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and live.” What wickedness! What shocking impiety! What daring madness! Do they not tremble? Are they not terrified at this view of their own conduct ? Can they live another day in this state of mind ? Can they give their eyes to sleep with such a purpose in their bosom? Let them consider how just it is that God should reserve the dregs of his wrath for those, who reserve only the dregs of their time for Him.
Now, now, my children, is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation. “ To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." You know not what another day, hour, mo. ment, may bring forth. Opportunity, mercy, salvation, heaven, eternal glory, are all upon the wing of the present hour; condemnation, hell, eternal torment and despair, may all be in the train of the next. That door of grace which is open to-day, may be shut to-morrow; that sceptre of mercy which is stretched out to-day, may be withdrawn to-morrow. Oh, the noble purposes that have withered, the sublime prospects that have failed, the millions of immortal souls that have perished by putting off the present season, for a more convenient time. “ Soul opportunities,” says an old author, "are more worth than a thousand worlds." And they are rapidly slipping by with the days of your youth.
On the Influence of Religion upon the Temporal
Interests of its Professor.
GODLINESS has the promise of the life that is to come; it conducts to glory, honour, immortality: this is its chief commendation. Revelation has drawn aside the veil which hangs over the unseen state, and urged you, my children, upon the great business of religion, by a contemplation of the dark world of hell, and of the splendours of the celestial city. It might seem, that after such an appeal, every other were useless, and that to speak of other advantages than eternal life, were only adding a drop to the ocean, a taper to the sun : but there are persons who are wrought upon more by present good, however small, than any future prospect of the greatest gain; who are more governed by illustrations borrowed from things seen and temporal, than by those which are derived from things unseen and eternal. In this respect also, and on this ground, religion can plead its advantages, for it has “the promise of the life that now is," as well as that which is to come. I do not assert, that religion will conduct all its followers to wealth, honour, and health. No. Still, however, it exerts a friendly influence on all the temporal interests of mankind, and protects them from many evils to which, without it, they are exposed.
1. It exercises and improves the understanding.
From beginning to end, religion is an intellectual process. Whatever raises man above the dominion of the senses, and renders him independent of these, as sources of gratification, must have a salutary influence upon the mind. Now the objects which religion exhibits, are such as the mental faculties alone can converse with : and the moment a man begins to feel solicitude about spiritual things, he begins to experience a considerable elevation of character. And then the subjects of divine truth, are of the most sublime and lofty kind. They form the Alps in the world of mind. The existence and attributes of the great God; the system of Providence, embracing all worlds and all ages; the scheme of redemption, planned from eternity for the salvation of millions of rational creatures ; the immortality of the soul ; the solemnities of judgement; the everlasting states of the righteous and the wicked ; these are the every-day topics of thought to a Christian. Can a man live in daily contemplation of these vast ideas, and not feel an elevating influence upon his understanding? It will probably be said, that science will have the same effect. This is admitted in part. But how many are there to whom philosophical pursuits are utterly inaccessible. Besides this, it might be replied that nothing but religion will infallibly guard the soul from being debased by vicious indulgencies.
Read the missionary records, and learn by these interesting details, what religion has done for the Negroes of the West Indies, the Hottentots of South Africa, the Esquimaux of Labrador, the fur-clad Greenlanders of the arctic regions, and the voluptuous cannibals of the South Sea Islands. It has raised them from savages into rational creatures; it has awakened their dormant understanding; sharpened their powers of perception; taught them the art of reasoning; and invested them with the power of eloquence.
But why do I go to distant countries, while our own furnishes illustrations so numerous, and so striking ? How many persons are there, who were educated in our Sunday schools, and who are now filling stations of importance, credit, and usefulness, who, but for religion, would never have risen in the scale of society, or ascended above the lowest level of poverty. Education, it is true gave the first impulse to their minds; but it was an impulse which would have soon spent its force, had it not been continued and increased by religion. It was this that gave the sober, serious, and reflective turn of mind which has led to such mental improvement: and they who, but for the power of godliness, would have been still earning their bread at the plow or the anvil, are filling the place of tradesmen or clerks; or are raised to the distinction of preaching with ability and success, the truths of salvation.*
* As a proof of the influence which religion has in strengthening and elevating the powers, of even the most cultivated understanding, i may give the following quotation from the Life of the Rev. Henry Martyn, a book which I nost emphatically recommend to the perusal of all young people, as one of the most interesting publications that moderu times bave produced.
Since I have known God in a saving manner,” he remarks, painting, poetry, avd music, have had charms unknown to me before. I have received, what I suppose is a taste for them; for religion bas refined my mind, and made it susceptible of impressions from the sublime and beautiful. O how religion secures the heightened enjoyment of those pleasures which keep so many from God, by their becoming a source of pride."
As it may be fairly argued that the sublimity of Milton's genius, was owing in no small degree to the influence of religion upon bis miod.
2. Religion guards the health.
I do not mean to say that the rose will ever bloom
upon the countenance of piety, but I will affirm, that where it already displays its beauty and sheds its fragrance, religion will prevent those vices, which, like worms at the root of a flower, consume its strength, and shorten its existence. How many diseases are generated by sin. It is calculated that even in a time of war, there are more who perish by drunkenness and licentiousness, than by the sword. victims of voluptuousness, ye martyrs of concupiscence, who formerly tasted the pleasures of sin for a season, but now are beginning to feel the horrors of it for ever; you serve us for demonstration and example. Look at those trembling hands, that shaking head, those disjointed knees, that faltering resolution, that feeble
memory, that worn out body all putrefaction; these are the dreadful rewards which vice bestows now, as pledges of what Satan will bestow presently, on those on whom he is preparing to exhaust his fury." Religion will prevent all this; that passion which wastes the sirength as with a fever; that ambition which wears out the frame faster than hard labour; that malice which robs of sleep; that gambling which hurries a man backward and forward between the delirium of hope and the torture of fear; that gluttony which brings on apoplexy ; that drunkenness which preys as a slow fire on the organs of life; that debauchery which corrupts the whole mass of the blood, and brings
This is at once far more direct and obvious in its tendency, than any natural scenery, however bold and striking may be its features; since piety not only brings the mind into the region of sublime nental scenery but fixes the eye most intently upon it.