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return upon us with double Strength: Hell and Damnation will constantly play before our Eyes, and not suffer the least Glimpse of Comfort to enter, nor leave us Courage to repent of our Sins, or to fly to our last and only Hope, the Mercy of God. To the Truth of what I say, witness the latest. and the bitterest Hours of dying Sinners! Hours of Woe and Despair! in which the Soul, conscious of its own Deserts, anticipates the Pains of Hell, and suffers the very Torments of the Damned! in which it feels the Worm which never dies beginning to gnaw, and lies expiring amidst the Terrors of Guilt, without Power either to think of God, or to forget Him! So that all that Sinners get by forming to themselves Resolutions of Un, belief (for that I take to be the true Cafe of such Unbelievers as we are now speaking of) is to render their Case more desperate; to cut off all Retreat to the Mercy of God, when the Day of their Distress overtakes them; and to lay up in store for themselves a double Portion of Misery, both in this Life and that which is to come.
Since then even the Hopes which Sinners conceive from Unbelief in this world, that they shall undisturbedly enjoy the Pleasures
of Vice without suffering under the Rebukes of their own Minds, are so very uncertain, so liable to be dissipated by every cross Accident of Life; since they cannot alter their Condition, except for the worse, in the Life to come; it must needs be allowed that Sinners make a very ill Choice for themselves, when they sacrifice the Powers of the Mind to the Passions of the Heart. As long as Men retain a Sense of God and Religion upon their Minds, there is great Hope that some Time or other Reason will prevail, and extricate the Man from the Misery of Sin. Good Principles are the Seeds of good Actions : And, though the Seed may
be buried under much Rubbish, yet, as long as there is Life in it, there is a reasonable Expectation of seeing Fruit from ịt some time or other : But, when Reason and Understanding are depraved, and as far corrupted as the yery Paffions of the Heart; when thus the Blind leads the Blind, what else can we expect, but that both fall into the Ditch ?
But Vice is not the only Root from which Infidelity springs; nor are all, who profess themselves Unbelievers, to be charged with uncommon Degrees of Wickedness. Happy
were it for Mankind, were there but one Temptation to one Vice! Common Diligence might then secure the single Pass against the Enemy; whereas now, whilst we guard the most suspected Place, the strongest often falls into his Hands: And thus it sometimes happens in the Case before us, that, whilst we act with a Superiority to all the Vanities of the World, to all the Allurements and Temptations of badily Pleasure, Reason itself is betrayed by the Vanity of our Hearts, and sinks under the Pride and Affectation of Knowledge. To know all that can be attained to by our utmost Diligence and Sagacity, to search into the hidden Causes of Things, to examine the Truth and Reality of our Knowledge, is an Ambition worthy of a rational Soul. But all kinds of laudable Ambition grow
grow to be vicious and despicable, when, instead of pursuing the real Good, which is the true Object, they seek only to make a Shew and an Appearance of it. Thus it is that Ambition for Virtue produces Hypocrisy; Ambition for Courage, empty Boastings and unreasonable Resentments; and, by the same Rule, Ambition for Learning and Knowledge produces Pedantry and Paradoxes; For he who would defire to
appear to know more than other Men, is ready to contradict the Sense and Reason of all Men; for the same Cause that he who is desirous to be thought to have more Courage than others is ready to quarrel with every Man he meets. And this is a Temptation to which many daily sacrifice the Innocence and Integrity of their Minds, whilst they mean little else by the Singularity of their Opinions, than to recommend them, selves to the World as Persons of more than ordinary Discernment. That this is no unfair Account of the Conduct of foine Unbelievers, will appear by observing the very different, but equally natural, Workings of the Mind in these two different States of it; whilst it seeks real Knowledge and Truth, and whilst it aims only at the Credit and Reputation of Wisdom: And this will help us likewise in examining ourselves, and in judging whether we act with those impartial Views and Regards to Truth, that all rational Men ought to do.
He who sits down to examine Truth, and search after real Knowledge, will equally fift all his Opinions; will reject none, that he has been long possessed of, without good Reason; will admit no new ones without
fufficient Authority and Weight of Argument to support them. Wherever he discovers Truth, he gains the Satisfaction he aimed at: His Mind acquiesces in it: Nor is he disappointed in the Event of his Labour and Study, when he finds himself at last in the fame Opinion with the rest of the World; with this only Difference, that his Persuasion is the Effect of Reason, theirs
perhaps of Prejudice and Custom; which is a Difference that affords much inward Satiffaction and Peace of Mind, but little or no outward Glory, or Credit of Wisdom and Understanding
In the other Case, when Men aim at being thought wiser and more knowing than others, and labour only to possess the World with an Opinion of their Sagacity, they can have no Satisfaction in discovering the Truth and Reasonableness of any Opinion that is commonly received in the World: For how will they appear wiser than other Men by professing to believe what other Men believe as well as they? They can no otherwise satisfy their Ambition, than by differing from the common Sense and Reason of Mankind; and the whole Bent of their Mind is to support