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point out imperfections, follies and fins in the characters of the best Christians, thence haftily conclude that this account of religion is mere ideal or imaginary. For befides the profeffions of the worthiest men, and the testimony of the facred scriptures, there is the highest reason to suppose from the account itself, that what is in its own nature so desirable may poffibly have an existence. How much then,

2. Is it to be lamented that fo little of real religion is to be found in our world! No fubject perhaps hath more generally employed the attention of mankind, and yet none hath been more shamefully mistaken, perverted and abused. Some have fo curioufly refined upon it, and others have talked so much and fo loudly about the circumftances of it, that the thing itself hath been overlooked, forgot and very nigh loft. Can the good man forbear weeping whilst he beholds this? O fad fight indeed ! — the greatest part of the world by far, amidst their ready acknowledgments of the truth of religion, bidding open defiance to it! and the rest most of them, by their very talk about it, hardened into a state of abfolute infenfibility to it ! The plainest thing made a problem by dispute!


and a matter the moft fubftantial and important evaporating into mere air and smoke! Lament it, fincerely and heartily lament it, Christian; and with your tears mingle your fervent prayers to God, again to revive the dying interests of his kingdom in the world, and to spread the honors and triumphs of it far and wide. In one word,

3. Of what importance is it, that we each of us seriously examine ourselves, upon this question, whether God hath erected his kingdom in our hearts, and in what it confifts, whether in word, or in power! Are we the bold oppofers of religion? the nominal profeffors of it only? or the real partakers of the true fpirit and temper of it? Unhappy man who ranks under either of the former characters! remaining in this fad ftate to the laft, he must endure the weight of his iron-rod, whofe mild and gracious fcepter he hath rejected and defpifed. But happy, thrice happy he, who amidst all the remains of weakness and fin which attend him, can from his own experience atteft the reality of religion; and to whom others, will bear this honourable testimony, that God is in him of a truth.





The Reality of Religion.


2 TIM. iii. 5. Denying the power.

HE nature of fserious religion having been confidered in the former difcourfe, let us now enter into a full and particular proof of its



reality. At first view indeed, it unneceffary to prove a point, which carries its own evidence with it, and to the truth of which there is in the confciences of most


men, I think I may fay all, a very strong prefumptive testimony. But fince it is to be feared there are fome, who would fain perfuade themselves to question the reality of religion, and fince it is notorious that the generality of mankind think very lightly about it; it cannot but be of confiderable use to set the argument, plain as it is, in every light it will admit of, thereby to awaken our attention to the thing itself, as well as to remove every shadow of objection which may be urged against it.

It might then be very naturally expected, that our reasoning on this subject should be deduced from fome fhort propofition, which is directly and fully to our purpose: but as fcripture for the most part takes it for granted, that there is fuch a thing as religion, fo it is chiefly employed rather in a diffusive defcription of the nature of it, than in a concife and exprefs affirmation of its reality. We are therefore obliged to ground our prefent inquiry on the paffage juft read, which though it does not directly affert what we would prove, yet immediately leads us into the unhappy occafions of that fcepticifin and diffipation of mind, which too generally prevail; and fo opens our way to the positive


evidence we have of the truth of religion itself.

The apostle had been speaking, in the beginning of this chapter, of the last days. A phrase which fome interpret of the age immediately fucceeding that of the first establishment of Christianity; and which others refer to a more diftant period of the church. But be that as it may, he tells us that in these days there would be perilous times. Times in which perfecution on the one hand, and a general diffoluteness of manners on the other, would prevail to fuch a degree, as very greatly to try the faith and conftancy of all the real profeffors of religion. From whence he goes on to give us the character of thefe laft days. Men fhall be lovers of their ownfelves, covetous, boafters, proud, blafphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accufers, incontinent, fierce, defpifers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. To all which he subjoins the fad and striking defcription in our text: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. One would indeed have thought, that when men were arrived to fuch a pitch of wickedness

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