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“meet” for heaven ; and the resurrection of the. dead, and the day of judgment, with its important and eternal consequences, will subserve their final and complete felicity.
As this is the undeniable right, and determined purpose of God, we ought to be silent before him, not daring to object to any of his dealings : we should submit to his righteousness, and deprecate his displeasure: and, in preference to all other in-, terests or distinctions, we should desire and seek admission into the company of his people ; and then patiently endure trials, waiting the Lord's time of deliverance, in entire reliance on his wisdom, truth, and love; and in confident expectation of deriving important advantage from all those events that now dismay or distress us.
Many other particulars might be adduced, and shewn to be the unalienable rights of God. He allots to every man his term of probation, and preparation for a future judgment; and the measure of his religious advantages and opportunities : he determines the degree in which he will bear with a sinner's provocations, before he gives him up to judicial hardness of heart, or cuts him off by death : he distributes to every one his measure of talents, trials, and comforts, and appoints the situation, rank, and work of every individual, in the church and the community: and he will dispense rewards and punishments at the last, as he sees good, and without admitting of any appeal from his sovereign award. Each of these might have been made the subject of a distinct section ; and the same train of reasoning, concerning the
Rights of God and our duties, would have been applicable and conclusive.
Indeed the subject is almost inexhaustible: and the selection, which hath been made as a specimen, was principally suggested by the consideration of the state of society in the present age, and the peculiar methods adopted in opposing the doctrines and precepts of revealed religion ; and in treating with indignant contempt whatever the Lord hath determined to honour, in his word or by his providence.
But a serious and attentive mind is the grand requisite for making a right judgment in subjects of this nature : and, if any person should cast his eye over these pages, with a disposition to turn them into ridicule ; to seek objections to the mode of reasoning employed in them, through aversion to the conclusions deduced from it; to give them a cursory perusal, as little interested in the discussion; or merely to gratify his curiosity, by examining what could be proposed to the public with such a title : I cannot entertain any sanguine expectations that he will derive benefit from the work: nor could this have been reasonably hoped, even if it had been executed in a manner more worthy of the cause that is pleaded in it. On the other hand, the candid, diligent, humble, and obedient inquirer after truth, may probably derive from it some assistance in this interesting pursuit ; whilst the experienced Christian will perceive that the principles, on which we proceed, are applicable to a vast variety of particulars in his own concerns; and that the Lord hath a right to lay those burdens on him, to take those comforts from him,
and to require those self-denying services at his hands, which have most tempted him to despair, repine, or turn aside from the path of submissive obedience: and that we ought on such occasions to recognize the Rights of God, to rely on his wisdom, truth, and love, to humble himself under his mighty hand, and to say, “ It is the Lord, let him “ do what seemeth him good !"
It is manifest from what has been stated, that the Rights of God are very little regarded, either in the reasonings or actions of men : nay that they are, in general, most shamefully neglected, questioned, or opposed. No man can deny this, without directly patronizing ingratitude, rebellion, and impiety; or avowing himself an atheist, or such a sceptic as excludes the God he pretends to acknowledge from all concerns in the affairs of the universe, This again demonstrates that the state of the world is exactly what the Bible represents it to be ; and that men want just such a remedy as is therein revealed. So that the principles and reasonings of infidels, (as well as the irreligion and wickedness of mankind in general,) abundantly confirm the truth, suitableness, and value of that revelation which they despise and oppose.
The serious reader will also perceive that, if all persons paid a due regard to the Rights of God in every part of their conduct, it would conduce far more to true liberty, peace, and happiness, than all other means united can do ; that no contests about
the rights of men,' or forms of government, in what manner soever they may be adjusted or terminated, will do any thing effectual to meliorate the condition of mankind in general, till the rights of God be more attended to ; till his gospel be embraced, his ordinances frequented, his commandments obeyed, his example imitated, his favour supremely valued, his providence submitted to and depended on, and his glory made the great object in their habitual conduct, by governors, and subjects, and by men of every rank and description in society. This, and this alone would terminate wars, massacres, oppression, slavery, faction, fraud, violence, licentiousness, and all the other crimes and mischiefs which fill the earth with confusion and misery. So that it will at last be known that those persons are in reality the best friends of mankind, (though they do not here expect to be thought so,) who are most careful “to render to “ the Lord the honour due unto his name,” and most zealous and assiduous, by all proper means, to bring all others within the sphere of their influence (whether that be more circumscribed, or more extensive,) to do the same ; according to the several duties of their situation, in the family, the community, and the church of God.
AND OF THE DOCTRINES CONTAINED IN THEM,
IN ANSWER TO MR. THOMAS PAINE'S • AGE OF REASON.”
BE READY ALWAYS TO GIVE AN ANSWER TO EVERY MAN THAT ASKETH YOU A REASON OF THE HOPE THAT IS IN YOU, WITH MEEKNESS AND FEAR.
I PET. iii. 15. FOR WHO IS THIS UNCIRCUMCISED PHILISTINE, THAT HE SHOULD DEFY THE ARMIES OF THE LIVING God? I SAM. xvii, 26.