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dy spirit of a mere man of the world, or of life-how seldom of that benevoif he makes it the great employment lence, which shines as steadily as the of his social hours to exbibit the foi- sun in the firmament, and warms and bles and faults of his friends, or if he enlivens every object which falls unis constantly dropping his cold, un- der its influence-how seldom of a disfeeling sarcasms, and giving a sombre position to put a favourable constructinge to every object which falls in tion on the motives and character of his way, or if he enjoys nothing but nour fellow beings-how seldom of that the keen spirit of disputation, I am setting a pare example, which draws apt to suspect that religion has not within its influence those who have wrought powerfully on his heart. The hearts to be touched with the love of beauty of the consistent christian moral beauty, and which repels the character is not marred by such blem- abandoned sinner from its presence, ishes. I would not imply by such and fills him with shame and anguish remarks however, that our conversa in view of his own character-how tion is always to turn on religious seldom in fine, do we hear of aspitopics. There are certain persons, rations after high attainments in howho seem to think that almost every liness, triumph over the most powerthing short of revivals of religion, of ful temptations, and labour after conconvictions and conversions, of mis- formity to the holy image of his mas. sionary societies and good preachers, ter and his God. is a sort of profanation. One would It is not enough that we occasionconclude from the tone of their re- ally form a magnanimous resolution, marks, that religion, in their estima- and under the cover of this mantle of tion, is but little more than a kind of charity, pursue our daily employment process for making a christian, and without any further trouble about the not a permanent conformity of the motives of our conduct. Many seem heart and life to the will of God. We to suppose there is a sort of sanctify. hear enough of his awful despairingsing influence surrounding every good of salvation, of his burning zeal for the motive, and spreading over a wide exconversion of sioners, and of his wil tent of moral conduct. Thus if I relingness even to die in the cause of resolve at the beginning of the week, his master, and all this is commend to pursue a course of conduct to the able; but how seldom do we hear end of it, which will best promote that he bears around with bim a soft- the good of those with whom I am ened heart, a heavenly frame of mind, connected, and redound the most to a lovely exemplification of the chris- the glory of God, and if my conduct tian character. How seldom do actually corresponds to the resolution; such persons speak of that deep and it would be supposed, let the daily and almost overwhelming sense of a pres- hourly intervening motives be what ent God-how seldom of that perfect they may, that my life is adorning my singleness of mind, that all pervading christian profession. influence which exalts and purifies But this wide spreading, sanctisyand sweetens the affections—how sel- ing influence of occasional resolutions dom of a high and holy elevation of is difficult of comprehension. Put purpose, that living daily and hourly them down for what they are worth, with an eye fised on duty-how sel- but give them credit for no more. dom of meekness and gentleness of For my part, I know of nothing satisdemeanour, and of a diffusive good factory to a conscience enlightened by will--how seldom of contentment and revelation, in our daily, nay in our satisfaction amid all the disadvanta- hourly conduct, which does not spring ges of our individual condition, and immediately from a holy motive. of that gratitude, which, is contiually The christian is not to be borne along sending up a holy incense to Heaven in his course through life, by a gale for the daily and hourly enjoyments which now blows and now dies away,
nor is he to float indolently along on tine of worthless performances, into the tide of habit, nor yield to the im- the beauty of holiness. How sad the pression of every surrounding object. reflection that a life actually spent in He is to be under the constant guid- doing good, but from wrong motives, ance of a holy sense of duty. This should thus be thrown away, while a should operate as steady and as uni- heart filled with the love of God formly as an unchanging law of na- and of man, would have saved every ture. It is this which should give portion of it and given it an immense life and energy to his whole moral moral value. constitution, which should vivily ev Would we be blessed with a purity ery portion of his soul, and convert of heart, we must pray to God for the the slightest act of his life into holi- purifying and sanctifying influence of ness. It should bend to its plastic his spirit. We must pray for strength influence the strength of his animal to withstand temptation, for a blesfeelings; it should subdue and chas- sing on our aflictions, and every trie ten his rebellious passion ; it should al; we must pray for grace to quickopen a never failing fountain in his en and animate us in our aspirings afsoul, of streams which will gladden ter higher attainments in christian exthe surrounding community, and cellence. In all our prayers howevspread a moral verdure over the whole er, it should be remembered, that unsphere of his action. Nay it should less we have shewn ourselves disposend life into the intellect, and bend sed to use the grace already imparted its sturdiest powers to the accomplish- to us, aud unless we ask for more bement of good purposes. The ima- cause what has already been granted, gination too, should stoop to this con- if we may so speak, has been applied trolling influence, and every other to good purposes, we shall in vain power, speculative as well as active, hope to receive.
A soul which nego should submit to its sovereign sway. lects the gifts of God, which have A mind thus regulated-a heart thus flowed in upon it, cannot feel the want exalted and thus purified, will move of more, and without this sense of want in an elevated sphere, and in its pil- no prayer was ever made with singrimage on earth, drink in largely of cerity and earnestness. Let the christhe spirit of heaven.
tian then look back on his past life This is not morality, it is religion. and ask himself, have I availed myThe difference hetween morality and self as 1 ought of the means of grace? religion is this--the former dispenses have I struggled with temptation and with motives, the latter assigns to mo- mortified my lusts ? have 1 subjected tives their essential importance. Two my mind to the influence of truth, persons may perform precisely the and found by experience that it is the same external acts, and continue to do power of God io salvation ? have I it for a great length of time, and yet aimed at high attainments in holiness, the one may be a cold hearted sinner and pressed towards the mark for the and the other an excellent christian, prize of the high calling of God in and the reason is, that what the former Christ Jesus ? have I habitually retidoes from a regard to his own interest, red from the glare aud bustle of the the latter does because his duty and world,to commune with my own heart; the will of God require it. You may to fix a steady eye on my sins; and display before us a long life of com- have I felt, habitually felt, an ingenmon honesty, of common decency, uous sorrow; and when I have prayand of common humanity, and yet if ed for forgiveness, have I sincerely and religious motives be wanting, it is but deeply felt my need of it? Has the dross in the sight of God. Purity of burden of my transgression come over motive would convert it into gold. It my soul with an almost overwhelmwould breath life into mere morality, ing weight, and has it called forth the and turn what had else been a rou- secret tear, and shed a sadness over
my hopes and my joys? If a man is to be perfected, under God, by the has never known the bitterness of a diligent cultivation of purity of mind. really penitent heart, if he has never It belongs to us to regulate our own struggled to be delivered from his cor habits of thought and association, ruptions, to throw off all deadly slug- and if these are permitted to run ungishness, and to mount up with wings, controlled, they will inevitably catch as eagles above the vanities and gross a stain from those impurities of the ness of the world, to inhale a purer world, which would sully the soul of atmosphere, how can he expect to the best Christian. It is observed draw from heaven a new blessing, and by a celebrated divine that “perhope for that purification of the heart haps every man living has a particuand the life, which alas, he might al- lar train of thoughts, into which his ready have attained had he not been mind falls when at leisure from the disposed to slight the gifts of God, impressions and ideas that occasionand grieve the Holy Spirit.
ally excite it; perhaps also the traia Among the subordinate means of of thought here spoken of, more than grace by which our good purposes any other, determines the character. may be strengthened, and our hearts It is of the utmost consequence theremade better, the writer has been ac- fore that this property of our concustomed to set a high value on reli- stitution be well regulated." He gious biographò. The lives of men then goes on to observe that “in a of distinguished piety-of men whose moral view, I shall not, I believe, hearts were pure and whose lives ex- be contradicted when I say, that if hibited a lovely picture of genuine one train of thinking be more desiragoodness, shew what high attain- ble than another, it is that which rements we may make ourselves. They gards the phenomena of nature, with shew us the powerful, transforming a constant reference to a Supreme ininfluence of religion on the heart— telligent Author." This must be adhow it will kindle a holy love to God mitted to be a happy thought. In and to map-how it will lift the soul our leisure moments we are frequentabove the vexations of life, and shed ly walking amid the works of God, over it the serenity and purity of heav- and how easy it must be, it would en-how it will nerve the arm of seem, thus to form a habit of associapractical goodness, and convert the tion, which would, as it were, conwhole life into a series of beneficent nect the heavens and the earth. The actions. We read and admire, and if agency of God appears in every surour hearts are so softened by religious rounding object. It spreads the beauinfluence as to be suscep:ible of ties of the landscape ; it lifts the mounsuch impressions, we can hardly fail tain and precipitates the torrent; it to catch a portion of the spirit gathers the storm and darts the lightwhich breathes in the page before us, ning; it unfolds the mild splendors of and to feel a warm tide of holy res the evening firmament; it wakes the olutions and of aspirations after high- song of the feathered tribe; it clothes er attainments. There is withal, a this enchanting season of the year in soothing influence spread over the verdure, and makes the heavens and miod which is highly favorable to re- the earth rejoice together in the religious impressions. Our anxieties suscitation of vegetable life; it sends are hushed, and a train of calm emo- forth the herd to enjoy their repast uptions finds its way through the soul. on the hills; it calls forth man from We love the character which presents his winter retreat to the cultivation so mild and heavenly an aspect, and of the earth, and spreads around we seem willing to forfeit all that we him the overflowing bounties of heapossess, could we be moulded into ven. Every object which meets the the same frame of temper ourselves. eye thus leads to profitable contem
Many Christians are little aware płation. Here then is another purihow much their christian character sying influence of which the Christian
should avail himself, and one which
EXODUS, XX. 5, 6.-For I the with the pleasures of religion, and Lord thy God am a jealous God, viswhile the taste itself is elevated and iting the iniquity of the fathers upon refined, the heart is softened and
the children unto the third and fourth jo brought nearer to God. There is a generution of them that hate me ; sort of sympathy established between
and shewing mercy unto thousands the mind and external nature. By of them that love me, and keep my
commandments. ** accustoming ourselves to dwell on the cheerful scenes around us, a sort
This text is a part of the message, of kindred spirit attaches itself to the which God, by his own mouth, delivsoul. We insensibly gather up the ered to Israel from the midst of the lineaments of surrounding objects, and thunderings and lightnings of Sinai. It impress them on our own minds. If comprises the reasons, which he was the dark side of things is most likely pleased to annex to the second comto attract our notice, we contract a mandment in the decalogue. As a peevishness of temper, and a dissatis- God highly concerned for his own faction with our allotments in life.- honour, he utters, in this commandent, The fairest flower is made to distil, his eternal prohibition of all idolatry. not honey but poison; and the love- Every approach to this sin, he conliest disposition may thus become siders as an overt act of rebellion vitiated.' But reverse the object, against him. And he declares it as and make us familiar with its bright- his purpose, that his indignation shall er side, and we gather beauty and follow, to future generations, those sweetness from its charms. A mild- who by this or any other sin, shall ness and a cheerful serenity of tem- commit iniquity; and that his mercy per steal upon us, and we imbibe a shall be extended in the same manner, tone of character extremely friendly to those who love him and delight in to moral and religious improvement. his statutes. Thus the person who delights to wan The text plainly contains this proder amid the lovelier scenes of na- position, that God deals with childture,—and as the silence of the even ren in some sense, according to the ing approaches, and the mild glories character of their parents. of the sky begin to display them By the expressions, “ Visiting the selves, walks out to participate in the iniquity of the fathers upon the chilsweet serenity of the scene, as he dren, and showing mercy to thoudwells on the enchantments around sands of them that love me and keep him, is insensibly borne above to the my commandments," we must underholy habitation of that glorious intel- stand, that children, are in some way, ligence which unfolds the scene and so connected with their parents that kindles all its beauties. A mind they are involved in the judgements which is habituated to such contem which God dispenses to men. plations, is in a much fitter state to But by these expressions we are Teceive moral and religious impres- not to understand, that children shall, sions, than the cold earth-born spirit in all cases, sustain the same morul of one who is touched by no exbibi- character with their parents. tions of beauty or sublimity, however There is a sense, it is true,
in striking; so that while we are accus which parents and their children sustoming ourselves to dwell on the tain an identity of moral character. beauties of nature, we are not only By nature, all, both parents and chilgathering a rich harvest of religious dren are sinners. But this is rather impressions, but are rendering our the effect of the original apostasy, and hearts more susceptible of all that is the divine constitution with reference lovely and good.
to the continued derivation of sin,
than the result of the administration sels, and admonitions, hastening to of the divine government with refer- final ruin. In the family of Abraham, ence to a particular case. When the father of the faithful, was an God declares that he will visit the Ishmael whose hand was against eviniquity of wicked parents upon their ery man. children, and show mercy to the fu In several instances, with which ture generations of the godly, we are the scriptures furnish us, and in manot to understand him as declaring ny within the sphere of our own obthat the wicked parent, in conse- servation, have facts similar to these quence of his iniquity, shall never see occurred. We see around us, the a pious child ; and that the right- impious man, sometimes the father of eous parent shall never see an uugod- a pious son or daughter; and the ly son or daughter among his off- godly father sometimes weeping over spring. This is not the plan of the the sins of some of his offspring. divine procedure. In whatever way Now all these facts certainly show, God may execute judgements upon that whatever may be the manner in the children of impious parents, or which God deals with children as bestow mercy on those born of his connected with their parents, it is not own household, he certainly does not, certain that they will in all cases susin consequence of the sins of the one, tain the same moral character with decree, that their children shall in all their parents. cases be so visited in judgement, for Again : by the proposition that the iniquities of their fathers, that God deals with children in some sense they shall all live and die the enemies according to the character and conof God: nor does he in consequence duct of parents, it is not meant that of the righteousness of the other, de- the children of wicked parents are cree that their children shall all of punished in this, or in the future them be made heirs of glory. Jero- world, strictly for the sins of the paboam, the son of Nebat, king of Isra- rent; or that the children of the gode el, was a great sinner. His iniquities ly are received into favor with God in provoked God to cut off with one this world, or justified in that which exception, his whole house from the is to come, strictly speaking, on acface of the earth. Yet wicked as he count of the righteousness of the pawas, one child of his, belonged to the rent. family of God and is now rejoicing Nothing is more certain than that before bis throne. Of Abijah, the God is perfectly just in the adminisson of this king, it is written, “For tration of his government. But if it he only of Jeroboam shall come to be true that in visiting the iniquities the grave, because, in him there is of wicked parents upon their children, found some GOOD THING towards the and in showing mercy to the children Lord God of Israel in the house of of those who love him, God inflicts Jeroboam.' Abijam was a wicked the punishment due to the iniquitous king of Judah. Of him it is written, parent upon the child or children who « And he walked in all the sins of his are perfectly free from guilt themfather which he had done before him, selves; or shows complacency in the and his heart was not perfect with character of the child of a religious the Lord his God, as the heart of Da- parent, (which child is by nature an vid his father.” Yet Asa, one of the offender against God, or which by best kings that ever swayed the scep- open violation of the divine law, is tre of Judah, was his son.
also guilty of overt sinful actions,) On the other hand, many parents, purely on account of the holiness of eminent for their piety, have seen thé ihe parent; if this. be true, it is imchildren of many prayers, forsaking possible to reconcile the administraGod, contemning his authority, and tion of God, with any notions which against prayers and tears, and coun we have, or can have of justice, and