Hannah More.

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Inptooosness, if it be not a Ufo of actual sin, is a
disqualification for holiness, fcnr happiness, for
heaven. It not only alienates the heart ftcm
God, but lays it open to every temptation to
which natural temper may invite, or mcidental
circumstances allure. The worst passions lie
dormant in hearts given up to selfish indulgences,
always ready to %tart into action as occasion

Voluptuousness and irreligion play into each
other's hands : they are reciprocally cause and
effect The looseness of the principle confirms
the carelessness of the conduct, while the negli.
gent conduct in its own vindication shelters it-
self under the supposed security of unbelief.
The instance of the rich man in the parable of
Lasarus, strikingly ilKistrates this truth.

Whoever doubts that a life of sensuality is
consistent with the most unfeeling barbarity to
the wants and sufferings of others; whoever
doubts that boundless expense and magnificence,
the means of procuring which were wrung from
the robbery and murder of a lacerated world,
may not tie associated with that robbery and
murder, — ^let him turn to the goreeous festivities
And imparalleled pageantries of Versailles and
Saint Cloud. — There the Imperial Harieqoin,
fWxn acting the deepest and the longest tragedy
that ever drew tears of blood fi'om an audience
composed of the whole civilized globe, by a sud-
den stroke of his magic wand, uiifls the scene
of this most preposterous pantomime : —

Where moody madness laughing wild
Amidst severest wo,

gloomily contemplates the incongruous specta-
cle, sees the records of the Tyburn Chronicle
embellished with the wanton splendours of the
Arabian tables ; beholds

-'Wverse all moMtroas, all fvodigious things;
beholds tyranny with his painted vizor of pa.
triotism, and polygamy with her Janus face of

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pditical coDscieiioe and counterfeit afibction fill
tho fore ground ; while sceptred paraaitee, and
pinohbeck potentates, tricked on with the shiningf
spoils of plundered empires, and decked with the
pilfered crowns of deposed and exiled monarchs,
fill and empty the changing scene, with * exits
and with entrances,' as fleeting and onsabetan-
tial as the progeny of Banquo^^bebolds inven-
tire but fruitless art, solicitously decorate the
ample stage to conceal the stains of blood - 4tainB
as indelible as those which ihe ambitious wife
of the irresolute thane vainly strove to wash
from her polluted hands ; while in her sleeping
delirium she continued to cry,

Still hen's the smell of blood ;

The perf^imes of Arabia will not sweeten it.

But to return to the general question. Let
us not inquire whether these unfeeling tempers
and selfish habits offend society, and discredit
us with the world ; but whether they feed our
corruptions and put us in a posture unfavonr*
able to all interior improvement ; whether they
offend Gk>d and endanger the soul ; whether the
gratification of self is the life which the Re-
deemer taught or lived ; whether sensuality is a
suitable preparation for. that state where God
himself, who is a Spirit, will constitute all the
\appiness of spiritual beings.

But these are not the only, perhaps not the
greatest dangers. The intellectual vicee, the
spiritual offences may destroy the soul without
much injuring the credit These have not, like
voluptuousness, their seasons of alteration and
repose. Here the principle is in continual ope-
ration. Envy has no interval? Ambition never
cools. Pride never sleeps. The principle at
least is always awake. An intemperate man is
sometimes sober, but a proud man is never hum-
ble. Where vanity reigns, she reigns always.
These interior sins are more difficult of extirpa-
tion, they are less easy of detection ; more hard
to come at ; and, as the citadel holds out after
the outworks are taken, these sins of the heart
are the latest concjuered in the moral warfare.

Here lies the distinction between the worldly
and the religious man. It is alarm enough for
the Christian that he feels any propensities to
yice. Against these propensities he watches,
•itrives and prays : and though he is thankful for
the victory when he has resisted the temptation,
he can feel no elation of heart while conscious
of inward dispositions, which nothing but divine
grace enables him to keep from breiucing out in
a flame. He feels that there is no way te obtain
the pardon of sin but to leave off sinning: he
feels that though repentance is not a Saviour,
jet that there can be no salvation where there
is no repentance.^ Above all, he knows that the

n raise of remission of sin by the death of Christ
he only solid ground of comfort However
correct his present life may be, the weight of
past offences would hang so heavy on his con.
science, that without the atoning blood of his
Redeemer, despair of pardon for the past would
leave him hopeless. He would continue to sin,
as an extravagant bankrupt who can get no ac-
quittal, would continue to be extravagant, l»-
cause no present frugality could redeem his
former debts.

It is sometimes pleaded that the laboai a{«cll
ed to persons in high public stations and in»
portant employments, by leaving them no time
furnishes a reasonable excuse for the omissiof
of their religious duties. These apologies art
never offered for any such neglect in the poor
man, though to him every day brings the in-
evitable return of bis twelve hours* labour, with*
out intermission and without mittfiration.

Est sorely the more important the station, the
higher and wider the sphere of action, the more
imperious is the call for '^ligion, not only in the
way of example, but even in the way of success ,
if it be indeed granted that there is such a thing
as divine influences, if it be allowed that God
has a blessing to bestow. If the ordinajy man
who has only himself to govern, requires that
aid, how urgent is hit necessity who has to go-
vern millions ! What an aWful idea, could we
even suppose it realized, that the weight of a
nation might rest on the head of him wIk^ heart
looks not up for a higher support !

Were we alluding to sovereigns, and not to
statesmen, we need not look beyond the throne
of Great Britain, for the instance of a monarch
who has never made the^cares attendant on a
king, an excuse for neglecting his duty to the
King of kin^.

The politician, the warrior, and the orator,
find it peculiarly hard to renounce in themselves
that wisdom and strength* to which they belief
that the rest of the world are looking upu The
man of station or of genius, when invited to the
selfldenying duties of Christianity, as well at
he who has * great possessions,* goes away ^ socw

But to know that they must end, stamps va-
nity on all the glories of life ; to know that they
must end soon, stamps infatuation, not only on
him who sacrifices his conscience for their ac-
quisition, but on him who, though upright in
the discharge of his duties, diM^harges them
without any reference to God. — ^Would the con-
queror or the orator reflect when the * laurel
crown is placed on his brow, how soon will it be
followed by the cypress wreath,' it would bwer
the delirium of ambition ; it would cool the in-
toxication of prosperity.

There is a general kind of belief in Chris
tianity, prevalent among men of the world, which,
by soothing the conscience, prevents self-inquiry
That the holy Scriptures contain the will of Ged,
they do not question ; that they contain the besi
system of « morals, they frequently assert : btt
that tliey do not feel the necessity of ac(|ttirin|
a correct notion of the doctrines those Scnptures
involve. The depravity of man, the atonement
made by Christ, the ussistance of the Holy Spi-
rit — these they consider as the metaphysical
part of religion, into which it is not of much im-
portance to enter, and by a species of self-flat-
tery, they satisfy themselves with an idea of
aoceptableneds with their Maker, as a state \m
be attained without the humility, fidth, and new-
ness of life which they nx^uire, and which are
indeed their proper concomitants.

A man absorbed in a multitude of secular coo-
corns, decent but unawakened, listens with m
kind of respectful insensibility, to tho overtaree
of religion. He considers the church as vener&

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\>lc f.om her antiquity, and important from her
ooBcelion with the state. No one is more alive
to her ^litical, nor more dead to her spiritual
importance. He is anxious for her existence,
but indifierent to her doctrines. These he con.
■iden as a general matter in which he has no
individual concern. He considers religious ob-
tenrances as something decorous but unreal ; as
agrave custom made respectable by public usage,
and long prescription. He admits that the poor,
who have little to enjoy, and the idle who have
little to do, cannot do better than make over to
God that time which cannot be turned to a more
profitable account Religion, he thinks, may
properly enough employ feisure, and occupy old
age. But though both advance towards himself
with no imperceptible step, he is still at a loss
to determine the precise period when the leisure
is sufficient, or the age enough advanced. It
recedes as the destined season approaches. He
continues to intend moving, but he continues to
stand sttU.

Compare his drowsy Sabbaths with the ani-
mation of the days of business, you would not
think it was the same man. The one are to be

S»t over, the others are enjoyed. He goes from
e dull deoencies, the shadowy forms — for such
thev are to him, of public worship, to the solid
realities of his worldly concerns, to the cheerful
•ctivities of secular life. These he considers as
bounden, almost as exclusive duties. The others
indeed may not be wrong, but these he is sure
are right The world is his element Here he
breathes freely his native air. Here he is sub.
stantially engaged. Here his whole mind is
alive, his understanding broad awake, all his
energies are in fiill play ; his mind is all ala-
crity ; hb faculties are employed, his capacities
are filled ; here they have an object worthy of
their widest expansion. Here his desires and
affections are absorbed. The faint impression
of the Sundav*8 sermon fades away, to be as
faintly revived on the Sunday following, again
to Aide in the succeeding week. To the sermon
oe brings a formal ceremonious attendance ; to
the woild, he briners all the heart, and soul, and
mind, and strength. To the one he resorts in
conformity to law and custom ; to induce him to
resort to the other, he wants no law, no sanction,
no invitation, no argument His will is of the
party. His passions are volunteers. The in-
visible thing* of heaven are clouded in shadow,
are lost in distance. The world is lord of the
ascendant Riches, honours, power fill his mind
with brilliant images. They are present, they
are certain, they are tangible. They assume
form and bulk, in these therefore he cannot be
mistaken ; in the others he may. The eager-
ness of competition, the struggle for superiority,
the perturbations of ambition, fill his mind with
an emotion, his soul with an agitation, his afifec-
tions with an interest, whicl^ though very un-
like happiness, he yet flatters himself is the road
to it This fictitious pleasure, this tumultuous
leeling, produces at least that negative satisfac
tion of which he is constantly in search — it
keeps him fVom himself.

Even in circumstances where there is no sue-
•ees to prevent a very tempting bait, the mere
occupation, the crowd of objects, the succession

of engagements, the mingling pursuits, the very
tumult and hurry have their gratifications. The
bustle gives falser peace by leaving no leisure
for reflection. He lays his conscience asleep
with the * flattering unction, of good intentions.
He comforts himself with the credible pretence
of want of time, and the va^^ue resolution of giv-
ing up to God the dregs of that life, of the vi-
gorous season of which he thinks the world
more worthy. Thus commuting with his Ma-
ker, life wears away, its close draws near — and
even the poor commutation which was promised
is not made. The assigned hour of retreat either
never arrives, or if it does arrive, sloth and sen-
suality are resorted to, a.B the fair reward of a
life of labour and anxiety ; and whether he dies
in the protracted pursuit of wealth, or in the en-
joyment of the luxuries it has earned, he dies in
the trammels of the world.

If we do not cordially desire to be delivered
from the dominion of these worldly tempers, it
is because we do not believe in the condemna-
tion annexed \o their indulgence. We may in-
deed believe it as we believe any other general
proposition, or any Indifferent fact ; but not as
truth in which we have a personal concern ; not
as a danger which has any reference to ui. We
evince this practical unbelief in the most nne-

auivocal way, by thinking so much more about
le most frivolous concern in which we are as-
sured we have an interest, than about this most
important of all concerns.

•Indifference to eternal things, instead of tran-
quilizinfi^ the mind, as it professes to do, is, when
a thoughtfbl moment occurs, a fresh subject of
uneasiness ; because it adds to our peril the hor-
ror of not knowing it If shutting our eyes to
a danger would prevent it, to shut them would
not only be a happiness but a duty ; but to bar-
ter eternal safety for momentary ease,is a wretch-
ed compromise. To produce this delusion, mere
inoonsideration is as efficient a^ause as the
most prominent sin. The reason why we do
not value eternal things is, because we do not
think of them. The mind is so full of what is
present, that it has no room to admit a tliought
of what is to come. Not only we do not give
that attention to a never-dying soul which pru-
dent men give to a common transaction, but wo
do not even think it worth the care which in-
considerate men give to an inconsiderable one.
We complain that life is short, anckyot throw
away the best part of it, only making ever to
religion that portion which is good for nothing
else ; life would be long enough if we assignee
its best period to its best purpoee.

Say not that the requisitions of religion are
severe, ask rather if they are necessarv. If a
thing must absolutely be done, if eternal misery
will be incurred by not doing it, it is fruitless
to uiquire whether it be hard or easy. Inquire
only whether it be indispensable, whether it be
commanded, whether it be practicable. It is a
well known axiom in science, that difiiculties
are of no weight against demonstrations. The
duty on which our eternal state depends, is not
a thing to be debated, but done. The duty which
is too imperative to be evaded, too important to
be neglected, is not to be argued about, but per
I formwl. To sin on quietly, because you do not

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.Dtend to sin always, is to live on a reversion
. which will probably never be ^ours.

It is folly to say that religion drives men to
despair ; when it only teaches them by a sain-
tary fear to avoid destruction. The fear of God
differs from all other fear, fbr it is accompanied
with trust, and confidence, and bve. * Blessed
is the man that feareth alway,' is no paradox to
him who entertains this holy f^. It sets him
above the fbar of ordinary troubles. It fills his
heart He is not discomposed with those inferior
apprehensions which unsettle the soul and un-
hinge the peace of worldly men. His mind is
occupied with one grand concern, and is there,
fore less liable to be shaken than little minds
which are filled with little things. Can that
principle lead to despair, which proclaims the
mercy of Ghkl in Christ Jesus to be greater than
all the sins of all the men in the world 7

If despair then prevent your returnv add not
to your list of offences that of doubting of the
forgiveness which is sincerely implored. Tou
have already wronged Grod in his holiness, wrong
him not in his mercv. Tpu may offend him
more by despairing of his pardon than by all the
sins which have made that pardon necessary.
Repentance, if one may venture the bold remark,
almost disarms God of the power to punish.
Hear his style and title as proclaimed bv him-
self; — * The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and
gracious, long suffering and abundant in good-
ness and truth, keeping mercy fbr thousands,
forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, afid
that will by no means clear the guilty*— thai is,
those who by unrepented guilt exclude them-
selves from the o^red mercy.

If infidelity or indifference, which is practi-
cal infidelity, keep you back, yet, as reasonable
beings, ask yqurselves a few short questions ;
* For what end was I sent into the world 7 Is
my soul immortal 7 Am I really placed here in
a state of trial, or is this span my all 7 Is there
an eternal state 7 If there be, will tbe use I
make of this life decide on my condition in that?
I know that there is death, but is there a judg-
ment 7'—

Rest not till you have cleared up, I do not
say your own evidences for heaven ; — ^you have
much to do before you arrive at that stage — ^but
whether there be any heaven 7 Ask yourself
whether Christianity is not important enough
to deserve being inquired into 7 Whether eter-
nal life is not too valuable to be entirely over-
looked 7 Whether eternal destruction, if a reali-
ty, is not worth avoiding ? — If you make these
interrogations sincerely, you will make them
practically. They wiU lead you to examine
your own persnnal interest in these things.
Gvils which arc* ruining us fbr want of atten-
tion to them, lessen, from the moment our atten-
' tion to them begins. True or &lse, the question
is worth settling. Vibrate then no longer be-
tween doubt and certainty. If the evidence be
inadmissible, reject it But if you can once as-
certain these cardinal points, then throw away
four time if you ean^ then trifle with eternity if
you dare.*

• An awakening eaU to pabUc and individaal fbelings
Aa« been recently made, by an obeervation of an elo-
^ent speaker in the bouse of commons. Tie remarked

It is one of the striking characters of the Ok»
nipotent that ' he is strong and patient* It is »
standing evidence of his patience that * be is
provoked every day.' How beautifully do these
characters refliBCt lustre on each other. If he
were not strong, bis patience would want it*
distkiguishing perfection. If he were not pa-
tient, his strength would instantly cnnfa thope
who provoke him, not sometimes, but often ; not
every year, but • every day.'

On yon, who have a long space given you l>r
repentance ; confess that the forbearance of G jd«
when viewed as coupled with his strength, is his
most astonishing attribute ! Think of the com-
panions of your early Kfe ; if not jrour associates
m actual vice, if not your confederates in guilty
pleasures, yet the sharers of your thougntlesi
meetings, of your convivial revehry, of your
worldly schemes, of your ambitions projects-
think how many of them have been cut ofl^, per-
haps without warning, probably without repent-
ance. — Tliev have l^ien represented to their
Judge ; their doom, whatever it be, is irreversi-
bly fixed; yours is mercifully suspended. —
Adore the mercy : embrace the suspension.

Only suppose if they could be permitted to
come back to this world, if they oould be allow-
ed another period of trial, how would they spend
their restored life ! How cordial would be their
penitence, how intense their devotion, how pro-
found their humility, how holy their actioos ?
Think then that you have still in your powei
that for which tney would give miliions of
worlds. • Hell,' says a pious writer, • b tmtl*
seen too late.*

In almost every mind there sometimes float
indefinite and general purposes of repentance-
The operation of these purposes is ofien repelled
by a real though disavowed scepticism. * Be-
cause sentence is not executed speedily,* they
suspect it has never been pronounced. Thej
therefore think they may safely continue to de
fer their intended but unshapen purpose.—
Though they sometimes visit the sick bed of
others; though they see how much disease dis
qualifies for ul duties, yet to this period of inca
paoity,to this moment of disqualification do they
continue to defer this tremendou4y iinport«i!t

What an image of the divine condeseensian
does it convey, that * the goodness of God lead-
eth to repentance !* It does not barely invite,
bu^ it conducts. Every warning is more or less
an invitation ; every visitation is a lighter stroke
to avert a heavier blow. This was the way in
which the heathen world understood portents
and prodigies, and on this interpretation of thfm
the^ acted. Any alarming warning, whether
rational or superstitious, drove them to their tern-
pies, their sacrifices, their expiations. iXies oar

tbat himself and tbe hoBOuraUe member fbr Torioblre,
then sitting on a committee appointed on oocaaioa of a

Seat national calami tf, were tbe only sorvirinf men-
rs of the committee on a similar oeeaiioa twenty4wo
years agol The call is the mora alarming, becanso tlaa
mortality did not arise fhom some extraorainary caose.
which might not again occur, but was in tbe c umn a oa
course of human things. Sadi a proportion of deaths i«
perpetually taking place, but the very fnmm cj whldi
ought to excite attention prevents it, tin it is tbas forced
on oar notiee.

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cbartr light always carry uf farther 7 Does it
in these instances, always carry us as far as na-
tural conscience carried tbem 7

The final period of the worldly man at length
arrives; bat he will not believe his danger.
Even if he fearHiUy glance round for an intima-
tion of it in every surrounding face, every face,
it is too probable, is in a league to deceive him.
What a noble opportuni^ is now offered to the
Christian physician to show a kindness as far
superior to any he has ever shown, as the con-
oerns of the soul are superior to thoeo of the
body 7 Oh let him not fear prudently to reveal
a truth for which the patient may bless him in
eternity ! Is it not sometimes to be feared that
in the hope of prolonfling for a little while the
existence of the perishing body, he robs the ne-
ver-dying soul of its last chance of pardon 7
Does not the concern, for the immortal part
united with his care of the afflicted bod^, bring
the medical professor to a nearer imitation than
any other supposable situation can do, of that
Divine Physician, who never healed the one
without manifesting a tender concern for the

But the deceit is short, is fruitless. The
amazed spirit ii about to dislodge. Who sh^ll
speak iti terror and dismay 7 Then he cries
out in the bitterness of his soul, * What capacity
has a diseased man, what time has a dying man,
what disposition has a sinful man to acquire
good principles, to unlearn false notions, to re-
nounce bad practices, to establish right habits,
4o begin to love God, to begin to hate sin 7 How
is the stupendous concern of salvation to be
worked out by a mind incompetent to the most
ordinary concerns.

The infinite importance of* what he has to do
—the goading conviction that it ;nu8t be done—
the utter inability of doing it — the dreadful com-
binatioh in his mind of both the necessity and
incapacity — the despair of crowdin|f the con-
oerns of an age into a moment — the impossibili-
ty of beginning a repentance which should have
men completed — of setting about a peaoe which
flhoold have been oondoded— of suing ibrapar-
don which shonld have been obtained r— all these
complicated concerns— without strength, with-
out time, without hope, with a clouded memory,
a disjointed reason, a wounded spirit, undefined
terrors, remembertMl sins, anticipated punish.
ment, an anp^ry God, and accusing conscience,
altogether, mtolerably augment the sufferings
of a body which stands in little need of the in-
supportable burthen of a distracted mind to ag-
fravate its torments.

Though we pity the superstitious weakness
of the German emperor in acting over the anti-
dpated solemnities of his own funeral — that
eccentric act of penitence of a j^reat but per-
verted mund ; it would be well if we were now
and then lo represent to our minds while in
sound health, the solemn certainties of a dying

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 118 of 135)