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ture, in any piace, or in any situation. Amongst religious exercises I also reckon family prayer, which unites many of the uses both of public worship 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 ex. ercises ; 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 com religion. Whether we regard the practice with 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 religious seriousness. The principle itself is destroy.
or was never formed in them. Upon those who hear, its effect is this. If they have
concern about religion, and the disposition towards religion which they ought
to have, and which we signify by this word seriousness, they will be in. rdly shocked and offended by the levity with
they hear it treated. They will, as it were, the treatment of a subject, which by others ays been thought upon with awe and dread neration. But the pain with which they - first affected goes off by hearing frequent, same sort of language ; and then they will
ed in them,
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
It has been objected, that so much regard, or, as the objectors would call it, over-regard for religion, 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. ligion condemns, he will find time enough for them all. This calm system may not be sufficient for that unceasing eagerness, hurry and anxiety out worldly affairs, in which some men pass Seir lives, but it is sufficient for every thing which resonable prudence requires: it is perfectly consistent with usefulness in our stations, which is .
this view of the subject.
main point. Indeed, compare the hours which serious persons spend in religious exercises and me. and irreligious spend in idleness and vice and ex. ditations, with the hours which the thoughtless pensive diversions, and you will perceive on which side of the comparison the advantage lies even in
Nor is there any thing in the nature of religion to support the objection. In a certain sense it is true, what has been sometimes said, that religion ought to be the rule of life, not the business: by which is meant that the subject matter even of religious duties lies in the common affairs and transactions of the world; diligence in our calling is an example of this; which, however, keeps both our herds and hands at work merely upon business merely temporal, yet religion may be governing us 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 in 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 l' 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 enuse of this distress or dejection, or to be blamed
These cases being excepted, the very rewhat 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 sake, a cordial for weak and low spirits bo
ito yond what either indulgence or diversion or com,
pany can do for them. And a succession and durse of such actions and self-denials, springing from a religious principle and manfully maintained, is the best possible course that can be follow
ed as a remedy for sinkings and oppressions of this kind. Can it then be true that religion leads to jmelancholy? Occasions rise to every man living ; to many very severe as well as repeated occasions, 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 keart like a dagger, in their gayest moments. God. men discover, what is very true, but what, by
men, is found out too late, namely, that a food conscience, and the hope of our Creator's dual favour and acceptance are the only solid happiness 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 eerful. If this be not observed, as might be ex. heted, supposing it to be true, it is because the erfulness which religion inspires does not shew el in noise, or in fits and starts of merriment,
in calm and constant. Of this the only true raluable kind of cheerfulness, for all other ads are hollow and unsatisfying, religious men
eis not less but a greater share than others. Another destroyer of religious seriousness, and which is the last I shall mention, is a certain fatal un which some minds take, namely, that when
find difficulties in or concerning religion, or of the tenets of religion, they forthwith plunge irreligion ; and make these difficulties, or any ste of uncertainty, which seems to their ap: hension to hang over the subject, a ground and stion 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 balancing between the
Kom of religion and the love of pleasure or pf
unjust gain ; but especially the former. In this preoarious 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 him. self froin punishment in a future state ; and the loss of that happiness which may be attained Therefore he has no pretence for alleging 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 appavent 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 man ture 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 alsa, were not to be expected; nay farther, whether they be not in some measure subservient to the very purpose of religion. The reward of everlasting life, 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 the will is not what God designed; nor is suitable indeed to the nature of free, moral, and accountable agents. The truth is, and it was most likely before known that it would be so, that amidst some points which are dark, some which are dubious there are many which are clear and certain. Now,