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away to crucify him, Just such a king does he make of God, and just such honour does he give him, who professes that he knows, and acknowledges him as God, and yet by his abominable disobedience and wicked works denies him. And how infinitely provoking such carriage as this must needs be to the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity', I need not say. But,
Thirdly and lastly, to profess and own God with our lips, and deny him in our actions, tends, more than open atheism, to the dishonour and disinterest of religion; and therefore is more odious in his sight.
Suppose a sober heathen, that is a stranger to the pure precepts of Christianity, should observe the professors of it so egregiously guilty, as we know too many are, of all sorts almost of immorality, violating those laws of good life which bare nature lays upon men, and committing such wickednesses as are not so much as named among the Gentiles, how will he abominate a religion that allows of such vile practices; and that it does allow them he may well believe, because the most that profess it do so frequently commit them. Whereas a man that declares himself to be of no religion cannot disparage any, be his life ever so lewd and wicked : and his debauchery, how great soever, can reflect disgrace upon nothing but what extremely deserves it, that execrable principle from which it springs.
Besides, the wickedness of one that pretends to religion, and, it may be, in a degree beyond what is ordinary, is of far worse consequence to unstable Christians, than the barefaced impiety of one that is
• Isai. lvii. 15.
an atheist professed. For sin, when it appears in its proper colours, its native ugliness and deformity, looks so horrid and affrighting, that it is fitter to scare men to an eternal distance from it, than to allure them to its nearer embraces; and therefore the heathens could observe, that no man can arrive to the height of wickedness all at once, but must be led on, and hardened in it, by little and little, till he comes to commit it without fear or shame, and is re- conciled to the loathsomeness of that foul monster by degrees.
Whereas, when it is smoothed and polished over with the fine names of lawful and innocent freedoms, genteel accomplishments, wit and gallantry, and puts on the fair mantle of religion too, those that commit it appearing at church like persons of great piety and goodness, with bended knees, and eyes and hands lift up to heaven, and the like; then the gilded bait will be more readily swallowed : and the ill example of those in conversation, who look so much like saints in the places of public devotion, will be followed without scruple or inquiry. And one religious atheist, if I may use that expression, will do religion much more injury, and his father the Devil far better service, than all the professed ranting ones in the world.
And now, let us all, with the utmost seriousness, as in the presence of God, the great searcher of hearts, by whom we shall be judged at the last great day, and rewarded according to our works; let us all make diligent and impartial inquiry, whether we are not, in some measure at least, guilty of this practical atheism, which we have been now discoursing of: and though we profess that we know God, have we not in our works too frequently denied him ? And if we find we have, (as who is there but will, in some degree or other,) let our repentance be proportionate to our guilt, and for the future let us be zealous of good works, instead of being reprobate to them. Let us make it our great endeavour, in sincere purity and holiness, to make daily nearer and nearer advances to a resemblance of him who is the fountain of it; and let our continual watchfulness over our thoughts and words, as well as actions, and care to conform them to the divine rule, and constant awe of the tremendous majesty of God, as present in our most secret retirements, prove the reality of our belief of his existence, and endear us to him by our being like him. That so at last we may be admitted to see him as he is, in his glorious kingdom above, and there grow more and more like him in holiness and happiness to all eternity. Amen, blessed Jesus. Amen.
Holding faith, and a good conscience ; which some having
put away concerning faith have made shipwreck. THAT
a true knowledge of, and sound belief in, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, is a thing of the greatest moment and importance to us, we are assured by the same blessed Jesus, who tells us it is life eternal. And if so, we may be sure of this likewise, that whatever tends to create such a true knowledge and belief, or to increase, confirm, and perfect it, should be embraced as the greatest treasure; and whatever will weaken or destroy it should be shunned and avoided with the greatest care. And as this ought always to be seriously considered by us, and our practice guided by it, so more especially and more heedfully in times of open irreligion and profaneness ; when vice and error have the patronage of those who should discourage and punish them, and truth and virtue are despised, neglected, nay, opposed by those whose duty it is, in a more especial manner, to support, defend, and reward them. Then, if ever, should every good Christian be upon his guard, and take
a John xvii. 3.
in all possible aid and assistance, and arm himself with the firmest resolutions of being steadfast and unmoveable in the faith and service of his Redeemer; that he may be able to resist in the day of trial, and keep himself untouched with the reigning infection, and preserve his faith pure and entire till his coming, who will reward it with glory.
Such perilous times are these in which we live; and therefore it becomes us to provide for our security with all possible caution and care; and not only bemoan the melancholy state of things, with respect to religion and every thing that is serious and good, but immediately put on that spiritual armour which our victorious leader and his brave followers have recommended to our use; as, by their own experience, proof against the fiercest assaults of our enemies; and betake ourselves to those weapons which they, who manage well, and with the courage that becomes a Christian, need never doubt of suc
Let us all, therefore, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might b; and put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood only, against profane and wicked men, but against principalities, and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high placesd. Stand therefore, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness e; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peacef; above all, taking the shield of faith 8, and for a Ephes. vi. 10.
c Ver. U. & Ver. 16.
d Ver. 12.
e Ver. 14.
f Ver. 15