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have embraced its visionary semblance, in an unreal and chimerical virtue.
Instinct tells us, that we must seek our happiness within ourselves. Our passions drive us forth to seek it in things external, even when those things are not actually present to minister excitement. External objects are themselves also our tempters, and entice us even when we are not aware. The philosophers then will but vainly say, "Be occupied with yourselves, for there you will find your happiness." Few believe them; and the few who do, are more empty and foolish than any. For can any thing be more contemptible and silly, than what the Stoics call happiness? or more false than all their reasonings on the subject?
They affirm that man can do at all times what he has done once; and that since the love of fame prompts its possessor to do some things well, others may do the same. But those actions are the result of feverish excitement, which health cannot imitate.
2. The intestine war of reason against the passions, has given rise, among those who wish for peace, to the formation of two different sects. The one wished to renounce the passions and to-be as Gods; the other to renounce their reason, and become beasts. But neither has succeeded; and reason still remains, to point out the baseness and moral pravity of the passions, which are still vigorously in action in the hearts of those who aim to renounce them.
3. This then is all that man can do in his own strength with regard to truth and happiness. We have a powerlessness for determining truth, which no dogmatism can overcome: we have a vague notion of truth, which no Pyrrhonism can destroy. We wish for truth, and find within only uncertainty. for happiness, and find nothing but misery. not but wish for truth and happiness; yet we are incapable of attaining either. The desire is left to us, as much to punish us, as to shew us whence we are fallen.
4. If man was not made for God, why is he never
happy but in God? If man is made for God, why is he so contrary to God?
5. Man knows not in what rank of beings to place himself. He is manifestly astray, and perceives in himself the remnant indications of a happy, state, from which he has fallen, and which he cannot recover. He is ever seeking it, with restless anxiety, without success, and in impenetrable darkness. This is the source of all the contests of the philosophers. One class has undertaken to elevate man by displaying his greatness; the other to abase him by the exhibition of his wretchedness. And what is most extraordinary is, that each party makes use of the reasonings of the other to establish its own opinions. For the misery of man is inferrible from his greatness, and his greatness from his miserv. And thus the one class has more ef fectually proved his misery, because they deduced it from his greatness; and the other established much more powerfully the fact of his greatness, because they proved it even from misery. All that the one could say of his greatness, served but as an argument to the other, to prove his misery; inasmuch as the misery of having fallen, is aggravated in proportion as the point from which we fell is shown to be more elevated; and vice versa. Thus they have outgone each other successively, in an eternal circle; it being certain, that as men increased in illumination, they would multiply proofs, both of their greatness and their misery. In short, man knows that he is wretched. He is wretched, because he knows it. Yet in this he is evidently great, that he knows himself to be wretched. What a chimera then is man. What a singular phenomenon! What a chaos! What a scene of contrariety! A judge of all things, yet a feeble worm; the shrine of truth, yet a mass of doubt and uncertainty : at once the glory and the scorn of the universe. If he boasts, I lower him; if he lowers himself, I raise him; either way I contradict him, till he learns that he is a monstrous incomprehensible mystery.
ON AVOWED INDIFFERENCE TO RELIGION.
Ir were to be wished, that the enemies of religion would at least learn what religion is, before they oppose it. If religion boasted of the unclouded vision of God, and of disclosing him without a covering or veil, then it were victory to say that nothing in the world discovers him with such evidence. But since religion, on the contrary, teaches that men are in darkness, and far from God; that he is hidden from them, and that the very name which he gives himself in the Scriptures, is "a God that hideth himself;" and, in fact, since it labors to establish the two maxims, that God has placed in his church, certain characters of himself, by which he will make himself known to those who sincerely seek him; and yet that he has, at the same time, so far covered them, as to render himself imperceptible to those who do not seek him with their whole heart, what advantage do men gain, that, in the midst of their criminal negligence in the search of truth, they complain so frequently that nothing reveals and displays it to them? seeing that this very obscurity under which they labor, and which they thus bring against the Christian church, does but establish one of the two grand points, which she maintains, without affecting the other; and instead of running, confirms her doctrines.
To contend with any effect, the opposers of religion should be able to urge, that they have applied their utmost endeavours, and have used all the means of information, even those which the Christian church recommends, without obtaining satisfaction. If they could say this, it were indeed to attack one of her main pretensions. But I hope to shew that no rational person can affirm this; nay, I venture to assert that none ever
did. We know very well how men of this spirit are wont to act. They conceive that they have made a mighty effort towards the instruction of their minds, when they have spent a few hours in reading the Scriptures, and have put a few questions to a minister on the articles of the faith. And then they boast of having consulted both men and books without success. Really I cannot help telling such men, what I have often told them, that this negligence is insufferable.— This is not a question about the petty interests of some stranger. Ourselves and our all are involved in it.
The immortality of the soul is a matter of such main importance, so profoundly interesting to us, that we must be utterly dead to every good feeling, if we could be indifferent about it. And all our actions and thoughts would take so different a course, according as we have or 'have not the hope of eternal blessings, that it is impossible for us to take one step discreetly, but as we keep this point ever in view, as our main and ultimate object.
It is, then, both our highest interest, and our first duty, to get light on this subject, on which our whole conduct depends. And here, therefore, in speaking of those who are sceptical on this point, I make a wide distinction between those who labor with all their power to obtain instruction, and those who live on in indolence, without caring to make any inquiry. I do heartily pity those who sincerely mourn over their scepticism, who look upon it as the greatest of misfortunes, and who spare no pains to escape from it, but who make these researches their chief and most serious employ. But as for those who pass their life without reflecting on its close; and who, merely because they find not in themselves a convincing testimony, refuse to seek it elsewhere, and to examine thoroughly, whether the opinion proposed be such as nothing but a credulous simplicity receives, or such as, though obscure in itself, is yet founded on a solid basis, I regard them very differently. The carelessness which they betray in a matter which involves their
existence, their eternity, their all, awakes my indignation, rather than my pity. It is astonishing. It is It is monstrous. I speak not this from the pious zeal of a blind devotion. On the contrary, I affirm that self-love, that self-interest, that the simplest light of reason, should inspire these sentiments; and, in fact, for this we need but the perceptions of ordinary men.
It requires but little elevation of soul to discover, that here there is no substantial delight; that our pleasures are but vanity, that the ills of life are innumerable; and that, after all, death, which threatens us every moment, must, in a few years, perhaps in a few days, place us in the eternal condition of happiness, or misery, or nothingness. Between us and heaven, hell or annihilation, no barrier is interposed but life, which is of all things the most fragile; and as they who doubt the immortality of the soul can have no hope of heaven, they can have no prospect but hell or nonentity.
Nothing can be more true than this, and nothing more terrible. Brave it how we will, there ends the goodliest life on earth.
It is in vain for men to turn aside from this coming eternity, as if a bold indifference could destroy its being. It subsists notwithstanding. It hastens on; and death, which must soon unveil it, will, in a short time, infallibly reduce them to the dreadful necessity of being annihilated for ever, or for ever wretched.
Here then is a doubt of the most alarming importance; to feel this doubt is already, in itself, a serious evil. But that doubt imposes on us the indispensable duty of inquiry.
He, then, who doubts, and yet neglects inquiry, is both uncandid and unhappy. But if, notwithstanding his doubts, he is calm and contented; if he freely avows his ignorance; nay, if he makes it his boast, and seems to make this very indifference the subject of his joy and triumph, no words can adequately describe his extravagant infatuation.