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lous narrations, allure the hearers by the pleasure they afford, if they strike the mind more forcibly, are more easily understood, and better retained, than abstract sentiments, I see no reason why this mode of writing should be deemed unworthy of inspiration. Indeed, on the contrary, we find it made use of by Christ himself; nor does it at all derogate from his force as a moral teacher, that the good Samaritan, the rich man and Lazarus, &c., were not real persons.
I shall not, however, rest here; for I assert further, that the book of Job is more instructive as a fable, than it could possibly be as a true history. Taken as a mere relation of a matter of fact, it is necessary to suppose that the sentiments and conversations are exhibited exactly as they were spoken, and are the sentiments of mere mortals, not actuated by the spirit of God; for we find God has reproved hoth Job and his friends as being severally mistaken. It would then be impossible to determine what was true or what false; no doctrine of religion, no precept of morality, could with certainty be deduced from these conversations. In the whole book, the historical part,—and how short is that !-and the words attributed to God himself, would be alone divine, or of divine authority; the rest would be all human. Considered as a fable, the case is different. The author, composing under the influence of divine inspiration, we may reasonably suppose, has attributed to the fictitious characters, such sentiments as were proper and natural to their state and circumstances. We have then, in the first place, a picture of the human mind drawn by the finger of God; and, in the next, we may rest satisfied, that Job and his friends err only in the principal matter upon which they dispute, and only on the points for which God has reproved them; but that whatever is said, exclusive of this, is founded on divine truth; such is the mention of the angels by Eliphaz, and the assertion of Job, that there is none pure among mortals. Finally, we are by these means enabled both to determine what are the sentiments which immediately meet with the approbation of God, and what are the errors which are intended to be exposed.
PRACTICE OF THE
That mankind have any natural propensity to ill, or that their minds are subject to the influence of any invisible and malevolent being, are notions that of late have been treated with utmost contempt and disdain. And yet I have remarked, that men frequently neglect to practise those duties of religion, without which they believe the Divine favor cannot be secured, though by such neglect they do not obtain any immediate advantage.
Of the duties and the privileges of religion, prayer is generally acknowledged to be the chief; and yet I am afraid that there are few, who will not be able to recollect some seasons, in which their unwillingness to pray has been more than in proportion to the labor and the time that it required; seasons in which they would have been less willing to repeat a prayer than any other composition, and rather than have spent five minutes in an address to God, would have devoted an equal space of time wholly to the convenience of another, without any enjoyment or advantage to themselves.
These facts, I believe, will scarcely be controverted by any; and those who cannot show that they have adequate natural causes, must allow that they have some other. It must also be acknowledged, that if men are tempted to neglect the worship of God, by any spiritual enemy, to worship God, is, by such an enemy, known to be their interest; but because I would not rest much upon this argument in favor of religion, I shall only say, that it has more force than any that I have heard against it.
I believe, indeed, there are some, who, with
whatever reluctance, punctually conform to the rituals of religion, as an atonement for an allowed and perpetual neglect of virtue; who dream, that by going to church on Sunday, they balance the account of the week, and may again lie, defraud, swear, and be drunken with impunity. These wretches, although in spite of indignation they move my pity, I shall not here reprove ; because their conduct does not only imply the grossest ignorance, but the most deplorable stupidity; and it is hopeless to write for those, of whom it cannot be expected that they should read.
There are others, who, believing that neither virtue nor religion alone is sufficient to secure immortality, neglect religion as useless, because they cannot resolve to practise virtue ; so the purchase of a telescope would be a superfluous expense to a man that is blind, though all the advantages of sight cannot be obtained without it by those who can see.
Upon these slaves of sensuality, it is to be feared, little effect can be produced, by an address either to their reason or their passions ; for their reason is already convinced, and their passions alarmed; they live in a perpetual violation of the dictates of conscience; purposes of amendment are every moment formed and broken; they look backward with remorse, and forward with terror, and they accumulate guilt, even while they are anticipating judgment. Nor can I press them to put on an appearance of religion for mere temporary purposes; not only because it would be an aggravation of their wickedness, but because it would conceal their true character, and might therefore injure society.
He who has acquired an experimental knowledge of this duty, knows that nothing so forcibly restrains from ill, as the remembrance of a recent address to Heaven for protection and assistance. After having petitioned for power to resist temptation, there is so great an incongruity in not continuing the struggle, that we blush at the thought, and persevere, lest we lose all reverence for ourselves. After fervently devoting our souls to God, we start with horror at immediate apostasy; every act of deliberate wickedness is then complicated with hypocrisy and ingratitude ; it is a mockery of the Father of mercy, the forfeiture of that peace in which we closed our address, and a renunciation of the hope that it inspired.
For a proof of this, let every man ask himself, as in the presence of “Him who searches the heart, whether he has never been deterred from prayer by his fondness for some criminal gratification, which he could not with sincerity profess to give up, and which he knew he could not afterward repeat without greater compunction. If prayer and immorality appear to be thus incompat