« PoprzedniaDalej »
THE ABSURDITY OF LIBERTINISM AND INFIDELITY.
Psalm, xciv. 7, 8, 9, 10.
They say, The Lord shall not see: neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye most brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He, that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He, that formed the eye, shall he not see? He, that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? He, that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know ?
NVECTIVE and reproach seldom proceed from
the mouth of a man, who loves truth and defends it. They are the usual weapons of them, who plead a desperate cause; who feel themselves hurt by a formidable adversary; who have not the equity to yield, when they ought to yield; and who have no other part to take, than that of supplying the want of solid reasons by odious names.
Yet, whatever charity we may have for erroneous ple, it is difficult to see with moderation men obstinately maintaining some errors, guiding their minds by the corruption of their hearts, and choosing rather to advance the most palpable absurdities than to give the least check to the most irregular passions. Here how the sacred authors treat people of this character. My people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, they have no understanding. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's cribe
but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ephraim is like a silly dove without heart. O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? Jer. iv. 22. Isa. i. 3. Hos. vii. 11. Matt. iii. 7. and Gal. iii. 1.
Not to multiply examples, let it suffice to remark, that, if ever there were men, who deserved such odious names, they are such as our prophet describes. Those abominable men I mean, who, in order to violate the laws of religion without remorse, maintain, that religion is a chimera; who break down all the bounds, which God hath set to the wickedness of mankind, and who determine to be obstinate infidels, that they may be peaceable libertines. The prophet, therefore, lays aside, in respect to them, that charity, which a weak mind would merit, that errs only through the misfortune of a bad education, or the strait limits of a narrow capacity. O ye most brutish among the people, says he to them, understand. Ye fools, when will ye be wise?
People of this sort I intend to attack to-day. Not that I promise myself much success with them, or entertain hopes of reclaiming them. These are the fools, of whom Solomon says, though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him, Prov. xxvii. 22. But I am endeavoring to prevent the progress of the evil, and to guard our youth against favorable impressions of infidelity and libertinism, which have already decoyed away too many of our young people, and to confirm you all in your attachment to your holy religion. Let us
enter into the matter.
In the style of the sacred authors, particularly in that of our prophet, to deny the existence of a
God, the doctrine of Providence, and the essential difference between just and unjust, is one and the same thing. Compare the psalm, out of which I have taken my text, with the fourteenth, with the fifty-third, and particularly with the tenth, and you will perceive, that the prophet confounds them, who say in their hearts there is no God, with those, who say, God hath forgotten; he hideth his face, he will never see it, Psal. x. 11.
In effect, although the last of these doctrines may be maintained without admitting the first, yet the last is no less essential to religion than the first. And although a man may be a deist, and an epicurean, without being an atheist, yet the system of an atheist is no more odious to God than that of an epicurean, and that of a deist.
I shall therefore make but one man of these different men, and, after the example of the prophet, I shall attack him with the same arms. In order to justify the titles, that he gives an infidel, I shall attack
I. His taste.
II. His policy.
III. His indocility.
IV. His logics, or to speak more properly, his way of reasoning.
V. His morality.
VI. His conscience.
VII. His politeness, and knowledge of the world.
In all these reflections, which I shall proportion to the length of these exercises, I shall pay more regard to the genius of our age than to that of the times of the prophet: and I shall do this the rather, because we cannot determine on what occasion the psalm was composed, of which the text is a part.
I. If you consider the taste, the discernment and choice of the people, of whom the prophet speaks, you will see, he had a great right to denominate them most brutish and foolish. What an excess must a man have attained, when he hates a religion without which he cannot but be miserable! Who, of the happiest of mankind, doth not want the succor of religion? What disgraces at court! What mortifications in the army! What accidents in trade! What uncertainty in science! What bitterness in pleasure! What injuries in reputation! What inconstancy in riches! What disappointments in projects! What infidelity in friendship! What vicissitudes in fortune! Miserable man! What will support thee under so many calamities? What miserable comforters are the passions in these sad periods of life! How inadequate is philosophy itself, how improper is Zeno, how unequal are all his fotlowers to the task of calming a poor mortal, when they tell him; "Misfortunes are inseparable from "human nature. No man should think himself
exempt from any thing, that belongs to the con"dition of mankind. If maladies be violent, they "will be short; if they be long, they will be "tolerable. A fatal necessity prevails over all "mankind; complaints and regrets cannot change "the order of things. A generous soul should be "superior to all events, it should despise a tyrant, defy fortune, and render itself insensible to
pain." Tolerable reflections in a book, plausible arguments in a public auditory! But weak reflections, vain arguments, in a bed of infirmity, while a man is suffering the pain of the gout, or the stone!
O! how necessary is religion to us in these fatal circumstances! It speaketh to us in a manner infinitely more proper to comfort us under our heaviest
afflictions! Religion saith to you, Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth evil and good, Lam. iii. 38. He formeth light and createth darkness; he maketh peace, and createth evil, Isa: xlv. 7. Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it? Amos. iii. 6. Religion tells you, that if God afflict you it is for your own advantage; it is, that, being uneasy on earth, you may take your flight toward heaven; that your light affliction, which is but for a moment, may work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor. iv. 17. Religion bids you not to think it strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, 1 Pet. iv. 12. but to believe, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold, which perisheth, will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ, chap. i. 7.
But religion is above all necessary in the grand vicissitude, in the fatal point, to which all the steps of life tend, I mean, at the hour of death. For, at length, after we have rushed into all pleasures, after we have sung well, danced well, feasted well, we must die, we must die. And what, pray, except religion, can support a man, struggling with the king of terrors? Job xviii. 14. A man, who sees his grandeur abased, his fortune distributed, his connections dissolved, his senses benumbed, his grave dug, the world retiring from him, his bones hanging on the verge of the grave, and his soul divided between the horrible hope of sinking into nothing, and the dreadful fear of falling into the hands of an angry God.
In sight of these formidable objects, fall, fall ye bandages of infidelity! ye veils of obscurity and depravity! and let me perceive how necessary