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take in others of the human race, alike deserving and fitted for it. His ignorance of the gospel will not be imputed to him.
But the case is widely different where persons having the means of information, do not make use of them to search into things of such vast importance to them; whether, for instance, Jesus was indeed, as Nicodemus owns he believed him, (John iii. 2.) a teacher sent from God, but reject or oppose his religion without due examination.
It will not be a sufficient exeuse for such to say, that they saw so many differences among christians which they could not settle among themselves, so much absurdity in their opinions, that they thought it loss of time to inquire any further.
But it is surely worth the while to inspect the original code of the sacred writings, not any very large volume, and to try whether these discordances among christians might not be accounted for satisfactorily, without impeaching the clearness of the record itself, in every thing of importance; and the absurdities complained of, perhaps, might be found not to belong to it at all.
A man that is at all awake, that has any just serious
serious thoughts of himself, who he is, whence he came, and whither he is going, cannot but be solicitous to know all he can of the mind and will of him to whom he owes his being, and who placed him here, and how best to recommend himself; and, if he hear of any further light into his Creator's designs for him than his works of nature afford, will eagerly trace it out, to see what further openings it gives, to know what will become hereafter of a creature like himself just brought into existence.
Not to do this, would be unaccountable in a rational creature, would be an inexcusable neglect.
But if to reject the gospel before inquiry be so wrong, to oppose it without any proper knowledge and examination bespeaks a conduct still more reprovable, and a mind vacant and desolate.
It is not honest dealing; it is immoral; for it is acting as if a matter of the greatest importance were not true, when yet they have not examined whether it be so or no.
We should all of us beware of falling into
an indolent unsearching state of mind, most unbecoming creatures, so raw, ignorant, and imperfect as we are; which makes us neglect all inquiry after divine truth, and indifferent and careless about all moral improvement which is strictly connected with it.
There are, who flatter and impose upon themselves, that their Maker, kind and good, cannot be displeased with them for some sinful indulgencies to which their constitutions, as they think, and their situations dispose and lead them.
So might all plead.
But they should know, that they are purposely put in these difficult situations, and amidst powerful temptations, to make trial of them; that, by overcoming them, the principle of virtue and trust in the divine aid, ever to be invoked, may be strengthened and confirmed; and that noble victory, thus bravely won in so glorious a cause, is intended to fit and prepare them for a greater happiness hereafter, than they would otherwise have been capable of.
If they will not summon up a virtuous courage and resist the dangerous temptation, but yield to it, they must bear the consequences.
For God's government here is moral, whether we will attend to it or no. Great acts of injustice, and indulgence of irregular and vicious appetites, are generally attended with remorse, and pains of body and mind, or both, to bring the daring violator of his Maker's laws and of the happiness of others, to a sense of his crimes, and to true penitence for them, before he be too far gone to be changed.
Such as thus vainly imagine that they may touch pitch without being defiled, that dare to tamper with sin, should remember, that no sin is small; for one transgression leads to another, till the habit is formed, and the character wholly depraved.
When Hazael was told by the prophet the wickedness and murders of which he would be guilty, to forewarn him of his danger; shocked at the idea, he said, (2 Kings viii. 18.) "What, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" But fell ambition and the love of empire soon silenced and overcame all checks of conscience and integrity.
When once you give way to evil, you cannot tell to what unknown crimes and miseries
may lead How necessary to attend to that affecting
description of such characters given by our Lord; (Matth. vi. 23.) "If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that dark
Unto God be thanks for all bis admonitions to us !
With reverence and deepest humility, we again prostrate ourselves, O God, before the footstool of thine eternal throne; desiring to thank thee with all our powers, that thou hast made us for thyself and for the attainment of the highest felicity, which consisteth in virtue and the knowledge of thy glorious perfections and goodness!
Assist us, O Father of our spirits, in culti vating the rational powers and capacities bestowed upon us, by which we apprehend thee, invisible; thy constant presence and providence over us; and discern and approve the things that are acceptable to thee, that we may have pleasure in doing good, and promoting truth and righteousness above all worldly delights.
And as we are feeble unfinished creatures, placed here for our improvement in this first stage of our being, and left exposed to various alluring