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CH A P. V.
Of a State of Probation, as intended
for moral Discipline and Improve
PART ROM the Consideration of our being I.
in a Probation-state, of so much Difficulty and Hazard, naturally arises the Quesion, how we came to be placed in it. But such a general Inquiry as this, would be found involved in insuperable Difficulties. For, though some of these Difficulties would be lessened by observing, that all Wickedness is voluntary, as is implied in its very
Notion; and that many of the Miseries of Life have apparent good Effects: yet, when we consider other Circumstances belonging to both, and what must be the Consequence of the former in a Life to come; it cannot but be acknowledged plain Folly and Presumption, to pretend to give an Account of the whole Reasons of this Matter : the whole Reasons of our being allotted a Condition, out of which so much Wickedness and Misery, so circumstanced, would in Fact arise. Whether it be not beyond our Faculties, not only to find out, but even to understand, the whole
Account of Thiş; or, though we should be CHAP, supposed capable of understanding it, yet, V. whether it would be of Service or Prejudice to us to be informed of it; is impossible to say. But as our present Condition can in no wife be shewn inconsistent with the perfect moral Government of God: so Religion teaches us we were placed in it, that we might qualify ourselves, by the Practice of Virtue, for another State which is to follow it. And this, though bụt a partial Answer, 4 very partial one indeed, to the Inquiry now mentioned ; yet, is a more satisfactory Answer to Another, which is of real, and of the utmost Importance to us to have answered : the Inquiry, What is our Business here? The known End then, why we are placed in a State of so much AMiction, Hazard, and Difficulty, is, our Improvement in Virtue and Piety, as the requifite Qualification for a future State of Security and Happinefs.
Now the Beginning of Life, considered as an Education for mature Age in the present World, appears plainly, at first sight, analo, gous to this our Trial for a future one ; the former being in our temporal Capacity, what the latter is in our religious Capacity. But some Observations common to both of them, and a more distinct Confidera, tion of each, will more distinctly Thew chę
PART Extent and Force of the Analogy between I. them ; and the Credibility, which arises from
hence, as well as from the Nature of the thing, that the present Life was intended to be a State of Discipline for a future one.
I. Every Species of Creatures is, we see, designed for à particular way of Life ; to which, the Nature, the Capacities, Temper, and Qualifications, of each Species, are as necessary, as their external Circumstances. Both come into the Notion of such State, or particular way of Life, and are constituent Parts of it. Change a Man's Capacities or Character to the Degree, in which it is conceivable they may be changed; and he would be altogether incapable of a human Course of Life, and human Happiness: as incapable, a6 if, his Nature continuing unchanged, he were placed in a World, where he had no Sphere of Action, nor any Objects to answer his Appetites, Passions, and Affections of any Sort. One thing is set over against another, as an, antient Writer expresses it. Our Nature corresponds to our external Condition. Without this Correspondence, there would be no Porsibility of
any such thing as human Life and human Happiness: which Life and Happiness are, therefore, a Result from our Nature and Condition jointly: meaning by human Life, not living in the literal Sense, but the whole
complex Notion commonly understood by CHAP. those words. So that, without determining V. what will be the Employment and Happiness, the particular Life, of good Men hereafter ; there must be some determinate Capacities, some necessary Character and Qualifications, without which Persons cannot but be utterly incapable of it: in like manner, as there must be some, without which Men would be incapable of their present State of Life. Now,
II. The Constitution of human Creatures, and indeed of all Creatures which come under our Notice, is such, as that they are capable of naturally becoming: qualified for States of Life, for which they were once wholly unqualified. In Imagination we may indeed conceive of Creatures, as incapable of having any of their Faculties naturally enlarged, or as being unable naturally to acquire any new Qualifications: But the Faculties of every Species known to us, are made for Enlargement; for Acquirements of Experience and Habits. We find ourselves in particular indued with Capacities, not only of perceiving Ideas, and of Knowledge or perceiving Truth, but also of storing up our Ideas and Knowledge by Memory. We are capable, not only of acting, and of having different momentary Impressions made upon us; but of getting a new Facility in any kind of Action, I 4
PAR Tand of settled Alterations in our Temper or
Į, Character. The Power of the two laft is the m Power of Habits. But neither the Perception
of Ideas, nor Knowledge of any Sort, are Habits; though absolutely necessary to the forming of them. However, Apprehension, Reason, Memory, which are the Capacities of acquiring Knowledge, are greatly improved by Exercise. Whether the Word Habit is applicable to all these Improvements, and in particular how far the Powers of Memory and of Habits may be Powers of the fame Nature, I shall not inquire. But that Perceptions come into our Minds readily and of course, by means of their having been there before, seems a thing of the fame Sort, as Readiness in any particular Kind of Action, proceeding from being accustomed to it. And Aptness to recollect practical Observations of Service in our Conduct, is plainly Habit in many Cases. There are Habits of Perception, and Habits of Action. An Instance of the former, is our constant and even involuntary Readiness, in correcting the Impressions of our Sight concerning Magnitudes and Diftances, so as to substitute Judgment in the Room of Sensation imperceptibly to ourselves. And it seems as if all other Affociations of Ideas not naturally connected, might be called passive Habits; as properly as our Readiness in underftanding Languages upon Sight, or