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dangers ; and, perhaps, in the frenzy of distraction, leaping from a precipice, or plunging a dagger into his bosom. Who, without a thrill of horror, can witness a scene like this? Yet such is the image which inspiration has selected as emblematical of the conduct of impenitent sinners. Having surveyed, with a rapid and comprehensive glance, the history of those who live"without God in the world,” it has sketched the portraiture of their character, in few, but fearfully graphic words. “Madness is in their heart.” Surely, none but a pencil dipped in heaven could have flung upon the canvas so vivid and so true a likeness in so brief & compass.
The sentiment, which the text presents as the subject of discourse, is the moral insanity of irreligious men.
In the illustration of this topic, it is my purpose to mention some of the prominent characteristics of insanity, and to show that the views and conduct of the wicked, with respect to religion, exhibit the same melancholy tokens.
I. It is a mark of insanity to be insensible to the force of evidence. A sound mind is open to conviction,--perceives the proofs submitted to its examination,--estimates their value,--and regulates its conclusions according to their clearness and cogency. Whereever, therefore, an utter inapprehension of argnment and testimony is discovered, it is manifest that there folly has usurped the “ intellectual throne." If a man, in defiance of his consciousness, should assert that his own existence was imaginary ;--that the sun did not shine, nor the scasons change, or that the living and real world around him was only a vast panorama of mingical illusions,--the most unreflecting observer would at once pronounce him insane. But the infidel, who denounces religion as an imposture, betrays an infatuation equally unequivocal. He rejects the being and government of God: denies the future existence and accountability of man; discards, as baseless dreams, the monentous facts, sublime precepts, and stupendous disclosures of Revelation ; and charges the believer in these doctrines with a blind devotion to absurd and incredible dogmas. But notwithstanding the confidence with which he avows his skepticism, a slight survey of the grounds on which it rests, will demonstrate that he has little claim to the boast of sagacity. "The truths which he repudiates, are surrounded by a body of evidence so decisive as to render them no less certain and irre"sistible than the plainest subject of pure intuition. God has iinprinted his signature upon the broad expanse of the universe. Eart!!, with its varied loveliness and fertility-ocean,in the sublim. ity of its storms, and the majesty of its repose--and heaven, with the mechanism of its countless worlds,--proclaim his wisdom, power, and goodness. The whole creation, from the smallest 'flower that blushes in the valley, to the mightiest globe that wheels through the firmament, sends up a causeless anthem to its Maker and Governor; and calls, with every voice of its unnumbered choir, upon revolted, ingrate man, to acknowledge
and adore his perfections. Superadded to this testimony of external nature, God has implanted in the human bosom an innate consciousness of his existence and sovereignty-a feeling of responsibility to bim-and a vivid presentiment of final retribution--which endure throngh every change, unextinguished and inextinguishable. Darkness cannot conceal, infidelity cannot stifle, the coustant corrosion of sin cannot destroy them. They live in the deep fountains of the soul; and there are moments in the history of the most hardened unbeliever, when they break, with irrepressible force, through all his opposing sophistries. Nor is this all. With a view to illustrate more fully what reason, instructed by his works, and the moral sense of his creatures might teach, and to disclose what lies beyond their vision, he has given to the world a perfect revelation of all that is necessary for the subjects of his government to know during their earthly probation. He has unveiled, in the most luminous manner, his character and will; his relation to men, and his claims to their obedience; their entire and universal apostasy tronı him, and exposure to the sentence of his violated law; the provision of infinite love for their restoration to his favor by the blood of his Sun shed upon the cross; the eternal felicity of those who embrace this merciful overture, and the inevitable perdition of all who neglect it. The Volume, in which these affecting disclosures are promulgated, is evinced to be of divine authority, by an overwhelining accumulation of the most conclusive proofs. Its agreement with secular bistory; its accordance with the physical and spiritual condition of tho world ; its exact prediction of numerous events ages before their occurrence; its impressive display of unquestionable miracles; the holy lives, supernatural gifts, fervid zeal, untiring labors, and voluntary sufferings of its writers; the ethereal beauty of its style; the moral elevation of its sentiments ; the harmony, unearthly purity, and sanctifying influence of its doctrines; all conspire to attest its heavenly origin. Thus inscribed with the name, and stamped with the seal of God, it has passed victorious through every trial of its truth, and every attempt to refute its pretensions. Deathless as the Eternal Spirit from whom it emanated-invulnerable as the sacred bush, burning but not consumed --it has survived, unharmed, the fires of persecution, and the ravages of time. Opposition, in every forin, bas been arrayed against it. Wit and ridicule-perverted learning and misguided talent--secret treachery and open malice--dungeons, racks, and flames--and every weapon which human ingenuity coull devise, or the magazines of hell supply--have been combined, in one fell asssault, to sweep it from the earth. But, fixed on its immovable basis, it has sus. tained the storm, unshaken as the fast-seated rock that hurls back the angry waves. Or if, for a moment, the swelling flood his seemed to oversow it, it has arisen from the temporary sub. mersion in serener majesty, and with more impregnable strength.
If, then, the witnesses to the truth of religion are so numerous and irrefragable, how infatuated is the man who discredits their testimony. Such incredulity can proceed only from that madness of the soul which the text describes. In unison with this statement, an inspired writer declares, that “in his heart”-not in the deliberate conviction of his understanding—"the fool hath said, There is no God." And how universally is this declaration exemplified in the process by which infidels are made. By far, the larger portion of those who become such, have scarcely ever read the Bible, and know as little of its contents as of the Koran or the Shaster. Delirious with the love of sin, and impatient of every check to its indulgence, they reject without ceremony a book, whose precepts contravene their inclinations, and whose sanctions reprobate their profligacy. And even the few who have pretended to examine it, have been so strongly biased by a latent enmity to its doctrine, as to be utterly incompetent to pass upon it an impartial judgment. And when we see the young, the ignorant, and the abandoned, thus wilfully turning away from the light which beams, with overpowering splendor, from the works and the word of God, merely because they hate it, and will not come to it, lest, in its all-disclosing radiance, their deeds should be reproved,” can we doubt the insanity of their hearts? They may exult in their unbelief as a proof of their triumph over vulgar prejudice, and glory in their freedom from the restraints of conscience and revelation ; but to the spiritu. ally instructed mind their conduct appears indescribably preposterous. It is the madness of the mariner, who, casting away his chart and compass, and extinguishing every beacon that can guide or warn him, launches his vessel upon a sea wild with tempest, and covered with darkness. Nay, more, it is the madness of the man, who, if he were able, would blot every luminary from the sky, and shroud the universe in eternal midnight.
II. It is a mark of insanity to be unconcerned while in a state of doubt with respect to momentous interests. If a man, who considered his temporal circumstances in such a critical posture, that the next hour might sink him in the lowest poverty and disgrace, or elevate him to the pinnacle of wealth and honor, should make no exertions to remove their uncertainty, but reck lessly leave them to their course, he would be deemed utterly destitute of common sense and prudence. And yet there are multitudes, who, with reference to the welfare of our souls, exhibit a similar fatuity. They are not absolute unbelievers. They confess themselves unable to prove that religion is false; but, at the same time, aver, that they find it equally impossible to demonstrate its reality. They waver between infidelity and faith ; and justify their indecision by asserting that every thing connected with the spiritual world is enveloped in obscurity. That, their only difficulty, however, lies in the waywardness and obliquity of their hearts, is evident from the fact, that while a
slight examination would convince them of the truth of the gospel, they refuse to investigate its claims, but treat the “great salvation" with contempt, when pressed upon their notice. They acknowledge that the period of their earthly sojourn is brief and precarious—that a life, frail as a thread of gossamer, is the only gossamer between them and heaven, or hell, or annihilation--and, that death, which threatens them every moment, must, in a few years, and may, in a few days, place them unchangeable and forever, in one of these conditions. Their doubts, therefore, are upon a subject of most tremendous consequence--1 subject relating, not to the affairs of their fugitive existence here, but to their eternal destiny beyond the grave. From this de tiny it is in vain for them to turn aside their thonghts, as if they could avert it by denying it a place in their imagination. In spite of their heedlessness, it advances certainly and speedily; and soon the curtain which conceals it will be lifted, and disclose to their view an endless state of ineffable bliss, of burning agony, or of nothingness. Now, surely, in a dubious point of this solemn nature, it might be expected that every rational man would endeavor, if possible, to obtain a relief from his doubts; and that he could not remain an instant at rest, while in suspense about a question of such transcendent importance, that, in comparison, with it, every sublunary interest dwindles into insignificance. Impelled by the stupendous magnitude of the problem to be determined, he would concentrate every faculty upon its solution, and manifest, an all-absorbing solicitude, till lie had brought his inquiries to a satisfactory issue. But, instead of this, the individuals we are describing, take no pains to settle their doubts. They appear easy and composed with respect to them. They may even avow them with levity, and perhaps gratify their pride in professing them, as if it were an indication of superior wisdom to be uncertain whether their ultimate award shall be a throne of joy, a rack of punishment, or a dreamless oblivion. What language can sup. ply a name for such inconceivable folly? Yet, in relation to worldly objects, you see them very different men. They use the utmost dilligence to secure their property. They guard, with anxious care, against the remotest contingency of bodily suffering. They fear the smallest inconveniences, see them as they approach, and feel them if they arrive. They pass whole days and nights in chagrin and despair at some frivolous disappointment in their secular pursuits, or some imaginary blemish in their reputation. And still, while they admit the appalling possibility that the terrors of perdition hang over them, they continue without disquiet or emotion. This wonderful insensibility to concerns of the highest moment, and that. too, in minds so keenly alive to the meanest trifles, is an astonishing prodigy-a preternatural hallucination; an unparalleled and deplorable anomaly---which can be accounted for only by the fact, that“ tbe heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart.”
III. Insanity is characterized by false perceptions. As the eye, clouded by disease, sees the objects presented to it in vague and distorted attitudes; so the mind, bereft of reason, mistakes what it perceives, and gives an unnatural aspect to every thing which it contemplates. The same feature is eminently conspicuous in the views of the wicked with respect to religious subjects. They entertain erroneous conceptions of God. Blind to the discoveries of his character and the proofs of his ubiquity, which meet them on every side, they regard lim rather as the unknown sovereign of some distant world, whose relation to themselves and whose claims to their services are remote and indefinite--than as the Being in whom they live, by whose goodness they are sustained, by whose ail-pervading presence they are surrounded, whose law they are sacredly bound to obey, and at whose bar they must receive their final and irrevocablo sertence. His dispensations and government appear, to their darkened vision, in confused and unreal colors. They consider him cruel and tyrannical, demanding what they bave no power to perform, and he has no right to require; or else, as so lenient and flexible in bis nature, and so indifferent to the conduct of his creatures, that he will never inflict upon them the punishment due to their sius. Thus they deem the holy and infinite Jehovah “ altogether such an one as themselves." Equally absurd are their views of Christ. The adorable Redeemer, in whom every divine perfection is embodied, whose beauty is the light and bliss of heaven, and whose smile fills with inexpressible rapture, the bosom of the highest angel-possesses, in their jaundiced eyes, no excellence to excite their admiration, and no charms to attract their love. His cross, around which, as their common centre, all the glories of the Godhead cluster, has for them no interest. They look upon his gospel as replete with severe restrictions, painful sacrifices, and repulsive duties—revile its disciples as the votaries of a gloomy fanaticism-and scorn the heavenly graces it inculcates and produces, as the offspring of bigoted ignorance, or designing hypocricy. Nor is the estimate which they form of their own condition and pros. pects, less unfounded and extravagant. Like the maniac, who, in the vagaries of his distempered fancy, imagines his cell a palace, his rags a royal robe, his crutch a sceptre, and himself a king, they cherish the fatal delusion, that they are pure in the sight of God, invested with a title to his favor, and traveling to the mansions of his love, while they are deeply stained with the bliss or wo to their possessor—the unconverted thoughtlessly neglect, or wantonly squander. Look abroad through society, and see, in what innumerable instances, the powers and facilities which God has conferred on men to enable them to obey his Gospel, promote his glory, and work out their own salvation, are lavished on the paltry objects of this sordid world. Behold the