« AnteriorContinuar »
one that had decided against him. Can you then linger when death and hell do not linger ? Can you halt, hesitate, and fluctuate, when death may the very next hour decide the business for you? And, oh! if you should die without decision, what will be your reflections, and what will be ours! How bitterly will you exclaim, 6. Fool that I was, to let any thing interfere with my eternal salvation; to let any thing interpose between my soul and her everlasting welfare. Why, why did I hesitate ? I saw the excellence, I coveted the possession of religion. Often I felt my heart rising to go and surrender unreservedly to God; I wept, I prayed, I resolved ; but that accursed lust, in which I took pleasure, held me fast, and rather than tear myself from it, I let go the hope of eternal life. I was afraid of a little ridicule, which I ought to have disregarded or despised, and when I seemed near the kingdom was ruined by indecision. While I hesitated death seized me, and now I shall be exhibited by the light of this flame in which I burn for ever, an awful proof of the folly and the danger of indecision. Wo, eternal wo upon my wretched spirit !"
Spare yourselves, my dear children, these dreadful reflections, this inconceivable torment. Without an hour's delay, resign yourselves to God and the influence of true religion. Decide the doubtful point. Believe and obey.
On the pleasures of a religious life. A DESIRE after happiness, my dear children, is inseparable from the human mind, It is the natural and healthy craving of our spirit; an appetite which we hav
neither will nor power to destroy, and for which all mankind are busily employed in making provision. This is as natural, as for birds to fly, or fishes to swim. For this the scholar and the philosopher, who think it consists in knowledge, pore over their books and their apparatus, light the midnight lamp, and keep frequent vigils, when the world around them is asleep. For this the warrior, who thinks that happiness is inseparably united with fame, pursues that bubble through the gory field of conflict, and is as lavish of his life, as if it were not worth a soldier's
The worldling, with whom happiness and wealth are kindred terms, worships daily at the shrine of Mammon, and offers earnest prayers for the golden shower. The voluptuary, gratifies every craving sense, rejoices in the midnight revel, renders himself vile, and yet tells you he is in the chase of happiness. The ambitious man, conceiving that the great desideratum blossoms on the sceptre, and hangs in rich clusters from the throne, consumes one half of his life, and embitters the other half, in climbing the giddy elevation of royalty. All these, however, have confessed their disappointment; and have retired from the stage exclaiming, in reference to happiness, what Brutus, just before he stabbed him
self, did in reference to virtue, “I have pursued thee every where, and found thee nothing but a name." This, however, is a mistake; for both virtue and happiness are glorious realities, and if they are not found, it is merely because they are not sought from the right sources.
We may affirm of pleasure what Job did of wisdom, " There is a path which no fowl know*eth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: the lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. But where shall” happiness “ be found, and where is the place of” enjoyment ? “Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. Whence then cometh" happiness, " and where is the place of” enjoyment ? "seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fạme thereof with our
God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof: When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder; then did he see it and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, all her paths are peace.”
Happiness has no other equivalent term than religion, and this is a moral synonym. If, indeed, the case were otherwise, and religion, so
far as the present world is concerned, entailed nothing but wretchedness, yet, as it leads to eternal felicity in the world to come, it is most manifestly our interest to attend to its claims. The
poor Hindoo devotee, who endures all kind of tortures under the idea that it is the only way to eternal felicity, acts with perfect rationality, if you allow his data. A life protracted to the length of Methuselah's, and filled with penances and pilgrimages, should be willingly and thankfully endured, if salvation could be procured by no other means. In the prospect of eternity, with heaven spreading out its ineffable glories, and hell uncovering its dreadful horrors, the only question which a rational creature should allow himself to ask is, 6. What is necessary to avoid the torments of the one, and secure the felicities of the other ?” and on being told “ Religion,” he should apply with all the energies of his soul to this great business, without scarcely allowing himself to ask whether its duties are pleasant or irksome. The man who is journeying to take possession of a kingdom, scarcely thinks it worth his while to inquire whether the road be through a wilderness or a paradise. It is enough for him to know, that it is the only road to the throne. Hence, the representation of the pleasures of religion, is a sort of gratuity in this subject. It serves, however, to leave those still more destitute of excuse, who live in the neglect of piety; and, in this view, may have still greater power to rouse the conscience.
1. That religion is pleasure, will appear, if you consider what part of our nature it more particularly employs and gratifies.
It is not the gratification of the senses, or of the animal part of our nature, but a provision for the immaterial and immortal mind. The mind of man is an image not only of God's spirituality, but of his infinity. It is not like the senses, limited to this or that kind of object; as the sight intermeddles not with that which affects the smell; but with an universal superintendance, it arbitrates upon, and takes them in, all. It is, as I may say, an ocean, into which all the little rivulets of sensation, both external and internal, discharge themselves. Now this is that part of man to which the exercises of religion properly belong. The pleasures of the understanding, in the contemplation of truth, have been sometimes so great, so intense, so engrossing of all the powers of the soul, that there has been no room left for any other kind of pleasure. How short of this are the delights of the epicure! How vastly disproportionate are the pleasures of the eating, and of the thinking man! Indeed, says Dr. South, as different as the silence of an Archimides in the study of a problem, and the stillness of a sow at her wash. Nothing is comparable to the pleasures of mind; these are enjoyed by the spirits above, by Jesus Christ, and the great and blessed God.
Think what objects religion brings before the mind, as the sources of its pleasure: no less than the great God himself, and that both in his nature and in his works. For the eye of religion, like that of the eagle, directs itself chiefly to the sun, to a glory that neither admits of a superior nor an equal. The mind is conversant, in the exercises of piety, with all the most stupendous events that have ever occurred in the