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for him to deign to look upon us, or to take any part in our concerns,-or as if, in the immensity of his works, we should be lost and forgotten, passed over unobserved and unheeded. Alas! there are too many, who even desire that it should be so, and therefore endeavour to persuade themselves that it is so; who living without any knowledge of God, wish that he also should have no knowledge of them, and do all they can to reason themselves into the miserable belief that he has none; that he takes no notice of their actions, that he does not even perceive their existence, consequently that he requires nothing at their hands; that they are not called upon to pay him any service, to honour him with any reverence, that the duty of obedience to à supposed divine will is a fanciful imagination, that they cannot offend him, that they have nothing to fear from him, that they will never be called to an account by him; in short, that all religion is vain and unprofitable, a mere ignorant superstition, for that God is too great to regard such a little being as man, either with favour or displea
This was a very ancient doctrine, maintained by a sect who were proverbially addicted to sensuality and worldly pleasures ; and it is eagerly enough received by such persons in the present day also, as follow them in their base
and vicious attachment to similar indulgences. And this alone it is, which gives rise to the opinion, or rather to the desire which they entertain; it is for their interest, for their comfort and security in the sinful course of life which they lead, that God should thus disregard them; they would not have his eye continually upon them, and “spying out all their ways." “He is far above out of their sight, and therefore they would rather persuade themselves that they are far below out of his; that he is so occupied with greater things as to overlook them, or if he beholds them, that they are so insignificant as not to be worthy of his consideration, so that they may freely walk in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes without any apprehension “that for all these things he will bring them into judgment.” “Tush, say they, how shall God perceive? Is there knowledge in the Most High? Thus, o God, “do the wicked blaspheme thee daily, while they say in their hearts, Tush, thou God carest not for it.” But “surely thou hast seen it, for thou beholdest ungodliness and wrong;' and thy day of vengeance will come at length, when these impious reasoners shall be confounded, and all men shall be constrained to acknowledge,
verily there is a reward for the righteous, doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth.” But is it humility which makes these men thus securely calculate on the ignorance or the indifference of God? Is it really a sense of their own unworthiness, or a high conception of the greatness of the divine nature? No; perhaps they are among the proudest and most arrogant of mankind; perhaps they have the meanest ideas of God. What is it then which encourages them in these sentiments ? it is nothing but sin ; they will not restrain their evil propensities, and the only way to find any comfort or tranquillity of mind, in the indulgence of them, is by taking refuge in the vain hope of impunity. This explains the whole secret of that practical atheism which so abounds in this wicked world; sinners would, if possible, believe that there is no God at all. But since “ he hath not left himself without witness,” but has displayed such manifest proofs of his existence, his wisdom, and his power, they readily embrace the next suggestion of the devil, or of their own corrupt hearts, (and flatter themselves in the belief,) that he takes no notice of their proceedings. Thus they encourage themselves in wickedness, and commune among themselves how they may practise iniquity, and say (not only) that no man shall see them,” but even that God shall not. “My heart (says David) sheweth me the wickedness
of the ungodly, that there is no fear of God before his eyes, for he flattereth himself in his own sight, until his abominable sin be found out;" and although the unhappy sinner may, for the present, quiet his fears by shutting his eyes, and thinking himself in darkness, yet every sin is “found out,” as soon as it is committed, nay, as soon as it is conceived, and will, to his dismay, be set before him in that day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and the history of his life disclosed.
But I will confine my attention now to the case of another and very different class of persons, to whom I before alluded ;-I mean those, who are liable occasionally to fall into the same sentiments concerning God, not through the persuasion of sin, but from a humble and abject opinion of their own littleness and worthlessness. There is nothing that they more earnestly desire than that God should ever be with them, and they objects of his care; they are anxious for his protection, for his illumination, for his guidance, for his love; they cannot bear the thought of being deserted, neglected, forgotten, by him; the apprehension alone produces in their minds the idea of a horrid solitude, which no society could fill; they want an assurance of his presence with them, and of his loving kindness towards them; nay more, they want a sense of it, a perceptible comfort and strength and security, derived, and known by themselves to be derived, from an intimate union with him.
And there are times in the life of a christian, when however serious and piously disposed, either from weakness of faith, from the influence of doubts raised by a fearful imagination, or infused by the enemy of human happiness, or from a depression of spirits that may be produced by various circumstances, either directly affecting the mind, or indirectly, through the agency of the body, when, I say, he is liable to become a prey to gloomy reflections, and he trembles at the thought, lest the pleasing belief, which he has so fondly entertained, that God regards him with favour and love, should prove delusive. He reasons thus with himself:-important as I sometimes appear in my own sight, what am I, but a mere atom on the surface of the globe which I inhabit? Vast also as the globe seems to me, what is it but a speck in the midst of creation ? If I were to be blotted out of existence, who would perceive the vacancy so made among the millions of men ? If this earth itself were in a moment to be reduced to nothing, what eye would miss it among all the shining spots that fill the heavens ? The great universe would go on as heretofore, though one