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that he is a sinner; and he is apprized by the plainest instructions of the Bible, that sin disqualifies him for the approbation of God and the happiness of heaven. It is the language and sentiments of revelation, which he perceives to be the cause of his disquietude; and unwilling to abandon those pursuits from which he hopes to derive both pleasure and profit; disturbed by the consciousness of guilt, and assured by the warning voice of revelation that the Judge of quick and dead will render to him a just recompense of reward, he becomes impatient to free himself from the dread of punishment, as well as from all the restraints which the gospel has imposed; and thus to enjoy a more unrestrained liberty to follow the impulse of all his unchastened and unsanctified desires. To accomplish all this, and stifle the admonitions of conscience, he seizes upon every plausible pretext to justify a renunciation of the scriptures. Like the Jews of old, he soon acquires the art of evading the plainest evidence of truth, and finally becomes a proficient in the fearful labyrinths of skeptical philosophy. Instead of forsaking the practice of sin, by turning to the obedience of Christ, he augments the aggregate of his offences and his condemnation, relinquishes all the exhilarating anticipations of future beatitude, and finally drags out a precarious existence, "without God and without hope in the world!" Beware, then, my friends, of these fatal allurements, and be admonished by the wisdom from on high, to choose "the better part."
ST. JOHN, X. 20, 21.
"And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?"
In my last Lecture upon this subject, I briefly replied to some of the principal and popular objections to the gospel of Christ, and remarked upon some of the obvious and leading causes of infidelity. The design of our present labors is to consider the moral influence of skepticism, notice the acknowledgments of skeptical writers in favor of revealed religion, and contrast the hopes of infidelity with those which christianity unfolds. To determine what is the moral influence of skeptical opinions, we are not at liberty to select those who are, to all outward appearance, the most upright and virtuous among the opposers of revealed religion; for it is well known that such men have been educated in and are influenced by principles totally different from those which they now profess. And to do them justice, we frankly confess that some of them are examples of sobriety, justice, benevolence and probity; which render their lives worthy of commendation. But it will not, it cannot be pretended, that they have derived these good moral principles, by which they are governed, from examples or sentiments which are at war with the christian religion. They must have been the effect of a purer influence, and of a system infinitely more refined than that of any theory of infidelity which has ever been presented to the notice of mankind. It is a fact of universal notoriety, that the early impressions which men receive, whether good or bad, produce an astonishing effect upon their lives, their moral feelings and habits of thinking, even through the whole course of their mortal existence: So that in order to test the legitimate influence of skeptical
philosophy, we ought to select examples, where the influence of christian instruction and christian principles have never been exerted, and where these have never had the opportunity of proving the strength of their salutary powLet this be done, and we shall look in vain for a single example of reformation, through all the ranks of Atheistical, or of Deistical philosophy.
My hearers, you may plod through all the volumes of ancient and modern literature, and scrutinize every page of ancient and modern history; and we challenge you to produce a single example to show that the principles of infidelity have resulted in the reformation of a libertine, a man of intemperate habits, a thief, a man of profanity, an extortioner, a liar, or a tyrant or oppressor of man! The annals of Deism and Atheism, with all their pretensions to philosophy and superior wisdom, do not afford an example of a single convert to their principles, who, in consequence of embracing either the one or the other, has been led to break off from a course of sinful practices, or been checked in the career of vicious indulgence. They have never turned the dissolute from the pursuit of intemperate and sinful pleasures, nor restrained the propensities of one of their proselytes for the most criminal and voluptuous indulgence! What, then, has infidelity done to recommend itself to the favorable notice of the wise and reflecting part of community? We answer, nothing: But we will tell you what it has done. It has labored to release men from all the wholesome restraints of religion and conscience! For, discovering the insufficiency of human laws and penalties to restrain the licentiousness of man, it has plied all its ingenuity and strength to extinguish the latent fire of devotion, and to efface the impression of man's accountability to the moral law of his Maker and wherever it has proved succesful in these attempts, it has broken down the wholesome barriers to vice, sundered the purest ties of virtue and religion, and fostered the growth and indulgence of every impure and unwieldy propensity of human nature! It has never effected the penitential return of a single sinner from the evil of his ways, nor engaged the heart of one of its subjects in the pursuit of practical godliness. But on the
other hand, it has emboldened the heart of many an unsuspicious youth, to break through all the restraints of early religious instruction, to trample upon the holy mandates of inspiration, to scoff at the authority of the gospel of Christ, and wantonly to swell and strengthen the impetuous current of every unholy desire. Alas, for the folly and madness of infidelity! Every friend of God, every lover of moral order and virtue, and every member of human society whose heart glows with the elevated and ennobling sentiments of generous philanthropy, must weep over the moral ruins which it has occasioned, and pity the misguided zeal of its deluded votaries.
We see that its moral influence tends to desolation and misery, and that it aims to prostrate the fairest temple on which the smiles of Heaven ever rested-the temple of moral virtue and truth! That it unbridles the passions of the vicious, endangers the virtue of innocence, and looks with unconcern upon the dark rolling waters of iniquity, without an apparent effort to stay their impetuous torrent, or to snatch the deluded victim of its power from the hasty current that bears him to the gulf of wretchedness, to the ocean of ruin! It possesses no feature that is lovely or attractive to the serious, reflecting and religious mind, nor a solitary characteristic influence that is not dreaded by every friend to moral virtue and religion.— The duties of piety and devotion are excluded from its assemblies, and the refined enjoyments of evangelical faith are the objects of its scorn and derision! Surely, then,
"It is an object of such hideous mein,
Here, my friends, you may be relieved from the odious picture of infidelity, so painful to the mental vision of every virtuous mind, and employ your thoughts in surveying the lovely features of christianity, and in admiring the habiliments of innocence and peace with which she is adorned. So obvious and impressive are her moral charms, that the pen of infidelity itself, though usually dipped in gall, has been forced to record her merits! With the encomiums which unbelievers have bestowed upon the christian religion, skeptics have no reason to find fault; nor
can they be rejected without the sacrifice of reason and conscience. Lord Herbert, of the seventeenth century, though a deistical writer of considerable note, styles christianity "the best religion,"* and confesses that all the doctrines, ordinances, precepts and sacraments which it contains, have for their object the establishment of five essential articles, in which he supposes all religion to consist.
Tindale, a deistical author of the succeeding age, acknowledges that "Christianity itself, stripped of all additions which policy, mistake, and the circumstances of time have made to it, is a most holy religion." Chubb, another skeptical writer of the same century, has expressed an opinion, that if christianity could be separated from the impurity which has been blended with it, it would afford a clearer light, and be more safe as a guide to mankind, than any other traditionary religion, and better adapted to the improvement and perfection of human nature.Lord Bolingbroke, a learned and celebrated English skeptic, considers christianity as a most amiable and useful institution, and declares that "No religion ever appeared in the world whose natural tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind." To these, he adds the following plain and frank acknowledgments of the excellency of the christian religion"Besides natural religion, there are two other parts into which christianity may be analyzed; duties superadded to those of the former, and articles of belief, which reason could neither discover nor comprehend. Both the duties required to be practised, and the propositions required to be delivered, are concisely and plainly expressed in the original gospel, properly so called, which Christ taught and his four evangelists recorded." Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, he confesses, that "No institutions can be imagined more simple, nor more void of all those pompous rites and theatrical representations which abound in the religions of the heathens and Jews, than these were in their origin. They were not only innocent, but profit
* Herbert, Relig. Laici. p. 9, 10.
+ Christianity as old as Creation, p. 382, 8vo.