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made, and they are, emphatically, its high and honourable sentiments. If you wished to speak in tones that should thrill through the very heart of the world, you would speak to these before all others. Almost all the richest poetry, the most admirable of the fine arts, the most popular and powerful eloquence in the world, have addressed these moral and generous sentiments of human nature. And I have observed it as quite remarkable, indeed—because it is an exception to the general language of the pulpit—that all the most eloquent preachers have made great use of these very sentiments; they have appealed to the sense of beauty, to generosity and tenderness, to the natural conscience, the natural sense of right and wrong, of honour and shame.
To these, then, if you would move the human heart, you would apply yourself. You would appeal to the indignation at wrong, at oppression, or treachery, or meanness, or to the natural admiration which men feel for virtuous and noble deeds. If you would touch the most tender feelings of the human heart, you would still make your appeal to these sentiments. You would represent innocence borne down and crushed by the arm of power ; you would describe patriotism labouring and dying for its country. Or you would describe a parent's love with all its cares and anxieties, and its self-sacrificing devotion. Or you would pourtray filial affection watching over infirmity, and relieving pain, and striving to pay back something of the mighty debt of filial gratitude. Look abroad in the world, or look back upon the history of ages past, and ask for those on whom the enthusiasm, and pride, and affection of men love to dwell. Evoke from the shadows of the iimes gone by, their mighty, their cherished forms, around which the halo of everlasting admiration dwells: and what are they? Behold the names of the generous, the philanthropic, and the good-behold the voice of martyred blood on the altars of cruelty, or on the hills of freedom, for ever rising from the earth—eternal testimonies to the right and noble sentiments of mankind.
To these, then, roligion ought to have appealed. In these sentiments it ought to have laid its foundation, and on these it ought to have built up its power. But has it done so? Could it do so while it held human nature to be utterly depraved?
But there is a farther question. Can any religion, Christian or heathen, in fact, entirely discard human nature? Certainly not. Must not every religion that speaks to man, speak to something human? Undoubtedly it must. What, then, is the end of all this zeal against human nature? Has it not been, I ask, to address the worst parts of it? There has been no scruple about appealing to fear and anxiety; but of the sentiments of admiration, of the sense of beauty in the human heart, of the deep love for friends and kindred that lingers there, religion has been afraid. Grant, indeed, that these sentiments and affections have been too low: it was the very business of religion to elevate them. But while it has failed to do this, in the degree it ought, how often has it spread a rack of torture for our fear and solici tude! How often has it been an engine of superstition, an inflicter of penance, a minister of despondency and gloom; an instrument effective, as if it were framed on purpose, to keep down all natural buoyancy, generosity, and liberal aspiration! How often has religion frowned upon the nature that it came to save; and instead of winning its confidence and love, has incurred its hatred and scorn; and instead of having drawn it into the blessed path of peace and trust, has driven it to indifference, infidelity, or desperation!
And how lamentable is it! Here is a world of beings filled with enthusiasm, filled with a thousand warm and kindling affections: the breasts of millions are fired with admiration for generous and heroic virtues—and when the living representative of these virtues appears among us —a Washington, or some illustrious compeer in excellencecrowded cities go forth to meet him, and nations lift up the voice of gratitude. How remarkable in the human character is this moral admi. ration. What quickening thoughts does it awaken in solitude! What tears does it call forth when we think of the prisons, the hospitals, the desolate dwellings, visited and cheered by the humane and merciful! With what ecstasy does it swell the human breast, when the vision of the patriotic, the patiently suffering, the magnanimous and the good, passes before us. In all this, the inferior race has no share. They can fear; but esteem, veneration, the sense of moral loveliness, they know not. These are the prerogatives of man—the gifts of Nature to him—the gifts of God. But how little, alas! have they been called into the service of his religion! How little have their energies been enlisted in that which is the great concern of man!
And all this is the more to be lamented, because those who are most susceptible of feeling and of enthusiasm, most need the power and support of religion. The dull, the earthly, the children of sense, the mere plodders of business, the mere votaries of gain, may do, or may think they can do, without it. But how many beings are there, how many spirits of a finer mould, and of a loftier bearing, and of more intellectual wants, who, when the novelty of life is worn off, when the enthusiasm of youth has been freely lavished, when changes come on, when friends die, and there is care and weariness and solitude to press upon the heart-how many are there, then, that sigh bitterly after some better thing, after something greater, and more permanent, and more satisfying. And how do they need to be told that religion is that better thing, that it is not a stranger to their wants and sorrows; that its voice is speaking and pleading within them, in the cry of their lamentation, and in the felt burthen of their necessity; that religion is the home of their far-wandering desires, the rest, the heaven, of their longtroubled affections! How do they need to hear the voice that says, “ Unto ye, O men— men of care, and fear, and importunate desiredo I call; and my voice is to the sons of men—to the children of frailty, and trouble, and sorrow!"
III. Let us now proceed to consider, in the third place, and finally, from the relation between the power that speaks and the principle addressed, in what manner the one should appeal to the other.
The relation, then, between them, I say, is a relation of amity. But let me explain. I do not say, of course, that there is amity between right and wrong:
I do not say that there is amity between pure goodness and what is evil in man. But that which is wrong and evil in man is the perversion of something that is good and right. To that good and right I contend that religion should speak: to that it must speak, for there is nothing else that can hear it. We do not appeal to abstractions of evil in man, because there are no such things in him; but we appeal to affections; to affections in which there is a mixture of good and evil. To the good, then, I say, we must appeal, against the evil. And every preacher of righteousness may boldly and fearlessly approach the human heart, in the confidence that, however it may defend itself against him, however high it may build its battlements of habit and its towers of pride, he has friends in the very citadel.
I say, then, that religion should address the true moral nature of man as its friend, and not as its enemy; as its lawful subject and not as an alien or a traitor; and should address it, therefore, with generous and hopeful confidence, and not with cold and repulsive distrust. What is it in this nature, to which religion speaks? To reason, to conscience, to the love of happiness, to the sense of the infinite and the beautiful, to aspirations after immortal good; to natural sensibility, also, to the love of kindred and country and home. All these are in this nature, and they are all fitted to render obedience to religion. In this obedience they are satisfied, and indeed they can never be satisfied without it.
Admit, now, that these powers are ever so sadly perverted and corrupted, still 10 one maintains that they are destroyed. Neither is their testimony to what is right ever, in any case, utterly silenced. Should they not then be appealed to in a tone of confidence? Suppose, for instance, to illustrate our observation, that simple reason were appealed to on any subject not religious; and suppose, to make the case parallel, that the reason of the man, on that subject were very much perverted, that he was very much prejudiced and misled. Yet would not the argument be directed to his reason, as a principle actually existing in him, and as a principle to be confided in and to be recovered from its error? Would not every tone of the argument and of the expostulation show confidence in the principle addressed?
Oh! what power might religion have had if it had breathed this tone of confidence; if it had gone down into the deep and silent places of the heart as the voice of friendship; if it had known what dear and precious treasures of love and hope and joy are there, ready to be made celestial by its touch; if it had spoken to man as the most affectionate parent would speak to his most beloved though sadly erring child; if it had said, in the emphatic language of the text, “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men : lo! I have set my love
upon you- upon you, men of the strong and affectionate nature, of the aspiring and heaven-needing soul — not upon inferior creatures, not upon the beasts of the field, but upon you have I set my love. Give entrance to me, not with fear and mistrust, but with good hope and with gladness; give entrance to me, and I will make my abode with you, and I will build up all that is within you, in glory, and beauty, and ineffable brightness. Alas! for our erring and sinful, but also misguided and ill-used nature. Bad enough, indeed, we have made it, or suffered it to be made: but if a better lot had befallen it, if kindlier influences had breathed upon it, if the parent's and the preacher's voice, inspired with every tone of hallowed feeling, had won it to piety, if the train of social life, with every attractive charm of goodness, had led it in the consecrated way; we had ere this — known what now, alas! we so poorly know — we had known what it is to be children of God and heirs of heaven.
My friends, let religion speak to us in its own true character, with all its mighty power, and winning candour and tenderness. It is the principle of infinite wisdom that speaks. From that unknown period before the world was created --so saith the holy record — from the depth of eternity, from the centre of infinity, from the heart of the universe, from “the bosom of God,” voice has come forth, and spoken to us—to us, men, in our lowly habitations. What a ministration is it! It is the infinite communing with the finite; it is might communing with frailty; it is mercy stretching out its arms to the guilty; it is goodness taking part with all that is good in us against all that is evil. So full, so overflowing, so all-pervading is it, that all things give it utterance. It speaks to us in everything lowly, and in everything lofty. It speaks to us in every whispered accent of human affection, and in every revelation that is sounded out from the spreading heavens. It speaks to us from this lowly seat at which we bow down in prayer, from this humble shrine veiled with the shadows of mortal infirmity, and it speaks to us alike from those altar-fires that blaze in the heights of the firmament. It speaks where the seven thunders utter their voices: and it sends forth its voice-of pity more than human, of agony more than mortal—from the silent summit of Calvary.
Can a principle so sublime and so benignant as religion speak to us but for our good? Can infinity, can omnipotence, can boundless love speak to us but in the spirit of infinite generosity, and candour, and tenderness? No; it may be the infirmity of man to use a harsh tone, and to heap upon us bitter and cruel upbraidings; but so speaks not religion. It says—and I trace an accent of tenderness and entreaty in every word * Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice—my voice is to the children of men.”
O man, whosoever thou art, hear that voice of wisdom. Hear it, thou sacred conscience, and give not way to evil; touch no bribe, touch not dishonest gain, touch not the sparkling cup of unlawful pleasure. Hear it, ye better affections, dear and holy, and turn not your purity to pollution, and your sweetness to bitterness, and your hope to shame. Hear it, poor, wearied, broken, prostrate human nature! and rise to penitence, to sanctity, to glory, to heaven. Rise now, lest soon it be for ever too late. Rise at this entreaty of wisdom, for wisdom can utter no more. Rise,– arise at this voice for the universe is exhausted of all its revelations—infinity, omnipotence, boundless love have lavished their uttermost resource in this one provision, this one call, this one gospel of mercy!
SPIRITUAL INTERESTS, REAL AND SUPREME.
John vi. 26, 27: “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat wbicb endureth unto eternal life.”
The contrast here set forth is between a worldly mind and a spiritual mind: and so very marked and striking is it, that the fact upon which it is based may seem to be altogether extraordinary-a solitary instance of Jewish stupidity, and not applicable to any other people, or any after-times. Our Saviour avers, that the multitude who followed him on a certain occasion did so, not because they saw those astonishing miracles that gave witness to his spiritual mission, but simply because they did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Yet, strange as it may seem, the same great moral error I believe still exists; the same preference of sensual to spiritual good, though the specific exemplification of the principle can no longer be exhibited among men. But let us attend to our Saviour's exhortation. “ Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life.” The word labour refers to the business of life. It is as if our Saviour had said, Work, toil, care, provide for the soul. And it is in this sense of the word, as well as in the whole tenour of the passage, that I find the leading object of my present discourse ; which is to show that spiritual interests, the interests of the mind and heart, the interests of reason and conscience, however neglected, however forgotten amidst the pursuit of sensual and worldly objects, are nevertheless real and supreme; that they are not visionary because spiritual, but that they are most substantial and weighty interests, and most truly deserving of that earnest attention, that laborious exertion, which is usually given to worldly interests.
So does not the world regard them, any more than did the Jews of old. It is written, that the children of this world are wiser in their generation,” i. e. after their manner wiser, “ than the children of light.” But the children of this world, not content with this concession, are apt to think that they are every way wiser. And the special ground of this assumption, though they may not be aware of it, is, I believe, the notion which they entertain that they are dealing with real and substantial interests. Religious men, they conceive, are occupied with matters which are vague and visionary, and which scarcely have any real existence. A great property is something fixed and tangible, sure and substantial. But a certain view of religion, a certain state of mind, is a thing of shadow—an abstraction vanishing into nothing.
The worldly wise man admits that it may be well enough for some people; at any rate he will not quarrel with it; he does not think it