« PreviousContinue »
character, while health and prosperity smile upon them, but they will fail them in seasons of adversity, and especially in the views of approaching dissolution.(1) Give me a religion that will stand by me at all seasons, in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and health, in time and eternity. I would not give a rush for a religion, which will only serve my turn when the sunshine of worldly favour illumines my steps, and fail me when I stand in the greatest need of its supports. This is the case with Deism, as many
have found to their extremu sorrow, when the eternal world drew near, and dawned upon
their astonished sight. And multitudes of our fellow creatures set free from the salutary restraints of religion, and the government of the Divine Being, by a daring and uncontrouled spirit of infidelity, destroy themselves, and rush into the presence of the Almighty without dismay.(2)
More reasonable and becoming is the conduct of those, who brought to a sense of their sin and folly, fear and tremble before this dread Sovereign. This was the case of the late Lord P-, who after he became a D'ist, took every opportunity to shew his contempt of religion. The clergyman and parishioners of the place, where his lordship’s seat in Northamptonshire stood, usually passed in sight of the house in
(1) • You have been used” said Mr. Henry to a friend, a little before his death, “ to take notice of the sayings of dying men. This is mine, That a life spent in the service of God and communion with him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in this world.”
(2) The general practice of duelling, is a sure indication, that a spirit of infidelity is alarmingly gone abroad. A christian fight a duel ? Impossible! True valour forbids it. And, upon the Lord's day too! Still more impossible! Every principle of his religion prohibits the impious deed; good morals, sound policy, true patriot. ism, all forbid the unchristian rencountre. Were we to act thus in common life, a state of confinement would be thought essentially necessary for our welfare, and the public good. Can nothing be done, can no measures be taken, to stop this infamous practice, this national opprobrium ?
their way to church. At the time of going and returning, he frequently ordered his children and servants into the hall, for the vile purpose of laughing at, and ridiculing them. He pursued this course for some time, but at length drew near the close of his life. Upon his dying pillow his views were altered. He found, that however his former sentiments might suit him in health, they could not support him in the hour of dissolution. When in the cold arms of death, the terrors of the Almighty were heavy upon him. Painful remembrance brought to view ten thousand insults offered to that God, at whose bar he was shortly to stand; and conscience being strongly impressed with the solemnity of that day, he justly feared, that the God whom he had insulted would then consign him to destruction. With his mind thus agitated, he called to a person in the room, and desired him, “ to go into the library, and fetch the cursed book," meaning that which had made him a Deist. He went; but returned, saying he could not find it. The nobleman then cried with vehemence, that “he must go again, and look till he did find it, for he could not die till it was destroyed.” The person, having at last met with it, gave it into his hands. It was no sooner committed to him, than he tore it in pieces, with mingled horror and revenge, and committed it to the flames. Having thus taken vengeance on the instrument of his own ruin, he soon after breathed his soul into the hands of his Creator.
At Bolton there is a considerable number of deistical persons, who assemble together on sundays to confirm each other in their infidelity. The oaths and imprecations which are uttered in that meeting are too horrible to relate, while they toss the word of God upon the floor, kick it round the house, and tread it under their feet. William Pope, who had been a steady Methodist for some years, became at length a professed Deist, and joined himself to this crew. After he had been an associate of this company some
time, he was taken ill, and the nature of his complaint was such, that he confessed the hand of God was upon him, and he declared he longed to die, that he might go to hell; many times praying earnestly for damnation. Messrs. Rhodes and Barrowclough, were sent for to talk and pray with the unhappy
But he was so far from being thankful for their advice and assistance, that he spit in their faces, threw at them whatever he could lay his hands
upon, struck one of them
the head with all his might, and often cried out, when they were praying, Lord do not hear their prayers! If they said, Lord save his soul! He cried Lord, damn my soul! often adding, My damnation is sealed and I long to be in hell! In this way he continued, until he died. He was frequently visited by his deistical brethren during his illness, who would have persuaded the public that he was not in his senses ; Mr. Rhodes said, He was as full of the devil as he could hold.
These are shocking instances of the dreadful effects of infidelity upon the minds of our fellow creatures, in those seasons when we most stand in need of support and consolation. If living witnesses to the truth and importance of religion and the Sacred Writings (3)
(3) It becomes every objector to the Sacred Writings to reflect, that the moral and natural evils in the world, were not introduced by the gospel ; why then must the gospel be called upon to account for them, rather than any other religion, or sect of philosophy? If there never had been an Old Testament, never a New one, mankind would have been at least as corrupt and miserable as they are at present. What harm then have the Old and New Testament done to you, that you perpetually challenge them to account to you for the evil you suffer? You dislike perhaps the story of Adam and Eve and can by no means digest the account of the serpent's tempt. ing and prevailing against our first parents : very well ; let this account be laid aside, and what are you now the better? Is there not the same evil remaining in the world, whether you believe, or believe not the story of the fall? And if so, what account do you pretend to give of it ? For if you pretend to any religion, you are as liable to be called to this account, as any professor or teacher of the gospel. Nobody is exempt in this case, but the Atheist; and he has no account to give of any thing; for all difficulties are alike upon his scheme."
might have any consideration with such of my readers, as are deistically inclined, I could produce many of the first characters of the age, from among all the contending denominations of christians. Jacob Bryant, who is one of the deepest inquirers into the originals of things now living, hath not only written a treatise professedly to prove the authenticity of the New Testament, but has also, in another of his investigations, made the following declaration:
" This investigation," a work which was written to prove that Troy never existed, “I more readily undertook, as it affords an excellent contrast with the Sacred Writings. The more we search into the very ancient records of Rome or of Greece, the greater darkness and uncertainty ensue.
None of them can stand the test of close examination. Upon a minute inspection, all becomes dark and doubtful, and often inconsistent: but when we encounter the sacred volume, even in parts of far higher antiquity, the deeper we go, the greater treasure we find. The various parts are so consistent, that they afford mutual illustration; and the more earnestly we look, the greater light accrues, and consequently the greater satisfaction. So it has always appeared to me, who have looked diligently, and examined ; and I trust have not been mistaken.”(4)
(4)“When I was in camp with the duke of Marlborough,"says he, "an officer of my acquaintance desired me upon my making a short excursion, to take him with me in my carriage. Our conversation was rather desultory, as is usual upon such occasions: and among other things he asked me, rather abruptly, what were my notions about religion. I answered evasively, or at least indeterminately, as his inquiry seemed to proceed merely from an idle curiosity: and I did not see that any happy consequence could ensue from an explanation. However, some time afterwards he made a visit at my house, and stayed with me a few days. During this interval, one evening he put the question to me again; and at the same time added, that he should be really obliged, if I would give him my thoughts in general upon the subject. Upon this I turned towards him, and after a short pause told him, that my opinion lay in a small compass: and he should have it in as compendious a manner, as the subject
Various similar testimonies are adduced in the following work. Mr. Erskine has lately come forward in a manner more direct and full in behalf of religion and the Sacred Writings, in a speech, which he delivered upon the trial of Williams, for publishing Paine's Age of Reason.
" The defendant stands indicted for having published this book, which I have read from the obligations of professional duty only, and from the reading of which I rose with astonishment and disgust.
-For my own part, I have been.ever deeply devoted to the truths of Christianity, and my firm belief in the Holy Gospel is by no means owing to the prejudices of education, but it arises from the fullest reflection of my riper years and understanding. It forms, at this moment, the great consolation of a life, which, as a shadow, must pass away; and without it, I should consider my long course of health and prosperity, perhaps too long and too uninterrupted to be good for any man, as the dust only which the wind scatters, and rather as a snare than as a blessing.
“ This publication appears to me to be as mischievous and cruel in it probable effects, as it is manifestly illegal in its principles ; because it strikes at the best, sometimes, alas the only refuge and consolation amidst the distresses and afflictions of the world. The
would permit. Religion, I said, is either true, or false. This is the alternative: there is no medium. If it be the latter-merely an idle system, and a cunningly-devised fable, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. The world is before us, let us take all due ad. vantage, and choose wbat may seem best. For we have no prospect of any life to come; much less any assurances. But if religion be a truth, it is the most serious truth of any with which we can possibly be engaged: an article of the greatest importance. It demands our most diligent inquiry to obtain a knowledge of it: and a fixed reso. lution to abide by it, when obtained. For religion teaches us, that this life bears no proportion to the life to come. You see then, that an alternaiive of the utmost consequence lies before you. Make therefore your election, as you may judge best; and Heaven direct you in your determination. He told me that he was much affected with the crisis, to which I brought the object of inquiry: and I trust, that it was attended with happy consequences afterwards."