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from the semblance of an expiation, need not be any further explained.
Infidels have left this subject exactly as they found'it. No means of atoning for sin have been devised, or even attempted, by these men. Some of them indeed appear to have expected absolution in consequence of repentance. Beyond this they have devised nothing. Many of them, to avoid, as it would seem, the desperation to which they were reduced by their denial of the Scriptures, have retreated from absurdity to absurdity, with the hope of finding ease and quiet, merely by retiring farther and farther from the truth. Of these some have denied the existence of God; others, his character; and others, his Providence. A multitude have declared, that there is no future state of being; and bave thus taken their final refuge in annih lation. “ Death an eternal sleep” was not written on the gates of French cemeteries, until long after it had been many times reiterated in the books of Infidel Philosophers: and the National Convention of France did nothing more than echo back the hollow murmur from the cata. combs of Infidelity.
Worship, Infidels have never rendered to their Maker; at least to the eye
A feeble attempt to institute a service, so plainly demanded of our race by the character of our Creator, and the relations existing between him and us, was a few years since made in the city of London : and a man, recommended to those, who made it, by his notorious apostasy from the Christian religion, and the Christian ministry, was employed to conduct it. A house was hired; and a congregation gathered. For a few weeks they were induced by the novelty of the scene to be present. After this, they gradually fell off: and at the end of three months most of them appeared no more.
Two or three families, only, persevered through the year, for which the building had been hired. Thus terminated the only public worship, in which Infidels are known ever to have engaged. How flaming a proof is here furnished, that the professed object of their worship has no place in their affections.
Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who appears to have possessed a more serious cast of mind, and a better character, than any of
those, who have borne this name, has indeed told us, that the best worship of God is piety, united with virtue. There can be no doubt, that piety, joined with virtue, or, to use language more explicit, that evangelical virtue, or supreme love to God, united with disinterested good-will to man, is the substance and the soul of all that is excellent in rational beings. Beside this, there is no piety, and no virtue. But it is false to say, unless in a figurative schise, that this personal character is worshipping God at all. Worship is always the exercise of the mind; and does not con sist in mere qualities, but in the exercise of them. Worship consists in prayer, in praise, and in hearing and embracing, cordially and reverentially, the Word of God; and in the celebration of any other religious ordinances, which he has at any time instituted for the worshippers. It is impossible, that the spirit, and conduct, of quietism should be worship.
There are two insuperable objections against this aphorism of Lord Herbert. The first is the absolute indefiniteness of the terms, in which it is expressed. There is, perhaps, no word in the English language, which is used in a more indefinite manner than Virtue. Piety, though a less variable term, is still used in many different senses. It is, therefore, impossible for any person to determine, without a minute definition, what this specious declaration intends.
The other objection is that the author plainly intends to remove out of use all Ordinances of external worship. As man is constituted, and habituated, no internal worship (if this phraseology be permitted,) can exist in the world, without the continual aid of that, which is external. The state of the mind gives, unquestionably, its whole moral character to all external conduct : yet it is itself not only influenced, but absolutely preserved or destroyed, by that which is external. He, who does not worship externally, will soon cease to worship at all. Lord Herbert, I presume, in. tended by this very doctrine to exterminate, as far as might be, all external worship ; and, so far as his disciples have been concerned, it must be acknowledged, has been but too successful.
It is however amply sufficient for the design of this discourse to observe, that Infidels have devised nothing with respect to this subject. This maxim of Lord Herbert, when reduced to an intel
ligible and defensible meaning, is taught in the Scriptures with infinitely more force than by him, or any other lotidel writer. All the men of this class, have absolutely failed of adding a single tittle to the Scriptural injunctions on this subject.
With respect to the Expiation of sin, it is hardly necessary to observe, that Infidels do not even make any pretensions to any knowledge concerning it. They appear, with a single voice, to give themselves up to the mere course of events; and either negligently, or resolutely, to encounter whatever dangers and difficulties may attend their own future well-being. Their negligence is stupidity; their resolution, frenzy.
A single remark shall conclude the discourse. It is this.
Infidels, by forsaking the Scriptures, have reduced themselves to a most alarming and deplorable condition.
Infidels are not only sinners, but, usually at least, are pre-emi. nent sinners. Of this the proof is complete. To say, that a man is an Infidel, is to say proverbially, that he is destitute of all moral excellence, both in principle and practice. This phraseology has grown into use, merely from the conduct of Infidels, as observ. ed by the common eye of mankind. In such a case it is incredible, that there should be any error.
What, then, is to become of these men ? Like others, they must go to the grave, and to the judgment. That there will be a judgment, and a retribution, after we leave the present world, has been uniformly believed by the great body of the human race, in every age and country, and under the influence of every moral system. A few philosophers, either partially or wholly atheistical, and a very small number of the most ignorant and degraded tribes of African savages, have on the one hand denied, and on the other hand been ignorant of, this doctrine. The denial is a gross opposition; the ignorance a gross scandal, to human reason.
What account will these men give of themselves to their Creator? Look into the progress of their lives ; and tell me whether they present any thing, which he, in whose sight the heavens are unclean, can be imagined to regard with complacency; any thing, which even the consciences of Infidels themselves can review with comfort ?
If there be a final judgment; on that judgment all the future
good of man is suspended. Immortal being, with its amazing interests, will then be to be fixed; and will unquestionably be fixed according to the tenor of the life, spent in the present world. The soul itself will here be finally disposed of; and every thing, which in the view of infidels, as well as of other men, pertains to its welfare? 6 What is to become of me?" is a question infinitely interesting to every child of Adam. Who can answer this question in such a manner, as to remove doubt and anguish, and give peace and hope? None certainly, beside him, who will dispose of us all, in that day, according to his own pleasure. That God will do what he pleases with us, and every thing that is ours, cannot be doubted even by a sot. What this will be, no being, beside himself, can divine. If there is hope for man, for guilty, apostate man; it has never been detected by the human mind.
How can it be detected, unless we can fathom the purposes of a voluntary being; and, looking directly into the secret chambers of the soul, see them as they there exist? How obviously is this impossible with respect to a finite being; a man, like ourselves; known to us by a thousand daily communications ? How much more evidently is it impossible with respect to God, whose ways are higher than our ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth ?
But, although it is impossible for us to discover the allotments of men beyond the grave, it is absolutely certain, that God will regard with favour no beings, but those, with whose conduct he is pleased ; and that it is impossible for him to be pleased with sinDers. Infidels beyond all doubt are sinners. If they look at all into their minds, or lives, they know themselves to be sinners. They leave the world in the character of sinners. They cannot, therefore, be the objects of his favour, nor receive his blessing : and to this miserable condition they reduce themselves by their hatred and rejection of the Scriptures. Were a Christian voluntarily to place them in this miserable situation, they would pronounce him, and with too much reason, to be a fiend.
MODES OF TEACHING THEOLOGY AND MORALS, ADOPTED BY
THE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS, INCAPABLE OF PRODUCING
1 Cor. iii. 20.
The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
In the three preceding discourses I have attempted to show, that the reason of man is incapable of devising a religion, which will render him acceptable to God. This general proposition I endeavoured to support by showing, that mankind have never been able to discover satisfactorily a defensible scheme of duty, of worship, or of expiation ; that their knowledge of these great subjects is extremely limited ; that their arguments are miserably feeble; and that their conclusions, at the best, are totally uncertain. In the last discourse I attempted to prove, that the philosophers, men, to whom all those, who in modern times have asserted the sufficiency of human reason for these purposes, have regularly recurred for the support of their favourite opinions, have, instead of making the religious system, which they found in the world better, actually made it worse.
In the present discourse it is my intention to show, that the Manner, in which their philosophy was taught, was vain and useless; and could never become the means of accomplishing a reformation among mankind. To this truth the text immediately conducts us. “The Lord,” says St. Paul, “knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." This passage is quoted from