« הקודםהמשך »
(that God is merciful; and confequently that he will . pardon finners, upon their repentance and amendment « of life.' Let us then consider this case impartially. I think, there is no need of arguments to convince
you are a sinner. Do but consider the natural tendency of your affections, appetites and passions; and review the past conduct of your life; and a demonstration of this fad truth will unavoidably ftare you in the face. Let any man enter into himself , and seriously consider the natural operations of his own mind; and he must neceffarily find, that instead of a frequent and delightful contemplation of the perfections of the di. vine nature, instead of a thankful acknowledgment of his obligations to the divine goodness and beneficence, and instead of that sublime pleasure and fatisfaction, that should flow from the remembrance of his Creator and Benefactor, his affections are naturally following mean, low and unreafonable, if not vile and wicked entertainments and gratifications. He will find, that all communications with his glorious Creator are naturally painful and uneasy to him: while every trifling amusement, and the vileft fensual object of his thoughts, find a more easy entrance, and a more peaceable rest in his foul. From hence it is most evident, that the heart is revolted from God; and that we have substituted the creature in his stead, as the object of our pursuit and delight. And besides this; who are there among the best of the children of men, whose consciences will not charge them with innumerable actual tranfgressions of the law of nature ? From this view of the cafe, you niult: therefore certainly find yourself in a state of moral pollution and guilt.
And can you in such a state as this, reflect upon a God of infinite purity and justice with comfort and cou. rage? Won't conscience fly in your face, and upbraid you with your guilt and danger? don't your reason tell: you that the
of the world is. too holy to approve, and too just to overlook such a fix. ed aversion to him; and such numerous fills and provo-cations against him, as you cannot but charge to your Qwn account?
But God is merciful. True, he is fo, to all proper objects of mercy; and in a way agreeable to the laws of his immutable justice and holiness. But can you suppose, that God will give up his justice and holiness, as a sacrifice to his mercy, out of compassion to those; who deserve no pity from him, to thofe who refuse the offers of his mercy in the Gospel, because disagreeable to their sinful desires and imaginations ?
But « Repentance will entitle the finner to pardon, 6. without any other Atonement.' Are you fure of this? Certain it is, that mankind, have always, in all ages, thought otherwise. What else was the meaning of those facrifices that have every where obtain'd; and what the meaning of those superstitious austerities, and severe penances, that have been so commonly practis'd in the heathen world, if some atonement befide repentance, was not thought neceffary to pacify an offended deity ? Consider, I intreat you, that as fin is contrary to the divine nature, it must be the object of God's displeafure. As it is contrary to the rules of his governing the world, it must deserve punishment.. If God be the rec. tor and governour of the world, he muft. have some laws to govern by. If he has laws to govern by, they must have some penalties to enforce them. If his laws have penalties annexed to them, these must be executed ; or else they would be but fcare-crows, without truth or justice. I entreat you also to consider, how the
repen. tance of a guilty criminal can answer the demands of justice. What satisfaction will our sorrow for fin afford to the divine being ? How will it repair the dishonour done to the perfections of his nature? How will it rectify our depraved appetites and passions; and qualify us for the enjoyment of his favour? How will it vindicate his holiness, and difcover to the rational world, his na. turakaversion to fin and Ginners? Or how will the fear of God's displeafure be a sufficient restraint to men's lits and vitious appetites, if finners may suppose, that when they have gratified their lusts, and taken their fwing: in fin, they can repent when they please ; and. thiereby have an easy access to the favour of God ? In a word, whi teyidencecan you poffibly pretend to. froma.
the light of nature, that repentance only will satisfy the divine justice ; and reconcile you to God ?
But after all, were it even supposed that repentance would neceffarily give us a claim to mercy without any other satisfaction to God's justice, it must then be another sort of repentance, than you seem to suppose. You muft then allow, that this repentance must be a thorough change of heart and life. For you can hardly suppose, that we are qualified for God's favour, while all the powers of our souls are in direct opposition and aversion to him. And is this repentance in our power? Can we at pleasure renew our own fouls ; and give ourfelves new affections, difpofitions, desires and delights? Can we change the bent and bias of our inclinations to the objects of fense, and bring ourselves to love God a. bove all things; and to take our chief delight and com placency in him? This must be obtain'd, in order to enjoy the favour of God. And yet it is manifefly out of our reach. It must be the effect of an almighty power.
I hope, you may now fee the necessity of a Saviour, both to expiate your fin and guilt, which your repentance can never do; and to fanctify your depraved soul ; and make you meet for the service and enjoyment of God. If these are obtain’d, you muft be certainly and eternaily fafe: but if you dare venture into eternity without them, I must needs say you don't want courage.
You see, I have addresled you with an unreserv'd freedom and familiarity. I have overlook'd the distance of your character ; and treated you as if we were in the fan.e state of equality now, as we shall quickly find ourfelves before the tribunal of our glorious Judge. The caule requires this at my hands; and I fhould have been unfaithful, I had almost said unmerciful to you, if I had not fail'd of the decorum, which would have been my duty to have observ'd in any other case. I fall therefore depend upon your candid interpretation of this unpo. lished address"; and your kind acceptance of the faith ful designs and desires of,
LETTER II. Wherein a brief and general View
is given, of the EVIDENCES of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
tell me, My letter had almost thrown you
into a fit of the spleen.' But I can't but hope, from your awful concern, left you meet with the con
fusion I have therein described,' that it will have a better effect. I acknowledge, that a pathetick decla. (mation cannot be received for argument. And that,
your faith must be built upon evidences, that will
reach the understanding, as well as the softer passions " of the soul.' But what evidence do you desire or want, of the truth of Christianity ? Consider, Sir. Consult your books and
demands as large, as you or they can contrive. And whatever rational evidence you are pleased to ask for, shall be at your service. I have myself with particular application been considering, what reasonable evidence can poslibly be consulted or desired, which the glorious God has not already given us, in confirmation of the Chriftian insti. tution; and I find nothing wanting, which we are capable of receiving. And I can't but presume, that if you likewise would impartially and in earneit put yourself upon the same inquiry, you must ineet with a full and compleat fatisfaction.
You will certainly acknowledge, that the great Creator is capable some way or other to communicate his will to intelligent beings, with sufficient evidence that the revelation is from him. Now what I defire of you is io sit down, and consult upon some such means of doing this, as would strike your mind with the strongest conviction, obviate all your doubts, and give you the fulleft confirmation of the divine original of such a revela tion. When you are come to a point, consider the credentials of Christianity : and see whether you can find what you yourself would demand, and what you suppose most likely to give you satisfaction,
Would you expect from such a revelation, a reasonable account of our first original ? Look into the Mosaic history of the creation, and there you will find, how the world, and how yourself originally sprang from the divine Fiat and in what manner we are the offspring of God.
Would you expect a narrative of such circumstances of God's dispensations towards us from the beginning, as would be correspondent with our constant experience and observation ? The same history will inform you of those irregular affections, and vitiated appetites and pasfions, which every nian finds in himself; and which have brought such destruction and misery upon the world, in all its successive periods, Gnce Adam's fall.
Would you expect, that there should be early intimations of the method of our recovery from the state of fin and guilt, which we had brought ourselves into by our apostacy? You will there also find the gracious promise, that the feed of the woman ball break the serpent's head; and deliver us from the deadly effects of his malicious temptation.
Would you desire to find a particular prediction of the promised Saviour, by whom we are to obtain a redemption; his lineage and defcent, the time, place and manner of his birth, the circumstances of his life, death and resurrection, a particular defcription of the nature, the subjects, and the continual progress of his kingdom? Read the prophecies of the Old Testament; and read the history in the New ; and you will find such a correspondence and agreement, as will afford you matter of fullest satisfaction, that they are both from God.
Would you expect, that there should be some means, to keep the promised Saviour in the continued view of God's people, before his actual and perfonal manifestation; and to keep alive their faith and hope in him? What were all their facrifices, their legal purifications, their priesthood, and all their long train of rites and ceremonies, but institutions purposely adapted to that end?
Would you expect repeated and renewed testimonies from heaven, to the professing people of God, that their religion was from him ; and that their faith and hope,