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history of the universe, or that ever will transpire till the close of time. The creation of the world; its government by a universal Providence; its redemption by the death of Christ; its conversion by the power of the Holy Ghost; its trial before the bar of God; the immortality of the soul; the resurrection of the body; the certainty of an eternal existence; the secrets of the unseen state; subjects, all of them of the loftiest and sublimest kind, which have engaged the inquiries of the profoundest intellects, are the matter of contemplation to real piety. What topics are these for our reason, under the guidance of religion, to study: what an ocean to swim in, what a heaven to soar in : what heights to measure, what depths to fathom. Here are subjects, which, from their infinite vastness, must be ever new, and ever fresh ; which can be never laid aside as dry or empty. If novelty is the parent of pleasure, here it may be found; for although the subject itself is the same, some new view of it, some fresh discovery of its wonders, is ever bursting upon the mind of the devout and attentive inquirer after truth.
How then can religion be otherwise than pleasant, when it is the exercise of the noble faculties of the mind, upon the sublimest topics of mental investigation; the voluntary, excursive, endless pursuits of the human understanding in the region of eternal truth. Never was there a more interesting or important inquiry than that proposed by Pilate to the illustrious Prisoner at his bar; and if the latter thought it not proper to answer it, it was not to show that the question was insignificant, but to condemn the light and flippant manner in which a subject so
important was taken up. Religion can answer the question, and with an ecstacy greater than that of the ancient Mathematician, exclaims, “I have found it: I have found it." The Bible is not only true, but TRUTH. It contains that which deserves this sublime emphasis. It settles the disputes of ages, and of philosophers, and makes known what is truth, and where it is to be found. It brings us from amongst the quicksands and shelves, and rocks of skepticism, ignorance, and error, and shows us that goodly land, in quest of which myriads of minds have sailed, and multitudes have been wrecked ; and religion is setting our foot on this shore, and dwelling in the region of eternal truth.
2. That a religious life is pleasant, is evident from the nature of religion itself.
Religion is a principle of spiritual life in the soul. Now all the exercises and acts of vitality are agreeable. To see, to hear, to taste, to walk, are all agreeable, because they are the voluntary energies of inward life. So religion, in all its duties, is the exercise of a living principle in the soul : it is a new spiritual existence. Piety is a spiritual taste. Hence it is said, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” No matter what the object of a taste is, the exercises of it are always agreeable. The painter goes with delight to his picture; the musician to his instrument; the sculptor to his bust; because they have a taste for these pursuits. The same feeling of delight attends the Christian to the exercises of godliness; and this is his language, “ It is a good thing to give thanks, and to draw near to God. O how I love thy law! it is sweeter to my taste than honey.
How amiable are thy tabernacles.” Religion, where it is real, is the natural element of a Christian; and every creature rejoices in its own appropriate sphere. If, my children, you consider true piety with disgust, as a hard, unnatural, involuntary thing, you are totally ignorant of its nature, entirely destitute of its influence, and no wonder you cannot attach to it the idea of pleasure: but viewing it as it ought to be viewed, in the light of a new nature, you will perceive that it admits of most exalted delight. 3. Consider the miseries which it prevents.
It does not, it is true, prevent sickness, poverty, or misfortune: it does not fence off from the wilderness of this world, a mystic inclosure, within which the ills of life never intrude. No; these things happen to all alike: but how small a portion of human wretchedness flows from these sources, compared with that which arises from the dispositions of the heart. " The mind is its own place, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Men carry the springs of their happiness or misery in their own bosom. Hence it is said of the wicked, " that they are like the troubled sea which cannot rest, which is never at peace, but continually casting up mire and dirt." In contrast with which, it is affirmed that “ the work of righteousness is peace; and that the good man shall be satisfied from himself.” Would you behold the misery entailed by pride, look at Haman; by covetousness, look at Ahab; by malice, look at Cain; by profaneness and sensuality, united with the forebodings of a guilty conscience, look at Belshazzar; by enoy, and a consciousness of being rejected of God, look at Saul; by revenge, look at Herodias writhing beneath the accusations of John, and thirsting for his blood ; by apostacy, look at Judas. Religion would have prevented all this, and it will prevent similar misery in you. Hearken to the confessions of the outcast in the land of his banishment; of the felon in his irons, and in his dungeon; of the prostitute expiring upon her bed of straw; of the malefactor at the gallows—"Wretched creature that I am, abhorred of men, accursed of God! To what have my crimes brought me !"* Religion, my children, prevents all this; all that wretchedness which is the result of crime, is cut off by the influence of genuine piety. Misery prevented is happiness gained.
4. Dwell upon the privileges it confers.
To a man who is a partaker of its genuine influence, all the sins he has committed, be they ever so numerous or so great, are all forgiven, and he is introduced to the bliss of pardoned guilt ; he is restored to the favour of that Great Being, whose smile is life, and lights up heaven with joy ; whose frown is death, and fills all hell with wo.
But I cannot describe these privileges in such brilliant language as has been employed by a transatlantic author :-“ Regeneration is of the highest importance to man, as a subject of the divine government. With his former disposition he was a rebel against God, and with this he becomes cheerfully an obedient subject. Of an enemy he becomes a
an apostate he becomes a child.
+ See more on this subject in the chapter on the Temporal Advantages of Piety.
From the debased, hateful, miserable character of sin, he makes a final escape, and begins the glorious and eternal career of virtue. With his character his destination is equally changed ; in his native condition he was a child of wrath, an object of abhorrence, and an heir of wo. Evil, in an unceasing, and interminable progress, was his lot; the regions of sorrow and despair
t his everlasting home; and fiends and fiend-like men his eternal companions. On his character good beings looked with detestation, and on his ruin with pity; while evil beings beheld both with that satanic pleasure, which a reprobate mind can enjoy at the sight of companionship in turpitude and destruction.
" But when he becomes a subject of this great and happy change of character, all things connected with him are also changed. His unbelief, impenitence, hatred of God, rejection of Christ, and resistance of the Spirit of Grace, he has voluntarily and ingenuously renounced ; no more rebellious, impious or ungrateful, he has assumed the amiable spirit of submission, repentance, confidence, hope, gratitude, and love. The image of his Maker is enstamped upon his mind, and begins there to shine with moral and eternal beauty. The seeds of immortality have there sprung up, as in a kindly soil ; and warmed by the life-giving beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and refreshed by the dewy influence of the Spirit of Grace, rise, and bloom and flourish, with increasing vigour. In him sin and the world and the flesh daily decay, and daily announce their approaching dissolution ; while the soul continually assumes new life and virtue, and is animated with superior and undying