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It is not, therefore, from this world that any ray of comfort proceeds to cheer the gloorn of the last hour. But futurity has still its prospects, there is yet happiness in reserve sufficient to support us under every affliction. Hope is the chief blessing of man, and that hope only is rational, which we are certain cannot deceive.--I am, sir, &c.
LETTER CXXV. From his Friend in Answer, concerning the Im
mortality of the Soul. My dear Friend,—The picture you have drawn of human nature is too true to be denied, and what yo! have said of the impossibility of enjoying real happiness in this life, has led me to consider that pleasing subject the immortality of the soul.
The soul has been treated of by many philosophers ; several have pretended to define it, some to describe its substance, and in a word, many have pretended to say what it really is in itself. For iny part, I fairly renounce every attempt to explain either its nature or connection with the body. I am content with my confidence, that I have a reasoning faculty within myself, of which, together with my visible body, I am composed and constituted. It must be allowed, that through all the parts of nature there appears a most benevolent intention, in the Providence of God, for man's preservation and comfort. The earth and water's administering to his food and raiment ; animals of various kinds are preserved for him in due season, as we every day experience. But these pleasures are but of a subordinate degree ; he enjoys something of a far more sublime nature, his power of contemplating on the goodness of his Maker, in the creation of all these things, which renders lim desirous of something above and beyond them all.
Can it therefore be suggested, that beings capable of the most refined contemplation on the works of creation ; beings capable of being moved and affected, even to an inexpressible degree of pleasure, by the combined harmonies of sound ; beings capable of increasing and advancing their knowledge and speculation in all things, even to their last moments; beings capable of conceiving notions which no part of their moral frame can possibly convey to their understandings, and in which no instrumental influence can have any share ; beings that are never satisfied in searching after truth, through all the winding labyrinths and hidden recesses of nature; I say, can it be imagined, that such beings should be deprived of all existence in the midst of these growing speculations, which can have no origin but what is truly divine ? its fulness must be in an hereafter. Our very imagination reaches to eternity, in spite of all that can be said by the most obstinate atheist, or our own doubts can devise. Hope is a constant instinct, which inspires men with a desire of finding some better state, and is a sure presage of futurity ; nor could any man on earth be possessed of it, if that state were not certain, no more than he should shrink at committing a wicked act, if there were no power within himself that is to live hereafter. Another strong proof of the immortality of the soul, flows from the infallible goodness and justice of the Divine Being ; for if it were not immortal, and ever conscious of good and evil done in this life, that goodness and justice would be liable to be called in question. This notion has often confounded some of the greatest philosophers, and is at the same time one of the greatest considerations to prove a future state, when entered upon with deliberation. Can we hesitate to believe the im.
mortality of the soul, when we see how the most abandoned iniscreants live and prosper in affluence of fortune, carrying it with a high hand against their neighbours, distressing all in their power, en. joying and rioting on the substance of widows and orphans, and at last going to the grave unpunished ; whilst the innocent and virtuous suffer a series of afflictions and miseries, by the means of those powerful tyrants all their lives, and at length lie down in the dust, wronged and unredressed in this life ; if then there be not an hereafter for the soul, and if it be not conscious of past good and evil, where is the justice, where is the goodness, where is the mercy, where is the benevolence, in giving being to mankind, for no other end but to suffer pains and miseries at the hands of another ? and what but partiality, which is injustice in itself, would have ordered sufferings like these for some, and a power of tyrannizing to others, for the short date of the life of man here, were there no punishment for the unjust and base, no happiness for the virtuous and injured hereafter ? this is a consideration dreadful in its very essence, if justice was no where to ensue. But who can behold the beauties of all the parts of the creation ? who can see himself, and know he exists, and at the same time observe, not only the careful provision made for him, but also the numberless methods of propagating and preserving them for his use, without knowing at the same time, that they were created for him, as well as the tyrant who deprives him of them; and the avaricious, who abuses the good things of this life, by denying them not only to others, but even to himself ;-İ say, who can be sensible of those things, who observe this divine impartiality, and doubt of future rewards for the virtuous and future punishments for the
wicked? for millions of evil deeds are unpunished, and as many wrongs done, without restitution in this life ; and, therefore, though a wicked man may escape punishment in this life, it is impossible he should ever shun the justice of that divine law, which necessarily points out, that social virtues and benevolence should be the reciprocal commerce between man and man, during his short stay here, and that under the severest restrictions and penalties. Where then must the certain justice of the Divine Being take place ? if not on this side the grave, it must certainly be after the soul is separated from the body. Such, my dear friend, are my thoughts on that most important subject, and I leave them with you as a testimony of my unfeigned affection.-I am, Sir,
Yours in the greatest affection.
LETTER CXXVI. From a Gentleman to his Friend, concerning Pre
judice. Sir,—I was lately in company with several gentlemen, and as the conversation turned upon a variety of subjects, I was much surprised to find every one prejudiced to his own favourite opinion, without being able to assign a reason why they should so hastily take it upon themselves to dogmatise with so much assurance,
Among the various errors into which human nature is liable to fall, there are some which people of a true understanding are perfectly sensible of in themselves, yet either wanting a strength of resolution to break through what, by long custom, has become habitual, or being of too indolent a temper to endeavour an alteration, still persist to act in contradiction to the dictates of even their own reason and judgment. What we call prejudice, or prepossession, is certainly that which stands foremost in the rank of servility. It is the great ringleader of almost all the mistakes we are guilty of, whether in the sentiments of our hearts, or the conduct of our actions. As milk is the first nourishment of the body, so prejudice is the first thing given to the mind to feed upon.--No sooner does the thinking faculty begin to shew itself, than prejudice mingles with it, and spoils its operations ; whatever we are either taught, or happen of ourselves to like or dislike, we, for the most part, con- tinue to applaud or condemn to our life's end.-So difficult is it to eradicate, in age, those sentiments imbibed in our youth.
It is this fatal propensity, which binds, as it were, our reason in chains, and will not suffer it to look abroad, or exert any of its powers ; hence are our conceptions bounded ;-our notions meanly narrow ;-our ideas, for the most part, unjust ;and our judgment shamefully led astray. The brightest rays of truth in vain shine upon our minds, when prejudice has shut our eyes against them. We are even rendered by it wholly incapable of examining any thing, and take all upon trust that it presents to us; this not only makes us liable to be guilty of injustice, ill-nature, and ill-manners to others, but also insensible of what is owing to ourselves ; we run with all our might from a real and substantial good, and court an empty name, a mere nothing. We mistake infamy for renown, and ruin for advantage ; in short, where a strong prejudice prevails, all is sure to go amiss.
What I would be understood to mean by the word prejudice, is not that liking or disliking, which naturally arises on the sight of any new object