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PARTICULAR CASES CONSIDERED OF THOSE
THAT NEED CONVERSION.
CHAPTER I. THE UNBELIEVER AND CAVILLER. It is but too evident, that many of those who are in an unconverted state are, literally, disbelievers of the word of God. Whether their disbelief is occasioned by what appears to them the too great strictness and severity of that word, or by the very fact of its requiring that sort of conversion which is so unacceptable to them, or whether it is upheld by what they consider insufficient evidence of divine authority, is not the point at present to be considered; but, simply, the fact that they do not submit to the authority of revelation, and do not admit that they are under any imperative obligation to subřit to it.
That there should be such cases does not sur prise us. Their occurrence confirms the truth of that volume which clearly foretells the repugnance of human nature to its truths, and predicts both the determined enmity of the heart, and the malignant sophistry to which it has recourse for the vindication of its disbelief. Why most infidels reject the Bible is sufficiently obvious, in the preference which they show for both a lawlessness of mind and a lawlessness of life. Their difficulties do not so much respect the question of the evidences as, the question of its nature; they would soon perceive the weight of evidence, if they felt no objection to the purity and spirituality of the gospel. If the Bible were not opposed to sin, no man would be opposed to the Bible. They would entertain not a moment's hostility to its claims, if it did not manifest hostility to their corruptions. I do not intend here to conceal the fact, that some unbelievers profess to have rational arguments against the Bible ; but, in so far as reason is concerned in their unbelief, they are either false conclusions from inadequate and partial knowledge, or they are mere covers and subterfuges for the depravity of the heart. It is quite an impossibility that pure and unsophisricated reason should ever conclude against the authority of revelation. The eye might as soon conclude against the light of the sun, denying that it is light, that it can perceive it, or that it is pleasurable. A person who had been very much connected with unbelievers and infidels, was taken dangerously ill; and feeling that he could not recover, became alarmed for the safety of his soul. His infidel principles gave him no comfort. He began, for the first time, to examine into the Christian religion. He embraced it, and found it to be the power of God to his salvation, enabling him to triumph over the fear of death. In the mean time, his infidel friends, hearing of his sickness, and that he was not likely to recover, showed a degree of feeling and integrity, which it was hoped might prove the first step towards their conversion. They were not aware that their dying friend had become a Christian. They called to see him, and actually told him that they came on purpose to advise him now to embrace Christianity ; " because," said they, " if it be false, it can do you no harm; but if it should prove true, you will be a great gainer.” This was the united advice of a number of unbelievers to their dying friend. What a slender basis, then, must they have had for their objections ! How trifling did those objections appear when weighed against the hope of eternal felicity! But it is not my intention to argue the question of evidence with the reason of the unbeliever. I rather wish to put i to each reader in that state, whether he is not con scious of an inward dislike to Christianity first of all; and whether it is not that dislike which has really stimulated him to seek for or invent objections, to hail the discovery of them with satisfaction, and slight arguments in its favour; and whether, therefore, he may not rather find the source of all his unbelief in the depravity of his own heart, than in any lack of weight in the evidences of revelation.
Let such an unbeliever, if such a one perchance reads these pages, reflect upon the moral guilt of so treating the book which claims to be of divine inspiration. Let him but suppose that such guilt may be chargeable upon him. He cannot but know that human nature is corrupt and preju diced ; that his own may be so in this case; and that, after all, what he has taken for a defect of evidence in revelation, may, possibly, be nothing but the repugnance of his own heart to its truth; which, he must admit, is no reason for rejecting it, and which, indeed, becomes an additional argument why he should receive it, because this depravity of his heart is itself essentially evil, and he is conscious that it is so ; and, further, because the revelation he has rejected condemns nothing in sin but what his own mind may readily perceive to be
evil. Hence, he ought to observe the very serious position in which he is placed, if, under the influence of depravity, or prejudices excited by depravity, he rejects the authority of his Maker. If he can suppose that he is really in such a situationand he cannot affirm that it is at all impossible, or even improbable-surely he will, then, admit tha his case requires the most serious and grave consideration; since, by resisting the truth of God and rejecting what is obviously worthy of God's purity, and sustained by divine authority, he may be incurring the awful displeasure which, he must readily admit, the supreme Being feels towards finite creatures who resist his will, and thrust from them his most precious gifts. The very thought that he may be thus wickedly hardening himself against God, and contending with his Maker, ought, surely, to lead him to pause, and impose upon himself the duty of a most faithful and close scrutiny of his own heart. He ought, as a rational creature, to shrink with horror from the thought of a wicked contempt or defiance of God. He would not, if a father, tolerate for a moment a parallel defiance from one of his own little children; and yet how much nearer do his children approach to an equality with himself than he does to an equality with God! He must, therefore, admit that if he is guilty of rejecting God's commands he stands exposed to the utmost peril of eternal misery. The very possibility of his sinking into such a fearful condemnation demands of him a serious review of the state of his heart; and to that I now call him, forewarning him that, if he shrinks from it, and absolutely declines it, he virtually admits the charge of prejudice to be true, and in his own conscience must be self-condemned ; and therefore, in such a condemnation, he may find the matter and the foundation of a far more serious and awful condemnation yet to come. As, therefore, he is a man of reason and feeling, so gifted by Providence as to foresee impending evil and guard against it, he is seriously and affectionately forewarned to use his reason and reflection in thoroughly investigating his own case, that he may not bring upon himself that final condemnation which such delinquency deserves.. He cannot be insensible to the fact, that human nature does include, and frequently displays great moral pravity. He perceives it, and condemns it in many instances, in his daily intercourse with his fellow-men. He cannot suppose himself altogether exempted from the like depravity; and if it is constantly exhibited in the social intercourse of men with each other, he cannot doubt that it may display itself in his own conduct towards the supreme moral Governor: nor, indeed, can it be denied that the very wickedness which is perpetrated first against man, is virtually directed against God, because it is against his will, and from that circumstance derives a far higher character of guilt and demerit than from its being directed merely against man. Hence, every act of rebellion against the divine laws, whether laws of nature or laws of revelation, must be a matter of far more serious consequence than acts of immorality against the rights of our fellow-creatures, considered simply as done against finite beings, who are our equals, or against the laws of society.