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culties. Every day's experience demonstrates, that to indulge impure affections is to impair the powers of the mind. I beseech you, says the Apostle, “ Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against " the foul :" Not only procure its destruction hereafter, but destroy its faculties here. Wherever, therefore, these are the
general objects of pursuit, 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 insatiable 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 give credit to their actions ; if you will attend to their discourse, will convince you that they are practically so, at least. - There have been, we all know, many specious names contrived by which the ignorant and unwary have been seduced ; and in order to gain the friendship or applause, or even admission to a set of impious men, there have been those, who have given into the most horrid blasphemies ; have discoursed 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 just such a God, as their base fears would wish him. Of these mistaken, and ill-judging men, we shall take notice at another time; at present we shall only disclose some of the reasons, or rather the follies, which have induced them to embrace such dark and erroneous notions.
The first and principal one is this: they are conscious to themselves of that valt 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 wilh a thing to be false is only the first step towards believing it to
Some, indeed, will give their thoughts a little larger latitude with regard to God and themselves; will acknowledge a Deity, and confess that he has bestowed on man an immortal soul; that he is the all-wise governor of the universe ; and that it is our bounden duty, as well as interest, to obey him: but when they conGider, 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 purest; and that the religion they profess gives them the best and surest title to falvation; these like some 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 last.
If these men would but exercise their reason, and distinguish between truth and falsehood, godliness and impiety, with the fame care and circumspection only, as a common tradesman, between profit and loss, they would readily discern, by natural conclusions, the true religion from the false ; and the strait-way, which is pointed out to them by the finger of God himself, in order to their safe arrival at eternal happiness, from the crooked paths of perverse and wilful finners.
If these men are miserable and unhappy from their state of doubt and uncertainty, as you must immediately allow they are ; what must those be, who professing themselves members of the christian Church ; who constantly in the most folemn and public manner, afsenting to all the articles of its most 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 Thew,, that they esteem this world their continuing city; who are ambitious, perhaps, of being reckoned saints, heirs of God, and joint
heirs with Christ, fons of so rich a father, and heirs through grace, to so glorious an inheritance; and yet so little regard those inestimable blessings, that they seldom, if ever, take them into their serious consideration, and set so low a price on their birth-right, that they are ready, at all times, to sell it for a mess of pottage? Any present gratification whatsoever.
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 those who are neither cold nor hot, a flaming zeal for their most holy religion :- And the only way to make this attempt successful, is, to paint in its true, that is, in the most lively and striking colours, our imaginations can suggest, the rational beauties of Christianity; that so the voluptuous may be induced to search for true delights, the covetous for riches, and the ambitious for honours at those never failing springs, which can fully gratify their unbounded appetites, and render them completely happy.
It has, indeed, often been observed that the practical Atheist, the Deist, and Infidel, with their several subdivisions and denominations, are so unreasonably prejudiced against every thing that bears the face of religion, so bigotted to their own opinions, and doating on their fancied liberty; that though the strongest and most convincing arguments have been brought against them ; argu. ments which the wisest of them have not been able to gainsay: they have, after all been found incurably deaf to conviction, and blind to demonstration. For which reason many good men have discontinued these kind of exercises, as an undertaking fruitless and iinpossible; and have even recommended to their brethren the like forbearance ; lest they Thould 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 confess, would be a very, substantial objection, were it literally true ; but even then, we would offer this in an(wer ;-professed irreligion, or something like it, now stalks abroad with most gigantic strides: insomuch that there is no considerable place throughout the kingdom, but has more or less professed contemners of revelation :- If so, what advantages may they not make; nay, what advantages have they not made, among the weak and illiterate ?--From our silence on fundamental principles, may they not insinuate, that we dare not attack them ?-May they not impute our filence to the weakness of our cause?-We are sensible 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 strong enough to persuade such persons 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 same time lay before him the joyful doctrine of forgiveness?
The subjects, therefore, which we propose to enter upon are well worth our utmost pains to set in the clearest light, and yours to hear with the most serious attention. To furnish the weak with convin. cing arguments for putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men, is surely no trivial undertaking. This is what we hope to accomplish; and that you may have an idea of the probability of our success 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 abstruse: VOL. III. C
and if we can prove, even to a demonstration, which, by the bleffing of God, we trust we can ; that there is a great first cause, who created all things; that he is perfe&tly wise, and just, and good ;if we can prove, that he certainly will, and necessarily 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 such a foundation is laid, every doctrine we can deduce from those sacred writings and principles, will command your affent and obedience : since you must then be sensible, that no less than your everlasting happiness or misery is at stake.
In our discourse with those, who have finned themselves into Atheism, we trust so to produce the world; the several parts of the creation ; nay, their very felves, as living witnesses againsi them : that we may safely appeal even to their own poor remains. of understanding, whether such things must not be the work of some Being superior to man, of an all-powerful God, whom though, we cannot fee with our outward eyes; yet by the light of reason,, we can plainly discern his sovereignty over the whole creation; we Thall
prove, that the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse : we intend to be so copious on this subject, 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 insisting on such plain and common topics, not only as superfluous, but ridiculous.
In our proof of a future state, that those who would willingly believe there is no such thing, may not have the poor pretence of saying it is to be discovered by no way, but from the scriptures, the authority whereof they call in question; we shall first lay aside revelation, and prove from reason, that as the Being of a God, which we hope to have then put beyond the reach of contradiction,