« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
trampled under foot. Now this is the spirit of Christianity; and liberty has no security any farther than this uprightness and benevolence of sentiment actuate a community.
In another sense religion befriends liberty. It diminishes the necessity of public restraints, and supersedes in a great degree the use of force in administering the laws; and this it does by making men a law to themselves, and by repressing the disposition to disturb and injure society. Take away the purifying and restraining influence of religion, and selfishness, rapacity, and injustice will break out in new excesses; and, amidst the increasing perils of society, government must be strengthened to defend it, must accumulate means of repressing disorder and crime; and this strength and these means may be, and often have been, turned against the freedom of the state which they were meant to secure. · Diminish principle, and you increase the need of force in a community. Thus, religion is the soul of freedom, and no nation under Heaven has such an interest in it as ourselves.-W. M.
THE MORAL ARGUMENT FOR A FUTURE STATE.
IMMORTALITY or annihilation ? - this is the question that proposes itself to every thinking being. My consciousness tells me that I exist, but will a higher power of my mind reveal to me a higher state of existence ? I see before me a phenomenon which is called death. I behold the body which was but a moment ago conscious like myself, suddenly deprived of that consciousness, and resolved to its kindred elements; and it is no more visible to me as an organized form. Did the principle that animated that body partake of the perishable nature of that body? Did it exist only in conjunction with the body, which, finding it no longer as an instrument serviceable to it, throws it away, and retains its consciousness still; or is the body an instrument ordained for the development of a soul for eternity, in accordance with the will of some wise, good, and powerful being who formed it ?
These are thoughts that at times occupy the attention of every rational being. They involve not merely all that relates to the conscious being itself, but also much concerning God. The first thing that strikes the mind is a consciousness that we exist. Reason immediately inquires for what purpose. Am I brought into the world against my knowledge and independent of my will? I had no will to be born, nor power, and yet I am here.
Then there is a power which existed prior to my existence, and by which power I have been produced. I find, upon making further inquiry, that I proceeded from other beings as the fruit again produces the tree; and as the fruit again produces the tree, so shall I, in all probability, be instrumental in producing other beings similar to myself. I find effect following cause, but I find each cause to be the effect of a prior cause. The acorn is the effect of the oak, and the oak is the effect of the acorn.
I ascend upwards to a Great First Cause who produced the first oak. I call this first cause, or power, or principle, God.
When I look abroad on the visible creation, I find in everything I examine marks of design and fitness for the attainment of a particular object, or some grand and final end. I find too, that in the attainment of that end or object, the utmost wisdom is displayed, and this wisdom is mixed with a large proportion of goodness. I see, it is true, some apparent incongruities, seeming contradictions, some apparent evil; but I see no more of this than enables me to judge of the other by contrast.
I should not know goodness but by its contrast with that other quality which I call evil, any more than I should fully comprehend the nature of light without I could compare it with darkness; and I find just so much of evil as enables me to appreciate goodness; so much of irregularity as enables me to understand harmony; so much of apparent error as enables me to understand wisdom; so much of deformity as teaches me what is beauty. Seeing this, I draw the conclusion that Goodness—all-wise, all-powerful Goodness formed me what I am, and for ends as worthy as the means employed, not only for this end, but for all other ends which I see on every side so perfectly fulfilled.
If I attempt to look within myself, I find first the most elaborate and beautiful contrivances made for my existence in this state-contrivances in my body by which I am enabled to exist, and to perpetuate my species ; I find that as soon as the full development of my powers takes place, from that moment I begin to decline, and in a few short years I give place to others. But, during that short period, I experience sensations, instincts, and desires that I cannot control; and become invested with powers the most wonderful, which I find capable of infinite extension. In this I see a mighty foundation laid for some grand superstructure. For I cannot suppose that these capacities and powers could be given me to fade away in the very height of their manifestation, and I am compelled to deem them germs and capabilities for the everlasting existence of man.
I see clearly that, as, in the gift of many
to my body, it is decreed that it should exist but for a time, so, in the gift of infinite powers to my mind, do I feel involved the truth, that it shall last for ever.
If again I turn my glance towards material beings in nature, I not only find an universal tendency to some end, but I find also that in the grand arrangement nothing is useless and nothing is lost. I find that, although change is necessarily taking place, there is not an atom less of matter in the material universe than there was on the first day of creation : my highest mental powers convince me of this. Is it then likely that consciousness—that power which makes me acquainted with all I see,
my mind, soul, or spirit — shall be destroyed, when even the poor unconscious materials of nature cannot be. I deem it to be impossible; for, were it so, it would be in direct contradiction to such a mass of evidence, as on no other subject is presented to the understanding
I find also, that man, in his connection with society, derives high gratification from the possession of his knowledge, from his participation in it, and from its application; and higher still are his gratifications from the consciousness of moral rectitude and virtuous actions. Not wisdom alone, but virtue also is his vocation. No sooner has he become an admirer of the perfection of the world, than he feels that he must not remain behind the world in perfection. He feels that in his sentiments and actions there ought to be the same harmony as in all the operations of nature around him. He feels that, by the cultivation of his moral essence, he is to crown the beauty of all nature.
That a being thus capable of advancing to eternity in wisdom and virtue which has internal and external possibility of doing so — which longs and cannot help longing to make advance in both, shall, in the midst of its course, or when it has proceeded but a very little way, be suddenly and cruelly stopped, and, as it were as a punishment for striving to be wise and good, be deprived of existence altogether, seems to me morally impossible. I am compelled to believe, rather, that, here in this state, agreeably to its faculties and wishes, it shall acquire only the first rudiments of wisdom, make only its first essays to virtue, be in fact a probationer; and then, as a reward for having done so, be removed to a higher state, where it shall allay its thirst for wisdom; gratify its desire of being perfectly virtuous; find a sphere opened for it, in which it shall exert the utmost activity, in which its operations shall be perfectly successful, and in which it shall feel itself inexpressibly happy in the beneficial results of its activity.
Man is, therefore, the final end of Nature; the final end of the Beautiful; the final end of the True; the final end of Virtue; the final end, in short, of the Physical, Intellectual, and Moral World. To deny to him, therefore, immortality, is to deny to him existence. Without it he may be said to have made the round from nothing to nothing but with it to have entered upon a state admirably adapted to the development of the powers of his mind, towards their ultimate perfection. up the whole, if there is no future state for man, death is annihilation for him ; and he who has consolation for everything else, has not the slightest comfort for the severest of all afflictions; his natural longing after immortality is then a cruel mockery practised upon him by his nature; his reason, which teaches him the foreknowledge of death, is then the most grievous of punishments; his stupendous faculties and powers are then the most senseless waste; he is then a fool to cultivate and employ them to any other purpose than sensual gratifications; every incitement to the noblest actions is then done away with ; then there is no perfect administration of justice in the moral world; and the earth and everything in it then exist for no ultimate end or purpose whatsoever.
But, if death is not annihilation for man, if man