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Stop, then, in your career. You have been listening to other teachers than reason and true wisdom; you are in danger of being drawn still further aside from the paths of salvation. Stop ere you have hardened your neck and there be no remedy. Stop ere God give you up to your own devices. Let me remind you that at the last day you must give an account of the temper of heart in which you have enquired into Christianity, as well as of every other part of your conduct. There are sins of the mind, as well as of the appetites and passions. Flatter not yourselves by saying that conviction is not in your own power, that if arguments fail to persuade, you are free from any further obligation, that you are not accountable for your belief.20 For the question then will be, not whether you were convinced of the truth of Christianity, but whether you might have been convinced, had you cultivated from the first a right state of mind. The question then will be, not whether you entertained doubts about the Christian religion, but whether you took the only practical way of re
20 The dangerous and most irrational and unsound dogmas which have been publicly uttered on this subject by persons, who, from their political station, have the opportunity of gaining the ear of their countrymen, appear quite lamentable to the considerate Christian.
moving them by purifying your life, and approaching the subject of revelation in a meek and lowly mind. The question at that last dread tribunal will be, whether you acted up to the light you possessed, or might have possessed; or whether, on the contrary, trifling with religion, violating conscience and provoking the judicial anger of Almighty God, you brought on yourself that obduracy which no arguments could reach, nor persuasions move.
Come, then, and hear, with a sincere love of truth, the instructions which are designed to save you from these fearful consequences of unbelief. Follow the course of argument which will be developed in the succeeding lectures, with a desire to yield yourselves to the voice of mercy, and with the courage to follow it and bear its yoke. Go from this sacred assembly disposed to suspect, not merely your own reasonings and those of the scoffer, but the temper of mind from which they proceed, and which gives audience to them.
It is perhaps to the affectionate warning which I am now giving you, that Providence, which bides its mysterious ways under the veil of human means, has attached your salvation. Perhaps the divine grace has waited for this or that heedless youth till to-day, to give him
one more call to repentance. Perhaps truth and conscience are now casting a light into somé minds which levity and vice have been long blinding. And why, then, should not the heavenly doctrine gain a victory over you? If it shine before you, turn not from it. If it seek you, flee it not. "It is for your good that it wishes to triumph. If once admitted in a humble heart, it will make its own way and plead victoriously its own cause.
· II. And as to you, the far larger class of my young hearers, who are uninfected through the singular' mercy of God, with the poison of the unbelieving temper, approach ye to the considerations we shall offer on the grounds of your faith in the spirit enjoined in the text. Enter the kingdom of heaven 'as little children, Examine the foundations of that religion in which you have been instructed, with the docility, the seriousness, the spirit of prayer, and the practical desire to do the will of God, which I have been enforcing. So shall'every step in your progress confirm your faith and deepen your impression of the infinite importance of the Christian doctrine, as well as unfold to you its characteristic blessings. Your gratitude shall thus be increased to Almighty God for the abundant means he has given you of
ascertaining what is the revelation of his will. You shall go forth into life well-grounded in your religious belief, and furnished with a knowledge and actual experience of its benefits, which will set you above the reach of scepticism, and make the research of historical testimonies less necessary. And thus shall you transmit to your children the inheritance of Christianity, together with the temper in which you learned to examine and defend it.
III. Finally, let us all imbibe more of this meek and docile spirit. The same temper which prepares us at first for weighing the Christian Evidences, prepares us afterwards for receiving aright all the truths of which Christianity consists. We need to become as little children every day of our lives, to renounce our own pride and self-conceit, to submit to prayer, to purify our hearts from polluted affections, and to receive without gainsaying and in singleness of mind, all the words of the Holy Scriptures, in order that we may enter more into the truth of our fallen state, into the doctrine of the redemption of man by the Son of God, and into the nature of that spiritual life which is implanted and nourished by the Holy Ghost. Docility makes way for knowledge, promotes love, opens the road to all the beneficent pursuits of piety and obedience. It is by a childlike temper we best adorn the divine religion which we profess, and are most likely to win and gain over opponents. It is by this temper, in short, that we not only enter the kingdom of our Lord here, but are prepared and qualified, through the alone merits of his death, to partake of all its infinite blessings hereafter,