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But where shall I begin? If our irreligion arife from ignorance and want of education in spiritual knowledge, to teach again the first principles of the oracles of God; to me it is not grievous, and for you it is fafe. It is morally impoffible, that men should lead fuch diffipated lives, should so wholly devote themselves to what is falfely deemed pleasure, were they but poffeffed of a warm and conftant perfuafion, that a Being of infinite wifdom is witness to their tranfactions. Let the character of the times, therefore, be my Apology; if imitating the benevolence of the author of my text, I write, these things unto you, and undertake to demonftrate them, that you may from henceforth have joy in rational religion, and that your joy may be complete: We shall therefore call for your attention to the following particulars: namely,
FIRST, that there is a Being, whose wisdom is infinite, and whose power is equal to his wifdom.
SECONDLY, that every man fhall receive from his Creator, either a glorious reward, or an exquisite punishment in a future ftate, and that for ever and ever.
THIRDLY, the divine authority of the facred scriptures. And LASTLY, the truth and safety of the Chriftian religion. These subjects are abfolutely and indispensably neceffary to be confidered by all perfons; in as much as our whole eternity must take its colour of happiness or mifery in proportion as we are influenced by them.
Admit that the generality of our hearers have already a fpeculative conviction of thefe truths; yet when we confider that mankind are almost as generally agreed in acting repugnantly to fuch principles, it can never be improper, or unfeasonable, to remind thofe, who need not be informed, to remind them that religion is a practical science, and that knowledge in the head, without grace in the heart, and obedience in the life, will but encrease their condemnation. But should there be men hardy enough to be immoral upon prin
ciple; to make a practice of blafpheming the tremendous God of heaven and earth, and to fet at nought his holy word; should there arise wretches, so daringly impious, as to erect a standard of defiance against omnipotence; to make a mock at fin, and laugh at religion; should there be others, who, notwithstanding they profefs themfelves difciples of the blessed Jefus, yet practise the duties of Christianity, if they practise them at all, with the utmost coldness and indifference; while there are fuch,-fuch as thefe, amongst us, can the. philanthropist be silent?-Will he not find himself constrained to exert every power and faculty of his foul,- to be inftant, in feason. and out of feafon, to represent the deplorable folly, the extreme. danger of their proceedings.
Would to God! your knowledge of the world would permit you to indulge-your hope that this age does not abound with many under this predicament! You cannot but know, that not. only the abandoned and licentious, who, by their writings and converfation endeavour to undermine the motives of morality, and openly practice all manner of vice and wickedness; but even fome fober perfons are weak enough to fubfcribe to thofe pernicious tenets of theirs, which introduced and cherished it-that there are men with one foot in the grave, who are foolish and daring enough to maintain with zeal and warmth so destructive a cause; that too many frequent our churches, not to grow better by what they shall hear but to mifreprefent religion,-ridicule the preacher, and criticise his arguments.—If this be fact,—and that it really is,. we are perfuaded every man of understanding in this affembly will. acknowledge and lament,-fhall we be intimidated to defert the banner of the great captain of falvation ?--No ;-it is but a fresh call for proportionable zeal and courage on our parts to defeat their malevolent designs, and to vindicate the glory of truth, in order to confirm the weak, and recal such fheep as are either thus loft, or. run aftray.-A word in season, how good is it! How. forcible are right words! It argues no over-weening opinion of our own abi
lities, to fuppofe, that by God's bleffing on them, they may be effectual to the breaking down the strong holds of infidelity, and bringing into subjection every thought to the obedience of Jesus Christ and who knows but conviction, like lightening, may flash upon the dark bofom of ignorance and unbelief?-Who knows, but that fome who come here, according to cuftom, with no expectation of profit or improvement; not dreaming that they shall add to their knowledge virtue, or correct one vice they have indulged. themselves in ;-Who fhall fay, but they may be induced to enquire into the state of their fouls? That they may meet with fomething, which may give them a new turn; and while they feek only an amusement may find that which may prove of infinite advantage to them?
It is a truth as notorious as it is melancholy, that there are men fo entirely attached to their pleasures, that they will not allow themselves the least time for reflection on any other objects ;-never admit a thought of, or pay the leaft regard to, the God who made them, and are utter ftrangers to the excellency of their own natures, and the ineftimable value of their fouls, the welfare of which ought to be almoft their only concern ;-a concern, in comparison of which all that now engages their attention is vain, empty, infignificant as the play of children,-lighter than vanity itself:
It is in a great measure owing to this infatuating attachment, that our focial converfations are fo frequently disturbed by the fuggeftions even of Atheism itself.-ATHEISTS!-You may well be alarmed at the expreffion; but thofe who live without God in the world are too numerous a tribe, and too widely difperfed to have escaped the obfervation of any among us. - The only explanation that can be offered, in a cafe fo incredible in fpeculation, feems to be, that they attain to that daring height of foolishness and impiety, not by the ufe of reafon, but by the filence and fuppreffion of it; not by exerting, but by stifling the free exercise of their rational fa
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, "Abftain 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 foolishnefs, Atheism. Ye genuine patriots, tremble 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 you will give credit to their actions; if you will attend to their difcourse, will convince you that they are practically fo, at least. There have been, we all know, many fpecious names contrived by which the ignorant and unwary have been seduced; and in order to gain the friendship or applause, or even admiffion to a set 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 feeming concern, robbed him of every attribute, till they have reprefented him just 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 reasons, 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 diftruft, if not deny his juftice and providence. - To with a thing to be falfe is only the first step towards believing it to be so.
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 furest 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 furprifed; 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 diftinguish between truth and falfehood, godliness and impiety, with the fame care and circumfpection only, as a common tradefman, between profit and lofs, they would readily discern, 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 safe arrival at eternal happiness, from the crooked paths of perverfe 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 demonftrate, 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