John Foster (1771-1839) preached the following sermon on April 11, 1802. Foster used Colossians 2:8 as the basis for his sermon.
S E R M O NM
Delivered To The
First Society in Cambridge,
On Lord’s Day,
APRIL 11, 1802:
By JOHN FOSTER, A. M.
Pastor of the Third Church in that Town.
Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called; which some professing, have erred concerning the faith. St. Paul.
Several notes are inserted in an appendix, containing quotations from some few of the many writers, who have advanced the impious and dissolute opinions alluded to in the following pages; together with other statements evincing the existence of the dangers, against which the reader is cautioned. These notes correspond to the numbers, which are placed as references, in the course of the Sermon.
PHILOSOPHY, in its genuine import and tendency, is friendly to revealed religion. When applied to the material system, by disclosing the nature and properties of things, it not only leads to many important discoveries in the useful and ornamental arts of life; but is calculated to fill the mind with the most exalted conceptions of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Divine Architect. When conversant with the moral world, it explains the character, attributes, and will of God; points out the relation in which we stand, and the obligations which we owe to Him and each other; and as far as it extends, inculcates the same doctrines and precepts which the Gospel contains.
Unhappily, however, a pernicious sophistry, the offspring of depravity, and parent of mischief, has sprung forth, and assumed the same appellation. Of this vain, and deceitful philosophy, the apostle exhorts us to beware. Its nature and effects, therefore, I shall First consider: Secondly, exhibit in contrast with it, the purity and excellence of Christian principles: Whence, Thirdly, will appear the necessity and duty of a watchful obedience to the injunction in the text.
In former times, the enemies of revelation seemed to have no other object in view than to undermine the Christian faith. To this point they directed all their wit and subtlety, without bringing forward any definite substitute. The reason probably is, that conscious of the disingenuity and turpitude of their designs, they were ashamed explicitly to avow them. They had not the assurance to own that their principal wish was to be freed from the restraints of religion; and that they neither knew nor cared what scenes of disorder and wickedness ensued, if they could only walk in the imagination of their hearts with impunity and without reproach.
But in latter days, this relic of ancient modesty has grown into disuse. Modern philosophists speak with less reserve, and tell us plainly what that ameliorating system is, which they would establish on the ruins of Christianity. Among those who admit the existence of a God (for many of them reject this fundamental truth) the obligation, and even the propriety and utility of paying Him any external homage is positively denied. Consequently, the Sabbath is to be abolished, and houses of worship destroyed, neglected, or converted to other purposes.(1)
In our social intercourse, it is laid down as a primary maxim that every one is invincibly and necessarily impelled to the precise mode of conduct, which he pursues. The doctrine of responsibility is therefore exploded. If a man injure his neighbor, it is indeed unfortunate; yet he is neither blameworthy nor punishable. (2) The end, too, sanctifies the means; and if the end be good, it is deemed of little, or no consequence at whose expense it is achieved. The more intimate connections of life are to be dissolved at pleasure. Marriage is pronounced “a monopoly, and the worst of monopolies”; (3) and an indiscriminate intercourse between the sexes is contended for as more consistent with the laws of nature! (4)
Some plausible pretence was found expedient for letting loose those turbulent passions, which from time immemorial have been reputed hostile to the safety and order of society. Otherwise, every mind, not totally abandoned, would revolt at the very thought. Hence a specious, but visionary and impracticable philanthropy is pathetically recommended. We are called upon to extend an undistinguishing affection to all mankind; and, at the same time, forbidden to cherish and express any appropriate kindness for our parents, our children and other relations, beyond what we feel for utter strangers, unless they happen to be more deserving. Their consanguinity entitles them to no preference in our esteem. (5) Thus by detaching our hearts from those with whom we are most intimately connected, and who fall within the sphere of our immediate influence; and by directing our good will to indefinite, distant, and unapproachable objects, a foundation is laid for the extinction of all the tender charities of our existence; while, under the idea of exercising a diffusive and sublime benevolence to the whole species, we are encouraged in the most contracted and criminal self love.
In futurity we are destined to perpetual insensibility; for death is proclaimed an eternal sleep! (6) So that the awful and commanding apprehension of a retribution to come, which tends, above all things, to heck the devices and perpetrations of iniquity, is to be eradicated from the human breast; and everyone is to “walk in the way of his heart and in the sight of his eyes,” unawed by the solemn admonition that “for all these things God will bring him into judgment.”
Such, without the least exaggeration, is the moral code which according to its authors and abettors is to supersede the Bible, and perfect our nature. Not a single article is here exhibited but has its advocates in print.
Now, it must be obvious to every honest mind, that in a community actuated by such sentiments and views, selfishness, cruelty, and unrighteousness would predominate to the exclusion of every social and divine virtue. The value which is now set upon life would be no more! Not only that solicitude for self preservation; but that tender regard to the health and safety of others, which the doctrines of immortality and a future retribution inspire, would be annihilated; and all the cruelties of pagan darkness would revive! The disappointed would have little to restrain them from self-murder; nor could the ambitious feel more reluctance at imbruing their hands in the blood of an adversary or rival, than at the destruction of a noxious animal for safety; or a harmless one for subsistence!
Yet these sentiments, horrible and ruinous as they are, have been, and are still propagated with astonishing art and industry, in almost every part of Christendom. Under the imposing name of philosophy, they are sometimes unequivocally advanced and defended; but more frequently incorporated and disguised with other matter. For this purpose, all the usages of antiquity are insidiously represented as a system of tyranny, calculated to enslave both the minds and bodies of men, and deprive them of that freedom, to which they have a natural claim. The institutions of religion, and those of government too, so far as Christianity derives any support from the civil arm, are painted as engines of the most intolerable oppression; and we are advised to burst these chains asunder, and assert and enjoy the privileges of our being! That is, in plain and explicit terms to renounce the gospel, and live as we lift! For who does not see, that this must be the final end of relinquishing the means of moral instruction; or even of neglecting to enforce them by law? I readily concede that particular creeds and forms of worship ought never to be prescribed. But does it hence follow that no attention to the Christian Sabbath, and no visible adoration of the Deity should be required? Are not that sense and awe of God which these are calculated to excite and preserve, obviously necessary to a cheerful and conscientious submission to human rulers; and, of course to the security and welfare of society? Who, then, that is willing to “lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty” himself, can object to their legal establishment?
It is immaterial which is first corrupted, our principles, or our habits. These different species of corruption are mutually cause and effect. Infidelity produces vice, and vice resorts to infidelity in its own defence. Another class of champions, therefore, constantly assail the public with romances, plays, and “cunningly devised fables,” in which the hero, tho’ drawn as extremely amiable in his manners, benevolent in his disposition, and attached to the rights of man, is sure to be an infidel; and in the course of his career, to be guilty of adultery, fight a duel, or commit suicide, under such peculiar and interesting circumstances as are evidently intended to diminish our natural horror of such vile perpetrations! By these arts, the minds of many are imperceptibly unhinged; their sympathy transferred to fictitious or deformed objects; and their hearts steeled against real woe, till “they are led captive of the deceiver at his will.” These and other similar modes of attacking our holy faith, are the “vain deceit,” of which the inspired penman speaks.
The spirit of prophecy, long since foretold the workings of this “mystery of iniquity”, and characterized its abettors. “As there were false prophets of old, among the people; so also there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandize of you. They walk after the flesh, in the lusts of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous, self willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. As natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, they speak evil of things which they understand not. They count it a pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are, and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceiving, while they feast with you. Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling, unstable souls. An heart they have, exercised with covetous practices. They have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bozor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried about with a tempest. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure thro’ the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them that live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.” 1
Nothing can be more apparent, than the utter impossibility that such persons should be friendly to the virtue, or happiness of mankind. Self indulgence I their only aim; and they care not whom they sacrifice to their ambitious and sinister projects. The only thing that can give them ascendency, and facilitate the accomplishment of their wishes, is the misapprehension of their character. And this, strange as it may seem, is predicted by Omniscience itself. Pursuant to this prediction thousands of honest men have doubtless been decoyed by false colors to engage in their cause; and, like Paul of old, when persecuting the church, have “verily thought they did God service,” and were pleading for a spirit of Christian candour, charity, and toleration; while, in fact, they were inconsciously lessening the importance of revelation in their own, and the minds of others; and, by giving it no decided preference to opposing systems, were aiming a deadly blow at the gospel itself!
It is a matter quite indifferent to the infidel philosophers of the age, whether our motives be good or bad; and whether we mean so in our hearts or not, if we will only co-operate with them in their favorite design. They know perfectly well, that if they can once draw us into the snare, we shall in any event lend them our aid for a while; and, probably, be more and more entangled, till we give up both the expectation and the wish of deliverance, and become wholly devoted to their interest. Here our chief danger lies. I do not believe that a very considerable portion of my countrymen have any disposition to discredit or discard the religion of their fathers: but I do verily believe, that they are in great hazard of being unwarily seduced and led astray. For the apostles of infidelity are indefatigable in their exertions. Vain writers, and vain talkers in abundance are employed. Those leading proselytes who have had access to the fountain head, and imbibed their opinions from the distinguished high priests of skepticism, whether of ancient or modern date, are eager, either by the humbler vehicles of pamphlets, or in their daily conversation, to display their knowledge, and communicate their discoveries to their neighbours: These again to others; and thus the same demoralizing principles, for substance, have been transmitted, repeated, and circulated, from the commencement of the Christian Era, down to the present day. Multitudes have received and spread them, without suspecting the antiquity of their origin; and have ignorantly claimed originality, while they were the mere retailers of profane jests, and sophistical arguments, long since refuted. The dissolute and vicious, of every age and country, have had some traditional acquaintance with them, and have endeavoured, to the utmost of their power, to give them credit and currency. Indeed, the whole scheme of modern infidelity is but a transcript, or rather combination of the most corrupt and extravagant theories of paganism, modified by the existing state of the world. The shades of difference, which appear in the opposition it now makes to human laws, are easily accounted for. The religion of the heathen gave full scope to licentious inclinations; and, therefore, no objection was felt, or made to its receiving the countenance of the magistrate. But the religion of Christians is totally opposed to “these vanities,” and strictly forbids every impure desire, and profligate practice. For this reason, every government which sanctions its institutions and duties, must either withdraw its patronage, or be demolished! Even the boasted refinement of the new philosophy is more in pretence than reality. For though it be exempt from the grosser absurdities of polytheism, it might easily be proved that this exemption is owing to the light of that very revelation with which it militates. In its nature and tendency, it still bears a striking resemblance to the old. (7) Hence it is said to be “after tradition of man”; while on account of its sensual and earthly completion it is pertinently added, “after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
This reminds me, secondly, to exhibit in contrast with it, the purity and excellence of Christian principles.
The disgusting spectacle, which has passed in review before us, will serve, it is hoped, to endear to our hearts the sublime and salutary doctrines of holy writ. Here the great Jehovah is presented to the mind, in the majestic and amiable character of the Creator, Preserver, and Lawgiver of the world. As the creatures of his power, the pensioners of his bounty, and the subjects of his government, our homage, affection, and obedience are claimed. In our individual, domestic and social capacities, we are required to cherish and express the sentiments of devout adoration; and “in all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving and praise, to make known our requests unto God”; reposing an unshaken trust in his mercy, and yielding an unreserved submission to his providence. To encourage our approaches to the throne of grace, and to animate our hopes of acceptance, a glorious Mediator, “who loved us and gave himself for us,” is announced. In him, we are commanded to believe and confide, as “our Strength and our Redeemer”; and through him, to implore the forgiveness of our past offences, and supplicate the aids of the Holy Spirit to direct our future conduct. Taking for a model, the “great Captain of our salvation,” who has not only given us precepts, but “left us an example, that in all things, we should walk in his steps”; while we constantly aspire to personal purity, we are to cultivate meekness, justice, equity and kindness, in our treatment of all with whom we converse. No doing of evil, that good may come; no visionary cosmopolitism is allowed. We are to accommodate our feelings and pursuits to the situation, in which God and nature have placed us. The ties of wedlock are to be held sacred, and in no instance dissolved, “except for the cause of fornication.” Our respective families, without enquiring whether they have more intrinsic merit than others, demand our first attention; next our relatives and friends; then our neighbours and countrymen; and then, as we have opportunity, the whole human race.
In discharging these duties, we are to look for our ultimate reward, not to the honors, emoluments, and pleasures of time; but to the more permanent glory and blessedness of the heavenly state; and are, therefore, to have a prevailing respect to the divine authority and law; to live “as seeing Him that is invisible”; and to act, in all cases and circumstances, “as those who expect to give an account.” For we are taught to believe, that the great Sovereign of the universe “searches the hearts and tries the reins of the children of men, even to render to every one, according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”; that “he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead”; and that “all who are in their graves shall come forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.”
To engrave these awakening truths on our hearts, and induce correspondent sentiments and manners, beside the perusal of the sacred oracles in retirement, one day in seven is appointed to the special purpose of instruction and worship; when people of every age, sex, and condition, may assemble, and unite in rendering thanks to the Most High, for the mercies of their lives; in supplicating his blessing upon their various concerns, both temporal and spiritual; and in receiving those counsels, admonitions, and encouragements from the holy scriptures, which tend to increase their virtue, usefulness, and happiness in life, and “are able to make them wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Compare this system with what the pen and tongue of unbelief have offered in its room. How conspicuous its superiority! In itself considered, how worthy of God; and how important and necessary to man! It is visibly adapted to our situation and wants; and, in every view, conducive to our improvement and felicity. Considered in its tendency and effects, it must command the assent and veneration of every unbiased mind.
From the first general notification of Christianity to the present day, there have been in every age millions whose names are unknown to history, made better by it, not only in their conduct, but in their disposition; and happier too, not so much in their external circumstances, as in that which alone deserves the name of happiness, the tranquility and consolation of their thoughts. In addition to the unobserved fruits, which it has produced in the obscurest shades of retirement, its aspect on the character of nations, intelligibly proclaims its worth. It has mitigated the conduct of war, and the treatment of captives. It has softened the administration of despotic governments. It has abolished polygamy. It has restrained the licentiousness of divorces. It has put an end to the exposure of children and the immolation of slaves. It has suppressed the combats of gladiators, and the impurities of religious rites. It has banished, if not unnatural vices, at least the toleration of them. It has greatly meliorated the condition of the laborious part of every community, by procuring for them a day of weekly rest and instruction. In all countries, in which it is professed, it has given rise to numerous establishments for the relief of sickness and poverty; and, in some, especially in ours, to a regular and general provision by law. It has triumphed over the slavery established in the Roman empire; and may we not hope it will, one day, prevail against the worse slavery in the West-Indies; and I blush to add, in some parts of the United States. It has also obtained a sensible, though not a complete influence upon the public judgment of morals. And this is very important; for without the occasional correction which public opinion receives by referring to some fixed standard of morality, no man can tell into what extravagancies it might wander. In this way, it is very possible that many may be kept in order by Christianity, who are not themselves Christians. They may be guided by the rectitude which it communicates to public opinion. Their consciences may suggest their duty truly, and they may ascribe these suggestions to a moral sense, or the native capacity of the human intellect, when in fact they are nothing more, than the public opinion reflected from their own minds; an opinion, in a considerable degree, formed and modified by the lessons of Christianity. Certain it is, and this is a great deal to say, that the generality of the most vulgar and ignorant people truer and worthier notions of God, more just and right apprehensions concerning his attributes and perfections, a deeper sense of the difference between good and evil, a greater regard to moral obligations and to the plain and most necessary duties of life, and a more firm and universal expectation of a future state of rewards and punishments, than in any heathen country, any considerable number even of the learned were ever found to possess. (8)
Whence, in the third place, appears the necessity and duty of a watchful obedience to the apostolic injunction in the text. This, you may say, would be clearly indispensable, were we exposed to the perils which have been described. But whatever may be the case of the old world, our favored land, happily disjoined from those degenerate and luxurious regions, has little to fear from their apostacy. I answer—While we maintain an uninterrupted commerce with that quarter of the globe; while, in many respects, we adopt their customs and imitate their manners, can we be absolutely insured against the contamination of their vices? Let facts determine. We import, reprint, and read their books. One, for instance, to which I have already alluded, (9) declares in so many words, (10) that “marriage is a system of fraud”; that it is “a question of no importance, to know who is the parent of each individual child”; that “it is aristocracy, self-love, and family pride that teach us to set a value upon it at present”; and that a person “ought to prefer no human being to another because that being is his father, his wife, or his son.” Yet this publication, which beside the preceding, contains many other passages of a similar description and tendency, (11) has already gone thro’ one edition in America; and is now receiving another impression. While such authors find readers, admirers, and advocates among us; while they are even put into the hands of our youth, and the principles they contain instilled into their susceptive minds, as the ground work of their future character and conduct, (12) have we no reason to take alarm; no call to exert ourselves to stem the torrent; no inducement to guard and fortify against the spreading contagion?
Other writers of the same class have been officiously excused and commended. Even Thomas Paine, who has published to the world his hatred of the Bible, as a book tending to brutalize the human race, (13) has been repeatedly eulogized! (14).
At the same time that such men are extolled for their benevolence, humanity and patriotism, those who are “set for the defence of the gospel,” are often vilified and decried; charged with superstition, bigotry and party-zeal! (15) This is an insidious mode of assailing and undermining Christianity itself. It tends to no other issue, and if it produce any effect at all, this must be its end. For whatever be the pretext or design, if the enemies of revelation be raised into general esteem, and its friends degraded in the public mind, the neglect and contempt of religion must be the consequence.
But not to enlarge here. Where is the person who has not heard similar sentiments advanced in private circles? How frequently do we meet with professed unbelievers, who treat everything serious and sacred with levity and ridicule; depreciate those opinions, usages and institutions which have been sanctioned by the experience of ages; paint our pious ancestors, as an ignorant, fanatical and cruel race of men, at a very small remove from a state of barbarism; describe all who venerate their memory and maxims as servile dupes to imposture; and triumphantly assert their determination to resist and counteract them! Instances of a correspondent practice are not wanting. Such are the growing disregard to the Sabbath and neglect of public worship, with their attendant train, impiety, profaneness, intemperance, and dissipation, which are visible to every eye!
With these evidences of the existence and operation of a skeptical, unbelieving spirit in view, we can no longer doubt the importance of taking heed, “lest any man spoil us through philosophy and vain deceit.” Inundated with publications whose contents, and conversant with persons whose words and actions are hostile to “the faith once delivered to the saints,” we have every conceiveable inducement to be constantly on our guard against the assaults of our enemies. We are exposed to assailants on every side. Even in retirement, where we may think ourselves most safe and invulnerable, books under the titles of history, travels, biography, philosophical discussions, poetical effusions, and even moral essays, without the utmost caution on our part, may insensibly infuse the poison of infidelity! (16) Convinced that familiarity diminishes disgust, and frequently ends in attachment; aware too, that when the reader can be induced to approve and applaud the general strain of a work, he has, for the most part, committed himself, and may easily be converted into an advocate and partisan of the whole, the most artful and successful adversaries of the gospel, commonly interweave with speculations, otherwise brilliant and interesting, if not useful, those unprincipled sophisms which tend, first to weaken, and afterwards to destroy its authority. Hence, in the perusal of many writings, in almost every branch of science, perpetual care to discriminate between the good and the evil is indispensably requisite.
Nor should we be less circumspect and vigilant upon other occasions. For, upon other occasions, we are in equal jeopardy. In our social intercourse; yea, in the transaction of necessary business, we often find men who embrace every opportunity, either directly or indirectly, to traduce the gospel and its adherents. Now, if these men happen to think with us upon other subjects, or in any way, to be agreeable and useful to us, there is the utmost danger of our palliating their infidelity, till we gradually lose our accustomed abhorrence of it, and are eventually drawn into the vortex ourselves. By this mean, many an honest mind has been estranged from the virtuous part of the community, and by associating principally, with the vicious and dissolute, has incautiously furnished them with additional weapons for its own destruction. Here is developed the true reason why those, of whom better things might be expected, are sometimes transformed into the apologists and defenders of profligate characters; and here, I scruple not to add, is disclosed the frequent cause of that apostacy from the faith, which so often astonishes and grieves the friends of goodness. “Enter not,” therefore, “into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief, and their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall.” Shun, as the worst of all infections, the haunts of riot and excess; where the votaries of unholy pleasure celebrate their midnight and abominable orgies! There the name of God is blasphemed—There the Saviour of the world is vilified—There the word of truth is ridiculed and contemned—There virtue is laughed out of countenance—And there impurity and vice are exemplified and applauded! If you once contract a fondness for such society, your degeneracy and ruin are inevitable! Nay, if you so far suspend your wonted detestation of their “filthy communications,” as to acquiesce in complacent silence, or betray the approving smile, you are enlisted in their cause! And think not that your discharge will be optional, or easy! For if reason and conscience are now, insufficient to restrain you, your escape will hardly be practicable, when thus entangled in the toils! Resolve then, with the devout Psalmist of old, to be “companions of those that fear God and keep his precepts.” Let no coincidence of subordinate opinions and views lead you to withdraw your affection from the friends of religion, or to repose your confidence in its foes. This is not to “account all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.” “It is to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator,” and by giving weight and ascendency to the wicked, to aid and abet their cruel exertions for the extirpation of piety and good morals from the world!
I am aware that the idea, here suggested, has been treated as a chimera. It has been asserted by the designing; and believed, and repeated by the unwary, that human nature, depraved as it is, is incapable of such extreme degeneracy, as deliberately to seek the demoralization of mankind. To refute this assertion, I will not again appeal to infidel writers, though it would be easy to multiply quotations from them, directly in point. I will only ask, what is their object, and that of their numerous coadjutors in all the pains they take to bring Christianity into disrepute? Is it to disseminate principles, and sanction practices, similar to those which the gospel inculcates? Certainly not. Is it not then to disseminate principles and sanction practices, opposite to those which the gospel inculcates? Most clearly. What, then, are the description and tendency of these opposite principles, and practices? Impiety, profligacy, selfishness, “confusion, and every evil work.” Say, if you please, that they themselves have no conception or desire of such a deplorable issue to their theories. Perhaps charity requires the concession. For that “they know not what they do,” our Saviour long since declared. Nevertheless, as their theories apparently tend to this point, neither their ignorance of the result, nor their supposed aversion to it, will remedy the mischiefs of success! The madman, possessed with the wild imagination, that burning your houses would cause others more convenient and comfortable, spontaneously to arise from their ashes, might neither expect, nor intend to expose you defenceless to all the inclemencies of the atmosphere! Yet his expectations and intentions of good, would, by no means, reconcile you to the experiment; or relax your zeal to counteract and prevent it.
How various and invincible are the motives, which here rise into view, and urge us to action! If, my brethren, you regard your own welfare, as individuals, as families, or as citizens; if you would lay a solid foundation for the honor and happiness of your posterity; if you love the pleasant and peaceful paths of wisdom; if you wish to answer the end of your creation, and rise to a glorious immorality beyond the grave, “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Form no intimacies, and, if possible, avoid all intercourse with ungodly men. When you accidentally, or necessarily fall into their company, “be not partakers of their sins”; but uniformly discover your utter abhorrence of their hostility to religion, and your decided attachment to its doctrines, laws, and institutions. Let them know, once for all, that you have taken your ground, and are resolved to maintain it; that you “are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” but esteem it the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” In every condition and relation of life, be watchful and active. Are you parents and heads of families? “Walk before your households with a perfect heart.” While you “keep yourselves unspotted from the world,” train up your children and domestics “in the way in which they should go.” Regulate their desires and pursuits, and indulge them not to their hurt. Direct their thoughts and attention to useful and important subjects. Be careful what books, and what associates you allow them, in this forming period of their lives. Realize that the sentiments which they now imbibe, and the habits which they now contract will probably give completion to their character in time, and their fate in eternity! Labour, therefore, to give them an early relish for virtuous conversation and society; and to inspire them with a just aversion to those “evil communications which corrupt good manners.” Let the Bible occupy a conspicuous place in your houses; nor suffer it to be banished from your schools. Accustom them to revere and obey its sacred contents, as the great charter of their salvation, and the only guide to true respectability and happiness.
Are you children and youth? “Remember now your Creator.” Pay a becoming deference to the opinion and advice of those, whom nature and Providence has constituted your guardians and counselors. “Hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” Listen to the warning voice of their superior wisdom and experience; and yield not to the impulse of blind, impetuous passion. Cherish the impressions and restraints of virtue. Innure yourselves, betimes, to self-denial. Consent not to the enticements of sinners; nor “follow the multitude to do evil.” Guard against profaneness and frivolity. Neither take the name of the Lord your God in vain”; nor adopt the indecent and impious practice of jesting with sacred things: both of which tend to benumb your sense of moral excellence, and to plunge you into the deepest guilt and error. Consider that your all is at stake, both in this and a future world; and that much, perhaps every thing depends upon your present choice! Under this conviction, “lay up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Acquaint yourselves now with Him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto you, and your path, like the rising light, shall shine more and more until the perfect day!”
To conclude:–Whatever be your age, sex, or situation, think not yourselves secure; but “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” For “your adversaries go about, like roaring lions, seeking whom they may devour.” Apprized of their devices, be diligent in the discharge of your respective duties, and vigilant in detecting and avoiding the snares, to which you are especially exposed. For this purpose, cultivate a profound and increasing reverence for the name, the worship, and the ordinances of Jehovah; and assiduously improve the various means, with which he has graciously furnished you, to “escape the corruption that is in the world, through lust, and be made partakers of a divine nature.” “Search the Scriptures daily,” in private; and devoutly attend on the public ministrations of the word. Should you heedlessly imitate the dissolute and abandoned; “forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is”; and think and speak diminutively of the duties, institutions, and professors of Christianity; without the design, and, perhaps, even without the consciousness of erring from the faith, you may unwarily be drawn into all the practical consequences of determined infidelity; and driven, at last, to its open avowal! “Take heed, then, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. For we wrestle, not against flesh and blood; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
(2) These demoralizing principles are repeatedly and strongly urged by William Godwin, in his “Enquiry concerning political justice”; a work which has obtained an extensive circulation, and a very considerable celebrity both in Europe and America. He asserts, among other things to the same purpose, that “If there be a man, who in suffering punishment, is not conscious of injustice, he must have had his mind previously debased by slavery, and his sense of moral right and wrong blunted by a series of oppression:–That the assassin cannot help the murder he commits, any more than the danger:–And that whatever attempts to prescribe to a mans conduct, and deter him from any course of action by penalties and threats, is an unquestionable tyranny!” See vol. 1. Page 152: vol. 2. P. 234 and 241. Of the first American edition, printed at Philadelphia, 1796.
(3) Ibid. vol. 2. P. 368. (4) Ibid. vol. 2. P. 369-372. The effects of an approximation only to the abolition of marriage, and to that promiscuous sexual intercourse which are advocated in these pages, are justly displayed in a late Morning Chronicle, London; a paper, by no means unfriendly to the French nation. “The Moniteur,´(a Paris paper) say the editors, “arrived yesterday, containing a list of the births, deaths, &c. of the department of Seine, including Paris for the last twelve months. Never was there published a document that gives such an official record of profligacy of manners! The number of legitimate births is 17566; the number of illegitimate births is 4979! So that the number of bastards is little less than a fourth of the whole. The number of marriages is 4359; the number of divorces is 748, or about a fifth! It is needless to comment on such a state of society. Morality is poisoned in its very source! The domestic state is abolished! The school of all the virtues is destroyed!”
(5) See “Political Justice,” vol. 2. Page 371-2.
(6) Few readers will be ignorant that infidels often deny the immortality of the soul; and none, it is presumed, have forgotten that the inscription, DEATH IS AN ETERNAL SLEEP!” has actually been placed at the entrance of many of the burying grounds in France!
(7) This resemblance cannot have escaped the notice of any one, who has been conversant with the literary productions of pagan antiquity. The dissolute philosophers of those times, advanced and advocated the same pernicious principles, which are now revived and palmed upon the world, as important discoveries of a recent date! The Poems of Lucretius, in particular, who flourished about half a century before Christ, exhibit many of the daring and prominent features of impiety and profligacy, which distinguish and disgrace the publications of Volney, Condorcet, Godwin, Paine, and a host of other demoralizers of a similar description. Writers of the same class infested the church in its infancy. As early as the second century, Justin Marty described and condemned them in terms by no means impertinent to their visionary successors of the present day. “In my opinion,” says he, “the whole of their systems present to us nothing but the gross darkness of ignorance, and the blackness of deceit, with errors wide and infinite; mere fancies, and crude conceptions, and ignorance which sets all comprehension at defiance. I have therefore submitted to examine them, from a desire to point out the contradictions which prevail in their writings; and to show that they lead into discussions, incapable either of limit or definition; and further to convince you that the end and result of them is all unsatisfactory, and productive of no advantage whatsoever; without any support from matter of fact, or from the evidence of reason.” Hermia (greek word) (five Irrisio) (greek words) Sub. Sin. Ed. Paris: Justin Martyris Op.
(8) See Paley’s “view of the evidences of Christianity,” Boston edition 1795. P. 371-2.
(10) Enquiry concerning political justice, vol. 2. P. 368. And 371-2.
(11) Instead of a thousand others, which might be quoted, I shall only present the following to the readers abhorrence! “As long as we admit of an essential difference between virtue and vice, no doubt, all erroneous conduct, whether of ourselves or others, will be regarded with disapprobation. But it will in both cases be considered, under the system of necessity, as a link in the great chain of events which could not have been otherwise than it is. We shall therefore be no more disposed to repent of our own faults, than of the faults of others!!!” Vol. 1. P. 311.
(12) In Virginia, the most populous and influential state in the Union, it is believed on good authority, that this pernicious work has gained admission into some of their academies; and is, very generally, put into the hands of young gentlemen, designed for the bar, as an introduction to the particular study of law. What bounds, then, can we set—what bounds ought we to set to our apprehensions?
(13) His words are, “When we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest every thing (partially missing text)”!!! Age of Reason, p. 38—9. Philad. Ed. ’94.
(14) To say nothing of the more artful and equivocal praises, which have been repeatedly lavished upon this miscreant, and his abandoned compeers, in some of our public prints; a late work, published at New-York, is full to the point, and contains the following shameless declarations:–“He [Thomas Paine] is one of the first and best of writers, and probably the most useful man that ever existed on the face of the earth. His moral and political writings are equally excellent; and the beneficial influence of the principles, for which he has contended, will be felt through all succeeding ages. Volney and Condorcet, Godwin and Barlow, are justly entitled to the universal gratitude and applause of the human race”!!! Principles of Nature &c. by Elihu Palmer.
(15) Here a reference to the Worcester Farmer No. X. will be amply sufficient. This is selected, not because it discovers greater talents, acuteness, or address, than the numberless other calumnies of the same kind, which have appeared. Its principal claim to notice arises from the station of its reputed author; and its only title to distinction is the unexampled rancor which pervades it.
(16) The writings of Hobbs, Bolingbroke, Shaftsbury, Voltair, Rousseau, Gibbon, and many others that might be mentioned, abundantly verify this remark.