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tience, which has borne with me so long; and the grace that now makes me heartily willing to be thine; to be thine on thine own terms, thine on any terms. Oh secure this treacherous heart to thyself! Oh unite me to thee in such inseparable bonds, that none of the allurements of flesh and blood, none of the vanities of an insnaring world, none of the solicitations of sinful companions, may draw me back from thee, and plunge me into new guilt and ruin! Be surety, O Lord, for thy servant for good*; that I may still keep my hold on thee, and so on eternal life; till at length I know more fully, by joyful and everlasting experience, how complete a Saviour thou art;
A solemn Address to those who will not be persuaded to fall in with the Design of the Gospel.
Universal Success not to be expected: §. 1. Yet, as unwilling absolutely to give up any, the Author addresses, (1.) To those who doubt of the Truth of Christianity, urging an Enquiry into its Evidences, and directing to proper Methods for that Purpose, §. 2—4. (2.) To those who determine to give it up without farther Examination, §. 5. And presume to set themselves to oppose it, §. 6. (3.) To those who speculatively assent to Christianity as true, and yet will sit down without any practical Regard to its most important and acknowledged Truths. Such are dismissed with a Representation of the Absurdity of their Conduct on their own Principles; §. 7, 8. With a solemn Warning of its fatal Consequences; §. 9, 10. And a compassionate Prayer, (introduced §. 11.) which concludes the Chapter, and this Part of the Work.
§. 1. I WOULD humbly hope, that the preceding chapters
will be the means of awakening some stupid and insensible sinners; the means of convincing them of their need of gospelsalvation, and of engaging some cordially to accept it. Yet, I cannot flatter myself so far, as to hope this should be the case with regard to all, into whose hands this book shall come. What am I, alas, better than my fathers†, or better than my brethren, who have in all ages been repeating their complaint, with regard to multitudes, that they have stretched out their hands all day long to a disobedient and gainsaying people? Many such may, perhaps, be found, in the number of my readers: many,
+1 Kings xix. 4.
*Psal. cxix. 122,
Rom. x. 21.
on whom neither considerations of terror, nor of love, will make any deep and lasting impression: many, who as our Lord learnt by experience to express it, when we pipe to them, will not dance; and, when we mourn unto them, will not lament*. I can say no more to persuade them, if they make light of what I have already said. Here therefore we must part; in this chapter I must take my leave of them; and, Oh that I could do it in such a manner, as to fix at parting, some conviction upon their hearts; that though I seem to leave them for a little while, and send them back to review again the former chapters, as those in which alone they have any present concern, they might soon, as it were, overtake me again, and find a suitableness in the remaining part of this discourse, which at present they cannot possibly find. Unhappy creatures! I quit you as a physician quits a patient whom he loves, and is just about to give over as incurable: he returns again and again, and re-examines the several symptoms, to observe whether there be not some one of them more favourable than the rest, which may encourage a renewed application.
§. 2. So would I once more return to you. You do not find in yourself any disposition to embrace the gospel, to apply yourself to Christ, to give yourself up to the service of God, and to make religion the business of your life. But if I cannot prevail upon you to do this, let me engage you at least, to answer me, or rather to answer your own conscience, Why you will not do it?" Is it owing to any secret disbelief of the great principles of religion? If it be, the case is different from what I have yet considered, and the cure must be different. This is not a place to combat with the scruples of infidelity. Nevertheless I would desire you seriously to inquire, "how far those scruples extend." Do they affect only some particular doctrines of the gospel, on which my argument hath turned; or do they affect the whole christian revelation? Or do they reach yet further, and extend themselves to natural religion, as well as revealed, so that it should be a doubt with you, whether there be any God, and providence, and future state, or not? As these cases are all different, so it will be of great importance to distinguish the one from the other; that you may know on what principles to build as certain, in the examinations of those concerning which you are yet in doubt. But whatever these doubts are, I would farther ask you, "how long have they continued, and what method have you taken to get them resolved?" Do
*Mat. xi. 17.
you imagine, that in matters of such moment, it will be an allowable case for you to trifle on, neglecting to enquire into the evidence of these things, and then plead your not being satisfied in that evidence as an excuse for not acting according to them? Must not the principles of common sense assure you, that if these things be true, (as when you talk of doubting about them, you acknowledge it, at least, possible they may,) they are of infinitely greater importance than any of the affairs of life, whether of business or pleasure, for the sake of which you neglect them? Why then do you continue indolent and unconcerned, from week to week, and from month to month, which probably conscience tells you is the case?
§. 3. Do you ask, "what method you should take to be resolved!" It is no hard question. Open your eyes: set yourself to think: let conscience speak; and verily do I believe, that if it be not seared in an uncommon degree, you will find shrewd forebodings of the certainty both of natural and revealed religion, and of the absolute necessity of repentance, faith and holiness, to a life of future felicity. If you are a person of any learning, you cannot but know, by what writers, and in what treatises, these great truths are defended. And if you are not, you may find, in almost every town and neighbourhood, persons capable of informing you in the main evidences of christianity, and of answering such scruples against it as unlearned minds may have met with. Set yourself then in the name of God, immediately to consider the matter. If you study at all, bend your studies close this way; and trifle not with mathematics, or poetry, or history, or law, or physic, (which are all comparatively light as a feather,) while you neglect this. Study the argument, as for your life; for much more than life depends on it. See how far you are satisfied, and why that satisfaction reaches no farther. Compare evidences on both sides. And above all, consider the design and tendency of the New Testament. See to what it will lead you, and all them that cordially obey it; and then say, whether it be not good. And consider, how natural its truth is connected with its goodness. Trace the character and sentiments of its authors, whose living image (if I may be allowed the expression,) is still preserved in their writings. And then, ask your own heart, can you think this was a forgery, an impious crucl forgery? For such it must have been, if it were a forgery at all; a scheme to mock God, and to ruin men, even the best of men, such as reverenced conscience, and would abide all extremities for what they apprehended to be truth. Put the
question to your own heart, Can I in my conscience believe it to be such an imposture? Can I look up to an omniscient God, and say, " O Lord, thou knowest that it is in reverence to thee, and-in love to truth and virtue, that I reject this book, and the method to happiness here laid down ?”
§. 4. But there are difficulties in the way-And what then? Have those difficulties never been cleared? Go to the living advocates for christianity, to those of whose abilities, candour and piety, you have the best opinion; if your prejudices will give you leave to have a good opinion of any such: tell them your difficulties: hear their solutions: weigh them seriously, as those who know they must answer it to God: and while doubts continue, follow the truth as far as it will lead you, and take heed that you do not imprison it in unrighteousness. Nothing appears more inconsistent and absurd, than for a man solemnly to pretend dissatisfaction in the evidences of the gospel, as a reason why he cannot in conscience be a thorough christian; when yet at the same time he violates the most apparent dictates of reason and conscience, and lives in vices condemned even by the heathens. O sirs, Christ has judged concerning such, and judged most righteously and most wisely; they do evil, and therefore they hate the light, neither come they to the light, lest their deeds should be made manifest, and be reproved. But there is a light, that will make manifest and reprove their works, to which they shall be compelled to come, and the painful scrutiny of which they shall be forced to abide.
§. 5. In the mean time, if you are determined to enquire no farther into the matter now, give me leave at least, from a sincere concern that you may not heap upon your head more aggravated ruin, to intreat you, that you would he cautious how you expose yourself to yet greater danger, by what you must yourself own to be unnecessary, I mean attempts to prevent others from believing the truth of the gospel. Leave them for God's sake, and for your own, in possession of those pleasures, and those hopes, which nothing but christianity can give them; and act not, as if you were solicitous to add to the guilt of an infidel the tenfold damnation, which they, who have been the perverters and destroyers of the souls of others, must expect to meet, if that gospel which they have so adventurously opposed shall prove, as it certainly will, a serious, and to them a dreadful truth.
§. 6. If I cannot prevail here, but the pride of displaying
+ John iii. 20.
Rom i. 18.
a superiority of understanding should bear on such a reader, even in opposition to his own favourite maxims of the innocence of error, and the equality of all religions consistent with social virtue, to do his utmost to trample down the gospel with contempt; I would however dismiss him with one proposal, which I think the importance of the affair may fully justify. If you have done with your examination into christianity, and determine to live and conduct yourself as if it were assuredly false, sit down then, and make a memorandum of that determination. Write it down: "On such a day of such a year, I deliberately resolved, that I would live and die rejecting christianity myself, and doing all I could to overthrow it. This day I determined, not only to renounce all subjection to, and expectation from Jesus of Nazareth; but also to make it a serious part of the business of my life, to destroy, as far as I possibly can, all regard to him in the minds of others, and to exert my most vigorous efforts, in the way of reasoning or of ridicule, to sink the credit of his religion, and if it be possible to root it out of the world; in calm steady defiance of that day, when his followers say, he shall appear in so much majesty and terror to execute the vengeance threatened to his enemies." Dare you write this, and sign it? I firmly believe, that many a man, who would be thought a deist, and endeavours to increase the number, would not. And if you in particular dare not to do it, whence does that small remainder of caution arise? the cause is plain. There is in your conscience some secret apprehension, that this rejected, this opposed, this derided gospel, may after all prove true. And if there be such an apprehension, then let conscience do its office, and convict you of the impious madness of acting, as if it were most certainly and demonstrably false. Let it tell you at large, how possible it is that haply you may be found fighting against God*: That, bold as you are in defying the terrors of the Lord, you may possibly fall into his hands; may chance to hear that despised sentence, which when you hear it from the mouth of the eternal judge, you will not be able to despise: I will repeat it again, in spite of all your scorn, you may hear the king say to you, depart accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angelst. And now, go and pervert and burlesque the scripture, go and lampoon the character of its heroes, and ridicule the sublime discourses of its prophets and its apostles; as some have done, who have left little behind
*Acts v. 39.
+ Matt. xxv. 41.