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gion ; but let us use our reason to search after and know him, and then religion will be our comfort; and we shall be able to say to ourselves, and declare to others, her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
Two other kinds of religious terrors, with their causes, remain to be considered : firstly, those of guilt, which can alone pretend to be consonant to true notions of religion, and to derive themselves justly from it. If there be any truth in religion, it is certain that God will judge the world in righteousness, &c. As this belief in virtuous and pious men is attended with peace of mind, so does it necessarily produce tribulation and anguish in every soul that doth evil: this point enlarged on. The power of conscience is seen in all men : when we offend wilfully against our sense of good and evil, this never ceases to torment us with the apprehension of future misery, though nature has not furnished us with a distinct knowlege of what that misery will be. These natural fears of conscience are also rational fears : some natural fears may be overcome or lessened, as that of death by the comforts of religion: but the case is quite otherwise in the terrors of guilt ; for the more we advise either with reason or religion, the more certain shall we be that they are no delusions. So hard is it to get rid of these terrors, that they grow too strong for all the assistance that can be administered; and when this is the case, the sinner becomes a woful spectacle: his days are without pleasure, and his nights without rest : his life is one scene of misery, and he lives only because he is afraid to die.
This misery being so great, no wonder that the invention of man has been racked to find a remedy. Natural conscience and reason make the connexion between guilt and fear: remove these, and the fears will cease: this then is one of the devices
of profligate sinners; and this method may 'do, while there is health and strength ; but time will show the folly of it. Others, incapable of such impiety, give themselves up to excess of vice and intemperance, and find ease in losing their understanding and
power of reflexion : dreadful are the terrors of guilt, which make men willing to forget themselves, that they may forget their fears! But these are unnatural methods, and which few only are capable of using: yet the case before us is a very general one.
Let us then consider the more general and rational methods which have been approved for the cure of this evil: these are to be found in the several forms of religion which do or have prevailed in the world : it would be endless to enumerate all the particular methods : it is more important to inquire whether reason and natural religion can furnish a remedy
All methods applicable to this purpose may be reduced to two heads; external rights, and internal acts of the mind. The first are to be found in great abundance in almost all parts of the world : how they came to be applied to the purposes ligion among the heathen nations is not easily accounted for : their impropriety and insufficiency fully shown. The sacrifices and oblations under the law of Moses were of divine institution; and whatever virtue they had in them, they had it in consequence of the institution, and the promise annexed to it; which is a point in which mere natural religion can have no concern. The inefficiency of heathen sacrifices dilated on. The religion of a sinner is an application for pardon; and is useless unless it can prescribe a proper method for obtaining it: the two attributes of God with which this religion is chiefly concerned, are his justice and mercy : let us suppose then (and it is the very truth) that these both meet in the rules of reason and equity; or that the judgments of God are righteous judgments, free from any weak inclination to mercy, or any rigorous affectation of justice. Now all that natural religion has to offer unto God in behalf of a sinner, is the sorrow of his heart for what is past, and the purpose of his mind to sin no more.
This case considered : sorrow for sin shown to be a very natural passion, but to have no virtue in it: it never was made part of a virtuous man's character, that he lived in fear of the gallows : besides, the generality of mankind are not philosophers; are not able to look back on their iniquities with such calmness and judgment as are necessary to create a just abhorrence of vice, and restore the pure love of God and virtue. In the case of all human governments, laws are fortified with penalties, that the fear of punishment may keep the subject from offending; but it is never imagined that all such as discover a fear of punishment shall be spared, after having incurred it by disobedience: how then should reason teach us to think it reasonable in God to do that which we do not think it right to do ourselves ? It may be said that God can, though man cannot, distinguish between the mere fear of punishment and true sorrow for sin ; admit this difference, and still the far greater number of sinners will be in a helpless state under natural religion.
The case of one who is thoroughly convinced of the iniquity of sin, and purposes to forsake it, considered. This supposes him to have sinned so as justly to deserve punishment: the question is, whether a sincere alteration of mind can give him security of a pardon : this shown at large not to be the case : misery and happiness are set before us on some terms; and it must be allowed reasonable for God to act on such terms as reason itself, the interpreter of his will, proposes to us: now we come into this world reasonable creatures; we find ourselves accountable for our behavior to God, our Maker and Judge : from which principles it follows that obedience to the moral law is the condition of salvation : how then can we come to the desired consequence, that he who has lived in disobedience shall be saved, if ever he becomes sensible of his sin and folly? Is this condition implied in any law in the universe ? would it
be fit for God to propose ?—would it not enervate all his laws? How then comes it fit for him to do that which it is unfit he should ever promise or profess? But you say, we depend on God's equity and goodness : where do you learn this equity ?how do you find it equitable that men should live by one rule and be judged by another ?-how does reason teach us to think that God and his laws will be satisfied by our sinning and repenting? But, it may be said, pardon may be expected from a consideration of God's goodness, and our imperfection, weakness, and inability to pay a punctual obedience to his laws: this admitted, the most which it can assure us of is, that we shall be intitled to equitable allowances in the case of imperfect obedience.
On the whole, it does not appear that natural religion has any certain cure for the terrors of guilt: because, the title by obedience being forfeited, there are no certain principles of reason to show how far, and to what instances, God's mercy will extend; because we can have no certain assurance of ourselves that we are deserving of mercy; and because the whole matter is too refined to be of use to mankind in general. Hence the wisdom and goodness of God appears, by his proposing a safe and general method of salvation to sinners in the gospel of Christ, the sinner's great charter of pardon. Here then is a safe retreat for the guilty conscience : here God appears, and gives his own unalterable word for our security: here the Son of God is Mediator and high priest, to offer up and sanctify the sorrows of a contrite heart, and to bring down spiritual strength and comfort. After so much done for the security of sinners on God's part, it is lamentable that there should be
who still incapable of comfort : yet such there are, of whom it was proposed to speak in the last place, whose religious fears arise from accidental disorders of mind or body: this case is not subject to reason, and therefore much cannot be said on it. Whatever be the union of soul and body, so united are they,
that the disorders of one often derive themselves from the other; instances given : hence some religious fears may be ascribed to the body, though properly they belong to the mind : many degrees of madness; among which a distempered mind on the subject of religious fear may sometimes be reckoned : such persons not chargeable with seeking false comfort, for it is a part of their disease to refuse all comfort: true comfort they are unable to receive: their terrors cannot be imputed as a blemish to religion.