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corous, to repeat a creed in a very deliberate and serious manner. He who says, “I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the life everlasting," is expected to do it solemnly. But let us listen to the no-creed of the sceptic. Let a man take his stand beyond the boundaries of all religious truth; beyond the boundaries of light, where all is darkness, before and around him ; let him stand there, dimly seen, a cursing spirit, on the borders, to his view, of eternal night; let him lift up his hand to those heavens shining with ten thousand harmonious systems of worlds—and amidst the ten thousand voices of Nature, let him say, “ I believe in nothing but in darkness, and desolation, and death ; I believe in no God; I believe in no Saviour; I believe in no hope hereafter: death is an eternal sleep; the Bible is a fiction ; the adoration of a God is but the dream of bigots and enthusiasts!” –let him say this ! — but can he say it without trembling -can he say it without pain, without regret, without one struggle to hold on to the last parting hope of existence? If he can, yet let him know that no one can hear him without trembling; and so awful a spectacle would it be, if a man should thus stand before us, that it would not be strange to us, if the voices of nature, if the mutterings of distant thunder should answer back, and speak in the name of that awful and omnipresent One whose being he denies.

But there may be some men, nay, there are men in this very community, reckless enough in their fearful consistency, and strong enough in their insane courage, to aver that they can say all this without horror or regret. If so, let us see what sort of men they are that can make this averment: let us make a discrimination here, for at this point it becomes necessary.

There are, then, two kinds of unbelievers; the intellectual and refined, and the sensual and brutish unbeliever.

The intellectual and refined unbeliever is one who has usually become such from some peculiarity of mind, or misfortune of education, from some misapprehension of revealed religion or mysticism about Nature, which prevent him, as I think, from feeling the force of plain evidence. The difficulty lies in his mind, and it is a difficulty which he most sincerely regrets. He wishes he could believe. Perhaps he does believe, almost without knowing it. Perhaps he does believe more than he imagines. Perhaps he embraces almost every important truth of the gospel

, while he thinks himself obliged, by the laws of evidence, to reject its supernatural origin. But the point which I am concerned at present to insist upon is this, that the intellectual and refined unbeliever always regrets his unbelief. He feels, beyond expression, the wants of an intellectual nature, and he sighs with every aspiration of a burdened soul-in silence, and sadness, and bitterness of heart-he sighs for relief. Now this man is not at ease with regard to religion. Indifference to the subject is the last thing of which to accuse him. He is as far from inditterence, perhaps, as the most faithful and devoted Christian. And I would beseech such a one, if I addressed any such, never to suffer himself carelessly to consider his state of mind as an apology for religious negligence. His is the last state of mind that can fairly furnish such an apology. He is bound by every rational consideration to be an anxious seeker of the truth and of the true way. He is not, it is true, in a condition most favourable to improvement ; but he is in a condition that utterly and for ever forbids all indifference.


It is, therefore, the sensual unbeliever only that can be indifferent, or that can pretend to have any reason for being so.

And here it may seem that we are stopped and foreclosed altogether from proceeding any farther with argument or expostulation. But if it be so, let us stand a moment, and see if we can help standing aghast at the object that is presented before us. It is a being; it is a moral being—we know it, if he does not—his every effort to defend himself proves that he is moral -it is a moral being—it is a man. Look at him. He is a moral being and a man, and declares—this is the supposition—God forbid that it should often be reality ; but this is the supposition-he declares that he does not believe any thing religious to be true; that he does not wish it. to be true; that he is persuaded that it is not true; and that he cares nothing about it. He declares that he has no deep intellectual wants of which other men talk ; that he has no glorious aspirations which nothing but heaven can meet; that he has no high and generous affections, which nothing but virtue can satisfy; that all this about virtue and improvement, about hope and heaven, is a mistake, and a fancy, and a dream. He declares, finally, that the senses are to him everything ; that he believes (to use the words of an unsexed female lecturer in some of our theatres)—that he believes in what he sees, and that is all he does believe in. Presumptuous and preposterous nonsense! as if thoughts in the mind, ay, and wants in the mind, were not things as really existing as the objects of vision: and our sceptic declares, moreover, that he seeks for nothing, hopes for nothing but the indulgences of sense, and that, to wallow in sensual pleasures all his lif and then die for ever, is all that he wants !

Let no one start at this representation, and say that it is all hypothesis, and that nobody ever felt thus; for if it be hypothesis—if no man ever felt thus—then there is not a being in the world that can protect his religious indifference under even the flimsiest garb of reason. There is no defence for religious indifference, unless it be found in that utter, appalling, revolting, self-damning scepticism. But suppose that scepticism to exist; that defence to be set up; that case represented to be reality; then I say, in fine, what a reality is it for a man to sit down with, in indifference! Gracious heavens! for a man to declare himself a brute, and to make that a reason for being unconcerned ; to take refuge from the calls of religion among the herd of animals ; to deny himself the very attributes of humanity, that he, a human being, may be at ease in his sins, his irreligion, and spiritual lethargy — why, what is it but to make an argument that carries with it its own strongest refutation? Truly such an argument for indifference ought to break it up

The horror of having used it—though every other resort had failed—the very horror of having used it, like the last warning of death in the ear, should startle the self-indulgent sleeper from his repose, and never suffer him again to sink towards that fatal security!

But, my brethren—to add one word more, and more accordant with the situation of an assembly of professed believers—if the argument of scepticism is so fearful, surely the indifference of faith is, if possible, yet more so.

Not life, with all its teachings, not the love of happiness, not even the belief in a God, in duty, in retribution, in an immortal soul-no,

for ever.


be a

nor the denial of all these things, is so fearful, as it is, amidst the acknowledgment of such truths, to be unconcerned-to sleep amidst the calls of nature, of life and death, of time and eternity! Even scepticism, we have said, has cause to be distressed to be overwhelmed with its gloomy doubts ; but indifference, with fuith, is a step beyond allinore rash, if possible, more heaven-defying than any other. There is a hope for it, indeed, which there is not for utter scepticism; but it is a hope amidst perils and threatenings. There is a salvation for it which utter unbelief rejects; but it must be salvation, if possible, from more aggravated sins. Yes, the light of truth is around this man, and the warning depths are beneath, but he sins on, and sleeps on-sleeps on, upon the very brink of destruction! What shall save him? What power shall interpose for his rescue? No hand of miracle will be stretched out to pluck him from that edge of peril and perdition. No power to save stirs within him, while he thus sleeps in security. What, then, shall save him? Consider it, I beseech you, if you negligent hearer ; consider it, before it is too late. Surely indifference never saved any man: it has destroyed millions. Surely, everything must be wrong in him whom nothing will arouse, neither to righteousness, nor to the consciousness of wanting it, nor to the fear of consequences. The last hold upon such a man, while such, is lost; and futurity must awaken him to condemnation, whom the present cannot awaken to repentance, to prayer, and to the care of his soul.

But let me not, with such terms, close this meditation. Assailing religious indifference in its strongholds, as I have to-day, I have felt, and too naturally felt, perhaps, that my words were to fall, not on the tenderness of the human heart, but, as it were, on the scales of leviathan. But that tenderness—where is it not ?-in what assembly is it not? My friends, I know-of many of you at least—I know that ye are not indifferent. Life is to you that moving scene which it is to every thoughtful and feeling mind. The Bible is to you the book of your faith and trust. Blessed trust! touching experience! and they are yours. No, ye are not indifferent. But then I beseech you, act not as if ye were so. Think it not enough to admit to-day that you ought to be interested in this great subject. Show that you are so, to-morrow, and every day. Let it appear, I entreat you, that ye are men who believe in your Bibles. Let your life give testimony to the GREAT PRINCIPLE which should guide you. In all things, show your fidelity to it. In business, be conscientious; in pleasure, temperate; in suffering, patient; in prosperity, thankful; in all things religious. If ye call on the Father; if here, in the holy sanctuary, and if, in the silence of your own dwellings, ye call on the Father, who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear, in wisdom, in acts of piety, in works of righteousness.



“ Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."


I UNDERSTAND these words, my brethren, as laying down, in some respects, a stricter law of retribution than is yet received even by those who are considered as its strictest interpreters. There is much dispute about this law at the present day; and there are many who are jealous, and very properly jealous, of every encroachment upon its salutary principles. But even those who profess to hold the strictest faith on this subject, and who, in my judgment, do hold a faith concerning what they call the infinity of man's ill-desert, that is warranted neither by reason ror scripture,—even they, nevertheless, do often present views of conversion, and of God's mercy, and of the actual scene of retribution, which, in my apprehension, detract from the wholesome severity of the rule by which we are to be judged. Their views may be strong enough, too strong; and yet not strict enough, nor impressive enough. Tell a man that he deserves to suffer infinitely, and I am not sure that it will, by any means, come so near his conscience as to tell him that he deserves to endure some small but specific evil. Tell him that he deserves an infinity of suffering, and he may blindly assent to it; it is a vast and vague something that presses upon his conscience, and has no edge nor point; but put a sword into the hand of conscience, and how might this easy assenter to the justice of infinite torments, grow astonished and angry, if you were to tell him that he deserves to suffer but the amputation of a single finger! Or, tell the sinner that he shall suffer for his offences a thousand ages hence, and though it may be true, and will be true, if he goes on offending till that period, yet it will not come home to his heart with half so vivid an impression, or half so effectual a restraint, as to make him foresee the pain, the remorse, and shame, that he will suffor the very next hour. Tell him, in fine, as it is common to do-tell him of retribution in the gross, and however strong the language, he may listen to it with apathy,—he often does so ; but if you could show him what sin is doing within him at every moment; how every successive offence lays on another and another shade upon the brightness of the soul; how every transgression, as if it held the

very sword of justice, is cutting off, one by one, the fine and invisible fibres that bind the soul to happiness; then, by all the love of happiness, such a man must be interested and concerned for himself. Or, tell the bad man that he must be converted, or he cannot be happy hereafter, and you declare to him an impressive truth; but how much would it add to the impression, if, instead of leaving him to suppose that bare conversion—in the popular sense of that term--that the brief work of an hour would bring him to heaven, you should say to him, “ You shall be just as happy hereafter, as you are pure and upright, and no more; you shall be just as happy as your character prepares you to be, and no more; your moral, like your mental, character, though it may take its date or its impulse from a certain moment, is not formed in å moment; your character, that is to say the habit of your mind, is the result of many thoughts, and feelings, and efforts, and these are bound together by many natural and strong ties; so that it is strictly true, and this is the great law of retribution, that all coming experience is to be affected by every present feeling; that every future moment of being must answer for every present moment; that one moment, sacrificed to sin, or lost to improvement, is for ever sacrificed and lost; that one year's delay, or one hour's wilful delay, to enter the right path is to put you back so far, in the everlasting pursuit of happiness; and that every sin—ay, every sin of a good man, is thus to be answered for, though not according to the full measure of its ill-desert, yet, according to a rule of unbending rectitude and impartiality.” This is, undoubtedly, the strict and solemn Law of Retribution: but how much its strictness has really entered—I say not now into our hearts and lives— I will take up that serious question in another season of meditation—but how much the strictness of the principle of retribution has entered into our theories, our creeds,our speculations, is a matter that deserves attention.

It is worthy of remark, indeed, that there is no doctrine which is more universally received, and, at the same time, more universally evaded, than this very doctrine which we are considering. It is universally received, because the very condition of human existence involves it, because it is a matter of experience; every after-period of life being affected, and known to be affected, by the conduct of every earlier period; manhood by youth, and age by manhood; professional success, by the preparation for it; domestic happiness, by conjugal fidelity, and parental care. It is thus seen, that life is a tissue into which the thread of this connexion is everywhere interwoven. It is thus seen, that the law of retribution presses upon every man, whether he thinks of it or not; that it pursues him through all the courses of life, with a step that never falters nor tires, and with an eye that never sleeps nor slumbers. The doctrine of a future retribution has been universally received, too, because it has been felt that in no other way could the impartiality of God's government be vindicated ; that if the best and worst men in the world, if the ruthless oppressor and his innocent victim, if the proud and boasting injurer, and the meek and patient sufferer are to go to the same reward, to the same approbation of the good and just God, there is an end of all discrimination, of all moral government, and of all light upon the mysteries of providence. It has been felt, moreover, that character carries with it, and in its most intimate nature, the principles of retribution, and that it must work out weal or woe for its possessor.

But this doctrine, so universally received, has been, I say, as universally evaded. The classic mythologies of paganism did, indeed, teach that there were infernal regions; but few were doomed to them, and for those few, who, failing of the rites of sepulture, or of some other ceremonial qualification, were liable to that doom, an escape was provided, by their wandering on the banks of the Styx awhile, as preparatory to their entering Elysium. So, too, the creed of the Catholics, though it spoke of hell, had also its purgatory to soften the horrors of


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