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cover, what is very true, but what by most men is found out too late, namely, that a good conscience, and the hope of our Creator's final favour and acceptance, are the only solid happiness to be attained in this world. Experience corresponds with the reason of the thing. I take upon me to say, that religious men are generally cheerful. If this be not observed, as might be expected, supposing it to be true, it is because the cheerfulness which religion inspires does not show itself in noise or in fits and starts of merriment, but is calm and constant. Of this the only true and valuable kind of cheerfulness, for all other kinds are hollow and unsatisfying, religious men possess not less but a greater share than others.
Another destroyer of religious seriousness, and which is the last I shall mention, is a certain fatal turn which some minds take, namely, that when they find difficulties in or concerning religion, or any of the tenets of religion, they forthwith plunge into irreligion; and make these difficulties, or any degree of uncertainty which seems
to their apprehension to hang over the subject, a ground and occasion for giving full liberty to their inclinations, and for casting off the restraints of religion entirely. This is the case with men, who, at the best, perhaps, were only balancing between the sanctions of religion and the love of pleasure or of unjust gain, but especially the former. In this precarious state, any objection, or appearance of objection, which diminishes the force of the religious impression, determines the balance against the side of virtue, and gives up the doubter to sensuality, to the world, and to the flesh. Now, of all ways which a man can take, this is the surest way to destruction ; and it is completely irrational. I say it is completely irrational; for when we meditate upon the tremendous consequences which form the subject of religion, we cannot avoid this reflection, that any degree of probability whatever, I had almost said any degree of possibility whatever, of religion being true, ought to determine a rational creature so to act as to secure himself from punishment in a future state, and the loss of that happiness which may be
attained. Therefore he has no pretence for alleging uncertainty as an excuse for his conduct, because he does not act in conformity with that in which there is no uncertainty at all. In the next place, it is giving to apparent difficulties more weight than they are entitled to. I only request any man to consider, first, the necessary allowances to be made for the short-sightedness and the weakness of the human understanding; secondly, the nature of those subjects concerning which religion treats, so remote from our senses, so different from our experience, so above and beyond the ordinary train and course of our ideas! and then say, whether difficulties, and great difficulties also, were not to be expected; nay further, whether they be not in some measure subservient to the very purpose of religion. The reward of everlasting life, and the punishment of misery of which we know no end, if they were present and immediate, could not be withstood, and would not leave any room for liberty or choice. But this sort of force upon the will is not what God designed; is suitable indeed to the nature of free,
moral, and accountable agents. The truth is, and it was most likely beforehand that it would be so, that amidst some points which are dark, some which are dubious, there are many which are clear and certain. Now, I apprehend, that, if we act faithfully up to those points concerning which there is no question, most especially if we determine upon and choose our rule and course of life according to those principles of choice which all men whatever allow to be wise and safe principles, and the only principles which are so; and conduct ourselves stedfastly according to the rule thus chosen, the difficulties which remain in religion will not move or disturb us much; and will, as we proceed, become gradually less and fewer. Whereas, if we begin with objections; if all we consider about religion be its difficulties; but, most especially, if we permit the suggestion of difficulties to drive us into a practical rejection of religion itself, and to afford us, which is what we wanted, an excuse to ourselves for casting off its restraints; then the event will be, that its difficulties will multiply upon us; its light grow more and
more dim, and we shall settle in the worst and most hopeless of all conditions; the last condition, I will venture to say, in which any man living would wish his son, or any one whom he loved, and for whose happiness he was anxious, to be placed; a life of confirmed vice and dissoluteness; founded in a formal renunciation of religion.
He that has to preach Christianity to persons in this state, has to preach to stones. He must not expect to be heard, either with complacency or seriousness, or patience, or even to escape contempt and derision. Habits of thinking are fixed by habits of acting; and both too solidly fixed to be moved by human persuasion. God in his mercy, and by his providences, as well as by his spirit, can touch and soften the heart of stone. And it is seldom perhaps, that, without some strong, and it may be, sudden impressions of this kind, and from this source, serious sentiments ever penetrate dispositions hardened in the manner which we have here described.