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ably prescribe falutary remedies, here recommends religious retirement and recollection, it seems evident, that he has no design to say any thing in commendation of a total seclufion from the world. The words by no means import any thing of this nature. A recess from the world, and its cares, can never be the object of a general precept. In conformity, then, to the intention of the text, I am to consider that kind of retirement which is proper for men engaged in the business of life, and which is necessary, in order to support the social character usefully and honourably. Whether a total seclusion from the world, a resignation of all the endearing ties of friendship, affection, love, a departure from all the duties which our present state requires, and of which Providence seems to allot every one a share, be agreeable to the commands of God, or deserving praise of men, or a fit preparation for a state of happiness in the heavenly kingdom, where there is a fociety united by the strongest bonds, I will not at this time inquire. If they are ever allowable, the circumstances which call to them are very peculiar; and I cannot hesitate to say, that the most worthy of all characters is the man who maintains . his station in life, ever animated by a fervent piety, and ever guided by an inviolable integrity. To cherish a spirit of piety, and to assist him in supporting an uniform uprightness of intention and action, religious retirement and recollection will be of the greatest importance. We will discern this, if we consider in what the exercise of them consists.
It consists in devoting å portion of our time for the most valuable purposes, for conversing with our own hearts, for the consideration of our behaviour, and comparing it with the perfections of God, for inquiring after, and applying the means of regulating every unlawful desire, and of moderating every unreasonable wish. In religious retirement, we are employed in pouring out our hearts before the Giver of our life and our mercies, in imploring his assistance to improve our characters, in admiring and adoring the perfections of his nature, and in expanding the powers of our minds to receive his most gracious influences. The ditpositions chiefly to be exercised in the hours of retirement are, sincerity in the considera
tion of our own characters ; impartiality in the examination of our lives; a devotion of heart, kindled by the contemplation of unerring wisdom, undeviating goodness, and unlimited mercy, especially as these are difcovered in our Lord Jesus Christ; humility of mind, and contrition of heart, so unavoidable when we are reviewing our own faults, and adoring the all-perfect God. The exact portion of time that should be devoted to religious retirement and reflection, or how often the seasons for these exercises ought to recur, cannot be precisely determined, as the circumstances of mankind differ fo widely. But surely there is no occupation of life which does not admit of some intervals : and shall Christians be less zealous about the interests of virtue and religion, than the philosopher who enjoined his followers every night, before sleep sealed their eyes, to call themselves to an account for the actions of the past day? Besides this, by professing our belief in the oracles of God, we look upon one day in seven as particularly dedicated to religion. And by the views many of you have, and your attendance here, you profess a degree of reverence for other seasons set T3
apart for this purpose. To the busiest of us, I will venture to say, neither time nor opportunities for retirement and reflection are wanting. To excite you to lay hold on these, I now proceed to propose some arguments, which I shall endeavour to lay before you in such a manner, that they may not only serve as motives to engage compliance with the Psalmist's advice, but likewise, that they may convey, to the attentive hearer, some farther instructions, as to the method in which we may most advantageously spend the hours of retirement.
May God grant to you the hearing ear, and the understanding heart; and to the preacher, the power of persuasion !
In the first place, then, religious retirement and reflection have a very direct tendency to reclaim and restrain from vice, and to improve in virtue.' Man is compounded of several distinct powers and faculties, all necessary for human life and happiness, provided there is that regular subordination preserved among them, which nature points out, and, without which, experience shews, that neither the individual, nor society, can subsist. It is evident from our very frame, that God has conferred an authority upon reason and conscience. In the narrow empire of the human mind, these claim a right to sway the fceptre. But who knows not, that man is apt to be misled by the influence of his passions, that are ready to act as rebellious subjects against the justest and the best of sovereigns ? To break the bands of reason, and to obey the lawless dictates of irregular. passion, the tumult of life, the suggestions of the gay, and the example of the vicious, prove like so many evil counsellors. They are the movers of sedition : and their chief way of moving it is, not by offering arguments, but partly by hurrying us away with the stream, and partly by raising such an uproar around us, that the voice of reason, which may be compared to the still, small voice of God, which spoke to Elijah, is confidered as a whisper, from which we turn away our ear, as if we heard it not. If conscience offers its threatening admonitions, the mixing more deeply in the circle of the dissipated, the busy, and worst of all, the debauched, proves an opiate for that time to lull it asleep. And thus the wretched man proceeds, till, like the haughty king, who,