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conscience. The worst of men are as ready to profess to be led and governed by the dictates of conscience, as those who are truly conscientious; and to plead conscience for doing this or that; or, for not doing things, when in fact conscience has nothing to do in the business, but they are led by their inclinations, or driven on by their passions. That which a man is unwilling to do, he will persuade himself he ought not to do; and what he wishes to do, let it be ever so contrary to the dictates of reason and the word of God, it is a wonder, if he does not find some plea on which he will ground an argument, to prove the innocence or lawfulness of such conduct. When wicked men pretend to be ruled by conscience, they but act the part of hypocrites; for it is their lusts, not their conscience, by which they are governed. For if a person conscientiously avoids any act or practice, on the principle that it is sinful, he would upon the same principle avoid another, indeed every practice which is sinful. But it is the character of all wicked men, that they act contrary to the clearest dictates of conscience; at least when conscience is properly informed respecting those things of which they judge. This proves that the wicked, who walk according to the desires of their hearts, which is true of all impenitent sinners, and yet pretend that they are acting according to the dictates of conscience, are either deluded themselves, or are endeavouring to impose on others, and so acting the part of hypocrites. This class of men will, however, judge and reason well, and infer just conclusions re. specting their temporal concerns, who yet, in the affairs of religion, will infer contrary conclusions from the same principles. With regard to their temporal concerns, they act like wise men. In seed time they will sow, upon the principle, that the opportunity will be lost, if not improved, and that there is no reason to expect a crop, without using the appointed means of obtaining it. With respect to their worldly interest, they are careful not to miss any opportunity of securing what they have, by a sure title, and of acquiring more: and this carefulness is founded on the principle, that opportunity lost, cannot be recalled, and therefore that delays are dangerous. But mark the same persons in their reasonings and consequent conduct, respecting the interest of their souls, and they appear to have no idea or sense of the truth of the above mentioned principle ; they do not appear to believe that delays are dangerous, or that the opportunity of obtaining an interest in the riches of heaven, can be lostthat there is any danger in delays of this kind, and therefore, while they are careful to embrace every opportunity to secure their temporal interest, totally neglect the necessary means of securing the salvation of their souls, and are wholly at ease and quiet about it. This is truly the case among careless secure sinners, and is a proof of great inconsistency in their conduct; for while they are rising early and setting up late, to secure their temporal interest, they wholly neglect. things, which they acknowledge of the highest importance, for the sake of what is comparatively of little worth.' All sinners are guilty of this obvious inconsistency between reason and conduct. For they know,
and will generally acknowledge, that the interest, the well being of the soul is an object of more importance than the body, as eternity is longer than time ; and that opportunity is as liable to be lost in the one case, as in the other. This is a great inconsistency between the head and heart, to pursue principally what the judgment pronounces a less good, to the neglect of one infinitely greater, and which is as liable to be lost as the lesser.
4. Another instance of the inconsistency of sinners is the different manner in which they will reason from the divine prescience, or foreknowledge of God, respecting temporal and spiritual things. It is generally acknowledged by those, who believe the absolute perfection of the Deity, that from eternity, he foresaw all events which take place in time, and that certain foreknowledge implies the certainty of the events foreknown. For it is a manifest contradiction to say, that an event is certainly foreknown, and yet, that it may never take place. But this previous certainty does not, in the opinion of those who admit the doctrine, preclude the necessity and propriety of using means, in order to obtain desirable ends with respect to temporal things. No man who believes the foreknowledge or decree of God, respecting a future harvest, will neglect to plough and sow, upon the principle, that it is foreknown that he shall have a crop, and therefore he shall have it whether he ploughs and sows, or uses the means or not. His reason, in this case tells him, that the means are connected with the end, and necessary in order to obtain it. No man, but a
deluded Mahometan would think his life as secure in the face of every instrument of death, as when at a distance from the field of battle, on the principle that the time and manner of his death were appointed. Nor would he refrain from his ordinary food, on the principle, that he should live as long without it. And yet many of these very persons will reason in this way, respecting the salvation of their souls, and say, “if I am to be saved God knows, and has determined it, and the event is certain, and upon this principle my state is fixed, let me do what I will : There is no need of my taking any thought about it, or striving to secure the object; for all I can do will not alter the case one way nor the other.” Here the conclusion from the same principle is directly the reverse from what it was in the instance of ploughing and sowing, in order for a crop. Here the sinner appears inconsistent with himself. For, if we may rest our salvation on the divine foreknowledge, or decree of God, without using means, it is equally proper and safe to trust the success or prospect of a future harvest to the same principle ; for both are equally the objects of divine foreknowledge and determination. If it be improper to depend upon the foreknowledge of God for a harvest, while we neglect the appointed means of it; it is equally improper to expect salvation upon the principle, that the foreknowledge or decree of God, without our care and concern, will infallibly secure it. This unreasonable conclusion, from divine foreknowledge, as it respects the interest of the soul, does not arise from incapacity, as is evident from their being able to argue
justly from the same principle, with respect to temporal things; but it springs wholly from criminal disaffection to the truth. Duty is a burdensome employment. Sinners dislike the business of religion, and therefore try to separate what God hath joined together, (I mean, means and ends,) in order to quiet themselves in the neglect of duty. In all other concerns, except those of religion, the determinations of God are considered as no discouragements to exertion. Does the man who objects against the divine appointments in the concerns of religion, and who excuses himself in the neglect of the means of grace, does this man feel any discouragement in ploughing and sowing, because the God of nature has fixed the seasons, and determined that seed time and harvest shall never fail? Suppose no appointment, no fixed laws in this case, but an entire uncertainty whether there would be a seed time and an harvest, where would be the encouragement to cultivate the earth ?-Is not the encouragement in this case in exact proportion to the fixedness, or stability of the divine determination and promise ?-Indeed all the encouragement the husbandman has to plough and commit his seed to the earth, arises from the connexion which God has established between means and ends. Destroy this connexion, and every motive to exertion must cease to operate. By the determination of God, he that plougheth, may plough in hope, and feel his exertions invigorated from the decrees of God. This decree of God does not render the husbandman's labours languid in the field. He does not conclude, that, if God has fixed the