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about that which alone can give it happiness : interested, not merely as in something future and far off, but as in something of present, pressing, instant concern. If the heart knew its own welfare it would be so interested ; and the very soul of youth would not burn with a love of unholy pleasures, so intense, but it would be quenched in the holy tears of that supplication, “Oh! satisfy me early with thy mercy, that I may be glad and rejoice in thee all my days.”
Once more, and with regard to the wants of the mind, and the ultimate objects of life: if you are a reasonable being, you would improve. If you were a brute, you might neither know nor care anything for this. But if you are a reasonable being you must desire to improve. You cannot stop at the point you have now reached, and be satisfied. You would, you must, go onward; and you never will come to the point-it is not in your nature ever to come to the point- from which you would not go onward! A thousand ages of improvement would find you still asking to go onward. Can you then be indifferent to that religion whose sphere is eternity ?
Indeed, my brethren, how much religion might do for us-not, alas ! how much it does, but how much it might do for us in this matter of improvement-how much not only to subdue the passions and control the conduct, but to soften the heart, and the very manners how much to unfold the genius, to develope the powers of the mind—how much to cheer and quicken the soul, to give it courage, to inspire it with a pure and noble ambition to rise to true greatness - how much of all this religion might do in the work of moral culture and of early education, I fear we but little con
sider, and but poorly comprehend. And yet a very plain argument might show it. If we would train an artist to excellence, we place before him perfect models. If we would raise any one to the loftiest virtue, we direct him constantly to fill his mind with the noble image, the divine idea of it. Prayer carries us, at once, to the Infinite Original and image of all goodness. Piety, meekness, and forgiveness, bear us to the company of Jesus. In heartily communing with such objects as religion places before us,—with the love of God, with the simple gospel of Christ, with his sacred precepts, with his divine example,-it is impossible but that everything good or godlike in us should improve. And the man who says that he desires to improve, and yet is indifferent to such a religion, presents a solecism in morals as great as he would do who, professing the desire to be rich, should turn away from the wealthiest mine, or the most gainful traffic.
And does a mind that turns away from this great opportunity say that it is well enough as it is? Would it satisfy you if your child, indolently neglecting his studies, should say that he is well enough as he is? And will the great Giver of life, and law-giver of the heart, be satisfied with such an answer from you? Is it what he reasonable expects from such a nature as he has given you ? Not advancing, not improving, not using any of those principles of improvement which are essentially the principles of religion; and yet well enough? A stock or a stone, were it endowed with consciousness, might say that! An ani. mal, whose distinctive nature it is never to improve, might say that! But for a man to say that-for a man
--neglecting the sabbath, neglecting his Bible, neglecting prayer—to say that he is well enough in that condition—what better is it than the fancied well-being of insanity? Nay, better for a man, than that fancied well-being, provided he clings to the delusion-better were it for him if he had never been born.
I have now considered what may be called the practical apology for religious indifference, and must defer the consideration of the theoretical defence till our next meditation. The practical apology, I have said, is one which a man finds in the state of his own mind, and which is briefly expressed in the declaration, that he does not want anything of religion; that he is well enough without it.
To me, I must confess, this state of mind is one of the greatest of mysteries. We hear much of the mysteries of religion, and the negligent and indifferent are the very persons, perhaps, who complain most of mysteries, and even make of them an apology for their indifference. But I confess that they themselves present in their own persons' anomalies and mysteries that go farther than all others to stagger and confound not only faith, but reason itself. It is the most inconceivable thing in human experience, that any man, with the feelings and reflections of a man, should be able to take and hold a position of absolute indifference with regard to a subject so all-embracing and intimately connected with him as religion. If I did not know the fact to be so, if it were not a matter of confession and even of boast with some, I should scarcely be able to believe it. No testimony, I am ready to say, nothing but confession, could con
vince me of it. For I do not know what the life of a mind is that can be thus estranged from religion. Occupying a point of space amidst infinite systems of beauty and harmony-a breathing hour of time between the eternity past and the eternity to come; seeing clear manifestations of boundless power and wisdom on every side in the whole creation, and yet ignorant of ten thousand mysteries, that fill that creation from its lowest depth to its topmost height; a mind seeing this, and feeling this, and tried, too, with the ten thousand events of life ay, and suffering, often-times sinking, and yet at other times soaring and aspiring to things infinite and immortal ;-that mind, I say—what is it ?—What is it made of, and what is it made for, if it does not sometimes stretch out the hand of entreaty, for a guidance and support, for a voice of teaching and a solution of mysteries beyond this world? Let it be so, that right, and rectitude, and obligation, and duty were all out of the question : yet where is curiosity ? Where is the questioning that belongs to a thoughtful and intelligent creature amidst a scene like this? It is a mystery, I will not say of iniquity ; but it is a mystery of dulness, surpassing all comprehension. O! men of this world, whosoever ye are !_0! men who are altogether of this world! talk not to us of our mysteries, till ye have cleared up your own mysteries. A mind, insensible to all the highest interests of a mind-a mind, bereft of all the attributes of a thinking, inquiring, suffering, unsatisfied being—what is it, I ask again? Is it matter, or spirit ?-Is it an earthly creature ? No; for its thoughts stretch beyond the earth. Is it a heavenly
being? No; for it cares not for heaven. What is it then, and where is its place? Where, in the universe of things, is its place?
Ah! how surely is that out of its place for which no position can be found, in the eye of reason or of common sense, or even of imagination! Let him who has wandered, whether in the ways of gain, or of philosophy, or of fashion, to the verge of that shadowy region, that shore of spectral illusions, that world of spiritual death and mental chaos, where nothing is right, nor reasonable, nor sure, nor safe ; let him start back, as from the gulf of annihilation, and return to the way of life. Let him turn back to the solid ground of faith, of reason, of wisdom. Let him enter upon the path that is bright with truth and virtue the path that shineth brighter and brighter to the perfect day.