Page images

practices are tolerated and approved! Not one will the gospel allow, even in thought. What a multitude of superstitious observances do we perceive in every heathen code, in the koran, and in the talmud, which is the bible of the latter Jews! But let the bitterest enemy of Christ, who is best versed in the New Testament, take up the book, and point out one. Austerities, or practices consisting in privation of comfort, how congenial have they always been to human nature; and how exalted a niche have they always occupied in the religions of men in ancient days, and, at the present hour, among Pagans, Mahometans, Jews, and even among some who have assumed the Christian name! But where will a sanction for austerities be found in the gospel? Never is the idea even hinted at, that such things render a man acceptable to God, or advance him to a state of higher perfection. In perusing histories of religion, how often do we find reason to remark, that ritual observances have been made to supply the place of moral duties, and even zeal for, and abundance in one duty, to compensate for the neglect of another! But no partial regard will the gospel allow; it insists on universal obedience, and loudly declares, 'that he who offends in one point, is guilty of all.'

How the writers of this book should be able to draw up a system of morals, which the world,

after a lapse of eighteen centuries, cannot improve, while it perceives numberless faults, and suggests numberless corrections in those of the philosophers of India, Greece, and Rome, the deist is concerned to account for, in a rational way. The Christian is able to do it with ease. The evangelists and the apostles of Christ 'spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'




It appears to me that the mind of man, when it is free from natural defects and acquired corruption, feels no less a tendency to the indulgence of devotion, than to love, or to any other of the more refined and elevated affections. But debauchery and excess contribute greatly to destroy all the susceptible delicacy with which nature usually furnishes the heart; and in the general extinction of our better qualities, it is no wonder, that so pure a sentiment as that of piety, should be one of the first to expire.

It is certain that the understanding may be improved in a knowledge of the world, and in the arts of succeeding in it, while the heart, or whatever constitutes the seat of the moral and senti

mental feelings, is gradually receding from its original perfection. Indeed experience seems to evince, that it is hardly possible to arrive at the character of a complete man of the world, without losing many of the most valuable sentiments of uncorrupted nature. A complete man of the world is an artificial being; he has discarded many of the native and laudable tendencies of his mind, and adopted a new system of objects and propensities of his own creation.

These are commonly gross, coarse, sordid, selfish, and sensual. All, or either of these attributes, tend directly to blunt the sense of every thing liberal, enlarged, disinterested; of every thing which participates more of an intellectual than of a sensual nature. When the heart is tied down to the earth by lust and avarice, it is not extraordinary that the eye should be seldom lifted up to heaven. To the man who spends his Sunday in the countinghouse, in travelling, because the day is fit for little else, in a postcoach, in the tavern, or in the brothel; those who go to church appear as fools, and the business they go upon, as nonsense. He is callous to the feelings of devotion; but he is tremblingly alive to all that gratifies his sense or his interest.

It has been remarked of those writers who have attacked Christianity, and represented all religions merely as diversified modes of superstition,

that they were, indeed, for the most part, men of a metaphysical and a disputatious turn of mind, but usually little distinguished for benignity and generosity. There was, amidst all their pretensions to logical sagacity, a cloudiness of ideas, and a coldness of heart, which rendered them very unfit judges on a question in which the heart is chiefly interested; in which the language of nature is more expressive and convincing, than all the dreary subtleties of the dismal metaphysicians. Even the reasoning faculty, on which we so greatly value ourselves, may be perverted by refinement; and there is an abstruse, but vain and foolish philosophy, which philosophizes us out of the noblest parts of our noble nature. One of those parts of us is our instinctive sense of religion, of which not one of those brutes which the philosophers most admire, and to whose rank they wish to reduce us, is found, in the slightest degree, to participate.

Such philosophers may be called, in a double sense, the enemies of mankind. They not only endeavour to entice man from his duty, but to rob him of a most exalted and natural pleasure. Such, surely, is the pleasure of devotion. For when the soul rises above this little orb, and pours its adoration at the throne of celestial majesty, the holy fervor which it feels, is itself a rapturous delight. Neither is this a declamatory representation, but

a truth felt and acknowledged by all the sons of men; except those who have been defective in sensibility, or who hoped to gratify the pride or the malignity of their hearts, by singular and pernicious speculation.




SO FAR is an implicit conformity to the dictates of our religion from being inconsistent with a proper care of worldly concerns, that, if we had no higher aim in view than merely to promote, or to secure, our temporal interests, we could hardly pursue a safer or more certain course, than a scrupulous observance of the rules prescribed by Christianity, for conducting us to future happiness. To increase or to preserve a fortune, what better means could we employ, than christian diligence and honesty? To rise to preferment and honor, what so efficacious as that inflexible integrity, that cheerful and ready submission to lawful superiors, that affable condescension to inferiors, that meekness and complaisance towards all, which the gospel enjoins? To ensure good will, to maintain a character, to acquire a reputation, could we adopt a better plan, than to cultivate christian prudence

« PreviousContinue »