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but the sad privilege of being set free from the restraints of this religion d.

Consider, too, the difference of the crime, in the two cases.

If the Christian errs in admitting the truth of his religion, he has only to answer for his ill judgment, at most: he could be drawn to this persuasion by no criminal motives : for, which of these could bias him to the belief of the holiest of all religions. If the error lies on the other side, in rejecting this religion, how shall he know, that, besides the blame of judging ill, some immoral purposes and dispositions may not have secretly concurred to pervert his judgment ? The Christian may be unreasonable: but the unbeliever, I do not say, certainly, but, is too probably vicious.

Thus the danger, in all views, is on the unbelieving side. And if there be difficulty in knowing when I am sincere, there is none in knowing which of the two mistakes is safer and less criminal.

It will be said, perhaps, that an inquirer may be biassed in favour of Christianity by cor

De se tromper en croyant vraie la religion Chretienne, il n'y a pas grand chose à perdre : mais quel malheur de se tromper en la croyant fausse! M. Pascal, p. 225.

rupt motives, that is, by views of credit or interest, attending the profession of it, in countries where this religion is legally established. Without doubt. But such persons can hardly put themselves in the case of St. Paul, and say, They are verily persuaded, they ought to be Christians. For such gross motives can be no secret to their own hearts, and they cannot but know that Christianity condemns all such motives. I regard then such persons in the light of hypocrites confessed, and by no means in that of believers. On the other hand, men may affect to disbelieve from the like views of credit or interest, in certain circumstances; and so become hypocrites of another kind ; of which the number is, perhaps, not inconsiderable. But I am here speaking of such corrupt partialities as may consist with a firm belief, or disbelief of Christianity. And here it is plain, the criminality is likely to be inuch greater in him who without ground rejects, than in him who too hastily admits such a religion.

To conclude, then, with the case of St. Paul, which has given occasion to these reflexions.

No firmness of persuasion, it is plain, can justify a man in being led by it into the commission of gross and acknowledged crimes. And the reason is, that no persuasion of thë

truth of any principle can be greater than that which every man has that he ought not to commit such actions. If St. Paul's persuasion saved him from this guilt, it was owing to the peculiar genius of the Jewish religion.

But, further, St. Paul was blameable for taking up that persuasion, on which he acted. His mind had been corrupted by hasty prejudices, and ungoverned passion. He concluded too fast, then, when he thought his persuasion sincere, though it was indeed strong and violent. His persuasion did not exclude error, and that error implied insincerity, and so was not innocent.

It follows from the whole, that we ought never to act wrong on the pretence of conscience; and that we should learn to suspect the possibility of guilt's mixing itself even with what we call our speculative opinions. Error may be innocent; but not so long as truth lies before us, and we may,

if we do our duty, discover it. Let our inquiries, then, in all matters of moment, above all in those of religion, be diligent, and strictly honest. Where these precautions are not observed, our mistakes are always blameable, because in some degree they are wilful and insincere.

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Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you.

AMONG other woes denounced in this chapter by our Saviour against different sorts of men, we have one in the text against those, of whom all men speak well.

The reason of this severe sentence may not appear at first sight: first, because it may not immediately occur to us, what hurt or inconve nience there can be in every man's good word; and, secondly, because every man's good word is not likely to be had.

As to this last particular, it is true, the praise of all men, in the full extent of the words, is not to be obtained. But the sense of the text requires, only, that we understand a very general praise; and this we see many men obtain: And if we only want to know, in what respects, the possession of this praise can be deemed a misfortune, we shall find them, I suppose, (without looking further) in the folfowing considerations.

The woe, of being well spoken of by all men, may be apprehended, if we reflect, That (taking the world as it is) its good word, so largely bestowed on any man, implies a mediocrity of virtue, at the best ;—that it frequently implies, a considerable degree of positive ill-desert ;-that it sometimes implies, a thorough depravity and prostitution of the moral character.

From these THREE considerations, I

propose to illustrate the woe of the text.-- In moral discourses, it is scarce possible to avoid very general assertions. These may sometimes want to be restrained: but ye will do it for your- : selves, as ye see cause ; for the appeal lies, all along, to your own bosoms and experience.

VOL. VI.

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