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are unreasonable ? Not that we should love them; for love is a most grateful affection. Not that we should do them good; for thus we obtain friends without whom life would be solitary and desart. Not that we should forgive and even love our enemies ; for thus we disarm their ill will, and save ourselves from the tortures of malignant passions. And if in society there be any thing pleasing, if friendship have any charms, if we have any desire of reputation, and if we prefer the smiles and blessings to the dislike of our companions, shall we not do to others as we would that they should do unto us? We are most intimately connected with our fellow-creatures; we de pend upon them for much of our worldly prosperity, and for the choicest enjoyments of social life; but without their confidence and kind affections we lose all the benefits they can bestow. And can we more effectually inspire them with the dispositions which we wish they should have toward us, than by acting with a regard to their welfare? It is seldom that the love of any one is not returned ; there are none whom we cannot bind to us by favors ; and these are the methods which are appointed by religion to obtain the good will of men. The sacrifices which compliance with these rules may sometimes require, will usually be recompensed by the good affections and regard of those for whom they are made ; but although for kindness we receive ingratitude, and are reproached, and reviled for our benevolent actions, there is still left us in the temper from which these actions ought to proceed, and which they will tend to strengthen, a reward sufficiently great in itself; so that were the feelings of all around us to be depraved, and love to be felt by none but ourselves, and all the social affections of others to become extinct, it would still be the unhesitating and exalted injunction of reason to forgive our enemies, and be kindly affectioned to all our fellow-creatures.
If then, my friends, reason is so noble a faculty, we must wish to possess it in its strength and purity; and we shall therefore cultivate and improve it, and avoid every thing that may blind or bias it; and if it thus directs the performance of all that Christianity requires, what excuse can we have for disobedience to the commands of God?
ON THE ADVANTAGES OF A REGARD TO RELIGION CONSID
ERED MERELY WITH RESPECT TO THE PRESENT LIFE.
1. TIM. iv. 8.
GODLINESS IS PROFITABLE UNTO ALL THINGS, HAVING PROMISE OF THE
LIFE THAT NOW I8.
It is not an uncommon error among those who are unacquainted with the nature of true religion, to think that whoever would be influenced by its motives, would practise its duties, or regard its sanctions, must give to it an attention that is inconsistent with any considerable regard to the usual objects of human pursuit; that it subjects its votaries to many restraints which are not conducive to their present welfare ; that at least it renders necessary abstinence from many enjoyments which neither harm others, nor are injurious to ourselves. These notions incline those who indulge them to defer the time of commencing their religious course to some distant period. But religion, so far from requiring the devotion of all our time to its concerns,
is intended to direct us in the performance of the business of life; to guide us to the best means of obtaining every lawful object; to encourage us in industry; to make us useful members of families and of society; and, in short, to enable us so to conduct in all the relations of life as probably to secure to us most present happiness. It must then be acknowledged to be very unwise to delay for a moment to conform our actions to its rules; since certain and immediate benefit will be the result of so doing.
It is my intention in the following discourse to impress these truths, by showing how much more happy those may be who are influenced by religious motives, and endeavour in all situations to perform their duty, than those who are destitute of so noble an aim, and act only on principles of policy or self-interest, without regard to their religious character. But let it not be thought to be my object to persuade you, that those who are truly virtuous are entirely happy; that religion is a security against all suffering; or that moral excellence can be obtained without exertions and sacrifices such as must be made in pursuit of superiority of any kind. Those who seek for riches are active and assiduous in their business the ambitious subject themselves to great cares, and have to surmount many obstacles to their progress and to be learned requires the denial of many enjoyments, and the habit of laborious industry. To be virtuous also, it is necessary to be patient, active, watchful, and self-denying. But no more, nay, even less labor and fatigue is requisite to obtain the favor of God, than many submit to without a complaint for the sake of the good opinion of men. The pleasures to be relinquished, and the pains to be endured, to procure for ourselves the advantages of virtue and religion, do not imply greater sacrifices and sufferings, than those which must be sustained for most of those objects which men desire.
All then which I would assert, is, that religion is a good, which is worth the exertions it requires, for the sake of its effects upon us in the present life, without taking into consideration its consequences in another world. Let us then consider the causes and objects of human actions, in the different periods of life, and what would be the effect of superadding to these the motives and ends which religion presents.
1. Children are not usually much influenced by regard to any distant good-their impulses to action are derived from some present excitement. They are only distressed by the sorrows of the day, and are happy in the expectation of tomorrow's enjoyment. For many years they are generally unin. cumbered by any cares for their own support. The objects which they pursue are the gratification of their yet untired senses, and amusements full of noise and frolic. They are soon however disciplined to some exertion; and being engaged in the same pursuits with their equals in age, the desire of excelling is early to be observed; and emulation and ambition are cherished in their minds, as the means of inducing them to do their duty. But they commonly desire superiority only from the natural love of notice and distinction, and as the means of procuring the smiles of parents, the approbation of masters, or the indulgences grateful to their age. At this period, which is called the age of purity and innocence, the formation of the future character is commenced; the passions which as yet have only displayed themselves in transient expressions, will soon manifest their deeply rooted power. It is then in the season of childhood and youth, that unless the reason has been cultivated as far as possible, and fortified by correct principles, that we become the slaves of our senses, and form habits of vice, from the effects of which upon our present happiness, no future virtue can preserve us. If no religious feeling exist in the heart at this period of life, if the sense of duty have not been well formed, the love of pleasure will strengthen itself into a corrupt and selfish affection; the desire of excellence will degenerate into envy; and all regard to future happiness will be sacrificed to the fol. lies of a day.
From the evils to which the young are exposed on account of the power of their passions, the weakness of their reason, and their want of foresight to discern the connexion between the present and the future, there is no certain preservative but religion. The follies and vices to which they are lia. ble are such as unfit them for useful occupations, for simple