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last forgive an humble penitent creature that has offended against him in time past if he earnestly implore divine forgiveness, if he grow up to a settled hatred of his iniquity, and behave himself with all watchfulness in the practice of his duty for time to come, both toward God, toward his neighbour, and himself. I think I must believe that God loves holiness so well, that he will not for ever punish a creature that repents sincerely, and that he cannot but love a creature which sincerely loves God; and therefore if among sinful rebels he should find any such remarkable penitent in the savage regions of the earth, I grant he shall not finally and eternally be banished from the presence of his Maker into misery, ar at least he may have very encouraging hopes of some favour and acceptance at last, if he can and will exercise Ms reason so far upon these subjects and enquiries.
Loo. I am glad Sophronins is here in this dispute, and I am well pleased to see Pithander not only ready to yield to conviction at first, upon the appearance of the light of reason, but to retain it through all our conference.
Pith. But there are still some considerable difficulties remaining, Sir, upon this point; there is some darkness hangs about this gleam of light. Suppose a heathen should be brought to believe and hope that God may forgive his past si/is upon sincere repentance, his renewed obedience, and his humble addresses to him for that purpose, yet can his reason teach him that God will forgive daily and repeated sins, after knowledge and vows of obedience? That he will forgive the same sinner relapsing a hundred times over? That he will forgive his sins even to the end of his life? Or that he will forgive him entirely and perfectly so as to make him undergo no penalty at all, and pass through no purgatory in the other world, to make some degree of expiation for past offences? This doctrine of a painful purification in another state, was supposed by some of the ancient heathens, and is still believed by one party of christians, whereby souls of imperfect virtue do penance for the crimes committed in this life? Can his reason tell him how long this state of penance and purgation will endure? Can it assure him that God will take the sinner into his favour, so far as to give him a lasting state of happiness hereafter, who has been such a vile criminal here? And I was going to say, Can his reason assure him, since his best repentance is so very imperfect, that he shall not be put upon another state of trial in a future world, and that his soul shall not be sent to animate any other body, partly to punish him for his crimes in this, and partly to go through a new probation with regard to some further state of happiness or misery? And not only one, but all these doubts will grow much stronger, if the repentance itself be doubtful and feeble, or much interrupted by returning sins.
I am sure, Logisto, you are a gentleman of greater reading' than to imagine these are mere fancies of my own: Your acquaintance with the heathen writers informs you of their purgatory: Plato expressly declares that those "who seem to have lived a middle sort of life, that is, with some virtues and some vices, go into the lake of Acheron, and being cleansed and punished are then dismissed, and receive the recompence of their well doings." See his Pha;do. And you know, Sir, their doctrine of transmigration of souls, which is said to be derived originally from Pythagoras the philosopher, and has spread widely among the nations. The poets borrowed their representations from the philosophers, though they have dressed them with ordaments peculiar to their own genins. Virgil sendsASueas into the other world, and there he finds in or near the Elysian fields, several souls who were ordained to return toother bodies:
"Inchisas animas, supcrunip; ad lumen ituras,
And Animee quibus altera f'ato
And the souls even of the best men, before they are admitted to Elysium, or the state of the blessed, must go through fire and water, and various pains and purifications.
Log. I keep a few of the classies here in this summer-house, and some polite writings for my diversion. Here is a good edition of Virgil; come, turn to the place, and let us see the lines.
Pith. With all my heart, Sir; it is in Book VI. toward the •nd, verse 735.
"Quin & supremo cum lumine vita reliquit,
Non tameu onme malum miseris, nee funditus orones
Corporate excedunt pestes.
Ergo exercentur poenis, veterumq: malorum
Loo. I find after their purgatory, Virgil allows but a few •f them to be happy, so great and universal does he suppose their defilement in this mortal state. But as for the bulk and multitude of these departed souls, pray what becomes of them?
Pith. Surely, Sir, you have read the following lines, where he teaches us, that they return to bodies again after a thousand years penance:
"Donee longn dies perfecto temporis orbe
Log. Since we are got into the company of the muses, Pithander, let us see what our English Virgil, Mr. Dryilen •ays, in his translation of this period. I will read them to you:
Not death itself can wholly wash their stains,
The few so cleans'd, to these abodes repair, >
And breathe in ample fields the soil elysian air. J
Whole droves of minds are by the driving god,
Pith. And it is the doctrine of Pythagoras, as represented to us by another of the poets, that human souls return into the bodies of beasts as well as men. Ovid informs us so in the XV. book of his "Metamorphoses." Have you got it here?
Loo. Yes, Sir, Ovid is at hand, and as vain and fabulous a writer as he was in ancient times, yet if his soul was transmigrated into any human form in this age, I am persuaded he would be wonderfully pleased to be found in such company as yours gentlemen, and to hear himself called upon to give his sense of the doctrine of Pythagoras, since it puts a sort of philosophical air and dress on his wild stories of the transformation of gods and men.
Pith. See here then, Sir, the opinion of that ancient philosopher in the language of poesy:
"Morte carent animte, semperque priorerelicta Sede, novis doniibus vivunt, habitantque receptee; Omnia mutantur: nihil interit: errat & illinc Hue venit: hincilluc; quoslibetoccupat artus Spiritus; eque feris humana in corpora transit, }nquae feras noster." Which Mr. Dryden thus translates:
Then death so call'd, is but old matter drsss'4 f.
i& sow. ww figure, and a vary '4 reft;
Thus all things are but alter'il, nothing dies:
And Lucan says of the northern countries, lib. I. Phars. that they had the opinion of transmigration of souls, and therefore they feared not death:
-Populi quos despicit arctos
Felices errore suo, quos illetimorura
And on this account they esteemed it a very cowardly thing in war,
"Rediturae parcere vitoe,"
that is, to be fond of this life, or solicitous to save it, when it would be so soon restored again. Carsar tells us this was the doctrine of the Druids, our ancestors, in Britain, Dkciplina
Druidum m Britannia reperta imprimis hoc volunt per
suadere, nan interire animas; sed ab aliis post mortem transire ad alios, fyc. Lib. VI. Be Belto Gall. "The doctrine of the Druids was found in Britain. This is one of the prime articles of it, that souls do not die; but after the death of the body they pass from one to another." The ancient Brachmans were known to be professors and teachers of this opinion; and in the country of -Malabar, in the East-Indies, their successors, the Bramins, teach the people the same notion still; and especially, that the souls of men, who have behaved ill in this world, are sent at their death into brute animals, partly to make atonement for sins past, and partly for a new trial. Now, Sir, if those among the ancient heathens, in various nations of Europe and Asia, who professed to be wise above their neighhours, and who endeavoured to use their reason in matters of religion and a future state, were led into such wild errors, and had so little certainty about pardon of sin, and future rewards or punishments, what hope can you have, that untaught reason, in the wilds of America, and'in African deserts, should have better success in their roving and loose enquiries about religious affairs, and the future state of men?
Log. I know not well what to reply to some of these doubts and queries of yours. Upon the whole, I do not see how the mere reason of man without any assistance, can get through all these difficulties, so as to assure a sinner of certain restoration to divine favour and the enjoyment of immortal blessedness at death, upon such poor, sorry, and interrupted repentances as will be found among these heathens: And I am uow ready to Xhink, that some of my infidel acquaintance talk with too much assurance and triumph upon these subjects, because they never entered far enough into enquiries about them, to learn the difficulties with which their opinions arc surrounded. We are too ready to think the great God a mere weak good-natured thing, such as some magistrates have been in wicked nations, and that he utterly neglects to lay due restraints upon the vices of his subjects, that he disregards the demands of justice, and the rights of government. If I mistake not, your Hebrew poet introduces God himself making this reflection upon so.tie of the loose and profligate fellows of that age, who were not willing to have vice too severely punished; Thou thoughtest I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set thy sins in order he/ore thine eyes; Ps. 1.21.
Pith. Dear Sir, since you have done David the honour to cite him in our debates, I beg leave to repeat the awful address he makes to those vicious creatures in the very next words: Consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Punishment belongs to guilt, and God the Governor of the world, has a right to inflict it if he please. I grant, these persons of whom the Psalmist here speaks, were impenitent sinners: But there are many passages in scripture that concur with our natural reason, and inform us, that God may, and sometimes doth punish in some degree those favourites whom he finally pardons. In Ps. xcix. 8. David says, Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. Nor can all the light of reason assure us, that God will entirely forgive a penitent in this world or in the other, without some punishment.
Loo. I would readily yield, Pithander, as far as your argument carries evidence with it. But though we cannot bo fully assured, that repenting criminals shall be completely pardoned, yet you have granted, there is very prohabjc ground for a penitent to hope, that God will forgive him at last: and if reason can lead him but to a probability of this final forgiveness, it gives sufficient ground for the practice of repentance and future obedience, though there may be some sore punishments in his way to final happiness.
Pith. Please to consider, dear Sir, that though I have allowed that the force of reason, under happy advantages and improvements, and in its best exercises, may reach thus far, yet when the reason or conscience of a poor untaught African savage has been by any providence so far awakened, as-to think himself a criminal before God, and has his soul ma:le deeply. sensible of sin, I hardly see how he can, upon just aud solid grounds, get through all the difficulties which I have mentioned. Will his own rude and uninstructed reason tell him, that God will pro