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On indifference and Insensibility to Religion, arising from
Hardness of Heart. No progress can be made to CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPar in such a State, as it is a State incompatible with the divine Influence.
THE fine feelings with which nature formed the heart of man in his primeval state, and with which perhaps every infant is born, are too often rendered obtuse by indiscriminate commerce with the world; and the heart of flesh, once tremblingly alive to the softest touch of sympathy, is metamorphosed to a heart of stone. Deplorable change! for what is man when he ceases to feel? a reasoning vegetable, with this painful pre-eminence over the nettles and briars, that he has the power of being actively mischievous in the present state, and capable, when the sensibility shall be restored in another, of final and unsufferable woe. To lapse into this condition, to become past feeling, to have a seared conscience, is, without doubt, the heaviest calumny of which human nature is susceptible. Perhaps he who is reduced to it is not conscious of it at the time; a circumstance which, contrary to what might be expected, ultimately aggravates his misfortunes. It is characteristic of this state, that while it is alive to the vanities and miseries of the world, it is dead to God and all the delicate sensations of unaffected virtue.
This condition of religious insensibility is not to be accounted for by causes merely physical or philosophical. The middle-aged fall into it as well as the old, the healthy as well as the diseased, men of the brightest talents no less than the dull and the stupid. But Christian Philosophy traces its origin, and pronounces it the consequence of an UNREGENERATE state, or the total defect of divine grace. He who lives in it has forsaken his God, the guide of his youth; and his God has forsaken him, and given him up to a reprobate mind, a heart of STONE, at once cold and impenetrable. WHOM HE WILL, HE HARDENETH*.
Happily he, who in his displeasure inflicted the misfortune, can remove it. “A new heart (says God) “ will I give you, a new Spirit will I put into you; and « I will take away the stone heart out of your flesh; and “ I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put my Spirit “ within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and " ye shall keep my judgments and do themt.”
From this declaration mankind may conclude, (as many ever have been and still are experimentally convinced,) that God influences the human bosom by his actual interposition, and the supernatural energy of his Holy Spirit. Christ himself
“ Lo! I am with youla 66 even unto the end of the world.” But how is he with us but by the Holy Ghost, whose ordinary operations are now as energetic as ever on the bosom of the true believer. Except a man be born again of this Spirit, we read in express language," he cannot see the king“ dom of God.” No words can be more explicit. They mean regeneration by Grace, or what else do they mean? They support, as on a rock, the doctrine of divine agency; and without this doctrine, all teaching and preaching is “ as salt that has lost its savour.” This doctrine forms the solid basis of CHRISTIAN PHILOSO
All morality, every precept and principle which leads to happiness present or future, stand upon it immoveably. Other buildings are of hay and stubble; this is of gold and marble.
And with respect to the charge of blameable enthusi. asm, which is constantly brought, and cannot be tog
Romans, ix, 18.
† Ezekiel, xxxvi. 26, 27,
frequently repelled, let us hear Bishop Lavington, so great an enemy to methodism, that he wrote the severest book which ever appeared in opposition to it. But thus he speaks to his clergy, on a solemn occasion, when he was instructing them how to execute their pastoral office:
“ My brethren,” says he, “ I beg you will rise up " with me against MORAL PREACHING. We have long “ been attempting the reformation of the nation by dis“ courses of this kind. With what success? NONE AT
On the contrary, we have dexterously preach“ ed the people into downright infidelity. We must “ change our voice. We must preach Christ, and him “ crucified. Nothing but the Gospel is, nothing will “ be found to be, the power of God unto salvation, besides. “Let me therefore again and again request, may I not « add, let me CHARGE you, to preach Jesus, and salu vation through his name. Preach the Lord who “ bought us; preach redemption through his blood;
preach the saying of the great High Priest; HE WHO
BELIEVETH SHALL BE SAVED; preach repentance to« wards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thus Bishop Lavington; a man who abhorred fanaticism. Who could ever suspect Archbishop Secker*, Bishop Hurd, Bishop Horne, Bishop Horsley, of irrational enthusiasm? Yet, in their discourses and charges,
* “ The truth, I fear, is,” says Archbishop Secker, “ that many, if not most of us, have dwELT TOO LITTLE ON “ THESE DOCTRINES," the doctrines of Grace and other peculiar doctrines of Christianity, “in our SERMONS—by no means, in “ general, from disbelieving or slighting them.”
Again, says the same discerning Primate, “We have, in fact, LOST MANY OF OUR PEOPLE TO SECTARIES, BY NOT " PREACHING IN A MANNER SUFFICIENTLY EVANGELICAL."
Secker's Charge. There never was a more discreet, rational, or judicious Archbishop than Secker. He could not favour fanaticism,
they all urge their Clergy, not to preach mere moral doctrines, the philosophy of the heathens, but the Gospel; that is, the great doctrines of redemption, atonement, satisfaction by Christ, and the necessity and importance of divine Grace. If, by the coming of Christ, God recommended only a MORAL SYSTEM, merely REPUBLISHED the religion of nature, this would in fact have been no Revelation. Indeed, a merely moral Christianity is Deism.
When Christianity is the national religion, and great revenues are allotted to its professional teachers, many may chuse to join the crowd of Christians for the loaves and fishes; many may call themselves Christians who have nothing of Christianity but the name, and in their hearts despise even the name; but let all serious and sensible men remember, that if the Gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost, whose eyes the god of this world hath blinded; let them in time beware, lest that come upon them which is spoken by the prophet: “Behold,
ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a « work in your days, a work which you will in no wise “ understand, though a man declare it unto you*"
A Self-Examination recommended respecting religious
Insensibility. LET every reader take a view of the present state of his heart. Let us all look inwardly, and consider our real state, without self-Aattery and deceit, uninterrupted either by business or pleasure.
Does my heart require renovation? Is it piously inclined to God, and kindly to my fellow-creature? Am I convinced of my own ignorance, weakness, and unworthiness? Have I enquired into the health of my soul, the state of my temper and disposition, with half the solicitude with which I take care to feed, to cure, to adorn my body? If not, I may call myself a Christian, and join the congregation of Christians, but I am probably still a heathen, still unregenerate. I may be in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity. My heart may be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and as I value my happiness in this short state of existence, or my immortal soul, I must seek the divine Grace, to give me a feeling sense of my wants and wretchedness, and of God's power 'to illuminate and comfort me by his Holy Spirit.
* Acts, xii. 40, 41.
But supposing that I am feelingly convinced of sin and misery, and sincerely wish to be delivered from it, do I seek deliverance by the Gospel means, that is, through Jesus Christ; or do I depend upon my own reason, a few moral acts and habits observed for the sake of decency, for my own health, wealth, and that reputation in the world which is necessary to the advancement of my interest? If so, my morality is worldly wisdom, and my religion has no claim to Christianity. I am unregenerate, unconverted, unrenewed, notwithstanding my baptism and my professions; and continuing as I do by choice a heathen, in the midst of the light of Christianity, which at the same time I solemny profess, I must finally perish, after an unsatisfactory life.
Is my Christianity a cold, philosophical assent to a few propositions in the Gospel, evident before the Gospel was divulged, and such as I select from others of the same authority in the same book, which I do not so well approve? Then is my religion nominal only. I profess to believe, as others appear to do, what I never in my life fully considered. I am content to live without God in the WORLD, so long as my corn and my