Page images
PDF
EPUB

+

'Tis a

[ocr errors]

there no excess of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own kind, or a different ? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had order'd all myself ?-No-nothing like it—the farthest from it possible. The world appears not then originally made for the private convenience of me alone ?-It does not.But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my own particular industry - If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth ; if this be beyond me, 'tis not poflible-What consequence then follows? Or can there be any other than this-If I seek an interest of my own, detached from that of others ; I seek an interest which is chimerical, and can never have existence.

How then must I determine ? Have I no interest at all ? -If I have not, I am a fool for staying here. smoaky house, and the sooner out of it the better.—But why no interest ?-Can I be contented with none, but one separate and detached !-Is a social interest joined with others such an absurdity, as not to be admitted ? The bee, the beaver, and the tribes of herding animals, are enough to convince me, that the thing is, fomewhere at least, poflible. How then am I assured, that 'tis not equally true of man ?-Admit it ; and what follows If so, then Honour and Justice are my interest—then the whole train of Moral Virtues are my interest ; without some portion of which, not even thieves can maintain society.

But farther still-I stop not here--I pursue this social interest, as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, myown neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth-Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce : by the general intercourse of arts and

H

letters;

51

Ictters : by that common nature, of which we all participate !--Again-I must have food and clothing-Without a proper genial warmth, linstantly perish-Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself? To the distant fun from whose beams I derive vigour? To that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on ?-Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment ; fo absolutely do I depend on this common general welfare.

What then have I to do, but to enlarge Virtue into Piety? Not only honour and Justice, and what I owe to man, is my interest ; but gratitude also, acquiescence, refignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and its greater Governor, our common Parent.

But if all these moral and divine habits be my interest, I need not surely seek for a better. I have an interest compatible with the spot on which I live-I have an interest which may exist, without altering the plan of Providence ; without mending or marring the general order of events. I can bear whatever happens with manlike magnanimity; can he contented, and fully happy in the good which I poffefs ; and can pass through this turbid, this fickle, fleeting period, without bewailings, or envyings, or murmurings, or complaints,

HARRIS

[blocks in formation]

ALL men pursue Good, and would be happy, if they

knew how ; not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours ; but happy, if possible, through every part of their

existence.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

existence. Either therefore there is a good of this steady durable kind, or there is none. If none, then all good must be transient and'uncertain and if so, an object of lowest value, which can little deserve either our attention or inquiry. But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeking ; like every other thing, it must be derived from fome cause; and that cause must be either external, internal, or mixed, in as much as except these three, there is no other poflible. Now a steady, durable good, cannot be derived from an external cause, by reason all derived from externals must fluctuate, as they fluctuate. By the same rule, not from a mixture of the two; because the part which is external will proportionally destroy its essence. What then remains but the cause internal ; the very cause which we have supposed, when we place the Sovereign Good in Mind -in Rectitude of Conduct ?

Harris.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

C H A P.

IV.

ON

THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL,

MONG other excellent arguments for the immortality

progress of the foul to its perfection, without a possibility of ever arriving at it ; which is a hint that I do not remember to have seen opened and improved by others who have writ. ten on this subject, though it seems to me to carry a great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man that the soul, which is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, shall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created ! Are such

abilities

H 2

abilities made for no purpose ? A brute arrives at a point of perfection that lie can never pass ; in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of; and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human foul thus at a stand in her accomplishments, were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of farther enlargements, I could imagine it might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a ftate of anniłtilation. But can we believe a thinking being, that is in a perpetual progress of improvements, and travelling on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of its - Crcator, and made a few discoveries of his infinite gondness, wisdom and power, must perish at her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her inquiries?

MAN, considered in his present state, feems only fent into the world to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a fucceffor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him,

He does not seem born to enjoy life, but to deliver it down to others. This is not surprising to consider in animals, which are formed for our use, and can finish their bu. finess in a short life. The silk-worm, after having fpun her talk, lays her eggs and dies. But in this life man can never take in his full measure of knowledge ; nor has he time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage. Would an infinitely wise Being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose ? Can he delight in the pro. duction of such abortive intelligences, such short lived reasonable beings ? Would he give us talents that are not to be exerted? Capacities that are never to be gratified ? How can we find that wisdom which shines through all his works,

in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a nursery for the next, and believing that the several generations of rational creatures, which rise up and disappear in such quick fucceffions, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterwards to be transplanted into a more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity ?

There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant confideration in religion, than this of the perpetual progress which the foul makes towards the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at a period in it. To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength, to consider that she is to shine for ever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity ; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge ; carries in it fomething wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect pleasing to God himself, to see his creation for ever beautifying in his eyes, and drawing nearer to him, by greater degrees of resemblance.

METHINKS this fingle confideration, of the progress of a finite spirit to perfection, will be sufficient to extinguish all envy in inferior natures, and all contempt in superior. That cherubim, which now appears as a God to a human soul, knows very well that the period will come about in eternity, when the human soul shall be as perfect as he himself now is : nay, when she shall look down upon that degree of perfection, as much as she now falls short of it. It is true, the higher nature still advances, and by that means preserves his distance and fuperiority, in the scale of being ; but he knows that, how high foever the station is of which he stands pofH3

sessed

« PreviousContinue »