Page images

them to act in direct opposition to all the maxims, which usually govern the conduct of men.

It is indeed true, that the existence of a future world is not to us as certain as the existence of the present; neither can we ever have that intuitive as. surance of the being of a God, that we necessarily possess of our own existence ; neither can the facts of the gospel history, which happened two thousand years ago, be impressed on our belief with that undoubting conviction, which we have of the reality of scenes, which are passing immediately before our eyes. But the question is not, whether the gospel history can be demonstrated. Few subjects which occupy human contemplation admit strict and mathematical proof.

The whole life of man is but a perpetual comparison of evidence, and balancing of probabilities. And upon the supposition that religious truths are only probable, the excuse we have mentioned will not relieve irreligion from the charge of presumptuous and consummate folly.

But it is said, many objections have been made to the evidences of revelation ; and many of its difficul. ties remain yet unexplained. It is true, that objections have been often made and often answered, and not only answered, but refuted. But some difficulties, it is said, yet remain. It is true, they do remain; and the excuse shall be admitted, when any other subject of equal importance shall be produced, in which difficulties do not remain. The most plausible objections, which have been made to any truth 'within the circle of human knowledge, are those which have been offered against the existence of a material world ; bạt did this ever check an operation in mechanics, or excuse from his daily task a single labourer. A man of ingenuity might offer a thousand objections against the probability of your living till the morrow, but would this rob you of a moment's rest, or frustrate a single plan, which you

had meditated for the approaching day? If we sub. tract from the difficulties, which attend revelation, those which have been created by the injudicious zeal of some of its friends in attempting to prove too much, we shall find, that, in the vast store house of facts which history presents, for none can there be produced a greater mass of evidence than for the birth, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christand upon the supposition of their truth, irreligion is nothing better than distraction.

Another 'excuse, however, is offered, which perhaps has greater secret influence in quieting the conscience than any other. We are desired to look at the list of great names, who have been adversaries of christianity. Can that evidence, it is asked, be satisfactory, which failed to convince such minds as these ? If the probable truth of revelation is to be ascertained in this manner, the dispute will soon be at an end; for it would be no difficult task to produce, from among the friends of revelation, a greater number of greater names within the last hundred years, than all the hosts of infidelity can furnish in eighteen centuries since the birth of Christ. But I believe these instances are not alleged to disprove the truth, but only to weaken the importance of christianity. They are alleged only to excuse an inattention to religion, and show that it is not very dangerous to err with such great names on our side. Truths, it is said, which such understandings disbelieved, surely cannot be of infinite importance. Nothing would tend more to remove such apologies, than a fair, impartial, and full account of the education, the characters, the intellectual processes, and the dying moments of such men. Then it would be seen, that their virtues were the result of the very principles they had assailed, but from whose influence they were unable wholly to escape. Then it would be seen, that they have gained by their skep

ticism no new pleasures, no tranquillity of mind, no peace of conscience during life, and no consolation in the hour of death.

Such are the excuses which irreligion offers. Could

you have believed, that they were so empty, so unworthy, so hollow, so absurd ? And shall such excuses be offered to the God of heaven and earth? By such apologies shall man insult his Creator ? Shall he hope to flatter the ear of omnipotence, and beguile the observation of an omniscient spirit? Think you, that such excuses will gain new importance in their ascent to the throne of the Majesty on high? Will you trust the interests of eternity in the hands of these superficial advocates? You have pleaded your incessant occupation. Exhibit then the result of your employment. Have you nothing to produce but these bags of gold, these palaces, and farms, these bundles of cares, and heaps of vexations? Is the eye of Heaven to be dazzled by an exhibition of property, an ostentatious shew of treasures? You surely produce not all these wasted hours, to prove that you have had no time for religion. It is an insult to the Majesty of Heaven. Again, you have pleaded your youth, and you have pleaded your age. Which of these do you choose to maintain at the bar of Heaven? Such trifling would not be admitted in the intercourse of men, and do you think it will avail more with Almighty God?

It must however be acknowledged, that the case of the irreligious is not desperate, while excuses are thought proper and necessary. There is some glimmering of hope, that the man who apologizes is wil. ling to amend. God preserve us from that obduracy of wickedness, which disdains to palliate a crime; from that hardihood of unbelief, which will not give even a weak reason, and which derides the offer of an excuse. But remember, my friends, the season of apologies is passing away. All our elo

quent defences of ourselves must soon cease. Death stiffens the smooth tongue of flattery, and blots out, with one stroke, all the ingenious excuses, which we have spent our lives in framing. At the marriage supper, the places of those who refused to come, were soon filled by a multitude of delighted guests. The God of Heaven needs not our presence to adorn his table, for whether we accept, or whether we reject his gracious invitation, whether those who were bid. den taste or not of his supper, his house shall be filled. Though many are called and few chosen, yet Christ has not died in vain, religion is not without its witnesses, or heaven without its inhabitants. Let us then remember, that one thing is needful, and that there is a better part than all the pleasures and selfish pursuits of this world, a part which we are encouraged to secure, and which can never be

taken away




It is one of the distinguishing traits in the christian scheme of morals, that it no where enjoins the love of human estimation as a principle of action. Very rarely is the approbation even of good men, much less the applause of the many, mentioned as a desirable reward of good deeds. But if we only turn from the discipline and the precepts of the gospel to the systems of ancient and of modern education, what prodigious importance is given to a motive, of which, in the precepts of our Saviour, there cannot be found the trace of commendation. By the hope of honour and the fear of shame is many a child governed, many a school regulated, many a capacity exercis. ed, and many a mature character affected and modified. So little has the real value of this principle been fairly weighed, that the love of human estimation is tenderly fostered in the infant, as soon as it is capable of attending to the opinions of those about it; and the anxious parent never feels more delight, than upon perceiving the first pulse of ambition to beat in the heart of the child. The love of fame, thus early encouraged, has been called by one of the most sober of our satirists, the universal passion. By some

« PreviousContinue »