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upon a vicious course, and gratifying every evil passion and propensity of your souls? Has it entered into your imaginations, that, because virtue is amiable, you will love her for her own sake, and preserve her in your hearts through life? If so, be assured, that you have admitted a mistaken notion, and are entertaining a delusion vain as the vision of the night. For lovely as virtue is, much as you have heard her praised, much as you yourselves have praised her, you will fly from her in the hour of temptation, unless you love her principally for the sake, and in obedience to the commands of God, in whom you believe. There is no moral principle nor feeling, no affection for any object however amiable, no sentiment of regard for any conduct however worthy of approbation, that will supply you with sufficient strength to resist the repeated endeavours of Satan to turn you aside from the right way. The man, who builds upon his own powers of resistance alone, or merely upon the strength of a good disposition, or a benevolent heart, erects a fortification on so weak a ground, that
the enemy will find it an easy task to throw down every outwork of defence, and demolish at last the citadel itself.
That there is, especially in a civilized country, such a being as an Atheist, who from the bottom of his soul disbelieves the existence of a God, I cannot, I confess, bring myself to imagine. Many men certainly live *" without God in the world," and act as if there were no Divine Spectator of their conduct, no Searcher of hearts, no Rewarder or Punisher of human deeds. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Why is this? Is it because they really do not believe in a Deity? because, after the fullest and most mature investigation their reason can institute, they feel persuaded, that there is no such Being? No; for the existence of a God is a truth, of which their natural understanding, if consulted, must convince them; a truth, to which their every sense and faculty bears testimony; a truth, engraven on every object above, beneath,
* Eph. ii. 12.
+Psalm xiv. 1.
around them in characters the most distinct and legible. Can they consider the Heavens on high, and the earth below, the beauties, the wonders, the glories that encircle them on every side, the order, the regularity, the consistent and unvarying operations, and the wise and provident economy, which are so abundantly manifest throughout all created nature? can they contemplate their own existence, the mysterious union of soul and body, the incomprehensible workings of the mind, and the complicated miracles of the human frame? can they reflect on the weakness of their own powers, on the narrow limits of their most expanded views, and on their utter incapacity to make a flower grow, to stop a wave that roars, or to turn a wind that blows? can they hear the thunder roll over their heads, and see the lightning flash before their eyes? and disbelieve the existence of a God? Impossible. The fact is, they live a life of wickedness, and knowing that, if there be a God, they will indubitably be punished, they endeavour, by a variety of plausible and
fallacious arguments, which, however, are more the pleas of their wishes, than the verdicts of their conviction, to persuade themselves that there is no such Being; but in their hearts they must feel, in their consciences they must acknowledge, his existence and his power.
A positive Atheist, one, not who asserts (for many men assert things which they do not in reality believe,) but who is fully convinced in his own mind, that there is no superior Power, is, I trust, no where to be found. Where there is Reason, there must be an intimation of Deity; Reason being, in fact, an impress of God on the mind of man. But a practical Atheist, one, not who indeed rejects the idea of a God, but who neither thinks of him, nor concerns himself at all about him, and who lives totally separated from him both in heart and conduct, is, it is to be feared, no uncommon character. It is, however, a character so unnatural, so indicative of a perverted understanding and a hardened heart, that it invariably receives the contempt and reprobation of the more righteous part
of mankind. Against positive Atheism, therefore, I am persuaded, I need not caution you. But against practical Atheism, against leading a life, as if there were no God, while you coldly admit that there is one, I see a cogent necessity for putting you upon your guard; because, while it is difficult to make the mind reject a truth implanted in our very nature, it is easy for sin to overrule the arguments of reason, and cause the heart to abhor the. faith, which the understanding cannot but acknowledge.
Believe, therefore, in God, that*"before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the world and the earth were made, he was God from everlasting, world without end." This is the first principle of religion, the foundation upon which all other religious truths are to be built. When you have firmly rooted this faith in your minds, which must be, not a cold vapid acknowledgment, a mere verbal assent, but a full, decided, immoveable conviction, then you will advance to the
*Psalm xc. 2.