« ForrigeFortsett »
der the commanding influence of thofe divine truths he profeffes, and labouring to adorn them by a holy and unblameable converfation. Behold him, then, honeft in his deafings, faithful to his engagements, and chaste in his connections; daily lamenting innumerable mistakes, yet afraid of fin and of every distant approach to it; ufing the world to the purposes of cheerfulness and benevolence, yet not abufing it to covetousness or profligacy; fearful of temptation, yet refolutely oppofing it; feeling his afflictions, yet not daring to murmur at them; aiming to do good, though often disappointed in his attempts: in fine, a lover of good men, a friend of society, and a bleffing to all around him, And now hear him, his character thus established, pronouncing religion in the light it hath been reprefented, a fubstantial and important truth, openly profeffing it in the face of the whole world, and renouncing his temporal interefts for the fake of it. Hear all this and fay, whether a testimony, thus authenticated, ought not, will not have weight with every thoughtful mind.
But if this does not fatisfy, if a fecret dislike of religion ftill forces on the mind a doubt of the good man's fincerity, follow him to his dying bed, fee him lying thereon, with a cheerful compofure of mind, and take from his own lips the evidence he faithfully gives in favour of what he hath dared to profess, and what hath been the governing principle of his life. Verily, fays he, there is a reward for the "righteous, there is a God who judgeth in the earth. This "hath been my firm faith, and is now the joy of my heart. "Religion is a reality: its power I feel, its fupports I enjoy. "In God I have put my truft, and he is faithful and good. "To Chrift I have committed my everlasting interefts, and "he is able to keep them against that day. Heaven, unwor"thy as I am, I hope fhortly to poffefs, and to poffefs it as "the free gift of God through Jefus Chrift my Lord. O how my heart afpires to that pure and exalted state! Thanks "be to the good Spirit of God, who hath wrought me for
"this felf fame thing. I have waited, O Lord, for thy fal"vation-I have seen it-let me now depart in peace-in"to thy hands I refign my spirit." The force of fuch evidence is hardly to be withstood-the heart feels it-the confcience yields to it. And that this hath been the fact in many pleafing inftances, is not to be questioned.
Thus we have, I hope, fully proved the truth of internal religion, from the reafon and nature of the thing, from the exprefs teflimony of Scripture, and from the general confent of mankind. What remains now, but that we spend a few moments-in expoftulating with the unbeliever on his folly and madness-in reproaching the difingenuity and bafenefs of the hypocrite-and in congratulating the Chriftian on the real happiness he poffeffes?
Is there a man, who, after what hath been faid, can lay his hand upon his breaft, and fay he firmly believes that the religion of the heart is all a fable? One should imagine it is impoffible. But if fuch an instance is to be found, we may be bold to affirm, and that without any breach of charity, that a fentence thus pronounced in favour of vice and fin, can never be the genuine dictate of the confcience. To believe that religion is all a lie, is a kind of faith which one fhould fufpect, is too hard to be attained by a human mind: a myflery, I had juft faid, beyond any thing the Bible reveals. No. Unbelief is the proper offspring of a judg ment unnaturally overpowered and prostituted by sense.
Say not then that you have reafon on your fide: no one fober dictate of it can fupport you in your infidelity. While, therefore, you treat this great object with contempt and ridicule, you betray a weakness and folly, which will be an eternal reproach to your understanding; and a bitterness and enmity of heart, which will one day bring upon you inexpreffible misery. What if all you have heard should happen to prove true? how great will be your confufion in the hour of death! and how great your surprise the inftant you launch into eternity! How will you lift up your eyes be
fore the tribunal of that God, whofe revealed will you have trampled under foot, and whose reasonings by the voice of confcience itself you have rejected and defpifed! O confider thefe things, ye that forget God, left he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver *. But to haften,
2. If the condemnation of the infidel will be dreadful, how much more that of the hypocrite!—the man who, in order to answer fome fecular purposes to himself, puts on the form of godliness, while he inwardly denies the power of it, and laughs at the whole as a cheat. A more unnatu ral, bafe, and detestable character than this cannot be imagined. It expofes a perfon to the refentments both of the good and the bad, and betrays a meannefs which renders him abfolutely unworthy of fociety. Whether religion be or be not true, such a man must in the end be a lofer. If it be not true, though he efcapes future mifery, yet it is a thousand to one, but his hypocrify is fufpected, and of confequence his schemes defeated; however, it is certain that, fooner or later, he muft fink into contempt in the opinion of all around him.
But if, on the other hand, religion fhould prove true, what tenfold vengeance will fall on the guilty head of this wretched man, in the great day of account!-that day when the fecrets of all hearts fhall be laid open, and the God of truth fhall, with the loud applaufe of angels and men, and indeed the full approbation of the condemned himself, frown him from his prefence into the lake of fire and brimstone which burneth for evermore. No excufe
can be offered for him, and every circumstance which can be imagined will croud upon him to aggravate his guilt and heighten his mifery. Bethink yourself, O man, in time. Religion is true. Ask your conscience, and it will tell you fo. Increase not then your guilt by your hypocrify. Neither in this way bring the blood of any others around you on your own head. But throw the mask aside. Acknowledge
* Pfal. 1. 22.
your fin, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of your. heart may be forgiven you*. To close the whole,
3. And lastly. How great, Chriftian, is your felicity! You have believed religion to be a reality, and have found it to be fo in your own experience. You have the witnefs in yourself, and you have the pleasure to see every other kind of teftimony concurring with this of your own mind and confcience. Few, indeed, around you are duly affected with this great concern; yet few dare look you in the face and say it is all a deception. But though the whole world did think differently from you, if, nevertheless, you have the Bible, and the feelings of your own heart, on your fide, what will it fignify? And though in the end you should be mistaken, yet you will have no cause to repent that you have given firm credit to fuch matters as have tended to make you a happier and better man, and a more cheerful and useful member of fociety. But the truth is great, and it will prevail. Religion is a reality, and built on fuch principles as cannot deceive. Rejoice, then, O believer, amidst all the contempt that is caft upon you by a profane and wicked world. Rejoice in the truth. Place a firm confidence in Christ as your Saviour, and give all diligence to make your calling and election fure. Be confirmed in the grounds of your faith, and pray to God that the fruits' of it may fo appear in your heart and life, as to put the truth of religion itself, and your own intereft in it, beyond all difpute. And look forward with pleasure and triumph to that day, when all doubt and scepticism shall be for ever absorbed and loft, in the brightness and certainty of the heavenly world.
*Acts viii. 22.
THE SAMENESS OF RELIGION.
I Cor. xii. 13.
-And have been all made to drink into one fpirit.
T is a reflection highly pleasing to a serious mind, that religion, the nature and reality of which we have explained and proved, is one and the fame thing in every good man. Nor is there in this argument entertainment only, but the most important ufe: for, on the one hand, it tends to obviate a very plaufible objection, which hath often been urged against the truth of religion, as if it were not of divine original, because it hath, and doth affume fuch various external appearances; and, on the other, it happily tends to promote a firm union and a cordial affection among all those who are interested in this heavenly bleffing. Nor could fitter language be used to convey this cheerful and improving idea of real godliness, than that in our text; whether we be Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, if we truly fear God, we have been all made to drink into one fpirit.
The apostle had been difcourfing at large concerning spiritual gifts, of which he tells the Corinthians, there was a very great diverfity in the church of God. But reflecting how much they were difpofed to animofities and divifions, which was indeed the principal occafion of his writing this epiftle, he reminds them, that whatever variety of gifts