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CONTENTS TO VOL. V.
SERMONS ON SEVERAL SUBJECTS.
SERIOUSNESS IN RELIGION INDISPENSABLE ABOVE ALL
1 PETER, iv. 7. Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. The first requisite in religion is seriousness. No impression can be made without it. An orderly life, so far as others are able to observe us, is now and then produced by prudential motives, or by dint of habit; but, without seriousness, there can be no religious principle at the bottom, no course of conduct flowing from religious motives; in a word, there can be no religion. This cannot exist without seriousness upon the subject. Perhaps a teacher of religion has more difficulty in producing seriousness amongst his hearers than in any other part of his office. Until he succeed in this, he loses his labour : and when once, from any cause whatever, a spirit of levity has taken hold of a mind, it is next to impossible to plant serious considerations in that mind. It is seldom to be done, except by some great shock or alarm, sufficient to make a radical change in the disposition; and which is God's own way of bringing about the business.
One might have expected that events so awful and tremendous, as death and judgment; that a question so deeply interesting, as whether we shall
to heaven or to hell, could, in no possible case, and in no constitution of mind whatever, fail of exciting the most serious apprehension and concern. But this is not
In a thoughtless, a careless, a sensual world, many are always found who can resist, and who do resist, the force and importance of all these reflections, that is to say, they suffer nothing of the kind to enter into their thoughts. There are grown men and women, nay, even middle aged persons, who have not thought seriously about religion an hour, nor a quarter of an hour, in the whole course of their lives. This great object of human solicitude affects not them in any manner whatever.
It cannot be without its use to inquire into the causes of a levity of temper, which so effectually obstructs the admission of every religious influence, and which I should almost call unnatural.
1. Now there is a numerous class of mankind who are wrought upon by nothing but what applies immediately to their senses ; by what they see, or by what they feel ; by pleasures and pains which they actually experience or actually observe. But it is the characteristic of religion to hold out to our consideration consequences which we do not perceive at the time. That is its very office and province. Therefore, if men will restrict and confine all their regards and all their cares to things which they perceive with their outward senses ; if they will yield up their understandings to their senses, both in what these senses are fitted to apprehend, and in what they are not fitted to apprehend; it is utterly impossible for religion to settle in their hearts, or for them to entertain any serious concern about the matter. But surely this