« ZurückWeiter »
never been married, and had died childless * :" and the expression of Severus at his death, “ I became all things, and yet it does not profit met.” But the most noted saying of all, and that which best deserves to be known, is that of the wisest and most flourishing king, as well as the greatest preacher, who, having exactly computed all the advantages of his exalted dignity and royal opulence, found this to be the sum total of all, and left it on record for the inspection of posterity and future ages,
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
All this may possibly be true with regard to the external advantages of men ; but may not happi. ness be found in the internal goods of the mind, such as wisdom and virtue ? Suppose this granted; still that they may confer perfect felicity, they must, of necessity, be perfect themselves. Now, shew me the man, who, even in his own judgment, has attained to perfection in wisdom and virtue: even those who were accounted the wisest, and actually were so, acknowledged they knew nothing ; nor was there one among the most approved philosophers, whose virtues were not allayed with many blemishes. The same must be said of piety and true religion, which, though it is the beginning of felicity, and tends directly to perfection ; yet, as in this earth it is not full and complete itself, it cannot make its possessors perfectly happy. The knowledge of the most exalted minds is very obscure,
* αιθ' όφελον άγαμός 7 έμεναι άγονός τ' απολεσαι. * Πάντα εγενόμην κια α λυσλελει.
“ He is, says
and almost quite dark, and their practice of virtue lame and imperfect. And indeed who can have the boldness to boast of perfection in this respect, when he hears the great Apostle complaining of the law of the flesh, and pathetically exclaiming, “ Who shall deliver me from this body of death, &c. *." Besides, though wisdom and virtue, or piety, were perfect, so long as we have bodies, we must, at the same time, have all bodily advantages, in order to perfect felicity. Therefore the Satirist smartly ridicules the wise man of the Stoics. he, free, honoured, beautiful, a king of kings, and particularly happy, except when he is troubled with phlegmt.”
Since these things are so, we must raise our minds higher, and not live with our heads bowed down like the common sort of mankind; who, as St. Augustine expresses it, look for a happy life in the region of deatht. To set our hearts upon the perishing goods of this wretched life, and its muddy pleasures, is not the happiness of men, but of hogs; and if pleasure is dirt, other things are but smoke. Was this the only good proposed to the desires and hopes of men, it would not have been so great a privilege to be born. Be therefore advised, young gentlemen, and beware of this poisonous cup, lest
* Rom. vii. 24.
your minds thereby become brutish, and fall into a fatal oblivion of your original, and your end : turn that part of your composition, which is divine, to God its creator and father, without whom we can neither be happy, nor indeed be at all.
Of the IMMORTALITY of the Soul. THERE are many things that keep mankind employed, particularly business, or rather trifles; for so the affairs, which are in this world considered as most important, ought to be called, when compared with that of minding our own valuable concerns, knowing ourselves, and truly consulting our highest interests; but how few are there that make this their study; The definition you commonly give of man is, that he is a rational creature; though, to be sure, it is not applicable to the generality of mankind, unless you understand, that they are such, not actually, but in power only, and that very remote. They are, for the most part at least, more silly and foolish than children, and, like them, fond of toys and rattles : they fatigue themselves running about and sauntering from place to place, but do nothing to purpose.
What a wonder it is, that souls of a heavenly original have so far forgot their native country, and
are so immersed in dirt and mud, that there are few men who frequently converse with themselves about their own state, thinking gravely of their original and their end, seriously laying to heart, that, as the poet expresses it, “ Good and evil are set before mankind *;" and, after mature consideration, not only think it the most wise and reasonable course, but are also fully resolved to exert themselves to the utmost, in order to arrive at a sovereign contempt of earthly things, and aspire to these enjoyments that are divine and eternal. For our parts, I am fully persuaded we will be of this mind, if we seriously reflect on what has been said. For if there is, of necessity, a complete, permanent, and satisfying good intended for man, and no such good is to be found in the earth, or earthly things, we must proceed farther, and look for it some where else; and in consequence of this conclude, that man is not quite extinguished by death, but removes to another place, and that the human soul is by all means immortal.
Many men have added a great variety of different arguments to support this conclusion, some of them strong and solid, and others, to speak freely, too metaphysical, and of little strength, especially as they are as obsure, as easily denied, and as hard to be proved, as that very conclusion, in support of which they are adduced.
They who reason from the immaterial nature of the soul, and from its being infused into the body, as also from its method of operation, which is confined to none of the bodily organs, may easily prevail with those who believe these principles, to admit the truth of the conclusion they want to draw from them ; but if they meet with any who obstinately deny the premises, or even doubt the truth of them, it will be a matter of difficulty to support such hypothesis with clear and conclusive arguments. If the soul of man was well acquainted with itself, and fully understood its own nature; if it could investigate the nature of its union with the body, and the method of its operation therein, we doubt not, but from thence it might draw these, and other such arguments of its immortality; but since, shut up in the prison of a dark body, it is so little known, and so incomprehensible to itself; and since, in so great obscurity, it can scarce, if at all, discover the least of its own features, and complexion, it would be a very difficult matter for it to say much concerning its internal nature, or nicely determine the methods of its operation. But it would be surprising, if any one should deny, that the very operations it performs, especially those of the more noble and exalted sort, are strong marks, and conspicuous characters of its excellence and immortality.
* Ωτι τοι ανθρωτοισι κακον τ' αγαθόν 7ε τέτυκται.