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and habits. If you feel it as some peculiar thing, something singular in you, and technical in your very idea of it, as something apart from your ordinary self; if it is either a flame of the imagination, or a warmth of the affections, or a splendour of sentiment--one of them alone, and not all of them together it will certainly lead you astray: it will be but a wavering and treacherous light. It may appear to you very bright. It may lead you to think well of yourself; far better than you ought to think. But it will be only a glaring taper, instead of the true light of life.
An irrational fervour is often found to stand in direct contrast to the rest of the character; to general ignorance, to want of moral refinement and delicacy, and of daily virtue. There is not only a zeal without knowledge, but there is a zeal which seems to thrive exactly in proportion to the want of knowledge; that bursts out from time to time, like a flame from thick smoke, instead of shining with any clear radiance and steady light. But it is the distinctive mark of rational feeling, that it rises gradually, and steadily gains strength, like the spreading of daylight upon the wakening earth. Hence, it rises slowly; and no one should be discouraged at small beginnings ; and no one should expect or wish to rush into the full flow of religious sensibility at once.
I repeat it; this sensibility, if rational, must be felt as the spirit of the whole character: and he would do well to tell us nothing of his joys, of whom nothing can be told concerning his virtues, his self-denials, his general and growing improvement, the holy habits and heavenly graces of his character and life. Dost thou love good men, and pity bad men; is thy heart touched with all that is generous and lovely around thee; is thine eye opened to all that is like God in his creatures and works? Then, and not till then, am I prepared to hear of thy love to God. "Dost thou indeed love that great and kind Being? Dost thou indeed love that intrinsic, infinite, eternal, inexpressible beauty and glory of the divine perfection? Then, truly, art thou prepared rightly to love all who bear his image, and to pity and pray for all who bear it not; then does thy social and religious sensibility flow on in one stream, full and entire, steady and constant--a living stream a stream like that which floweth fresh, full, perennial, eternal, at the right hand of God!
My brethren! it is constant : so far, at least, as anything human can bear that character; it is constant. He who will rationally cultivate the sense of religion, both directly and indirectly, and as the consent and tendency of all his habits, may be just as certain of feeling it, as he is certain of loving his friend, his child, his chief interest. It is one of the irrational aspects of the common religious sensibility, that its possessors have usually spoken of it as if it were totally uncertain whether, on a given occasion, they should feel it or not. They have gone to church, they have gone to their private devotions, with a feeling as if it were to be decided, not by the habits of their own minds, but by some doubtful interposition of divine grace, whether they were to enjoy a sense of religion or not. But; my friends, nothing can be more certain to him who will rationally, heartily, and patiently cultivate the religious sensibilities of his soul, than that he shall, on every suitable occasion, feel them. . It is to him no matter of distressing doubt and uncertainty. He knows in whom he has believed. He knows in what he has confided. He knows, by sure experience, that as certainly as the themes of religion pass before him, they will, physical infirmity only excepted, arouse him to the most intense and delightful exercise of all his affections. He is sure—when the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ is presented before him-he is like Paul, sure that he shall enter into it. Not that this is any boasting assurance of the devoted Christian. God forbid! He knows his weakness. But he knows that by the very laws of the divine goodness and grace, if he will be faithful, no good thing shall be wanting to him.
Christian brethren! we hear much in these days about excitement. Why, every prayer-of a Christian at once perfectly rational and perfectly devoted -every prayer is an excitement; and every religious service, every sermon, is an excitement as great as he can well bear; and every day's toil of virtue, and contemplation of piety, is a great and glorious excitement. Excitements! Is a man never to be moved by his religion but when some flood of emotion is sweeping through society—when agitation and disorder and confusion are on every side of him? Is it only when the tenor of quiet life, the pursuits of industry, the pleasures of relaxation, are all broken up, that he is to feel the power of religion? I do not say that this is any body's theory; but if this is the fact that results trom any form of religious teaching, then I ask, for what end was the whole tenor of lite for what end were the pursuits of industry and the pleasures of sovery ordained? For what was the whole trial of life
o exquisitely moral, so powerfully spiritual—for
what was it appointed, if the seasons for obtaining religious impressions are só ordered by human interference that they come only in idleness, disorder, and a derangement of the whole system of life? Excitements in religion! Are they to be things occasional, and separated by the distance of years? Is a man to be excited about religion only in a certain month, or in the winter; and when that month, or that winter is past-yes, when all nature is bursting into life, and beauty, and songs of praise-is the religious feeling of the people to be declining into worse than wintry coldness and death? Is this religion ?-the religion whose path shineth brighter and brighter to the perfect day?
Let us have excitements in religion, but then let them be such as may be daily renewed, as never need to die away. Any excitement in society that can bear this character, I would heartily go along with. The Christian religion, I am sure, was designed powerfully to excite us ; nothing on earth so much-nothing in heaven more. It was designed to arouse our whole nature, to enrapture our whole affection, to kindle in us a flame of devotion, to transport us with the hope and foretaste of heaven. But its excitements, if they be like those that appeared in the great teacher, are to be deep, sober, strong, and habitual. Such excitements may God ever grant us; not periodical, but perpetual; not transient, but enduring; not for times and seasons only, but for life; not for life only, but for eternity!
ON INDIFFERENCE TO RELIGION.
1 PETER 1. 17. And if ye call on the Father, who without
respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
I have lately spoken to you of religious insensibility. I propose now to address myself to the case of religious indifference. It is a case which differs from the former, though the word may seem to import nearly the same thing; and it differs in this respectthat it is held by him to whom it appertains to be capable of some defence. A want of feeling in religion is one thing, and it is a thing which a man often regrets; he never, perhaps, boasts of it. But a want of all interest about religion is another thing. It is a position which a man sometimes voluntarily assumes to himself, which is preliminary with him to the very grounds on which religious feeling is claimed, and which, therefore, he defends. He has not got so far as to allow the demand for feeling to be brought home to his conscience; he has stopped short at the threshold of the whole subject; he denies that he is bound to take any particular interest in it; and is proud, it may be, of his independence, and exemption