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tion? Is our everlasting happiness so much inferiour to the fleeting gratifications of the world, that we may innocently shut our eyes against whatever pretends to give us explicit directions for its attainment? If not, how can we justify the conduct of those, who reject and condemn the gospel unheard ; who, instead of analyzing its instructions and proofs for themselves, repose a blind confidence in the sophistical representations of its rancorous enemies ? ignorance has sometimes been said to be the mother of devotion ; but the assertion is incorrect : Ignorance is the mother of infidelity. A great part of the boasted philosophers, who affect to despise christianity, are unacquainted with the evidence by which it is supported, and, literally, “ speak evil of things which they understand not.” Were this ignorance unavoidable, it might be excused; but since it evidently originates in choice, it cannot be guiltless. “This,” therefore, “ is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are cvil. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”.
✓ To reason with persons of this description would be labour lost. Their passions, or rather their vices, dictate their creed. With them the primary question is not, “ what is truth ?!! but what is accommodated to their favourite indulgencies and pursuits ? Aware, that the word of God requires habitual purity of heart and life, and that the admission of its divine authority would fix upon them the charge of inconsistency and guilt, they are pre-determined to treat it in the same manner, as the ancient Jews did the baptism of John ; and, at all hazards, to dispute its descent from heaven!
Were they not actuated by these criminal motives, could they be inattentive and indiffe, rent to that holy book which is offered to their inspection ? The blessings it promises are interesting, in the highest degree, to every individual of the human race. What can be more so, than the forgiveness, protection, and presence of Jehovah? “ This is a consumma. tion devoutly to be wished ;” and wished it must be by every considerate mind, whatever uncertainty may be suspected or felt abçut the fact. Every considerate mind will, of course, be solicitous to “know of the doctrine, whether it be of God :" Nor will any intenseness of
study be thought too dear a purchase for so necessary a discovery. The bare probability, or even possibility of being assured on what terms salvation may be obtained, would ren. der it our indispensable duty to “ search the scriptures daily, whether these things are so ?"
This, however, is not the light, in which the subject is beheld by us. We have neither cause nor pretext for unbelief. Few among us have any serious distrust of the truth and divinity of the gospel. The levity, with which it is so often treated by the unreflecting, is generally foreign to the real sentiments of their hearts. In the hour of retirement, especially when solemnized by some awakening event of providence, conscience severely reproves their presumptuous folly, and compels them to feel and acknowledge, that no other “ door of hope” is open to mortals. This impression being repeatedly found in the most heedless and vicious minds, there can be no doubt of its existence in others : It is indeed generally professed and claimed.
Hence, 2. The obligation, for which we contend, receives additional enforcement.
We, my brethren, believe the scriptures to be the word, not of man, but of God; ad.
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dressed to us, in common with the rest of our species ; and designed to point out the dangers of our condition, and “ lead us in the way everlasting.” Are we not then bound by every consideration of gratitude, duty, and interest, diligently to “ inquire concerning the words of this book ?"
Were the civil power to issue a proclamation, on a compliance with the demands of which our lives, our liberty, or our property depended ; or were 'an earthly benefactor to bequeath us an estate, on certain conditions to be performed by us, how eager would be our desires, and how indefatigable our endeavours to comprehend the meaning of every part ? But what is a proclamation connected with the fleeting interests, or a bequest of the perishable possessions of time, when put in competition with the “ glad tidings of great joy,” which the gospel contains ? Can any human lawgiver challenge a degree of deference to be compared to that which we owe to “ the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Can any human testator have equal claims to our affectionate remembrance, with him, " who is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death for the redemption of transgressions, that were under the first testament, they that are called might. receive the promise of eternal inheritance ??? What then is the language of neglecting those messages of grace, which announce “ peace on earth and good will to men ? Is it not virtually saying to the Almighty, “ depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways?” Is it not declaring of that Saviour, who is “ exalted to give repentance and remission of sins," " we will not have this man to reign over us?“ And thinkest thou this, O man,” who art thus “ willingly ignorant”, of a subject, the unspeakable importance of which thy conscience and tongue recognize, “ thinkest thou this, that thou shalt escape the righteous judgment of God ? Be not deceive, ed; God is not mocked : Out of thine own mouth will he judge thee.” ...
To avoid this deplorable doom, let us " set our hearts to all the words,” which the volume of holy writ“ testifies among us, that we may learn to fear the Lord our God.” : Allege not the want of time for the purpose. . This, however common, is a vain and groundless pretence. For to say nothing of persons in easy circumstances, who have abundant leisure for reading and meditation, and are therefore confessedly without excuse, if they