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at their post and enter into their labours ? Who will catch their falling mantle, and carry on their glorious undertaking for the salvation of millions? If it be ever done, it must be done of course by those who are now rising into life. The propagation of religion to the next generation, and to distant nations, depends on you, and others of your age. While I write, the groans of creation are ascending; and future ages are rising up to plead with you, that you would bow to the influence of religion, as the only way of extending it to them.
3. But we are chiefly anxious, after all, on your account.
My children, the anxiety which we feel on this head, is far too intense for language. Here I may truly say, poor is thought, and poor expression.” If piety were to be obtained for you only by purchase, and I were rich in the possession of worlds, I would beggar myself to the last farthing to render you a Christian, and think the purchase cheap. “Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.” As I shall have more than one chapter on the advantages of piety, it will not be necessary to enlarge upon them here, any further than to say, that true godliness will save you from much present danger and inconvenience, promote your temporal interests, prepare you for the darkest scenes of adversity, comfort you on a dying bed, and finally conduct you to everlasting glory. The want of it will ensure the reverse of all this. Sooner or later such a destitution will bring misery on earth, and be followed with eterual torments in hell.
What then, my children, are all worldly acquirements and possessions without piety? What are the accomplishments of taste, the elegancies of wealth, the wreaths of fame, but as the fragrant and many-coloured garland which adorns the miserable victim about to be sacrificed at the shrine of this world? Original genius, a vigorous understanding, a well stored mind, and all this adorned by the most amiable temper, and most insinuating address, will neither comfort under the trials of life, nor save their lovely possessor from the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched. Oh! no; they may qualify for earth, but not for heaven. Alas, alas! that such estimable qualities should all perish for want of that piety, which alone can give immortality and perfection to the excel. lencies of the human character !
Can you wonder then at the solicitude we feel for your personal religion, when such interests are involved in this momentous concern ?
On the dispositions with which we should enter upon an inquiry into the nature of Rcligion.
RELIGION is a subject of a spiritual and moral nature, and therefore requires another and a different frame of mind to that which we carry to a topic, purely intellectual.
1. The first disposition essentially necessary, is a deep seriousness.
Religion is the very last thing in the universe with which we should allow ourselves to trifle. Nothing can be more shocking and incongruous than that flippancy and inconsiderateness, with which some people treat this dread theme. When Uzzah put forth his hand in haste to support the ark, his life paid the forfeit of his tenerity; and if the man, who takes up his bible to inquire into the meaning of its contents, with a frivolous and volatile temper, do not suffer the same penalty, it is not because the action is less criminal or less dangerous, but because God has now removed the punishment a little farther distant from the sin. I cannot conceive of any thing more likely to provoke God to give a person up to the bewildering influence of his own inherent depravity, and consequently to a confused and erroneous perception of religious truth than this temper.' To see a person approaching the Oracle of God with the same levity as a votary of fashion and folly enters a place of amusement, is indeed revolting to taste, to say nothing of more sacred feelings. Religion enthroned behind the veil in the temple of truth, and dwelling amidst the brightness which the merely curious eye cannot bear to look upon, refuses to unfold her glories, or discover her secrets, to the volatile mind; and delivers to every one who draws near to her abode, the admonition of Jehovah to Moses, “ Put off thy shoes, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
The subjects treated of by religion, are of the most awfully important nature. Every thing about it is serious. The eternal God, in every view of his nature and operations the
Lord Jesus Christ in his sufferings and deaththe soul of man, in its ruin and salvation-the solemnities of judgement—the mysteries of eternity—the felicities of heaven—the torments of hell, are all involved in the mighty comprehension of religion. Should such themes be ever touched with irreverence? My dear children, I warn you against the too common practice of reducing to the level of mere intellectual theories, and of treating with the same indifference as the systems of philosophy, that sacred volume, which, to use the words of Locke," has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error, for its contents.” Do not forget, then, that the very first requisite, not only in religion itself, but also in that frame of mind, which enables us to understand its nature, is seriousness.
2. A great solicitude to be guided aright, is the next disposition, and nearly allied to the former.
Eternal consequences hang upon this question. As we mistake it, or understand it, we shall travel onward to heaven or hell. An inquiry of such importance should, of course, be urged with the deepest anxiety. It might be rationally expected, that events so awfully tremendous as death and judgement; a subject so deeply interesting as whether we shall spend eternal ages, in torments or in bliss, could in no possible case, and in no constitution of mind whatever, fail of exciting the most serious apprehension and concern. And yet there are multitudes, who have talked a thousand times about religion, but yet have never had in all their lives one hour's real solicitude to know whether their views of its nature are correct. Is it to be wondered then, that so many remain in ignorance, or plunge into error?
3. Docility, or a teachable dispcsition, is of great consequence.
Our Lo. u laid great emphasis on this, when he said, “ Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Children, when they first go to school, have a sense of their own ignorance; they have neither prepossessions nor prejudices; they present their unfurnished minds to their teachers to receive, with implicit confidence, all that they are taught. Docility is essential to improvemont in every thing; for if a child go to school puffed up with high notions of his own attainments, imagining that he knows as much as his master can teach him, and with a disposition to cavil at every thing that is communicated; in this case, improvement is out of the question ; the avenues of knowledge are closed. In nothing is docility more necessary than in religion, where the subject is altogether beyond the cognizance of the senses, and the discoveries of reason. Christianity is purely and exclusively matter of revelation. Of course, all our knowledge on this topic must be derived from the Bible; to the right understanding of which, we must carry the same consciousness of our ignorance, the same destitution of prejudice and prepossession, the same implicit submission of the understanding, as the child on his first going to school does to his instructor. We must go to the word of God with these convictions in our mind, “ This is the master, from whom I, who know nothing, am most implicitly to re