Imatges de pÓgina
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does not deserve the name of benevolent. And for such an unequivocal criterion of charity, to whom are we to look but to the conscientious Christian ? No other spirit but that by which he is governed, can subdue self-love: and where self-love is the predominant passion, benevolence can have but a feeble, or an accidental dominion.

Now if we look around, and remark the excesses of luxury, the costly diversions, and the intemperate dissipation in which numbers of professing Christians indulge themselves, can any stretch of candoar, can even that tender sentiment by which we are enjoined

to hope” and to " believe all things,” enable us to hope and believe that such are actuated by a spirit of Christian benevolence, merely because we see them perform some casual acts of charity, which the spirit of the world can contrive to make extremely compatible with a voluptuous life; and the cost of which, after all, bears but little proportion to that of any one vice, or even vanity !

Men will not believe that there is hardly any one human good quality which will know and keep its profer bounds, without the restraining influence of religious principle. There is, for instance, great danger lest a constant attention to so right a practice as an invariable æconomy, should incline the heart to the love of money. Nothing can effectually coun. teract this natural propensity but the Christian habit of devoting those retrenched expences to some good purpose ; and then æconomy, instead of narrowing the heart, will enlarge it, by inducing a constant association of benevolence with frugality. An habitual attention to the wants of others is the only wholesome regulator of our own expences; and carries with it a whole train of virtues, disinterestedness, sobriety, and temperance. And those who live in the custom of levying constant taxes on their vanities for such pur

poses,

poses, serve the

poor still less than they serve themselves. For if they are charitable upon true Christian principles, “ they are laying up for themselves

a good foundation against the time to come.”

Thus when a vein of Christianity runs through the whole

mass of man's life, it gives a new value to all his actions, and a new character to all his views. It transmutes prudence and æconomy into Christian virtues ; and every offering that is presented on the altar of charity becomes truly 'consecrated, when it is the gift of obedience, and the price of self-denial. Piety is that fire from heaven that can alone kindle the sacrifice, which through the mediation and intercession of our great High Priest “ will go up for a “ memorial before God.”

On the other hand, when any act of bounty is performed by way of composition with our Maker, either as a purchase or an expiation of unallowed indulgences ; though, even in this case, God (who makes all the passions of men subservient to his good purposes) can make the gift equally beneficial to the j'eceiver, yet it is surely not too severe to say, that to the giver such acts are an unfounded dependence, is deceitful refuge, a broken staff.

CHAP. III.

The Neglect of Religious Education, both a Cause and

a Consequence of the Decline of Christianity.--No Moral Restraints.--Religion only incidentally taught, not as a Principle of Action. A few of the many Causcs which dispose the Young to entertain low Opinions of Religion.

Let not the truly pious be offended, as if, in the present chapter, which is intended to treat of the notorious neglect of Religious Education, I meant to insinuate that the principles and tempers of Christianity may be formed in the young mind, by tlie mere mechanical operation of early institution, without the co-operating aid of the Holy Spirit of God. Toimply this would be indeed to betray a lamentable ignorance of human nature, of the disorder that sin has introduced, of the inefficacy of mere human means ; and entirely to mistake the genius, and overlook the most obvious and important truths of our holy religion.

It must however be allowed, that the supreme Being works chiefly by means ; and though it be confessed that no defect of education, no corruption of manners can place any out of the reach of the Divine influences, (for it is under such circumstances perhaps that some of the most extraordinary instances of Divine grace have been manifested,) yet it must be owned, that instructing children in principles of religion,

and

and giving them early habits of temperance and piety, is the way in which we may most confidently expect the Divine blessing. And that it is a work highly pleasing to God, and which will be most assuredly accomplished by his gracious energy, we may judge from what he says of his faithful servant Abraham ; 56 I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.”

But religion is the only thing in which we seem to look for the end, without making use of the means; and yet it would not be more surprising if we were to expect that our children should become artists and scholars without being bred to arts and languages, than it is to look for a Christian world, without a Christian education.

The noblest objects can yield no delight, if there be not in the mind a disposition to relish them. There must be a congruity between the mind and the object, in order to produce any capacity of enjoyment. To the Mathematician, demonstration is pleasure; to the Philosopher, the study of nature; to the Voluptuary, the gratification of his appetite; to the Poet, the pleasures of the imagination. These objects they each respectively pursue, as pleasures adapted to that part of their nature which they have been accustomed to indulge and cultivate.

Now as men will be apt to act consistently with their general views and habitual tendencies, would it not be absurd to expect that the philosopher should look for his sovereign good at a ball, or the sensualist in the pleasures of intellect or piety? None of these ends are answerable to the general views of the respective pursuer; they are not correspondent to his ideas; they are not commensurate to his aims. The sublimest pleasures can afford little gratification where a taste for them has not been previously formed. A clown, who should hear a scholar or an artist talk of the delights of a library, a picture-galJery, or a concert, could not guess at the nature of the pleasures thes atiord; nor would his being introduced to them give hi:n much clearer ideas; because he would bring to them an ere blind to praportion, an understanding new to science, and an ear deaf to harmony.

med.

Shall we expect then, since men can only become scholars by diligent labour, that they shall become Christians by mere chance? Shall we be surprised if those do not fulfil the offices of religion, who are not trained to an acquaintance with them? And will it not be obvious that it must be some other thing besides the abstruseness of creeds, which has tended to make Christianity unfashionable, and piety obsoJete?

it probably will not be disputed, that in no age have the passions of our high-born youth been so early freed from all curb and restraint. In no age bas the paternal authority been so contemptuously treated, or every species of subordination so disdainfully trampled upon. In no age have simple, and natural, and youthful pleasures so early lost their power over the mind; nor was ever one great secret of virtue and happiness, the secret of being cheaply pleased, so little understood.

A taste for costly, or artificial, or tumultuous pleasures cannot be gratified, even by their most sedulous pursuers, at every moment; and what wretched management is it in the economy of human happiness, sa to contrive, as that the enjoyment shall be rare and difficult, and the intervals long and languid! Whereas real and unadulterated pleasures occur perpetually to him who cultivates a taste for truth and nature, and science and virtue. But these simple and tranquil enjoyments cannot but be insipid

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