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circumstance, that here religion is brought home to the bosom of every man; it becomes his personal concern; he worships God with more ardent and devotional satisfaction, because he can worship him according to the dictates of his own conscience. Thousands of temptations to hypocrisy are thus cast off at once; the sacred inviolability of religious opinion becomes an hereditary sentiment, which every man is proud to transmit. Feeling the value of his own liberty, he learns to respect what he thinks the erroneous conscience of his brother; and, by the unembarrassed communication of every truth, of every doubt, and every interesting sentiments, the celestial fire of religious inquiry is enkindled in thousands of hearts, and the grand work of our spiritual perfection hastened and promoted. My friends, shall we become the more indifferent about our faith, as our means of ascertaining its truth and purity are multiplied ? Shall that unbounded liberty of conscience, which we enjoy, terminate in nothing but the liberty of not bestowing a thought on the subject? Shall the unrestrained freedom of religious choice amount to nothing but freedom from the restraints of every species of religious belief?
Bear with me yet a little longer, that I may mention, in the seventh and last place, the peculiar ad. vantages, we enjoy in our remoteness from the wars, the tumults, the revolutions, and the crimes of the older world. A mighty drama is acting on the theatre of Europe. We sit here peaceful spectators, while an ocean rolls between us and that stage of fearful events. Feeling none of the miseries of war, we have not yet witnessed all the confusion of its crimes. Indeed, my friends, our situation is unexampled in the records of nations. Brought into the rank of independent states at this late period of the world, the experience of past ages is spread out before us, and all the rolls of time are unfolded for our instruction. A wonderful providence seems to lift us up miraculously to a lofty region of observation, that we may see the shock of empires, and tremble, and be thankful. Indeed, it would seem, as if a last experiment were making among us, to prove, whether a nation can profit any thing, not merely by the history of its predecessors, but by a series of dreadful events, which are passing directly before its eyes. God grant, the grand experiment may succeed ! You and I, and generations yet unborn, are interested in it. It is to be seen, whether religion has found here that permanent shelter, she sought. It is to be seen, whether the only valuable blessings of human life, order, virtue, mental cultivation, religious liberty and religious sentiments can co-exist with a state of permanent and unexampled peace and prosperity. It is to be seen, in short, whether à people can be entrusted with the very blessings, for which thousands of great and good men have most earnestly sought; or whether we shall add another to the list of corrupt. ed and corrupting states, and go down with the rest, enervated by the crimes of youth, to the vast cemetery of nations. God, of thy mercy, avert this result ! Scourge us, distress us, reduce us, alarm us, if we may, by any means, preserve that righteousness, which exalteth a nation, and may escape that sin, which is the ruin of any people.
PHIL. IV. 3.
I ENTREAT THEE,—HELP THOSE WOMEN, WHICH LABOURED WITH ME IN THE GOSPEL,
WHOSE NAMES ARE IN THE BOOK OF LIFE.
This is one of the numerous passages in the gospel history, where honourable mention is made of the female sex. From the angel's salutation of the virgin mother of our Lord, to the letter of John, the beloved apostle, to the elect lady and her children, the New Testament is full of their exertions, their affection, fidelity and influence. In the course of our Saviour's ministry, sublime and solemn as was his supernatural character, we find frequent examples of his attention to them, and of their attachment to him. To the woman of Samaria he made the first declaration of his Messiahship, and imparted the first principles of his new and spiritual doctrine; and this, too, with a condescension, which surprised his disciples, who wondered, that he talked with the woman. We find him, also, a frequent guest in the family of Martha and Mary; for Jesus, we are told, loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. One of these affectionate sisters, to testify her respect for his person, just before his sufferings, came with a box of costly perfume, and poured it over his head, as he sat at meat; and with so much pleasure did he receive this offering of female affection, that even the disciples murmured, while he declared, that, whereyer his gospel was preached, it should be told for a memorial of her.
Mary Magdalene, too, a Jewish lady of some wealth and consideration, makes a distinguished figure among the friends of Jesus. She has been most strangely and unjustly confounded with that penitent female, who had been a sinner, and who bathed our Lord's feet with tears of contrition. But Mary Magdalene had been cured by our Saviour of one of the most terrible maladies, which can afflict our suffering nature; and the fondest employment of her recovered reason seems to have been, to listen to her deliverer, and to minister to him of her substance. With many of the women, she followed him from Galilee through that scene of suffering, when all the disciples from our sex forsook him, and fled. The women never lost sight of him, till he was raised upon the cross; then they stood by and witnessed his expiring movements. They left not the body, till it was deposited in the tomb; then they saw, where it was laid, and prepared their spices to embalm it. On the sabbath they were obliged to leave it, and rest, “ according to the commandment;" but their wakeful eyes caught the first streaks of eastern light on the morning of the resurrection ; and to the women, watching and weeping at the sepulchre, appeared the first delightful vision of the Lord of glory, risen in all the freshness of his new and immortal life.
Some of the earliest and most faithful converts of the apostles were also from this sex. To the assembled saints and widows, Peter presented Dorcas alive, who had been full of good works and almsdeeds, which she did. The tender heart of Lydia was melted at the preaching of Paul; and, in his epistles,
he seldom fails to send salutations to some of those excellent females, who, by their works of charity and labours of love, cherished the feeble community of persecuted christians, and illustrated the amiable spirit and benignant influence of the religion they professed.
Perhaps it is not difficult to account for these frequent examples of female christianity, so interesting, and yet so honourable to the gospel. The men, in Judea, were looking for a prince, as their Messiah, who should answer their ambitious hopes, not only by the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, but also by dispensing individual honours and personal distinctions in his approaching dominion. Every Jew, therefore, as he expected a share of this splendid power, felt a portion of that vanity, which belonged to the expected masters of the world. Hence, they at first approached our Lord with impatience and high-raised hopes; but finding him, contrary to their previous fancy, so poor, meek, unpretending, spiritual and unambitious, they often retired in disgust, which, in the great men of the nation, his rebukes often inflamed to rage.
Meanwhile the Jewish women, in their retired and subordinate station, had little share in these ambitious expectations. The mother of Zebedee's children, when she came to ask a favour of Christ, solicited nothing for herself, but only for her_sons, that they might have offices in his kingdom. To the happiness of the Jewish women it was of little consequence, whether the standard of the expected universal empire waved on the temple at Jerusalem, or the capitol at Rome. No wonder, then, they were delighted, when they saw the Christ, the prince, the idol of the Jewish expectation, treating their sex with distinguished kindness. They were more at leisure to feel and contemplate the moral greatness of Jesus, the sufferer; while the other sex were eager