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.“ But the good man shall be satisfied from himself.” “Whoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him,” said Jesus Christ, “shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The piety of his heart, produced by the Holy Ghost, is this well-spring of pleasure, which a good man carries every where with him, wherever he goes. He is independent of all the contingencies of life for his bliss. “It is an easy and a portable pleasure, such an one as he carries about in his bosom, without alarming the eye or the envy of the world. A man putting all his pleasures into this one, is like a traveller putting all his goods, as it were, into one jewel ; the value is the same, and the convenience greater.”
“Nor is this kind of pleasure out of the reach of any outward violence only; but even those things also, which make a closer impression upon us, which are the irresistible decays of nature, have yet no influence at all upon this. For when age itself, which of all things in the world will not be baffled or defied, shall begin to arrest, seize, and remind us of our mortality, by pains, aches, and deadness of limbs, and dulness of senses, yet then the pleasure of the mind shall be in its full youth, vigour, and freshness. A palsy may as soon shake an oak, or a fever dry up a fountain, as either of them shake, dry up, or impair the delight of conscience ; for it lies within, it centres in the heart, it grows into the very substance of the soul, so that it acconpanies a man to his grave; he never outlives it, and that for this cause only, because he cannot outlive himself."
How comes it to pass then, that in opposition to all this, the opinion has gained ground that religion leads to melancholy? The irreligious judge of it by their own feelings; and as they are not conscious of any pleasurable emotions, excited by sacred things, they conclude that others are in like manner destitute of them. But is their testimony to be received, before that of the individual who has tried and found it by experience to be bliss? Again, irreligious people for their opinion by what they see in many professors, some of whom, though professing godliness, are destitute of its power; and being more actuated by a spirit of the world than of piety, are strangers to the peace that passeth understanding; others are not yet brought out of that deep dejection, with which the earlier stages of conviction are sometimes attended. The sinner, when first arrested in his thoughtless career, is filled with deep dismay, and the most poignant grief; reviewed in this state of mind, his appearance may produce the idea that religion is the parent of melancholy. But wait, he that sows in tears shall reap in joy. His tears, like showers in summer from a dark and lowering cloud, carry off the gloom which they first caused, portend a clearer and a cooler atmosphere, and are ultimately followed by the bright shining of the sun.
Ăn unfavourable impression against religion is sometimes produced by the constitutional gloom of some of its genuine disciples. It should be recollected, that in these cases, religion does not cause the dejection, for this would have existed had there been no piety. All that can be said is, that it does not cure it, which is
not to be expected, unless piety pretended to, exert an influence over the physical nature of man.
The supposition that piety leads to melancholy is also founded, in part, on the self-denying duties which the word of God enjoins. Penitence, self-denial, renunciation of the world, willingness to take up the cross, and follow after Christ, are unquestionably required, and must be truly found in the genuine christian. Hence, the worldling thinks it impossible, but that with such duties, should be associated the most sullen and miserable state of mind. Little does he imagine, that the pleasures which religion has to offer for those she requires us to abandon, are like the orb of day to the glow-worm of the hedge, or the meteor of the swamp; and that for every moment's self-denial she requires us to endure, she has a million ages of ineffable delight to bestow.
" And now upon the result of all, I suppose. that to exhort men to be religious, is only in other words to exhort them to take their pleasure-a pleasure, high, rational, and angelical sa pleasure embased with no appendant sting, po consequent loathing, no remorses or bitter farewells : but such an one, as being honey in the mouth, never turns to gall in the belly: a pleasure made for the soul and the soul for that; suitable to its spirituality and equal to its capacities: such an one as grows fresher upon enjoyment, and though continually fed upon, is never devoured: a pleasure that a man may call as properly his own, as his soul and his conscience; neither liable to accident, nor exposed to injury; it is the foretaste of heaven,
and the earnest of eternity : in a word, it is such an one as being begun in grace, passes into glory, blessedness, and immortality; and those joys that neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man to conceive !"**
On the advantages of early piety.
A QUAINT but eminently spiritual poet of the last century has a poem, entitled, “ Strife in Heaven :" a singular idea to attach to that region of untroubled repose. The design of the piece, however, is ingenious and interesting. A company of the redeemed above are represented as discussing, in a spirit of perfect love, the question, which of them was most indebted to divine grace for his salvation ?” Amongst these grateful and holy litigants, two appeared to have claims for the greatest weight of obligation to sovereign mercy, so nearly balanced, as to render it difficult to say which owed most. One was a glorified spirit, converted in old age, after a long life of sin; the other was a saint
* This and the other quotations are from Dr. South's sermon on Prov. iii. 7, which is so striking that I could not avoid giv. ing these extracts from it.
See also an excellent volume of sermone, by the Rev. H F. Burder, on the Pleasures of Religion.
redeemed in youth, and who spent as long a lifein holiness. The one contended, that his forgiveness, after such a lengthened course of vice and destructive conduct, made him the greatest monument of saving love in heaven; except,” exclaimed the other, “ myself; who, by divine grace, was prevented from that course of sin, and was enabled by religion to spend my years in holiness and usefulness.” I think the happy throng must have confessed the justice of the younger seraph's claim; Omniscient wisdom from the throne must have confirmed their judgement; and in heaven it must have been decided, that they owe most to sovereign grace, who have been called by its power to the service of God in their youth.
Youth is a season which presents peculiar advantages for the pursuit of piety.
It is attended, in general, with more leisure, and less care, than any subsequent period of life. As yet, my children, you are not entangled in the concerns of business, nor the cares of a family. The ten thousand tumultuous anxieties of a father or a mother, a master or a mistress, do not yet fill your minds, and exclude all other topics. Tell us, ye fathers, struggling with the difficulties of a precarious trade ; and ye mothers, absorbed in the duties of a rising family; which, think ye, is the best time to begin the pursuit of eternal life? With tears they respond,“ Seize! O seize, young people, the halcyon days of youth!”
Youth is a season of greater susceptibility of mind than any which follows it.