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But perhaps we shall be told, infidels are inoffensive, are amiable and respectable, good members of society, possessed of worthy qualities.--All this has been said, and names of this worthy and honourable fraternity have been sedulouly collected. It ought however to be remembered, that men professing, and even holding, the same principles, may be very different in their temper, manners and character. It is not, therefore, a sufficient proof that a principle is harmless or excellent, that certain maintainers of it are inoffensive, or, in some instances, agreeable and ufeful, members of society. The fire that makes little impression on metals devours combustibles. One who boasts that he believes neither in God nor Devil, Heaven nor Hell, or, in other words, is under no restraint in allowing himself in whatever he desires, when he cannot be controlled by human laws and interference, may be harmless ; may feel no inclination to disturb society by the indulgence of unlawful passions; may shrink from the thoughts of outrage, robberies and murders. His original character, his education, his habits and pursuits, may excite and preserve an abhorrence for every thing of so shock
ing and atrocious a nature. Another man of a different original cast of mind and education, of different or opposite habits and pursuits, becoming an infidel, and freed from all religious restraints, would work “ all uncleanness with greediness,” to use the strong language of the apostle, and perpetrate crimes the most atrocious and abominable. A harmless and amiable infidel, if we can allow an enemy of God, of CHRIST, and of the best interests of men, that epithet, with all his qualities that can recommend him, encourages vice, patronises vice, emboldens wickedness. The harmless, and if you will, the respectable, Atheist and infidel, is like a warlike engine of exquisite workmanship and beauty, that remains unmoved while it spreads, or may spread, devastation and ruin far and near.
BECAUSE reflections of this kind are not attended to, I am afraid, many become, first less afraid of infidelity, then indifferent as to principles, and so are in the high way of praising, of associating with, of imitating, the irreligious
The popularity, acceptableness and success, of irreligious men and irreligious writings, may perhaps appear, to fome, proofs that they ought not to be represented and regarded, as an untoward generation. But it requires little reflection to be convinced that what is popular and acceptable, is not always just and tenable. Men who love darkness, and the works of darkness, dislike the light, and whatever renders their characters and conduct manifest : they wish to be uncontrolled, and to indulge themfelves in all their heart's desire: having done fo, they seek to justify themselves, and to be quieted; to banish sufpicion, and fearlessly to go on in the way which they have chosen. How acceptable to such men, is the doctrine, No God, no Christ, no hereafter! To such men, the mere fhadow of argument becomes substance and beauty. Alas! we can account for the currency of irreligious principles, too easily, among those who have the command of worldly pleasures ; whose idleness and dissipation, and dissolute companions, hurry them into vice. An irregular and dissolute life is condemned by Christianity: the irregular and diffolute, are in effect, its enemies; and
welcome the instruction that justifies and applauds their conduct. The irregular and diffolute have their dependents, their flatterers and companions : their dependents and flatterers, and companions, are tempted not to contradict, sometimes to approve, or seem to approve of, the doctrines of their friend “ and superior. “ The fear of man worketh “ a snare :” the proud are respected, though " they turn aside to lies :-the covetous are “ courted and blessed, though the LORD ab“ hors them.”
From such facts and appearances, the success of infidelity and number of its votaries may be thought to be much greater than it really is : both its friends and enemies are apt to slide into this opinion. Let us recollect, that we may not ralhly adopt it, that the squanderers of money on dissolute pleasures, dissipated company and pernicious books, though courted by some, are not the men whose judgment is the most valuable ; whose manners are the best model ; whose authority is the most decisive ; whose admirers are the most numerous and most sincere.
If we can justly charge infidels with hypocrisy and inconsistency, we destroy their claims to the character of amiable and respectable; and convict those of impropriety who represent them or esteem them as entitled to our regards. Now, do not we maintain, without any to contradict us, that if men really believe that revelations have been made from God, and that Christianity is divine, they ought not to write or speak against the Scriptures and the Gospels, for any consideration whatever; not though their wit and essays, and insinuations and reveries, should obtain them the reputation of bold superior fpirits, high genius; and should secure admirers, and readers, and emolument ? If, on the other hand, they really disbelieve Christianity, amiable and worthy men, ought not to countenance it : by hypocritical conformity, these characters are abandoned. These propofitions cannot be controverted, by men of truth, honour and consistency: if we give them up, dissimulation and falsehood are approved and justified: to say and write one thing, and to hold another, is to forfeit all claim to the character of men of