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knowledge of himself; who seeing the cor- follow the death unto sin.' There cannot ruptions that are in the world, and feeling be new aims and ends where there is not a those with which his heart abounds, is new principle to produce them. We shall brought, whether gradually or rapidlly from not choose a new path until a light from an evil heart of unbelief, to a lively faith in heaven direct our choice and guide our the Redeemer; from a life, not only of gross feet,' We shall not run the way of God's vice, but of worldliness and vanity, to a life commandments,' till God himself enlarge of progressive piety; whose liumility keeps our heart, pace with his progress; who, though his We do not, however, insist that the attainments are advancing, is so far from change required is such as precludes the counting himself to have attained, that he possibility of falling into sin ; but it is a presses onward with unahated zeal, and charge which fixes in the soul such a disevinces, by the change in his conduct, the position as shall make sin a burden, as shall change that has taken place in his heart-make the desire of pleasing God the governsuch a one is surely as sincerely converted, ing desire of a luan's heart; as shalí make and the effect is as much produced by the him hate the evil which he does; as shall same divine energy, as if some instantaneous make the lowness of his attainments the revolution in his character had given it a subject of his deepest sorrow. A Christian miraculous appearance. The doctrines of |has hopes and fears, cares ard temptations, Scripture are the same now as when David inclinations and desires, as well as other called them, a law converting the soul, men. God in changing the heart does not and giving light to the eyes.' This is per-extinguish the passions. Were that the haps the most accurate and comprehentive case, the Christian life would cease to be a definition of the change for which we are warfare. contending, for it includes both the illumi- We are often deceived by that partial imnation of the understanding, and the altera-provement which appears in the victory over tion in the disposition.
some one bad quality. But we must not misIf then this obnoxious expression signify take the removal of a symptom for a radical nothing more nor less than that change of cure of the disease. An occasional remedy character which consists in turning from the might remove an accidental sickness, but world to God, however the term inay offend, it requires a general regimen to renovate there is nothing ridiculous in the thing the diseased constitution, Now, as it is not for the term which we It is the natural but melancholy history of contend, but for the principle conveyed by the unchanged heart, that from youth to adit; so it is the principle and not the term, vanced years, there is no other revolution in which is the real ground of objection; the character but such as increase both the though it is a little inconsistent that many number and quality of its defects : that the who would sneer at the idea of conversion, levity, vanity, and self-sufficiency of the would yet take it extremely ill if it were young man is carried into advanced life, anck suspected that their hearts were not turned only meet, and mix with the defects of a to God.
mature period : that, instead of crying out Reformation, a term against which no ob- with the royal prophet, O remember not jection is ever made, would, if words conti- my old sins,' he is inflaming his reckoning nued to retain their primitive signification, by new ones: that age, protracting all the convey the same idea. For it is plain that to faults of youth, furnishes its own contingent reform means to make anew. In the pre- of vices : that sloth, suspicion, and covetsent use, kowever, it does not convey the ousness, swell the account which religion same meaning in the same extent, nor indeed has not been called in to cancel : that the does it imply the operation of the same prin- world, though it has lost the power to deciple, Many are reformed on human mo- light, has yet lost nothing of its power to entives, many are partially reformed; but only slave. Instead of improving in candour by those who, as our great poet says, are 're- the inward sense of its own defects, that formed altogether, are converted. There very consciousness makes him less tolerant is no complete reformation in the conduct of the defects of others, and more suspicious effected without a revolution in the heart, of their apparent virtues. His charity in a Ceasing from some sins; retaining others in warmer season having failed to bring him in a less degree ; or adopting such as are mere- that return of gratitude for which it was iy creditable; or flying from one sin to an- partly peformed, and having never flowed other; or ceasing from the external act from the genuine spring, is dried up. His without any internal change of disposition, friendships having been formed on worldly is not Christian reformation. The new prin- principles, or interest, or ambition, or conciple must abolish the old habit ; the rooted (vivial hilarity, fail him. One must make inclination must be subdued by the substitu- some sacrifices to the world, is the prevailtion of an opposite one. The natural bias ing language of the nominal Christian. must be changed. The actual offence will/What will the world pay you for your no more be pardoned than cured, if the in- sacrifices ? replies the real Christian. ward corruption be not eradicated. To be Though he finds that the world is insolvent, * alive unto God through Jesus Christ must I that it pays nothing of what is promised, for it cannot bestow wliat it does not possess keen sense of dishonour, and are careful to happiness : yet he continues to cling to it al-Javoid every thing that may bring the shamost as confidently as if it had never disap-dow of discredit on their name. Public opipointell him. Were we called upon to name nion is the breath by which they live, the the object under the sun which excites the standard by which they act; of course they deepest commiseration in the heart of Chris-/ would not lower by gross misconduct, that tian sensibility, which includes in itself the standard on which their happiness depends. most affecting congruities, which contains They have been taught to respect themthe sum and substance of real human mise- selves; this they can do with more security ry, we should not hesitate to say an irreligi- while they can retain, on this half-way prin
ous old age. The mere debility of declining ciple the respect of others. · years, even the hopelessness of decrepitude, In some who make further advances to
in the pious, though they excite sympathy, wards religion, we continue to see it in that yet it is the sympathy of tenderness unmix- same low degree which we have always obed with distress. We take and give com- served. It is dwarfish and stunted, it makes fort, from the cheering persuasion that the no shoots. Though it gives some signs of exhausted body will soon cease to clog its life, it does not grow, By a tame and spiritimmortal companion ; that the dim and fail-less round, or rather by this fixed and iming eyes will soon open on a work of glory.moveable position, we rob ourselves of that Dare we paint the reverse of the picture? fair reward of peace and joy which attends Dare we suffer the imagination to dwell on on an humble consciousness of progress; on the opening prospects of hoary impiety? the feeling of difficulties conquered ; on a Dare we figure to ourselves that the weak-sense of the divine favour, That religion ness, the miseries, the terrors, we are now which is profitable, is commonly percepticommisserating, are ease, are peace, are ble. Nothing supports a traveller in his happiness compared with the unutterable Christian course like the conviction that he perspective ?
is getting on ; like looking back on the coun* There is a fatal way of lulling the con- try he has passed; and, above all, like the science by entertaining diminishing thoughts sense of that protection which has hitherto of sins long since committed. We persuade carried him on, and of that grace which has ourselves to forget them, and we therefore promised to support him to the end. persuade ourselves that they are not re- The proper motion of the renewed heart membered by God. But though distance is still directed upward, True religion is of diminishes objects to the eye of the beholder, an aspiring nature, continually tending toit does not actually lessen them. Their rcal wards that heaven from whence it was magnitude remains the same. Deliver us, transplanted. Its top is high because its merciful God! from the delusion of believ- root is deep. It is watered by a perennial ing that secret sins, of which the world has fountain ; in its most flourishing state it is no cognizance, early sins, which the world always capable of further growth. Real has forgotten, but which are known to 'Him goodness proves itself to be such by a contiwith whom we have to do,'become by secre-nual desire to be better. No virtue on earth cy and distance as if they had never been. is ever in a complete state. Whatever
Are not these things noted in the book ?' stage of religion any man has attained, if he Perhaps if we remember them, God may be satisfied to rest in that stage, we would forget them, especially if our remembrance not call that man religious. The Gospel be such as to induce a sound repentance. It seems to consider the highest degree of we remember them not, He assuredly will goodness as the lowest with which a Chris The holy contrition which should accompa- tian ought to sit down satisfied. We cant ny this remembrance, while it will not abatc be said to be finished in any Christian grace, our humble trust in our compassionate Re- because there is not one which may not be deemer, will keep our conscience tender, carried further than we have carried it and our heart watchful.
This promotes the double purpose of keep We do not deny that there is frequently ing us humble as to our present stage, and much kindness and urbanity, much benevo- of stimulating us to something higher which lence and generosity, in men who do not we may hope to attain, even pretend to be religious. These quali- That superficial thing, which by mere ties often flow from constitutional feeling, people of the world is dignified by the apnatural softness of temper, and warm affec-pellation of religion, though it brings just tions: often from an elegant education, that that degree of credit which makes part of best human sweetener, and polisher of so- the system of worldly Christians ; neither cial life. We feel a tender regret as we ex-brings comfort for this world, nor security claim, 'what a fine soil would such dispo- for the next. Outward observances, indis sitions afford to plant religion in ?' Well pensable as they are, are not religion. They bred persons are accustomed to respect all are the accessory, but not the principal; the decorums of society, to connect insepa- they are important aids and adjuncts, but rably the ideas of personal comfort with not the thing itself; they are its aliment public esteem, of generosity with credit, of but not its life, the fuck but not the flame, order with respectability. They have a the scaffolding but not the edifice, Religia can no more subsist merely by them. They such low attainment as will afford neither are divinely appointed, and must be consci- present peace nor future happiness. To entiously observed; but observed as a means know Christianity only in its external forms, to promote an end, and not as end in them- and its internal dissatisfaction, its superficial selves.
appearances without, and its disquieting apThe heartless homage of formal worship, prchensions within ; to be desirous of standwhere the living power does not give life to ing well with the world as a Christian, yet the form, the cold compliment of ceremo- to be unsupported by a well-founded Chrisnial attendance, without the animating prin- tian hope; to depend for happiness on the ciple, as it will not bring peace to our own opinion of men, instead of the favour of God; mind, so neither will it satisfy a jealous God. to go on dragging through the mere exers That God whose eye is on the heart, “who cises of piety, without deriving from them trieth the reins and searcheth the spirits,' real strength or solid peace; to live in the will not be satisfied that we make him little Giread of being called an enthusiast, by out-, more than a nominal deity, while the world wardly exceeding in religion, and in secret is the real object of our worship. Such per-consciousness of falling short of it ; to be sons seem to have almost the whole body of conformed to the world's view of Christianiperformance; all they want is the soul. ty, rather than to aspire to be transformed They are constant in their devotions, but by the renewing of your mind, is a state, the heart, which even the heathens esteem- not of pleasure but of penalty, not of coned the best part of the sacrifice, they keep quest but of hopeless conflict, not of ingenuaway. They read the Scriptures, but rest ous love but of tormenting fear. It is knowin the letter, instead of trying themselves by ing religion only as the captive in a foreign its spirit.-They consider it as an enjoined land knows the country in which he is a task, but not as the quick and powerful in- prisoner. He hears from the cheerful nastrument put into their hands for the critical tives of its beauties, but is himself ignorant dissection of piercing and dividing asunder of every thing beyond his own gloomy limits, the soul and spirit ;' not as the penetrating He hears of others as free and happy, yet 'discerner of the thoughts and intents of the feels nothing himself but the rigours of inheart.' These well-intentioned persons carceration. seem to spend no inconsiderable portion of The Christian character is little undertime in religious exercises, and yet complain stood by the votaries of the world ; if it
that they make little progress. They almost were, they would be struck with its gran- seem to insinuate as if the Almighty did not deur. It is the very reverse of that meankeep his word with them, and manitest that ness and pusillanimity, that abject spirit and religion to them is not pleasantness,' nor those parrow views, which those who know her paths peace.'
it not ascribe to it Of such inay we not ask, would you not A Christian lives at the height of his do better to examine than to complain? to being ; not only at the top of his spiritual, inquire whether you do, indeed, possess a but of his intellectual life. He alone lives heart which notwithstanding its imperfcc- in the full exercise of his rational powers, tions, is sincerely devoted to God? He who Religion ennobles his reason while it endoes not desire to be perfect, is not sincere. larges it. Would you not do well to convince your ! Let, then, your soul act up to its high desselves that God is not unfaithful? that his tination ; let not that which was made to soar promises do not fail ? that his goodness is not to heaven, grovel in the dust. Let it not slackened ? May you not be entertaining live so much below itself. You wonder it is some secret infidelity, practising some latent not more fixed, when it is perpetually resdisobedience, withholding some part of your ting on things which are not fixed themheart, neglecting to exercise that faith, sub- selves. In the rest of a Christian there is tracting something from that devotedness, to stability. Nothing can shake his confidence which a Christian should engage himself, but sin. Outwarı attack and troubles raand to which the promises of God are an- ther fix than unsettle him, as tempests from pexed ? Do you indulge no propensities without only serve to root the oak faster, contrary to his will ? Do you never resist while an inward canker will gradually rot the dictates of his Spirit ? never shut your and decay it. eyes to its illumination, nor your heart to its These are only a few of the mistakes influences? Do you not indulge some che- among the multitude which might have rished sin which obscures the light of grace, been pointed out ; but these are noticed as some practice which obstructs the growth being of common and every day occurrence. of virtue, some distrust which chills the The ineffectiveness of such a religion will warmth of love? The discovery will repay be obvious. thie search, and if you succeed in this scruti- That religion which sinks Christianity inny, let not the detection discourage but sti- to a mere conformity to religious usages, mulate.
must always fail of substantial effects. If If, then, you resolve to take up religion sin be seated in the heart, if that be its in earnest, especially if you have actually home, that is the place in which it must be adopted its customary forms, rest not in combatted. It is in vain to attack it in the
suburbs, when it is lodged in the centre, on so poor a thing as his own advancement, Mere forms can never expel that enemy He will desire to devote all to the only obwhich they can never reach. By a religion jeçt worthy of them, to God. Our Saviour of decencies, our corruptions may perhaps has taken care to provide that our ideas of be driven out of sight, but they will never glorifying him may not run out into fanciful be driven out of possession. If they are ex- chimeras or subtle inventions, by simply stapelled from their outworks, they will retreat ting—'HEREIN IS MY FATHER GLORIFIED, to their citadel. If they do not appear in THAT YE BEAR MUCH FRUIT.' This, he grosser fornis, prohibited by the decalogue, goes on to inform us, is the true evidence of still they will exist. The shape may be al- our being of the number of his people, by tered, but the principle will remain. They addingso shall ye be my disciples,' will exist in the spiritual modification of the same siris, equally forbidden by the divine ,expositor. He who dares not be revengeful, will be unforgiving. He who ventures pot to break the letter of the seventh command
CHAP. IV. ment in act, will violate it in the spirit. He who has not courage to forfeit heaven by
Periodical Religion. profligacy, will scale it by pride, or forfeit ít by unprofitableness.
We deceive ourselves not a little when we It is not any vain hope, built on some ex- fancy that what is emphatically called the ternal privilege or performance on the one world, is only to be found in this or that sihand, nor a presumptuous confidence that tuation. The world is every where. It is a our names are written in the book of life, on nature as well as a place; a principle as the other, which can afford a reasonable well as a local habitation and a name.' ground of safety, but it is endeavouring to Though the principle and the nature flourish keep all the commandments of God; it is most in those haunts which are their congeliving to him who died for us; it is being nial soil, yet we are too ready, when we conformed to his image, as well as redeem- withdraw from the world abroad, to bring ed by his blood. This is Christian virtue; it home, to lodge it in our own bosom. The this is the holiness of a believer. A lower natural heart is both its temple and its wormotive will produce a lower morality, but shipper. such an unsanctified morality God will not But the most devoted idolater of the world, accept.
with all the capacity and industry which he For it will little avail us that Christ has may have applied to the subject, has perer died for us, that he has conquered sin, tri- yet been able to accomplish the grand deumphed over the powers of darkness, and sign of uniting the interests of heaven and overcome the world, while any sin retains earth. This experiment, which has been its unresisted dominion in our hearts, while more assiduously and more frequently tried the world is our idol, while our fostered cor-than that of the philosopher for the grand ruptions cause us to prefer darkness to hermetic secret, has been tried with about light. We must not persuade ourselves that the same degree of success. The most lawe are reconciled to God while our rebel- borious process of the spiritual chemist to lious hearts are not reconciled to goodness, reconcile religion with the world, has never
It is not casting a set of opinions into a yet been competent to make the contending mould, and a set of duties into a system. principles coalesce. which constitutes the Christian religion. But to drop metaphor.-Religion was neThe circumference must have a centre, the ver yet thoroughly relinquished by a heart bocy must have a soul, the performances full of the world. The world in return canmust have a principle. Outward observan- not be completely enjoyed where there is ces were wisely constituted to rouse our for- just religion enough to disturb its false peace. getfulness, to awaken our secular spirits, to In such minds heaven and earth ruin each call back our negligent hearts; but it was other's enjoyments. never intended that we should stop short in There is a religion which is too sincere for the use of them. They were designed to hypocrisy, but too transient to be profitable; excite holy thoughts, to quicken us to holy too superficial to reach the heart, too unprodeeds, but not to be used as equivalents for ductive to proceed from it. It is slight, but either. But we find it cheaper to serve God not false. It has discernment enough to disin a inultitude of exterior acts, than to starve tinguish sin, but not firmness enough to opon interior corruption.
pose it ; compunction sufficient to soften the Nothing short of that uniform stable prir-lheart, but not vigour sufficient to reform it. ciple, that fixedness in religion which directs lt lamients when it does wrong, and performs il man in all his actions, aims, and pursuits, all the functions of repentance of sin except to God as his ultimate end, can give consis- forsaking it. It has every thing of devotion tency to his conduct or tranquility to his except the stability, and gives every thing soul. This state once attained, he will not to religion except the heart. This is a res waste all his thoughts and designs upon the ligion of times, events, and circumstances; world; he will not lavish all his affections it is brought into play by accidents, and
dwindles away with the occasion which call-we solemnly pledge ourselves, at least ed it out. Festivals and fasts which occur once a week? Is consecrating an hour or but seldom, are much observed, and it is to two to public worship on the Sunday mornbe feared because they occur but seldom ; ing, making the Sabbath a delight? Is while the great festival which comes every desecrating the rest of the day, by doing week, comes too otien to be so respectfully our own ways, finding our own pleasure, treated. The piety of these people comes speaking our own words,' making it .hoout much in sickness, but is apt to retreat nourable ? again as recovery approaches. If they die, Sometimes in an awakening sermon, these they are placed by their admirers in the periodical religionists hear, with awe and Saints' calendar; if they recover, they go terror, of the hour of death and the day of back into the world they had renounced, l judgment. Their hearts are penetrated with and again suspend their amendment as often the solemn sounds. They confess the awful as Death suspends his blow,
realities by the impression they make on There is another class whose views are their own feelings. The sermon ends, and still lower, who yet cannot so far shake off with it the serious reflections it excited. religion as to be easy without retaining its While they listen to these things, especially brief and stated forms, and who contrive to if the preacher be alarming, they are all in mix up these forms with a faith of a piece all to them. They return to the worldwith their practice. They blend their in- and these things are as if they were not; as consistent works with a vague and unwar- if they had never been; as if their reality Tanted reliance on what the Saviour has lasted only while they were preached ; as if done for them, and thus patch up a merit, their existence depended only on their beand a propitiation of their own--running the ing heardi; as if truth were no longer truth hazard of incurring the danger of punish-than while it solicited their notice; as if there ment by their lives, and inventing a scheme were as little stability in religion itself as in to avert it by their creed, Religion never their attention to it. As soon as their minds interferes with their pleasures except by the are disengaged from the question, one would compliment of a short and occasional sus-think that death and judgment were an inpension. Having got through these periodi- vention, that heaven and hell were blotted Cal acts of devotion, they return to the same from existence, that eternity ceased to be scenes of vanity and idleness which they eternity, in the long intervals in which they had quitted for the temporary duty : forget-cease to be the object of their considerating that it was the very end of those acts of|tion, devotion to cure the vanity and to correct! This is the natural effect of what we venthe idleness. Had the periódical observance ture to denominate periodical religion. It is answered its true design, it would have dis- a transient homage kept totally distinct and inclined them to the pleasure instead of gi- separate fron the rest of our lives, instead of ving them a disposition for its indulgence. its being made the prelude and the principle Had they used the devout exercise in a right of a course of pious practice ; instead of our spirit, and improved it to the true end, it weaving our devotions and our actions into would have set the heart and life at work on one uniform tissue by doing all in one spirit all those pursuits which it was calculated to and to one end. When worshippers of this promote. But their project has more inge-description pray for a clean heart and a nuity. By the stated minutes they give to right spirit;'when they beg of God to turn rcligion, they cheaply purchase a protection a way their eyes from beholding vanity,' is for the nisemployment of the rest of their it not to be feared that they pray to be made time. They make these periodical devo- what they resolve never to become, that tions a kind of spiritual insurance office, they would be very unwilling to become as wluch is to make up to the adventurers in good as they pray to be made, and would be pleasure, any loss or damage which they sorry to be as penitent as they profess to denray sustain in its voyage.
sire? But alas! they are in little danger of It is of these shallow devotions, these pre- being taken at their word; there is too much sumed equivalents for a new heart and a new reason to fear their petitions will not be life, that God declares by the prophet, that heard or answered, for prayer for the parhe is 'weary. Though of his own express don of sin will obtain no pardon, while we appointment, they become 'an abo.nination retain the sin in hope that the prayer will be to him as soon as the sign comes to be rest-accepted without the renunciation. ed in for the thing sigaihed. We Chris- The most solemn office of our Religion, tians have our 'new moous and our sacri- the sacred memorial of the death of its Aufices' under other names and other shapes; thor, the blessed injunction and tender tesof which sacrifices, that is, of the spirit intimony of his clying love, the consolation of which they are offered, the Almighty has the humble believer, the gracious appointsaid, 'I cammot away with them, they are ment for strengthening his faith, quickening iniquity,'
his repentence, awakening his gratitude and Now is this superficial devotion that 'gi- kindling his charity, is too often resorted to ving up ourselves not with our lips only, on the same erroneous principle. He who but with our lives,' to our Maker, to which I ventures to live without the use of this holy VOL. I.