Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

established (like the fixing of the corresponding points in the retina) not even the most sudden appearance of evil will be able to affect the mind with the idea of any thing but what is right and desirable upon the whole, any more than two images, one in each eye, though ever so unexpectedly impressed, are not able, even for a moment, or by surprise, to give us the idea of two objects; though this was always the case in our infancy, and would be so still without association of ideas. If ever our minds should arrive at the perfect state here hinted at, all the works of God, and all the events of divine providence, will constantly appear to us as they do to the divine being himself, i, e, perfectly and infinitely good, without the least perceivable mixture of evil.

In what time it is even possible to effect all this, cannot, with the least certainty, be so much as conjectured : for though we cannot remember objects appearing to us in any other manner than they now do ; yet as these associations of visible ideas must have been impressed every time we opened our eyes, from the time that we began to take notice of things; we must conclude, that this operation cannot but require a very long and steady application of mind. Temporary pains and evils of all kinds, must be very clearly and satisfactorily seen to be, in all cases, productive of happiness in she issue, under the government of an infinitely good God; and E 6

the

the conviction must be repeated and felt again and again, before the ideas will entirely, universally, and readily coalesce; so that, by reason of the necessary avocation of mind, and the unsteady and imperfect views of things we can gain in this state, little can be done towards it here, and it must be referred to the attainments of a better world.

The above-mentioned facts, however, thew, in the strongest light, what is the natural progress and effect of association of ideas in the human mind. We see the course that things are evidently in, and it doth not appear, that any bounds can be set to it. We must, therefore, in favourable circumftances (such as we shall, no doubt, find ourselves in, in a future world) approximate to this perfection of comprehenfion with the experience of every day; in this way, time only is requisite, to make a mere man arrive at a pitch of excellence and happiness, of which we are able, at present, to form but very imperfect conceptions. With these lights, though, as yet, we are able to apply them but very imperfectly, how may we stand amazed in the contem. plation of our future selves !.

By the help of these confiderations, we may form fome idea wherein consists the superiority of beings of higher orders, whose intellectual powers exceed ours. The association of their ideas may be more extenfive, and associated ideas may unite and

coalesce

coalesce more readily, and perfectly in their minds, than they do in ours; the consequence of which will be, that ideas collected from a greater space, both before and after the present moment, will be co-existent in their minds; which will make the influence of ideas still greater, and that of sensa. tion (or what may be in them analogous to senfa. tion in us) still less than it is with us; so that their natures will be more purely intellectual than ours.

Hence, also, if we may presume to indulge a conjecture on such a subject, may we form a faint idea of the incomprehensible greatness and perfection of the divine being. For since there is a real connection of all things, in the whole system of nature, how distant foever the parts of it may be, in point of time or place; this connection may at once be so completely seen by him who planned, and who directs the whole, that it may be said, there is nothing past or future in his ideas ; but that to him, the whole compass of duration is, to every real purpose, without distinction, present. To him, therefore, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; the two extremes, being so perfectly united, and so equally present, that the intervals, how different foever, vanith alike in both cases.

We see, then, the course which the divine being has pointed out for the improvement of intelligent beings, whereby we may make approaches

in point of completely be

that it

to

to the excellence and happiness of the divine nature. We are to be influenced less by sensation, and more by associated ideas perpetually. The afsociation of all connected ideas is to grow more perfect, and more extensive continually, till things past, present, and to come shall, to greater and greater distances, become the subject of our contemplation, and the source of our happiness. Provision is made for the continuance of this progress, in the structure of our minds, and in all the influences to which we are exposed. All the objects about which we are conversant, and all the events to which we are liable, are contrived to favour it.

. Let us now consider whether any thing fimilar to this may be observed in the scheme of 'revelation; and since both the ordinary and extraordinary course of divine providence have the same object with respect to us, both being designed and calculated to raise, improve, and bless the human race; let us consider whether they be conducted in a manner analogous to one another; so that we may trace the same hand in both, and hence derive a presumptive argument in favour of revelation,

To me, I own, there seems to be, in this refpect, a very great analogy between both these disa pensations of God to mankind, and the argument that may thence be deduced in favour of revelation strikes me very much. For in those extraordinary dispensations of God to mankind, of which

we

we are informed in the books of scripture, we see a most glorious apparatus for accomplishing this great end, for enlarging the comprehension of the human mind, and raising us to the highest pitch of perfection and excellence.

To have the mind impressed with the idea of its being in a state of moral government, and that our actions have great and distant consequences, is of admirable use in this respect; and this, we find, was the fituation of Adam presently after he came from the hands of his maker. He was permitted the free use of all the trees in the garden of Eden except one, which he was forbidden to meddle with under severe penalties. In these circumstances he was under a necessity of looking before him, and attending to the distant consequences of what he was doing. He saw (as is generally understood) an immortal existence before him in case of obedience, and of prudence and regularity in the gratification of his appetites; and death (of the meaning of which he was, no doubt, informed) in case of disobedience and irregular indulgence. • If we consider the importance of having enlarged

views, and of the attention being engaged upon objects, beyond the present moment, we must fee how vastly fuperior this situation was, with respect to the improvement of his faculties, to a state in which he thould have been left to the random indulgence of his appetites, without any, intimation

of

« AnteriorContinua »