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us, that can be more properly called human frailty, than this? Let us hear St. John. Whom does he mean by the fearful? I fear, we shall find several classes of these in religion. There are many sorts of the fearful, who shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.

For example, a man, who hears the name of God blasphemed, religion opposed, good manners attacked, but who hath not the courage to confess Jesus Christ, to say, I a christian, and to manifest his indignation against such odious discourses, such a man is fearful, he shall have no part in the inheritance of the children of God. A man, who sees his neighbour wounded by calumny and slander, but who hath not courage to reprove the slanderer, though in his soul he detests him, such a man is one of the fearful, who shall have no part in the inheritance of the children of God. A magistrate, who hath received from God the sword for the protection of oppressed widows and orphans, but who terrified with the rank of the oppressor, sacrifices to him the rights of widows and orphans, such a man is fearful, he shall have no part in the inheritance of the children of God.

But, though these notions of fearfulness are just, and though the proposition of our text is true in all these senses, it is clear, I think, by the circunstances in which St. John wrote the revelation, by the persecutions which he foretold, by the exhortations which he addressed to believers to surmount them, and by many other considerations, that the holy man had particularly, and perhaps only, that fearfulness in view, whiệh induces some to deny that truth for fear of persecution, of which they were thoroughly persuaded. Of this sort of feurful persons he affirms, they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.

There is, I acknowledge, an equivocalness in the terms, or rather in the proposition, which many render this article obscure, and those which follow more so. When it is said, that the fearful, the unbelieving, and the aboininable, that murderers and poisoners shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, we are not to understand either such as have once committed any of these crimes, or such as have lived some time in the practice of any one of them : but have afterwards repented. Were we to condemn to eternal flames all such persons as these, alas! who could escape? Not Moses; he was sometimes


unbelieving. Not St. Peter; he was sometimes fearful, Not David; he committed murder, was guilty of lying', abomination and impurity: Not any of you, my brethren; there is not one of you, whose conscience does not reproach him with having done some act of fearfulness, unbelief, and impurity. Heaven forbid, we should have to reproach any of you with forming the act into a habit!

St. John speaks then, in this place of those only, who live in a habit of these vices. But, I repeat it again, although this evil habit may originate in human frailty, yet it is certainly that sort of fearfulness which we have been explaining; it is that fearfulness, with which tyrants inspire such as ought to confess the truth. Ask those of our brethren, for whom we utter the deepest sighs, and shed the bitterest tears, what prevents their giving glory to God by yielding to the exhortations, which we have so long addressed to them, and which we daily continue to address to them. They tell you it is human frailty. Ask that head of a family, why he doth not fee to some place, where he might enjoy such a public worship as he approves, and partake of the sacraments, for which he pines. Human frailty makes him fear he cannot live without his dear children. Ask that lady, who is in some sort mistress of her destiny, having neither family nor connection, and being loaded with silver and gold; ask her why she doth not avail herself of her independence to render homage to her religion. Human frailty makes her fear, she cannot undergo the fatigue of a voyage, or bear the air of a foreign climate, or share the contempt generally cast on their refugees, who do not carry along with them reputations, riches, and honours. Ask that apostate, what obliges him to receive the mark of the image of the beast on his forehead, Rev. xiii. 16. Human frailty makes him fear prisons, dungeons and gallies. Yet what saith St. John of this fearfulness inseparable from human frailty? He saith, it excludes people from the inheritance of the children of God. The life of a christian iş a contiqual warfare. Fearfulness is the most indefensible disposition in a soldier, Fearfulness in war is one of the vices, that nobody dares avow; worldly honour either entirely eradicates it, or animates soldiers to subdue it. Want of courage is equally odious in religion. A tiimid christian is no more fit to fight under the standard of the lion of the tribe of Judah, Rev. v. 5. than a worldling under that of an earthly hero, The fearful shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. Vol. IV.


After After this, my brethren, shall we plead our frailty ? Shall we draw arguments for lukewarmness from what ought to invigorate us? Shall we cherish our indifference by by such passages as these? The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak, Matt. xxvi. 41. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, Gal. v. 17. The Lord knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are but dust i Psalm. ciii. 14. Shall we attempt to frustrate all the kind intentions of the holy Spirit, who makes us feel our frailty only for the sake of engaging us to watch and fortify ourselves against it? Believe me, the sentence pronounced by St. John will never be revoked by such frivolous excuses : but it will be always true that the fearful shall have their part in the lake 'which burnetha zeith fire and brimstone.

III. Let us attend to the third prejudice. Speculative errors cannot be attended with any fatal consequences, provided we live uprightly, as it is called, and discharge our social duties. Nothing can be more specious than this pretence. Of all tyrannies, that, which is exercised over the mind is the most opposite to natural right. Fires and gibbets, racks and tortures may indeed force a man to disguise his ideas: but they can never change them. The violence of torments may indeed make hypocrites, but it never yet made good proselytes.

We not only affirm, that no human power can oblige us to consider a proposition as true, which we know to be false; but, we add, we ourselves have no such power over our own minds. It doth not depend on us to see, or not to see, a connection between two ideas ; 'to assent to a truth, or not to assent to it. Evidence forces, demonstration car

rics us away.

Moreover, although God justly requires us to employ all the portion of genius, which he hath given us, in searching after truth, yet his equity will not allow, that we should not regard as evident what the genius, which he hath given us, makes appear evident; and that we should not regard as false what the genius, which he hath given us, makes appear false. If it should happen then, that a man, having exercised all the attention, and all the rectitude of which he is capable, in examining the most important questions of religion, cannot obtain evidence enough to deterinine his judgment; if what appears evident to others seem doubtful to him; if what seems deinonstrative to them appear only probable to him; he cannot be justly condemned for unbelief. Consequently, what we have called a prejudice looks like the very essence of reason and truth; and this proposition, Speculative errors cannot be attended with any fatal consequences, ought to be admitted as a first principle.


My brethren, were it necessary to give our opinion of this article, we shouid boldly affirm, that the case just now proposed is impossible. We are fully persuaded, that it is not possible for a man, who hath a common share of senses and who employs it all in examining, whether there be a God in heaven, or whether the scripture be a divine revelation, to continue in suspense on these important subjects. But our conviction affords us no proof to others. There are some truths which cannot be demonstrated ; and equity requires us to allege in a dispute only what is capable of demonstration. We confine ourselves to that class of unbelievers, whose infidelity of mind proceeds from depravity of heart, and we aífirm, that they are included in the sentence denounced by our apostle, aná deserve to suffer it in all its rigour. Now we have reason to form this judgment of an unbeliever, unless he observe all the following conditions, which we have never seen associated in any one person of this character.

1. He ought to have studied the great questions of religion with all the application, that the capacity of his mind, and the number of his talents could admit. These questions belong to subjects the most interesting. To examine them carelessly, to offer them only, if I may venture to speak so, to the surface of his mind, is a full proof of the depravity of his heart.

2. We require an unbeliever to enter upon the discussion of these truths with a determination to sacrifice to them not only his strongest prejudices, but also his most violent passions, and his dearest interests. If there be a God in heaven, if the christian religion be divine, all the plans of our love and hatred, sorrow and joy, ought to be regulated by these great truths. Every man who is not conscious of having examined them in such a disposition, and who hath obtained by his examination only doubts and uncertainties, hath reason to fear, that the emotions of his senses, and the suggestions of his passions have shackled, yea imprisoned the faculties of his mind,


3. We

3. We require an unbeliever, who, notwithstanding all these conditions, pretends to be convinced that the ideas of believers are iinaginary, to shew at least some mortification on account of this affected discovery. Mankind have the highest reason to wish that the hopes excited by religion may be well grounded; that we may be formed for eternity; that we may enjoy an endless felicity after death. If these. be chimeras, behold man stripped of his most glorious privileges ! A person educated with other christians in the noble hope of immortality, and obtaining afterward proof that this hope is founded only in the fancies of enthusiasts; a man rejoicing at this discovery; a man congratulating himself on having lost a treasure so rich; a person

unaffect ed with the vanishing of such inestimable advantages ; such a man, I say, discovers an enormous depravity of heart

. 4. We require an unbelievet to acknowledge, that religion hath at least some probability. A man, who can maintain that the system of infidelity is demonstrative; that this proposition, There is no God, is evident; that this other is incontestible, Religion hath not one character of divinity; a man who can maintain that a good philosopher ought not to retain in his mind the least doubt or uncertainty on these articles ; that for his own part he hath arrived at mathema. tical demonstration ; such a man, if he be not the most extravagant of mankind, is however, one of the most corrupt.

5. In fine, we require an unbeliever, on supposition that his system were probable; that the plan of religion were only probable; that had his a hundred degrees of probability, and our's only one degree; I say, we require this unbeliever to act as if our system was evidently true, and as if his was demonstratively false. If our system of faith be true, all is hazarded when the life is directed by a system of infidelity: whereas nothing is hazarded, if the life be regulated by religion, even supposing the system of religion groundless. An unbeliever, who is not ready to sacrifice his dearest passions even to a mere probability of the truth of the doctrine of a future life, gives full proof of the depravity of his heart.

Whether there be any one in the world, who, in spite of these dispositions, can persuade himself, that religion hath no character of truth, we leave to the judgment of God : but as for those who sin against any of the rules just now inentioned (and how many reasons have we to conclude, that there are numbers of this character !) they are in


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