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culties. Every day's experience demonftrates, that to indulge impure affections is to impair the powers of the mind. I beseech you, fays the Apostle, "Abstain from fleshly lufts, which war against "the foul" Not only procure its deftruction hereafter, but deftroy its faculties here. Wherever, therefore, these are the general objects of purfuit, general infatuation may be expected. Although we cannot argue, we may fin ourselves into those heights and depths of foolishness, Atheism. - Ye genuine patriots, tremble for your devoted country! Here an infatiable love of pleasure is the characteristic of the times.
It is true, indeed, there are but very few, who will acknowledge themselves Atheists; but there are multitudes, who, if you will give credit to their actions; if you will attend to their difcourfe, will convince you that they are practically fo, at least. have been, we all know, many fpecious names contrived by which the ignorant and unwary have been feduced; and in order to gain the friendship or applaufe, or even admiffion to a fet of impious men, there have been thofe, who have given into the most horrid blafphemies; have difcourfed of an Almighty Being with greater irreverence, than they would of any earthly prince; and without any seeming concern, robbed him of every attribute, till they have represented him juft such a God, as their bafe fears would with him. Of these mistaken, and ill-judging men, we shall take notice at another time; at prefent we shall only disclose fome of the reafons, or rather the follies, which have induced them to embrace fuch dark and erroneous notions.
The first and principal one is this: they are confcious to themselves of that vast load of guilt, which they have contracted; and are tempted, by their hopes of avoiding the judgments of the Almighty, to distrust, if not deny his justice and providence. To wish a thing to be falfe is only the first step towards believing it to be fo.
Some, indeed, will give their thoughts a little larger latitude with regard to God and themselves; will acknowledge a Deity, and confefs that he has bestowed on man an immortal foul; that he is the all-wife governor of the univerfe; and that it is our bounden duty, as well as intereft, to obey him: but when they confider, that there are Heathens, Jews, Turks, and Christians dispersed all over the habitable world, and different nations all of different faith; that each of these conceive their own way of worship pureft; and that the religion they profefs gives them the best and fureft title to falvation; these like fome timorous travellers at a cross-way,. instead of going forward in the right path, by the guidance and good conduct of their judgment, stand still confounded and surprised; and in that labyrinth of thought, conclude, that all strike into one common road at laft.
If these men would but exercise their reason, and distinguish between truth and falfehood, godlinefs and impiety, with the fame care and circumfpection only, as a common tradefman, between profit and lofs, they would readily difcern, by natural conclufions, the true religion from the false; and the ftrait-way, which is pointed, out to them by the finger of God himself, in order to their fafe arrival at eternal happiness, from the crooked paths of perverse and wilful finners.
If these men are miferable and unhappy from their state of doubt and uncertainty, as you must immediately allow they are ;. what must those be, who profeffing themselves members of the christian Church; who conftantly in the moft folemn and public manner, affenting to all the articles of its moft holy faith; yet, by their unguarded lives, too evidently demonstrate, that their devotion is merely formal; who publish to others, indeed, that the: kingdom of heaven is at hand; and yet by their practice fhew,, that they esteem this world their continuing city; who are ambitious, perhaps, of being reckoned faints, heirs of God, and joint heirs
heirs with Chrift, fons of fo rich a father, and heirs through grace, to fo glorious an inheritance; and yet fo little regard those inestimable bleffings, that they feldom, if ever, take them into their ferious confideration, and fet fo low a price on their birth-right, that they are ready, at all times, to fell it for a mefs of pottage? Any prefent gratification whatfoever.
Now, or never, therefore, it must be seasonable, to recal those who are thus walking in the broad way that leads to destruction, to strengthen the feeble knees, and kindle in the breasts of thofe who are neither cold nor hot, a flaming zeal for their most holy religion:- And the only way to make this attempt fuccessful, is, to paint in its true, that is, in the most lively and striking colours, our imaginations can fuggeft, the rational beauties of Christianity; that fo the voluptuous may be induced to search for true delights, the covetous for riches, and the ambitious for honours at thofe never failing fprings, which can fully gratify their unbounded appetites, and render them completely happy.
It has, indeed, often been obferved that the practical Atheist, the Deift, and Infidel, with their feveral fubdivifions and denominations, are so unreasonably prejudiced against every thing that bears the face of religion, fo bigotted to their own opinions, and doating on their fancied liberty; that though the strongest and most convincing arguments have been brought against them; arguments which the wifeft of them have not been able to gainsay: they have, after all been found incurably deaf to conviction, and blind to demonstration. For which reafon many good men have difcontinued thefe kind of exercises, as an undertaking fruitlefs and impoffible; and have even recommended to their brethren the like forbearance; left they should do the enemies work for them; by raising doubts in the minds of others, who, perhaps, might never have had any but by hearing the infidel errors repeated.
This, we must confefs, would be a very, fubftantial objection, were it literally true; but even then, we would offer this in anfwer;-profeffed irreligion, or fomething like it, now stalks abroad with most gigantic ftrides: infomuch that there is no confiderable place throughout the kingdom, but has more or less professed contemners of revelation :-If fo, what advantages may they not make ; nay, what advantages have they not made, among the weak and illiterate ?—From our filence on fundamental principles, may they not infinuate, that we dare not attack them?-May they not impute our filence to the weakness of our caufe?-We are fenfible how well adapted to the wickedness of the times are their doctrines, that men, who give the rein to pleasure and debauchery are willing to catch at the least gleam of a hope that they shall not be called to judgment.-To reflect on a future state when they can expect nothing but torment from it, must be a very uncomfortable employment:-No wonder then that the weakest arguments are ftrong enough to persuade fuch perfons to lift under the banner of infidelity. Moreover, how can we expect to turn the finner from his evil way, if we do not first of all demonstrate to him the danger of his fins, and at the fame time lay before him the joyful doctrine of forgiveness?
The subjects, therefore, which we propofe to enter upon are well worth our utmost pains to fet in the clearest light, and yours to hear with the most serious attention. To furnish the weak with convincing arguments for putting to filence the ignorance of foolish men, is furely no trivial undertaking.-This is what we hope to accomplish; and that you may have an idea of the probability of our fuccefs in this attempt, we shall lay down in a few words the method we intend to pursue.
In the first place, then, we shall endeavour to avoid every thing, which instead of improving, may confound the ideas of our hearers: we shall study to be plain and easy, rather than learned or abftruse: VOL. III. and
and if we can prove, even to a demonftration, which, by the blef fing of God, we truft we can; that there is a great first cause, who created all things; that he is perfectly wife, and juft, and good ;if we can prove, that he certainly will, and neceffarily must, either reward us hereafter for our virtues, or punish us for our vices; if we can prove the divine, that is, the infallible authority of the facred scriptures :-after fuch a foundation is laid, every doctrine we can deduce from thofe facred writings and principles, will command your affent and obedience: fince you must then be fenfible, that no less than your everlasting happiness or misery is at stake.
In our discourse with thofe, who have finned themselves into Atheism, we truft fo to produce the world; the feveral parts of the creation; nay, their very felves, as living witnesses against them that we may fafely appeal even to their own poor remains. of understanding, whether fuch things muft not be the work of fome Being fuperior to man, of an all-powerful God, whom though, we cannot fee with our outward eyes; yet by the light of reafon, we can plainly discern his fovereignty over the whole creation; we hall prove, that the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly feen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; fo that they are without excufe: we intend to be fo copious on this fubject, as that none but those who are wilfully blind, shall doubt of so glaring a truth: and till all men shall evidence their knowledge and conviction of this first principle of every religion, by their lives and conversation,. we must regard apologies for infifting on fuch plain and common topics, not only as fuperfluous, but ridiculous.
In our proof of a future state, that those who would willingly believe there is no fuch thing, may not have the poor pretenceof faying it is to be discovered by no way, but from the fcriptures, the authority whereof they call in queftion; we shall first lay afide. revelation, and prove from reason, that as the Being of a God, which we hope to have then put beyond the reach of contradiction,