How was it that you first renounced Christianity, and imbibed your present principles? Retrace the process of your minds, and ask your consciences, as you proceed, whether all was fair and upright. Nothing is more common than for persons of relaxed morals to attribute their change of conduct to a change of sentiments or views relative to those subjects. It is galling to one’s own feelings, and mean in the account of others, to act against principle; but if a person can once persuade himself to think favourably of those things which he has formerly accounted sinful, and can furnish a plea for them, which, at least, may serve to parry the censures of mankind, he will feel much more at ease, and be able to put on a better face when he mingles in society. Whatever inward stings may annoy his peace under certain occasional qualms, yet he has not to reproach himself, nor can others reproach him, with that inconsistency of character as in former instances. Rousseau confesses he found, in the reasonings of a certain lady, with whom he lived in the greatest possible familiarity, all those ideas which he had occasion for.—Have you not found the same in the conversation and writings of deists? Did you not, previously to your rejection of Christianity, indulge in vicious courses; and while indulging in these courses, did not its holy precepts and awful threatenings gall your spirits? Were you not like persons gathering forbidden fruit amidst showers of arrows; and had you not recourse to your present principles for a shield against them? If you cannot honestly answer these questions in the negative, you are in an evil case. You may flatter yourselves, for a while, that perhaps there may be no hereafter, or at least no judgment to come; but you know the time is not far distant when you must go and see; and then, if you should be mistaken, what will you do?
Many of you have descended from godly parents, and have had a religious education. Has not your infidelity arisen from the dislike you conceived in early life to religious exercises? Family worship was a weariness to you; and the cautions, warnings, and counsels which were given you, instead of having any proper effect, only irritated your corruptions. You longed to be from under the yoke. Since that time your parents, it may be, have been removed by death; or if they live, they may have lost their control over you. So now you are free. But still something is wanting to erase the prejudices of education, which, in spite of all your efforts, will accompany you, and imbitter your present pursuits. For this purpose, a friend puts into your hands The Age of Reason, or some production of the kind. You read it with avidity. This is the very thing you wanted. You have long suspected the truth of Christianity, but had not courage to oppose it. Now then you are a philosopher; yes, a philosopher! “Our fathers,” say you, “might be well-meaning people, but they were imposed upon by priests. The world gets more enlightened now-a-days. There is no need of such rigidness. The Supreme Being (if there be one) can never have created the pleasures of life but for the purpose of enjoyment. Avaunt, ye self-denying casuists! Nature is the law of man!”
Was not this, or something nearly resembling it, the process of your minds? And are you now satisfied? I do not ask whether you have been able to defend your cause against assailants, nor whether you have gained converts to your way of thinking: you may have done both; but are you satisfied with yourselves? Do you really believe yourselves to be in the right way? Have you no misgivings of heart? Is there not something within you which occasionally whispers, “My parents were righteous, and I am wicked: oh that my soul were in their souls’ stead?”
Ah, young men! if such be the occasional revoltings of your mind, what are you doing in labouring to gain others over to your way of thinking? Can you from experience honestly promise them peace of mind? Can you go about to persuade them that there is no hell, when, if you would speak the truth, you must acknowledge that you have already an earnest of it kindled in your bosoms? If counsels were not lost upon you, I would entreat you to be contented with destroying your own souls. Have pity on your fellow creatures, if you have none upon yourselves. Nay, spare yourselves so much, at least, as not to incur the everlasting execrations of your most intimate acquaintance. If Christianity should prove what your consciences in your most serious moments tell you it is, you are doing this every day of your lives.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Concluding Addresses: To Diest,” in The Gospel Its Own Witness. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 98–100). Sprinkle Publications.