Imatges de pÓgina
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himself; for “ Moses had respect to the recompence “ of reward ;" and Christ “ endured the cross and “ despised the shame, for the joy that was set be.

fore him."

A creature hurried away by the impulse of some impetuous inclination, is not likely to be restrained (if he be restrained at all) by a cold reflection on the beauty of virtue. If the dread of offending God, and incurring his everlasting displeasure, cannot stop him, how sball a weaker motive do it?

When we see that the powerful sanctions which religion holds out are too often an ineffectual curb; to think of attaining the same end by feebler means, is as if one should expect to make a watch go the better by breaking the main spring ; nay, as, absurd as if the philosopher who inculcates the doctrine should undertake, with one of his fingers, to lift an immense weight which had resisted the powers of the crane and the lever.

On calm and temperate spirits indeed, in the hour of retirement, in the repose of the passions, in the absence of temptation, virtue does seem to be her own adequate reward ; and very lovely are the fruits she bears in preserving health, credit, and fortune. But on how few will this principle act! and even on them how often will its operation be suspended ! And though virtue for her own sake might have captivated a few hearts, which almost seem cast in a natural mould of goodness, yet no motive could, at all times, be so likely to restrain even these, (especially under the pressure of temptation, as this simple assertion For all this, God will bring thee into judgment.

It is the beauty of our religion, thạt it is not held out exclusively to a few select spirits ; that it is not an object of speculation, or an exercise of ingenuity, but a rule of life, suited to every condition, capacity, and temper. It is the glory of the Christian religion

to

to be, what it was the glory of every ancient philosophic system not to be, the religion of the people ; and that which constitutes its characteristic value, is its suitableness to the genius, condition, and necessities of all mankind.

For with whatsoever obscurities it has pleased God to shadow some parts of his written word, yet he has graciously ordered, that whatever is necessary should be perspicuous also : and though, as to his adorable essence, “ clouds and darkness are round about him;" yet these are not the medium through which he has left us to discover our duty. In this, as in all other points, revealed religion has a decided superiority over all the ancient systems of philosophy, which were always in many respects impracticable and extravagant, because not framed from observations drawn froin a perfect knowledge

perfect knowledge of what was in man.” Whereas the whole scheme of the Gospel is accommodated to real human nature ; laying open its mortal disease, presenting its only remedy; exhibiting rules of conduct, often difficult, indeed, but never impossible; and where the rule was so high that the practicability seemed desperate, holding out a living pattern, to elucidate the doctrine and to illustriate the precept ; offering every where the clear. est notions of what we have to hope, and what we have to fear ; the strongest injunctions of what we are to believe, and the most explicit directions of what we are to do: with the most encouraging offers of Divine assistance for strengthening our faith and quickening our obedience.

In short, whoever examines the wants of his own heart, and the appropriate assistance which the Gospel furnishes, will find them to be two tallies which exactly correspond-an internal evidence, stronger perhaps than any other, of the truth of revelation.

This

This is the religion with which the ingenuous hearts of youth should be warmed, and by which their minds, while pliant, should be directed. This will afford a " lamp to their paths,” stronger, steadier, brighter than the feeble and uncertain glimmer of a cold and comfortless philosophy.

CHAP. IV.

Other Symptoms of the Decline of ChristianityNo

Family-Religion-Corrupt or negligent Example of SuperiorsThe Self-denying and Evangelical Virtues held in Contempt-Neglect of encouraging and promoting Religion among Servants.

I.

was by no means the design of the present undertaking to make a general invective on the corrupt state of manners, or even to animadvert on the conduct of the higher ranks, but inasmuch as the corsuption of that conduct, and the depravation of those manners, appear to be a natural consequence of the visible decline of religion ; and as operating in its turn, as a cause, on the inferior orders of society.

Of the other obvious causes which contribute to this decline of morals, little will be said. Nor is the present a romantic attempt to restore the simplicity of primitive manners. This is too literally an age

of gold, to expect that it should be so in the poetical and figurative sense. It would be unjust and absurd not to form our opinions and expectations from the present general state of society. And it would argue great ignorance of the corruption which commerce, and conquest, and riches, and arts necessarily intro, duce into a state, to look for the same sobermindedness, simplicity, and purity among the dregs of Romua lus, as the severe and simple manners of elder Rome presented.

But

But though it would be an attempt of desperate hardihood to controvert that maxim of the witty bard, that

To mend the world's a vast design ;

a popular aphorism, by the way, which has done no little mischief, inasmuch, as under the mask of hope. lessness it suggests an indolent acquiescence ; yet to make the best of the times in which we live; to fill up the measure of our own actual particular, and in. dividual duties; and to take care that the age

shall not be the worse for our having been cast into it, secnis tɔ be the bare dictate of common probity, and not a rɔmantic Aight of impracticable perfection.

Is it then so very chimerical to imagine that the benevolent can be sober-minded? Is it romantic to desire that the good should be consistent ? Is it ab. surd to fancy that what has once been practised should not now be impracticable?

It is impossible not to help regretting that it should be the gencral temper of many of the leading persons of that age which arrogates to itself the glorious character of the age of benevolence, to be kind, consideTate, and compassionate, every where rather than at bome; that the rich and the fashionable should be zealous in promoting religious as well as charitable institutions abroad, and yet discourage every thing which looks like religion in their own families : that they should be at a considerable expence in instructing the poor at a distance, and yet discredit piety among

their own servants--those more immediate oba jects of every man's attention, whom Providence has enabled to keep any; and for whose conduct he will be finally accountable, inasmuch as he may have helped to corrupt it.

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