« AnteriorContinuar »
sion of it; so that no one subject of his empire can overlook it. Such an expression was the death of Christ, his only-begotten Son; and this availeth on behalf of all who acquiesce in his salvation: but all who do not, or who possess not such a temper of heart as would acquiesce in it if it were presented to them, must themselves be made sacrifices to his justice; and so, like enemies and traitors to a human government, must be made to answer such an end by their death as shall counteract the ill example afforded by their life. What is said of the barren vine is applicable to the finally impenitent: It is not fit for any workit is good for nothing but to be burned!* The only way in which they promote the general good is by their overthrow: like the censors of Korah and his company which were made into broad plates for a covering to the altar; that they might be a sign to the children of Israel in future generations ;† or like Lot's wife, who was converted into a pillar of salt, or a lasting monument of divine displeasure!
If the grand end of future punishment be example, this must suppose the existence of an intelligent creation, who shall profit by it; and it should seem of a creation of magnitude; as it accords with the conduct of neither God nor man to punish a great number for an example to a few.
This truth affords a satisfactory idea of the divine government, whether there be a multiplicity of inhabited worlds or not but if there be, it is still more satisfactory; as on this supposition the number of those who shall be finally lost may bear far less proportion to the whole of the intelligent creation, than a single execution to the inhabitants of a great empire. It is true, the loss to those who are lost will be nothing abated by this consideration; perhaps, on the contrary, it may be augmented; and to them the divine government will ever appear gloomy; but to those who judge of things impartially, and upon an extensive scale, it will appear to contain no more of a disparagement to the government of the universe, than the execution of a murderer, once in a hundred years, would be to the goverment of a nation.
And now I appeal to the intelligent, the serious, and the candid reader, whether there be any truth in what Mr. Paine asserts, that
Ezek. xv. 2-5.
+ Numb. xvi. 38.
to admit "that God created a plurality of worlds, at least as numerous as what we call stars, renders the Christian system of faith at once little and ridiculous, and scatters it in the mind like fea thers in the air." On the contrary, it might be proved, that every system of philosophy is little in comparison of Christianity. Philosophy may expand our ideas of creation; but it neither inspires a love to the moral character of the Creator, nor a well-grounded hope of eternal life. Philosophy at most can only place us at the top of Pisgah: there, like Moses we must die: if gives us no possessions of the good land. It is the province of Christianity to add, ALL IS YOURS! When you have ascended to the height of human discovery, there are things, and things of infinite moment too, that are utterly beyond its reach. Revelation is the medium, and the only medium, by which, standing, as it were, "on nature's Alps," we discover things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and of which it never hath entered into the heart of man to conceive.
DEISTS, JEWS, AND CHRISTIANS.
Whether the writer of these sheets can justly hope that what he advances will attract the attention of unbelievers, he does not pretend to say. If however, it should fall into the hands of individuals among them, he earnestly entreats that, for their own sakes, they would attend to what follows with seriousness.
It is hoped that nothing in the preceding pages can be fairly construed into the want of good will towards any of you. If 1 know my heart, it is not you, but your mischievous principles that are the objects of my dislike.
In the former part of this performance, I have endeavoured to prove, that the system which you embrace overlooks the moral character of God, refuses to worship him, affords no standard of right and wrong, undermines the most efficacious motives to virtuous action, actually produces a torrent of vice, and leaves mankind, under all their miseries, to perish without hope; in fine, that it is an immoral system, pregnant with destruction to the human race. Unless you be able to overlook what is there advanced, or, at least, be conscious that it is not true with regard to
yourselves, you have reason to be seriously alarmed. To embrace a system of immorality is the same thing as to be enemies to all righteousness; neither to fear God, nor regard man ; and what good fruit you can expect to reap from it, in this world or another, it is difficult to conceive. But alas, instead of being alarmed at the immorality of your principles, is there no reason to suspect that it is on this very account you cherish them? You can occasionally praise the morality of Jesus Christ: but are you sincere? Why then do you not walk by it? However you may magnify other difficulties, which you have industriously laboured to discover in the bible, your actions declare that it is the holiness of its doctrines and precepts, that more than any thing else of fends you. The manifest object at which you aim, both for your. selves and the world, is an exemption from its restraints. Your general conduct, if put into words, amounts to this: Come let us break his bands, and cast away his cords from us.
Circumstances of late years have much favoured your design. Your party has gained the ascendency in a great nation, and has been consequently increasing in other nations. Hence it is, perhaps, that your spirits are raised, and that a higher tone is assumed in your speeches and writings than has been usual on former occasions. You are great, you are enlightened; yes, you have found out the secret, and have only to rid the world of Christianity in order to render it happy. But be not too confident. You are not the first who have set themselves against the Lord, and against his Anointed. You have have overthrown superstition; but vaunt not against Christianity. Of a truth you have destroyed the gods of Rome, for they were no gods; but let this suffice you. It is hard to kick against the pricks.
Whatever success may attend your cause, if it be an immoral one, and espoused on that very account, it cannot possibly stand. It must fall, and you may expect to be buried in its ruins. It may be thought sufficient for me to reason on the system itself, without descending to the motives of those who imbibe it; but where motives are manifested by actions, they become objects of human cognizance. Nor is there any hope of your unbelief being removed, but by something that shall reach the cause of it. My desire
is neither to insult nor flatter, but seriously to expostulate with you; if God peradventure may give you repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. Three things, in particular, I would earnestly recommend to your serious consideration. How it was that you first imbibed your present principles; How it is that almost all your writers, at one time or other, bear testimony in favour of Christianity; and, How it comes to pass that your principles fail you, as they are frequently known to do, in a dying hour?
First: How WAS IT THAT YOU FIRST RENOUNCED CHRISTIANITY, and imbibed your present priNCIPLES? Retrace the process of your minds, and ask your consciences as you proceed, whether all was fair and upright. Nothing is more common than for persons of relaxed morals to attribute their change of conduct to a change of sentiments, or views relative to those subjects. It is galling to one's own feelings, and mean in the account of others, to act against principle; but if a person can once persuade himself to think favourably of those things which he has formerly accounted sinful, and can furnish a plea for them, which, at least, may serve to parry the censures of mankind, he will feel much more at ease, and be able to put on a better face when he mingles in society. Whatever inward stings may annoy his peace under certain occasional qualms, yet he has not to reproach himself, nor can any one reproach him with that inconsistency of character as in former instances. Rousseau confesses he found, in the reasonings of a certain lady, with whom he lived in the greatest possible familiarity, all those ideas which he had occasion for:-Have you not found the same in the conversation and writings of Deists? Did you not, previously to your rejection of Christianity, indulge in vicious courses; and while indulging in these courses, did not its holy precepts, and awful threatenings gall your spirits? Were you not like persons gathering forbidden fruit amidst showers of arrows: and bad you not recourse to your present principles for a shield against them? If you cannot honestly answer these questions in the negative, you are in an evil cause. You may flatter yourselves, for a while, that perhaps there may be no hereafter, or at least no judgment to come; but you know the time is not far VOL. III.