« PreviousContinue »
fection. “ Indeed, strong reasoning powers and quick feelings do not often unite in the same person. Men of a scientific turn seldom lay their hearts open to impressions. Previously biassed by their love of system, they do, indeed, attend the offices of reli. gion, but they dare not trust themselves with the preacher, and are continually npon the watch to observe, whether every sentiment agrees with their own particular tenets."*
We pass over some other modifications of the religious affections, and would now attend to some of the causes, which most effectually repress and ultimately extinguish them. We would remark, by the way, that the circumstances hitherto enumerated, though sources of diversity in the manner of exercising religious affections, are by no means inconsistent with them, by no means inconsistent with a supreme love of God, genuine charity to men, deep interest in the world to come, or with any of the secret joys or sorrows of a serious mind. But there are pursuits of life, and habits of mind, which repress, and others, which utterly destroy, the religious affections, which freeze the current of the soul's best feelings, and leave us but a name to live, while we are dead.
Among these last must be reckoned worldly and avaricious pursuits. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. There is not a maxim in religion more sure in its application. An excessive love of the gains of worldliness obscures all the finest feelings of the heart, and incrusts all the faculties and sentiments worthy of a rational, an immortal soul. If a worldly man sometimes thinks of God, as a personal benefactor, be can feel no complacency in his character of universal and disinterested good will. He has no place for what is sublime, spiritual, and intellectual. When such a man attends on the public offices of devotion, he never resigns himself to the impressions of awe and sanctity, which belong to this place, nor does he open his heart to the influences of piety. He is brooding over his disas. ters, his gains, and his speculations. The regular habits of business, or the moral sense remaining in the community, keep such a man within the limits of legal and honourable dealing. Beyond this sphere his conscience never expatiates, it never inquires, and seldom accuses him. With him gain is godliness. His desires do not extend beyond this world's goods, perishable as they are.
* Mrs. Barbauld's Essay on Devotional Taste.
In his retirement the prospects of new acquisitions are the only visions, which float before his eyes. When he composes himself to sleep, the last thought, which visits him, arises from the earth, and drives away the shadowy forms of heavenly things, which were gathering round his pillow. And, if he commend himself to God, as soon as the formal duty is done, Mammon springs upon his prey.
I say, then, the love of gain is encroaehing and despotic; and the longer it predominates, the more heart-hardening is its influence. It checks every elastic effort, which the soul makes toward heaven. It makes a man unworthy of the very pleasures he can enjoy; and I know not a more dreadful punishment for the mind, in which this principle reigns, than to disclose to its view the joys above, which it cannot reach, to give it a glimpse of satisfactions im. mortal and uncorrupt, which it cannot relish, and then condemn it to the perpetual and grovelling labours of avaricious and earthly pursuits.
Another destroyer of the religious affections, and the last, which we mention, is the love of pleasure. There are two classes of men, that are governed by the love of pleasure; the gay and fickle, who are ever lost in the rapid succession of amusements; and the sensual, who are for ever plunged in gross and criminal enjoyments. T'he time and the passions of the former are all monopolized. The ideas of God and of heaven will not harmonize with the gay and busy spectacles, in which they seek for satisfaction. The souls of such men revolt at the intrusion of religious ideas; and the expectation of an approaching amusement chases away the recollection of all that is serious. Abstract contemplations and invisible things can have no charms for the mind, which follows continually the ever-changing figures of fashion; and such a mind must be debilitated in all its powers, and lose even its terrestrial affections, by the fickleness and folly of all its exercises. As it would be impossible for an astronomer, to make any observation on the remote and celestial luminaries, who should be gazing continually on the elouds, that flit across the sky, and noticing, through his glass, the innumerable successive hues which gild them, so the mind, that is pursuing the endless varieties of dissipation, knows nothing, thinks nothing, and is interested in nothing, which is pure, intellectual, and heavenly,
The love of sensual gratification is yet more degrading. All the passions of those who cherish it seem to be converted into appetites; all their affections, into lusts. If religious feelings of a spurious character unite, as they sometimes do, with carnal passions, a most horrible and depraved combination is formed, which brings disgrace upon the holiest affections of the soul. No, christians, the love of pleasure and the love of God are irreconcilable. They are at continual war; and they never can divide the empire of the same breast. I shudder to think, vain and profligate man, how far you are from the temper of the gospel ! It appals me to imagine the sufferings, which will be necessary to bring you even to consideration. And how dreadful may be the discipline, which must bring your heart to enjoy a pure, holy, and spiritual religion, God only knows. then, continue to love supremely a world, which
will desert you ? Will you loosely ramble on the brink of perdition for the worthless flowers of pleasure, which you can gather there? O sinner, think, I beseech you, how fearful a thing it will be, to stand before a God, whom you have never loved ; to see a Saviour, whom you have never deigned to honour, and whom, by your conduct, you have treated with every species of neglect and contumely. Remember, senseless and brutal man, heaven is not a place for earthly minds. If your affections have not been placed above, you will not find there a friend to welcome you; you will not find a joy, which you can taste, or a thought familiar and dear to your meditations. Christians, I pray God, that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve the things that are excellent.
BE THAT HATH NO RULE OVER HIS OWN SPIRIT, IS LIKE A GITY THAT IS BROKEN
DOWN, AND WITHOUT WALLS.
No man can be said to have attained complete rule over his own spirit, who has not under his habitual control the tenour of his thoughts, the language of his lips, the motions of lust and appetite, and the energy of his passions. This shows you at once the extent, and the division of our subject
. By its extent
you will immediately perceive, that it excludes from the praise of self-command much of what passes in the world for great moderation. There are many men of such stagnant and heavy tempers, that no irritation can provoke them, and no injuries rouse them to resentment; men, who are never thrown off their guard by rage, and yet indulge with much complacency in all the grossness of animal pleasure, and resign themselves, soul, spirit, and body, to the tyranny of sensuality, intemperance, and lust. To compliment such men with the praise of self-mastery would be absurd ; yet this virtue is, in general, supposed to consist in the mere suppression of anger. There are others, who seem to have established a