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their lives, their chastity, or their possessions, either by violence, or by fraud; or that you have scandalously debased the rational nature of man, by that vile intemperance, which transforms us into the worst kind of brutes, or something beneath them.
§. 4. In opposition to all this, I will suppose, that you believe the existence and providence of God, and the truth of christianity, as a revelation from him: of which, if you have any doubt, I must desire, that you would immediately seek your satisfaction elsewhere.* I say, immediately; because not to believe it, is in effect to disbelieve it; and will make your ruin equally certain, though perhaps it may leave it less aggravated, than if contempt and opposition had been added to suspicion and neglect. But supposing you to be a nominal christian, and not a deist, or a sceptic; I will also suppose your conduct among men to be not only blameless, but amiable; and that they who know you most intimately, must acknowledge, that you are just and sober, humane and courteous, compassionate and liberal: yet with all this, you may lack that one thing+ on which your eternal happiness depends.
§. 5. I beseech you, reader, whoever you are, that you would now look seriously into your own heart, and ask it this one plain question: Am I truly religious? Is the love of God the governing principle of my life? Do I walk under a sense of his presence? Do I converse with him from day to day, in the exercise of prayer and praise? And am I, on the whole, making his service my business and my delight, regarding him as my master and my father?
§. 6. It is my present business only to address myself to the person, whose conscience answers in the negative. And I would address with equal plainness, and equal freedom, to high and low, to rich and poor: to you, who (as the scripture with a dreadful propriety expresses it) live without God in the world?‡ and while in words and forms, you own God, deny him in your actions, and behave yourselves in the main, (a few external ceremonies only excepted,) just as you would do, if you believed, and were sure, there was no God. Unhappy creature, whoever you are! your own heart condemns you immediately
* In such a case, I beg leave to refer the reader to my "Three Sermons on the Evidence of Christianity;" the last of the ten on "The Power and Grace of Christ;" in which he may see the hitherto unshaken foundation of my own faith, in a short, and I hope, a clear view.
+ Mark x. 21.
Eph. ii. 12.
Tit. i. 16.
and how much more that God who is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things.* He is in secrett as well as in public; and words cannot express the delight, with which his children converse with him alone: but in secret you acknowledge him not; you neither pray to him nor praise him, in your retirements. Accompts, correspondencies, studies may often bring you into your closet; but if nothing but evotion were to be transacted there, it would be to you an unfrequented place. And thus you go on from day to day, in a continual forgetfulness of God; and are as thoughtless about religion, as if you had long since demonstrated it to yourself, that it was a mere dream. If, indeed, you are sick, you will perhaps cry to God for health; in any extreme danger, you will lift up your eyes and your voice for deliverance: but as for the pardon of sin and the other blessings of the gospel, you are not at all inwardly solicitous about them; though you profess to believe that the gospel is divine, and the blessings of it eternal. All your thoughts, and all your hours, are divided between the business and the amusements of life and if now and then, an awful providence, or a serious sermon or book, awakens you, it is but a few days, or it may be a few hours, and you are the same careless creature you ever were before. On the whole, you act, as if you were resolved to put it to the venture, and at your own expence to make the experiment, whether the consequences of neglecting religion be indeed as terrible, as its ministers and friends have represented. Their remonstrances do indeed sometimes force themselves upon you, as (considering the age and country in which you live,) it is hardly possible entirely to avoid them; but you have, it may be, found out the art of Isaiah's people, hearing to hear, and not understand,; and seeing to see, and not perceive your heart is waxed gross, your eyes are closed, and your ears heavy. Under the very ordinances of worship, your thoughts are at the ends of the earth. Every amusement of the imagination is welcome, if it may but lead away your mind from so insipid, and so disagreeable a subject as religion. And probably the very last time you were in a worshipping assembly. you managed, just as you would have done, if you had thought God knew nothing of your behaviour; or as if you did not think it worth one single care, whether he were pleased or displeased with it.
§. 7. Alas! is it then come to this, with all your belief of God, and providence, and scripture, that religion is not worth
*1 John iii 20. + Matth. vi. 6. + Isai. vi. 9, 10. || Prov.xvii. 24.
a thought! That it is not worth one hour's serious consideration and reflection, "What God and Christ are; and what you yourselves are, and what you must hereafter be ?" Where then are all your rational faculties? How are they employed, or rather how are they stupified and benumbed?
§. 8. The certainty and importance of the things of which I speak, are so evident, from the principles which you yourselves grant, that one might almost set a child or an idiot to reason upon them. And yet they are neglected by those, who are grown up to understanding, and perhaps some of them to such refinement of understanding, that they would think themselves greatly injured, if they were not to be reckoned among the politer, and the more learned part of mankind.
§ 9. But it is not your neglect, sirs, that can destroy the being or importance of such things as these. It may indeed destroy you, but it cannot in the least affect them. Permit me therefore, having been myself awakened, to come to each of you, and say, as the mariners did to Jonah while asleep in the midst of a much less dangerous storm, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise and call upon thy God. Do you doubt as to the reasonableness, or necessity of doing it? I will demand, and answer met; answer me to your own conscience, as one that must, ere long, render another kind of account.
§. 10. You own, that there is a God: and well you may: for you cannot open your eyes, but you must see the evident proofs of his being, his presence, and his agency. You behold him around you in every object. You feel him within you, if I may so speak, in every vein, and in every nerve. You see, and you feel, not only that he hath formed you with an exquisite wisdom, which no mortal man could ever fully explain or comprehend, but that he is continually near you, wherever you are, and wherever you are employed, by day or by night; in him you live and move, and have your being‡. Common sense will tell you that it is not your own wisdom, and power, and attention, that causes your heart to beat, and your blood to circulate; that draws in, and sends out that breath of life, that precarious breath of a most uncertain life, that is in your nostrils. These things are done when you sleep, as well as in those waking moments, when you think not of the circulation of blood, or of the necessity of breathing, nor so much as recollect that you have a heart and lungs. Now
*Jonah i. 6.
+ Job xxxviii, 3.
Acts xvii. 28.
Isai. ii. 22.
what is this, but the hand of God, perpetually supporting and actuating those curious machines that he has made?
4.11. Nor is his care limited to you; but if you look all around you, far as your views can reach, you see it extending itself or every side: and on how much farther than you can trace it! Reflect on the light and heat, which the sun every where dispenses! on the air, which surrounds all our globe, on the right temperature of which the life of the whole human race depends, and that of all the inferior creatures which dwell on the earth. Think of the suitable and plentiful provision made for man and beast; the grass, the grain, the variety of fruits, and herbs, and flowers; every thing that nourishes us, every thing that delights us; and say whether it do not speak plainly and loudly, that our Almighty Maker is near, and that he is careful of us, and kind to us. And while all these things proclaim his goodness, do they not also proclaim his power! For what power has any thing comparable to that, which furnishes out these gifts of royal bounty; and which unwearied and unchanged, produces continually from day to day, and from age to age, such astonishing and magnificent effects over the face of the whole earth, and through all the regions of heaven?
§. 12. It is then evident, that God is present, present with you at this moment; even God your creator and preserver, God the creator and preserver of the whole visible and invisible world. And is he not present as a most observant and attentive being? He that formed the eye, shall not he see? He that planted the ear, shall not he hear? He that teaches man knowledge, that gives him his rational faculties, and pours in upon his opening mind all the light it receives by them, shall not he know? He who sees all the necessities of his creatures so seasonably to provide for them, shall he not see their actions too; and seeing shall he not judge of them? Has he given us a sense and discernment of what is good and evil, of wat is truc and false, of what is fair and deformed in temper and conduct; and has he himself no discernment of these things? Trifle not with your conscience, which tells you at once that he judges of it, and approves or condemns, as it is decent or indecent, reasonable or unreasonable; and that the judgment which he passes, is of infinite importance to all his creatures.
§. 13. And now, to apply all this to your own case, let me seriously ask you, is it a decent and reasonable thing, that this great and glorious benefactor should be neglected by his ra
*Psalm xciv. 9, 10.
tional creatures? by those, that are capable of attaining some knowledge of him, and presenting to him some homage? Is it decent and reasonable that he should be forgotten and neglected by you? Are you alone of all the works of his hands, forgotten or neglected by him? Oh sinner, thoughtless as you are, you cannot dare to say that, or even to think it. You need not go back to the helpless days of your infancy and childhood, to convince you of the contrary. You need not, in order to this, recollect the remarkable deliverances, which, perhaps, were wrought out for you many years ago. The repose of the last night, the refreshment and comfort you have received this day; yea, the mercies you are receiving this very moment, bear witness to him; and yet you regard him not. Ungrateful creature that you are! Could you have treated any human benefactor thus? Could you have borne to neglect a kind parent, or any generous friend, that had but a few months acted the part of a parent to you? to have taken no notice of him, while in his presence; to have returned him no thanks; to have had no contrivances to make some little acknowledgment for all his goodness? Human nature, bad as it is, is not fallen so low. Nay, the brutal nature is not so low as this. Surely every domestic animal around you must shame such ingratitude. If you do but for a few days take a little kind notice of a dog, and feed him with the refuse of your table, he will wait upon you and love to be near you; he will be eager to follow you from place to place, and when, after a little absence, you return home, will try by a thousand fond transported motions, to tell you how much he rejoices to see you again. Nay, brutes, far less sagacious and apprehensive, have some sense of our kindness, and express it after their way: as the blessed God condescends to observe, in this very view in which I mention it, The dull or knows its owner, and the stupid ass his master's crib*: what lamentable degeneracy therefore is it, that you do not know, that you, who have been numbered among God's professing people, do not, and will not consider your numberless obligations to him?
§. 14. Surely, if you have any ingenuity of temper, you must be ashamed and grieved in the review: but if you have not, give me leave farther to expostulate with you on this head, by setting it in something of a different light. Can you think yourselves safe, while you are acting a part like this? Do you not in your conscience believe there is an invisible and eternal
* Isai. i, 3.