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easily find evidence that the worst of these excesses are not more condemnable, in the eye of enlightened reason, than the flippant jocularity, and utter absence of all argument, with which a witling infidelity has so senselessly assailed it. Ridicule can only be properly employed in combating tenets which are too absurd in themselves, or too absurdly maintained, to be met with sober argument. But we would ask the man who is sceptical here, and who looks abroad over the endless varieties of heaven's material handywork, if there be any absurdity at all in supposing, that, since God has given to man a reasonable soul in connexion with a bodily organization, there may be other reasonable beings who are entirely unembodied; that these beings may surpass us in compass and versatility of intellectual capability; that they may be placed under the same system of moral legislation under which we are placed; that a community of interest may exist between them and us, as deriving our beings from the same source, possessing the same moral nature, amenable to the same law, susceptible of the same enjoyments, united in the same ecstatic prospects, and awed by the same tremendous penalty; that in virtue of this community of interest, and aided by their superior powers, they may have access to our spirits, and the means of influencing our moral judgments, to an extent of which our dependence on bodily organs, or the misleading influence of sin, has rendered us greatly unconscious; that, (being fallible as we were,) they may have broken the law, and incurred the righteous displeasure of our common Creator, before we had done so; that envying in us the innocence and happiness which they had
sinned away, they may have converted that access to our spirits, which was originally intended for good, into a medium of subtlety and malice, till at last they fatally succeeded in involving us in the same moral disaster, which sin had brought upon themselves; and that, ever since our nature's fall, they may have held dominion over us, keeping up a living alliance between their spirits and ours, widening and deepening the original breach between us and our offended Creator, and incessantly opposing every effort to rectify our estimate of religious principle?
This hypothesis contains a brief sum of the Christian's belief on the point in question; and we ask the most enlightened scorner, who ever cast derision on the subject, to compare it with the moral analogies with which he is, or ought to be acquainted, and to specify a single part of it which justly ineurs the charge of absurdity? His heart may have its separate reluctances, and these we take to be certain evidence of the dismal truth for which we contend; but if antipathy would allow his reason to operate, we should have the admission from his own lips, that the whole is fairly within the limits of a sober and chastened possibility.
This admission is quite enough to rebuke the spirit of levity with which the topic is often approached, but it is very far from being the amount of what can be said in support of the topic, even without the aid of revelation. The moral phenomena of human nature, both in societies and individuals, appeared so unaccountable to many of the wisest heathens, that, in order to explain them, they were driven to a conjecture, which bears a very marked
resemblance to the Christian belief on this very subject.
So deaf was man to the voice of his reason, so perverse and untameable in his dispositions, so blindly was he set on prosecuting courses which tended to defeat his dearest interests, that they could not conceive it possible for him to act as he did, except on the supposition that an evil agency, mightier than himself, had got him under its moral control. They devoted themselves to his moral education, they laboured to civilize him, they set before him lessons of experience, and printed on his memory the maxims of wisdom, but still they found him irreclaimable. They could place him in altered circumstances, or give refinement to his social manners, or change the objects of his ruinous pursuit, but they could not change his dispositions; and, amidst the perplexities thus produced, they founded systems of religious belief, on the avowed principle, that this world is governed by two contending agencies; the one, the author of all good, and the other, the author of all evil; and that nations or individuals are virtuous or vicious, happy or miserable, according as the one or the other may happen to gain the ascendency. This notion, as they held it, and gathered their floating crudities around it, was irrational, and clearly incompatible with the demonstrable truth, that there cannot be more than one God; but who does not see, that the general conception of it, or in fact its essential principle, comes very near to the Scripture doctrine of Satan's agency in human affairs ? And let it be remembered, that this system was concocted by the reflecting part of society, that it was not a gratuitous theory, proceeding as did
many others, from the wild inventiveness of their “ vain imaginations,” but the result of deep and painful moralizing on the mystery of human perverseness. They looked at reason's imbecility on all points of practical wisdom; they saw it the victim of depraved propensity, in every department of intemperate indulgence; they were amazed at the complicated misery which man procures for himself, in defiance of precept or example; and they were absolutely shut up to the dire conclusion, that he never could abuse himself thus, but for the separate workings within him of a powerfully predominant evil influence.
Every one acquainted with heathen moralists, especially those who investigate vice, is perfectly aware, that this very notion, in one or other of its modifications, is to be found in the best of their writings; and that, in point of fact, it is one of the most philosophical, because one of the best sustained of all their moral inductions. But we have little occasion to go into antiquity, in quest of merely recorded analogies, since we have them in living abundance in the times in which we live. unhappily, are far from being few in which a spirit of indomitable waywardness springs up into fearful enormity, amidst the purest domestie training, religious as well as moral, and rushes out on a career of profligacy, to the speedy destruction of soul and body, in defiance of all restraint. A careful inspection of these cases will furnish matter of instructive inquiry, in connection with the subject in hand. The individual who has thus revolted, is often an object of the deepest interest.
His natural dispositions may be
mild and accommodating, and his heart susceptible of the finest impressions from social or relative endearment. No one of the vices to which he is addicted may, as yet, have acquired a confirmed ascendency; and if you approach him in the intervals of his guilty indulgence, when the frenzy of profligate passion has for a little subsided, you may find him a penitent recipient of your affectionate admonitions. paint to him the nature of the course he is pursuing, the guilt which he contracts by walking in it, the remorse and shame which it creates within him, and the certain ruin in which it ends; his heart recognises the truth of the picture, and is chilled into horror at the image of itself. If you ply him with motives to reformation, by appealing to the vengeance which guilt incurs, or the proffers of heaven's forgiveness, or the principle of self-preservation, or the yearnings of parental or relative love, as a series of powerful dissuasives which it is fearful to set at nought--you may melt him into tenderness, and draw the tear of ingenuous sorrow, and imagine you perceive the incipient symptoms of a return to reason and virtue. He may feel the force of all you say, and nauseate the cup of polluted pleasure, and load himself with the bitterest reproaches, and resolve in good earnest to be an altered man. He may attempt to put his resolution in practice, and actually hold by it for a considerable time; but, in a moment of fatal inadvertence, a fresh temptation is thrown in his
way; his evil passions are aroused from their slumbers, and wrought up into a new frenzy; his relentings and resolutions are dissipated and forgotten, like the phantoms of a midnight dream; and, after the paroxysm