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“ for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of “ religious obligation desert the oaths which are the “ instruments of investigation in courts of justice ?" An oath must cease to be the bond of society, if his may be admitted, who maintains, that the fear of God has not, and never had, governing influence with any mortal. Such an one subverts the basis of society. For no dependence can then be placed on the most folemn testimonies and engagements of any man. The atheist thinks it not enough to tell the world, that he himself fears no God, and believes in none: He adds insolence to profanity, and insists, that such is the true language of every man's heart, whatever his professions may be. We maintain, on the contrary, that there are those who habitually set God before them--who fear his frown more than that of the world-who seek the honor that cometh from him more than honor from man_who are not less afraid to fin in secret than in the view of mankind--who are as attentive to secret duties as to any others—whom the recollection of sins, known only to themselves and their omniscient Judge, fills with confufion and contrition-who would lay down life rather than make shipwreck of faith-whose own hearts bear witness, that whatever they do is as to the Lord, not to men. There have been those who have forsaken every thing, and suffered every thing, from a princpile of conscience. There are living characters, of whom the fame may be said. Little as there is of faith upon earth, let it not be said that it is, and always
was, a mere name. This would be to contradict the universal consent of mankind in all ages. Leaving the sceptic to contest this first dictate of reafon, the existence of religion, with all the human race, and even with the conscience in his own breast we will endeavor to evince the importance of religious principle, or a supreme regard to God, in discharging our focial and relative duties.
If there be an eternal, self-existent Spirit, the source of all other existence, infinitely wise, powerful, holy and good, his perfections are the just object of supreme veneration and homage, love and confidence. Conformity to his moral excellences is the true dignity and felicity of all intelligent moral agents in all worlds. He can require no other than a reasonable service. His laws are a transcript of his purity, wisdom and love: None of them may be accounted grievous. His approbation is better than life. Shall this be lightly esteemed, and yet an high value set on the favor of man? Shall we be afraid of man who shall die, and of the son of man who will be made as grass ? but forget him in whom we live, move, and have our being ? who can save and destroy? who knows and can fulfil the desire of our hearts? Or shall we satisfy ourselves with an exterior of piety? It is his command, Give me thy heart. The author of our faith declared, “My « meat is to do the will, and finish the work, of him " that sent me.” Those who have the spirit of Christ, shew their love to his religion, when it is neglected, vilified and persecuted: When it peculiarly requires its few friends to appear in its defence, their hearts glow with warmer affection and zeal. A commanding sense of religion and lively hope of immortality alone can secure an adherence to the cause of virtue when depressed-can ensure the fulfilment of our obligations to society, or to any of our connections, when that duty requires the mortification of a sin that easily be
To what purpose does a philosopher in his study draw a fine picture of virtue-its abstract beauty and intrinsic charms; and insist that it is its own reward? Separate from its present peace and future recompence, its friends are left in the condition of the ship-wreckt mariner, who, as he was sinking, saw the variegated colors of the rainbow: “ This is mighty fine," said he; * but what is it to me, who must instantly be buried
66 in the ocean?” Virtue must be fastened to the throne of God, the rewarder of them who diligently seek him, the immutable lover of righteousness, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The obligations of mo, rality are unchangeable; because it has its foundation in the authority of a perfect moral Governor, who will make the uniform and steady practice of our duty our interest upon the whole
who hath annexed to it peace which pafseth understanding, and the hope which maketh not ashamed. To patience in well-do: ing, amidft all temptations and sufferings on earth, he hath promised eternal life, through Jesus Chrift.
We will more distinctly examine the force of religious principle, first, with reference to fociety, and the duties of our various relations.
Other principles, such as natural affection and be nignity, desire of esteem, regard to health, may be productive of many good effects. But such good ef. fects, with other and greater, proceed from a principle of piety. The natural and friendly affections are of great use; and should be carefully cultivated, as incentives to a constant interchange of good offices, From these we cheerfully do and suffer for our connections. The members of the same family or neighbor. hood, those who are in habits of intimacy, (whatever might be the occasion) improve all opportunities to serve and oblige one another, when they are united in affection. Mere affection, however, may change, from a variety of causes; and then the alienation is in pro, portion.
But fuppose that to the natural and friendly affections you add the fear of God, and faith in his Son, These will give strength and vigor to every wish and endeavor for the welfare of those endeared to us in the bonds of nature, by past favors, or by any particular connection. Religion teaches superiors condescension and mildness: It enforces on inferiors due reverence to those above them: It permits not an alienation of
affection, or the violation of duty, upon any affront or dislike : Nor will it permit a neglect of their supreme good in compliance with their humor, or from the fondness and partiality of affection. Nor will it be reluctant to any steps for their recovery, when they go astray. The force of religion will be sufficiently strong, where affection may be weak.
Public spirit, far from being impaired, is improved by religion. Reverence of him, who ruleth in the kingdom of men, and whose command it is that we seek the good of our people, improves and elevates the patriot. By endeavors to conciliate the favor of Almighty God to our nation, we best promote the public welfare. The fearer of God is à prevalent interceflor for his people--instrumental in preventing or removing calamities, and procuring the blessings of providence.
It further improves our idea of a patriot to consider him as a believer of Christianity and possessing the fpirit of it. Its author exhibited an example of benevolence beyond comparison the brightest that ever appeared in human nature. He descended from the ex. cellent glory to this wretched world, and appeared in the form of a servant--went about doing good-was eminent for filial duty, private friendship, and national affection; nor less for the love of enemies and forgiveness of injuries. To perfect the character of philanthropy, he gave his life a ransom for all mankind. The same mind being in us, we shall not look on our own things, but on those of others. Nor will our kind affections be restricted to natural, civil or religious connections; but will extend to the whole human race, in imitation of Jesus Christ. The story which he related of a Jew who fell among thieves, and found mercy from a Samaritan, is a striking illustration of the prevalence of benevolent affections over many and strong prejudices : It teaches us to regard as our neighbor every man who may need our help, and whom we may have power to befriend. That affection to kindred, friends and country, or to those of our own persuasion, which interferes with extensive benevolence, and even with the best good of the objects of such affection, is ill-judged, partial and injurious. Religion corrects such partial regards, rectifies such miftakes, and directs to pursue the highest good of those whom we love.
Moreover, mere affection may be, and is, overbalanced by views of ambition or avarice, by lust or senfuality. Temptations irrefistible, except by such as are well grounded in religion, frequently occur in every station and connection in life, whether private or public. The tenderest ties of friendship, affinity and blood are violated, where the fear of God is wanting. What other effectual security is there against secret fraud and falshood, a false balance and false measure, theft, perjury? against betraying our country, and even our best friends—yea, parents, and children, and our own flesh? Or (which is equivalent) doing that which must destroy their comfort, and entail upon them infamy, poverty and wretchedness ?
Thus when temptation presseth hard, if religious principle be wanting, every duty will be violated. Upon a change of circumstances men are wont to change their friends. Job, in the day of his adversity, complained that his brethren and acquaintance were estranged, that his kinsfolk and familiar friends forgat him, and his domestics treated him as an alien-yea, that his bosom friend was alienated--that children derided him, and the baseft of men made him their song. Whereas in his prosperity the aged rose before him, and princes were silent. When the ear beard, it blessed bim, &c. An eminent lover of his nation, speaking of the oppressions of former rulers, faid, So did not 1; because of the fear of God. He had the same opportunity, by arbitrary exactions, to distress his people, and ag. grandize himself: But in the fear of God he resisted