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well as misery? I say, their misery. For this last is no secret to observing men, notwithstanding the airs of gaiety and satisfaction, they sometimes assume; and indeed deserves the tenderest pity, though their perverse folly be apt to excite a different passion.
But to conclude: It is enough to have shewn, in justification of the sacred text, that they who walk in the light of their own fire, and in the sparks which they have kindled, have this recompense of their choice, allotted to them by the hand of God, and the nature of things, That they do and must lie down in
To you, who have determined more wisely to govern yourselves by faith, and not by Reason only; who rejoice to walk in the clear sunshine of the blessed Gospel, and not in the malignant light of philosophical speculation, To you, I say, the reward of your better conduct, is, that ye know how to recommend yourselves to the favour of God; and ye know what to expect from that favour: Ye understand that, by FAITH AND REPENTANCE, ye have peace of mind in this transitory life, and assured hopes of immortal unspeakable felicity, reserved for you in the heavens.
PREACHED NOVEMBER 15, 1767.
2 COR. iv. 3.
If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.
THE text implies, that the evidence, with which Christianity is attended, may fail of convincing the minds of some men. And indeed from the time that the Sun of righteousness rose upon the earth, there have always been those, who could not, or would not, be enlightened by Him.
Now it might be a question, whether this effect were owing to the nature of the evidence
itself, or to some obscurity in the manner of proposing it. This, I say, might have been a question, even among Christians themselves, if the Apostle had not determined it to our hands. He who was fully instructed in the truths of the Gospel, knew the evidence, with which they were accompanied, was enlightened by the same spirit that had inspired them, and had great experience in the different tempers and capacities of men, roundly asserts that Infidelity has no countenance, either from within or without, neither from the sort or degree of evidence, by which the Christian Revelation is supported, nor from any mysterious conveyance of it; but that, universally, the fault lies in those, who do not receive it. If the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost to those, who would not be convinced by any evidence whatsoever.
What the evidences of Christianity, in fact, are, and how abundantly sufficient for the conviction of all reasonable men, I shall not now enquire. The subject is fitter for a volume, than a discourse in this place. Let it be supposed, on St. Paul's authority, that those evidences are sufficient; still ye may be curious to know, and it may tend to the
establishment of your faith to understand, how it has come to pass, that so much light could be resisted.
To this question a pertinent answer has been given from the prejudices and passions, from the vices and corruptions of unbelievers ; it being no new thing that men should love darkness rather than light, when their deeds are, and when they have resolved with themselves they shall be, evil. For, as our Lord himself argues in this case, Every one that doth evil, hateth the light, lest his deeds should be reproved: But he that doth the Truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be manifested, that they are wrought in God.
But then it has been replied, that, though Vice may be many times the ground of infidelity, and the condemnation of such men be just, yet that some, too, have disbelieved from no such motives; that the Gospel has been rejected by persons, who appear to have been men of large and liberal minds, as free, as others, from all perverse prejudices, and as little subject to any gross vice or passion: Nay, that, in the class of unbelievers, there have
a John iii. 19.
b Ibid. 20, 21.
been those who have distinguished themselves as much by the purity of their lives, as the brightness of their understandings.
All this may be true; and yet our Saviour affirms, that he, who believeth not, is condemned already: and St. Paul in the text, to the same purpose, that if the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. There must needs, then, be some latent cause of this strange fact; some secret depravity lurking in the mind of those, who disbelieve the Gospel, though appearances be thus fair and flattering. And, though Christian Charity be not forward to think evil of his neighbour, yet in this case we have reason to suspect it: and what we suspect, we may perhaps find, in a VICE SO secret and insinuating, that it creeps upon men unawares; so congenial, as it were, to our depraved nature, that hardly any man can be sure of his being wholly free from it; and so ingenious in disguising itself, as to pass upon others, nay upon the man possessed by it, for one of his best qualities.
By these characters, ye will easily see I speak of self-love, or rather the vicious exertion of it
c John iii. 18.