the oracles of prophecy, and the course of Providence, concurred to recommend to human notice and belief; which the Eternal Power that presides over this universe did countenance by signs and by wonders.

If the Gospel be not true, the senses and the understandings of men were subjected to a miserable illusion at first, and are still under thraldom to the same illusion; for multitudes who have not seen the facts, on believing the testimony, have felt, they say, the Gospel to be “ the word of truth.” Many do at this moment profess themselves to be witnesses of its power; and feel as much assured of its reality, as of their own consciousness and identity. Mark yonder holy and unblameable character: he was once inured to wickedness, like the most depraved; but now, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, he hath become a living example of “whatsoever things are lovely and of good report.” Or enter yon poor habitation, where you see one oppressed with years, decrepit, lonely, indigent; and yet amid discouragements, undejected, and even joyous. Or approach this chamber of death, where that disease-worn object summons his little residue of strength into a last effort to say farewell to friends unspeakably dear to

him, whom he yet resigns without sorrow; and even pants out an expression of preference to be dissolved.

Account, now, for scenes like these; and say, on what principles, and by what power, the sinner was made holy—the poor, thankful—and the dying, victorious over the fear of expected death? There is no delusion here; for the usual perceptions are clear and correct, and the judgment manifestly unimpaired. What, then, hath renewed, elevated, and consoled ? It is the Gospel, my friends ; it is the Gospel only that thus converts, comforts, and realizes the power of an endless life to him who believes it. «He that believeth hath the witness in himself.” On his own experience, he asserts it to be “ the word of truth;" and his own character renovated by means of it, justifies the assertion before men. And if such experience, and such examples of its living power, exhibited in so many instances, and through so many ages, are not reckoned sufficient (when taken in connexion with other branches of evidence, arising out of miracles, prophecy, and its own holy character) to demonstrate the truth and divine origin of the Gospel; the incredulity of men can be referred to nothing else than a deep-rooted

enmity to God and his truth; or to a fixed determination—not to be shaken by evidence -to disbelieve, or to disregard what they could not in sincerity receive, without renouncing those vices which it condemnsvices dearer to them than truth and salvation. The love of sin shuts the doors of the heart against conviction, and inclines them to believe a lie that flatters their passions, and winks at their pleasures, rather than to admit a truth which will enter into no compromise with vice and irreligion.

Oh! what shall they do, who in this world denied the Christian revelation, when, on entering eternity, they shall find all things just as the Gospel declared,-a God inflexibly just-a Redeemer whose grace they despised, worshipped by angels, and clothed with attributes of glorious powera pure and spiritual heaven, for whose sanctity they are utterly disqualified and an abyss of everlasting fire, for which only are they meet, and into which vengeance will drive them from the judgmentseat. These are the realites that will rise up before them after death. Of these realities, sufficient intimation and evidence had been furnished in the Gospel report, but they would not believe. Books were writ

ten to obviate their objections a thousand genuine marks of fidelity and truth were shown to them in the Scriptures—the unreasonableness of not-believing was evinced their arguments were proved to be inconclusive, and not one of their positions could be ever fairly maintained by the most resolute in scepticism—sermons were preached to persuade them—and events of Providence, sometimes afflictive, sometimes the reverse, came with seasonable occurrence, to reinforce the strength of other means. But none of these things prevailed; nay, when every other refuge of lies was swept away by the power of truth, they fled to one which nothing will shake, unless what is irresistible ; and that one was, the high assumption that man is not accountable for his belief. In this strong-hold the unbeliever lives secure, and dies perhaps unalarmed; but we repeat the question,—what will such do, when, on entering the eternal world, they find things just as the Bible represented them ? The excuse of insufficient evidence will vanish, together with the gross conceit that they were not accountable to God for the operations of their own minds; for when the secrets of all hearts are disclosed, it will appear that nothing so much

moved them to reject the Gospel, as the love of an ungodly life, which made them to choose darkness rather than light, for the hiding of their evil deeds.

66 But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine into them.”

But we pursue these preliminary reflections to an unnecessary length. That there are many speculative (though a still greater number of unprofessed, yet practical) unbelievers in this Christian land, is beyond a doubt. To attempt their conviction is an unquestionable duty, which we owe to God, and to souls in danger of perishing. The young and inexperienced, too, are to be guarded against their insidious aggressions; and against the temptations of Satan, the father of lies; and we best consult their safety, by early prepossessing their minds with the certainty and importance of the religion of Christ. For doubt once entertained it is exceedingly difficult to eradicate from so corrupt a soil as that of the human heart; as many who had allowed the principles of error but a partial and a temporary posses

[ocr errors]
« 前へ次へ »