YOU see it is still my lot, to travel into New Worlds: having never found any great satisfaction in this. As an active people leaves their habitations in a barren soil, to try if they can make their fortune better elsewhere. I first lookt backwards, and waded through the Deluge, into the Primæval World: to see how they liv’d there, and how Nature stood in that original constitution. Now I am going forwards, to view the New Heavens and New Earth, that will be after the Conflagration. But, Gentle Reader, let me not take you any further, if you be weary. I do not love a querulous Companion. Unless your Genius therefore press you forwards, chuse rather to rest here, and be content with that part of the Theory which you have seen already. Is it not fair, to have followed Nature so far as to have seen her twice in her ruines? Why should we still pursue her, even after death and dissolution, into dark and remote Futurities? To whom therefore such disquisitions seem needless, or over-curious, let them rest here; and leave the remainder of this Work, which is a PROPHECY concerning the STATE of things after the Conflagration, to those that are of a disposition suited to such studies and enquiries.
Not that any part of this Theory requires much Learning, Art. or Science, to be Master of it; But a love and thirst after Truth, freedom of judgment, and a resignation of our Understandings to clear Evidence, let it carry us which way it will. An honest English Reader that looks only at the Sence as it lies before him, and neither considers not cares whether it be New or Old, so it be true, may be a more competent judge than a great Scholar full of his own Notions, and puff’d up with the opinion of his mighty knowledge. For such men think they cannot in honour own any thing to be true, which they did not know before. To be taught any new knowledge, is to confess their former ignorance; and that lessens them in their own opinion, and, as they think, in the opinion of the World; which are both uneasie reflections to them. Neither must we depend upon age only for soundness of judgment: We seldom change our Opinions after threescore: especially if they be leading Opinions. It is then too late, we think, to begin the World again; and as we grow old, the Heart contracts, and cannot open wide enough to take in a great thought.
The Spheres of mens Understandings are as different, as Prospects upon the Earth. Some stand upon a Rock or a Mountain, and see far round about; Others are in an hollow, or in a Cave, and have no prospect at all. Some men consider nothing but what is present to their Senses: Others extend their thoughts both to what is past and what is future. And yet the fairest prospect in this Life is not to be compar’d to the least we shall have in another. Our clearest day here, is misty and hazy: We see not far, and what we do see is in a bad light. But when we have got better Bodies
in the first Resurrection, whereof we are going to Treat; better Senses and a better Understanding, a clearer light and an higher station, our Horizon will be enlarg’d every way, both as to the Natural World and as to the Intellectual.
Two of the greatest Speculations that we are capable of in this Life, are, in my Opinion, The REVOLUTION OF WORLDS, and the REVOLUTION OF SOULS; one for the Material World, and the other for the Intellectual. Towards the former of these Our Theory is an Essay: and in this our Planet, (which I hope to conduct into a Fix’d Star, before I have done with it) we give an instance of what may be in other Planets. ’Tis true, we look to our rise no higher than the Chaos: because that was a known principle, and we were not willing to amuse the Reader with too many strange Stories: as that, I am sure, would have been thought one, TO HAVE brought this Earth from a Fix’d Star, and then carried it up again into the same Sphere. Which yet I believe, is the true circle of Natural Providence.
As to the Revolution of Souls, the footsteps of that Speculation are more obscure than of the former. For tho’ we are assur’d by Scripture, that all good Souls will at length have Celestial Bodies; yet, that this is a returning to a Primitive State, or to what they had at their first Creation, that, Scripture has not acquainted us with. It tells us indeed that Angels fell from their Primitive Celestial Glory; and consequently we might be capable of a lapse as well as they, if we had been in that high condition with them. But that we ever were there, is not declared to us by any revelation. Reason and Morality would indeed suggest to us, that an innocent Soul, fresh and pure from the hands of its Maker, could not be immediately cast into Prison, before it had, by any act of its own Will, or any use of its own Understanding, committed either error or sin. I call this Body a Prison, both because it is a confinement and restraint upon our best Faculties and Capacities, and is also the seat of diseases and loathsomness; and, as prisons use to do, commonly tends more to debauch mens Natures, than to improve them.
But tho’ we cannot certainly tell under what circumstances humane Souls were plac’d at first, yet all Antiquity agrees, Oriental and Occidental, concerning their pre-existence in general, in respect of these mortal Bodies. And our Saviour never reproaches or corrects the Jews, when they speak upon that supposition, Luk. 9. 18, 19. Joh. 9. 2.Joh. 3. 13. & 6. 38. & 62. & 17. 5. Besides, it seems to me beyond all controversie, that the Soul of the Messiah did exist before the Incarnation, and voluntarily descended from Heaven to take upon it a Mortal Body. And tho’ it does not appear that all humane Souls were at first plac’d in Glory, yet, from the example of our Saviour, we see something greater in them: Namely, a capacity to be united to the Godhead. And what is possible to one, is possible to more. But these thoughts are too high for us: while we find our selves united to nothing, but diseased bodies and houses of clay.
The greatest fault we can commit in such Speculations, is to be over-positive and Dogmatical. To be inquisitive into the ways of Providence and the works of God, is so far from being a fault, that it is our greatest perfection; We cultivate the highest principles and best inclinations of our Nature, while we are thus employ'd: and ’tis littleness or secularity of Spirit, that is the greatest Enemy to Contemplation. Those that would have a true contempt of this World, must suffer the Soul to be sometimes upon the Wing, and to raise her self above the sight of this little dark Point, which
we now inhabit. Give her a large and free prospect of the immensity of God's works, and of his inexhausted wisdom and goodness, if you would make her Great and Good As the Poet said in his Rapture,
But let Her be as GOOD as GREAT,
Her highest Throne a Mercy-Seat.
Soft and dissolving like a Cloud,
Losing her self in doing good.
A Cloud that leaves its place above,
Rather than dry, and useless move:
Falls in a showre upon the Earth,
And gives ten thousand Seeds a birth.
Hangs on the Flow'rs, and infant Plants,
Sucks not their Sweets, but feeds their Wants.
So let this mighty Mind diffuse
All that's her own to others use;
And free from private ends, retain
Nothing of SELF, but a bare Name.