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very hard, not to say impossible, to adhere sincerely to religion, and to perform the duties of it. And this is the constant source of the corruption of Christians.
“ It may, perhaps, be objected, that all Christians receive the general truths of their creeds, and that these are not questioned but by pagans and atheists. Upon which I shall make two reflections.
“ 1. It is but too true, that in the point of religion, there is at this day a great number of persons who entertain very loose opinions, and that do at least border upon Atheism. These pernicious tenets . are spread wider than some people think. All the profane men and Deists are not to be found at courts, in armies, or among the learned: there are some in towns, among the vulgar, and even among country clowns.
If we examine a little the discourses and apprehensions of men, especially of those whose life is irregular, if we do but begin to reason with them and press them, we may soon perceive the principles of Incredulity and Atheism in many of them.
It will be found, that if they do not proceed to that degree of impiety which attacks the very foundations of religion, they harbour at least this fancy, that God doth not narrowly observe men's deportment; that he will not
be so severe as to damn them for some sins they have committed, and that there is not such great harm in gratifying one's passions, and living at the usual rate of the world. These and the like sentiments are general enough, and yet they lead the straight way to Deism, and tend plainly to the subversion of religion. It would be therefore highly necessary, in order to root out such dangerous errors, carefully to establish these great truths: that there is a God, that this God speaks to us in his word, and that whatever the gospel tells us of another life, is most certain. This I say would be altogether needful, if it were but for the instruction of those I have now mentioned, and their number is greater than is commonly imagined.
“ 2. We may take notice, that though Christians profess to believe the truths of their religion, yet that belief is not lively and strong enough in them all. It is beyond all question that most Christians are so only because they were engaged by their birth in the profession of Christianity; but that after all, they know very little of the truth and divinity of it. They would, in like manner, have been Jews or Pagans, if they had been born in Judaism or Paganism ; so that, properly speaking, they cannot be said to have faith; for faith is a persuasion; to
believe, is to be persuaded ; and it is impossible to believe a thing right without reason or examination. That which is called faith is commonly nothing else but a confused and general opinion, which makes but very slight impressions upon the heart and mind; but true faith is a greater rarity among Christians than we are aware of. Now as faith is the only principle of piety, so a bad life does chiefly spring from want of faith and from incredulity. And there are two sorts of infidels; some deny and reject divine truths; others do not quite deny them, but they doubt and believe but weakly. The infidels who deny the fundamentals of religion, are not many; but the number of those who doubt, and are not well persuaded, is very great.” — Ostervald on the Causes of the Corruption of Christians.
things.—III. Solomon ; Job; St. Paul.- IV. How we arrive at
flesh is weak.'
I. Commencement of the history of religion.-II. Imperfection
of human nature.-III. Man has ever been conscious of his
degeneracy. – IV. Physical disorder. – V. Moral disorder.
VI. Moral depravity of man.-
n.- VII. Extreme case. - VIII. The
Mosaic account of the Fall of Man.-IX. Persons with whom
argument is inefficacious.-X. A christian minister supposed to
address those who, at least, call themselves Christians.--XI. Case
alluded to at VII. not an exaggerated picture.-XII. Conclusion.
WHY MAN SHOULD TURN UNTO GOD.
Acts xiv. 15.—“ We preach unto you, that ye should turn
unto the living God.”
I. Introduction.-II. Lethargy of the multitude. - III. If real
attention be gained, much may be said to be accomplished.-
IV. Instance mentioned in preceding Sermon.–V. Question
which suggests itself.—VI. The visible world affords no remedy
for the moral corruption of man.-VII. Why may not the remedy
be sought for in the invisible world ?-VIII. Conclusion,