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Some to the fascination of a name
What prodigies can power divine perform
Of unprolific winter has impress'd
The bright profusion of her scattered stars.
the tender germ
358.-The Immortality of the Soul.
SAERTOCK. (Dr. Thomas SCERLOCK, one of the most eminent Divines of the last century, was born in 1678; died in 1761. During this long life he was an indefatigable preacher and defender of Christianity. He was successively Master of the Temple, Bishop of Bangor, of Salisbury, and of London.j
Had it not been for philosophy, there had remained perhaps no footsteps of any unbelievers in this great article ; for the sense of nature would have directed all right; but philosophy misguided many. For those who denied immortality, did not deny the common sense of nature, which they felt as well as others; but
they rejected the notice, and thought it false, because they could not find physical causes to support the belief, or thought that they found physical causes effectually to overthrow it. This account we owe to Cicero, one of the best judges of antiquity, who tells us plainly, that the reason why many rejected the belief of the immortality of the soul was because they could not form the conception of an unbodied soul. So that infidelity is of no older a date than philosophy; and a future state was not doubted of till men had puzzled and confounded themselves in their search after the physical reason of the soul's immortality. And now consider how the case stands, and how far the evidence of nature is weakened by the authority of such unbelievers. All mankind receive the belief of a future life, urged to it every day by what they feel transacted in their own breasts : but some philosophers reject this opinion, because they have no conception of a soul distinct from the body; as if the immortality of the soul depended merely upon the strength of human imagination. Were the natural evidence of immortality built upon any particular notion of a human soul, the evidence of nature might be overthrown by showing the impossibility or improbability of such notion : but the evidence of nature is not concerned in any notion ; and all the common notions may be false, and yet the evidence of nature stand good, which only supposes man to be rational and consequently accountable ; and if any philosopher can prove the contrary, he may then, if his word will afterwards pass for anything, reject this and all other evidence whatever.
The natural evidence, I say, supposes only that a man is a rational, accountable creature ; and, this being the true foundation in nature for the belief of the immortality, the true notion of nature must needs be this, that man, as such, shall live to account for his doings. The question, then, upon the foot of nature, is this : What consiitutes the man ? And who ever observes with any care will find that this is the point upon which the learned of antiquity divided. The vulgar spoke of men after death just in the same manner as they did of men on earth : and Cicero observes, that the common error, as he calls it, so far prevailed, that they supposed such things to be transacted apud inferos, quæ sine corporibus nec fieri possent nec intelligi ; wbich could neither be
done, nor conceived to be done without bodies. The generality of men could not arrive to abstracted notions of unbodied spirits; and though they could not but think that the body, which was burnt before their eyes, was dissipated and destroyed; yet so great was the force of nature, which was ever suggesting to them that men should live again, that they continued to imagine men with bodies in another life, having no other notion or conception of men.
But, with the learned, nothing was held to be more absurd than to think of having bodies again in another state; and yet they knew that the true foundation of immortality was laid in this point, that the same individuals should continue. The natural consequence then was, from these principles, to exclude the body from being any part of the man; and all, I believe, who asserted any immortality, agreed in this notion. The Platonists undoubtedly did; and Cicero has everywhere declared it to be his opinion: T'u habito, (says he) te non esse mortalem sed corpus : Nec enim is és quem forma ista declarat; sed mens cujusque is est quisque. It is not you,
but your body, which is mortal; for you are not what you appear to be ; but it is the mind which is the man.
This being the case the controversy was necessarily brought to turn upon the nature of the soul ; and the belief of immortality either prevailed or sunk, according as men conceived of the natural dignity and power of the soul. For this reason the corporealists rejected the opinion: for, since it was universally agreed among the learned that all that was corporeal of man died, they who had no notion of anything else necessarily concluded that the whole man died.
From this view you may judge how the cause of immortality stood, and what difficulties attended it upon the foot of natural religion. All men had a natural sense and expectation of a fu. ture life.
The difficulty was to account how the same individuals, which lived and died in this world, and one part of which evidently went to decay, should live again in another world. The vulgar, who had no other notion of a man but what came in by their eyes, supposed that just such men as lived in this world should live in the next; overlooking the difficulties which lay in their way, whilst they ran hastily to embrace the sentiments of nature. This