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reject its mysterious doctrines!. Even with them, to a certain extent it is believed, from the hold which it has upon their feelings and affections.
We have seen that from the first, prejudice might be strong enough to resist the clearest evidence in its favour: and that ever since, that cause and vicious inclinations have operated powerfully to the same end. And on the other hand, that it addressed itself originally to the best emotions of the heart, and in proportion as these abound, it is still cherished with the most perfect sincerity, and the most undoubting confidence: as any one who has observed its influence upon that sex, whose feelings are the most acute, and whose affections are the most pure, will readily acknowledge. How then can it be said to be independent of the will ? If it were a matter of abstract science, this would be true, but to a very limited extent. For (as I have said) many believe even propositions of that kind, more from the testimony of others than from
1 This is strikingly illustrated in the case of the late President Jefferson. See his Correspondence, vol. iii. 515, &c.; and vol. iv. 227, &c.
their own perception of their truth. But faith is now a very complex consideration. The evidence and the doctrines, and we may add, the effects of Christianity, can no longer be separated. These mutually affect and support each other. If we find in it doctrines of the utmost importance, the most evident utility, and the most extensive influence; yet beyond the power of reason to determine, such as that of a future state : we must allow that they add greatly to the probability of the evidence in its favour. If its precepts appear to be congenial with the best dispositions of our nature, calling them forth where they lie dormant, or obstructed by vice: promoting their growth where they have taken root : and thus contributing to our happiness and that of those around us : our faith will spring from our virtues, and we shall no longer doubt, that with the heart we may believe unto righteousness.
But should any still be unconvinced by these arguments, let them reflect that neither infidelity nor scepticism have yet been able to prove that our religion is founded in error. There remains even with their advocates, a possibility that it may be true.
Let this con
sideration have its due weight, and it must satisfy them that their feelings are not, and ought not, in the strictest reason, to be uninterested in this question. If they felt that the existence of all which they hold dear
upon earth would depend to-morrow upon a possible, though perhaps, not a very probable contingency; would they be perfectly easy
under such circumstances ? on the contrary, as the hour approached that was to determine their fate, would not their anxiety become intense ; and what had once appeared to be but possible, assume a very fearful aspect of probability ? Let them be assured that this is cisely their condition at this moment, in a matter of infinitely more importance than all which this world can bestow upon them.This night their souls may be required of them. Nay, more, they will inevitably be required of numbers, totally unprepared for that awful event: and they may find, when it is too late, that the depraved suggestions of their hearts have deceived their understandings, in a point upon which depends no less than their eternal salvation.
Let us, my brethren, adopt a wiser and a safer course.
Let us live according to Christ
as those upon
ian precepts, and we shall not easily be brought to waver in our Christian faith. Let us always remember, that it rests upon the strongest grounds of moral probability : such
which we constantly act in the most important affairs of our lives. If we attempt to carry it farther, it may lead us into enthusiasm ; which, by a not unnatural process, may finally settle in doubt or unbelief.
If we suppose it to fall short of this, we do it injustice : and have not examined its evidences with sufficient care and impartiality. But let us by no means suffer our feelings to be uninterested in the question.Whether their proper discipline shall serve to confirm our faith, or whether that shall guide them in the paths of righteousness, is immaterial ; provided those two great objects are adequately secured. For upon them will certainly depend our real happiness here, and upon
them will still more certainly depend our irrevocable destiny hereafter.
1 THESSALONIANS v. 17, 18.
Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks, for
this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning you.
In these words the Apostle lays down the whole of our duty to God, as it regards the worship we should pay to him ; and accordingly it will be found, not only that our public services consist of little else than prayer and thanksgiving to him, but that they are the only modes in which we can address ourselves to him with propriety, or with any probability of benefit to ourselves. So simple, yet so sublime, is the relation in which the creature stands to the Creator, with such humility does it become weak and helpless mortals to approach the throne of the Eternal, Almighty, Invisible God! I
therefore, in the following discourse, to consider the