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Whether the writer of these sheets can justly hope that what he advances
will attract the attention of unbelievers, he does not pretend to say. If however, it should fall into the hands of individuals among them, he earnestly entreats that, for their own sakes, they would attend to what fol. lows with seriousness.
It is hoped that nothing in the preceding pages can be fairly construed into the want of good will towards any of you. If I know my heart, it is not you, but your mischievous principles that are the objects of my dislike.
In the former part of this performance, I have endeavoured to prove, that the system which you embrace overlooks the moral character of God, refuses to worship him, affords no standard of right and wrong, undermines the most efficacious motives to virtuous action, actually produces a torrent of vice, and le aves mankind, under all their miseries, to perish without hope; in fine, that it is an immoral system, pregnant with destruction to the human race. Unless you be able to overlook what is there advanced, or, at least, be conscious that it is not true with regard to
yourselves, you have reason to be seriously alarmed. To embrace a system of immorality is the same thing as to be enemies to all righteousness ; neither to fear God, nor regard man ; and what good fruit you can expect to reap from it, in this world or another, it is difficult to conceive. But alas, instead of being alarmed at the immorality of your principles, is there no reason to suspect that it is on this very account you cherish them ? You can occasionally praise the morality of Jesus Christ : but are you sincere ? Why' then do you not walk by it ? However you may magnify other difficulties, which you have industriously laboured to discover in the bible, your actions declare that it is the holiness of its doctrines and precepts, that more than any thing else offends you. The manifest object at which you aim, both for yourselves and the world, is an exemption from its restraints. Your general conduct, if put into words, amounts to this : Come let us break his bands, and cast away his cords from us.
Circumstances of late years have much favoured your design. Your party has gained the ascendency in a great nation, and has been consequently increasing in other nations. Hence it is, perhaps, that your spirits are raised, and that a higher tone is assumed in your speeches and writings than has been usual on former occasions. You are great, you are enlightened; yes, you have found out the secret, and have only to rid the world of Christianity in order to render it happy. But be not too confident. You are not the first wbo have set themselves against the Lord, and against his Anointed. · You have bave overthrown superstition; but vaunt not against Christianity. Of a truth you have destroyed the gods of Rome, for they were no gods; but let this suffice you. It is hard to kick against the pricks.
Whatever success may attend your cause, if it be an immoral one, and espoused on that very account, it cannot possibly stand. It must fall, and you may expect to be buried in its ruins. It may be thought sufficient for me to reason on the system itself, without descending to the motives of those who imbibe it; but where motives are manifested by actions, they become objects of human cognizance. Nor is there any hope of your unbelief being removed, but by something that shall reach the cause of it. My desire is neither to insult nor flatter, but seriously to expostulate with you; if God peradventure may give you repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. Three things, in particular, I would earnestly recommend to your serious consideration. How it was that you first imbibed your present principles; How it is that almost all your writers, at one time or other, bear testimony in favour of Christianity; and, How it comes to pass that your principles fail you, as they are frequently known to do, in a dying hour ?
First: How was IT THAT YOU FIRST RENOUNCED CHRISTIANITY, AND IMBIBED YOUR PRESENT PRINCIPLES ? Retrace the process of your minds, and ask your consciences as you proceed, whether all was fair and upright. Nothing is more common than for persons of relaxed morals to attribute their change of conduct to a change of sentiments, or views relative to those subjects. It is galling to one's own feelings, and mean in the account of others, to act against principle; but if a person can once persuade himself to think favourably of those things which he has formerly accounted sinful, and can furnish a plea for them, which, at least, may serve to parry the censures of mankind, he will feel much more at ease, and be able to put on a better face when he mingles in society. Whatever inward stings may annoy his peace under certain occasional qualms, yet he has not to reproach himself, nor can any one reproach him with that inconsistency of character as in former instances. Rousseau confesses he found, in the reasonings of a cer. tain lady, with whom he lived in the greatest possible familiarity, all those ideas which he had occasion for:-Have you not found the same in the conversation and writings of Deists? Did you not, previously to your rejection of Christianity, indulge in vicious courses; and while indulging in these courses, did not its holy precepts, and awful threatenings gall your spirits ? Were you not like persons gathering forbidden fruit amidst showers of arrows; and had you not recourse to your present principles for a shield against them? If you cannot honestly answer these ques. tions in the negative, you are in an evil cause. You may flatter yourselves, for a while, that perhaps there may be no hereafter, or at least no judgment to come; but you know the time is not far
distant when you must go and see; and then, if you should be mistaken, What will you do?
Many of you have descended from godly parents, and have had a religious education. Has not your infidelity arisen from the dislike which you conceived in early life to religious exercises ? Family worship was a weariness to you; and the cautions, warnings and counsels which were given you, instead of having any proper effect, only irritated your corruptions. You longed to be from under the yoke. Since that time, your parents, it may be, have been removed by death; or if they live, they may have lost their control over you. So now you are free. But still something is wanting to erase the prejudices of education, which, in spite of all your efforts, will accompany you, and embitter your present pur. suits. For this purpose, a friend put into your hands The Age of Reason, or some production of the kind. You read it with avidity. This is the very thing you wanted. You have long suspected the truth of Christianity; but had not courage to oppose it. Now then, you are a philosopher; yes, a philosopher! Our fathers,' say you, "might be well-meaning people, but they were imposed upon by priests. The world gets more enlightened now-a-days. There is no need of such rigidness. The Supreme Being (if there be one,) can never have created the pleasures of life, but for the purpose of enjoyment. Avaunt, ye self-denying casuists! Nature is the law of man!
Was not this, or something nearly resembling it, the process of your minds ? And are you now satisfied ? I do not ask whether you have been able to defend your cause against assailants, nor whether you have gained converts to your way of thinking: you may have done both; but are you satisfied with yourselves? Do you really believe yourselves to be in the right way? Have you no misgivings of heart? Is there not something within you which occasionally whispers, “My parents were righteous, and I am wicked: 0 that my soul were in their souls' stead?' · Ah young men ! If such be the occasional revoltings of your mind, what are you doing in labouring to gain others over to your way of thinking ? Can you from experience honestly promise them peace of mind ? Can you go about to persuade them that there is no hell, when, if you would speak the truth, you must acknowl. edge that you have already an earnest of it kindled in your bosoms ? If counsels were not lost upon you, I would entreat you to be contented with destroying your own souls. Have pity on your fellow-creatures, if you have none upon yourselves ? Nay, spare yourselves so much, at least, as not to incur the everlasting execrations of your most intimate acquaintance. If Christianity should prove what your consciences in your most serious moments tell you it is, you are doing this every day of your lives. · Secondly : Consider How it IS THAT ALMOST ALL YOUR WRI
TERS, AT ONE TIME OR OTHER, BEAR TESTIMONY IN FAVOUR OF CHRISTIANITY. It were easy to collect from those very writings which were designed to undermine the Christian religion, hundreds of testimonies in its favour. Voltaire and Rousseau, as we have seen already, have in their fits gone far towards contradieting all which they have written against it. Bolingbroke has done the same. Such sentences as the following may be found in his publications : “Supposing Christianity to have been a human invention, it has been the most amiable invention that was ever imposed on mankind for their good.—Christianity as it came out of the hand of God, if I may use the expression, was a most simple and intelligible rule of belief, worship, and manners, which is the true notion of a religion.—The gospel is in all cases one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity.”* Paine, perhaps, has said as little in this way as any of your writers, yet he bas professed a respect for the character of Jesus Christ.“ He was,” says he, “a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind.”
In what manner will you go about to account for these concessions ? Christian writers, those at least who are sincerely attached to the case, are not seized with these fits of inconsistency. How is it that yours, like the worshippers of Baal, should thus be continually cutting themselves with knives? You must either give up your leaders as a set of men, who, while they are labouring to * Works, Vol. IV. pp. 394, 395. Vol. V. pp. 189, 189
† Age of Reason, Part I. p. 5.