« EdellinenJatka »
the body, must have a soul, the performances must have a principle. Outward observances were wisely constituted to rouse our forgetfulness, to awaken our secular. spirits, to call back our negligent hearts; but it was never intended that we shonld stop short in the use of them. They were designed to excite holy thonghts, to quicken us to holy deeds, but not to be used as equivaJents for either. But we find it clieaper to serve God in a multitnde of exterior acts, than to starve one mterior corruption.
Nothing short of that uniform stable principle, that fixedness in religion which directs a man in all his actions, aims, and pursuits, to God as his ultimate end, can give consistency to his conduct or tranquillity to his soul. This state once attained, he will not waste all his thoughts and designs upon the world; he will not layish all his af. fections on 80 poor a thing as his own advancement. He will desire to devote all to the only object worthy of them, to God. Our Saviour has taken care to provide that our : ideas of glorifying him, may notrun out into fanciful chimeras or subtle inventions by simply stating- HEREIN IS. MY FATHER GLORIPIED THAT IYE BEAR MUON FRUIT." This he goes on to inform us is the true evidence of our being of the punber of his people, by adding- bo shall ye be my disciples:",
We deceive ourselves not a little when we fancy that *wliat is emphatically called the world is only to be found
in this or that situation. The world is every where. It is a natrve as well as a place; a principle as well as a "kocal habitation and a name." Though the principle and the nature flourish most in those haunts which are their congeniul soil, yet we are too ready, wlien we withdraw from the world abroad to bring it home, to lodge it in our own bosom. The natural heart is both its Temple and its worshipper. "
But the most devoted Idolater of the world, with all
the capacity and industry which he may have applied to the subject, has never yet been able to accomplish the grand design of uniting the interests of heaven and earth. This experiment which has been more assiduously and more frequently tried, than that of the Philosopher for the grand Hernietic secret, has been tried with about the same degree of success. The most laborious process of the spiritual Chemist to reconcile religion with the world has never yet been competent to make the contending principles coalesce.
Bat to drop metaphor. Religion was never yet tho. ronghly relished by a heart full of the world. The world in return cannot be completely enjoyed where there is just religion enough to disturb its false peace. In such minds heaven and earth ruin each other's enjoyments.
There is a religion which is too sincere for hypocrisy, but too transient to be profitable; too superficial to reach the heart, too unproductive to proceed from it. It is slight but not false. It has discernment enough to distinguish sin, but not firmness enough to oppose it;* compnnction sufficient to soften the heart, but not vigour sufficient to reform it. It laments when it does wrong, and performs all the functions of repentance of sin except forsaking it. It has every thing of devotion except the stability, and gives every thing to religion except the heart. This is a religion of times, events, and circumstances; it is brought into play by accidents, and dwindles away with the occasion which called it ont. Festivals and Fasts which occur but seldom, are much observed, and it is to be feared because they occur but seldom ; while the great festival which comes every week, comes too often to be so respectfully treated. The pieiy of these people comes ont much in sickness, but is apt to retreat again as recovery approaches. If they die, they are placed by their admirers in the Saints' Calendar, if they recover, they go back into the world they had reneunced, and agaio sispend their amendment as often as death suspends his blow.
There is another class whose views are still lower, who yet cannot so far shake off religion as to be easy without retaining its brief and stated forms, and who contrive to mix up these forms with a faith of a piece with their practice. They blend their inconsistent works with a vague and unwarranted reliance on what the Saviour has done for them, and thus patch up a merit and a propitiation or
theirówn-sunning the hazard of incurring the danger of punishment by their lives, and inventing a scheme to avert it by their creed. Religion never interferes with their pleasures except by the compliment of a short and occasional suspension. Having got through these periodical acts of devotion, they return to the same scenes af vanity and idleness wbich they had quitted for the temporary duty ; forgetting that it was the very end of those acts of devotion to cure the vanity and to correct the idleness. Had the periodical observance answered its trne design, it would have disinclined them to the pleasire instead of giving them a dispensation for its indnigence. Had they nised the devout exercise in a right spirit, and improved it to its true end, it would have set the heart and life at work on all those pursuits which it was calculated to promote. But their project has more ingenuity. By the stated minutes they give to religion, they cheaply purchase a protection for the misemployment of the rest of their time. They make these periodical devotious a kind of spiritual Insurance Office, which is to make up to the Adventurers in pleasure, any loss or damage which they may sustain in its voyage. ;;
It is of these shallow devotions, these presumed egni. valents for a new heart and a new life, that God declares by the Prophet, that he is “ weary.". Though of his own express appointment, they become an abomination” to him, as soon as the sign comes to be rested in for the thing signified. We Christians have 4 our New Moons and our Sacrifices" under other names and other shapes; of which sacrifices, that is, of the spirit in which they are offered, the Almighty has said, " I cannot away with them, they are iniquity."
Now is this superficial devotion that " giving up our. selves not with our lips only, but with our lives," to our Maker, to which we solemoly pledge ourselves, at least once a week? Is consecrating an hour or two to public worship on the Sunday morning, making the Sabbath "a delight?” Is desecrating the rest of the day, by -“ doing our own ways, finding our own pleasure, speaking onir own words," making it “honourable ?
Sometimes in an awakening sermon, these periodical religionists hear, with awe and terror, of the hour of death and the day of judgment. Their hearts are peretrated with the solemn sounds. They confess the awfirl
realities by the impressiou they make on their own feerings. The dermon ends, and with it the serious reflections it excited. While they listen to these things, especially if the Preacher be alarming, they are all in all to them. They return to the world and these things are as if they were not; as if they had never been ; as if their reality lasted only while they were preached, as if their existence depended oply on their being heard, as if truth were no longer truth than while it solicited their notice; as if there were as little stability in religion itself as in their attention to it. As soon as their minds are disengaged from the question, one would think that death and judgment were an invention, that heaven and hell were blotted from existence, that eternity ceased to be eterni. ty, in the long intervals in which they cease to be the object of their consideration.
This is the natural effect of wbat we ventare.to de nominate periodical religion. Vt is a transient homage kept totally distinct and separate from the rest of our lives, instead of its being made the prelude and the principle of a course of pions practice ; instead of our weaving our devotions and our actions into one uniform tissue by doing all in one spirit and to one end. When worshippers of this description pray for “a cleati heart and a right spirit," when they beg of God tô"tunaway their eyes from beholding vanity," is it not to be feared that they pray to be made what they resolve never to become, that they would be very unwilling to become as good as they pray to be made, and would be sorry to be as penitent as they profess to desire? But alas! they are in little danger of being taken at their word ; tliere as too much reason to fear their petitions will not be heard or answered, for prayer for the pardon of sin will obtain no pardon while we retain the sin in hope that the prayer will be accepted without the venimoiation
The most solemn office of our Religion, the Sacred memorial of the death of its author, the blessed injunction and tender testimony of his dying love, the consolation of the humble believer, the gracions appointment for strengthening his faith, quickeuing his repentance, awak. ening his gratitude and kindling his charity, is too often resorted to on the same erroneous principle. He who ventures to live without the use of this holy institution, lives in a state of disobedience to the last appointmevt of his Redeemer, He shorests in itas a means for supply-' ing the place of habitual piety, totally mistakes its design, and is fatally deceiving his own soul.
This awful solemnity is, it is to be hoped, rarely freqnented even by this class of Christians without a desire of approaching it with the pious feelings above described. But if they carry them to the Altar, are they equally apxious to carry them away from it, are they anxious to maintain them after it? Does the rite so seriously approached commonly leave any vestige of seriousness behind it? Are they careful to perpetuate the feelings they were so desirous to excite? Do they strive to make them produce solid and substantial effects? Would that this inconstancy of mind were to be found only in the class of characters under consideration ! Let the reader, however sincere in his desires, let the writer, however ready to lament the levity of others, seriously ask their own hearts if they can entirely acquit themselves of the inconsistency they are so forward to blame? If they do not find the charge brought against others but too applicable to them. selves?
Irreverence antecedent to, or during, this sacred solemnity, is far more rare than durable improvement after it. If there are, as we are willing to believe, none so profane as to violate the act, except those who impiously use it only as “ a picklock to a place," there are too few who make it lastingly beneficial, Few so thoughtless as not - to approachit with resolutions of amendment ; few comparatively who carry those resolutions into effect. Fear operates in the previous instance. Why should not love operate in that which is subsequent? 4A periodical religion is accompavied with a periodical repentance. This species of repentance is adopted with no small mental reservation. It is partialand disconnected. These fragments of contrition, these broken parcels of penitence while a succession of worldly pura suits is not only resorted to, but is intended to be resorted to, during the whole of the intervening spaces, is not that sorrow which the Almighty has promised to accept. To reoder it pleasing to God and efficacious to ourselves, there must be an agreement in the parts, an entireness in the whole web of life. There must be an integral repentance. A quarterly contrition in the four weeks preceding the sacred seasons will not · wipe out the daily offences, the hourly negligences of the wbole sinful year. Sins half forsaken through