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tion; yet, after all, time will wear them out. All things here are subject to decay, and soon will terminate in the general conflagration; but no length of time can obliterate the contents of this record, no circumstance can injure it. It will outlive "the wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds.” Eternity itself will no erase it; “for this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son.'

Should the reader be anxious to know whether his name be in this record, let him examine three records here on earth; his own conscience, his conduct, and his Bible, Let him compare these, one with the other. Let him tremble if he find nothing in the two first that corresponds with the last; but if his conscience be clear and his life consistent, let him rejoice, his name is written in heaven.


Crispus. Good morning, my dear Gaius. I am glad to sec you, The world is busy in discussing politics, and struggling for empire. Suppose you and I retire a little from the tumultuous scene, and discourse on subjects of greater importance. Let us step into the book-room. Pray be seated.

Gaius. I am glad, my dear friend, to find your thoughts engaged on such subjects as you mention. And though I have but little spare time this morning, yet that little I shall be happy to spend in your company and conversation. Pray, what is the subject of your present reflections?

* 1 John v. 11.

Crisp. I have of late employed my leisure hours in reading the works of some of our first reformers; and, on comparing their times with the present, I have observed that a considerable difference has taken place in the state of the public mind. At the dawn of the Reformation, the bulk of mankind were the devotees of superstition, and stood ready to extirpate all those who dared to avow any religious opinions different from theirs. Even the reformers themselves, though they inveighed against the persecuting spirit of the Papists, seem to have been very severe in their animadversions on each other, and to have exercised too little Christian forbearance, and too much of rigorous temper, towards those whose ideas of reformation did not exactly coincide with their own. A great deal of their language, and some parts of their conduct, would, in the present day, be thought very censurable. How do you account for this change?

Gai. Were I to answer that the rights of conscience have of late years been more clearly understood, and that the Christian duty of benevolence, irrespective of the principles which men hold, has been more frequently enforced, I should so far speak the truth. And, so far, we have reason to congratulate the present age upon its improvement.

Crisp. Do you suppose there are other causes to which such a change may be attributed?

Gai. I do. Skepticism and a general indifference to religion, appear to have succeeded the blind zeal and superstition of former ages. It has been observed on that remarkable phrase of the apostle Paul, Ye walk. ed according to the course of this world; that there is a course which is general, and common to all ages and places, and which includes the gratifying of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and such like things: but that, besides this, there is a course, which is more particular, and which varies incessantly. Like the tide, it is ever rolling, but in different directions. In one age or country it is this, in another that, and in a third different from them both. The course of this world in the early ages was a course of idolatry. In this direction it ran till the days of Constantine; at which period the prince of darkness found it impracticable, in the civilized parts of the earth, to support the Pagan throne any longer. The leaders in the Roman empire resolved to become Christians; and great numbers, from different motives, followed their example. The tide had then changed its direction. To profess Christianity was fashionable, was honorable, was the high road to preferment. Satan himself, so to speak, could now have no objection to turn Christian. The external profession of religion now began to grow splendid and pompous: but its true spirit was gradually lost; and a system of ignorance, superstition, and persecution, was introduced into its place. For many centuries, the course which the European part of the world took, was that of Popery: and so powerful was its that those who ventured to resist it, did so at the expense of every thing that was dear to them on earth. In this direction it ran till the Reformation. Since that period there has been another turning of the tide. Several nations have become Protestant; and yet the course


* 4

of this world goes on, and Satan has great influence amongst us. He has no objection to our laughing at superstition, provided that, in any form, we remain the slaves of sin. The world has of late years not directed its course so immediately towards superstition, as towards a criminal carelessness and infidelity. Formerly, the minds of men were so bent on uniformity in religion, as to require it in civil society. Now they tend to the other extreme; and are for admitting any kind of sentiments, even into religious society. In short, the propensity of the world in this day, is to consider all religious sentiments whatever as of little or no importance. I am afraid, my dear friend, that this is one of the principal sources from which the lenity of the present day springs.

Crisp. Be it so; yet the effect is friendly to mankind. If mutual forbearance amongst men arose from a good motive, it would indeed be better for those who exercise it; but let it arise from what motive it may, it is certainly advantageous to society. Gai.

Very true: but we should endeavor to have laudable behavior, if possible, arise from the purest motives, that it may be approved of God, as well as advantageous to men.

Crisp. But, do you think we ought to expect 'so much from the apostate race of Adam? In the apostle John's time, the whole world was represented as lying in wickedness; and, in fact, it has been so ever since. Formerly, its wickedness operated in a way of intemperance: now it works in a way of indifference. of the two, does not the last seem to be the least injurious?

Gai. It is indeed the least injurious to our property, to our liberty, and to our lives; but with regard to our spiritual interests, it may become the reverse. Fashion, be it what it may, will always, in some degree at least, diffuse its influence through the minds of men, even of those who are truly religious. The intemperance of past ages gave to the temper of pious people, as well as others, a tinge of unchristian severity; the indifference of the present times, has, I fear, operated with equal power, though in a different manner. We ought to be thankful for our mercies; but, at the same time, we should take heed lest we be carried away by the course of this world.

Crisp. Pray, are your apprehensions well-grounded? What evidence have we that religious people are influenced by a spirit of indifference?

Gai. The crying up of one part of religion at the expense of another. You may often hear of practical religion as being the all in all; and of speculative opinions (which is the fashionable name now for doctrinal sentiments) as things of very little consequence. Thus, by placing the doctrines of the gospel at a distance from practical godliness, the unwary are led to conclude that it has no sort of dependance on them. The effect of this has been, that others, from an attachment to doctrinal principles, have run to the contrary extreme. They write and preach in favor of doctrines, and what are called the privileges of the gospel; and utterly neglect those subjects which immediately relate to practice. In some places you may hear experimental 'religion extolled above all things, even at the expense of Christian practice and of sound doctrine. But surely

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