Page images
PDF
EPUB

ever been employed in the service of infidelity, may with a very little reflection be wrested out of its hands, and turned with double fury on itself. And thus a vice the

These are,

moft deteftable of all others, may in fome fort atone for the infinite mifchief it hath done in the world, by becoming an able advocate for the truth it once perfecuted and abused. But there are other witneffes to be examined on this important question, who though they may be prejudiced in favor of the fact they atteft, yet juftly merit an impartial hearing. 3. Good men. By By good men we here mean those who are generally acknowledged to be fuch, who whether religion be or be not true, are amiable patterns of virtue and useful members of fociety. Now if perfons of this character do most, if not all of them, profess a regard to the power of godlinefs; if what they profefs hath in its own nature a tendency to excite them to a conduct thus excellent and praise-worthy; if they affure us that it is this sense of religion upon their spirits which disposes them to behave in this manner; if they adhere to their profeffion amidst all opposition; and in one word, if they exprefs their fatisfaction as to the truth and importance of religion

religion, when in the immediate views of death; their testimony, added to the proofs already brought, must surely fet this matter with every impartial mind beyond a doubt.

It is indeed acknowledged, that there may be perfons of an external good behaviour, whose motives rife no higher than mere principles of humanity and good nature. But it is a fact not to be disputed that the most respectable and worthy characters which have adorned the world, and to which even infidels themselves have borne an honourable teftimony, have been found among the friends of ferious religion. Integrity meeknefs benevolence and the other focial virtues, have ever been the offspring of a lively faith of the gospel of Chrift. The grace of God which bringeth falvation teacheth men to deny all ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live righteously, and foberly, and godlily in the prefent evil world'. Such is the very spirit of the Christian inftitution. When therefore the good man declares that it thus operates on his heart, his declaration, fo intirely confonant to every dictate of found reafon, and fo well fupported by the general course of his life, may

f Tit. ii. 11, 12.

juftly

justly demand our credit: especially when we see him perfifting in this his profeffion, amidst all the contempt and obloquy caft upon him by a profane world, and even in the extreme moments of life, when it is beyond the of the most refined hypocrify to conceal the genuine fentiments of the heart.

power

Let us figure to ourselves then the man of religion in his real and proper character, and fay whether a ftrong prefumptive evidence of the truth of godliness does not hence force itself on our confciences. Nor will we exalt the Christian above humanity, or dress him in the fair habit which flattery may have too often given him: but we will view him as he is, a frail imperfect finful man; yet behaving under the commanding influence of thofe divine truths he profeffes, and labouring to adorn them by a holy and unblameable conversation. Behold him then honeft in his dealings, faithful to his engagements, and chafte in his connections; daily lamenting innumerable mistakes, yet afraid of fin and of every diftant approach to it; ufing the world to the purposes of chearfulness and benevolence, yet not abufing it to covetoufness or profligacy; fearful of temptation, yet resolutely oppofing

oppofing it; feeling his afflictions, yet not daring to murmur at them; aiming to do good, though often disappointed in his attempts: in a word, a lover of good men, a friend of fociety, and a bleffing to all around him. And now hear him, his character thus established, pronouncing religion in the light it hath been represented a substantial and important truth, openly profeffing it in the face of the whole world, and renouncing his temporal interefts for the fake of it. Hear all this and say, whether a teftimony thus authenticated ought not, will not have weight with every thoughtful mind.

4

But if this does not fatisfy, if a secret diflike of religion ftill forces on the mind a doubt of the good man's fincerity; follow him to his dying bed, fee him lying thereon with a chearful compofure of mind, and take from his own lips the evidence he faithfully gives in favor of what he hath dared to profefs, and what hath been the governing principle of his life. Verily,

66

[ocr errors]

fays he, there is a reward for the righ"teous, there is a God who judgeth in the "earth. This hath been my firm faith, " and is now the joy of my heart. Religion is a reality its power I feel, its fup

[ocr errors]

"ports

"ports I enjoy. In God I have put my truft, "and he is faithful and good. To Chrift I "have committed my everlafting interefts, "and he is able to keep them against that "day. Heaven, unworthy as I am, I hope "fhortly to poffefs, and to poffefs it as the "free gift of God through Jefus Christ my "Lord. O how my heart afpires to that pure and exalted ftate! Thanks be to the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

good Spirit of God, who hath wrought me for this felf-fame thing. I have "waited, O Lord, for thy falvation → I "have feen it let me now depart in peace into thy hands I refign my fpirit.” The force of fuch evidence is hardly to be withstood the heart feels it the confcience yields to it. And that this hath been the fact in many pleasing instances is not to be queftioned.

Thus we have I hope fully proved the truth of internal religion, from the reason and nature of the thing, from the express testimony of fcripture, and from the general consent of mankind. What remains now but that we fpend a few moments, in expoftulating with the unbeliever on his folly and madness, in reproaching the difingenuity and bafenefs of the hypocrite, and in congratulating the Christian on the real happiness he poffeffes?

« EelmineJätka »