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particular, is brought as a reasonablo apology for a too yielding and indiscriminate conformity.

But, at a time when almost all are sinking into the prevailing corruption, how beautiful a rare, a single integrity is, let the instances of Lot and Noah declare! And to those with whom a poem is a higher authority than the Bible, let me recommend the most animated picture of a righteous singularity that ever was delineated, in

The seraph Abdiel, faithful found
Among the faithless, faithful only he
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love and zeal :
Nor NUMBERS nor EXAMPLE with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind,
Tho' SINGLE.

Par. Lost, B. iv. Few indeed, of the more orderly and decent, have any objection to that degree of religion which is compatible with their general acceptance with others, or the full enjoyment of their own pleasures. For a formal and ceremonious exercise of the outward duties of Christianity may not only be kept up without exciting censure, but will even procure a certain respect and confidence, and is not quite irreconcilable with a voluptuous and dissipated life. So far many go; and so far as “godliness is profitable to the life that is,” it passes without reproach.

But as soon as men begin to consider religious exercises not as a decency, but a duty ; not as a commutation for a self-denying life, but as a means to promote a holy temper and a virtuous conduct; as soon as they feel disposed to carry the effect of their devotion into their daily life ; as soon as their principles discover themselves, by leading them to withdraw from those scenes, and abstain from those actions, in which the gay place their supreme happiness ; as soon as something is to be done, and something is to be parted with, then the world begins to take offence, and to stigmatise the activity of that piety, which had been commended as long as it remained inoperative, and had only evaporated in words.

When religion, like the vital principle, takes its seat in the heart, and sends out supplies of life and heat to every part; diffuses motion, soul, and vigour, through the whole circulation, and informs and animates the whole man ; when it operates on the practice, influences the conversation, breaks out into a lively zeal for the honour of God and the best interests of mankind, then the sincerity of heart, or the sanity of mind, of that person will become questionable; and it must be owing to a very fortunate combination of circumstances indeed, if he can at once preserve the character of parts and piety, and retain the reputation of a man of sense after he has acquired that of a Christian.

It is surely a folly to talk of being too holy, too strict, or too good. Where there really happens to appear some foundation for the charge of enthusiasm, (as there are indeed sometimes in good people eccentricities which justify the censure,) we may depend upon it, that it proceeds from some defect in the judgment, and not from any excess of piety; for in goodness there is no excess ; and it is as preposterous to say that any one is too good, or too pious, as that he is too wise, too strong, or too healthy ; since the highest point in all these is only the perfection of that quality

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which we admitted in a lower degree. There may be an imprudent, but there cannot be a superabundant goodness. An ardent imagination may mislead a rightly turned heart; and a weak intellect may incline the best intentioned to ascribe too much value to things of comparatively small importance. Such a one not having discernment enough to perceive where the force and stress of duty lie, may inadvertently discredit religion by a too scrupulous exactness in points of small intrinsic value. And even well-meaning men, as well as hypocrites, may think they have done a meritorious service when their “ mint” and “anise” are rigorously tithed.

But, in observing the “ weightier matters of the law,” in the practice of universal holiness, in the love of God, there can be no possibility of exceeding, while there is no limitation in the command. We are in no danger of loving our neighbour better than ourselves; and let us remember that we do not go beyond, but fall short of our duty, while we love him less. If we were commanded to love God with some of our heart, with part of our soul, and a portion of our strength, there would then be some colour for those perpetual cavils about the proportion of love, and the degree of obedience, which are due to him. But as the command is so definite, so absolute, so comprehensive, so entire, nothing can be more absurd than that unmeaning, but not unfrequent.charge, brought against religious persons, that they are too strict. It is in effect saying, that they love God too much, and serve him too well.

The foundation of this silly censure is commonly laid in the first principles of education, where an early separation is systematically made between duty and pleasure. One of the first baits held out for the encouragement of children is, that when they have done their duty, they will be entitled to some pleasure ; thus forcibly disjoining what should be considered as inseparable.

And there is not a more common justification of that idle and dissipated manner in which the second half of the Sunday is commonly spent, even by those who make a conscience of spending the former part properly, than that, “ now they have done their duty, they may take their pleasure."

But while Christian observances are considered as tasks, which are to be got ever, to entitle us to something more pleasant; as a burden which we must endure, in order to propitiate an inexorable Judge, who makes a hard bargain with his creatures, and allows them just so much amusement in pay for so much drudgery,—we must not wonder that such low views are entertained of Christianity, and that a religious life is reprobated as strict and rigid.

But to him who acts from the nobler motive of love, and the animating power of the Christian hope, the exercise is the reward, the permission is the privilege, the work is the wages. He does not carve out some miserable pleasure, and stipulate for some meagre diversion, to pay himself for the hard performance of his duty, who, in that very performance, experiences the highest pleasure; and feels the truest gratification of which his nature is capable, in devoting the noblest part of that nature to His service to whom he owes all, because from Him he has received all.

This reprobated strictness, therefore, so far from being the source of discomfort and misery, as is pretended, is in reality the true cause of actual enjoyment, by laying the axe to the root of all those turbulent and uneasy

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passions, the unreserved and yet imperfect gratification of which does so much more tend to disturb our happiness, than that self-government which Christianity enjoins.

But all precepts seem rigorous, all observances are really hard, where there is not an entire conviction of God's right to our obedience, and an internal principle of faith and love to make that obedience pleasant. A religious life is indeed a hard bondage to one immersed in the practices of the world, and under the dominion of its appetites and passions. To a real Christian, it is perfect freedom." He does not now abstain from such and such things, merely because they are forbidden, (as he did in the first stages of his progress,) but because his soul has no longer any pleasure in them. And it would be the severest of all punishments to oblige him to return to those practices, from which he once abstaincd with difficulty, and through the less noble principle of fear.

There is not, therefore, perhaps a greater mistake than that common notion entertained by the more orderly part of the fashionable world, that a little religion will make people happy, but that a high degree of it is incompatible with all enjoyment. For surely that religion can add little to a man's happiness which restrains him from the commission of a wrong action, but which does not pretend to extinguish the bad principle from which the act proceeded. A religion which ties the hands, without changing the beart; which, like the hell of Tantalus, subdues not the desire, yet forbids the gratification, is indeed an uncomfortable religion : and such a religion, though it may gain a man something on the side of reputation, will give him but little inward comfort. For what true peace can that heart enjoy, which is left a prey to that temper which produced the evil, even though terror or shame may have prevented the outward act ?

That people devoted to the pursuits of a dissipated life should conceive of religion as a difficult and even unattainable state, it is easy to believe. That they should conceive of it as an unhappy state, is the consummation of their error and their ignorance : for, that a rational being should have his understanding enlightened ; that an immortal being should have his views extended and enlarged ; that a helpless being should have a consciousness of assistance, a sinful being the prospect of pardon, or a fallen one the assurance of restoration, does not seem a probable ground of unhappiness : and on any other subject but religion, such reasoning would not be admissible.

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CHAPTER VI. A stranger, from observir.g the fashionable mode of life, would not take this to be a Christian

country.—Lives of professing Christians examined, by a comparison with the gospel. Christianity not made the rule of life, even by those who profess to receive it as an object of faith.-- Temporizing writers contribute to lower the credit of Christianity.-Loose harangues on morals not calculated to reform the heart.

The Christian religion is not intended, as some of its fashionable professors seem to fancy, to operate as a charm, a talisman, or incantation, and to produce its effect by our pronouncing certain mystical words, attending at certain consecrated places, and performing certain hallowed ceremonies ; but it is an active, vital, influential principle, operating on the heart, restraining the desires, affecting the general conduct, and as much regulating our commerce with the world, our business, pleasures, and enjoyments, our conversations, designs, and actions, as our behaviour in public worship, or even in private devotion.

That the effects of such a principle are strikingly visible in the lives and manners of the generality of those who give the law to fashion, will not perhaps be insisted on. And indeed the whole present system of fashionable life is utterly destructive of seriousness. To instance only in the growing habit of frequenting great assemblies, which is generally thought insignificant, and is in effect so vapid that one almost wonders how it can be dangerous ;—it would excite laughter, because we are so broken into the habit, were I to insist on the immorality of passing one's whole life in a crowd. But those promiscuous myriads which compose the society, falsely so called, of the gay world; who are brought together without esteem, remain without pleasure, and part without regret; who live in a round of diversions, the possession of which is so joyless, though the absence is so insupportable ; these, by the mere force of incessant and indiscriminate association, weaken, and in time wear out, the best feelings and affections of the human heart. And the mere spirit of dissipation, thus contracted from invariable habit, even detached from all its concomitant evils, is in itself as hostile to a religious spirit, as more positive and actual offences. Far be it from me to say that it is as criminal; I only insist that it is as opposite to that heavenly-mindedness which is the essence of the Christian temper.

Let us suppose an ignorant and unprejudiced spectator, who should have been taught the theory of all the religions on the globe, brought hither from the other hemisphere. Set him down in the politest part of our capital, and let him determine, if he can, except from what he shall see interwoven in the texture of our laws, and kept up in the service of our churches, to what particular religion we belong. Let him not mix entirely with the most flagitious, but only with the most fashionable; at least, let him keep what they themselves call the best company. Let him scrutinise into the manners, customs, conversations, habits, and diversions most in vogue, and then infer from all he has seen and heard, what is the established religion of the land.

That it could not be the Jewish, he would soon discover; for of its rites, ceremonies, and external observances, he would trace but slender remains. He would be equally convinced that it could not be the religion of old Greece and Rome ; for that enjoined reverence to the gods, and inculcated obedience to the laws. His most probable conclusion would be in favour of the Mohammedan faith, did not the excessive indulgence of some of the most distinguished, in an article of intemperance prohibited even by the sensual prophet of Arabia, defeat that conjecture.

How would the petrified inquirer be astonished, if he were told that all these gay, thoughtless, luxurious, dissipated persons, professed a religion meek, spiritual, self-denying; of which humility, poverty of spirit, a renewed mind, and nonconformity to the world, were specific distinctions !

When he saw the sons of men of fortune, scarcely old enough to be sent to school, admitted to be spectators of the turbulent and unnatural diyersions of racing and gaming ; and the almost infant daughters, even of wise and virtuous mothers, (an innovation which fashion herself forbade till now,)

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carried with most unthrifty anticipation to the frequent and late-protracted ball—would he believe that we were of a religion which has required from these very parents a solemn vow that these children should be bred “in the nurture and adınonition of the Lord ?” that they should constantly “ believe God's holy word, and keep his commandments ?"

When he observed the turmoils of ambition, the competitions of vanity, the ardent thirst for the possession of wealth, and the wild misapplication of it when possessed; how could he persuade himself that all these anxious pursuers after present enjoyment were the disciples of a Master who exhibited the very character and essence of his religion, as it were in a motto—“My kingdom is not of this world ?"

When he beheld those nocturnal clubs, so subversive of private virtue and domestic happiness, would he conceive that we were of a religion which in express terms “exhorts young men to be sober-minded ?"

When he saw those magnificent and brightly illuminated structures, which decorate and disgrace the very precincts of the royal residence (S0 free itself from all these pollutions) ; when he beheld the nightly offerings made to the demon of play, on whose cruel altar the fortune and happiness of wives and children are offered up without remorse , would he not conclude that we were of some of those barbarous religions which enjoin unnatural sacrifices, and whose horrid deities are appeased with nothing less than human victims ?

Now, ought we not to pardon our imaginary spectator, if he should not at once conclude that all the various descriptions of persons above noticed, professed the Christian religion ; supposing him to have no other way of determining, but by the conformity of their manners to that rule by which he had undertaken to judge them? We indeed ourselves must judge with a certain latitude, and candidly take the present state of society into the account; which, in some few instances, perhaps, must be allowed to dispense with that literal strictness which more peculiarly belonged to the first ages of the gospel.

But as this is really a Christian country, professing to enjoy the purest faith in the purest form, it cannot be unreasonable to go a little further, and inquire whether Christianity, however firmly established, and generally professed in it, is really practised by that order of fashionable persons, who, while they are absorbed in the delights of the world, and their whole souls devoted to the pursuit of pleasure, yet still arrogate to themselves the honourable name of Christians, and occasionally testify their claim to this high character, by a general profession of their belief in, and a decent occasional compliance with the forms of religion, and the ordinances of our church ?

This inquiry must be made, not by a comparison with the state of Christianity in other countries; (a mode always fallacious, whether adopted by nations or individuals, is that of comparing themselves with those who are still worse;) nor must it be made from any notions drawn from custom, decency, or any other human standard ; but from a Scripture view of what real religion is ;—from any one of those striking and comprehensive representations of it, which may be found condensed in so many single passages of the sacred writings.

Whoever, then, looks into the book of God, and observes its prevailing

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