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The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

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Selves, and rocks of skepticism, ignorance, and
error, and shows that goodly land, in quest of which
myriidB of minds have sailed, and multitudes- have
been wrecked^ and religion is settinp* our foot on
this shore, ind dwelling in the region of eternal
truth.

2. That a religious Ufo is pleasant, is evident
from tkt fMiterv cf rdigiem tte$^.

Reliffion is a pnneiple of j^ptntaoZ i»/ir in the soul.
Now all the exercises and acts of vitafity are agree-
able. To see, to hear, to taste, to walk, are all
amealAo. because they are the voluntary energies
M inward lift. So religion, in all its duties, is the
ezeroise of a living priucime in the soul ; it is a
new ipiritual existence. Piety is a spiritual kute.
Hence it is said, '^ If so be ye nave ta$Ud that the
Lord is gradous." No matter what the object of a
taste is, the exerctses of it aie always agreeahler—
The painter goes with delight to his picture ; the
musieian to lus instrument: thescu^rtohisbust;
because they have a UuU tor these jporsuitsi The
same feeling of delight attends the Christian to the
exercises of godliness; and this is his language,
''It is a good thing to give thanks, and to draw near
to (3od. O how flove thy law I it is sweeter to my
taste than honey. How amiable are thy taberna-
cles." Religion, where it is real, is the natural
element of a Christian ; andeveij creature rejoices
in its own appropriate sphere. If, my children, yon
consider true piety with disgust, as a hard, umnp
tural, involuntary thing, you are totally ignorant
of its nature, entirely destitute of its influence, and
, BO wonder you cannot attach to it the idea of plea-



sure: bat viewing it as if onshttobe viewed, in the
light of a new nature, you will pereeiviB thiK it n4-
mits of most exalted delight

S. Consider the sisaeWas wAtci tl ffwaisfi.

It does not, it is true, prevent siekneie, poverty,
or nusftmane : it does not fonce off firom the wu-
demees of this world, a mystie inclosure, within
which the ills of liib never intrude. No; these
thange haj^ien to all alike; but hew small a portioa
of human wretchedness flows ttom these sources,
compared with that which aris^ from the dimoai-
tions of the hetrt. " The mindVis its own ptaoe,
£an make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." Men
carry the springs of their happiness or miserv in
their own bosom. Hence it is said of the wicked,
" that thernre like the tfoubled sea which cannoc
vest, whidi ii never at peace, but coatintially east-
mg up mire and dirts" In contrast irith which, it
is afilrmed that ''the work* of righteousness isfieaoe;
and that the good man shall be satisfied from him-
self" Would you befaofal the misery entailed by
pfi^,' look at Hainan; by coviUmaness, look at
Ahab ; by auUtcf. look at Oahl : by profamtiuss and
sensuality, united with the foreboaings of a guiltj
conscienee, look at Belahasflaf t by eMr^.^nd a con-
sciousness of being rq'ected of God, look at Saul ;
by reteng^t look at Herodlas wri^ilnr ben««th die
accusations of John, and thirsting loi his blood ;
by aposiacy, look at Judas. Ri^on would have
prevented all this, and it will prevent similnr mise-
ry in you. Hearken to the conftwions of the ouu
cast in the land of his banishment ; of the folon in
his irons, and in his dungeon ; of tne prostitute ez-
piling upon her bed <^ straw i of thetoaleiheKir mx
the ^lows^** Wretched creature that I am, ai>>
horred of men, accuned of Ood t To wliat have
my crimes brought me 1"* Religion, my ^iMren,
prevents an this; all that wretchedness which in
the result of crime, is cut ofif by the inflittnee of
genuine piety* Miseiy pf^^euttdi fs heppinese-
gained.

4. DwdlvponthejMiiviUhrayif o»fi^.

To a man who is a partaker of its genuine influ-
ence, all the sins he has commiEted, be they ever aa
numerous or so great, are ill forghran, and he in
introduced to the Uiss of pardoneci guilt ; he is re-
stored to the favor of that Great Being, whose
smile is life, and lights up heaven with joy; whose
frown is dMth, and fills all hell with wo. But I
eannot describe these privileges in such brilliant
language as has been employed by a transadantie
author:^" Regenemtiott is of the highest import-
ance to man, as a subject of the divine government
With his former disposition he was a rebel against
God, and with this he neeomes cheerfrdly an obedient
subject Of an enemy he becomee a friend ; of an
apostate he becomes a child. From the debased, hate>
ral, miserable character of sin, he makes a final
escape, and begins the gloribus and eternal eafeer
of virtue. With his ekmmeUt his destination is
equally changed ; in his native condition he was a
(Aild of wrath, an object of abhorrence, and an
heir of wo. Evil, hi an ttnceasing, and intermina-
ble progress, was nis lot ; the r^ons of sorrow and
despair his everlasting home j and fiends and fleitd-
like men his eternal companions. On his charae-
ter good beings looked with detestation, and on his
ruin with pity : while evil beings beheld both with
that satanle pleasure, which a reprobate mind can
enj(7 at the sight or companionship in turpitude
and destruction.

*' But when he becomes a subject of this greet
and happy change of character, all things connect-
ed with nim are also chansred. His unbelief i»-



• See more on this subject in the chapter oa tlie
Tttnpofal Advantages <^ Pie^.



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31



pemte&ce, hatred of God. rqection of Christ, and
reinstaace of the Spirit or Qrace, he has yolontari-
\f and ingenioosly renonnced ; no more rebeUious,
impioas. or ungrateful, he has assnmed the amiable
apifit of sifbm^sion, rwpei^tance, confidence, hope,
gratitude, and lore. The image of his Maker is
enitamped npon his mind, and besmas there to shine
wfth moral and eternal beauty. The 9etdn of im-
mortality haTfr there sprung up, as in a kindly sdl ;
and warmed by the life-eiying beams of the Sun
of Ris^teouanesSj and refreshed by the dewy influ-
ence of the Spirit of Grace, rise, and bloom and
&xirisb, with increasinfi' rigor. In him sin and
the world and the flesh daily deeay^ and daily an-
nounce iMr approaching dissolution ; while the
tool continually assumes new life and Tiitue, and
is animated wfih superior and undying energy.^
He is now a joint heir with Christ, and the dcstmed
mbabitant or heaven ; the gates of ^ory and of
iiappiness are already opened to receive him, md
the joy of saints and angels has been renewed OTer
his repentance ; all around him is peace— all before
him pttrUy and transport. God ia his Father;
Christ liis Redeemer-^ and the Spirit of truth Yus
Sanctiitr. Heaven is his eternal habitation ; Tir-
tue is his immortal character; and cherubim and
seraphim and all the children of light, are his com-
puuoBs for ever. HcncefiMth he becomes of course
a rich blessing to the universe ; all ffood beings,
nay, God himself, will rejoice in him for ever, as a
▼mluable aeoession to the great kingdom of rigfat-
eousnew, as a real addition to the mass of created
good, imd as an humble, but iatthfuland henorabia
iBstrument of the everlasting praise of heaven. He
is a yessel of infinite mercy ; an illustrioiis trofthv
of the cross: a gem in the crown of gloiy, wmen
adorns the Redeemer of mankind."*

Who, my children, can read this animated de-
scription of the privileges of true piety (and it is
not an exaiggerated account ) w itheol secretly long-
ing to be a child of God 1 Wha^ are all the brig:ht-
est distinctions of an earthly nature, after which
emvy pinea in secret, or ambition rages in public,
compared with thisi Crowns are s^iendid baubles,
gi^ is sordid dust, and all the gratiflcalions or
aaose hot vanity and vexation of spmt, when wei|^
ed against such splendid immunities as these.
& Consider iks cansokiiwKS U imparts.
Our worid has been called, in the language of
poetry, a vale of tears, and human Hlb a bubble,
n^ed f^om those teanL and inflated by sighs, which
after floating a. liMle while, decked with a few gau*
dy colors, is tooched by the hand of death, and dia-
solvea. Poverty,, disease, misfortune, unkindness,
f , death, all assail the travellers as they



fonney onward to eternity through this ck>omy vat
mt: and what is to comfort them but rHigim?
The consolations of rel'



ion are neither few nor

, theyariae iapart i^om those things which

we have already nMntioned in this chapter; %,€,
0om the exBTciae of the undefstandlag on the re-
vealed truths of Qod'n word, Arom the impulses of
the spiritual life within us, and firom a reflection
upon o«r miritual privilegies: but there are some
others, which, though partially implied in these
things, deserve a special enumerslion and distinct
comiBdjnnation.

A g0od tonteitmi^ which the wise man says is a
perpetMl £Mst, sustains a high place amongst the
eamfytta of genuine piety. It is unquestionably true,
that a man's happiness is in the Iraepittg of his con-
science; all the sources of his felicity are under the
command of this feculty. '^ A wounded spirit who
eanbeav!" A troubled conscience converts a para-
dist into a hell, for it is the flame of hell kindled on



• Dwight's Secmoa on Regeneration.



earth; but a quiet conscience would illuminate the
horrors of the deepest dunreon with the beams of
heavenly day : the former has often rendered men
like tormented fiends amidst an eiysium pf delights,
while the latter has taught the songs of chembmi to
martyrs in the prison or the flames. Religion fui^
nishes a good conscience ; by fkith in the blood of
Christ it takes away guilt towards God, and by a
holy life it keeps the conscience clear towards man.
It first makes it ^ood by justification, and then keeps
it good by sanctification. What trouble may not a
man bear beneath the smiles of an approving con-
science ! If this be calm and serene, the storms of
affliction, which rage without, can as little disturb
the comfort of the mind, as the ftiry of the wintry
tempest can do to alarm the inhabitants of a well-
built, well-stored mansion.

In addition to this, religion comfbrts the mfnd
with tkt asswrance of am aU^wise, aU-percading Prtf-
videncej so minute m its superintendence and con-
trol, that not a sparrow fUls to the rround without
the knowledi^ dT our heavenly Father! a superin-
tendence which is excluded from no point of spacer
no moment of time, and overlooks not the meanest
creature in existence. Nor is this all ; for the word
of God assures the believer that " aU things w&rk f^
gtiher for good to thorn tkai- tooe 0od^ wKa are tho
catted according io Ms fmrffose/* Nothing that ima-
gination oould conceive, is mor^ truly consoiatory
than this, to be assured that all thine!^ however paih-
ful at the time, not excepting the feilure of our fa- .
vorite schemes, the disappouitmtnt of our fondest
hopes, the loss of our dearest comfbrts, shall be over*
ruled by infinite wisdom for the promotion of our
uhimaie good. This is a spring of comfort whose
waters never fldl.

ReHgion consoles also bfwuMngmaimifkst sowto
of the bemfiti of aJUcUon, oven at tike tUneitu m-
imred. U crucifies the world, aftortifies sin. quidc-
ens prayer, extracts the balmy sweets of tne pro-
mises, endears the Saviour; and, to crown all, U di-
rects the mind to that glarumsstaie^ where the dkfs of
ewr meiwmmg sAoO m emded: that hi^py cduntiy
where God nail wipe eveiy (ear firom our inres. and
there shall be no more sorrow or crying. Kocniag
so composes the mind, and helps it bear the load of
trouble which God may lay npon it, as the near
prospect of its terminatioo. KeligioD shows the
weather4)ealea mariner the haven of eternal repose,
where no stoma arise, and the sea is ever cahn : it
exhibits to the weary traveller the city of haWta-
tiott, within whose walls he will flhd^ a pleasant
home, rest firom his labors, aad friends to weteome
his arrival: it diselosts to tiie wonnded warrior his
native country, where the alarms of war and the
danfiets of confliet win bt no mora encountered, hut
tmdisturbed peace for ever reisn. In that one word,
BaAVDT, religion provides a balm for every wound,
a cordial for evenr care.

Here, then, is the pleasure of that wisdom which
is from above ; it is not only ei^oyed in promrity,
but continues to refipesh ms and most powerfully to
refresh us, in adversity; a remark which will not
apply to any other kind of pleasure.

In the hoqr of misfortune, when a man, once in
happy circumstances, sits down, amidst the wreck
of all his comforts, and sees nothing but the frag-
ments of his fortune for his wife and femily, what,
in this storm of afliction, is to cheer him out reli-
eion ; and this am do it, and enable him to say,
^although the fig-tree shall not UoaKim, neither
shall fxuU be in the vines: the labor of the olive
shall fail, and the fields shall vi^ no meat; the
flocks shall be cut ofi* from the fold, and there shall
be no herd in the stalls; yet will I rejoice in the
Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation P* What
but religion can oomfort the poor lahortr in that



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38



CHRISTIAN FATHER'S PRESENT.



gloomy season vben times are bad, and work is
scarce, and be bardly knows where to procure bis
next meall What can colnfort tbe suffering fe-
male in that long and dreadful season, wben, wast-
ing away in a deep decline, she lies, night after
night, consumed by fever, and day aner day, con-
YQlsed by coughins 1 Tell me^ what can send a ray
of comfort to her oark scene of wo^ or a drop of con-
solation to her parched and thiratmg lips^ oat reH-
gion ? And wnen the aconized parent, with a heart
half broken by the conduct of a prodigal son, ex-
claims—" O ! who can tell how sharper than a ser-
pent's tooth it is to have a thankless child I" what,
m that season of torture, can pour a drop of balm
into the wounded spirit, but religion ? And when
we occupy the bed-side of a depa^ing friend, " the
dreadful post of observatioti darker every hour,"
what but r€ligi4m can sustain tbe mind, and calm
the tumult of the soull what, but this, can enaUe
us to bear, with even tolerable composure, the pang
of separation 1 And we too must die : and here is
the excellence of piety ; it follows us where no other
friend can follow us. down into the dark valley of
the shadow of death, stands by us when the last
hand has quitted its grasp, reserves its mightiest
energies for that most awful convict, presents to the

Se of faith the visions of glory rismg up beyond
e sepulchre, and angels advancing to receive us
from the hand of earthly friends, to bear us to the
presence of a smiling (3od.

Other sources of pleaeare are open only during
the season of health and prosperity. Admitting that
they were aU which their most impassioned ad-
mirers comend for, what can balls, routs, plays,
cards, do, in the season of sickness, misfortune, or
deathi Alasl alasl the^ exist then only in recol-
lection, and the reooUection of them is painful

6. The pleasures of religion appear in the graces
UimpUnUs,

'^And now abideth these three, Faith, Hope,
Charity."

iFYii^is the leading virtue of Christianity. To
believe, in any case, where the report is welcome,
and the evidence oiita truth convincing, is a pleas-
ing exercise of the mind; how piuch more so m this
case, where the testimony to be believed is the glad
tidings of salvation, and the evidence of its truth
most entirely satisfactory 1 Hope is a most delight-
ful exercise. The pleasures of hope have formed
a theme for the poet; and it is evident that these
pleasures must be in proportion to the importance
of the object desired, and the grounds that exist to
expect its acconwlishment what, then, must be
the influence of that hope whieh is full of immor-
tality which has the fflory of heaven for its (Aiject,
and the truth of God for its basis! which, as it looks
towards its horizoo, sees the shadowy forms of eter-
nal felicity, rising, expanding, brightening, and ad-
vancing, every moment. Love is a third virtue, im-
Flantea and cherished in the soul by religion. Need
describe the pleasurea connected with a pure and
virtuous affection 1 Religion is love— love of the
purest and sublimest kind ; this is its essence, all
else, but its earthly attire, which it throws off as
Elijah did his mantle, when it ascends to the sines.
The delight of love must be in proportion to the ex-
cellence of its object, and the strength of Jts own
propensity towards that object What, then, must
be the pleasure of that love which has (3od as its ob-
ject, and which consists in complacency in his glo-
ries, gratitude for his mercies, submission to his wDl,
and the enjoyment of his favor I This is a heavenly
feeling, which brings us into communion with an-
gels, and anticipates on earth the enjq3nnent8 of eter-
nity;. Submission, patience, meekness, gentleness,
justice, compassion, zeal, are also among the graces
whieh true religion implantt in the homnn soul ;



which, like lovely flowers, adorn it with indescrib-
able beauty, and refresh it with the most delicioua
fragrance.

X Consider the d/idi»$ lokuh reiigum emoins, and
you will taoA in each of these a spring of hallowed
pleasure.

How delightful an exercise is prater J ** Prarer
is the peace of our spi rit, the stillnessof our thouguts»
the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditatioii,
the rest of oar cares, and the calm of our tempests ;
it is the daughter of charitv, and the sister of meek-
ness." It is pleasant to tell our sorrows to any one ;
how muck more to him who is omnipotent in power,
infallible in wisdom, and infinite m oompassion 1
With prayer is connected prMte, that etevated ac-
tion or the soul, in which she seems at the tine to
be leammg motion and melody fh>m an angeL How
pleasant an exercise is the ffenual of the ScHftitiresi
In prayer we speak to God, and in the Bible GM
spades to us, and both confer upon us honor inde-
scribable. Passing by the antiquity of its history,^'
the pathos of its narratives, the beauty of its image-
ry, how sublime are in doctrines, iiow precious its
promises, how free its invitations^ how salutary its
warnings, how intense i^ devotions! "Precious
Bible! when weighed against thee, all other books
are but as tbe small dust of the balance." Nor less
l^tUMsA\Bthehokj/rem€mbraiiC€ofthe BMotk, **I
was glad," exclaims the Christiaa, ^' when they said
unto me. let us go into the house of the Lordr and
there, when standing within the nues of Zioo, sur-
rounded with the multitude that keep holy day, he
repeats, amidst the years of his raannood the soog'
of his childhood, and from the fhlneas of his joy^
he exclaims—

" Lord, how delightful 'tis Id see
A whole assembly worship thee;
At once they sing, at once they pray.
They hear of heaven, and learn the way."

. The sweetly-solemn engagements of tU Jscr»
monialfetut; the flow of brotherly love, called forth
by todal praffer^ together with tlie mrdor of benewo-^
lencef inspired by the support of public rebgions in-
stitutions; in these exercises is true hi^ptaesB to
be foimd, if indeed it is to be found any where on
earth.

6. As a last proof of tbe pleasures derived flrom
religion, I may appeal to As eaoperienee of its friends.
Here the evidences aecumnlate bv myriads on earth,
and millions in heaven. Who tnat ever fek its in-
flaence, will doubt its tendency to produee delight 1
Go, go, my children, to the saints of the most hiffh
God, and collect ikeir testimony, and von shall be
convinced " that Hght is sown for the righteous, and
gladness for tbe upright in heart." Go not to the
Christian o{ doMJful chhnexm, for he has only just
religion enough to make him miserable ; go to tbe
most holy, and you shall find then the most happy.

And then there are also two or three odier cirw
cumstances which are connected With the pleasures
of religion that deserve attention. M is pieaswre tkM
never satiates or toeariet. Can the epicure, the vo-
luptuary, the drunkard, the ball frequenter, say this
of their delights 1 How short is the interval, how
easy the transition, between a i^easure and a bur-
den. If sport refi^hes a man when he is weary, ii
also wearies when he is refreshed. The most de-
voted pleasure-hunter in existence, were he bouad
to his sensual delights every day, woidd find it an
intolerable burden, and fly to the ^wide and the mat-
tock for a diversion fVom the misenr of an uninter-
mitted |>leasure. Custom may render continued Ift-
bor tolerable, but not continued pleasure. All plea-
sures that afl^t the body must needs weaty, because
they transport; and all tranqwrtation is violence ;



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mud no vioknoe ctn be lasting, bat determines upon
(he falling of the spirits, which are not able to keep
Qp that height of motion that the pleasure of the
aense raises them to: and therefore how generally
does an immoderate laoghter end in a sigb, which
is only nature^ recovering herself after a force done
to it : but the religious pleasure of a well-disposed
mind mores gently, and ^erefore constantly: it
does not affect by rapture and ecstacy, but is like
ihe pleasure of health, which Ib still and sober, yet
greater and stronger than those which call up the
senses with grosser and more affecting impressions."

And as aO the grosser pleasures of sense weary^
and all the qxMts and recreations soon pall upon the
appetite, so, under some circumstances, do the more
elevated enjoyments of exalted ^rank, agreeable
company, and lively conversation; it is religion
alone tluU preserves an unfading freshness, an un-
dying charm, an inexhaustible power to please^ it
is this alone of all our pleasures which never cloys,
neyer surfeits, but increases the appetite the more it
.^pratifies it, and lea?es it, after the richest feast,
prepared and hungry for a still more splendid ban-
quet.

And then another ennobling property of the plea-
sure that arises from religion, is, tiat as tJU saurus
and tke seat ofU are in a m«ii's ovfn brtast^ it is nH
intJUptnoeroftMjftkinftnikinUhtmUdedroyiifOr
take U away. Upon God alone is he dependant for
its enjoyment. Upon how many other agents, . and
upon what numerous contingencies, over which he
can exercise no control, is the votary of worldly
pleasure dependant for hu bliss. How many things
which he cannot command, are necessary to make
up the machinery of his schemes. What trides may
disappoint him of his expected gratification, or rob
him of his promised delights. A variable atmo-
sphere, or a numan mind, no less variable ; a want
of punctuality in others, or a want of health in him-
self: these, and a thousand other things, might be
enumerated as circumstances, upon the mercy of
each one of which the enjoyment of worldly plea-
sure depends. '^ But the good man shall be satisfied
from himself." " Whoeyer shall drink of the water
that I shall give him," said Jesus Christ, " shall
never thirst, out the water that I shall give him
shall be f» him a well of water springing up into
everlasting life." The j^iety of his heart, produced
by the Holy Qhost, is this well-spring of pleasure,
which a good naaa carries every where with him,
wherever he goes. He is independent of all the con-
tingencies of life for his Miss. " It is an easy and a
portable fdea&ure, such an one as he carries about in
iiis bosom, without alarming the ejt or the envy of
the world. A man puuing all his pleasures mto
this one, is like a traveller putting all his goods, as
it were, into one jewel ; the value is the same, and
the convenience |^reater."

" Nor is this kind of pleasure out of the reach of
any outward violence only; but even those thingB
also, which make a closer impression upon us,
which are the irresistible decays of natu^, have
yet no influence at all upon this. For when age it-
self, which of all thines in the world will not be
baffled or defied, shall oegin to arrest, seize, and re-
mind us of our mortality, by pains, aches, and dead-
ness of limbs, and dulness or senses, yet then the
pleasure of the mind shall be in its full youth, vigor,
and ireshness. A palsy may as soon shake an oak,
or a fever dry up a fountain, as either of them shake,
dry up, or impair the delight of conscience : for it
lies within, it centres in the heart, it grows into the
very substance of the soul, so that it accompanies
a man to his grave; he never outlives it, and that
for this cause only, because he cannot outlive him-
self."

How comes i( to pais then, that in qiposition to



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 52 of 121)