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its subjects in the way to Infidelity. The Christian religion in this depraved world demands assid. uous cultivation. Youth must be piously restrained: And they must be taught with line upon line, and precept upon precept. The things of God must be often unfolded and pressed upon them. Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Family religion, holy precepts and examples, a pious family government, the sanctification of the Sabbath, and the vigilant cultivation of all regular habits; these are means, which God has appointed for the salvation of the rising generation: These are - means, which the God of nature has kindly adapted to the support of the Christian faith in families. These means are essential barriers against Infidelity.
But how notorious has been the neglect of these means, in our nation, in late years? How few houses are houses of God? How lamentably has family religion gone to decay? How few of the hundreds of thou. sands of the American youth, are favored with a strictly religious education? The Sabbath is profaned by many thousands in our land. And the evil has long been rapidly increasing. The public worship of God has, with a great portion of the people, grown into disuse. The means of supporting the Gospel ministry, are covetously withheld by a large part of the community; who thus prefer the darkness of Paganism, to the light of salvation. In short, the doctrines of the Gospel have been perverted; and the main pillars of the Christian system have been attempted to be overthrown.
Yet man has a conscience; and guilty beings under its lashes dread the judgment. Who among us can dwell with devouring fire? Who can inherit everlasting burnings? These are questions not instantly disposed of. The conscience is not seared as with a hot iron at once: This is usually a work of time. And some kind of religion, in the mean time, must be had, to quiet the alarms of guilt. But to embrace the hum
bling doctrines of the cross; uniforınly to endure the restraints, and perform the duties of the pure religion of Christ, is intolerable to the proud heart, to the ignorant and the perverse. Some substitute then must be adopted; some kind of religion invented, more consonant with the feelings of the wicked; which yet may sooth their consciences. How perfectly are such people prepared to fall a sacrifice to the wiles of some subtile imposture. They have become habituated to despise the genuine doctrines, and the regular order of Christ. And yet, not having quite reached gross Infidelity, they seem to want some religion. The fanatic preacher arrives. And there are multitudes of them at this day! He declaims against those doctrines of grace, which are most offensive to the carnal heart; and harangues upon imaginary doctrines, which are much more pleasing. He proposes a cheap and easy religion; one which allows to man much of that inde. pendence and importance, which he claims; a religion, which saves man the labor of diligently searching and comparing the word of God, and of studying his own heart. All is done both by preacher and hearer by immediate inspiration! Proselytes become at once first rate Christians; yea, fit for teachers; being admitted to a high and peculiar intimacy with God! They reach at once the top of the mount. Every passion is addressed, and wrought up to the highest pitch. These new fangled Christians are confident, dogmatical, and above the reach of salutary instruction. The regular teachers of religion are by them accounted hirelings, and ignorant of spiritual things. The improvements of such people usually are, to learn the most common cavils against the doctrines of grace. In this they often make great proficiency. And they become a prey to enthusiasm and error, of one denomination or another, according to the notions of their teachers.
Such people are in the high road to Infidelity. Their religion is no better than a dream. Their God is only a fiction; a creature of their own imagination; and no better than an idol. The essential glories of the true God are by them denied, and often with bitterness,
Such fanaticism is often followed by Infidelity, at a period not far distant. The human passions are not capable of long retaining such an elevated tone. The feelings will by and by vibrate to the opposite extreme. Such characters after a series of heats and colds, become tired of their religion. Its novelty is gone. Their former attachment to it sickens into disgust. They find much plain Scripture against their tenets. Yet they will not renounce their scheme for that which is correct. They thus form a habit of perverting the word of God. This conduct prepares them to doubt of the Divine authority of those offensive passages; and they are gradually prepared to doubt of the inspiration of the whole Bible. They become conscious that there is no goodness in their religion; and they hence infer, that there is none in that of other people. For they readily imagine their own religion to have been as good as that of others. Often have such
persons asserted, that they have been through the whole of religion, and have found that there is nothing in it all. Thus their progress of error and fanaticism has carried them to the dreary regions of Infidelity. Such characters will readily become the tools and agents of Antichrist. They have the very spirit of Antichrist. And they will act, as far as they find opportunity, essentially the same part of opposition to the Christian cause, with the terrible infidel Power of the last days; even should they not be politically united, or should they not have opportunity to act in immediate concert with that terrible Power. Perhaps national politics may not suffer, that all, who have the spirit of Antichrist in the last days, shall be found politically united with Antichrist. Many may not be of his armies, or allies, who yet will possess his essential characteristic, a violent Infidelity; which will engage them in the same cause of opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
Much has appeared of late, in some parts of our land, in revivals of Religion, answering to the blessed prediction, When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And this Divine grace will still be fulfilled, to
the eventual salvation of Zion. But let not Zion's friends hence lose sight of their dangers, by indulging hopes, which exceed their prospects. When we consider the small proportion of the people of our nation, who graciously embrace the true Christian faith; and the far superior numbers, who are subjects of fatal er. rors, of Infidelity, or of real heathenism, our prospects cannot be otherwise than gloomy. Think of whole sections of our vast territories at but a small remove from heathenism, and that of the worst kind; a heathenism chosen in preference to the Christian religion, by those who have been accustomed to despise the Gospel. The Roman Catholic religion, so offensive to God, and so favorable to the rise of Antichrist, occupies some portion of our country. Its followers in years past, before the acquisition of Louisiana, have been calculated at 50,000. In Louisiana, nearly all that exists of the Christian religion, is of this corrupt. ed kind. And what a vast wilderness of error and heathenism is there united to our nation! A great contiguous territory also to the north of us is chiefly of the Roman Catholic religion. And too much of the religion now propagated in many of our states, is but too favorable to the growth of Infidelity; and may be expected to land many of its followers on that fatal ground.
In the view of the preceding remarks, and of the dangerous process of fanaticism and false religion, we must believe that many false teachers are among the agents of Antichrist, and are the most successful promoters of Infidelity. Open propagators of Atheism would not be so successful. People would be more likely to be alarmed, and would shun them. But let the same principles be really taught in a gradual process; and let it be done under the notion of religion, and a pious zeal, and it is far more fatal. People imbibe the poison imperceptibly, and under the belief of its being something salutary. In this way Infidelity is now making rapid progress. We accordingly find, that many of the inspired warnings, relative to these last days, are against the seductions of false
teachers. Say's the apostle Peter, when introducing his predictions of Antichrist; But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shill be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them; and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. Here is one of the modes, and probably the most pow. erful one, of propagating Infidelity, in Protestant countries, in the last days. Much of it is done under the guise of religion. False teachers pervert Gospel sentiments. For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts will heap to themselves teachers; having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. * When Paul warns of the perilous times of the last days, and notes the wicked characters of men at that period, he adds, For of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts.t
And repeatedly does Jesus Christ, when speaking of that period, warn against false teachers. Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name,—and shall deceive many.
When they shall say, Lo, here is Christ; or lo there; believe them not. Our Lord forewarns of false teachers at that period, who if it were possible should deceive the very elect. False teachers then, in such a land as this, will be among the apostles of Infidelity. Their heresies and schisms tend to bring the Word of Gud and the Gospel ministry into contempt. The feelings if not the remarks of heedless souls will be, The preachers cannot agree among themselves; and there is nothing in all their religion! False teachers unhinge the minds of people from religious habits and instructions; throw them into parties; and prevent both the support, and the iinprovement, of the regular administration of the Gospel. And among many of their followers, who
+ 2 Tim. iii,
* 2 Tim. iv, 3.