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brought forward as a justifiable reason for rejecting the doctrines of the Bible It is contended, with much apparent plausibility, that if this doctrine be worthy of credit, it must have been in pursuance of an original and eternal design of the Creator: since with him there can be nothing new; nor does his nature and perfections admit of any "variableness or shadow of turning." The doctrine appears, therefore, to many of the most reflecting, to be the same, in substance, with that of unconditional election and reprobation. And so long as the smiles and blessings of Divine Providence appear to be impartial and universal, skeptics will appeal to this doctrine to justify their unbelief of revelation. But the answers which were applied to the foregoing objections, may be urged with equal success in the present case. For this doctrine as really depends upon the popular interpretation of certain expressions in the New Testament, denoting duration, as a stream depends on its fountain. It is therefore futile to depend upon the interpretations of men, for the meaning of the sacred text, when their expositions are often at war with the original sentiments intended to be conveyed by the text. The New Testament stands upon a foundation entirely different; and assures us that "the tender mercies of the Lord are over all his works,"-that he is "no respecter of persons." Hence it is obvious, that notwithstanding this doctrine should be rejected, the Bible may nevertheless be received and credited : For you are doubtless aware that multitudes believe the Bible, yet reject this doctrine with the deepest abhorrence. With such, it is in vain to plead the absolute free agency of man; for they insist that no agency could have been imparted to the creature, whose effects were not foreseen; and in case it was known to the Creator, that such an agency would, on the whole, prove injurious to the creature, the gift itself would prove the Deity unkind, and as really impeach his justice, as the hypothesis of election, which we have before considered.
There are others, who lightly esteem, and even question the inspiration of the scriptures, on the supposition that they teach the equal happiness of all men at death. Such allege that a vast disparity is seen in the conduct
of men, in this world; and that the most virtuous and upright often endure every kind of misfortune and affliction; end their days in poverty and wretchedness, and have scarcely tasted the cup of joy and contentment :-That the Bible teaches the doctrine of a just and righteous retribution, according to every man's works: Yet by limiting both the one and the other to this state of being, such rewards appear not to be administered; nor yet is the design of punishment secured, since the acknowledged object. of humbling, subduing, and reforming the sinner, is not secured by any course of discipline of which he is the subject in the present life! That on the other hand, they often go out of the world, while engaged in the prosecution of the most daring and high-handed wickedness, bearing all the marks of determined hostility to the laws of heaven and earth !—We readily admit that this would be a seri ous objection to the scriptures; and that in case they taught such a doctrine, the task of reconciling them with matters of fact, which pass under our observation, would be hopeless. But why urge this hypothesis as an objection to revelation? It has no connexion with the scriptures; but like those which have already been considered is opposed only to the interpretation of certain portions of scripture, which, with the great body of professing christians, is regarded as an extravagant creation of human fancy. It is well understood by this congregation, that your speaker most ardently and sincerely believes the scriptures to contain a faithful revelation from God, and that its holy instructions are able to make us wise unto salvation: And while he rejects the sentiments we have been considering, as unscriptural, he endeavors most scrupulously to maintain the doctrine, that God "will reward every man according to his works ;" nor will he presume to "limit the holy one of Israel" to the present life of man on earth, for the punishments of sin, or the rewards of virtue. He will rest contented with the glorious prospect which revelation unfolds, and rejoice in the confident anticipation of the final "Restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets, since the world began." Multitudes have fallen in with the plausible and subtle objections of skepticism, for want of suitable information
concerning the general subjects which the christian religion embraces. Christianity is a subject which cannot be comprehended at a single glance; nor can its evidences be clearly investigated without the devotion of time and serious reflection. Whoever expects to become acquainted with the doctrines, hopes and evidences of the gospel, without devoting his mind to the discipline of serious inquiry and investigation, will find himself mistaken in the anticipation, and will, it is to be feared, either become an ignorant enthusiast, or shortly sally into the vortex of infidelity. The Saviour of the world was aware of this fact, and therefore exhorted his countrymen to "search the scriptures.". And this exhortation is still more needful at the present day, when so many allurements await the profession of christianity, and so many temptations are exerting their influence to lead us astray.
It is a lamentable truth, however, that there are but few, who seriously engage in the investigation of the evidences on which the credibility of the gospel depends.The greater part of mankind are either too much engrossed with the cares and perplexities of life; or are too indifferent to the infinite concerns of religion, to enter deeply and feelingly into the investigation of its principles and evidences. Among the great mass of mankind, but few have the patience to enter the field of honest and laborious inquiry, and to push their investigations so far as to detect the haughty pretensions of infidelity, or to be able to meet and repel the insidious attacks of infidel philosophy; which, like the camelion, changes its hues as often as it comes in contact with a different object. An intimate acquaintance with prophecy and history is indispensable to the success and certain triumph of revealed religion. But how few there are who are disposed to devote a sufficient share of their time and attention to master a subject of such importance. Those who are satisfied with the internal evidences of the gospel, and such as are exempted from serious doubt, by the force of early education, do not often discover the necessity of all this labor and time, and therefore leave the subject to be investigated by those who have both the leisure and inclination.
The infidelity of all ages has acquired, for the most part, the little popularity which it has been able to boast, by assuming the character of a lofty and commanding philosophy, which casts aside, and affects to pity and deplore the vulgar prejudices of ignorance, and proposes to raise the human race above the degraded condition to which they have been reduced by the desolating influence of sordid superstition. It appeals to the pride of the human heart, and flatters the vanity of those whom it designs to allure from their allegiance to the cause of revealed truth. No weapon which it has ever employed, has proved more successful: For nothing was ever more congenial to that native self-esteem, which enters so largely into the constitution of the human character, than the desire and prospect of being distinguished for singular fortitude, and a noble elevation of thought, above the grovelling prejudices of mankind. So artfully has modern skepticism applied its influence to the native vanity and pride of the human heart, that it has often induced the unsuspicious youth to believe that a renunciation of revelation would be the means of distinguishing them as philosophers, and men of extensive and useful knowledge. Thus has the flattering appeals of infidelity, to one of the strongest passions of men, turned aside the feet of youth from the path of religion, and blighted the fairest prospects of happiness.
There is another cause which exerts a powerful influence upon the minds of men, unfavorable to the reception and practice of that pure and undefiled religion, so clearly taught in the scriptures of the New Testament. I allude to the love of sinful pleasure, which, to a greater or less extent, predominates in the hearts of every class of human beings. It is well known that the preceptive authority of the gospel of Christ, imposes restraints upon every passion of human nature, requiring that these passions be kept, or circumscribed, in their indulgence, within the bounds of innocence and justice. The reasons in vindication of this law of restriction, are too obvious to require any explanation, since the multiplied examples of their unrestrained indulgence have often deluged nations in blood, and uniformly tended to prostrate inno
cence, and sunder the purest ties that bind society together.
Pride is one of the most subtle passions which is nurtured in the human heart. Its influence is diffused through the thoughts, the looks, the language, sentiments and actions of mankind: But the love of pleasure, prompted by the impetuous current of human passions, often renders its possessor absolutely impatient of all restraint, and frequently urges him on the most daring adventures, regardless of all the bitter consequences which may possibly result to individuals or to community at large. Either the authority of the gospel, therefore, must be disregarded, or sinful pleasure, with every passion which its indulgence requires, must be held in absolute and continual subordination. Those who are strongly disinclined to forego the momentary gratifications of sinful indulgence, are easily persuaded to throw off the stern restraints which christianity imposes, by adopting that kind of philosophy which acknowledges no other guide but nature, and resolves the whole science of happiness into the gratification of temporal desire.
The dignified humility which the religion of Jesus Christ requires, and the lessons of equality which diversify its instructions, are so incompatible with the suggestions of human pride, and are supposed to detract so much from the distinctions of rank, birth and fortune, which are the boast of thousands, that the temptation to reject its authority, and to assume a loftier carriage than its self-denying doctrines will either justify or admit, acquires additional strength, and often precipitates its victim into the vortex of infidelity, and deprives him of all the advantages and refinements of moral virtue, which spring from faith in the covenant of divine grace, and hope in the unfailing promise of eternal life. Hence the necessity of fortifying the youthful mind against all these allurements, and of encouraging them in the early cultivation of all the graces and virtues which the gospel of a risen Saviour enjoins.
In closing this discourse, I shall mention one, and but one more cause, which tends to induce mankind to reject the wholesome instructions of revelation. There is in the heart of every human being, something which tells him