wisely thrown over the future state, conceives that more information would be reasonable and salutary. He desires to have his view enlarged beyond the limits of this corporeal scene. Instead of resting upon evidence which requires discussion, which must be supported by much reasoning, and which, after all, he alleges yields very imperfect information, he demands the everlasting mansions to be so displayed, as to place faith on a level with the evidence of sense. • What noble and happy effects,'he exclaims,' would instantly follow, if man thus beheld his present and his future existence at once before him! He would then become worthy of his rank in the creation. Instead of being the sport, as now, of degrading passions and childish attachments, he would act solely on the principles of immortality. His pursuit of virtue would be steady; his life would be undisturbed and happy. Superior to the attacks of distress, and to the solicitations of pleasure, he would advance, by a regular progress, towards those divine rewards and honours which were continually present to his view. Thus fancy, with as much ease and confidence as if it were a perfect judge of creation, erects a new world to itself, and exults with admiration of its own work. But let us pause, and suspend this admiration, till we coolly examine the consequences that would follow from this supposed reformation of the universe.
Consider the nature and circumstances of man. Introduced into the world in an indigent conditłon, he is supported at first by the care of others; and, as soon as he begins to act for himself, finds labour and industry to be necessary for sustaining his life, and supplying his wants. Mutual defence and interest give rise to society; and society, when formed, requires distinctions of property, diversity of conditions, subordination of ranks, and a multiplicity of occupations, in order to advance the general good. The services of the poor, and the protection of the rich, become reciprocally necessary. The governors, and the governed, must co-operate for general safety. Various arts must be studied; some respecting the cultivation of the mind, others the care of the body; some to ward off the evils, and some to provide the conveniences of life. In a word, by the destination of his Creator, and the necessities of his nature, man commences, at once, an active, not merely a contemplative being. Religion assumes him as such. It supposes him employed in this world, as on a busy stage. It regulates, but does not abolish, the enterprises and cares of ordinary life. It addresses itself to the various ranks in society; to the rich and the poor, to the magistrate and the subject. It rebukes the slothful ; directs the diligent how to labour; and requires every man to do his own business.
Suppose, now, that veil to be withdrawn, which conceals another world from our view. Let all obscurity vanish; let us no longer see darkly, as through a glass; but let every man enjoy that intuitive perception of divine and eternal objects, which the sceptic was supposed to desire. The immediate effect of such a discovery, would be to annihilate in our eye all human objects, and to produce a total stagnation in the affairs of the world. Were the celestial glory exposed to our admiring view; did the angelic harmony sound in our enraptured ears; what earthly concerns could have the power of engaging our attention for a single moment? All the studies and pursuits, the arts and labours, which now employ the activity of man, which support the order, or promote the happiness of society, would lie neglected and abandoned. Those desires and fears, those hopes and interests, by which we are at present stimulated, would cease to operate. Human life would present no objects sufficient to rouse the mind, to kindle the spirit of enterprise, or to urge the hand of industry. If the mere sense of duty engaged a good man to take some part in the business of the world, the task, when submitted to, would prove distasteful. Even the preservation of life would be slighted, if he were not bound to it by the authority of God. Impatient of his confinement within this tabernacle of dust, languishing for the happy day of his translation to those glorious regions which were displayed to his sight, he would sojourn on earth as a melancholy exile. Whatever Providence has prepared for the entertainment of man would be viewed with contempt. Whatever is now attractive in society would appear insipid. In a word, he would be no longer a fit inhabitant of this world, nor be qualified for those exertions which are allotted to him in his present sphere of being. But, all his faculties
being sublimated above the measure of humanity, he would be in the condition of a being of superior order, who, obliged to reside among men, would regard their pursuits with scorn, as dreams, trifles, and puerile amusements of a day.
But to this reasoning it may perhaps be replied, that such consequences as I have now stated, supposing them to follow, deserve not much regard. -For what though the present arrangement of human affairs were entirely changed, by a clearer view, and a stronger impression of our future state; would not such a change prove the highest blessing to man? Is not his attachment to worldly objects the great source both of his misery and his guilt? Employed in perpetual contemplation of heavenly objects, and in preparation for the enjoyment of them, would he not become more vir tuous, and of course more happy, than the nature of his present employments and attachments permits him to be?-Allowing for a moment, the consequence to be such, this much is yielded, that, upon the supposition which was made, man would not be the creature which he now is, nor human life the state which we now behold. How far the change would contribute to his welfare, comes to be considered.
If there be any principal fully ascertained by religion, it is, that this life was intended for a state of trial and improvement to man. His preparation for a better world required a gradual-purification, carried on by steps of progressive discipline. The situation, therefore, here assigned him, was such as to answer his design, by calling forth all his active powers, by giving full scope to his