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duced to read writings of the kind I have just mentioned ; and I have endeavored to gain an access to their hearts for the solid and substantial truths of religion by displaying them in a manner that, if it does not gratify, will, at least, not offend their taste. Readers of every class will find in them many remarks drawn from the philosophy of hu. man nature, mingled along with the illuftrations of divine truth.

Such philosophical, critical, or historical references as I thought might wear an air of pedantry if introduced into the text I have thrown into notes. To the learned reader, indeed, they are unnecessary, and might have been spared; but, to those less conversant in books, they may not be unentertaining, nor entirely useless.

The design of making this publication did not originate with me. Nothing was more remote from my thoughts at the time it was suggested and urged by a valued friend from

his partiality, rather than from his judgment. And still, I am far from estimating highly its merit, or being sanguine of its fuccess. It will at least enable me to judge whether or not any other work of the same kind is likely to be well received.—That it may be useful to any portion of my readers, and invite to serious reflection some who would not have fought it from another book is my fervent prayer, and almost my highest hope.

SAMUEL S. SMITH.

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The fool hath

said in his heart, there is no God.

TN the sacred language, the fool and the

finner signify the same person. Impiety* is opposed to the clearest principles of reason, and vice makes the sacrifice of the best and highest interests of human nature. Vicious conduct naturally leads to impiety in principle-and, reciprocally, impiety increases the strength of every sinful propensity. Irreligious principle, in every degree of it , springs out of the corruption of the heart. It is the dictate of its finful inclinations, of its guilty wishes, of its criminal passions,

Impiety is a term that expresses thofe principles that deny the being, perfe&tions or providence of God, or those actions that molt directly violate his authority, and the duty and reverence which we owe to him.

B

which, much more than reason, contribute to form the moral system and rule of conduct of an unbeliever. Atheism, which is its ultimate grade, will usually be found connected with extreme depravity of manners. Therefore, the sacred writer subjoins to the reflection in the text,

corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity.”

The progress of infidelity, like that of vice, is gradual. Men at first entertain doubts concerning those laws, only, of religion which are most directly opposed to their favorite pleasures. By degrees they question every doctrine that imposes any restraint upon their most indifferent vices. At last, they are emboldened to reject the whole system of revelation. When the authority of revealed religion is thrown off, no limits can be assigned to incredulity and error. Having no standard of truth, each man's moral system will be framed agreeably to his inclinations. And these inclinations, according to the common maxims of a vicious philosophy,* will be erected into laws of nature. God, as the moral

govern

# See introduction to Rousseau's Confeflions.

or of the universe, will be excluded from his plan as soon as that doctrine becomes inconvenient; and fate, neceffiły, accident, I know not what, will be substituted in his room. Atheism is only the last link in that chain of impious conclusions that arise out of the depravity of the heart. And, indeed, between the rejection of revelation, and absolute impiety, there is, in the philosophy of the present age, hardly any middle grade. The one and the other rest upon the same principles, and are equally liable to the severe cenfure of the sacred writer-The fool hath formed the conclusion in his heart. It is the heart that reasons, and folly decides. In treating of the causes of insidelity, which I purpose to do in the present, and in a future discourse I shall take the subject in this extent, as questioning generally the truth of religion. It is not my intention to enter into any discussion of the evidences of religion either natural or revealed. — These have often been displayed with such clearness, and established with such force of argument by a multitude of excellent writers, that it cannot be proof, but honesty and candor which men require to make them sincere and humble converts to the cross of

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