Considerations of the existence of God and of the immortality of the soul, with the recompences of the future state for the cure of infidelity, the hectick evil of the times
Bates, William, 1625-1699.
Page  146

CHAP. VIII.*

The Immortality of the Soul depends on the conservative influence of God. Natural and Moral Ar∣guments to prove that God will con∣tinue it for ever. The Soul is in∣capable of perishing from any cor∣ruptible principles, or separable parts. Its spiritual Nature is evi∣dent by the acts of its principal fa∣culties. The understanding con∣ceives spiritual Objects; is not con∣fin'd to singular and present things: Reflects upon it self: Corrects the errors of the sense: Does not suffer from the excellence of the Object. Is vigorous in its operations when the body is decay'd, which proves it to be an immaterial faculty. An answer to objections, against thePage  147 Souls spiritual Nature. That the first notices of things are conveyed through the senses, does not argue it to be a material faculty. That it depends on the temper of the Body in its superior operations, is no pre∣judice to its spiritual Nature.

HAving dispatch'd the consi∣deration of the prime fun∣damental Truth, that there is a most Wise and Powerful Crea∣tor of all things, I shall next dis∣course of the Immortality of the humane Soul, and the Eternal re∣compences in the future State.

In treating of the Souls Im∣mortality I shall not insist on nice and subtile Speculations, that eva∣porate and leave nothing substan∣tial for conviction or practice: but consider those proofs that may induce the mind to assent, and Page  148 work upon the will to make its choice of objects with respect to their endless consequences here∣after. And first, it must be pre∣mised, that Immortality is not an inseparable perfection of its na∣ture; for 'tis capable of annihila∣tion. What ever had a beginning may have an end. God only hath immortality in an absolute sense, and communicates it according to his pleasure. The perpetual ex∣istence of Souls is a priviledge that depends on his sustaining vertue, without which they would re∣lapse into a state of not Being. His Will is the measure of their duration. I shall therefore consi∣der such things as strongly argue that God will not withdraw his conservative influence that is ne∣cessary to their Immortality. The Arguments are of two sorts, Natu∣ral Page  149 and Moral. The first prove that God has made the Soul inca∣pable of Death by any Internal Causes of perishing from its Na∣ture, and in that declares not ob∣scurely that he will ever preserve it. The second sort are drawn from the Divine Attributes, the vi∣sible Oeconomy of Providence in the government of the World, that are infallible, and will produce a sufficient conviction in minds e∣qually inclin'd.

1. The Soul is incapable of Death by any Internal Causes of perishing in its Nature. The dis∣solution of things proceeds from the corruptible principles of which they are compounded, and the separable parts of which they consist, and into which they are resolved. Therefore all mixt and material Beings are subject to dis∣solution. Page  150 But the humane Soul is a spiritual substance, simple, without any disagreeing qualities, as heat and cold, moisture and driness, the seeds of corruption. The essences of things are best discover'd by their peculiar opera∣tions, that argue a real distinction between them, and from whence arise the different notions where∣by they are conceived. The soul of a Brute, performs the same vital acts, as the soul of a Plant, yet 'tis visibly of a more elevated nature, because it performs the functions of the sensitive life that are proper to it. The rational Soul performs the same sensitive acts as the soul of Brutes, but that it is of a higher order of substances, appears by its peculiar objects and immediate operations upon them.

The two principal faculties of Page  151 the humane Soul are the Under∣standing and the Will, and the Actions flowing from them ex∣ceed the power of the most re∣fined matter however modified, and transcend any Principle that is only endowed with the powers of sense and imagination confin'd to matter.

To proceed orderly, I will first consider the Mind with respect to the quality of its objects, and man∣ner how it is conversant about them.

1. The conception of things purely spiritual, God, Angels, se∣parate Souls, the Analogies, the differences, and various respects of things, argue it to be of a spi∣ritual nature. For 'tis and evident principle, there must be an Ana∣logy between the Faculty and the Object. A material Glass cannot Page  152 represent a Spirit; it has no recep∣tivity to take into it an object without figure, colour, and diver∣sity of parts, the affections of mat∣ter. A spiritual object can only be apprehended by a spiritual o∣peration, and that can only be produced by a spiritual Power. The being of things is the root of their working. Now rarifie mat∣ter to the highest fineness, reduce it to imperceptible Atoms, 'tis as truly Matter as a gross Body. For lightness and tenuity are as pro∣per Attributes of matter, as weight and density, though less sensible.

If a Beast could apprehend what discourse is, it were rational. The Soul therefore that under∣stands the Spirituality of things is Spiritual; otherwise it should act extra sphaeram. The intellectual eye alone sees him that is Invisible, un∣derstands Page  153 the reasons of Truth and Justice, looks beyond the bright Hills of Time into the Spi∣ritual Eternal World, so that 'tis evident there is an affinity and likeness in Nature between them.

2. Material faculties are con∣fin'd to the narrow compass of singular and present things; but the Mind abstracts from all in∣dividuals, their pure Nature, and forms their Universal Species. The Eye can only see a colour'd object before it, the Mind con∣templates the nature of Colours. It ascends above all the distincti∣ons of Time, recollects what is past, foresees what is to come, no interval of space or time can hin∣der its sight. Besides, the* swift Page  154 flight of the thoughts over Sea and Land, the soaring of the Mind in a moment above the Stars, as if its essence were all vigour and activity, prove that 'tis not a mate∣rial Power.

3. Sense only acts in a direct way, without reflecting upon its self or its own operations. 'Tis true there is an experimental per∣ception included in vital and sen∣sible acts; but 'tis far below proper reflection. The Eye doth not see the action by which it sees, nor the imagination reflect on it self: for that being conversant only a∣bout representations transmitted through the senses, cannot frame an Image of it self and gaze upon it, there being no such resem∣blance conveyed by the mediati∣on of the outward organs. But the rational Soul not only con∣templates Page  155 an object, but reflects on its own contemplation, and retir'd from all commerce with External things, views it self, its qualities and state, and by this gives testimony of its Spiritual and immortal Nature.

4. The Mind rectifies the false reports of the Senses, and forms the Judgment of things not ac∣cording to their impressions, but by such rational evidence of which they are not capable. When the Object is too distant, or the Medium unfit, or the Organs di∣stemper'd, the Senses are deceived. The Stars of the brightest mag∣nitude seem to be trembling sparks of light: but the Under∣standing considers that the repre∣sentations of things are imperfect and less distinct proportionably to their distance, and conceives Page  156 of their magnitude accordingly. A straight Oar appears crooked in the Water, but Reason observes the error in the refractions, when the Image passes through a dou∣ble medium of unequal clearness. Sweet things taste bitter to one in a Feaver, but the mind knows that the bitterness is not in the things but in the viciated Palat. More∣over, how many things are col∣lected by Reason that transcend the power of fancy to conceive, nay are repugnant to its concep∣tion? What corporeal Image can represent the immensity of the Heavens, as the Mind by con∣vincing arguments apprehends it? The Antipodes walk erect upon the Earth, yet the Fancy cannot conceive them but with their Heads downward. Now if the Mind were of the same nature Page  157 with the corporeal Faculties, their judgment would be uniform.

5. The Senses suffer to a great degree by the excessive vehe∣mence of their Objects. Too bright a light blinds the Eye. Too strong a sound deafs the Ear. But the Soul receives vi∣gor and perfection from the ex∣cellence and sublimity of its ob∣ject; and when most intent in contemplation, and concenter'd in its self, becomes as it were all Mind, so that the operations of it as sensitive are suspended, feels the purest delights far above the perception of the lower faculties. Now from whence is the distem∣per of the Senses in their exercise, but from matter, as well that of the Object as the Organ? And from whence the not suffering of the Mind, but from the impressing Page  158 the forms of Objects, separated from all matter, and consequent∣ly in an immaterial faculty? for there is of necessity a convenience and proportion, as between a Be∣ing and the manner of its opera∣tions, so between that, and the subject wherein it works. This strongly argues the Soul to be im∣material, in that 'tis impassible from matter, even when it is most conversant in it. For it refines it from corporeal accidents, to a kind of spirituality proportioned to its nature. And from hence proceeds the unbounded capacity of the Soul in its conceptions, partly be∣cause the forms of things inconsi∣stent in their natures, are so puri∣fied by the Mind, as they have an objective existence without enmi∣ty or contrariety; partly because in the workings of the Mind, one Page  159 act does not require a different manner from another, but the same reaches to all that is intelli∣gible in the same order.

6. The Senses are subject to languishing and decay, and begin to die before Death. But the Soul many times in the weakness of Age is most lively and vigorous∣ly productive. The intellectual Off-spring carries no marks of the decays of the Body. In the ap∣proaches of Death, when the cor∣poreal faculties are relaxt and ve∣ry faintly perform their functions, the workings of the Soul are often rais'd above the usual pitch of its activity. And this is a pregnant probability that 'tis of a spiritual Nature, and that when the Body, which is here its Prison rather than Mansion, falls to the Earth, 'tis not opprest by its ruines, but Page  160 set free and injoys the truest liber∣ty.* This made Heraclitus say that the Soul goes out of the Body as Lightning from a Cloud, because it's never more clear in its concep∣tions than when freed from mat∣ter. And what Lucretius excellent∣ly expresses in his Verses, is true in another sense than he intended;

Cedit item retro de Terra, quod fuit ante,
In Terram; sed quod missum est ex Aetheris oris,
Id rursus Coeli fulgentia Templa recep∣tant.
What sprung from Earth falls to its native place:
What Heav'n inspir'd releast from the weak tye
Of flesh, ascends above the shi∣ning Sky.

Page  161 Before I proceed, I will briefly consider the Objections of some who secretly favour the part of impiety.

1. 'Tis objected, That the Soul in its intellectual operations de∣pends on the Phantasms, and those are drawn from the representati∣ons of things conveyed through the senses.

But it will appear this does not enervate the force of the Argu∣ments for its spiritual nature. For this dependence is only objective, not instrumental of the Souls per∣ception. The first images of things are introduc'd by the mediation of the senses, and by their presence (for nothing else is requisit) the mind is excited, and draws a Pic∣ture resembling, or if it please not resembling them, and so operates alone, and compleats its own Page  162 work. Of this we have a clear experiment in the conceptions which the mind forms of things so different from the first notices of them by the Senses.

The first apprehensions of the Deity are from the visible effects of his Power, but the Idea in which the understanding contemplates him, is fram'd by removing all imperfections that are in the Creatures, and consequently that he is not corporeal. For what∣soever is so, is liable to corruption, that is absolutely repugnant to the perfection of his nature. Now the common Sense and Fancy, only powerful to work in Mat∣ter; cannot truely express an im∣material Being. Indeed as Pain∣ters by their Colours represent invisible things, as Darkness, the Winds, the Internal affections of Page  163 the heart, so that by the represen∣tations, the thoughts are awakn'd of such objects; so the fancy may with the like Art shadow forth Spiritual Beings by the most re∣sembling forms taken from sensi∣ble things. Thus it imagins the Angels under the likeness of young Men with Wings, to ex∣press their vigor and velocity. But the Mind by its internal light conceives them in another man∣ner, by a Spiritual form, that ex∣ceeds the utmost efficacy of the corporeal Organs, so that 'tis evi∣dent the Soul as intellectual in its singular and most proper operati∣ons, is not assisted by the ministry of the Senses.

2. 'Tis objected that the Soul in its superiour operations de∣pends on the convenient temper of the Body. The thoughts are Page  164 clear and orderly when the Brain is compos'd. On the contrary when the predominancy of any humour distempers it, the Mind feels its infirmities. And from hence it seems to be of a corpo∣real nature, depending on the Bo∣dy in its being, as in its work∣ing.

But this, if duly consider'd, will raise no just prejudice against its Spiritual Immortal Nature. For,

1. The sympathy of things is no convincing Argument that they are of the same Nature. There may be so strict a union of Beings of different natures, that they must necessarily be subject to im∣pressions from one another. Can any Reasons demonstrate that a Spiritual substance endowed with the powers of understanding and Page  165 will, cannot be united in a vital composition to a Body, as the Ve∣getative Soul is in Plants, and the Sensitive in Beasts? There is no implicite repugnance in this that proves it impossible. Now if such a complex Being were in Nature, how would that spiritual Soul act in that Body, that in its first union with it (excepting some universal Principles) is a rasa tabula, as a white Paper, without the notices of things written in it? Certain∣ly in no other imaginable manner than as Man's Soul does now.

Indeed if Man as compounded of Soul and Body, were a sensi∣tive Animal, and only rational as partaking of the Universal Intel∣lect, bent to individuals for a time, and retiring at Death to its first Being, as Averroes fancied▪ there would be no cause of such a Sym∣pathy: Page  166 but the Soul as intellectu∣al, is an informing, not assisting form. And it is an evident proof of the Wisdom and Goodness of the Creator, by this strict and sen∣sible union, to make the Soul vi∣gilant and active to provide for the convenience and comfort of the Body in the present state, and that notwithstanding such a dis∣cord in Nature, there should be such a concord in inclinations.

2. Though the mental opera∣tions of the Soul are hindred by the ill habit of the Body, yet the mind suffers no hurt, but still retains its intellectual power without impairing. A skilful Mu∣sitian does not lose his Art that plays on an harp when the strings are false, though the Musick is not so harmonious as when 'tis justly tuned. The visive faculty is not Page  167 weakned, when the Air by a col∣lection of gross vapours is so thick, that the eye cannot distinctly per∣ceive distant objects. When by the heats of Wine or a Disease the Spirits are inflam'd, and made fierce and unruly, and the Images in the Fancy are put into confusi∣on, the mind cannot regularly go∣vern and use them: When the fumes are evaporated, the Brain is restor'd to its temper and fitness for intellectual operations, but the mind is not cur'd, that was not hurt by those Distempers.

Briefly, the Deniers of the Souls Immortality, resemble in their arguings some who oppos'd the Divinity of our Saviour. For as Apollinaris and Eunomius from Christ's sleeping so profoundly in a storm,* instead of concluding that he was a real Man, falsly in∣ferr'd Page  168 that he was not God: Be∣cause sleep is not the satisfaction of a Divine appetite, the Deity is incapable of it. But they con∣sider'd not his more than hu∣mane Power in rebuking the Winds and the Sea with that Em∣pire, that was felt and obeyed by those insensible creatures: so those whose interest inclines them to believe that Man is entirely mortal, alledg that he acts as a sensitive Creature, for he is so, but consider not that he has also more noble faculties, to under∣stand objects purely spiritual, and God himself the most perfect in that order, which no material principle, though of the most sub∣tile and finest contexture, can reach unto. Besides, the more 'tis disen∣gaged from Matter, and retir'd from the senses, the more capable Page  169 it is to perform its most exalted operations, and consequently by an absolute separation 'tis so far from perishing, that it ascends to its perfection. For the manner how it acts in the separate state 'tis to no purpose to search, being most secret, and 'twill be to no purpose to find, as being of no in∣fluence to excite us to the constant and diligent performance of our duty. 'Tis therefore a fruitless cu∣riosity to inquire after it. But to imagine that because the Soul in the present state cannot under∣stand clearly without the conve∣nient disposition of the Body, therefore it cannot act at all with∣out it, is as absur'd as to fancy be∣cause a man confin'd to a Cham∣ber cannot see the objects without but through the Windows, there∣fore he cannot see at all, but Page  170 through such a Medium, and that when he is out of the Chamber, he has totally lost his sight.