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question to your own heart, Can I in my conscience believe it to be such an imposture? Can I look up to an omniscient God, and say, " O Lord, thou knowest that it is in reverence to thee, and-in love to truth and virtue, that I reject this book, and the method to happiness here laid down?"
§. 4. But there are difficulties in the way—And what then? Have those difficulties never been cleared? Go to the living advocates for christianity, to those of whose abilities, candour and piety, you have the best opinion ; if your prejudices will give you leave to have a good opinion of any such: tell them your difficulties: hear their solutions: weigh them seriously, as those who know they must answer it to God: and while doubts continue, follow the truth as far as it will lead you, and take heed that you do not imprison it in unrighteousness*. Nothing appears more inconsistent and absurd, than for a man solemnly to pretend dissatisfaction in the evidences of the gospel, as a reason why he cannot in conscience be a thorough christian; when yet at the same time he violates the most apparent dictates of reason and conscience, and lives in vices condemned even by the heathens. O sirs, Christ has judged concerning such, and judged most righteously and most wisely; they do evil, and therefore they hate the light, neither come they to the light, lest their deeds should be made manifest, and be reprovedf. But there is a light, that will make manifest and reprove their works, to whichthey shall be compelled to come, and the painful scrutiny of which they shall be forced to abide.
§ 5. In the mean time, if you are determined to enquire no farther into the matter now, give me leave at least, from a sincere concern that you may not heap upon your head more aggravated ruin, to intreat you, that you would he cautious how you expose yourself to yet greater danger, by what you must yourself own to be unnecessary, I mean attempts to prevent others from believing the truth of the gospel. Leave them for God's sake, and for your own, in possession of those pleasures, and those hopes, which nothing but christianity can give them; and act not, as if you were solicitous to add to the guilt of an Infidel the tenfold damnation, which they, who have been the perverters and destroyers of the souls of others, must expect to meet, if that gospel which they have so adventurously opposed shall prove, as it certainly will, a serious, and to them a dreadful truth.
§. 6. If I cannot prevail here, but the pride of displaying
• Rom i. 18. f John iii. 20.
a superiority of understanding should bear on such a reader, even in opposition to his own favourite maxims of the innocence of error, and the equality of all religions consistent with social virtue, to do his utmost to trample down the gospel with contempt; I would however dismiss him with one proposal, which I think the importance of the affair may fully justify. If you have done with your examination into christianity, and determine to live and conduct yourself as if it were assuredly false, sit down then, and make a memorandum of that determination. Write it down: " On such a day of such a year, I deliberately resolved, that I would live and die rejecting christianity myself, and doing all I could to overthrow it. This day I determined, not only to renounce all subjection to, and expectation from Jesus of Nazareth; but also to make it a serious part of the business of my life, to destroy, as far as I possibly can, all regard to him in the minds of others, and to exert my most vigorous efforts, in the way of reasoning or of ridicule, to sink the credit of his religion, and if it be possible to root it out of the world; in calm steady defiance of that day, when his followers say, he shall appear in so much majesty and terror to execute the vengeance threatened to his enemies." Dare you write this, and sign it? I firmly believe, that many a man, who would be thought a deist, and endeavours to increase the number, would not. And if you in particular dare not to do it, whence does that small remainder of caution arise? the cause is plain. There is in your conscience some secret apprehension, that this rejected, this opposed, this derided gospel, may after all prove true. And if there be such an apprehension, then let conscience do its office, and convict you of the impious madness of acting, as if it were most certainly and demonstrably false. Let it tell you at large, how possible it is that haply you may be found fighting against God*: That, bold as you are in defying the terrors of the Lord, you may possibly fall into his hands; may chance to hear that despised sentence, which when you hear it from the mouth of the eternal judge, you will not be able to despise: I will repeat it again, in spite of all your scorn, you may hear the king say to you, depart accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angelsf. And now, go and pervert and burlesque the scripture, go and lampoon the character of its heroes, and ridicule the sublime discourses of its prophets and its apostles; as some have done, who have left little behind them but the short-lived monuments of their ignorance, their profaneness, and their malice. Go and spread like them the banners of infidelity, and pride thyself in the number of credulous creatures listed under them. But take heed, lest the insulted Galilean direct a secret arrow to thine heart, and stop thy licentious breath, before it has finished the next sentence, thou wouldst utter against him.
* Acts T. 39. f Matt. xxv. 41.
§. 7. I will now turn myself from the deist or the sceptic, and direct my address to the nominal christian; if he may upon any terms be called a christian, who feels not, after all I have pleaded, a disposition to subject himself to the government and the grace of that Saviour, whose name he bears. O sinner, thou art turning awav from my Lord, in whose cause I speak; but let me earnestly intreat thee seriously to consider, why thou art turning away; and to whom thou wilt go, from him, whom thou acknowledgest to have the words of eternal life*. You call yourself a christian, and yet will not by any means be persuaded to seek salvation in good earnest from and through Jesus Christ, whom you call your master and Lord. How do you for a moment excuse this negligence to your own conscience? If I had urged you on any controverted point, it might have altered the case. If I had laboured hard to make you the disciple of any particular party of christians, your delav might have been more reasonable: Nay, perhaps, your refusing to acquiesce might have been an act of apprehended duty to our common master. But is it matter of controversy amongst christians, whether there be a great, holy, and righteous God; and whether such a being, whom we agree to own, should be reverenced and loved, or neglected and dishonoured? Is it matter of controversy, whether a sinner should deeply and seriously repent of his sins, or whether he should go on in them? Is it a disputed point amongst us, whether Jesus became incarnate, and died upon the cross, for the redemption of sinners or no? And if it be not, can it be disputed by them who believe him to be the Son of God and the Saviour of men, whether a sinner should seek to him, or neglect him, or whether one who professes to be a christian, should depart from iniquity, or give himself up to the practice of it? Are the precepts of our great master written so obscurely in his word, that there should be room seriously to question, whether he require a devout, holy, humble, spiritual, watchful, self-denying life, or whether he allow the contrary ? Has Christ,
* John vi. 68. vOL. I. O O.
after all his pretensions of bringing life and immortality to light, left it more uncertain than he found it, whether there be any future state of happiness and misery, or for whom these states are respectively intended ? Is it a matter of controversy, whether God will, or will not bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing whether it be good, or whether it be evil” 2 or whether, at the conclusion of that judgment, the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into tise eternal+ 2 You will not, I am sure, for very shame, pretend any doubt about these things, and yet call yourself a christian. Why then will you not be persuaded to lay them to heart, and to act as duty and interest so evidently require Oh sinner, the cause is too obvious ; a cause indeed quite unworthy of being called a reason. It is because thou art blinded and besotted with thy vanities and thy lusts. It is because thou hast some perishing trifle, which charms thy imagination and thy senses, so that it is dearer to thee than God and Christ, than thy own soul and its salvation. It is, in a word, because thou art still under the influence of that carnal mind, which, whatever pious forms it may sometimes admit and pretend, is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can bet. And therefore thou art in the very case of those wretches, concerning whom our Lord said in the days of his flesh, Poe will not come unto me that ye might have life S, and therefore ye shall die in your sins ||. §. 8. In this case I see not what it can signify, to renew those expostulations and addresses which I have made in the former chapters. As our blessed Redeemer says of those who rejected his gospel, Pe have both seen and hated both me and my Father's ; so may I truly say with regard to you, I have endeavoured to shew you in the plainest and the clearest words, both Christ and the Father ; I have urged the obligations you are under to both ; I have laid before you your guilt, and your condemnation; I have pointed out the only remedy ; I have pointed out the rock, on which I have built my own eternal hopes, and the way in which alone I expect salvation. I have recommended those things to you, which, if God gives me an opportunity, I will with my dying breath earnestly and affectionately recommend to my own children, and to all the dearest friends that I have upon earth, who may then be near me; esteeming it the highest token of my friendship, the surest proof of my love to them. And if believing the gospel to be true, you resolve to reject it, I have nothing farther to say, but that you must abide by the consequence. Yet as Moses, when he went out from the presence of Pharaoh for the last time, finding his heart yet more hardened by all the judgments and deliverances with which he had formerly been exercised, denounced upon him God's passing through the land, in terror to smite the first-born with death, and warned him of that great and lamentable cry which the sword of the destroying angel should raise throughout all his realm * : So will I, sinner, now when I am quitting thee, speak to thee yet again, whether thou wilt hear, or whether thou wilt forbear +, and denounce that much more terrible judgment, which the sword of divine vengeance, already whetted and drawn and bathed, as it were, in heavens, is preparing against thee; which shall end in a much more dreadful cry, though thou wert greater and more obstinate than that haughty monarch. Yes, sinner, that I may, with the apostle Paul, when turning to others who are more like to hear me, shake my raiment, and say, I am pure from your bloodS; I will once more tell you what the end of things will be. And, Oh that I could speak to purpose ! Oh that I could thunder in thine ear, such a peal of terror, as might awaken thee, and be too loud to be drowned in all the noise of carnal mirth, or to be deadened by those dangerous opiates, with which thou art contriving to stupify thy consciences §. 9. Seek what amusements and entertainments thou wilt O sinner, I tell thee, if thou wert equal in dignity, and power, and magnificence, to the great monarch of Babylon, thy pomp shall be brought down to the grave, and all the sound of thy viols; the worm shall be spread under thee, and the worm shall cover thee || Yes, sinner, the end of these things is death" ; death in its most terrible sense to thee, if this continue thy governing temper. Thou canst not avoid it; and, if it be possible for any thing that I can say to prevent, thou shalt not forget it. Your strength is not the strength of stones, nor is */our flesh of brass”. You are accessible to diseases, as well as others; and if some sudden accident do not prevent it, we shall soon see, how heroically you will behave yourself on a dying bed, and in the near views of eternity. You that now despise Christ, and trifle with his gospel, we shall see you droop and languish; shall see all your relish for your carnal recreations, and your vain companions lost. And if perhaps
* Eccles, xii. 14. +Matt, xxv. 46. * Rom; viii. 7. § John v. 40. | John viii. 24. * John xv. 24.