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did. We know very well how men of this spirit are wont to act. They conceive that they have made a mighty effort towards the instruction of their minds, when they have spent a few hours in reading the Scriptures, and have put a few questions to a minister on the articles of the faith. And then they boast of having consulted both men and books without success. Really I cannot help telling such men, what I have often told them, that this negligence is insufferable.This is not a question about the petty interests of some stranger. Ourselves and our all are involved in it.

The immortality of the soul is a matter of such main importance, so profoundly interesting to us, that we must be utterly dead to every good feeling, if we could be indifferent about it. And all our actions and thoughts would take so different a course, according as we have or 'have not the hope of eternal blessings, that it is impossible for us to take one step discreetly, but as we keep this point ever in view, as our main and ultimale object. "It is, then, both our highest interest, and our first duty, to get light on this subject, on which our whole conduct depends. And here, therefore, in speaking of those who are sceptical on this point, I make a wide distinction between those who labor with all their power to obtain instruction, and those who live on in indolence, without caring to make any inquiry. I do heartily pity those who sincerely mourn over their scepticism, who look upon it as the greatest of misfortunes, and who spare no pains to escape from it, but who make these researches their chief and most serious employ. But as for those who pass their life without reflecting on its close; and who, merely because they find not in themselves a convincing testimony, refuse to seek it elsewhere, and to examine thoroughly, whether the opinion proposed be such as nothing but a credulous simplicity receives, or such as, though obscure in itself, is yet founded on a solid basis, I regard them very differently. The carelessness which they betray in a matter which involves their existence, their eternity, their all, awakes my indignation, rather than my pity. It is astonishing. It is horrifying It is monstrous. I speak not this from the pious zeal of a blind devotion.

On the contrary, I affirm that self-love, that self-interest, that the simplest light of reason, should inspire these sentiments; and, in fact, for this we need but the perceptions of ordinary men.

It requires but little elevation of soul to discover, that here there is no substantial delight ; that our pleasures are but vanity, that the ills of life are innumerable ; and that, after all, death, which threatens us every moment, must, in a few years, perhaps in a few days, place us in the eternal condition of happiness, or misery, or nothingness. ' Between us and heaven, hell or annihilation, no barrier is interposed but life, which is of all things the most fragile; and as they who doubt the immortality of the soul can have no hope of heaven, they can have no prospect but hell or nonentity.

Nothing can be more true than this, and nothing more terrible.

Brave it how we will, there ends the goodliest life on earth.

It is in vain for men to turn aside from this coming eternity, as if a bold indifference could destroy its being. It subsists notwithstanding. It hastens on; and death, which must soon unveil it, will, in a short time, infallibly reduce them to the dreadful necessity of being annihilated for ever, or for ever wretched.

Here then is a doubt of the most alarming importance; to feel this doubt is already, in itself, a serious evil. But that doubt imposes on us the indispensable duty of inquiry.

He, then, who doubts, and yet neglects inquiry, is both uncandid and unhappy. But if, notwithstanding his doubts, he is calm and contented; if he freely avows his ignorance; nay, if he makes it his boast, and seems to make this very indifference the subject of his joy and triumph, no words can adequately describe his extravagant infatuation.


This very

Where do men get these opinions ? What delight is there in expecting misery without an end? What ground is there for boasting in the experience of nothing but impenetrable darkness ? Or what consolation in despairing for ever of a comforter ?

Acquiescence in such ignorance is monstrous, and they who thus linger on through life, should be made sensible of its absurdity and stupidity, by shewing them what passes in their own breasts, so as to confound them by a sight of their own folly.

For men who thus choose to remain ignorant of what they are, and who seek no means of illumination, reason in this way :

6 I know not who has sent me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I am myself. I am fully ignorant of all things. I know not what my body is, what my senses are, or what my soul is. part of me which thinks what I now speak, which reflects upon all other things, and even “upon itself, is equally a stranger to itself, and to all around it. I look through the vast and terrific expanse of the universe by which I am encompassed; and I find myself chained to one petty corner of the wide domain ; without understanding why I am fixed in this spot, rather than in any other; or why this little hour of life was assigned me at this point, rather than at any other of all that eternity which was before me, or of all that which is to come. On every side I see nothing but infinities, which enfathom me in their abysses as a mere atom, or as a shadow which lingers but a single instant, and is never to return. All that I know is, that I must shortly die ; and that of which I know the least, is this very death, from which I cannot fly..

66 As I know not whence I came, so I know not whither I go. This only I know, that when I leave this world, I must either fall forever into nothingness, or into the hands of an incensed God ; but I know not to which of these two conditions I shall be eternally doomed



66 Such is my state ; full of misery, of imbecility, of darkness. And from all this, I argue that it becomes me to pass all the days of my life, without considering what shall hereafter befal me; and that I have nothing to do, but to follow the bent of my inclinations, without reflection or disquiet, and if there be an eternity of misery, to do my utmost to secure it. Perhaps inquiry might throw some light upon my doubts; but I will not take the pains to make it, nor stir one foot to find the truth. On the contrary. while I shew my contempt for those who annoy themselves by this inquiry, I wish to rush without fear or foresight upon the risk of this dread contingency. I will suffer myself to be led imperceptibly on to death, in utter uncertainty as to the issue of my future lot in eternity."

Verily, religion may glory in having for its enemies, men so irrational as these ; their opposition is so little to be dreaded, that it seryes, in fact, to illustrate the main truths which our religion teaches. For our religious system aims chiefly to establish these two principles,-the corruption of human nature, and redemption by Jesus Christ. Now, if these opposers are of no use in confirming the truth of redemption, by the sanctity of their lives; yet they admirably prove the corruption of nature, by the maintenance of such unnatural opinions.

Nothing is so important to any man as his own condition; nothing so formidable as eternity. They, therefore, who are indifferent to the loss of their being and to the risk of endless misery, are in an unnatural state. They act quite differentiy from this in all other matters; they fear the smallest inconveniences; they anticipate them; they feel them when they arrive ; and he who passes days and nights in indignation and despair, at the loss of an employment, or for some fancied blemish on his honor, is the

very same who knows that he must soon lose all by death, and yet continues satisfied, fearless, and unmoved. Such an insensibility to things of the most tremendous consequences, in a heart so keenly alive to the merest



trifles, is an astonishing prodigy, an incomprehensible enchantment, a supernatural infatuation.

A man in a dungeon, who knows not if the sentence of death has gone forth against him, who has but one hour to ascertain the fact, and that one hour sufficient if he knows that it is granted, to secure its revocation, acts contrary to nature and to common sense, if he employs that hour, not in the needful inquiry, but in sport and trifling. Now, this is the condition of the persons whom we are describing ; only with this difference, that the evils with which they are every moment threatened, do infinitely surpass ihe mere loss of this life, and that transient punishment which the pris- , oner has to dread. Yet they run thoughtlessly onward to the precipice, having only cast a veil over their eyes to hinder them from discerning it; and then, in a dreadful security, they mock at those who warn them of their danger,

Thus not only does the zeal of those who seek God, demonstrate the truth of religion, but even the blindness of those who seek him not, and who pass their days in this criminal neglect. Human nature must have experienced a dreadful revolution, before men could live contentedly in this state, much more before they could boast of it, For supposing that they were absolutely certain, that there was nothing to fear after death, but annihilation, is not this a cause rather for despair, than for gratulation. But seeing that we have not this assurance, then is it not inconceivably silly to boast because we are in doubt ?

And yet, after all, it is too evident, that man is in his nature so debased, as to nourish in his heart a secret joy on this account. This brutal insensibility to the risk of hell or of annihilation, is thought so noble, that not only do those who really are sceptically inclined, make their boast of it, but even those who are not, are proud to counterfeit a doubt. For experience proves, that the greater part of these men

are of this latter kind, mere pretenders to Infidelity, and hypocrites in Atheism. They have been told that the spir

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