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Now the objection itself is founded on an erroneous view both of religion and of the world. Men take certain things for granted, on each side, and thence conclude, without sufficient examination, that there is no point of agreement between their known oppositions. And this, itself, is sufficient to show the unreasonableness of the conclusion, and of the excuses founded on it; because a little more care to understand what religion really is, and in what manner its supreme obligations bear upon and are connected with the present life, would give an entirely different view of the subject; and show, beyond dispute, that as the religion of the gospel is contrived and instituted by infinite wisdom, for man in this world, every calling and occupation which the state of the world demands, and variety of condition calls into operation, may be followed in the fear of God, and in agreement with the requirements of Christianity. But the objection is further shown to be unreasonable from this, that it never springs from any opposition between religion and the fair and honest exercise of our particular calling, but between religion and fraudulent, injurious, or oppressive conduct, which would bring advantage to one, to the loss of another or of many. This God abhors and religion condemns, because it is iniquity; and, therefore, those men who possess the disposition of beasts of prey, and would live by devouring their fellow creatures, condemn religion, and pray to be excused from its duties. For religion is the great guardian of human rights and of human happiness; its gracious purpose is, peace and good will on earth, the alleviation of human misery by the fruits of kindness, compassion, and mercy, and to perpetuate, in eternity, the felicity which flows from the exercise of mutual love.
Equally unreasonable is the objection to religion, from the unfounded notion, that Christianity is inconsistent with the pleasures and enjoyments of life. On this mistaken but prevailing notion the young and the gay, equally with the dissolute and the profligate, stand back from the due consideration of religion, and excuse themselves from its indispensable obligations. That the vicious should thus act is not to be wondered at; that the profligate should be opposed to what condemns their course of life is to be expected ; but that those who can
neither Le called vicious or profligate, further than by seeking amusement and satisfaction where the vicious and the profligate are too surely to be found, should thus sacrifice the respect due to religion and themselves, may justly excite admiration : yet so it is, and every assembly for what is called public amusement, is proof of the deplorable bias upon the mind of man, to find pleasure in the dissipation of thought, and entertainment from the exhibition of human depravity.
Could they, however, be prevailed upon to reflect-would they but give the claims of the gospel a fair and unprejudiced hearing—above all, would they but make the experiment of what it denies and what it grants, to those who embrace it, they would learn, that, within the bouuds of innocence, religion lays no interdict upon enjoyment-her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Her wise and wholesome regulations guard only against sin, as the grand enemy of all true pleasure: and, as sin makes its insidious approaches chiefly under the mask of profit and enjoyment, religion calls upon her votaries to be on their guard against these too seductive evils ; to weigh their tendency as respects the great purpose of the present life in preparing for another; and, according as the welfare of eternity will be effected, to follow or renounce them. Yet what numbers, nevertheless, desire to be excused from the reasonable service, which their duty to God and to their own souls, their comfort here and their happiness hereafter, requires. How many, who would start with affright from wbat is directly sinful, under the spell of this delusion feel neither the disgrace of being companions of the vicious, the unreasonableness of such unprofitable waste of time, or the deadly sin of closing their ears and hardening their hearts against the invitations of the gospel. Yet even the youngest must know that a time will come when consolation will be sought, when an approaching change of being will prompt questions to the soul, which the world cannot answer; when neither its profits nor its pleasures can give ease to a wounded spirit, or assuage the anguish of remorse ; and when all that is contained within the circle of its power would be surrendered for that peace which religion confers on the dying bed of the Christian. Carry forward your
thoughts, then, my hearers, to that moment which none can escape ; bring the excuses, under which you are blinding yourselves against the light to this test; and, if they will not serve you then, be ye as sure as truth can make it, that they are now no other than a worthless fallacy-a deceit of sin—a snare of the devil, from which you cannot too speedily rescue your souls. Clear, however, as this must be to all, it will be still more apparent if we consider, as was proposed,
III. In the third place, what it is, that we desire to be excused from.
And what is it, my dear friends, that so many of you seem not only opposed to, but even afraid of? Alas! that so few permit their thoughts to dwell upon the purpose of religionthe gracious purpose of God's love to rescue immortal souls from the power of sin and eternal death, and prepare them, by the renewal and sanctification of their natures, for everlasting life and endless felicity, in his heavenly kingdom. It is heaven, then, with all its glories; it is God with all his perfections; it is Christ and his unspeakable love that you beg to be excused from, for these are no otherwise to be attained than by the grace of the gospel ; nor can that grace be obtained otherwise than by coming to Christ in the open profession and practice of his religion. And can many words be necessary to convince you of the folly and wickedness of such excuses ? God forbid. For how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Yet this is not all that is involved in making light of the invitations of the gospel. You do not only hereby reject heaven, but you prefer hell; you do not only refuse salvation, but you choose perdition; you do not only turn away from holiness, but you embrace sin; you do not only deny your Saviour, but you trample on his blood, and choose your betrayer for your king—for there is no alternative between being saved or lostno middle ground between heaven and hell; nor is there any Saviour but Jesus Christ, and bim crucified.
To this awful condition will these excuses, if persisted in, bring all who now resort to them; and if this is as sure as the truth of God, there can be but one application for all to make of what has been said. Cast away, then, these refuges of lies, receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls ; and now, even to-day, if you will hear his voice harden not your hearts, but come to that mercy and love which God hath provided, through his only begotten Son, for penitent sinners. Delay not till to-morrow, but now, while conscience is awakened, hearken to the SPIRIT OF God in his gracious convictions, follow the admonitions of his saving wisdom, and reap the blessed fruit of that peace which the world cannot give, which it cannot take away, and which shall endure for ever.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The parable of the house built upon the rock and that built upon the sand sets before us, in a very instructive manner, my brethren, the necessity, as well as advantage, of looking well to the foundation on which we construct our scheme of present and future happiness. As rational beings there must be some governing principle by which the tenour of our lives and conversation is directed, some main object of pursuit to which all others are subordinate, and by which our true character is determined.
To act without a motive is hardly possible, and though this motive may not at all times be equally well defined even to our own consciousness, yet it surely exists, and possesses this most important quality, that it gives to our actions their intrinsic value. As accountable beings this principle has a wide range ; and in its application to our individual condition, opens a field of deep and extensive self-examination. If it is the condition of our being that there is no indifferency in our actions, if the whole of our conduct in the present life has its bearing upon the life that is to come, and if the motive or intention gives to our actions the moral quality of good or evil, in the sight of God, the principle on which we act should be well considered, carefully selected, and well followed.
That this doctrine is particularly applicable to the commencement and progress of religion in the soul is set forth in many passages of Scripture, but in none more directly than in the words of my text ; in which the apostle lays it down in the most express terms, that we can only be acceptable to God, in