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"hath faid in his heart, there is no God: they are corrupt; they “have done abominable works; there is none that doeth good." Our last discourse was employed in proving, we hope to the conviction of our hearers, that there is a fupreme Being it may not be an improper fequel therefore to fhew, that all fuch as are corrupt, as indulge themselves in licentiousness, are at least equally bad, if not worse than thofe, who openly deny the existence of a God ;. fince the actions of fuch men bring a reproach upon whatever religion they profess. If the fpeculative Atheist be a most despicable creature; the practical one is, doubtlefs, worse. The former difhonours God with his mouth; the latter with all the powers and faculties of his foul.-But before we proceed, it may be neceffary to explain what we mean by the Practical Atheist; for it is poffible, fome may cavil at the term as not correfponding, with fufficient aptnefs, to the perfon, whofe folly, or rather madness, we are about to expose.
The practical Atheist then is one, who, although he may poffibly profefs the belief of a God, and fome other general truths, which are the natural refult of fuch declaration; yet gives the lead to hispaffions, and lives in the conftant breach of almost every command. ment In fhort, we may rank under this denomination, every one, who continues in a course of fin, and impiety; for fuch men could never live as they do, did they in reality believe; and that they do. not believe, is principally owing to their want of reflection. These will oftentimes attend the public worship, it is true; but then they look upon it as a matter of form only, where they pray without ei ther hope or fear; and fhould they chance to hear their character, and their deplorable state and condition defcribed in the most pathetic terms; their danger made ever fo apparent; eternal happiness,, or eternal misery proposed to them with the warmeft zeal; they will perhaps with a fimile vouchsafe to fay, "a mighty good discourse !" but, at the fame time, determine with themselves to reap no advan❤
tage from it. If we may pass any judgment from the conduct of mankind in general, but very few, I fear, will escape this cenfure. Let us look round us, and what does the gloomy profpect afford, but murders, adulteries, blafphemies, thefts, and fuch a black catalogue of crimes, as, when fet in their proper light, would make any fober and serious Chriftian fhudder with horror, and almost wish to lead the life of an anchorite, rather than mingle with fuch an abandoned herd ?—I am not infenfible, that remonftrances of this kind are deemed things of course from the pulpit, and, as fuch, too little regarded; but every one who is not wilfully blind, muft be convinced of the truth of them. And though we should allow, that the generality of mankind are not guilty of what we call enormous crimes; yet how few are there, who walk with delight in the paths of virtue !-Where fhall we find the man that is duly devoted to the service of his maker? One that is no ways addicted to the reigning vices of the age; that is truly juft and honeft in all his dealings; that abhors tyranny and oppreffion, and scorns to take advantage of his neighbour's neceffity; who, in short, in every action of his life will do that to others, which he would be defirous they should do to him?-I am afraid there are very few fuch righteous persons to be found; and would to God, this were only a bare fufpicion !-But I am apt to believe that our own confciences would accuse the greater part of us; at least, each one in his heart would condemn his neighbour. Could this be the real state of thingsdid men fincerely believe the truth of their most holy religion? I think they could not; it is our indispensable duty, therefore, though experience fhews how little fuccefs we meet with in fuch attempts, to hold a glass to men's confciences, and fhew them the deformity of their fouls, and the danger of that everlasting perdition which lies before them. Had we no more to do, than to tell men what is their duty, the task would not be hard; for the facred fcriptures are very clear and explicit in that particular; but to perfuade
men to follow, with a willing mind, thofe unerring guides, is an attempt, I fear, too arduous and difficult to be accomplished:fhould our utmoft endeavours, however, but call one finner to repentance, we shall in no wife lose our reward. That I may contribute what little is in my power towards the attainment of fo valuable an end, I shall beg your ferious attention, whilft I lay before you, not only the hazard, but the folly of Practical Atheism..
Though every one here prefent will, I doubt not, very readily declare, that he believes there is a God, who will hereafter reward the just, and punish the wicked; yet upon a strict examination, it is to be feared that too many will find, they only say so, because they have been accustomed to such a conceffion from their infancy; and that bare acknowledgment has been all, for perhaps as they imbibed thofe notions upon the credit of others, they never gave themselves the trouble to examine into the truth or falfehood of them; but fitting down contented with paffing for nominal Chriftians, pursue every idle fancy with avidity, that feems to look like pleasure; and whether they shall live hereafter, or not, and how it will fare with them, when this world shall pafs away, are articles, which they conceive to be no concern of theirs. Now can any man be faid properly to believe a thing, of which he has only heard fome imperfect account, and that too with fo much coldness and indifference, as not to think it worth his care to enquire into the reality of the fact? No furely! for to believe we must have all the evidence that the nature of the thing will bear: It is no unnatural affertion, therefore, to say, that the true reason why men do not reform their lives, is, because their belief is unfettled: for is it credible, that fuch numbers could have the least apprehenfions of leaving this world in a few years for a state of the most confummate mifery, and yet be easy, whilst they were running headlong into fo deplorable a ftate? I would ask any man, did he believe that the house he is compelled to inhabit would, in a few years, be confumed by fire, and that he fhould
fhould inevitably perish in the flames; unless he was continually upon his guard, and used his utmost endeavours to prevent fuch a misfortune, whether this would not make him for ever uneafy? Whether he would not exert himself to the laft degree, in hope to avoid fo deplorable a fate? And whether he would not efteem that perfon as his dearest friend who should point out to him an infallible method to preferve him from fuch deftruction? If then the greatest care is thought too little to fecure us from temporal calamities, how much more will the fincere believer do to fkreen himself from the wrath of an offended and almighty God? It is therefore plain to me, and muft, upon the least confideration, be fo to every one, that either those, who live in a constant courfe of fin, do not believe; or else, that they must be to the laft degree prefumptuous, mad, and foolish. Now I am charitable enough to think, that the want of confideration is the principal cause, and the best reafon that can be given, why fo many in these times fall into Practical Atheism. I would therefore advise such a set of unthinking men to recollect, that their fecurity and eafe will never quench the flames of hell; and, as a very little reflection will convince them that there must be a place of punishment reserved for the desperately wicked they will experience the intolerable pains of it, when it is too late to repent and if a fevere fit of the gout, or ftone, be fuch agonizing pain; if poverty and contempt prove fuch infupportable burdens, that men have preferred death with all its horrors and uncertainties rather than endure them; think, O! timely think, what torments the wrath of a juftly offended God may produce!
As a convincing proof of the truth of these reflections, let us look back to the infancy of Chriftianity, and we fhall find almost incredible numbers fo firmly perfuaded of the being of a God, as to forego, not only all the alluring pleasures that the world could afford them, but life itself, with the nobler profpect of an ever bleffed immortality, Thefe chriftian heroes, before their converfion, reflected as
little, perhaps, on a future ftate, and were as remifs, as the generality of mankind are at prefent; but truth is fo prevailing, that we need only fhew it, in order to convince the most obftinate that some danger awaits their temerity. Now what exalted ideas of God's goodness, and awful fears of his displeasure, muft poffefs the fouls of those, who, to purchase his favour, patiently endured the severest tortures, that the cruelty of man could poffibly devise; who, when they were beheaded, burnt, flead, or fawn asunder, rejoiced that they were thought worthy to fuffer. These confiderations fitly weighed, will furely awaken us from our lethargy; and as they fo nearly concern us, muft undoubtedly prompt us to examine whether they be true or false; and I am fully perfuaded if once we fet heartily about fuch an important enquiry, and use all poffible means to fucceed in it, we shall first of all be convinced of our danger, and then, unless we are stupid and infenfible to the last degree, fhall cry out, as the converts of old did to the apostles ;-" Sirs, what muft we "do to be faved?"
I hope the few obvious reflections which I have offered to you at this time, are sufficient to convince you of the danger and folly of Practical Atheism; I propose therefore, in the next place, to enquire how it happens, that men are so careless and remifs in a point of fuch importance, and where their future felicity is fo nearly concerned. The fource of this unhappy fecurity, and indolence, in affairs relating to another world, I take to be the little care that parents and masters take to inftil betimes into the minds of youth the principles of their most holy religion. I shall therefore beg leave to make a digreffion on this fubject, and fhew the ill confequences, both as to their spiritual and temporal welfare, that attend fuch a fhameful neglect.
I shall then, by way of application, represent to you the anguish and remorse which the Practical Atheist must experience, when overtaken by a violent fit of fickness, or overwhelmed with the in