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It is just so on the subject of religion. How often do you hear unrepentant sinners boasting of the talents, and the numbers, and the virtues of infidels, and of those that make no pretension to religion. Boasting of the excellent characters, high standing, and great influence of the leaders among the irreligious. While, at the same time, they depreciate both the numbers and the talents, of those that are the friends of God. They often consider them as a sickly, a bigotted, and a priest-ridden people: and this too, without any definite knowledge of their numbers, their characters, or their influence. What is this, but the outbreakings of enmity against God, and the cause which they love?
Again. We naturally hate to think of our enemies. The human mind is so constituted, that malevolent emotions distress it, and are the source of misery. Whenever our thoughts are intensely occupied in thinking of an individual whom we hate, those malevolent emotions will naturally arise, which are condemned by the conscience, and which of themselves constitute misery. For this reason, unless it be for the purpose of studying revenge, or in some way to gratify our hatred, we naturally turn our thoughts away from an object which we hate. And while, as I have shown in a former discourse, we naturally dwell upon a beloved object, we just as naturally abstract our thoughts from a hated one. Behold the developements of this law of mind in its action toward God. Sinners banish God from their thoughts. They are "unwilling to retain God in their knowledge;" and if at any time the thought of God is intruded upon them, they manifest uneasiness, and immediately divert their attention. If they are really convinced that they are sinners, and are in danger of his wrath, their selfish regard to their own happiness may lead them to reflection, and induce them to think of God, for the purpose of devising some means of escaping his just indignation.
Again. We dislike to converse about those that we hate; and unless it be for the purpose of calumniating them, and pouring forth our malignant hostility against them, we choose to remain silent and say nothing about them. You often hear a man say of his enemy, I desire not to talk about him. As I have shown, in the former discourse, we love to converse about our friends, because such conversation at once enkindles and expresses our love for them. Such conversation gratifies us. But we hate to converse about our enemies. For although there is a kind of gratification in giving vent to our enmity, it is at the same time the source and the essence of pain. Who has not witnessed the manifestations of this law of mind on the subject of religion? Who does not know that sinners are averse to talking about God? That they converse about him seldom, reservedly, and in a manner that shows they have no pleasure in it; but, on the contrary, that such conversation gives them pain?
Again. We are naturally pained to hear our enemy praised. Here is a party of ladies and gentlemen assembled, and all of them but one, are particularly friendly to a distinguished and absent individual. This one is his, bitter enemy. His enmity, however, is unknown to the company, and they, of course, bring up their favorite as the subject of their conversation. They indulge themselves in enthusiastic commendations of their absent friend, and are delighted with the common bond of sympathy that exists among them upon this subject. But mark the embarrassment and distress of this enemy. While they, without heeding his agony, indulge themselves in the most lavish pouring forth of applause, this enemy is filled with the most irrepressible distress and indignation. He looks at his watch; takes out his snuff-box; walks to the window; tries to read a newspaper; turns up and down the room: tries to divert the attention of the company, and introduce some other topic of conversation. Now, suppose that one of the ladies turns to him and demands his opinion, remarking, that he seems to be absent-minded, and does not enjoy the conversation. If he is a gentleman, he may wish to be very civil to the lady, and endeavor to waive an answer to her question. But suppose she presses him, and wonders at his hesitancy, until his conduct attracts the attention of the other members of the party, when they all, with one consent, coincide with the lady, and insist upon an expression of his opinion. Now, an hundred to one, if, in spite of his good breeding, he does not manifest the enmity of his heart, and clearly exhibit to the company the deep malice of his feelings.
Under similar circumstances, you may often witness the out breakings of enmity against God. Let a company of Christians, in a steamboat, or stage-coach, engage in conversation upon their favorite topic. Let them converse of Jesus Christ; and after a warm conversation, let them appeal to unrepentant sinners in the midst of them, for an expression of their opinion. Or if, when in a proper place, they propose to conclude the interview with prayer, how often are they offended. Go and visit a family, some of whose members are Christians, and others not; sit down and converse warmly with the pious wife on the subject of religion, in the presence of her husband and unconverted family: what looks you will instantly perceive about the house. Perhaps one will go out at this door, and another at that, and if any of the unrepentant remain, turn and direct your conversation to one of them; if it be the husband, perhaps he will almost forget that he is a gentleman, and abuse you to your face. Perhaps he will say, his religion is a matter between him and God. That he does not thank you for your impertinence. That it is none of your business, and that he does not thank you for coming there, to disturb him and his family upon the subject of religion. Now, why does he consider this a disturbance? Why does he look upon it as an impertinence? Why is he so displeased? Certainly he has no reason to fear that you will injure him, or his family. If he loved the subject, and loved God, is it not certain that he would thank you for your visit, and be pleased with the interview. And is it not proof to demonstration, that he hates God and religion, when he considers the kind introduction of the subject, as an intrusion, and a vexation.
Again. We are naturally pained and incredulous on hearing of the prosperity of our enemy. If we hear that our enemy is gaining friends, or popularity, or property, or influence, it distresses us. We are inclined to disbelieve it. And, if there be any room for doubt, we are sure to hang a doubt on every point that admits debate. See that man, with his hypocritical face; he has heard of the prosperity of his enemy, and professes to rejoice in it. But if he believes it, he only mentions it on occasions where he cannot avoid it; and then, the spirit and manner of his conversation, if he pretend to rejoice in it, will, to a discerning mind, develope the deep hypocrisy of his heart. But if there be a possibility of calling the truth of it in question, you will find that he disbelieves it altogether. You will find him dwelling upon, and greatly magnifying, any little circumstance, that will render it improbable; while he depreciates, and casts into the shade, the weighty considerations, that demonstrate its truth. Who has not witnessed the exhibitions of this principle, on the subject of religion? Let a report of the prosperity of religion, and of great revivals, be circulated through the community, and see how Universalists, and other unrepentant sinners, will manifest uneasiness, and try to disprove it all; will question the evidence, and try to pour contempt upon the report; and upon those that believe it. They do not believe that so many have been converted; you will see, say they, that the professed converts will all go back again, and be worse than ever. The reports, say they, are greatly exaggerated, and if there are any Christians in these revivals, there are probably ten hypocrites to one Christian. Such facts as these, speak for themselves. They manifest a state of mind that cannot be mistaken. It is the boiling over of enmity against God.
Again. We naturally hate efforts to promote the interests of our enemies. We are very apt to cavil at the measures which they use; call their motives in question; and find a great deal of fault with the spirit, and manner of their efforts; when we are opposed to the endwhich they have in view. If it be to promote the interests of our enemy, we are naturally watching for objections, and are captious, and ill-natured, in regard to their movements. We are apt to ridicule, and oppose such efforts; and any thing like zeal, in such a case, is looked upon by us, as enthusiasm and madness. Witness the conduct of unrepentant sinners, on the subject of religion. If any efforts are made to promote the interests of the kingdom of God; to honor and glorify him, they are offended. They get up an opposition. They not unfrequently ridicule their meetings. Speak evil of those that are engaged in them. Denounce their zeal, as enthusiasm, and madness; and something for which they deserve the execration of all their neighbors. People may get together, and dance all night, and unrepentant sinners do not think it objectionable. The theatre may be opened, every night, at great expense, and the actors and multitudes of others, may be engaged all day in preparing for the entertainment of the evening; and thus the devil may get up a prolonged meeting, and continue it for years, and they see no harm in it: no enthusiasm in all this. Ladies may go, and stay till midnight, every evening. Poor people may go, and spend their time and money, and waste their health and lives, and ruin their souls; and there is no harm in all this. But let Christians do any thing like this, and exercise one tenth part of this zeal in promoting the honor of God, and the salvation of souls; why, it would be talked of from Dan to Beersheba. Sinners may go to a ball, or party, and stay nearly all night; but excessively indecorous it is for ladies to go out to eveningmeetings. For Christians to have prolonged meetings, and to pray till 10 o'clock at night. Abominable! Why, such things are spoken against in the newspapers. They are the subjects of remark and reprobation in steamboats, and stage-coaches, and bar-rooms, and wherever unrepentant sinners are assembled. Politicians, may manifest the greatest zeal on the subject of politics. May hold their caucuses; post up their handbills; blaze away in the public journals; appoint their ward-committees; ransack every nook and corner; parade through the streetsar with their music; fire their guns, show their flags, transport their frigates through the streets on wheels, send their coaches up and down the streets with hand- bills posted on their sides, to bring men to the polls, hundreds of thousands of dollars may be expended to carry an election, and all this is well enough. But, O, let Christians but begin to serve God with such zeal, and make such efforts to build up his kingdom, and save the souls of men; and ten to one, if the wicked did not absolutely mob them, and cry out that such efforts would ruin the nation. They would brand such proceedings as the most arrant (throughgoing) enthusiasm, and downright madness. But is it because politics are of so much more importance than the salvation of souls? Is it, because no effort is necessary to arouse a slumbering world, and bring sinners to act, and think, and feel, as they ought on the subject of salvation. No, there is reason enough for the highest possible degree of Christian effort, and sinners know it very well; but their enmity against God is so great, that such efforts cannot be made without arousing all the hell there is within them.
Again. We easily believe an ill report, of one whom we hate. If a man hears any evil of an enemy, he believes it, on the slightest testimony. He does not care to inquire whether the report may be relied upon, but he eagerly listens to every breath of slander, yields the most unqualified credence, to almost any and every falsehood, that serves to blacken the reputation of his enemy. The reason of this is, his ill will is gratified with such reports, he hopes that they are true, and therefore easily believes them. How frequently do we see this feature of the human heart developing itself on the subject of religion. With what eagerness do sinners listen to every false and slanderous report, that may be circulated about the friends of God. It is surprising to see, what absurd and ridiculous things they will believe. They manifest the most unequivocal desire to believe evil of those who profess friendship to God. It is amazing, to see the enmity of their hearts manifesting itself to such a degree, that often, there is nothing too absurd, ridiculous, and contradictory for them to believe, if it only has a tendency to cast contempt and ridicule upon the cause of God.
Again. We naturally love to give publicity to any evil report about our enemies. We desire to have others feel towards them, as we do. It gratifies our malignant feelings, to hear and to circulate those reports that are injurious to the enemy we hate. Hear that man. He meets with a neighbor, and says, have you heard such and such a report of such an individual? No, I have not. Ah, I supposed that you knew it, or I should have said nothing about it. Now hear him go into the whole subject, and relate, and aggravate every circumstance, of which he has heard, and comment upon them as he goes along; at length he closes, by saying I hope you will not mention this, but it is a matter of fact. And now he goes abroad, and falls in with another neighbor and relates the same to him, as a great secret; hopes he will say nothing about, but thinks the fact cannot be disputed.
Every where he goes, he takes this course; he hopes the thing will not get abroad, to the injury of the poor man. Tis a mournful event. He is truly sorry, that any such thing has happened. In all this he is a hypocrite, and he knows it. He is glad the event has happened, and he delights to publish it. He seems to covet the exclusive privilege, of being the bearer of the first intelligence to every door. How often do we witness the developements of this principle against God. If something takes place, that is disgraceful among the professed friends of God, and injurious to the interests of religion, how ready sinners are, to give it universal publicity.
They will talk about it. Publish it on all occasions; blaze it abroad in the public prints, and send it in every direction upon the wings of the wind. If any one becomes deranged, in connection with a revival of religion, alas, what an ado is made about it. Thirty thousand citizens of the United States may be murdered every year by strong drink. The groceries may fill bedlam with maniacs. Homicide, and suicide, and all manner of abominations may be the result of rum selling, and yet the indignation of sinners is not aroused. But if some nervous individual becomes deranged, in view of his abominable crimes against his Maker, in connection with a revival or a prolonged meeting; the press groans under the burden of the doleful complainings that are poured out upon the public ear.
That is, were it in their power, they would destroy his very existence. Probably, very few sinners, are sensible that they have this degree of enmity, and may feel shocked at the assertion. Nevertheless, it is true. There are several reasons why they may never have known, that such was the state of their hearts. It is probable, that most of them, have never dared to indulge any such feelings. Another reason, why they never have desired to destroy God, is that they have never thought it possible to destroy him. There are many things which sinners have never designed or desired to do, because they have never thought it possible. Did either of you ever design to be a king. Did you ever entertain a thought of being a king. Have you ever felt any ambition to be a king. Probably you never did. And for the very reason, that you have never thought it possible. Suppose a throne, a crown, and a sceptre, were put within your reach; and the robe of royalty was tendered to your acceptance; do you not think that you have pride and ambition enough, under such circumstances, to desire to be a king. And suppose when you had accepted the crown, and swayed the sceptre over one nation, you had the opportunity of extending your empire, and making your dominion universal, over all nations; do you not believe, that you would , instantly desire to do it. And now, suppose that when all the governments of this world were subject to your sceptre; suppose an opportunity should offer for you to extend your dominion over the entire universe of worlds, and should you conceive it possible to subject God himself to your controul; are you too good, under such circumstances, to aim at exercising dominion over all the universe and over God himself. Sinners, who would trust the best among you. You know not your hearts, if you suppose that under such circumstances, there would be any limit to your ambition.
But again. Sinners do not realize the greatness of their enmity against God, because, as yet, God lets them go unpunished, and they do not believe, that he will send them to hell for their sins. If God will let them have their own way, as long as he does not interfere, to punish them for their sins, or disturb them in their courses of iniquity, their enmity remains comparatively at rest. But who among them would not rise up and murder him, were it in their power, if he should attempt to punish them for their sins.
No, they would sooner wish him in hell, than consent that he should deal with them in justice.
But again. It is evident, that the enmity of sinners against God isn MORTAL, from the fact, that they are in rebellion against him, and in league with devils, to oppose his government, and undermine his throne. Sinners do not obey him. The whole weight of their influence and example is opposed to his government. They do every thing that the nature of the case admits to annihilate his authority, and destroy his government. Rebellion, is always aimed at the life of the sovereign, and it is impossible for sinners, to be more absolutely in rebellion against God, than they are.
But again. The question has been tried. God has once put himself as much in the power of men, as, in the nature of things, was possible. The second person in the Godhead, took to him human nature, and put his human nature within the power of men. And what was the result? They rested not, till they had murdered him. Do you say, that those were the Jews. That you are of a different spirit? This has always been the favorite plea of sinners.
The ancient Jews, persecuted and murdered the prophets. The Jews of Christ's day, professed to honor the prophets, built their sepulchers, and insisted that, if they had lived in the days of the prophets, they would not have persecuted them. But they persecuted and murdered Christ; and Christ himself informs them, that by persecuting him, they showed that they approved the deeds of their fathers. Now sinner, suppose you lived under a government that was a monarchy. Suppose your fathers had rebelled against the rightful king, and placed an usurper upon the throne; and that you, their children, although you did not participate in the original rebellion, yet now, you maintain the same ground which they took, support the usurper, and refuse obedience to your rightful sovereign. Now, is not this, in law and in equity; is it not to all intents and purposes, justifying the conduct of your fathers; becoming a partaker in their crimes, incurring the same guilt, and deserving the same condemnation. Suppose, you did not originally murder Christ; still, is it not a fact, that you now refuse to obey him, as your rightful sovereign, that you support the authority of Satan, who has usurped the government of this world by refusing to repent; by withholding your service, and your heart from Jesus Christ. Do you not, to all intents and purposes, become a partaker in the crime of those who murdered him. He claimed their obedience; and they arose and imbrued their hands in his blood. He claims your obedience, you utterly refuse it; and thus show, that you approve the deeds of the Jews. And that, were he in your power, sooner than submit to his authority, you would murder him again. This conduct makes you in the eye of common law, a partaker in their crime. In the eye of conscience, of reason, and of common sense; in the eye of God, and in the judgment of heaven, and earth and hell, you are guilty of the blood of Christ, and prove to a demonstration, that were it in your power, you would dethrone and murder the Almighty.