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is neither to insult nor flatter, but seriously to expostulate with you; if God peradventure may give you repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. Three things, in particular, I would earnestly recommend to your serious consideration. How it was that you first imbibed your present principles; How it is that almost all your writers, at one time or other, bear testimony in favour of Christianity; and, How it comes to pass that your principles fail you, as they are frequently known to do, in a dying hour?
First: How WAS IT THAT YOU First renounced CHRISTIANITY, AND IMBIBED YOur present prinCIPLES? Retrace the process of your minds, and ask your consciences as you proceed, whether all was fair and upright. Nothing is more common than for persons of relaxed morals to attribute their change of conduct to a change of sentiments, or views relative to those subjects. It is galling to one's own feelings, and mean in the account of others, to act against principle; but if a person can once persuade himself to think favourably of those things which he has formerly accounted sinful, and can furnish a plea for them, which, at least, may serve to parry the censures of mankind, he will feel much more at ease, and be able to put on a better face when he mingles in society. Whatever inward stings may annoy his peace under certain occasional qualms, yet he has not to reproach himself, nor can any one reproach him with that inconsistency of character as in former instances. Rousseau confesses he found, in the reasonings of a certain lady, with whom he lived in the greatest possible familiarity, all those ideas which he had occasion for:-Have you not found the same in the conversation and writings of Deists? Did you not, previously to your rejection of Christianity, indulge in vicious courses; and while indulging in these courses, did not its holy precepts, and awful threatenings gall your spirits? Were you not like persons gathering forbidden fruit amidst showers of arrows: and had you not recourse to your present principles for a shield against them? If you cannot honestly answer these questions in the negative, you are in an evil cause. You may flatter yourselves, for a while, that perhaps there may be no hereafter, or at least no judgment to come; but you know the time is not far VOL. III.
distant when you must go and see; and then, if you should be mistaken, What will you do?
Many of you have descended from godly parents, and have had a religious education. Has not your infidelity arisen from the dislike which you conceived in early life to religious exercises? Family worship was a weariness to you; and the cautions, warnings and counsels which were given you, instead of having any proper effect, only irritated your corruptions. You longed to be from under the yoke. Since that time, your parents, it may be, have been removed by death; or if they live, they may have lost their control over you. So now you are free. But still something is wanting to erase the prejudices of education, which, in spite of all your efforts, will accompany you, and embitter your present pursuits. For this purpose, a friend put into your hands The Age of Reason, or some production of the kind. You read it with avidity. This is the very thing you wanted. You have long suspected the truth of Christianity; but had not courage to oppose it. Now then, you are a philosopher; yes, a philosopher! Our fathers,' say you, 'might be well-meaning people, but they were imposed upon by priests. The world gets more enlightened now-a-days. There is no need of such rigidness. The Supreme Being (if there be one,) can never have created the pleasures of life, but for the purpose of enjoyment. Avaunt, ye self-denying casuists! Nature is the law of man!'
Was not this, or something nearly resembling it, the process of your minds? And are you now satisfied? I do not ask whether you have been able to defend your cause against assailants, nor whether you have gained converts to your way of thinking: you may have done both; but are you satisfied with yourselves? Do you really believe yourselves to be in the right way? Have you no misgivings of heart? Is there not something within you which occasionally whispers, My parents were righteous, and I am wicked: O that my soul were in their souls' stead?'
Ah young men ! If such be the occasional revoltings of your mind, what are you doing in labouring to gain others over to your way of thinking? Can you from experience honestly promise them peace of mind? Can you go about to persuade them that there is
no hell, when, if you would speak the truth, you must acknowledge that you have already an earnest of it kindled in your bosoms? If counsels were not lost upon you, I would entreat you to be contented with destroying your own souls. Have pity on your fellow-creatures, if you have none upon yourselves? Nay, spare yourselves so much, at least, as not to incur the everlasting execrations of your most intimate acquaintance. If Christianity should prove what your consciences in your most serious moments tell you it is, you are doing this every day of your lives.
Secondly Consider How IT IS THAT ALMOST ALL YOUR WRITERS, AT ONE TIME OR OTHER, BEAR TESTIMONY IN FAVOUR of CHRISTIANITY. It were easy to collect from those very writings which were designed to undermine the Christian religion, hundreds of testimonies in its favour. Voltaire and Rousseau, as we have seen already, have in their fits gone far towards contradicting all which they have written against it. Bolingbroke has done the same. Such sentences as the following may be found in his publications: "Supposing Christianity to have been a human invention, it has been the most amiable invention that was ever imposed on mankind for their good.-Christianity as it came out of the hand of God, if I may use the expression, was a most simple and intelligible rule of belief, worship, and manners, which is the true notion of a religion. The gospel is in all cases one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity."* Paine, perhaps, has said as little in this way as any of your writers, yet he has professed a respect for the character of Jesus Christ. "He was," says he, "a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind."†
In what manner will you go about to account for these concessions? Christian writers, those at least who are sincerely attached to the case, are not seized with these fits of inconsistency. How is it that yours, like the worshippers of Baal, should thus be continually cutting themselves with knives? You must either give up your leaders as a set of men, who, while they are labouring to
* Works, Vol. IV. pp. 394, 395. Vol. V. pp. 188, 189
persuade the world of the hypocrisy of priests, were themselves the most infamous of all bypocrites; or, which will be equally fatal to your cause, you must attribute it to occasional convictions, which they felt and expressed, though contrary to the general strain of their writings. Is it not an unfavourable character of your cause, that in this particular, it exactly resembles that of vice itself? Vicious men will often bear testimony in favour of virtue, especially on the near approach of death; but virtuous men never return the compliment by bearing testimony in favour of vice. We are not afraid of Christians thus betraying their cause; but neither your writers nor your consciences are to be trusted in a serious hour.
Thirdly Consider How IT COMES TO PASS THAT YOUR PRINCI
PLES FAIL YOU, AS THEY ARE FREQUENTLY KNOWN TO DO IN A DYING HOUR. It is a rule with wise men, so to live as they shall wish they had when they come to die. How do you suppose you shall wish you had lived in that day? Look at the deaths of your greatest men, and see what their principles have done for them at last. Mark the end of that apostle and high-priest of your profession, Voltaire; and try if you can find in it either integrity, or hope, or any thing that should render it an object of envy.* Why is it that so many of you faint in the day of trial? If your cause were good, you would defend it with uprightness, and die
*The following particulars, among many others, are recorded of this writer by his biographer, Condorcet, a man after his own heart. First: That he conceived the design of overturning the Christian religion, and that by his own hand. "I am wearied," said he, "of hearing it repeated that twelve men were sufficient to establish Christianity; and I wish to prove there needs but one to destroy it." Secondly: That in pursuit of this object he was threatened with a persecution, to avoid which he received the sacrament, and publicly declared his respect for the church, and his disdain of his detractors, namely those who had called in question his Christianity! Thirdly That in his last illness, in Paris, being desirous of obtaining what is called Christian burial, he sent for a priest, to whom he declared that he "died in the Catholic faith, in which he was born." Fourthly: That another priest (Curate of the parish) troubled him with questions. Among other things he asked, "Do you believe the divinity of Jesus Christ?" "In the name of God, Sir," replied Voltaire, "speak to me no more of that man, but let me die in peace."
with inward satisfaction. But is it so? Mr. Paine flatters himself that his principles will bear him up in the prospect of death ;* and it is possible that he may brave it out in some such manner as David Hume did. Such instances, however, are rare. For one unbeliever that maintains his courage, many might be produced whose hearts have failed them, and who have trembled for the consequences of their infidelity.
On the other hand, you cannot produce a single instance of a Christian, WHO AT THE APPROACH OF DEATH WAS TROUBLED OR TERRIFIED IN HIS CONSCIENCE FOR HAVING BEEN A CHRISTIAN. Many have been afraid in that day lest their faith in Christ should not prove genuine; but who that has put his trust in him was ever known to be apprehensive lest he should at last deceive him? Can you account for this difference? If you have discovered the true religion, and ours be all fable and imposture, how comes it to pass that the issue of things is what it is? Do gold and silver and precious stones perish in the fire? and do wood and hay and stubble endure it?
I have admitted that Mr. Paine may possibly brave it out to the last; but if he does, his courage may be merely assumed. Pride will induce men to disguise the genuine feelings of their hearts, on more occasions than one. We hear much of courage among duellists; but little credit is due to what they say, if, while the words proceed from their lips, we see them approach each other with paleness and trembling. Yea more, If Mr. Paine's courage in death be not different from what it already is in the prospect of it, it certainly will be merely assumed. He has given full proof of what his courage amounts to in what he has advanced on the certainty of a future state. He acknowledges the possibility of a future judgment; yea, he admits it to be rational to believe that there will be one. "The power," he says, "that called us into being, can, if he please and when he pleases, call us to account for the manner in which we have lived here; and therefore, without seeking any further motive for the belief, it is rational to believe that he will, for we
* Age of Reason, Part II. Preface.