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blood, and to perish together with it, judge it reasonable, or possible, to live above the detires and infirmities of flesh and blood ? How should one part of the man be induced to neglect and forget the other, in order to arrive at a divine perfection and resemblance, which (not hoping to reach) it would scarce think itself designed to pursue ? No, the rule of imitating God can never be successfully proposed to men, but upon Chris ftian principles, such as these ; that this world is a place not of rest and happiness, but of discipline and trial; where we are to be trained up for ano. ther and more perfect state, and to qualify our: selves for the divine enjoyments of it by refifting and subduing our bodily appetites and inclinations; a ftate, into which flesh and blood shall not enter where our prefent struggles shall be rewarded with complete conquests, and our imitation of God end in the undisturbed fruition of him to all eternity. Upon these principles indeed it is highly reasona. ble to inimitate God: but if we are designed to live only in these bodies, and in this world, what should hinder us from endeavouring to make the best of both ? and from coming to the conclusion mentioned (and not disapproved) by the apostle ; • Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die ?"
$. I deny not, after all but that, even in fuch a state as this, the pleasures of virtue would be superior to those of vice, and justly preferable, upon the comparison ; the pleatures, I inean, of a mature and confirmed habit of virtue, not of the lower and imperfect degrees of it. Such an habit, once acquired would indeed afford the professors of it greater satisfactions than any the wicked and
licentious licentious did, or could enjoy. But how few would judge this rightly of virtue at a distance ? How much fewer would be at the pains of acquiring such an habit, and of conquering all the reluctances and difficulties that lie in the way towards it? And, till that were done, the strict practice of virtue would be entirely pleasing: to be sure, no part of the picasure of it would consist in the Itruggle itself; and therefore I am much at a loss to know what the Letter-writer meant by the following affertion, that the difficulty of' [ataining and practising] · virtue doth not destroy the
present happinefs resulting from it, but enhance cand improve it.' This I take to be a stoical rant, without any foundation in the nature of man, or the reason of things. For no practice whatsoever can be attended with present happiness, any farther than it is easy and delightful to the doer; and what is difficult to be done, cannot be easy and delightful while it is doing.–Unless when those difficulties are loft and swallowed up in the sweet hope of a better state, which we are sure of attain. ing by the means of them. Where once such a persuasion as this is well fixed, 1 grant it will forooth all the roughness of the way that leads to happiness, and render all the conflicts we maintain with our lufts and passions pleasing ; but surely, without the hopes of such a state, the inère prospect of the pleasures, which virtue in this life may yield, would scarce make the struggle itself delightful to those who were strangers to fuck pleasures.
Thus far, in answer to his fourth reinark, which contains the grounds of his doctrine, and offers at somewhat towards the disproof of mine. VOL II.
As to the rest of his observations on my man"ner of proceeding in the present argument, were it worth while to reduce them from their present confusion into some order, they might be ranged and considered under three heads; my omiffions, my inconsistencies, and the ill consequences of my doctrine. My omiffion's are confessed, for I did not write a treatise, but a few pages on the subject; which I handled with particular views, and pretended not to exhaust. Whether any of the reasonings by me employed are inconsistent with each other, i securely leave to the judgment of the reader, who hath ’now, toward the latter end of this volume, the argumentative part of that fermon before him, verba. tim, as it was first printed. But the ill consequences of my doctrine, which he objects, deserve to be a little considered.
My doctrine is, as I have endeavoured to shew, the very same with that of St. Paul; and if this hath been made out, the same ill consequences are equally chargeable upon both, and he too may be said to have made conceffions to the cause of vice, by allowing that, “if the dead rise not,' the inference would be just, `Let us eat and drink, <for to-morrow we die. All that needs be done toward justifying the apostle (and myself, by his means) is, to open the design and manner of his reasoning. He is there making use of that sort of argument, which, in order to prove a doctrine true, supposes the contrary doctrine to be true; and then shewy, what abfurdities follow, upon fuch a supposition: And the greater those absurdities are, the more strongly do they evince the
fallity falsity of that supposition from whence they flow, and, consequently, the truth of the doctrine fet afide by that supposition. Thus, in the present case, the more absurd it is to affirm, that beasts have the advantage of men, and bad men of good, in point of happiness; or that a sensual life may be preferred to a severe and rigid virtue; the more clearly doth the folly and falihood of that fupposition appear, which is the parent of these wild absurdities, viz. that we have hope in this * life only;' and the fallhood of that supposition being proved, proves the truth of the contrary doctrine, which was designed to be established. Now these very absurdities are, by the Letter-wria ter, represented as “conceflions to the cause of vice,' when indeed they are employed by me, and do in themselves tend, to confirm the truth of a capital article in religion, upon which (as I verily think) the whole cause of virtue depends. It may suffice to have given this short but full' answer to all the ill consequences he hath vainly endeavoured to fasten on my doctrine; and which are in truth so far from being ill consequences of my doctrine, that they are consequences only of that false supposition which I advanced in order to difprove it, and, by that means, to prove th: truth of my doctrine. If the Letter-writer was fincere in this part of his charge, he must be cuntented to bear the reproach of understanding ' nothing of logick, or good sense;'(L. p. 16.) an imputation, which I find he looks upon as carrying a greater absurdity in it, than even any thing I have faid in my Sermon! I doubt, whether he can as easily get rid of the
ill consequences of his doctrine, which manifestly tends to Thew, That there is no need of a future state, to set right the unequal distribution of happiness in this life. And if once this be allowed, we give up the very best argument for such a state, with which mere reafon furnithes us. And of what use that cincellion can be to the cause of vir tue, this pretended patron of it will be pleased to tell us. Had he subftituted any other argument for a future state, in the room of this he thus endeavours to weaken; had he once, throughout his pamphlet, directed, and plainly affirmed, that any convincing evidence of such a state was to be had from reason alone, or that even the bitter sufferings of good men were sufficient to prove it; his conduct would have been so much the more excusable : But he hath offered at nothing of this kind.
Once indeed (in a very odd and wary manner) he says, “ I have heard the sufferings and affic“ tions of many good men here below, made an " argument that in another state, all the virtuous 6 shall have the outward as well as inward tokens 6. of God's favour" (L. p. 32.) But we are left at a loss to know, whether he approves the argu, ment he thus b: ard; whether he thinks it a good argument for a future state, as well as a proof of what shall happen in such a state, if such a state there should be: He says not, whether a future ftate be, in his opinion, necessary, in order to 2 manifestation of these outward tokens of ord's fan Vur; or whether the inqua dtok ns of it, bestow. ed in this life, may not fuffice to all the purposes of virtue.