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it of high life consists in rising above these vulgar prejudices. They call this throwing off the yoke of bondage; and most men do this, not from conviction, but from the mere servile principle of imitation.
Yet if they have but a particle of common sense remaining, it will not be difficult to make them comprehend, how miserably they abuse themselves by seeking credit in such a course. For this is not the way to obtain respect, even with men of the world; for they judge accurately, and know that the only sure way to succeed in obtaining regard, is to approve ourselves honest, faithful, prudent, and capable of advancing the interest of our friends; because men naturally love none but those who can contribute to their welfare. But now what can we gain by hearing any man confess that he has thrown off the yoke; that he does not believe in God, who watches over his conduct; that he considers himself as the absolute master of his own actions, and accountable for them only to himself. Will he imagine that we shall not repose in him a greater degree of confidence than before, and that henceforth we shall look to him for comfort, advice or assistance in the vicissitudes of life? Does he think that we are delighted to hear that he doubts whether our very soul be any thing more than a breath or vapor, and that he can tell it us with an air of assurance and self-sufficiency ? Is this then the topic for a jest ? Should it not rather be told with tears, as the saddest of all sorrowful things ?
If they thought seriously, they would see that this conduct is so contrary to sound sense, to virtuous principle, and to good taste, and so widely removed from the reality of that elevation to which they pretend, that nothing can more effectually expose them to the contempt and aversion of mankind, or more evidently mark them for weakness of intellect, or want of judg. ment. And indeed, should we require of them an account of their sentiments, and of their doubts on the subject of religion, their statements would be found so miserably weak and trifling, as to confirm, rather
than shake our confidence. . This was once very aptly remarked by one of their own number, in answer to an infidel argument: “ Positively if you continue to dispute at this rate, you will actually make me Christian.” And he was right; for who would not tremble to find himself associated in his opinions and his lot with men so truly despicable ?
They also who do no more than pretend to hold these sentiments, are truly pitiable ; for by the assumption of an insincere infidelity, they actually control their better natural tendencies, only to make themselves of all men the most inconsistent. If from their inmost heart they regret that they have not light, why do they not confess it ? Such a confession would be no disgrace; for there is really no shame, but in shamelessness. Nothing more completely betrays a weak mind, than insensibility to the fact of the misery of man, while living without God in the world. Nothing more strongly indicates extreme degradation of spirit, than not to wish for the truth of God's eternal promises. No man is so base as he that defies his God. Let them therefore leave those impieties to those who are vile and wretched enough to be in earnest. If they cannot be completely Christians, at least let them be honest men; and let them at length admit the fact, that there are but two classes of men, who may be called truly rational:—those who serve God with all their heart, because they know him; and those who seek him with all their heart, because as yet they know him not.
If there be any who sincerely inquire after God, and who, being truly sensible of their misery, affectionately desire to emerge from it; for these we ought to labor, that we may lead them to the discovery of that light which they have not yet discovered.
But as for those who live without either knowing God or endeavoring to know him, they count themselves so little worthy of their own care, that they can hardly deserve the care of others: and it requires all the charity of the religion which they despise, not to despise them so far as to abandon them to their folly. But since our religion obliges us to consider them, while they remain in this life, ás still capable of receiving God's enlightening grace, and to believe that in the course of a few days, they may possess a more realizing faith than ourselves; and that we, on ihe other side, may become as blind as they; we ought to do for them what we would wish them to do for us, if we were in their circumstances; we should intreat them to take pity on themselves, at least to take some steps forward, and try if they may not yet find the light. Let them give to the reading of this work, a few of those hours which they would otherwise spend more unprofitably. Something they may gain : they can lose but little. But if any shall bring io this work, a perfect sincerity, and an unfeigned desire of knowing truth, I would hope that they will find comfort in it, and be convinced by those proofs of our divine religion, which are here accumulated.
THAT THE BELIEF OF A GOD IS THE TRUE WISDOM.
A. Let us speak according to the light of nature. If there is a God, he is to us infinitely incomprehensible; because having neither parts nor limits, there is no affinity or resemblance between him and us. then, incapable of comprehending bis nature, or even knowing his existence. And under these circumstances, who will dare to undertake the solving of this question ? Certainly not we who have no point of assimilation with him.
B. I will not undertake here to prove by natural reason, either the existence of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, or the immortality of the soul, nor any other point of this kind : not only that I do not feel myself strong enough to bring forth from the resources of
weak reason, proofs that would convince a hardened Atheist ; but that this knowledge if gained without the faith of Jesus Christ, were equally barren and useless. Suppose a man to become convinced that the proportions of numbers are truths immaterial,* and eternal, and dependant on one first truth, on which they subsist, and which is called God: I do not find that man advanced one step further toward his own salvation.
A. It is surprising that no canonical writer has made use of nature to prove the existence of God. They all tend to establish the belief of this truth; yet they have not. said, there is no void, then there is a God; it follows, then, that they were more intelligent than the ablest of those who have come after them, who have all had recourse to this method.
B. If it is a proof of weakness to prove the existence of God from nature, then do not despise the Scripture; if it is a proof of wisdom to discern the contradictions of nature, then venerate this in the Scripture.
A. Unity added to infinity does not augment it, any more than another foot does a line of infinite length. What is finite is lost in that which is infinite, and shrinks to nothing. So does our mind in respect to the mind of God, and our righteousness when compared with his. The difference between unity and infinity is not so great, as that between our righteousness and the righteousness of God.
B. We know that there is an infinite, but we know not its nature. For instance, we know that it is false that number is finite. Then it is true that there is an infinity in number; but what that infinity is, we know not. It cannot be equal or unequal, for the addition of unity to infinity does not change its nature; yet it is a number, and every number is equal or unequal; this is the case with all finite numbers.
In the same way, we may know that there is a God, without know
*Existing independent of matter.
You say God or
ing what he is; and we ought not to conclude that God is not, because we cannot perfectly comprehend his nature.
To convince you of the being of a God, I shall make no use of the faith by which we know him assuredly, nor of any other proofs with 'which we are satisfied, because you will not receive them. I will only treat with you upon your own principles, and I expect to show you, by the mode in which you reason daily, in matters of small importance, how you should reason in this; and what side you should take in decision of this important question of the being of a God. that we cannot discover whether there be a not. This however is certain, either that God is, or that God is not. There is no medium point between these two alternatives. But which side shall' we take? Reason, you say, cannot decide at all.
There is an infinite chaos between us and the point in question. We play a game at an infinite distance, ignorant whether the coin we throw shall fall cross or pile. How then can we wager? By reasoning we cannot make sure that it is one or the other. By reasoning we cannot deny that it is one or the other.
Do not then charge with falsehood those who have taken a side, for you know not that they are wrong, and that they have chosen ill.
A. No, I do not blame them for making this choice, but for making any choice whatever. To take a risk on either alternative, is equally wrong: the wise course is not to choose at all.
B. But you must wager; this is not a matter of choice. You are inevitably committed; and not to wager that God is, is to wager that he is not. Which side then do you take? Let us see in which you are least interested. You have two things to lose, truth and right; and two things to play with, your reason and your will-your knowledge and your happiness. And your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Take your side, then, without hesitation, that God is. . Your reason is not more annoyed in choosing one, than the