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How is it that so many among us feel a greater relish for those doctrines which subvert the spiritual order of our destinies, and, withdrawing us from the high and sustaining hopes which spring like so many glories from the bright fountain of revelation, cast us amid the perplexing mazes-the cloudy vacuities of natural religion? Is it because the way by which the labyrinths of the latter must be traversed lies clear and direct before us, that we distinguish it by our preference? Is it because the former presents “a lantern unto our feet, and a light unto our paths,” that we reject it, choosing rather to pursue our journey unassisted? Or is it that we
prefer darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil ?"
True it is that the path to salvation, through the healthy tract of religion, is frequently encumbered with asperities. It presents many obstacles difficult to be overcome, many dangers repelling our approach, but always to be subdued by a pious resolution; and we have the comforting assurance that our progress, however arduous, will terminate in everlasting life. But in the perplexed, though too much trodden, course of natural religion, what security have we for the issue? Where are our promises when we have surmounted the difficulties of the journey, traced its intricacies, unravelled its entanglements, and reached the goal where our labours are to cease and a new condition of things is to open before us? where, I say, are the promises that our toils shall be rewarded by the possession of an eternal inheritance ? Where is our security for a successful issue of our endeavours, after we have laboured through a life of uncertainty and trouble, if we cannot base our hopes upon the rock of revelation, and look up to Christ as our prevailing intercessor in the dark hour of peril? What shall“ comfort us concerning our work and toil” at the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” if that faith has never been quickened within us, without which God has expressly declared that no one, to whom the blessings of the gospel dispensation have been vouchsafed, shall behold his face ?
Shall we seek in those new and visionary theories which explode revelation altogether, and confine all the vast, all the varied workings of moral and spiritual influences within the puny span of social utility-shall we, I ask, seek in such a code of moral legislation for those consolations of
f hope in the life everlasting to be found in the gospel of Christ? Impossible! But if this be our conviction, how is it that we obey the precepts of that gospel so reluctantly? How is it that we receive its promises so coldly? How is it that we make such languid efforts to fix those impressions upon our souls which it was designed by its divine author, and is so well calculated to convey? We may rest assured that only in proportion as we employ faith and piety, those pioneers of true religion, to clear the encumbrances of the road which leads to God's everlasting kingdom, shall we find our progress easy under the burthens with which we
are all doomed to travel towards that land of final repose, where “ the prisoners rest together, and hear not the voice of the oppressor.”
It is not to be denied that there are many who “ live without God in the world,” in an apparent state of composure as to what shall be their destination beyond the boundaries of time, when the unalterable realities of eternity shall be unveiled before them. Of this however I am persuaded, that there arises a feverish apprehension in the minds of such persons whenever death intrudes upon their thoughts, which escapes the general scrutiny. Their habitual hilarity arises from the idea of the evil being far off. The capability of enjoyment, and their acute relish for the things of this life, exclude the consideration of that last hour when “ this mortal shall put on immortality," either for weal or for woe. But when the reflection of that solemn
period does break in upon their minds, it rushes with the force of a torrent, sweeps down their unstable conclusions, and swamps the heart with a flood of dreadful imaginings. “The joints of their loins are loosed, their knees smite one
against another,” and they anticipate with foreboding alarm the consummation then to be unfolded. I have invariably perceived in such persons an eager clinging to existence, as if mortal life were the greatest boon of Heaven, and there was nothing to be looked for beyond it. Is this a state of mind for a reasonable being who from the very frame and complexion of his nature entertains a longing aster immortality, whose soul repels the clogs of time and bounds from earth to heaven upon the pinions of thought, the progress of which is swifter than a sunbeam, and its power the mighty gift of Omnipotence ? Who that feels within him the elastic principle of a life which overleaps the remotest boundaries of duration, and is conscious of a spark which can never die lighting up his earthly tabernacle, could bear to think that his union with the clods of the valley would be the end at once of his carnal and spiritual being ?
If then we are to live eternally, can we suppose that our souls should ascend from this earth to everlasting fruition if we suffer them to quit it with the stains of spiritual pollution upon them? Let us not encourage so perilous a delusion. There are but too many, alas! who would persuade us to take our ease, to eat, drink and be merry," without “laying up in store for the time to come, that we may attain eternal life.” They are the greatest enemies of their fellow
beings—“they take up all of them with the angle; they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag; therefore they rejoice and are glad.” These are not the friends whom we should press to our bosoms, and from whom we should seek consolation at the hour of extremity. To silence the elevated aspirations of hope is not the way to prepare us for the hour of death. No! they who put aside the cheering assurances of religion as insufficient to plume the spirit's wing for immortality, can substitute nothing from which they can derive such relief amid the uncertainty which the struggles of dissolution gather round the sinful soul. To them the change which they are then about to undergo is any thing but a dispensation of benefit. They look upon it as the most appalling of evils. The truly religious man, on the contrary, regards it as a dispensation of mercy. And this it really is, notwithstanding our reluctance to encounter it. For surely if this life be a period of suffering and of sorrow, which the happiest among us admit it to be, that must be a blessing-and a transcendent blessing too—which removes us from it to everlasting enjoyment; and this will most certainly be the case unless we wantonly provoke the doom of everlasting misery.
Let us then make religion at once the rule of duty and the guide of life; that, having obtained acceptance with God, by an habitual con