Imágenes de páginas

might recover strength enough to carry it herself to the waters of the Barèges, which she fancied might be of service to it; but the poor baby died within a fortnight after it was born.

Towards the end of 1794, their lot was somewhat softened by the compassionate kindness of a Madame Dumoutiers, who offered them an asylum in her house; in which, though still liable to the searches of the bloodhounds of the municipality, they had more assistance in eluding them, and less misery to endure in the intervals. The whole history of their escapes would make the adventures of Caleb Williams appear a cold and barren chronicle; but we have room only to mention that after the death of Robespierre there was a great abatement in the rigour of pursuit; and that a general amnesty was speedily proclaimed for all who had been concerned in the insurrection. After several inward struggles with pride and principle, Madame de L. was prevailed on to repair to Nantes, to avail herself of this amnesty; but, first of all, she rode in to reconnoitre, and consult with some friends of her hostess ; and proceeded boldly through the hostile city, in the dress of a peasant, with a sack at her back, and a pair of fowls in her hand. She found that the tone was now to flatter and conciliate the insurgents by all sorts of civilities and compliments; and, after some time, she and her mother applied for, and obtained, a full pardon for all their offences against the republican government.

274. Of the Immortality of the soul.

ARCHBISHOP LEIGHTON. [ROBERT LEIGHTON, Archbishop of Glasgow, was the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, who was one of the many sufferers for consciencesake in the reign of Charles I. He was born in 1611, at Edinburgh. The honours of Episcopacy were almost forced upon him in the reign of Charles II.; but he resigned his Archbishopric, and ended his life, in 1684, in privacy and seclusion. His theological works are of the very highest order.]

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 to

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 who, 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 those enjoyments that are Divine and eternal. For our parts, I am fully persuaded we shall be of this mind, if we seriously reflect upon 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 somewhere 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 argaments 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 obscure, 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 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 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.

Nothing is more evident than that, besides life, and sense, and animal spirits, which he has in common with the brutes, there is in man something more exalted, more pure, and that more nearly approaches to Divinity. God has given to the former a sensitive soul, but to us a mind also; and, to speak distinctly, that spirit which is peculiar to man, and whereby he is raised above all other animals, ought to be called mind rather than soul. Be this as it may, it is hardly possible to say how vastly the human mind excels the other with regard to its wonderful powers, and, next to them, with respect to its works, devices, and inventions. For it performs such great and wonderful things, that the brutes, even those of the greatest sagacity, can neither imitate, nor at all understand, much less invent. Nay, man, though he is much less in bulk, and inferior in strength to the greatest part of them, yet, as lord and king of them all, he can, by surprising means, bend and apply the strength and industry of all the other creatures, the virtues of all herbs and plants, and, in a word, all the parts and powers

of this visible world, to the convenience and accommodation of his own life. He also builds cities, erects commonwealths, makes laws, conducts armies, fits out fleets, measures not only the earth, but the heavens also, and investigates the motions of the stars. He foretells eclipses many years before they happen; and, with very little difficulty, sends his thoughts to a great distance, bids them visit the remotest cities and countries, mount above the sun and the stars, and even the heavens themselves.

But all these things are inconsiderable, and contribute but little to our present purpose, in respect of that one incomparable dignity that results to the human mind from its being capable of religion, and having indelible characters thereof naturally stamped upon it. It acknowledges a God, and worships him ; it builds temples to his honour; it celebrates his never enough exalted majesty with sacrifices, prayers, and praises ; depends upon his bounty; implores his aid; and so carries on a constant correspondence with heaven : and, which is a very strong proof of its being originally from heaven, it hopes at last to return to it. And truly, in my judgment, this previous impression and hope of immortality, and these earnest desires after it, are a very strong evi. dence of that immortality. These impressions, though in most men they lie overpowered and almost quite extinguished by the weight of their bodies, and an extravagant love to present enjoyments; yet, now and then, in time of adversity, break forth and exert themselves, especially under the pressure of severe distempers, and at the approaches of death. But those whose minds are purified, and their thoughts habituated to Divine things, with what constant and ardent wishes do they breathe after that blessed immortality? How often do their souls complain within them that they have dwelt so long in these earthly tabernacles ! Like exiles, they earnestly wish, make interest, and struggle hard, to regain their native country. Moreover, does not that noble neglect of the body and its senses, and that contempt of all the pleasures of the flesh, which these heavenly souls have attained, evidently show that, in a short time, they will be taken from hence, and that the body and soul are of a very different and almost contrary nature to one another; that, therefore, the duration of the one depends not upon the other, but is quite of another kind; and that the soul, set at liberty from the body, is not only exempted from death, but, in some sense, then begins to live, and then first sees the light? Had we not this hope to support us, what ground should we have to lament our first nativity, which placed us in a life so short, so destitute of good, and so crowded with miseries; a life which we pass entirely in grasping phantoms of felicity, and suffering real calamities! So that, if there were not, beyond this, a life and happiness that more truly deserves these names, who can help seeing that, of all creatures, man would be the most miserable, and, of all men, at the best, the most unhappy? : For, although every wise man looks upon the belief of the immor


tality of the soul, as one of the great and principal supports of religion, there may possibly be some rare, exalted, and truly divine minds, who would choose the pure and noble path of virtue for its own sake, would constantly walk in it, and, out of love to it, would not decline the severest hardships, if they should happen to be exposed to them on its account. Yet it cannot be denied that the common sort of Christians, though they are really and at heart sound believers and true Christians, fall very far short of this attainment, and would scarcely, if at all, brace virtue and religion, if you take away the rewards; which I think the Apostle Paul hints at in this expression, If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable. 1 Cor. xv. 19. The Apostle, indeed, does not intend these words as a direct proof of the immortality of the soul in a separate state, but an argument to prove the resurrection of the body; which is a doctrine near akin, and closely connected with the former. For that great restoration is added as an instance of the superabundance and immensity of the Divine goodness, whose pleasure it is, that not only the better and more divine part of man, which, upon its return to its original Source, is, without the body, capable of enjoying a perfectly happy and eternal life, should have a glorious immortality, but also that this earthly tabernacle, as being the faithful attendant and constant companion of the soul through all its toils and labours in this world, be also admitted to a share and par-, ticipation of its heavenly and eternal felicity; that so, according to our Lord's expression, every faithful soul may have returned into his bosom, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Luke vi. 38.

Let our belief of this immortality be founded entirely on divine revelation; and then, like a city fortified with a rampart of earth drawn round it, let it be outwardly guarded and defended by reason, which, in this case, suggests arguments as strong and convincing as the subject will admit of. If any one, in the present case, promises demonstration, his undertaking is certainly too much; if he desires or expects it from another, he requires too much. There are, indeed, very few demonstrations in philosophy, if you except mathematical sciences, that can be truly and strictly so called ; and, if we inquire narrowly into the matter, perhaps we shall find none at all ; nay, if even the mathematical demonstrations are examined by the strict rules and ideas of Aristotle, the greatest part of them will be found imperfect and defective. The

« AnteriorContinuar »