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there is a God, and you are shocked at the denial of the doctrine. But of practical atheism, of being virtually without God, I must and do accuse mankind and some of you; and what if I say that I think the charge of practical atheism no lighter than that of speculative atheism; on some accounts the former appears to me a more weighty accusation. If I were arraigned at the bar of God, I think that I had rather stand indicted for having disowned my Maker's existence, than to be put on trial for having disregarded his acknowledged existence. There is more of mental infatuation often in the first. The last is a case of moral and more culpable infatuation. Judge ye between the subject that denies the existence of his sovereign, and the subject who, owning his existence and his authority, lives and acts in utter disregard of both. Which is the more guilty ? Decide ye between the child that stoutly denies all filial obligation, and the child that confessing it cherishes no filial feelings towards the father and renders none of the obedience or gratitude which is due from a son or daughter—which is deeper in sin? Oh, it is dreadful in face of the united declarations of heaven and earth that there is a God, and in contradiction of conscience affirming the same, to say that there is
But whether is it not as dreadful, I have it on my tongue to say more dreadful, a thing to assent to the testimony from without us and from within us that there is a God, and then to forget him and disregard him ? In the one case God is disowned in word, in the other in works. Is consistency a virtue? The speculative atheist has it. But, alas !
the practical atheist to all his other crimes adds the most awful inconsistency. But it is high time to adduce the proof of that on which I am expatiating. By practical atheism I mean the believing that there is a God, and yet thinking and feeling and acting just as if there were none. The propriety of this, I suppose, no one will defend, since, if I mistake not, the very statement of it is revolting even to the beings who are guilty of it. Who will say that a bare faith in his existence is the only duty that we owe God, and for which he holds us responsible. If such a being exists and he is our creator, and our preserver, to whom we are indebted for all that we are and have and hope for, infidelity herself must acknowledge, yea she has acknowledged, that he ought to be remembered and worshipped by prayer and praise and confidence and obedience, and that he is entitled to the supreme and undissembled homage of the heart and the mind. Few men have ever dared to stand forth the advocates and abettors of practical ungodliness, and I am sure that none of you will, There is not one of you, I am confident, but will admit all that I have assumed. I proceed, therefore, to submit my proofs—and,
1. I adduce forgetfulness of God as a proof, or rather as one form of practical atheism. Sinners chargeable with this crime did formerly exist. David expostulates with such “now consider this ye that forget God;" and he mentions it as one characteristic of the wicked, that God is not in all his thoughts ; and what stronger evidence of the offensiveness of this sin could we have, than his inspired
declaration, “ the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God ?" Would to heaven the same sin were not extensively prevalent
This is a subject on which, as I have not access to your minds, I must appeal to your conscien
What report bears that faithful witness within you? Does it not testify, in many of you, that you forget God? Are there not some here in all whose thoughts God is not? who wake in the morning without thinking of him who has preserved them through the darkness and dangers of the night, and go through the business of the day and the recreations of the evening, and sink to sleep again without once calmly and considerately reflecting on him in whose hand their breath is, and whose are all their ways, and who from day to day and from year to year, unless the unpleasant idea of God be forced upon their attention by some serious mention of his name, or by some striking act of his providence, live in utter unmindfulness of him who is ever mindful of them; and when occasionally they are obliged to think of him, think of him as simply existing, and without any of that emotion which the dependent creature ought to feel, when he contemplates the being from whom he was derived, and by whom he is supported ? Ah! I know how it is with you, for there is in every natural heart the same dreadful, propensity to exclude God from its thoughts, and I remember well and I trust with some sorrow, how once it was with me, (and on such a subject as this may I not be permitted to make use of my own experience ?) when, though I believed in the divine ex
istence and could demonstrate it, I knew not God, nor loved him, nor retained him in any of my thoughts, and the language of all my life was, “ depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways; what is the Almighty that I should serve him; " and what profit should I have, if I pray unto him;" if thy heart could speak, oh wicked man, and thy actions had a tongue, would not this be their language to God? But what if you should stand acquitted by conscience of the charge of absolutely forgetting God, it does not clear you of the general accusation of being without God in the world. It does but set aside one count, or rather one specification, in the indictment against you. If you think of God, how do you think of him ? It may be you have had thoughts of him, as unjust in his requirements, or unkind in his dealings; your thoughts murmur against him; or you think of him, as the slave does of his oppressive master, with servile dread. Perhaps it is not the true God that you think of, but some deification of your own fancy, a combination of imaginary attributes, which has no real existence, and this, peradventure, is the being that you sometimes meditate upon with sentiments of veneration and gratitude, which you mistake for the emotions of true piety, When you contemplate the divine character, as he has revealed himself, is it with deep feeling ? do the affections of the heart go forth towards him with the thoughts of the mind ? do you think of God as an affectionate child does of a fond father? how many and frequent are your thoughts of him, and do you love to think of him? These are questions that
must be canvassed and appropriately answered before it can be proved that you are not without God in the world. I mention,
2. As an evidence of practical atheism, a neglect to worship him and to maintain friendly and filial intercourse with him. How many there are, (the very individuals, it does not belong to me to designate, but God knows them, and conscience points them out,) who offer no adoration to the God they acknowledge, who allot no portion of each successive day, that he metes out to them, to the sacred employment of thinking of him, reading of him, praising him, and praying to him, who never enter the closet to commune with him who seeth in secret and maintain no sort of communication and intercourse with him. Is not this to be without God in the world? Is this the manner of one friend with another? Is this the way of the child to his father? What would you think of a son or a daughter that should treat you so ? Does this look like spending an eternity in the delightful intercourse and worship of God? Is this making preparation for heaven? Yet many who answer to this description are confidently expecting to go to heaven; without another heart they cannot go thither, and if they knew what heaven is, they would not go there.
Shall we enter the family now to see what acknowledgment of God there is there. Here is the hearth, and the table, and the bed; but where is the altar and the offering unto God? Alas, they are no where to be found. There is not even a brief
before the repast as for the expression of gratitude, and the