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the infirmities of age on the days of youth: yes, religion keeps off all these vices and their consequences.
1. The fear of the Lord prolongeth days; it is a fountain of life to guard us from the snares of death.” But of the drunkard and the fornicator it may be said, “ His bones are full of the sins of his youth, which lie down with him in the dust. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth ; though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth ; yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within
3. Religion builds up and protects the reputation.
It prevents those sins which render a man dishonourable and infamous: it promotes all those virtues which raise and cherish esteem. How much is the liar, the extortionate and imposing tradesman, the unfaithful servant, the unkind husband, the cruel oppressive master, despised. Who respects the individual who is notoriously addicted to vice, and flagrantly neglectful of the lowest obligations of virtue ? Whereas a man of consistent piety, who is known to be a real Christian, and whose Christianity renders him scrupulously true, honest and upright, such a man is universally.esteemed. The wicked may laugh at his piety, but is he not the very man with whom they love to trade; in whose character they find sufficient vouchers for the propriety of his conduct; and in whose fidelity they can repose unbounded confidence ? This was remarkably exemplified in the instance of the missionary Schwartz, who laboured to spread the
* Job xx. 11-14.
Gospel in the southern part of the Indian peninsula. Such was the repute in which this holy man was held by the native princes of Hindostan, that when Tippoo Saib was about to enter into a treaty with the Company, not being disposed to place much confidence in their agents, he exclaimed, “Send to me the missionary Schwartz, will treat with him, for I can confide in his veracity.'
How many persons has the want of religion brought to an untimely end! No man would ever have been exiled as a felon, or exécuted as a malefactor, if he had lived under the influence of piety. No jail would have been needed, no gallows erected, if all men were pious. Godliness may not indeed guard us from poverty, but it will certainly save us from infamy. It may not advance us to wealth, but it will assuredly raise us to respectability.
4. Religion promotes our secular interests.
I do not pretend that piety bears into the church the cornucopia of worldly wealth, to pour down showers of gold on all who court her smiles and bend to her sway ; but still there is a striking tendency in her influence, to improve our worldly circumstances.
It certainly prevents those vices which tend to poverty. Penury is often the effect of vice. How many have hurled themselves and their families from the pinnacles of prosperity to the depths of adversity, by a course of wicked and profligate extravagance. Multitudes have spent . all their substance, like the prodigal son, upon harlots and riotous living. Pride has ruined thousands, and indolence its' tens of thousands. It is a quaint observation of an old writer, but a very true one, that one vice costs more to keep it than two children." Religion is the most economical, and sin the most expensive thing in the world. How much do the drunkard, debauchee, sabbath-breaker, and frequenter of theatres, pay for their sinful gratifications. What is spent in this kingdom every year in the grosser sensual indulgencies, would pay the interest of the national debt. Piety would save all this to the kingdom.
And then it not only prevents the vices which tend to poverty, but it enjoins and cherishes the virtues which lead to prosperity. It makes a man industrious; and is not this the way to wealth? It renders him sober, and does not sobriety tend to advance our fortune? It enforces a right improvement of time, and surely this is advantageous to every one. It prescribes frugality, which tends to increase. If a young man is in the service of another, piety, by causing him to speak the truth, and adhere to the principles of honesty, renders him trust-worthy and confidential. Innumerable are the cases in which persons, who set out on the journey of life without property and without patronage, have, by dint of those virtues which religion enjoins, risen to respectability and affluence. They were first probably in a state of servitude, where, by their steadiness and good conduct, they so attached themselves to their employers, as to become in their estimation, almost essential to the future success of the business; and
result has been, a share, and, in some cases, the whole of the trade, which they had contributed so materially to establish.
A friend of mine was once walking in the neighbourhood of a large manufacturing town on a very cold winter's morning, when he overtook a plain man, decently clad, and wrapped in a comfortable great coat. After the usual salutations, my friend said to the stranger," I am glad to see you with such a good warm covering this cold morning.”_" It was not always thus," the man replied. "I was once a poor miserable creature, and had neither good clothes nor good victuals; now I have both, and a hundred pounds in the bank." - What produced this favourable change ?” continued my friend. “ Religion, Sir. I am a good workman, and, as is too commonly the case with such men, spent half my time, and all my wages nearly, at the public house. I was of course always poor, and always wretched. By God's direction I was led to hear the Methodists, when by divine
the word reached my heart. I repented of my sin, and became a new creature in Christ Jesus; old things passed away, and all things became new. Religion made me industrious and sober; nothing now went for sin ; and the result is, that I am comfortable, and comparatively rich.”
Here then is a proof and an illustration, that godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is as well as of that which is to come. Nor are these proofs uncommon. Many persons, now living in circumstances of high respectability, are willing to ascribe all they possess here, as well as all they hope for hereafter, to the influence of religion.
All this is seen in the case of individuals : but if the subject be carried out to society at large, it will appear still more striking.
What but religion can raise men from a savage to a civilized state ? What else could have achieved the wonders which have been wrought in Africa, in Otaheite; and taught the rudest barbarians to till the ground, to learn trades, to clothe themselves in decent apparel, to read, to cast accounts, to print books, to frame laws ?
Godliness alone can expel from society the practice of cruelty, and introduce the reign and prevalence of mercy. The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. Rome and Greece, in the zenith of their glory, had neither a hospital for the sick, nor an asylum for the poor: they treated their enemies with the most insolent cruelty ; practised the most rigorous slavery; instituted games, in which myriads of human beings were torn to pieces in fighting with wild beasts. What a blessing has Christianity been to the world, even in relation to its present comforts. It has suppressed polygamy, put a stop to the sale of children by their parents, and the abandonment and murder of aged parents by their children; it has rescued women from their abominable degradation by the other sex, and raised them to their just rank in society; it has sanctified the bond of marriage, checked the licentiousness of divorce; it has in a great measure destroyed slavery, mitigated the terrors of war, given a new sanction to treaties, introduced milder laws, and more equitable governments; it has taught lenity to enemies, and hospitality to strangers; it has made a legal provision for