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all. This calm system may not be sufficient for that unceasing eagerness, hurry, and anxiety, about worldly affairs, in which some men pass their lives; but it is sufficient for everything which reasonable prudence requires : and it is perfectly consistent with 'usefulness in our stations, which is a main point. Indeed, compare the hours which serious persons spend in religious exercises and meditations, with the hours which the thoughtless and irreligious spend in idleness and vice and expensive diversions, and you will perceive on which side of the comparison the advantage lies, even in this view of the subject.
Nor is there anything in the nature of religion to support the objection. In a certain sense it is true, what has been sometimes said, that religion ought to be the rule of life, not the business : by which is meant, that the subject
matter even of religious duties lies in the common affairs and transactions of the world. Diligence in our calling is an example of this; which, however, keeps both a man's head and hands at work upon business merely temporal ; yet religion may be governing him here meanwhile. God may be feared in the busiest scenes.
In addition to the above, there exists another prejudice against religious seriousness, arising from a notion very commonly entertained, viz. that religion leads to gloom and melancholy. This notion, I am convinced, is a mistake. Some persons are constitutionally subject to melancholy, which is as much a disease in them as the ague is a disease ; and it may happen that such' men's melancholy shall fall upon religious ideas, as it may upon any other subject which seizes their distempered imagination. But this is not religion leading to melancholy. Or it sometimes is the case that men are brought to a sense of religion, by calamity and affliction, which produce at the same time depression of spirits. But neither here is religion the cause of this distress or dejection, or to be blamed for it. These cases being excepted, the very reverse of what is alleged against religion is the truth. No man's spirits were ever hurt by doing his duty. On the contrary, one good action, one temptation resisted and overcome, one sacrifice of desire or interest purely for conscience' sake, will prove a cordial for weak and low spirits beyond what either indulgence or diversion or company can do for them. And a succession and course of such actions and self-denials, springing from a religious principle, and manfully maintained, is the best possible course that can be followed as a remedy for sinkings and oppressions of this kind. Can it then be true, that religion leads to melancholy? Occasions arise to every man living,—to many very severe as well as repeated occasions,—in which the hopes of religion are the only stay that is left him. Godly men have that within them, which cheers and comforts them in their saddest hours: ungodly men have that which strikes their heart, like a dagger, in its gayest moments. Godly men discover, what is very true, but what by most men is found out too late, namely, that a good conscience and the hope of our Creator's final favour and acceptance, is the only solid happiness to be attained in this world. ' Experience corresponds with the reason of the thing. I take upon me to say, that
. religious men are generally cheerful. If this be not observed, as might be expected, supposing it to be true, it is because the cheerfulness .which religion inspires does not show itself in noise, or in fits and starts of merriment, but is calm and constant. Of this, the only true and valuable kind of cheerfulness, --for all other kinds are hollow and unsatisfying,religious men possess not less but a greater share than others.
Another destroyer of religious seriousness, and which is the last I shall mention, is a certain fatal turn which some minds take, namely, that when they find difficulties in or concerning religion, or any of the tenets of religion, they forthwith plunge into irreligion ; and make these difficulties, or any degree of uncertainty which seems to their apprehension to hang over the subject, a ground and occasion for giving full liberty to their inclinations, and for casting off the restraints of religion entirely. This is the case with men who, at the best, perhaps, were only balancing between the sanctions of religion and the love of pleasure or of unjust gain, but especially the former. In this precarious state, any objection or appearance of objection, which diminishes the force of religious impression, determines the balance against the side of virtue, and gives up the doubter to sensuality, to the world, and to the flesh. Now, of all ways which a man can take, this is the surest way to destruction; and it is completely irrational. I say it
; is completely irrational; for, when we meditate upon the tremendous consequences which form the subject of religion, we cannot avoid this reflection, that any degree of probability whatever, I had almost said any degree of possibility whatever, of religion being true, ought to determine a rational creature so to act as to secure himself from punishment in a future state, and the loss of that happiness which may be attained. Therefore he has no pretence for alleging uncertainty as an excuse for his conduct, because he does not act in conformity with that in which there is no uncertainty at all. In the next place, it is giving to apparent difficulties more weight than they are entitled to. I only request any man to consider, first, the necessary allowances to be made for the short-sightedness and the weakness of the human understanding ;
secondly, the nature of those subjects concerning which religion treats, so remote from our senses, so different from our experience, so above and beyond the ordinary train and course of our ideas; and then say, whether difficulties, and great difficulties, also, were not to be expected; nay, farther, whether they be not in some measure subservient to the very purpose of religion. The reward of everlasting life, and the punishment or 'misery of which we know no end, if they were present and immediate, could not be
ithstood, and would not leave any room for liberty or choice. But this sort of force upon the will is not what God designed: nor is suitable indeed to the nature of free, moral, and accountable agents. The truth is, and it was most likely seen beforehand that it would be so, that, amidst some points which are dark, some which are dubious, there are many which are clear and certain. Now, I apprehend, that, if we act faithfully up to those points concerning which there is no question, most especially if we determine upon and choose our rule and course of life according to those principles of choice which all men whatever allow to be wise and safe principles, and the only principles which are so; and conduct ourselves steadfastly according to the rule thus chosen, the difficulties which remain in religion will not move or disturb us much ; and will, as we proceed, become gradually less and fewer. Whereas, if we begin with objections; if all we consider about religion be its difficulties; but most especially if we permit the suggestion of difficulties to drive us into a practical rejection of religion itself, and to afford us, which is what we wanted, an excuse to ourselves for casting off its restraints ; then the event will be, that its difficulties will multiply upon us; its light grow more and more dim, and we shall settle in the worst and most hope
less of all conditions ; the last condition, I will venture to
say, in which any man living would wish his son, or any one whom he loved, and for whose happiness he was anxious, to be placed ; a life of confirmed vice and dissoluteness; founded in a formal renunciation of religion.
He that has to preach Christianity to persons in this state, has to preach to stones. He must not expect to be heard either with complacency, or seriousness, or patience, or even to escape contempt and derision. Habits of thinking are fixed by habits of acting ; and both too solidly fixed to be moved by human persuasion. God, in his mercy, and by his providences, as well as by his Spirit, can touch and soften the heart of stone. And it is seldom, perhaps, that, without some strong and, it may be, sudden impressions of this kind and from this source, serious sentiments ever penetrate dispositions hardened in the manner which we have here described.