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and anxious examination, you can discover no striking marks of honesty and truth in the narrations of the evangelists? Is it that you can find in the pure doctrine of the gospel no traces of its heavenly origin? Is it that you can perceive no sign of the interposition of God in the wonderful success that attended its publication at the first, though confided to persons in a human point of view so insignificant, so apparently unqualified to combat the arguments, to withstand the power, to root out the prejudices, by which they were every where opposed ? Is it that there seems to you to be no evidence of the finger of God in the remarkable progress which the religion has made from that time down to the present day, in which the whole civilized world are professors of its truth? Is it, in short, that you have faithfully and conscientiously made use of all the means of conviction with which you are already furnished, and after mature thought and serious deliberation, still remain unconvinced? Is it, I ask, after such a patient and extensive and anxious enquiry, that you have determined that the truth of the gospel still wants a fresh miracle to render it worthy of your credit? No, no; there is not one of
you, who has taken all these pains, and made all these investigations with an honest and impartial mind, that asks a sign from heaven to confirm his faith. What then, I again demand, is the hindrance to your belief? The true cause originated with Adam, with the first man who dared to listen to the wicked suggestions of the tempter, in opposition to the positive command of God; with bim who, though God had plainly said, “ in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” was persuaded to disobey by the artful deceiver, who said, “thou shalt not surely die.” Your unbelief proceeds from sin, from a corrupt heart, from a depraved inclination, from a natural aversion to the purity and holiness required by the gospel, from the love of the world, from all the evil passions and desires that war against your better judgment, and make you wish that the humble, and chaste, and charitable, and selfdenying religion of our blessed Redeemer were not true.
Here are your stumbling blocks, here are the strong arguments that are hostile to your faith; here is the foundation of that vain thought, with which you endeavour to apologize for your unbelief, that if one were to come unto you from the dead, you would repent. So did the Jews profess that they would believe in Christ, if he would give them a sign from heaven ; so, after all his other miracles had been performed in vain, did they declare, while in the very act of consummating their persecutions against him, that if he would but add one more, and come down from the cross, they would acknowledge him for their king. And would they, do you suppose, would these proud and obstinate unbelievers have been thus converted into humble and penitent disciples of so lowly a Messiah?. Nay, doubtless the men who could account for the works of love that he did by his almighty power, by saying that he was assisted by a malicious spirit, the men who could suppose that Satan would help to overthrow his own kingdom by giving testimony to the doctrines of Christ, such men would easily have found some method of explaining away the miracle which they pretended would be sufficient for their conviction, and would have crucified the Lord of life again.
My brethren, you most surely deceive yourselves, if you think that it is a miracle you need to establish your faith in the gospel. It is no such thing; it is a “clean heart” and a “right spirit within you,” that are so necessary for this purpose. It is a sincere desire to “ do the will of God," that is required to enable you to believe the doctrines which he has revealed. All the most subtle and ingenious objections of infidelity addressed to your understandings, would not have by one half so powerful an effect, as one strong temptation operating on your hearts. The persuasion, that will stand out with firmness against every argument that can be brought against it, and come off with victory in a contest of reason, will yield at once to an assault of the flesh, to a secret solicitation of wanton appetite. If you are blind, it is not because there is no light, or because you have no faculty to discern it; but because you close your own eyes, and will not admit it. I question if you will find one individual, who permits himself to practice wilful sin with a quiet conscience, who does not profess to have some doubts about the truth of the gospel. Of course he has ; otherwise it would be impossible for him to sin in peace; he would tremble in the midst of his wickedness, as the devils do, who await their punishment in certain expectation.
But how comes it that sin and unbelief always accompany each other, and go hand in hand? Which of the two preceded the other ? Did unbelief produce sin, or sin produce unbelief? Was the man at first pious and holy, and then, seeing reason to discard his faith as unfounded, perceived he that there was no such necessity, as he had fancied for piety and holiness, and so
up upon principle and in good conscience, to the indulgence of his lusts? rather, was he first inclined to gratify his evil
appetites, and then began he to perceive the folly of the religion which before restrained them? Doubt as you may about other facts, I believe you will have no doubt which is the real truth of these two suppositions. For instance, flagrant sins are generally committed in the night. Does - the night create the propensity to sin? Or does the sinner seek the cover of darkness to hide his guilt? You know why he takes refuge in obscurity; it is because he hates the light, which would reveal his evil deeds.
And why do wicked men endeavour to reason themselves into a disbelief of the gospel ? Because the inclination to sin disproves at once the arguments for its truth? Surely there is no sense in that conclusion. No; it is because the gospel exposes them, condemns them, forbids the desire which they long to indulge, threatens them with the eternal wrath of God, if they do not repent and be not reformed. So they shelter themselves in infidelity, and try to persuade themselves that they are safe.
But, my brethren, the shades of night will not last for ever; the day is at hand, when every sinner shall stand confessed in the naked light of truth before the tribunal of God. Then the true cause of unbelief shall be laid open, and sin shall in vain seek for the hiding-place, which it had