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.

CHAP. X.*

The moral Arguments for the Souls Immortality. The restless desire of the Soul to an intellectual eternal happiness, argues it survives the Body. The lower order of Crea∣tures obtain their perfection here. It reflects upon Nature, if the more noble fails of its end. That wick∣ed Men would choose annihilation, is no proof against Mans natural de∣sires of Immortality. The neces∣sity of a future state of recompences for moral actions, proves the Soul to be immortal. The wisdom of God, as Governor of the World, re∣quiresPage  182 there be Rewards and Pu∣nishments annext to his Laws. Eter∣nal Rewards are only powerful to make men obedient to them in this corrupt state. Humane Laws are no sufficient security of Vertue, and restraint from Vice.

2. I Will now consider the mo∣ral Inducements to confirm our belief that God will preserve the Soul in its being and activity hereafter. And of this we have sufficient evidence by internal light, the natural notions of the Deity, and by many visible testi∣monies in his Government of the World.

1. The restless desire of the Soul to an intellectual and eternal Felicity not attainable here, is a strong argument that 'tis reserv'd to a future state. The Understand∣ing Page  183 is inclin'd to the knowledge of Truth, the Will to the fruition of Goodness; and in what de∣grees soever we discover the one, and enjoy the other in our present condition, we are not content. As one that is burnt up with such a Thirst that onely an Ocean can quench, and has but a little stream to refresh him. God is the only satisfying Object of the rational faculties, and here our concepti∣ons of him are so imperfect, that we approach nearer the Truth by denying what is inconsistent with his Nature, than in affirming the proper Perfections of it. And the communications of his Love to us inflames the Soul with new de∣sires of fuller enjoyment. This desire of Happiness is essential to Man, as Man. Now 'tis universal∣ly acknowledged that Nature is Page  184 not a vain Principle, it produces no superfluous inclinations in any sort of Creatures, much less in Man, and in that which is most proper to him, and in order to the raising him to his Perfection. The natural motion of a Stone has a center where to rest; Plants arrive to their full growth and beauty; the Beasts have present satisfaction, and are happy Ani∣mals. But Man, in whom the two lower lives and the Intellectual are united, is here only in his way to happiness, his best endeavours are but imperfect essays towards it.

Now if the Soul does not sur∣vive the Body, and in a separate state obtain its desires, it will re∣flect upon Nature for imprudence or malignity, in dealing worse with the most noble order of vi∣sible Page  185 Beings. The Beasts excel Man in the quickness and vivacity of the powers of Sense, being their perfection, and in him subordi∣nate faculties, and are more ca∣pable of pleasure from sensible things; and Reason, his eminent Prerogative, makes him more lia∣ble to misery. For Man ardently aspiring to a Spiritual Happiness, that here he cannot enjoy, much less hereafter if the Soul perish, is under a remediless infelicity. His Mind is deceived and stain'd with Errors, his Will tormented with fruitless longings after an impossi∣ble Object. But if we unveil the face of Nature, God appears (who is the Author of our being, and of this desire so proper to it) and we cannot suspect, without the high∣est Impiety, that he would make all Men in vain, and deceive them by Page  186 a false appearance. But he gives us in it a faithful presage of things future, and indiscernable to sense, to be injoyed in immortality. This Argument will be the more forcible, if we consider that holy Souls, who excel in Knowledge and Vertue do most inflamedly long for the enjoyment of this pure felicity. And is it possible that the Creatour should not on∣ly endow Man with rational po∣wers, but with vertues that exalt and inlarge their capacity to ren∣der him more miserable? to ima∣gine that he cannot, or will not fully and eternally satisfie them is equally injurious to his perfecti∣ons. It therefore necessarily fol∣lows that the Soul lives after Death, and fully enjoys the hap∣piness it earnestly desir'd whiles in the darkness of this earthly Ta∣ber••cle

Page  187 Add further, that Man alone of all Creatures in the lower World understands and desires Immor∣tality. The conception of it is peculiar to his Mind, and the de∣sire of it as intrinsick to his Nature as the desire of Blessedness. For that Blessedness that ends, is no perfect Blessedness, nor that which every one desires. Man alone feels and knows that his Nature is capable of excellent perfections and joys. Now if he shall cease to be for ever, why is this know∣ledge and desire but to render him more unhappy, by grief for the present shortness of life, and by despair of a future Immortali∣ty? In this respect also the condi∣tion of the Beasts would be bet∣ter than of Men. For though they are for ever deprived of Life, yet they are uncapable of regret, be∣cause Page  188 they cannot by reflection know that they possess it, and are without the least imagination or desire of immortality. They are alive to the present, but dead to the future. By a favourable ig∣norance they pass into a state of not being, with as much indiffe∣rence, as from watching to sleep, or from labour to repose. But to Man that understands and va∣lues Life and Immortality, how dark and hideous are the thoughts of annihilation? let him enjoy all possible delights to sense, or desireable to the powers of the Soul, How will the sweetness of all be lost in the bitterness of that thought that he shall be deprived of them for ever?* How frightful is the continual apprehension of an everlasting period to his being, and all enjoyments sutable to it? Page  189 After that a prospect of Eternity has been shown to him, how tor∣menting is the thought that he must die as the stupid Ox, or the vilest Vermine of the Earth, and with him the fallacious instinct of Nature that inclin'd him to the most durable happiness? If it were thus, O living Image of the Immortal God, thy condition is very miserable! What the Ro∣mans wisht in great anguish for the loss of Augustus, that he had not been born,* or had not died, is more reasonable in this case: it were better that the desire of eter∣nal Life had not been born in Man, or that it should be fulfilled. If it be objected that many Men are not only without fear of anni∣hilation, but desire it, therefore Im∣mortality is not such a priviledg that thereasonable Creature, natu∣rally aspires to.

Page  190 I answer; the inference is very preposterous, for the reason of their choice is, because they are at∣tentive to an object infinitely more sad and afflictive, that is, a state of everlasting torments, which the guilty conscience pre∣sages to be the just recompence of their crimes. So that enclosed between two evils, an eternal state of not Being, and an Eternity of misery, 'tis reasonable to venture on the least, to escape the greater. But supposing any hopes of fu∣ture happiness, they would de∣sire immortality as an excellent benefit. As one that has lost the pleasure and taste of Life, by con∣suming sickness, and sharp pains, or some other great calamities, may be willing to die, but sup∣possing a freedom from those evils, the desire of Life as the most Page  191 precious and dear enjoyment would strongly return. And that the desire of Immortality is na∣tural, I shall add one most visi∣ble testimony. For whereas the lower sort of Creatures that final∣ly perish in Death are without the least knowledg of a future estate, and are therefore careless of leaving a memorial after them: on the contrary, Men are solici∣tous to secure their names from oblivion, as conscious of their souls surviving in another World. This ardent passion not directed by higher Principles, excites them to use all means, to obtain a kind of immortality from Mortals. They reward Historians, Poets, Ora∣tours to celebrate their actions. They erect Monuments of durable Brass and Marble to represent the Effigies of their faces: They en∣deavour Page  192 by triumphal Arches, Py∣ramids, and other works of Mag∣nificence, to eternize their Fame, to live in the eyes, and mouths, and memories of the living in all succeding times. These indeed are vain shadows, yet argue the desire of immortality to be na∣tural. As 'tis evident there is a na∣tural affection in Parents to pre∣serve their Children, because when they are depriv'd of their living presence, they dearly value and preserve their dead Pictures, though but a poor consolati∣on.

2. The necessity of a future state wherein a just retribution shall be made of rewards and pu∣nishments to Men according to their actions in this life, includes the Souls Immortality. For the proof of this I shall lay down Page  193 such things as certainly establish it.

1. The first Argument is drawn from the Wisdom of God in go∣verning the reasonable World. In the quality of Creator, he has a su∣pream title to Man, and conse∣quently is his rightful Governor, and Man his natural subject. Now Man being endowed with free fa∣culties, the powers of knowing and choosing, is under a Law clear∣ly imprest on his Nature by the Author of it, that strictly forbids moral evil, and commands moral good. And to enforce the Au∣thority of this Law, the Wisdom of the Lawgiver, and the temper of the Subject requires, that wil∣ling obedience should be attended with certain rewards, and volun∣tary disobedience with unavoid∣able punishments. For Man be∣ing Page  194 so fram'd as to fore-see the consequences of his actions, the inward springs of hope and fear, work and govern him according∣ly. And these necessary effects of Vertue and Vice must be so great, as may rationally induce Man to reverence and observe the Law of his Maker, in the presence of the strongest Temptation to the con∣trary. Now if we consider Man in this corrupt state, how averse from good, and inclin'd to evil, how weak his directive faculty, how disordered and turbulent his Passions, how many Pleasures are pressing on the senses, to precipi∣tate his slippery disposition into a compliance, it is very evident, that besides the rules of Morality, eter∣nal Reasons are necessary to pre∣serve in him a dutiful respect to God. Take away the hopes and Page  195 fears of things hereafter, what An∣tidote is of force against the poi∣son of inherent Lusts? what can dis∣arm the World of its Allurements? how can Man void of Innocence, and full of Impurity, resist the de∣lights of Sin, when the inclinati∣ons from within, are as strong as temptations from without? how greedily will he pursue the advan∣tages of this mortal condition, and strive to gratifie all the sensual ap∣pitites? The Romans when the fear ofCarthage, that aspired to a superiority in Empire, was remo∣ved, presently degenerated from Military Valor and Civil Vertues, into Softness and Luxury. So if Man were absolv'd from the fear of Judgment to come, no restraint would be strong enough to bridle the impetuous resolutions of his depraved will. If there were no Page  196 evil of punishment after Death, there is no evil of Sin but will be continued in, till Death. And Man, that by nature is incomparably above, by Vice would be incom∣parably beneath the Beasts: inso∣much as joyning to their natural brutishness, the craft and malice of wit, he would become more monstrously (that is, designedly and freely) brutish. Now is it conceivable that God, to keep his subjects in order, should be con∣strained to allure them with a beautiful deceit, the promise of a Heaven that has no reality, or to urge them by the feigned terrors of a Hell, that is no where? This is inconsistent with his Wisdom, and many other Attributes.

If it be objected, That humane Laws are a sufficient security of Vertue, and curb from Vice.

Page  197 I answer, This is apparently false: For,

1. Soveraign Princes are ex∣empted from temporal penalties, yet their faults are of the greatest malignity by the contagion of their examples, and the mischief of their effects. Their Actions are more potent to govern than their Laws. Innumerable perish by the imitation of their Vices. Now to leave the highest rank of Men un∣accountable, would cause a great disorder in the conduct of the rea∣sonable Creature, and be a spot in the Divine Providence.

2. Many Sins directly opposit to Reason, and injurious to the Divine Honour, are not within the compass of Civil Laws. Such are some Sins that immediately concern God, the disbelief and un∣dervaluing his Excellencies; and Page  198 some that immediately respect a Man's self, as Sloth, Luxury, &c. And all vicious Principles that se∣cretly lodge in the heart, and in∣fect it with deep pollutions, and many sins that break forth, of which the outward acts are not pernicious to the publick.

3. Many eminent vertues are of a private nature, as Humility, Meekness, Patience, a readiness to forgive, Gratitude, for which there are no encouragements by civil Laws: so that they are but a weak instrument to preserve In∣nocence, and restrain from Evil.