Page images

II. The principles of religion and virtue do minister comfort to us in the most needful and desirable times ; and on the contrary, the principles of infidelity and vice do not only fail us - in this day of distress, but give ĝreat trouble to us at the most un seasonable time.

And this makes a mighty difference between the condition of these two sorts of persons ; for when would á man defire to be at peace and quiet in his mind, but when his body is restless, and in pain? When would á man wish før trong consolation and hope, that anchor of the foul, fure and stedfast, as the Apostle to the Hé. brews calls it, but in that laft and terrible conflict of Aature, with the last of enemies, which is death ? And when would a fan dread trouble anu anguish of mind, but at füèh a time, when lie is hardly able to sustain hiš bodily pains and infirmities? If it be true of every day of our lives, Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, much more of the day of death: it is enough surely to bave thât pñe enemy to encounter, at which nature Startles, and our beft reafón can hardly furnish us with force enough for the conflict, even when the fting of death is taken away, I mean the guilt of an evil confcience: but when all evils asfáil a man ät once, pains without, and terrors within, á weak body, and a wounded spirit, an incurable disease, and intolerable despair, death ready to affault us, and hell following it ; how anseasonable is the conjuncture of so many and so greač evils? Wife men are wont to provide with against fuch a time; that they may not be oppressed with too many troubles at once; and therefore, in the time of their health, they settle their worldly concernments, and make their wills, that when fickness or death comes, they may have no eäre upon them; nothing to do but to die. This is å time, when all the force of our reason, and all the comfort and hope that religion can give, will be little enough to give us a quiet and undirtürbed paffage out of this world into the other : and we shall be very miserable, if the terrors and ftings of a guilty: confcience, and the pangs of death, do leize upon us at once. And therefore a wise man would make it the buliness of his whole life, to prevent this

S 3


eat care

unhappy concurrence of evils, so unsupportable to hu. man nature; and to render death, which is grievous and terrible enough of itself, as comfortable and easy as it is poffible. For if there were nothing beyond this life, yet it were worth the while to provide for a quiet death; and if men were sure to be possessed of these passions of hope and fear, of comfort and despair, which usually attend good and bad men when they come to die, there is no man, that calculates things wisely, would, for all the pleasures of-sin, forfeit the peace and comfort of a righteous soul, going out of the world full of the hopes of a blessed immortality; and endure the anguish and torment of a guilty conscience, and the amazing terrors of a defpairing and dying finner. This is a condition so sad and fearful, that a wise man would avoid it upon any terms.

III. When men are commonly more serious, and fober, and impartial, and their declarations and words are thought to be of the greatest weight and credit, they give this testimony to religion and virtue, and against impiety and vice.

It is generally seen, when men come to die, that the manner of their death is, answerable to the course of their life; that the reflection upon an holy and virtuous life is a great ease and comfort to mens minds : 'and, on the contrary, the guilt of a wicked life is apt to fly in their faces, and to disturb their minds, and fill them with horror, And this is a critical time, when the consciences of men are usually awake, and apt to pass an impartial judgment and cenfure upon themselves. Find for this, the infidel may believe one of his own great authors, I mean Lucretius, who observes, that when men are in distress, and the apprehensions of death are apon them, religion doth then shew its torce :

Acriùs advertunt animos ad religionem ;
" The thoughts of it are theo more pungent and power,
“ ful upon their minds."

Nam veræ voces tum demum pectare ab imo
Eliciuntur, et eripitur persona, manet res.

“ Mens

[ocr errors]

and angry

* Mens words then come from the bottom of their « hearts, the mask is taken off, and things then appear " to thein as indeed they are :

Now, that when men are so impartial and in good earnest, when they stand upon the confines of both worlds, and can view them at once, when they are leaving this world, and are now no longer in danger of being blinded, or fattered, or tempted by it, and are just ready to pass into the other world, and so much the more likely to discern the reality of it, as they approach near to it; I say, that in these circumstances, men generally declare on the side of piety and virtue, and declaim mott vehemently against their fins and vices; that generally speaking, and according to what is commonly seen in experience, the man who hach led a religious and vise tuous life, is, when he comes to die, quiet and easy to himself, hath no regret at what he hath done, do severe reflections


the strict course of a virtuous life, his conscience doth not accuse or upbraid, or ter rify him, for having lived foberly, and righteously, and godly in this world; nay, so far from this, that if he hath any trouble, it is, not because he hath lived pioully and virtuously, but because he hath not lived more so, because he hath come short of his duty, and hath been fo imperfectly and inconftantly good : that generally dying men repent of their evil actions, and are troubled for them; but no man ever repented himself of serving God, and doing good. This surely is a great teftimony

, on the side of religion and virtue, because it is the testi. mony not only of the friends to religion, but of those who have been the greatest enemies to it, and at a time when they are most likely to declare the inward sense of their minds, and to speak most impartially, without deSign or disguise. When the ungodly man and the finner comes to lie upon a death-bed, he hath then other apprehensions of things than he had, or would own to have, in the days of his health and prosperity, and his soul is full of sadness and trouble, of perplexity and anguish, of fear and despair, because of ghe wicked and lewd life which he hath led. But why art thou fo dismayed, man? Why so troubled and cast down, so refless and unquiet, fo wretched and miserable in thine own thoughts?

If thou haft done well in renouncing the principles of religion, and breaking loose from all obligations of duty and conscience, in gratifying thine inclinations and Jufts, why art thou now troubled at it? If thou wert in the right all the while, why dost thou not now ftand to it, and justify thy actings, and bear up like a man? If the principles thou wentest upon were found and firm, why doit thou not ftill take comfort and support from them? Why does thy heart faint, and thy fpirit fink within thee? How comes thy imagination to be fo dia furbed with fuch frightful appearances, aod to haunt chee continually with such vain and groundless tetrors ? Whence is it that those who have taken a contrary course, and lived a quite different life, have fo much the advantage of thee in the comfort, and peace, and traná quillity of their ininds, when they come to die?

But if thou hast been in the wrong, and doft now difo cern real cause for fo much trouble and fear, why didit thou not confider in time? Why waft thou not troubled fooner, when trouble would have done thee good, and a great part of the anguish which thou now feeleft, and all the mifery thou art fo afraid of might effettually have been presented ?

I think it is said by those who are concerned, tô také off the force of this terrible objection against infidelity and a wicked life; that when men are in a dying condition, their spirits are low, and their underftandings weak and disturbed, and their minds thrown off the hinges ; and therefore it is no wonder if they want that firmness and resolution of fpirit, that confideration and courage, which they had in the time of their health

This is fpeciously said, and with some shew and appearance

of reason : but it does by no means answer, and take off, the objection. For if this were a tree teason at the botrom, why is it not true on both fides? Why are not both forts of men, when they are fick and neat so die, thofe who have lived piously and virtuously, as well as the loose and wicked livers, equally troubled ? Why are they not difturbed and afraid alike? Hath not ficksess the fame natural effeet upon them; and does it



not equally weaken and disorder their minds ? But we see generally in experience a plain and remarkable difference between these two sorts of men when they come to die; so plain, that it is not to be denied; and so remarkable, that there must be some considerable cause of it ; cand so general and constant, that it cannot without great folly and perverseness be imputed to chance. Now what can we imagine should be the reason of this palpable difference between good and bad men, when they are under the apprehensions of death, but this, that a pious and virtuous life is a real ground of peace and joy, of comfort and confidence at that time, and that impiety and wickedness are a real foundation of guilt and fear, of horror and despair in a dying hour: in a word, that the different ways and courses of good and bad men do naturally lead to these different ends, and produce these different effects ?

Either this must be granted, and then the whole cause of infidelity and vice is yielded and given up or else men must fly to that which seems the moft unreasonable and extravagant paradox in the world, and does effectually give up the cause another way, viz. that a false opinion of things, and a mere delusion, is more apt to support the fainting spirits of a dying man, and to give him more comfort and hope in the day of distress, than a right and well-grounded persuasion.

But this, as I said before, does effectually give up the cause another way: for, if this be true, then certainly they are rightest that are in the wrong ; and religion, though it were a mistake, ought to be embraced and entertained by a wise man, because of this great benefit and comfort of it. If this be truly the case, then every wise man must say, Let me be so deceived ; let it be my lot and portion, to live and die in so pleasant, and comfortable, and happy an as that of religigion is.

So that whether religion be true or false, it must, according to this reasoning, be neceffarily granted to be the only wise principle, and safe hypothesis for a man to live and die by. And this very thing, that it is so, is a strong evidence of the truth of religion, and even a



« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »