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RELIGION. EMBARKED on the stream of time, and carried forward with uniform and irresistible force, how many thousands do we see amusing themselves in the pursuit of shadows, or gliding along in stupid unconcern, notwithstanding their surrounding companions daily disappear, and are gone, they know not whither. We also, fellow-traveller, are making rapid progress in our course, and it will surely be wise to devote a few moments to reflect upon the most important of all cubjects which can possibly occupy our attention ;che purpose of our existence, and the end of our voyage.
If we consider our animal frame, composed of parts essential to the well-being of the whole, and put together with inimitable skill, or survey the means that have been appointed to sustain this fabric, during the limited period of its existence; if we look upon the inferior animals, or study the structure of the vegetable tribes; if, by means of the faculties we possess, we endeavour to understand a little of the laws which appear to regulate the operations incessantly taking place in this lower world ; or if we lift our eyes to those luminous bodies scattered through the immensity of space, all proceeding harmoniously in the paths prescribed to them,-should not our souls be filled with awe and reverence ? Nothing short of infinite wisdom could have effected this : nothing short of infinite power could sustain it for a moment.
This wisdom and this power, O fellow-traveller, is God, even thy God He has condescended to create thee what thou art. Kind and benevolent, as unlimited in power, he has provided for thy comfort, thy accommodation, thy pleasure, even here. He has furnished thee with suitable food, has enamelled the fields with flowers, and instructed every warbler of the grove in his peculiar song. He has endowed thee with reason, whereby thou mayest understand a little portion of his wonders; and, to crown the whole, has given thee a capacity to acquaint thyself with him, the Author of them all. Every thing proclaims that the object of the Creator is the happiness of his creatures; and if thou be not happy, the fault is in thyself. Do not suppose that thou art placed in this transitory scene, merely to eat, to drink, and to sleep, and, after a few years, to vanish away like a dream or like a vision of the night. No:—thy great Creator has called thee into existence, at that period which was consistent with his supreme will; and though thy frame shall go to decay when it may please him to call for the spirit which animates it, yet, be assured, that this spirit shall exist forever. When the present life ceases, thou must enter upon eternity, which will be either miserable beyond description, or unspeakably happy. The few and uncertain moments of thy present state, are all that are allowed thee to prepare for it. Be roused then to a just consideration of thy condition ; venture not to sleep on the brink of a precipice, but apply thyself in earnest to the great work, before that awful proclamation is made,
The only means of becoming happy here and hereber, is by earnestly endeavouring to know and perform the will of God. This we cannot do of ourselves; but he is graciously pleased to enable us, by giving to every one of his rational creatures, a portion of his good spirit,* which is secretly operating upon the soul. This it is that makes us uneasy when we do wrong, and which fills the mind with comfort and joy when we do right. Thus the Divine Being communicates with his creatures; thus he is constantly endeavouring to draw them to himself; and in proportion as they attend to these secret impulses, he manifests himself more and more clearly to them, and they become more closely united to him. In this way, the holy ment of old were inspired, and were employed as mediums to convey the most important truths to the rest of mankind. Their writings collected together are called the Holy Scriptures, and clearly point out that conduct which will be acceptable to God. But above all, they inform us, that in the fulness of time, our merciful Creatorg displayed his love to his rational creatures in a more conspicuous manner than he had done in preceding dispensations, by sending among them his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as a pattern and example to the end of time, and as the Redeemer of men. In him was seen what the world never beheld before ; a person with all the feelings of human nature, and yet, without sin; by him the means of reconciliation and union with God were most clearly and affectingly displayed, and through him, those who feel the weight of their transgressions must seek for reconciliation. He is the Titus, ii. 11. 12 Peter, i. 21. I 2 Tim. iji, 15. § Gal. iv. 4.
mediator between sinful man and the source of purity; and though, having accomplished his mission in the flesh, and offered up his life on the cross as a propitiation for the sins of mankind, he is no longer beheld with the outward eye; yet, he is present in the hearts of all those who are striving to know and perform the Divine Will : he is influencing them to good thoughts and good actions, enabling them to overcome their perverse natural inclinations, and to subdue their wills; and thus he is purifying, and rendering them acceptable through himself, to his Heavenly Father. “Behold I stand at the door and knockIf any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.'* And again, 'If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my
Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.'t-Infinite condescension ! · Unutterable love! His knocks are the monitions of his grace and good spirit in the heart; and to attend to these and follow them, is to open unto him. This leads to our purification and consequent fitness for a closer communion with him. The heavenly visiter will now be no longer as a wayfaring man who tarrieth only for a night,' but we will make our abode with him.' This is the essence of true religion ; and, let our denominations in this world be what they may, if this be our happy experience, we shall belong to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven.'1
But this Divine Spirit, which strives with man for his good, if neglected or resisted. will he gradnally
despise its reproofs, and silence its voice for a time. We shall then be left to ourselves, and permitted to follow our own evil propensities ; our souls will be in a state of defilement, and alienation from the source of true happiness,and if we die in this state, dreadful indeed will be our portion. That witness for God which we have refused to hear, will then speak out in a voice not to be silenced, and from which we shall be no longer able to escape.
Now is the acceptable time ; now, while we have health and strength, let us use all diligence to acquaint ourselves with God, that we may be at peace, for though he desires the salvation* of all, he will be sought unto, and he has graciously promised to be found of those who seek him aright.
Our attempts will be much promoted by occasional and frequent retirement from the hurry and bustle of life, if it were only for one quarter of an hour at a time; that we may pour out our souls unto our Heavenly Father in prayer, beseeching that he would manifest unto us his will, help us to subdue our own, and bring it into conformity with his. A diligent perusal of the Holy Scriptures is also an excellent means of strengthening our good desires, and comforting us under trial, if we entreat the Divine blessing upon it; for this only can open our understandings to receive those eternal truths which are indeed hid from the wise and prudent of this world, but revealed to the babes in Christ.t True
prayer is by no means so difficult as some have imagined ; every secret aspiration to God, even if no words be uttered, is prayer; and we may be in the exercise of it, even when our hands are engaged
* I Tim. ii. 4.
* Matt. xi. 25.