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conduct is completely irrational, and can lead to nothing but ruin. It proceeds upon the supposition that there is nothing above us, about us, or future, by which we can be affected, but the things which we see with our eyes or feel by our touch. All which is untrue. “ The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are seen; even his eternal power and Godhead;" which means, that the order, contrivance, and design, displayed in the creation, prove with certainty that there is more in nature than what we really see; and that, amongst the invisible things of the universe, there is a Being, the author and origin of all this contrivance and design, and, by consequence, a being of stupendous power, and of wisdom and knowledge incomparably exalted above any wisdom or knowledge which we see in man; and that he stands in the same relation to us as the maker does to the thing made. The things which are seen are not made of the things which do appear. This is plain : and this argument is independent of Scrip
: ture and revelation. What farther moral or religious consequences properly follow from it is another question ; but the proposition itself shows that they who cannot, and they who will not, raise their minds above the mere information of their senses are in a state of gross error as to the real truth of things, and are also in a state to which the faculties of man ought not to be degraded. A person of this sort may, with respect to religion, remain a child all his life. A child naturally has no concern but about the things which directly meet its senses ; and the person we describe is in the same condition.
Again ; there is a race of giddy, thoughtless men and women, of young men and young women more especially, who look no farther than the next day,
the next week, the next month; seldom or ever so far as the next year.
Present pleasure is everything with them. The sports of the day, the amusements of the evening, entertainments and diversions, occupy all their concern; and so long as these can be supplied in succession, so long as they can go from one diversion to another, their minds remain in a state of perfect indifference to everything except their pleasurés. Now what chance has religion with such dispositions as these ? Yet these dispositions, begun in early life, and favoured by circumstances, that is, by affluence and health, cleave to a man's character much beyond the period of life in which they might seem to be excusable. Excusable did I say? I ought rather to have said that they are contrary to reason and duty, in every condition and at every period of life. Even in youth they are built upon falsehood and folly. Young persons, as well as old, find that things do actually come to pass. Evils and mischiefs, which they regarded as distant, as out of their view, as beyond the line and reach of their preparations or their concern, come, they find, to be actually felt. They find that nothing is done by slighting them beforehand; for, however neglected or despised, perhaps ridiculed and derided, they come not only to be things present, but the very things and the only things about which their anxiety is employed; become serious things indeed, as being the things which now make them wretched and miserable. Therefore a man must learn to be affected by events which appear to lie at some distance, before he will be seriously affected by religion.
Again; the general course of education is much against religious seriousness, even without those who conduct education foreseeing or intending any such effect. Many of us are brought up with this world
set before us, and nothing else. Whatever promotes this world's prosperity is praised; whatever hurts and obstructs and prejudices this world's prosperity is blamed: and there all praise and censure end.
We see mankind about us in motion and action, but all these motions and actions directed to worldly objects. We hear their conversation, but it is all the same way. And this is what we see and hear from the first, The views which are continually placed before our eyes regard this life alone and its interests. Can it then be wondered at that an early worldly-mindedness is bred in our hearts, so strong as to shut out heavenlymindedness entirely? In the contest which is always carrying on between this world and the next, it is no difficult thing to see what advantage this world has. One of the greatest of these advantages is, that it preoccupies the mind : it gets the first hold and the first possession. Childhood and youth, left to themselves, are necessarily guided by sense : and sense is all on the side of this world. Meditation brings us to look towards a future life; but then meditation comes afterward: it only comes when the mind is already filled and engaged and occupied, nay often crowded and surcharged, with worldly ideas. It is not only, therefore, fair and right, but it is absolutely necessary, to give to religion all the advantage we can give it by dint of education ; for all that can be done is too little to set religion upon an equality with its rival ; which rival is the world. A creature which is to pass a small portion of its existence in one state, and that state to be preparatory to another, ought, no doubt, to have its attention constantly fixed upon its ulterior and permanent destination. And this would be so, if the question between them came fairly before · the mind. We should listen to the Scriptures, we shoull embrace religion, we should enter into every
thing which had relation to the subject, with a concern and impression, even far more than the pursuits of this world, eager and ardent as they are, excite. But the question between religion and the world does not come fairly before us. What surrounds us is this world ; 'what addresses our senses and our passions is this world; what is at hand, what is in contact with us, what acts upon us, what we act upon, is this world. Reason, faith, and hope, are the only principles to which religion applies, or possibly can apply: and it is reason, faith, and hope, striving with sense, striving with temptation, striving for things absent against things which are present. That religion, therefore, may not be quite excluded and overborne, may not quite sink under these powerful causes, every support ought to be given to it which can be given by education, by instruction, and, above all, by the example of those to whom young persons look up, acting with a view to a future life themselves.
Again ; it is the nature of worldly business of all kinds, especially of much hurry or over-employment, or over-anxiety in business, to shut out and keep out religion from the mind. The question is, whether the state of mind which this cause produces ought to be called a want of seriousness in religion. It becomes coldness and indifference towards religion ; but is it properly a want of seriousness upon the subject ? I think it is; and in this way. We are never serious upon any matter which we regard as trifling. This is impossible. And we are led to regard a thing as trifling, which engages no portion of our habitual thoughts, in comparison with what other things do.
But farther; the world, even in its innocent pursuits and pleasures, has a tendency unfavourable to the religious sentiment. But were these all it had to contend with, the strong application which religion
makes to the thoughts whenever we think of it at all, the strong interest which it presents to us, might enable it to overcome and prevail in the contest. But there is another adversary to oppose, much more formidable ; and that is sensuality; an addiction to sensual pleasures. It is the flesh which lusteth against the spirit ; that is the war which is waged within us. So it is, no matter what may be the cause, that sensual indulgences, over and above their proper crimi- . nality, as sins, as offences against God's commands, have a specific effect upon the heart of man in destroying the religious principle within him; or still more surely in preventing the formation of that principle. It either induces an open profaneness of conversation and behaviour, which scorns and contemns religion ; a kind of profligacy, which rejects and sets at nought the whole thing; or it brings upon the heart an averseness to the subject, a fixed dislike and reluctance to enter upon its concerns in any way what
That a resolved sinner should set himself against a religion which tolerates no sin, is not to be wondered at. He is against religion, because religion
. is against the course of life upon which he has entered, and which he does not feel himself willing to give up. But this is not the whole, nor is it the bottom of the matter. The effect we allude to is not so reasoning or argumentative as this. It is a specific effect upon the mind. The heart is rendered unsusceptible of religious impressions, incapable of a serious regard to religion. And this effect belongs to sins of sensuality more than to other sins. It is a consequence which almost universally follows from them.
We measure the importance of things, not by what, or according to what, they are in truth, but by and according to the space and room which they occupy in our minds. Now our business, our trade, our