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the world, and what will render all his laws utterly insignificant and vain.

And if the futurity of those punishments which God has declared shall be the portion of wicked men in hell, may be supposed so far to lessen the dread of them, as that the allurement of some present enjoyments may be more prevalent than the terrors of infinitely greater evils as consequent upon them in another world; to this it may be said, that their being future will not make them at all the less to be dreaded by any one that considers them as certain, though at a distance, (and certain they must needs be, being threatened by the God of truth,) for the fancied distance may in reality be next to nothing, no more than a watch in the night; and, at furthest, but a very little time will make them present. And then the misery that will overtake the crime being infinitely greater than the pleasure or advantage that attended the commission of it; the one being empty and transient, and the other most exquisite and eternal; surely no man in his senses, that really believes all this, but would of these two evils choose that which is beyond comparison the least : and rather endure the trouble of denying himself the satisfaction of a few unreasonable and brutish desires for a little while, than incur that most terrible and irreversible sentence which will certainly pass upon him if he continues to indulge them.

When therefore we see a man, in the words of the text, abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate, whatever his profession may be, how smooth a turn soever he may give it, whatever religious pretences he may make, we may reasonably conclude his opinion is, that if there be a God he is a very ignorant one, and so far off above, that he knows nothing of men's behaviour here below ; or else has so little regard to justice and the honour of his word, that he will take no further notice of their evil practices; or else that he is impotent, and cannot execute what he thought fit to terrify his creatures with. And this is in a very provoking manner to deny him and dethrone him; righteousness and judgment being the establishment of his seati.

And thus have I endeavoured to shew, that a bare, notional belief and verbal profession that there is a God, will not excuse from the guilt of atheism, if our actions be not suitably holy and good : for those that profess they know God, if they are abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate, do in their works deny him.

II. I come now, in the next place, to shew, that such practical atheism as this has rather more of guilt in it than the speculative and notional; and consequently deserves, and will certainly at length receive, a more heavy punishment.

I know there are some, that instead of thinking practical atheism to be the worst way of denying the being of a God, believe it to be the only one ; and, since the invisible things of that most glorious Being, even his eternal power and Godhead, are so clearly seen in the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are madek, as St. Paul expresses it, none can be such fools that are not born so, as to say, or believe in their hearts, there is no God.

i Psalm xcvii. 2.

k Rom. i. 20.

But though it is very strange indeed that any should deny their assent to a proposition so plainly and in such various ways demonstrated as this; yet, if we may credit what they publicly profess, there have been, and are, such impious and unreasonable men: and since in other matters we often see that men's corrupt affections do blind their understandings, and vitiate their notions and apprehensions of things; and that we are very ready to believe what we like and approve of, as tending to our present pleasure and advantage, and as apt to reject the contrary: and since a constant dislike of, and inadvertency to any truth, and the as constant and careful collecting, and treasuring up, and improving whatever may make for the opposite error, and which we heartily wish were true, must needs, by degrees, wear out the impressions of the neglected and forsaken truth : and since withal it is but just with God to do, as St. Paul assures us he sometimes does, that is, give up those to a reprobate mind? who have given themselves up to a reprobate life, and suffer them to be led by delusions, and to believe a lie: upon these accounts it is but too probable that there have been, and still are, such as we call speculative atheists, that have brought themselves to think there is no God.

Now, though this sort of atheist deserves to be esteemed, as he generally is, a scandal to human kind, yet we shall find, upon further inquiry, that the practical atheist, professing that he knows God, and yet in his works denying him, is guilty with greater aggravation than the other. For, first, practical atheism is carried on in a base,

| Rom. i. 28.

treacherous way, and is the height of enmity and rebellion against God, concealed under a fair pretence of duty, obedience, and love; a striking at his honour and authority, and very being too, as far as our impotent malice can reach, when we make a fair outward show of paying him our most humble and devout adoration and worship.

It is like Joab's stabbing Abner and Amasam, with expressions of friendship and kindness in his mouth, and an address that shewed great respect and esteem; or Judas's betraying his divine Master with a kiss.

Now treachery all the world looks upon as the top of villainy, extremely provoking, and for which no plea or excuse can be made, or would be accepted if it were.

Holy David of old, as he suffered much by it, so he very deeply resented it, and uttered the bitterest execrations against it, as we may read in the 41st and 55th Psalms. And still men's apprehensions of such carriage are the same, and so are God's too : and our meek Redeemer could not, or at least did not think fit to pass by the villainy of the traitor Judas, without upbraiding him with it in these cutting words, (and which, one would think, were enough to make him desist from his wicked undertaking,) Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss ! And St. Peter's thrice openly denying him, and that with oaths and imprecations too, though a most horrid and abominable crime, yet the treachery of Judas caused a much higher resentment in him, and was esteemed by him as the far greater wickedness of the two. The one being soon received to pardon

2 Sam. jii. 27. XX. 9, 10.

m

by the merciful Jesus, who knew and pitied the frailty of his sincere though timorous disciple, and made kind allowances for the surprise and fear he was under : but the plotted villainy and treachery of the other was unpardonable, even by him who came to lay down his life for sinners, and with his dying breath, in the midst of his expiring agonies, prayed for the forgiveness of the rest of his cruel enemies ; but pronounced of him who he foresaw and foretold would thus betray him, that it were good for him if he never had been born n. But,

Secondly, practical atheism is attended with the most provoking mockery and derision. The seeming veneration the man pretends to have for God, his outward worship and adoration of him, his invoking him by his glorious titles and attributes, and then committing what is an abomination to him, and flying out into open acts of hostility and violence against him: these things, so ill suited together, make just such another scene of mockery, derision, and contempt, as that we read of in Matt. xxvii. 27, &c. where, after our blessed Redeemer was delivered to be crucified, the barbarous soldiers stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe, a garment of royal dignity, and set a crown of thorns upon his head, and for a sceptre put a reed in his right hand ; and then, to complete the cruel and abusive farce, bowed the knee before him, and said, Hail, king of the Jews! and immediately spit upon him, and took away his mock sceptre, and struck him with it on the head, to make his prickly crown sit closer, and pierce deeper in it; and then took off his robe, and put his own mean raiment on him, and led him

n Mark xiv. 21.

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