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moral estimation, as to say, There is no God. For the belief of a God, who is indifferent to our moral conduct, will have no more influence upon us, than a belief, that there is none. If we can persuade ourselves, that all men, will cease to exist, or will be alike happy hereafter, whatever is their character here, we shall feel no motive to virtue, or restraint from vice, except what arises from temporal convenience, or inconvenience. And of his own convenience every man will judge for himself: He will consequently submit to no fixed rules of action, but be wholly governed by his idea of present worldly advantage.
This persuasion of happiness for all men, and punishment for none, whether it be grounded on an opinion, that there is no God-or that he is indifferent to men's actions-or that he is too merciful to punish any actions-or that Christ has absolutely and unconditionally redeemed all men, still comes to the same result, that all men are safe; as safe in one way, as another; and perfectly safe in any way.
2. They who confound virtue and vice, and deny all moral obligation, say in their hearts, "NO GOD."
If moral perfection is the character of God, then morality is binding on men: For certainly intelligent creatures ought to be assimulated to the character, and subject to the will of the Creator. There are few, who will directly deny the obligations of morality: But there are many who admit sentiments, which, whether they see the consequence or not, do in fact lead to the denial of those obligations.
Some plead, that "whatever they think to be right, that is right for them; and if they act according to the persuasion of their minds, they shall be approved." Now what is this, but to exalt their own opinion above the divine authority? On this ground they
may justify the vilest actions. When once they are so depraved, as to call evil good, and good evil, their crimes will become virtues, and other men's virtues will be crimes. "But must not a man follow the dictates of his conscience?" Yes; but he must first see, that these dictates are agreeable to truth; for a man is responsible for his opinions, as well as for his actions. Paul verily thought, that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus; and he did them: But he afterwards condemned himself, as one of the chief of sinners, for having done them." But does not the wise man say, 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he;' meaning, that what he thinks to be right, the same is right for him?" No: I have heard foolish men sometimes say so, and pretend to adduce the authority of the wise man: But really the wise man says no such thing. He says, "Eat not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, for as he thinketh in his heart so is he. Eat and drink, saith he, but his heart is not with thee." A niggardly, envious, evil hearted man may, to serve a turn, make a forced ostentation of liberality: But this alters not his character. The thoughts and feelings, the sentiments and dispositions of his heart, not the professions of his mouth, determine his character. Let him say what he will, he is such a man in reality, as he is in the temper of his soul.
Some say, "The end will consecrate the means; and if they have a useful and benevolent end, all means, which they think conducive to that end, must be good." But this is a most licentious doctrine. It sets aside the rules of virtue, and the precepts of revelation, and sanctifies fraud, injustice, perjury, and every vice, whenever a man can per.. suade himself that he is applying them to a valuable purpose. There were some in the apostolic times,
who said, "Let us do evil, that good may come; for if the truth of God abounds to his glory through our life, why should we be judged as sinners?" And they affirmed, that the Apostles taught the same doctrine. But Paul says, Their imputation is a slander, and their damnation is just. This is what some call "political morality," in distinction from scripture morality. A sacred writer calls it "earthly and sensual wisdom," in opposition to the wisdom from above, which is "pure and peaceable, without partiality and without hypocrisy."
3. "They who call not on God's name," are in scripture ranked among heathens and infidels, "on whom God will pour out his wrath."
If there is a God, who sustains the world, and exercises a moral government over men, we are dependent on him for all that we want, indebted to him for all that we enjoy, and accountable to him for all that we do. Hence it plainly follows, that every man as a rational and moral creature, is bound to worship God by prayer and supplication, praise and thanksgiving. The Psalmist says, "The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God. God is not in all his thoughts. He saith in his heart, God hath forgotten, he hideth his face, he will not see." They, who will not seek after God, are here supposed to disbelieve and deny his providence, his inspection of human conduct, and his justice to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. To live without a sense and acknowledgment of the divine moral government, is to live as atheists do; and as every man would do, if he were persuaded, there was no invisible being, on whom he was dependent, to whom he was accountable, or from whom he had any thing to hope or fear.
4. The apostle speaks of some, "who profess to know God, but in works deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and to every good work reprobate." These are such atheists as David describes in our text. They say, There is no God; they do abominable works: There is none that doth good; they are all gone aside; they are all together become filthy."
If there is a God, he must be a holy, just, faithful and benevolent Being. They who are corrupt, and do abominable works, are in their temper and practice the reverse of this character. They are in their minds alienated from God, and enemies to him. They, in their hearts, speak the language of the fool in our text, either that there is no God, or that it is desirable there should be none. If they rejoiced in the belief of God's moral character, they would study to live in a manner agreeable to it. While they in heart oppose it, they secretly wish it did not exist.
5. Hypocrisy is a species of atheism.
By hypocrisy I here mean making the form of religion a mere cloak for designed wickedness— such hypocrisy as was practised by the pharisees, who made long prayers, that they might devour widows' houses, and kept up the show of extraordinary piety, that they might execute their meditated schemes of iniquity with surer success, and less suspicion. The language of such hypocrisy is, "How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High?" If we believe, there is a God of all perfections, we ought to set him always before us-to act as under his inspection, and to keep our hearts with all diligence; for our inward thoughts are as obvious to his view, as our external actions. All studied hypocrisy is a practical denial of his knowledge and holiness; and this is a denial of his
existence; for a being void of these perfections cannot be God.
We have described the atheist.
We are now, II. To shew, that such a man is a fool. So David calls him; and so he justly calls him.
1. The speculative atheist is a fool, because his belief is contrary to plain evidence and common
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard;" there is no region or country, where this evidence may not be seen. But the atheist shuts his eyes, and stops his ears, and will neither hear the voice of nature proclaiming the existence, nor behold the evidence of nature displaying the glory of a God. He lives in the midst of God's works, and will not observe his agency; he is sustained by the influence of God, and will not acknowledge his bounty. He rejects, in this case, that evidence, which, in all oth: er cases, commands his belief, and directs his conduct. He knows, that every house is builded by some man; but denies, that he who built all things is God. In the works of human art, he knows an artificer has been employed. But from the infinitely greater and more wonderful works of nature, he excludes the divine artificer. When he sees a man' perform rational actions, he has no doubt, that this man possesses a rational faculty, though this faculty is as invisible as the Deity: But when he sees the system of nature, which is full of wisdom and goodness, he ascribes it to chance or fate, and will not believe that an invisible Being possessed of infinite wisdom has created it.
2. If the speculative atheist is a fool, because his belief is contrary to plain evidence, the practical