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served to meet with in the world. It is curious to notice the surprise and alarm which, on such occasions, will frequently pervade the party present. The remark is received as a strangerguest, of which no one knows the quality or intentions: And, like a species of intellectual foundling, it is cast upon the company withouta friend to foster its infancy, or to own any acquaintance with the parent. A fear of consequences prevails. It is obvious that the feeling is-" We know not into what it may grow; it is therefore safer to stifle it in the birth." This, if not the avowed, is the implied sentiment.
But is not this delicacy, this mauvaise honte, so peculiar perhaps to our countrymen on reli. gious subjects, the very cause which operates so unfavourably upon that effect which it labours to obviate? Is not the very infrequency of moral or religious observations, a sufficient account to be given both of the perplexity and the irritation said to be consequent upon their introduction? And were not religion (we mean such religious topics as may legitimately arise in mixed society) banished so much as it is from conversation, might not its occasional recurrence become by degrees as natural, perhaps as interesting, certainly as instructive, and after all as safe, as "a close committee on the weather," or any other of the authorised topics which
are about as productive of amusement as of instruction? People act as if Religion were to be regarded at a distance, as if even a respectful ignorance were to be preferred to a more familiar approach. This reserve, however, does not give an air of respect, so much as of mystery, to Religion. An able writer* has observed, "that was esteemed the most sacred part of pagan devotion which was the most impure, and the only thing that was commendable in it is, that it was kept a great mystery." He approves of nothing in this religion but the modesty of withdrawing itself from the eyes of the world."
But Christianity requires not to be shrouded in any such mysterious recesses. She does not, like the Eastern monarchs, owe her dignity to her concealment. She is, on the contrary, most honoured where most known, and most revered where most clearly visible.
It will be obvious that hints rather than arguments belong to our present undertaking. In this view we may perhaps be excused if we offer a few general observations upon the different occasions on which a well-regulated mind would be solicitous to introduce religion into social discourse. The person possessed of such a mind, would be mainly anxious, in a society of christians, that something should ap
pear indicative of their profession. He would accordingly feel a strong desire to effect it when he plainly perceived his company engaged on no other topic either innocently entertaining, or rationally instructive. This desire, however, would by no means cloud his brow, give an air of impatience to his countenance, or render him inattentive to the general tone and temper of the circle. On the contrary, he would endeavour to feel additional interest in his neighbour's suggestions, in proportion as he hoped in turn to attract notice to his own. He would shew long forbearance to the utmost extent of conscientious toleration. In the pros. ecution of his favourite design, he would never attempt a forced or unseasonable allusion to serious subjects; a caution requiring the nicest judgment and discrimination, most particularly where he felt the sentiments or the zeal of his company to be not congenial with his own. His would be the spirit of the prudent mariner, who does not approach even his native shore without carefully watching the winds, and sounding the channels; knowing well that a temporary delay, even on an unfriendly element, is preferable to a hasty landing his company, on shore indeed, but upon the point of a rock. Happily for our present purpose, the days we live in afford circumstances both of foreign
and domestic occurrence, of every possible variety of colour and connection, so as to leave scarcely any mind unfurnished with a store of progressive remarks by which the most instructive truths may be approached through the most obvious topics. And a prudent mind will study to make its approaches to such an ultimate object, progressive: it will know also where to stop, rather indeed out of regard to others than to itself. And in the manly avowal of its sentiments, avoiding as well what is canting in utterance as technical in language, it will make them at once appear not the ebullition of an ill-educated imagination, but the result of a long-exercised understanding.
Nothing will be more likely to attract attention or secure respect to your remarks than the good taste in which they are delivered. On common topics we reckon him the most elegant speaker whose pronunciation and accent are so free from all peculiarities that it cannot be determined to what place he owes his birth. A polished critic of Rome accuses one of the finest of her historians of provinciality. This is a fault obvious to less enlightened critics, since the Attic herb-woman could detect the provincial dialect of a great philosopher. Why must religion have her Pativinity? Why must a Christian adopt the quaintness of
a party or a scholar the idiom of the illiterate? Why should a valuable truth be combined with a vulgar or fanatical expression? If either would offend when separate, how inevitably must they disgust when the one is mistakenly intended to set off the other. Surely this is not enchasing our "apples of gold in pictures of silver."
We must not close this part of our subject without alluding to another, and still more delicate introduction of religion, in the way of reproof. Here is indeed a point in religious conduct to which we feel it a boldness to make any reference at all. Bold, indeed, is that casuist who would lay down general rules on a subject where the consciences of men seem to differ so widely from each other and feeble too often will be his justest rules where the feelings of timidity or delicacy rush in with a force which sweeps down many a land-mark erected for its own guidance, even by conscience itself.
Certainly, much allowance, perhaps respect, is due in cases of very doubtful decision, to those feelings which, after the utmost self-regulation of mind, are found to be irresistible. And certainly the habits and modes of address attached to refined society, are such as to place personal observations on a very different foot