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atheist is a greater fool, because he acts contrary to his own belief.
He acknowledges, that there is an allperfect Being present in all places, and observing all the actions of men-that this Being approves virtue and condemns vice, and will reward the former, and punish the latter; and yet, in plain contradiction to this acknowledgment, he lives as if there were no God, or as if God would never make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. To practise contrary to our belief in the smallest matters, is folly: To do the same in matters, which relate to our eternal happiness, is madness.
Even though it were only probable, that we were accountable to a supreme moral governor, we ought, in all prudence, to act with a view to please him : How much more, when the evidence of this truth is. so clear, that we pretend not to doubt it?
Wisdom in doubtful cases, directs us to choose the part which can be attended with no danger.were this a doubtful case, we ought to act with the same precaution. We all know, that there can be no danger in the belief of a God, and in a conduct agreeable to that belief; but there may be infinite danger in the contrary. Though there were no divine government, nor future accountableness, yet the man, who in the full belief of these things, shuns vice, and practises righteousness, will suffer nothing by his mistake, but will really be a gainer by it.He will escape the present mischiefs of iniquity, experience the present advantages of goodness; and enjoy much consolation in the hope of a happy fu turity. If this hope should not be realized, still he will lose nothing by entertaining it. His state will hereafter be no worse, than theirs who entertained the opposite opinion. In annihilation there can be on distinction. The believer will feel no disap
pointment; there will be none to reproach him, nor will he be an object of reproach. But, on the contrary, if there is a God and a future state-if there is a difference between sin and holiness-if the former leads to misery, and the latter to happiness, inconceivable in degree, and interminable in duration; then the pious believer has infinitely the advantage. He is safe; the Atheist is undone. All the hazard therefore is on the side of infidelity; there is none on the side of religion. The believer is wise; the Atheist is a fool.
If the Atheist is a fool, even on the supposition of the uncertainty of religion, he must on the contrary supposition, be more than a madman.
That there is a God-that he is a moral governor -that we are immortal and accountable--that there will be an eternal retribution, are truths which can be proved by evidence much superior to that which governs us in the ordinary affairs of life; and yet the sinner, in opposition to this evidence, pursues a course, which must terminate in his ruin. Who would imagine, that rational beings were capable of such a voluntary and deliberate kind of infatuation? "The hearts of the sons of men are full of evil : Madness is in their hearts while they live; and after that they go to the dead."
3. He who says, there is no God, or wishes, there' were none, is a fool, because, whether there is, or is not a God, his opinion and desire are founded in the supposition of an absolute falsehood; that the government of God is the only thing, which exposes the sinner to misery.
He who thinks there is, or wishes there were no God, is conscious, that he is corrupt, and has done abominable works; and he endeavors to persuade himself, there is no God, that he may be delivered from the fear of punishment; for he imagines, that
if there is no God, there will be no punishment of misery beyond the present life.
But I would ask this man, Are you sure, that your conclusion is just ?-You think that if there is a God, you are in danger. But whence arises your danger? Surely not from God's government, but from your own wickedness: God's ways are equal ; your ways are unequal. Whether there be a divine government, or not, still it is an obvious truth, that sin tends to misery-that vice reigning in the heart excludes selfenjoyment, and produces inward vexation. This is what men constantly experience, though they will not allow the connexion."
foolishness of man perverteth his way; and his heart fretteth against the Lord." All irregular and exorbitant passions; all corrupt and perverse tempers, are a torment to the soul; an habitual course of vicious actions involves men in a thousand perplexities and troubles. And whether they believe, or disbelieve the government of a Diety, these fruits of wickedness are the same, and they are undeniable. If you could persuade yourself, that there is no God, would envy, malice, pride, impatience, avarice, jeal ousy and ambition, immediately become pleasant and agreeable sensations ? Would intemperance and debauchery secure your health? Would idleness and dissipation make you rich? Would strife, discord and revenge sweeten the social life? Would fraud, perjury and injustice, cement friendship, and ensure the favor, confidence and assistance of man. kind?No.-The effects of vice indulged in the heart, and practised in the life, would be still the same, You suffer, then, from yourself; not from God. It is not God's government, but your opposition to his government, which brings your present unhappiness, and will bring your future misery.
But you imagine, that if there is no God, there will be no future misery. Why not? If vice in its own nature tends to misery, how will you escape misery without renouncing vice? You say, perhaps, "If there is no God, there is no future existence; and if no existence, then no misery."
Is this, then, a pleasing thought? Is there nothing gloomy in annihilation? Is the hope of such an end as this, the best comfort you find in your guilty course? Suppose you knew, that after death, the religious man would exist in complete and endless felicity, and you would, not exist at all, should you think, your lot more eligible than his ? Would you not call the man a fool, who should choose vice with a speedy annihilation, in preference to religion with a happy immortality?
"This," you will say, "is a fictitious supposition. All will share the same fate." But what advantage will it be to you, that good men should be annihilated with you? Will your annihilation be more comfortable, because none will be left to exist, after you are gone? Do you expect to be refreshed with this thought, when you cannot think at all?
Now say, Is not that man a fool, who, in preference to a holy life and a happy immortality, chooses a course in which there can be no comfort, but the gloomy hope, that he shall soon cease to exist, and the envious hope that better men will cease as well as he?
But if it were true, that there is no God, what evidence can the Atheist have, that he shall not exist, and be miserable after death? How came he to exist at all? Whatever was the cause of his existence here, may be the cause of his existence hereafter. Or if there is no cause, he may exist without a cause in another state, as well as in this. And if his corupt heart and abominable works make him so unhappy here, that he had rather be annihilated, than run the
hazard of a future existence, what hinders, but that he may be unhappy forever? The man, then, is a fool; who wishes, there were no God, hoping thus to be secure from future misery; for, admitting there were no God, still he may exist hereafter, as well as here; and if he does exist, his corruptions and vices may render him miserable eternally, as well as for the present.
4. He who wishes, there were no God, is a fool, because he wishes for that, which is utterly inconsistent with all rational comfort and happi
Here we are in a world, abounding, indeed, with many good things, but full of dangers, vicissitudes and trials. We feel ourselves impotent; we see others impotent, like ourselves. We may be unable to procure the things which we want, or to en joy them, if we had them. Our friends are dying around, and we are soon to die, like them. We cannot abide on earth long; and if we could, we should soon be in a kind of solitude; for when we had outlived the ordinary age of mortals, there would be few whom we regarded, and fewer who regarded us; we should dwell among strangers; none of the cordialities of earlier life would be felt.
If we be believed, there was no God, whither should we go for support in our troubles, comfort in our sorrows and defence in our dangers? What could we do in the day of anguish and distress? To whom could we resort, when lover and friend must forsake us? Where would be our consolation when we were entering the dark abode of the grave? To the Atheist this must be a dreary and disconsolate world-a world without light and without hope. But the pious believer has light in darkness, hope in sorrow, comfort in adversity, peace in death. Amidst all the changes of the world, he rejoices in the unchange