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men shall be tried by unerring wisdom, sentenced by divine justice, and rewarded or punished according to their deeds. The good man under oppression may think it long to wait till that day for justice; but this he is to consider as the trial of his faith, and the exercise of his patience. The bad man may encourage himself in his wickedness by the distance of that time ; but the triumphing of the wicked shall be short ;' for, at most, it can last no longer than his life; and what will that be to the length of his punishment? God in his wisdom defers the reward of the good, that his virtue may be perfected and known; and in his mercy, the punishment of the guilty, that he may have time to repent. Sometimes, however, he interposes by judgments on the one, or blessings on the other, which shew, his eye and hand are always over us.
As, for certain reasons too well and too commonly understood to require being told you on this occasion, the doctrine I have here laid down is much more apt to terrify than to please ; so there are some that refer the whole of our rewards to the pleasure we find in doing good, and of our punishments, to the distaste and uneasiness we perceive in doing evil actions. These, they say, prevent the necessity of future rewards and punishments, and do ample justice on the spot in regard to all parts of our moral behaviour.
If God and the king would be pleased to declare this, that is, would they be pleased to assure us, that henceforward for ever no sort of notice shall be taken of what any man shall think, speak, or do, in regard to God, his neighbour, or himself; it would certainly save a great deal of trouble to law-makers and judges, and would be fine news, not only to the thief and murderer, who still dread the gallows, but also to the defenders of this notion, and to all legal oppressors, tricksters, drunkards, whoremongers, and hypocrites, who fear the future judgments of God, but could settle matters with themselves on a comfortable enough footing, had they nothing to deal with but their own consciences. The news, however, would not be so welcome to a good man, who would not, or to a weak and poor man, who could not, take advantage of it; the news, I mean, that
all the rest of the world is to be let loose on them with impunity.
But let conscience tell the truth, and say, whether her decisions are always just ; whether she is not for the most part overpowered by the pleasure proposed in doing evil, or enjoyed in reflection after it is done; and whether, if divine justice, heaven, hell, and human laws, were out of the question, her rewards would be equal to the glorious deeds and sufferings of some good men, or her punishments adequate to the horrible crimes of others.
I utterly deny that a man of no hopes in another life could possibly persevere-in doing good, even to death, in spite of all a tyrant could do to him by his most barbarous persecutions. But supposing the hopeless hath already done it, will any one in his senses say, he hath been sufficiently rewarded ? For my part, I think, instead of being rewarded, he is severely punished, for doing good. Poor virtue! if she can no better encourage her most zealous votaries ! On the other hand, this tyrant, without fears in futurity, would soon, perhaps immediately, after the murder mentioned, eat, drink, and laugh as usual ; for we see he does so, although under some fears of a future reckoning. Nay, we see him in a few hours so perfectly easy, and, soon after that, so apt to boast of what he did, perhaps to repeat it, and even to build a prosperous scheme of worldly wealth and honour upon it, that we cannot help saying, if there is no judgment to come, he is rewarded for being wicked.
Whatsoever may be said to prove that virtue rewards herself, yet I can never think, vice, if she could help it, would be willing sufficiently to punish herself; the character of her impartiality is not so thoroughly established. On the contrary, when she is hampered with a troublesome conscience, instead of turning executioner on herself, she is infinitely more apt to shelter one sort of wickedness in having recourse to another. Drunkenness, of all vices, reprieves the greatest number of criminals, and is very charitable to the rest of the confederacy.
Rewards, however, should be conferred, and punishments inflicted, not so much for the sake of justice in regard to what is past, as with an eye to the encouragement of good,
and the prevention of bad actions in time to come.
In this respect, the mere rewards and punishments of reflection, when religion is out of the case, are still more deficient than in regard to justice itself.
How little is to be hoped from such reflections in order to the reformation of him who may, or may not make them, we have already considered ; and as to the reformation of others, that is wholly out of the question. The pleasure a man takes in doing good, and the remorse he feels on doing evil, are generally known only to himself, and therefore can have no effect on the rest of mankind; whereas 'it is the business of divine justice to let the whole world see, by an open distribution of rewards and punishments, what it is to please, or offend God; to do good, or to do evil.
Did virtue appear to the eye of our present nature always so beautiful, and vice always so ugly; and were every good action so fully rewarded, and every evil one so amply punished in the doing, as some men would have us think, all legal distributions of good or evil had been utterly useless. The laws of our country had surely been wholly impertinent in threatening the blackest crimes, which we should be most apt to abhor, with the most terrible punishments, and encouraging us to the best actions, which we should be most apt to love, by proposing their best rewards ; nor had they both threatened and promised, after all, so often in vain.
But the whole world hath found by sad experience that human nature is prone to sin; that 'the thoughts of man's heart are only evil continually;' that 'the heart itself is desperately wicked, so that no one can know it, and that therefore it must be hired to good by large premiums, and frightened from evil by the most terrible punishments.
If the understandings of all men, as our libertines insist, were able always, when unbiassed by education, clearly to distinguish between the good and evil action; and if their hearts, as they say, found nothing but pleasure in the former, and pain in the latter; it were surely a wonder, how so many bad actions, and so few good ones, come to be done. Why is the truly good man so great a rarity, that he passes for a saint or hero? And why do all ages and countries so abound with bad men, that no laws sufficiently strict, nor punishments sufficiently severe, have ever yet been invented to guard against crimes the most abominable and shocking ? In the writings of a libertine, men are fine creatures, lovers of virtue, and haters of vice. But if a writer of this stamp happens to make one in that body from which we have our laws, he is as ready as others to punish robbery and murder with death. How good we are in his book! how wicked in his statute! how much at variance is the one with the other ! As a libertine writer, he thinks it sufficient to give us our consciences for legislators; but as a framer of laws, he turns us over to be rewarded or punished by others in consequence of our actions, that is, to future rewards and punishments, as if we were quite another sort of people. On his principles, God is not allowed the same privilege this man claims to himself, of promising rewards to good actions, and threatening bad ones with punishments. Yet men are certainly the same in regard both to the laws of God and man. If, however, Christianity is to be run down, then its sanctions are to be struck off as useless or slavish, and the moral sense or conscience can do every thing; but if the purse is to be secured, or the throat defended, then the gallows and the gibbet are not too great an addition.
Thus necessity, which some say hath no law, compels even the adversaries of every law, but that of nature, to become lawgivers themselves. The truth is, these measures arise out of our very nature, which cannot direct or support herself without foreign and additional aids.
Should any community frame a system of laws, but assign neither rewards to obedience, nor punishments to rebellion, who would not laugh at the absurdity, although the matter of those laws should, in other respects, be never so wisely considered?
If in God's kingdom the subjects should be encouraged to esteem themselves wholly unaccountable, should have no reason to hope for any reward, but such as they could confer, nor to fear any punishment, but such as they would inflict on themselves, what would become of either his authority, or our obedience? What would become of our
virtue and happiness ? Surely he who made us, could never propose to govern us by methods wholly unsuitable to our nature, and by ties that have little or no hold of us.
True, indeed, he never could, he never did. He deals with us as with men, according to the nature he hath given us. He sets good and evil before us, because he hath made us rational and free. He sets heaven before those hopes, and hell before those fears, which he himself hath impressed on our nature. If we choose the good, there is glory and eternal life proposed as a reward equal to the importance of virtue. If we choose the evil, disgrace and misery for ever are prepared for us, as a punishment due in justice to our wickedness. The one will be inflicted, or the other conferred, as the grand expedients to keep the moral world in order for ever. To determine this in regard to every man, God, who knows every thing, and can forget nothing, hath appointed a time for judgment, in which, at the destruction of this world, the whole race of mankind are to be summoned before his throne, and there to stand issue in the sight of infinite knowledge, justice, and power.
These arguments for a future judgment, drawn from the attributes of God, and the nature of man, ought to have their weight with reason, were there nothing farther to prove the point. But God hath thought fit, in a matter of this infinite consequence, to furnish us with another, which leaves no room for doubting wherever it is known. This is the resurrection of our blessed Saviour, who, on that account, is set forth to us as the first-fruits of them that sleep,' and are to be raised to new life; so that his rising again from the dead is proposed to us, not only as a sufficient proof that God can raise the dead, but also as an assurance, that he will actually raise the whole race of mankind, in order to a final judgment. No ordinary event, no assurances in mere words, could have satisfied the world, that all men shall live again, and be judged for their past lives. Nor would even the miracle of our Saviour's resurrection have done it, without having been more amply attested than any other fact. This amazing fact was foretold long before Christ was born, was repeatedly promised by himself, and fixed for the third day after his death. His adversaries, apprized of it, took effectual care to prevent