Page images

at which histen grave observations chiefly aim: not to prove the doctrine itself false, but my defence of it weak and improper. And therefore he proposes every one of them with some phrases of admiration, which may be worthy of the curious reader's perufal. “ It hath (he says) a very • strange appearance, and is a very strange way of • proceeding, L. p. 22. It is likewise as unac'countable, p. 23.–3. It is again wonderful, 'p. 24.-4. It is wonderful ftrange, p. 26. it is • very strange, p, 27.-5. On the other hand, it * is equally strange, ibid.-6. It is likewise un. • accountable, p. 28.-7. It is extremely unac• countable, p. 3.3.-_8. It looks very strange and ' unaccountable, p. 41.-9. It is likewise very o unaccountable, ibid.-10. Last of all, he can• not but think it very strange,' p. 43.-Now all these exclamations of strange! wonderful! un. accountable ! (managed with so happy a variety of expression) have plainly a personal view ; and so have the reflexions themselves, which are ushcred by them, being intended rather to disparage me, than disprove my doctrine; and indeed, to difprove the one, only by disparaging the other. How this is consistant with his folemn assurances, of being acted “ by no other principle but a desire that the truth may be known in lo important a matter," p. 44. I do not apprehend ; and inult have leave to tell this exclaimer, in my turn, that, if that were his real aim, “ his manner of proceeding is very strange, wonderful, and unaccountable.” What tendency hath it towards a discovery of « truth in this important matter,” to spend two pages (L. p. 11, 12, 13.) in proving,

h 2

that that, when I call the text.“ a concession of the a postle," I speak improperly ? Sure the fortunes of Greece do not depend upon such criticisms as thefe! the merits of our dispute are no ways concerned in my use of an improper expreflion! which, after all, is not so improper, it seems, but that the Letter-writer himfelf vouchsafes to employ it in the very fame sense, and ypon the very same occasion, a very few pages afterwards; where, having produced what he calls my explication of the text, he adds, “ This is in truth a conceflion,” L. p. 17. And if it be, so also is the text itself, in that sense at least wherein I undefe Itand it.

But let this (and some other fuch material remarks) pass- If there be any thing in his ten obfervations which deserves a reply, it is what he hath urged in the fourth of them, which feems indeed to be directly levelled against the truth of my doctrine.. And because it contains in it the sum of what he hath elsewhere loosely scattered to the same purpofe, and will give me an opportunity of proposing at one view, and briefly vindicating, what I take to be the very truth in this important matter, it shall therefore be particụJarly considered. He there observes, that, " The « chief hap: iness of any being, in whatsoever « state ir is, or of whatsoever duration its ife is, " must result from the moft excellent parts of its conftitution; that the happiness of a being, made “ capable of imitating. God, though fr never so « short a time, must confift in that imita« tion; that virtue is the imitation of God, and therefore must be the happiness of man: That


" the chief bappiness of a realonable creature muft consist in living as reason dire&ts, whether he lives one day, or to eternity; whether he lives in this “ state only, or in another afterwards; whether “ he hath inclinations to the contrary or not, “ provided they be such as may be conquered. « For neither can the time of his duration, nor ." the tendency of such inclinations, aller any “ thing in this matter, unless to make virtue more difficult , which doth not destroy the excellency of « it, and present happiness resulting from it, but enhance and improve it. Besides on the other

hand, the practice of vice, though it bę with “the inclination, yet is against reason and consciance." (L. p. 26 27.)

There are his words ; to which I reply

1, That if this argument proves any thing, it proves too much ; even that a man may be happy under the greatest bodily pains and the most grievous persecutions. For it is certain, thai, notwithstanding such pains and persecutions, he may still preserve his virtue: and if the practice of virtue be the happiness of man ( hapiness itself, as he elsewhere speaks L. p. 23.) ihen those pains and persecutions, not robbing him of his virtue, would not rob him of his happiness. This is too romantick and absurd a doctrinc to defcrve a serie ous confutation : And therefore I thall diliniís it vi-h the words of archbishop lil'ot'09*;“Though “ some men have been so phantastically obviin te « as, against the reason and connoo tenie f “ mankind, to maintain this parudex, That a wise

• Ser. Pt. 2 vol. p. 191.

“ man may be as happy upon the rack, or in “ Phalaris his bull, as in the greatest ease and « freedom from pain that can be imagined ; Yet ' nature cries shame of this hypocrisy; and there " are none of those wise men, they fpake of, who " were ever such fools as to try the experiment."

2. If we consider the being of man as circum. scribed within the bounds of this life, I deny that “ his chief happiness results from the most excel. “ lent part of his constitution” (as those words are intended to exclude all regard for the pleasures of the body): For it results, not from any one part, but from the whole. The chief happiness of a creature, composed of body and soul, and designed for this life only: is, to be as happy as it can be, during this life, both in body and soul: And the more and greater pleasure of both kinds it enjoys (which can be rendered consistent with cach other) the more entire and perfect is its happiness. I grant indeed,

3. That « the chief happiness of a reasonable “ creature must consist in living as reason directs, “ whether he lives one day, or to eternity.” But had we no hope in another life, the directions of reason for our conduct in this, would not be the fame, as they are now. Reason would then direct us to do every thing in which we delighted ; to deny ourselves no pleasures, which inclination, custom, or opinion prompted us to take ; so it did not otherwise interfere with our ease, with our health, our reputation, and convenience ; that is, so men judged upon the whole, that it would conduce more to their happiness to indulge theme felves in such or such pleasures, than to forbear them. And how falfly the greatest part of mankind would, through the corupt tendency of their nature and the perpetual solicitations of the objects of sense, judge in such a case, I need not say. And whenever they judged wrong, there would be no sure way of setting them right ; that is, of arguing them out of their taste and experience, to which they would always retreat and appeal, as to the sure test and measure of happiness. The restraints of conscience, in such a state, would no ways check men in their pursuits : For conscience being nothing but the judgment which a man pafseth on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of his own actions, and that being to be measured from the subferviency of those actions to his prea sent happiness; whatever appeared to him, upon the best judgment he could frame, necessary to his present happiness, would appear highly reasonable; and his conscience would be so far from blaming, that it would approve his pursuit of it ; nay, it would blame him for not pursuing it. And therefore,


4. To tell mankind, in such a state as this, that their supreme felicity “ consisted in the imi, tation of God, would be to talk to them in a language which they would not relish, or under. stand. For how should a poor imperfect creature, composed of body as well as fpirit, and designed for this material world only, think itself obliged, or any ways able, to imitate an eternal, infinite. pure and perfect mind? or place its happiness in copying excellencies, which human life is too short, and human nature too weak, to reach? How should a foul, made to inhabit Aesh and


« PreviousContinue »