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this principle dwells and operates at all. Wherefore to obtain ; when obtained, to cultivate, to cherish, to strengthen, to improve it ; ought to form the most anxious concern of our spiritual life. He that loveth God keepeth his commandments ; but still the love of
: God is something more than keeping the commandments. For which reason we must acquire, what many, it is to be feared, have even yet to begin, a habit of contemplating God in the bounties and blessings of his creation. I think that religion can hardly subsist in the soul without this habit in some degree. But the greater part of us, such is the natural dulness of our souls, require something more exciting and stimulating than the sensations which large and general views of nature or of providence produce ; something more particular to ourselves, and which more nearly touches our separate happiness. Now of examples of this kind, namely, of direct and special mercies towards himself, no one, who calls to mind the passages and providences of his life, can be destitute. There is one topic of gratitude falling under this head, which almost every man, who is tolerably faithful and exact in his self-recollections, will find in events upon which he has to look back ; and it this: How often have we been spared, when we might have been overtaken and cut off in the midst of sin ! Of all the attributes of God, forbearance, perhaps, is that which we have most to acknowledge. We cannot want occasions to bring the remembrance of it to our thoughts. Have there not been occasions, in which, insnared in vice, we might have been detected and exposed; have been crushed by punishment or shame, have been irrecoverably ruined ? occasions in which we might have been suddenly stricken with death, in a state of soul the most unfit for it that it was possible? That we were none of these, that we have been preserved from these dangers, that our sin was not our destruction, that instant judgment did not overtake us, is to be attributed to the long-suffering of God. Supposing, what is undoubtedly true, that the secrets of our conduct were known to him at the time, it can be attributed to no other cause. Now this is a topie which can never fail to supply subjects of thankfulness, and of a species of thankfulness which must bear with direct force upon the regulation of our conduct. We were not destroyed when we might have been destroyed, and when we merited destruction. We have been preserved for farther trial. This is, or ought to be, a touching reflection.
How deeply, therefore, does it behove us not to trifle with the patience of God, not to abuse this enlarged space, this respited, protracted season of repentance, by plunging afresh into the same crimes, or others, or greater crimes ? It shows that we are not to be wrought upon by mercy; that our gratitude is not moved ; that things are wrong within us; that there is a deplorable void and chasm in our religious principles, the love of God not being present in our hearts.
But to return to that with which we set out: religion may spring from various principles, begin in various motives. It is not for us to narrow the promises of God which belong to sincere religion, from whatever cause it originates. But of these principles, the purest, the surest, is the love of God, forasmuch as the religion which proceeds from it is sincere, constant, and universal. It will not, like fits of terror and alarm (which yet we do not despise), produce a temporary religion. The love of God is an abiding principle. It will not, like some other (and these also good and laudable principles of action, as far as they go), produce a partial religion. It is coextensive with all our obligations. Practical Christianity may be comprised in three words ; devotion, self-government, and benevolence. The love of God in the heart is a fountain, from which these three streams of virtue will not fail to issue. The love of God also is a guard against error in conduct, because it is a guard against those evil influences which mislead the understanding in moral questions. In some measure, it supplies the place of every rule. He who has it truly within him has little to learn. Look steadfastly to the will of God, which he who loves God necessarily does; practise what you believe to be well pleasing to him ; leave off what you believe to be displeasing to him ; cherish, confirm, strengthen the principle itself which sustains this course of external conduct; and you will not want many lessons, you need not listen to any other monitor.
MEDITATING UPON RELIGION.
Psalm lxiii. 7. Have I not remembered thee in my bed : and thought
upon thee when I was waking ? The life of God in the soul of man, as it is sometimes emphatically called, the Christian life, that is, or the progress of Christianity in the heart of any particular person, is marked, amongst other things, by religion gradually gaining possession of the thoughts. It has been said, that if we thought about religion as it deserved, we should never think about anything else ; nor with strictness, perhaps, can we deny the truth of this proposition. Religious concerns do so surpass and outweigh in value and importance all concerns beside, that, did they occupy a place in our minds proportioned to that importance, they would, in truth, exclude
other but themselves. I am not, therefore, one of those who wonder when I see a man engrossed with religion: the wonder with me is that men care and think so little concerning it. With all the allowances which must be made for our employments, our activities, our anxieties about the interests and occurrences of the present life, it is still true that our forgetfulness and negligence and indifference about religion are much greater than can be excused, or can easily be accounted for by these causes. Few men are so busy but that they contrive to find time for any gratification their heart is set upon, and thought for any subject in which they are interested :
they want not leisure for these, though they want lei. sure for religion. Notwithstanding, therefore, singular cases, if indeed there be any cases, of being over religious, over intent upon spiritual affairs, the real and true complaint is all on the other side, that men think not about them enough, as they ought, as is reasonable, as it is their duty to do. That is the malady and the mischief. The cast and turn of our infirm and fleshly nature lean all on that side. For, first, this nature is affected chiefly by what we see. Though the things which concern us most deeply be not seen ; for this very reason, that they are not seen, they do not affect us as they ought. That these things ought to be meditated upon, and must be acted upon, one way or other, long before we come actually to experience them, yet in fact we do not meditate upon them, we do not act with a view to them, till something gives us alarm, gives reason to believe that they are approaching fast upon us, that they are at hand, or shortly will be, that we shall indeed experience what they are.
The world of spirits, the world for which we are destined, is invisible to us. Hear Saint Paul's account of this matter: “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” “We walk by faith, not by sight: faith is the evidence of things not seen.” Some great invisible agent there must be in the uni. verse ; “ the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Now if the great Author of all things be himself invisible to our senses, and if our relation to him must necessarily form the greatest interest and concern of our existence, then it follows, that our greatest interest and concern are with those things which are now invisible. “ We are saved by