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ing their audience, preach on for years, without any effect,
works? To such objections, the only reply which I can make, is, that God ever has treated, and does still treat, man as a moral being, whose mind is susceptible, in that character, of no other influence than that which knowledge, and motives produce. It is owing to this order in the divine œconomy, in respect to human agency, together with human depravity, and its consequences in the objectors, that such objections are brought against God, and his cause, by those who profess to advocate the divinity of the christian religion. According to such objections, if it be asked; Why angels transgressed, or man fell? the reply is, that God so directed them in the execution of his decrees. If God's secret will is opposed to his revealed command, and is executed by his agencies, it follows that sin cannot, in reality, exist at all; because sin, being the transgression of his law, and that law being his secret will, to which he compels obedience, in opposition to his revealed will, no transgression is chargeable upon any ac's, in contrariety to the written rule. Such are the absurdities into which we are led by entering upon forbidden ground. Having denied the fitness of the Gospel for the ends it was established, men fly to the secret things of God to justify themselves.
The most cogent reason that I can assign for so few per. sons believing the Gospel by hearing it preached, and read, is, that they are taught they cannot believe it by its evidence. Miracles are scarcely ever touched upon but with a view of shewing their insufficiency for producing faith, and of proving that immediate operations, by the same Spirit which wrought them, are necessary. The preachers who pursue this method of address with their audience may very readily perceive its absurdity, by a familiar illustrative example. Suppose, for a moment, twelve discreet, intelligent men, taken from their congregation, and empanneled to try a cause in a court of justice, in which the whole evidence is written, and of record. The lawyer who has truth on his side, after hinting at the evidence, commences his address to the jury. He very gravely assures them, that, owing to their natural weakness,and ignorance of the subject without the evidence, they cannot possibly believe that his client has truth, and justice on his side with it; that, although the evidence is
very good, yet, being written, they cannot believe the things which it proves; and that in order to their belief, it is necessary that the facts recorded either be acted over before their face, which is not to be expected, or that they have an immediate inspiration to prove to them, or to impress upon their minds the truth of the case. This novel exordium over, the lawyer, proceeds to exhort the jury to believe, and decide that his client's cause is a just, and righteous one; and denounces perdition upon them if they do not so determine. After the trial is over, he asserts that those of the jury who did believe as he exhorted them to do, in respect to the justice of the case, (which they might have done by disregarding the harangue, and exhortation of the lawyer, and attending to the evidence,) were influenced, and illuminated by immediate inspiration; and that he had been enabled, to say what he had said by the immediate directions of the Spirit; and that the dissenting jurors, and those who judged right, were influenced in their decisions by a divine decree. I ask whether the jury, and court, and every body else of common sense, would not pronounce the lawyer in a state of derangement? Not unlike this case, is the method of preaching which is productive of such little effect; by which so few of mankind pretend to believe in the Gospel, while the majority of those who do, adopt the same notions, and imaginations about the immediate operations, of their teachers. But it may be said that preaching the Gospel, and pleading Law are different; that the former employment relates to spiritual, while the latter relates to temporal concerns. Language was originally revealed by the Spirit of God; without it the lawyer must have been silent, and the trial of the case had been impossible; the idea of a God was obtained from revelation, and without it the jury could not have been sworn; without revealed religion, the trial by jury, our form of government, and civil polity, could never have had existence. Man is as absolutely a dependant being in the exercise of his mental, and corporeal powers on natural, and civil subjects upon the God who created, and supports him, as he is when employed upon spiritual things. Without the means of knowledge of the former, he is as destitute of ideas, and thought, as he is on the
latter when destitute of the word of God, &c. The principles of the divine œconomy in the grace of the Gospel, were no more designed to preclude the use, and exercise of the powers of the mind in acquiring the improvements, and blessings which God bestows through their use, than the principles, and laws of the rational, and civil œconomy were designed to administer to man their benefits without mental, and corporeal exertion.
To destroy second causes is to resolve every thing which we see, and feel into deity. The Egyptians having learnt that God existed, who governs all things, supposed that the overflowings of the Nile were his mmediate acts, and not being able to account for them, they worshipped the God of the Nile; so with the Peruvians in respect to the sun. The great mass of the religious part of mankind being inattentive to the nature, power, and operations of their own minds, and believing that God is the author of the christan religion, established, and supported by his power, and Spirit, suppose that their feelings, &c. are the effects of his immediate agencies. We are sanctified by the truth. The word of God is not the first cause. Some one must speak if a word is spoken, and I could not hear, know, or believe the proposition revealed by it, if it were not spoken. It is by the word of God, expressive of his will, that I believe that I am destined to immortality, and that there will be a future judgment.
It is objected against the doctrine of acquiring moral ability, or the power of obedience by the faith of the Gospel, and of this faith working by love, purifying the heart, and overcoming the world; (and also to prove the necessity of immediate operations) that the devil is said to exert a positive influence, to operate internally on the minds of men; but that the devil does not speak, &c. I answer, the devil transformed himself into an angel of light, and spoke in words by an audible voice, the whole of his system to our first pavents. His most successful ministers, being professed ministers of righteousness, as he was, take his creed for their text, and continue to inculcate it on the world to this day, "thou shalt not surely die, ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil." This was all that was necessary for hini
to teach, or for them to hear, to accomplish his infernal pur. pose. While ever they believed what God had told them, "thou shalt surely die," it was impossible for them to consent to eat the forbidden fruit, without preferring death to life, and happiness. Whenever they believed Satan, it was impossible to refrain from eating the fruit, which was to confer upon them such immense privileges. When Christ came, his doctrine was but little different from that which God taught Adam in paradise, "he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." The devil's creed is short as before, "you shall not be damned, though you persist in unbelief." This doctrine of Satan is not written in a book. Ignorance, and unbelief, are not like knowledge, and faith. They require no mental exertion, no evidence, no information to acquire them. The whole human race are possessed of them, naturally, since the fall, and their imaginations, and passions suggest to their thoughts other objects of pursuit, and other courses of áction, than those prescribed by the word of God. Hence arises the opposition in their view between God, and them; and they gain the ascendency, by the evidences that God has spoken being weakened, and the obligation to obey his law in opposition to carnal indulgence, not existing, by the opinion of the Spirit having failed to do his work. The ministers of error, to resist successfully the weapons of the Gospel, have only to persuade the sinner that he shall not die, though he live in sin; or that the Gospel is not offered to him; and it is quite immaterial by what means it is accomplished; whether by evasion, misrepresentation, or by representing it as a dead letter, or a sealed book, and that the faith of it is only speculative; that God's Spirit is absent, and must operate otherwise upon the heart than through his word, ordinances, &c. Knowledge, and faith are not like ignorance, and unbelief. Truth, divine truth, must enter into the view of the mind as revealed in God's word; must support itself by evidence, (as Locke says) supernatural, and divine evidence; must make such impressions by its apparent importance as to engross the attention, break through the natural indolence of thought, and the barriers raised by the senses, imaginations, passions, and opinions,