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against these Temptations will appear, in the Second Place, when we consider the Danger there is in listening to these Instructors.
And here I can only speak to such as have not yet made thipwreck of Reason and Conscience : For, though the hardened Unbelievers are in the greatest Danger, yet they are farthest removed from the Power of Conviction : Nor will they perceive what Miseries they lay up in store for themselves, till they come to take possession of their sad Inheritance'; and then they will have but too much Time, and too many Calls, to reflect upon
the wretched Choice they made. But, as for
you, who have not yet renounced your God and your Redeemer ; you especially, whose easy Fortunes, or flourishing Years, expose you to the Temptations of crafty Sinners ; give me leave to expostulate this Case with all the Seriousness the Subject requires : And surely this is a serious Matter, and deserves your coolest Thoughts and Reflections. It is an unpardonable Folly and inexcusable Perverseuels for Men to forsake Religion out of Vanity and Ostentation ; as if Irreligion were a Mark of Honour, and a noble Distinctio i from the rest of Mankind. To fear, wis there is true Cause of Fear, where our Souls and our eternal Happiness are at stake, is not below the Dignity of a Man. To out-brave God and his Justice is a fad Instance of Courage: And Men, who fin through such ridiculous Vanity, may value themselves for their Bravery in despising the Fears, and their Wisdom in deriding the Weakness of Religion, and exposing the Faith and Credulity of Men; but perhaps a little Time, a very little Time, may Thew them what learned Pains they take to dispute themfelves into Hell. We must answer for the Vanity of our Reasoning, as well as for the Vanity of our Actions : And, if we take Pains to invent vain Reasoning to oppose to the plain Evidences that God has afforded us of his Being and Power, and to undermine the Proofs and Authorities upon which Religion stands, we may be sure we shall not go unpunilhed for so notable an Abuse of so rich a Talent entrusted with us by God: Much more, if we debase Reason, which was given us to be the governing Principle of our Lives, and force it to submit and follow our unruly Passions and Affections, much more Thall we be liable to the Vengeance of Heaven.
How far Men of irreligious Lives and Principles are chargeable with these Abuses, they can best inform themselves : And surely the Hopes of Immortality, and Fears of Hell, should compose them to so much Seriousness, as to ask themselves that Question. But, after all, if, upon a View of the whole Matter, and of the Evidences that Reason and Revelation afford us of a future State, they will not submit to the Doctrines and Precepts of Religion, they must be left to the Event for a fuller Demonstration of their Folly. If there be really a future State of Rewards and Punishments, both the Punishments and the Rewards must be very inconsiderable indeed not to make it worth a Man's while to live up to the Conditions of being happy. So that, when the Dispute is concerning the Folly of Irreligion, we may remit a great deal of the Truth in allowing the Punishment to be less than really it is, and the Argument will still have Force enough to convince Irreligion of Folly. The Punishment in all Cases must exceed the Advantage the Offender will
reap by transgressing the Law; or else, as much as the Gain to be reaped by breaking the Law exceeds the Punishment annexed to
the Breach, so much Encouragement there will be for Men to offend. Therefore we may be sure that God, who is the wisest of Lawgivers, has taken such Care to guard his Laws and Statutes, that there shall be no Encouragement for Offenders. Upon which Account we may assure ourselves, that, let the Pleasures and Advantages of Sin and Irreligion be ever so numerous or great, the Punishment shall still be greater : So that Men shall say, when they are to pay the Price of their Sins, they have sinned exceeding foolishly. Wicked Men spend their Time to no purpose in disputing against the Punishments of Sin, which are revealed to us; I mean, against the Nature of them: For, if they once allow that Sin and Wickedness shall be punished, their own Reason will inform them that the Punishment must at least be so great, as to make it worth a Man's while to abstain from Sin. So that all Sinners must be guilty of Folly in chusing the Sin with the Punishment, when the Punishment must of Neceffity exceed the Advantage of finning.
These are the easiest Terms that Sinners can flatter themselves with; and yet, even upon this View, the Pleasures of Sin will Vol. III.
prove a dear Bargain. But should the Punishments of another Life be, what we have but too much Reason to fear they will be, what Words can then express the Folly of Sin? Short are your Days in this World, and soon they shall expire : And Should Religion at last prove a mere Deceit, we know the worst of it; it is an Error for which we cannot suffer after Death: Nor will the Infidels there have the Pleasure to reproach us with our Mistake; they and we, in equal Rest, shall sleep the Sleep of Death. But should our Hopes, and their Fears, prove true; should they be so unhappy, as not to die for ever; which miserable Hope is the only Comfort that Infidelity affords; what Pains and Torments must they then undergo? Could I represent to you the different States of good and bad Men: Could I give you the Prospect which the blessed Martyr St. Stephen had, and shew
the blessed Jesus at the right Hand of God, surrounded with Angels, and the Spirits of just Men made perfect: Could I open your Ears to hear the never-ceasing Hymns of Praise, which the Blessed above hng to Him that was, and is, and is to come ; to the Lamb that was sain, but liveth for ever: