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ture, in any place, or in any situation. Amongst religious exercises I also reckon family prayer, which unites many of the uses both of public wor. ship and private prayer. The reading of religious books is likewise to be accounted a religious exercise. Religious meditation still more so; and more so for this reason, that it implies and includes that most important duty self-examination ; for I hold it to be next to impossible for a man to meditate upon religion without meditating at the same time upon his own present condition with respect to the tremendous alternative which is to take place upon him after his death.
These are what we understand by religious exercises ; and they are all so far of the same nature with religious ordinances, that they are aids and helps of religion itself; and I think that religious seriousness cannot be maintained in the soul without them.
But again. A cause which has a strong tendency to destroy religious seriousness, and which al. ! most infallibly prevents its formation and growth ** in young minds, is levity in conversation upon religious subjects, or upon subjects connected with religion. Whether we regard the practice with a regard to those who use it, or to those who hear it, it is highly to be blamed, and is productive of great mischief. In those who use it, it amounts almost to a proof that they are destitute of reli. gious seriousness. The principle itself is destroy. ed in them, or was never formed in them. Upon those who hear, its effect is this. If they have concern about religion, and the
on towards religion which they ought to have, and which we shiry by this word seriousness, they will be inWhy shocked and offended by the levity with
hey hear it treated. They will, as it were, the treatment of a subject, which by others ays been thought upon with awe and dread
ation. But the pain with which they first affected goes off by hearing frequentsame sort of language; and then they wiil ?
be almost sure, if they examine the state of their minds as to religion, to feel a change in themselves for the worse. This is the danger to which those are exposed, who had before imbibed serious impressions. Those, who had not, will be prevented by such sort of conversation from ever imbibing them at all; so that its influence is in all cases pernicious.
The turn which this levity usually takes, is in jests and raillery upon the opinions, or the peculiarities, or the persons of those, who happen to be more serious than ourselves. But against whomsoever it happens to be pointed, it has the bad effects both upon the speaker and the hearer which we have noticed. It tends to destroy our own seriousness, together with the seriousness of those, who hear or join in such sort of conversation ; especially if they be young persons; and I am per. suaded, that much mischief is actually done in this way.
It has been objected, that so much regard, or, as the objectors would call it, over-regard for re,ligion, is inconsistent with the interest and welfare
of our families, and with success and prosperity in our worldly affairs. I believe that there is very little ground for this objection in fact, and even as the world goes; in reason and principle there is none. A good Christian divides his time between the duties of religion, the calls of business, and those quiet relaxations which may be innocently allowed to his circumstances and condition, and which will be chiefly in his family or amongst a few friends. In this plan of life there is no confusion or interference in its parts; and unless a man be given to sloth and laziness, which are what re. Agion condemns, he will find time enough for them all. This calm system may not be sufficient bar that unceasing eagerness, hurry and anxiety about worldly affairs, in which some men pass
Seir lives, but it is sufficient for every thing which koronable prudence requires: it is perfectly con.
it is perfectly con sistent with usefulness in our stations, which is e
in point. Indeed, compare the hour, which se.
prsons spend in religious exercises and me.
wwwrith the hours which the thoughtless ditat and irreligious spend in idleness and vice and ex
dirersions, and you will perceive on which pensi side of the comparison the advantage lies even in this view of the subject. ***Nor is there any thing in the nature of religion menport the objection. In a certain sense it is
what has been sometimes said, that religion licht to be the rule of life, not the business: by which is meant that the subject matter even of re
ne duties lies in the common affairs and transSons of the world; diligence in our calling is an Pample of this; which, however, keeps both our heads and hands at work merely upon business merely temporal, yet religion may be governing 115 here meanwhile; God may be feared in the siest scenes,
addition to the above there exists another pree against religious seriousness arising from a 11 very commonly entertained, viz. that relileads to gloom and melancholy. This notion, convinced, is a mistake. Some persons are itutionally subject to melancholy, which is as il a disease in them as the ague is a disease; . it may happen that such men's melancholy fall upon religious ideas, as it may upon any r subject which seizes their distempered imaation. But this is not religion leading to melicholy : or it sometimes is the case, that men are rought to a sense of religion by calamity and aliction, which produce at the same time depres. sion of spirits. But neither here is religion the mouse of this distress or dejection, or to be blamed it. These cases being excepted, the very re. what is alleged against religion is the
an's spirits were ever hurt by doing in the contrary, one good action, one resisted and overcome, one sacrifice r interest, purely for conscience sakes. . a cordial for weak and low spirits bou
yond what either indulgence or diversion or com
pany can do for them. And a succession and la course of such actions and self-denials, springing other from a religious principle and manfully maintain
ed, is the best possible course that can be follow. ed as a remedy for sinkings and oppressions of this 7 kind. Can it then be true that religion leads to melancholy? Occasions rise to every man living ;
to many very severe as well as repeated occasions, they in which the hopes of religion are the only stay
that is left him. Godly men have that within them Which cheers and comforts them in their saddest hours; ungodly men have that which strikes their heart likea dagger, in their gayest moments. God.
men discover, what is very true, but what, by
host men, is found out too late, namely, that a Food conscience, and the hope of our Creator's inal favour and acceptance are the only solid hap
piness to be attained in this world. Experience corresponds with the reason of the thing. I take
pon me to say that religious men are generally 7 leerful. If this be not observed, as might be exected, supposing it to be true, it is because the
erfulness which religion inspires does not shew d el in noise, or in fits and starts of merriment,
is calm and constant. Of this the only true
Faluable kind of cheerfulness, for all other and are hollow and unsatisfying, religious men
weis not less but a greater share than others.
Another destroyer of religious seriousness, and weich is the last I shall mention, is a certain fatal de gra which some minds take, namely, that when
ind difficulties in or concerning religion, or of the tenets of religion, they forth with plunge irreligion ; and make these difficulties, or any ce of uncertainty, which seems to their ap
ension to hang over the subject, a ground and Destion for giving full liberty to their inclina
and for casting off the restraints of religion dy. This is the case with men, who, at the
perhaps, were only bal stoms of religion and the love of pleasure or pf
unjust gain; but especially the former. In this precarious state, any objection, or appearance of objeotion, which diminishes the force of religious impression determines the balance against the side of virtue, and gives up the doubts to sensuality, to the world and to the flesh. Now of all ways which a man can take, this is the surest way to destruction. And it is completely irrational; for when we meditate upon the tremendous consequences which form the subject of religion, we cannot avoid this reflection, that any degree of possiblity whatever, of religion being true, ought to determine a rational creature so to act as to secure himself froin punishment in a future state ; and the loss of that happiness which may be attained Therefore he has no pretence for alleging uncer. tainty as an excuse for his conduct, because he does not act in conformity with that in which there is no uncertainty at all. In the next place, it is giving to apparent difficulties more weight than they are entitled to. I only request any man to consider, first, the necessary allowances to be made for the short-sightedness and the weakness of the human understanding; secondly, the nature of those subjects concerning which religion treats, so remote from our senses, so different from our experience, so above and beyond the ordinary train and course of our ideas; and then say, whether difficulties, and great difficulties also, were not to be expected ; nay farther, whether they bo
In some measure subservient to the very purpose of religion. The reward of everlasting lile, and the
ne punishment of misery of which we know no end, if they were present and immediate, could not be withstood; and would not leave any room for liberty or choice. But this sort of force upon ine will is not what God designed; nor is suitable Indeed to the nature of free, moral, and account able ag
ble agents. The truth is, and it was most likely betore known that it would be so, that amidst some points which are dark, some which are dubious,
re are many which are clear and certain. Now,