My persuasion is deepened, as I become acquainted with infidels, that there are few of them honest in the sentiments they pretend to entertain. A wicked course of life necessitates most infidels to espouse and contend for such principles. The following is a correct illustration of your position, as well as of many others: Two gentlemen, infidels, often held free conversation before an illiterate countryman. One of them was afterwards converted to God. Fearing that injury had been done to the poor man, he, on a proper occasion, expressed a concern on the subject in his presence, and inquired whether their opinions had left any bad impression upon his mind. “By no means,” said the peasant, “it never had any effect upon me.” “But you must have known that we knew more than you; having better opportunities both for rending and thinking.” “Yes,” he rejoined, “but I was aware of your manner of living. I knew that, to maintain such a course of conduct, you found it necessary to renounce Christianity.”
Were it not for this, no rational mind could find anything charming in infidelity. It denies everything, but what does it affirm? and what but a vicious mind could find pleasure in a system of negatives? There is not a moral light under heaven that it does not attempt to extinguish. If successful in blowing it out, nothing but a blank is offered instead, and a fatal necessity of stumbling onward into deeper darkness. “If your system be true,” said one to an infidel, “you have a bleak and comfortless lot; but if false, forever miserable is your fate, because you are making no preparation for it.”
It is easy and pleasant to reason with a mind sincerely searching for truth, and willing to abide by it when found. But it is a difficult affair to break down a conscience embarrassed in its operations by passions enslaved to vice.
“Against experience he believes,
Argues against demonstration;
Pleased when his reason he deceives,
And sets his judgment by his passion.”
So true is the old proverb, “Men readily believe what they wish to be true.”
A few weeks ago, when in Limerick, I was conversing with the captain of a ship in port on the peculiarities of the mariner’s compass Speaking of its variations, he told me that difficulties frequently occur when sailing through a certain gulf, in consequence of vast masses of iron ore in the neighboring mountains. So intense is the magnetic action from that source, that the needle is often drawn one or two points from the truth. “Should the helmsman,” he added, “allow himself, under such circumstances, to be guided by its dictates, it would bring him to the rocks of shipwreck. I have known the influence so powerful, when the wind was in a certain direction, that I have had to put my finger within the box, and shake the card, before the needle could be freed from the embarrassment; then it came round to the true point, and stood and trembled there.”
Shall I assist you in making the application? Your vicious habits and gusts of temptation conspire to derange the operations of your mind, and perplex your conscience. Thus situated, reason must not steer by these, unless you desire to strike the rocks of eternal destruction. The error of a sinner’s ways, James 5:20, and his belching out error in sentiment, are closely united. Working iniquity, speaking villainy, practicing hypocrisy, and uttering error in doctrine against the Lord, are singularly interwoven in Isaiah 32:6.
Your vices, unlike those mountains of iron ore, may be easily removed; then shall your mind and conscience harmonize with your chart, the Bible; and reason safely steer by the divine dictates. In such a case, were I allowed to be the pilot, there would be little difficulty in keeping your opinions in the proper course, till conducted into a safe anchorage in the harbor of redeeming love. Until you are willing to abandon those scenes and persons connected with your sinful course, it is useless for me to continue a controversy with you upon such subjects.
“A man convinced against his will,
Is of the same opinion still.”
So long as your soul is debasingly attached to those habits to which you refer, my argument might, indeed, disturb you a little, as the captain’s finger the card of the compass, and no more. Without a continual shaking, the influence of those local causes would, I greatly fear, prove the truth of that mournful sentiment,
“Experience but too plainly shows
That man can act against the truth he knows.”
The hell awaiting you is terrible, if you persevere in your present wicked and inconsistent course.