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phy of the Greeks, and the ceremonies of the Jews. He cared for none of these things. He would neither interpose to part the contending Jews and Greeks, nor condescend to hear Paul explain and defend his religion. We condemn his carelessness, as much as he despised the vanity and the obstinacy of the others. And how many among us are chargeable with the same indifference in religion—the same carelessness about their souls.
There is, in some, an indifference to all religion. Though they think it well for society, that some apprehensions of a Deity and a future judgment, and some forms of worship should be maintained; yet to religion, considered as the means of rendering us acceptable to the Deity, and preparing us for future blessedness, they pay no attention. But if we are rational and immortal beings, religion must infinitely concern us all ; and every man must be indispensably bound to believe its truth and divinity, understand its doctrines and precepts, and govern his heart and life by them.
There are few who profess to disbelieve the gospel ; and yet there are many who live as if they disbelieved it. But what advantage can they expect from it without a care to live agreeably to it? And where is their consistency in assenting to it as true, and contradicting it in practice? Will such a faith save them ?? Their faith, being without works, is dead.
There is such a thing as a man's being careless and easy in his mind, when he has no persuasion of present safety. If convictions of sin, and apprehensions of judgment, now and then, press upon them, they smother or divert them by the employments, or amusements of the world, and compose their minds to the former state of indifference.
Delay is carelessness. For now is the day of salvation. The future is not our's. We know not what shall be on the morrow. If we dare not dismiss all thoughts of religion, we ought to attend to it now. If it be too important to be finally neglected, it is too important to be postponed to another day.
They who rashly expose themselves to temptations, or run into the known path of iniquity, discover as great carelessness, as the man mentioned in our text. He was careless about religion in general. He little concerned himself whether there was such a thing; and if there were, whether it were to be found among Romans or Greeks, Jews or Christians. This was carrying his indifference to a great length. You believe that there is such a thing as religion, and that it is found among Christians. So far is well. But what is the design of this religion ? Does it not teach you a holy life? Does it give any hope but in this way? If you
still go on fearless in a course of sin, what benefit can you expect from such a religion as you at present have ?
A neglect of, or negligent attendance on the means of religion is an evidence of a careless heart. You have God's word ; does it lie by you, unread ? His house is near you ; do you turn away your feet from it? Or do you read and hear divine truths without any application of them to yourselves ? Is your mind unimpressed with the warnings set before you? Do you make light of the calls and invitations of divine grace? When you hear the terms of salvation stated, do you feel no concern to comply with them; but depart from God's house with the same cold heart, which you brought thither? Do you live without prayer and without the serious thoughts of death, judgment and eternity? You are like the heathen magistrate, who cared for none of these things.
THE DANGER OF CARELESSNESS.
ACTS xvi11. 12-17.
And when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrec
tion with one accord against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, &c. &c.
FROM the carelessness of Gallio, the Roman governor of Achaia, we have taken occasion to consider and illustrate that spirit of indifference to religion, which is too common and observable in all times and places.
I shall now, as I proposed, shew the unreasonableness and danger of indulging this careless temper in a matter of such immense and universal concern as religion.
If there be such a thing as religion, it is a matter of infinite importance. It cannot be indifferent in itself; and a spirit of indifference to it, must be unreasonable in its nature and fatal in its consequences. It is impossible, that a thinking man should enjoy a settled peace of mind on any principles, but those of religion ; because on no other can he feel himself safe. Set these aside, and all before him is darkness, confusion and horror.
I pity the unhappy man, who disbelieves the government of a . Deity and the immortality of the soul; for what comfort can he find under the adversities of life, or in the approach of death?
There is no throne of grace for him to resort' to-no future happiness for him to anticipate. Annihilation is his refuge from the terrors of conscious guilt. But it is a gloomy refuge. He runs to it, not because he loves it, but only because he prefers it to the punishment which his sins deserve. He is like a man who leaps from his chamber window, when his house is on fire ; not because he wishes to hazard a fall, but because he would escape destruction in the flames.
But alas! poor man, he is not sure of this sad exemption from future misery. Here is a wonderful fabrick, which exhibits every mark of wisdom, goodness and design. It came into existence somehow or other. Whatever supposition he may make to quiet his fears, still he must fear there is a God who formed, and who supports it. And if there is a God who made the world, and made him a rational being, he must fear that this God, in some future period, will call him to an account for his conduct, and punish him for his wickedness. Let him flatter himself as much as he pleases, still, if he opens his eyes, he will see reason to fear, that a day of retribution will come, and sin will be punished. Yea, even though he could be sure, that there were no God, and that the world and every thing which belongs to it were the effects of mere chance, he has no security from misery. The same chance, which has brought him into existence here, may bring him into existence elsewhere. The same contingence of events which has subjected him to many troubles in this world, may cast him into a condition eternally and completely miserable in another. What satisfaction, then, can a mortal have, but upon the firm belief, that there is a holy, wise, just and merciful Being, who made and governs the world--that there is a way in which he may secure the favour of this Being—that he has been instructed in, and has complied with, the terms of his favor—that consequently he shall be forever happy, when life shall end, and all his connexions with mortality shall be dissolved ? A wise and prudent man, as he regards his own peace and happiness, will endeavor to be well settled in the principles of religion—to understand what it requires and what it forbids, and what fears and hopes it sets before him. He will submit to the influence of this religion, and give diligence to ascertain his interest in its promises.
Such a general contempt of all religion, as Gallio discovered, is an infatuation, of which we should hardly think the human mind capable. You condemn his carelessness. But enquire whether you are not guilty. You believe there is a God, a future state, and an eternal retribution. You believe the gospel to be a Divine revelation and to contain the words of eternal life. But do you feel and act, as if you believed these things? You wonder at the carelessness of the infidel, who disbelieves the truth of religion, and yet neglects to examine it. May not he, in his turn, wonder at you, who profess to believe the truth of religion, and yet live in a practical neglect of it ?
You say, you believe the divinity of the gospel. On this ground permit me to argue with you, and evince the danger of a careless manner of life.
1. Seriously consider what it is that you are careless about. It is not wealth or honor-it is not food or raiment—it is not health or life. It is something greater than all these. It is your eternal salvation.
You are placed here on probation for another state of existence. Happiness or misery is before you, according as you acquit yourself in this probation. Is not this a serious thought ?You are soon to die. Death terminates your probation, and brings you to a judgment, which will fix your condition for eternity. You must hereafter stand before the righteous Judge. You are careless
now. Will you be so then? What defence will you make? What intercessor will you find ? To which of the saints will you turn? Angels and men and your own conscience will condemn you. The compassionate Redeemer, who once wept over careless sinners, will not interpose for you, there. He will be the Judge. The scripture, in reference to the final judgment, speaks of the wrath of the Lamb. Guilty and impenitent souls will be sentenced to everlasting punishment. What this punishment will be, we can at present but imperfectly conceive. But destruction from God's presence—a lake of fire burning with brimstone torment in this flame-a worm that dieth not, and a