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Many good and wise men, in their writings, have recommended that the most special heed be given to those visitations of tender and solemu emotion, those touches of holy sensibility, those breathings of the Spirit of all grace which steal into the heart unsolicited, and offer their heavenly aid unsought. Let not him who would catch the sacred fervour of piety, venture to neglect these gracious intimations. Let him not neglect to put himself in the way of receiving them. Let him not willingly invade the holy sabbath hours with business or pleasure, or forsake the assemblies where good men meditate and pray, or resist the touching signs of nature's beauty or decline, or turn away from the admonition of loneliness and silence, when they sink deep into the heart. Or, if he does turn away, and avoid, and resist all this, let him not say, that he seeks or desires the good gift of the grace of God, the gift of light, and love, and holy joy.

Finally, the rational method is a method of consistency. Religious feeling, to be itself rational, and to be rationally sought, must not be expected to spring up as the result of anything else than the whole character. You desire to feel the power of religion. Do not expect, do not desire, to feel it, but as an impression upon your whole mind and heart, the general tone and tenor of all your sentiments and affections, the consenting together of your reflections, and actions, and habits. If you feel it as some peculiar thing, something singular in you, and technical in your very idea of it, as something apart from your ordinary self; if it is either a flame of the imagination, or a warmth of the affections, or a splendour of sentiment-one of them alone, and not all of them together-it will certainly lead you astray: it will be but a wavering and treacherous light. It may appear to you very bright. It may lead you to think well of yourself; far better than you ought to think. But it will be only a glaring taper, instead of the true light of life.

An irrational fervour is often found to stand in direct contrast to the rest of the character; to general ignorance, to want of moral refinement and delicacy, and of daily virtue. There is not only a zeal without knowledge, but there is a zeal which seems to thrive exactly in proportion to the want of knowledge; that bursts out from time to time, like a flame from thick smoke, instead of shining with any clear radiance and steady light. But it is the distinctive mark of rational feeling, that it rises gradually, and steadily gains strength, like the spreading of daylight upon the wakening earth. Hence, it rises slowly; and no one should be discouraged at small beginnings; and no one should expect or wish to rush into the full flow of religious sensibility at once.

I repeat it; this sensibility, if rational, must be felt as the spirit of the whole character: and he would do well to tell us nothing of his joys, of whom nothing can be told concerning his virtues, his selfdenials, his general and growing improvement, the holy habits and heavenly graces of his character and life. Dost thou love good men, and pity bad men ; is thy heart touched with all that is generous and lovely around us; is thine eye opened to all that is like God in his creatures and works? Then, and not till then, am I prepared to hear of thy love to God. Dost thou indeed love that great and kind Being? Dost thou indeed love that intrinsic, infinite, eternal, inexpressible beauty and glory of the divine perfection? Then, truly, art thou prepared rightly to love all who bear his image, and to pity and pray for all who bear it not ; then does thy social and religious sensibility flow on in one stream, full and entire, steady and constant,a living stream -a stream like that which floweth fresh, full, perennial, eternal, at the right hand of God!

My brethren, it is constant: so far, at least, as anything human can bear that character; it is constant. He who will rationally cultivate the sense of religion, both directly and indirectly, and as the consent and tendency of all his habits, may be just as certain of feeling it, as he is certain of loving his friend, his child, his chief interest. It is one of the irrational aspects of the common religious sensibility, that its possessors have usually spoken of it as if it were totally uncertain whether, on a given occasion, they should feel it or not. They have gone to church, they have gone to their private devotions with a feeling, as if it were to be decided, not by the habits of their own minds, but by some doubtful interposition of divine grace, whether they were to enjoy a sense of religion or not. But, my friends, nothing can be more certain to him who will rationally, heartily, and patiently, cultivate the religious sensibilities of his soul, than that he shall

, on every suitable occasion, feel them. It is to him no matter of distressing doubt and uncertainty. He knows in whom he has believed. He knows in what he has confided. He knows, by sure experience, that as certainly as the themes of religion pass before him, they will, physical infirmity only excepted, arouse him to the most intense and delightful exercise of all his affections. He is sure when the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ is presented before him—he is like Paul, sure that he shall enter into it. Not that this is any boasting assurance of the devoted Christian. God forbid! He knows his weakness. But he knows that, by the very laws of the divine goodness and grace, if he will be faithful, no good thing shall be wanting to him.

Christian brethren! we hear much in these days about excitement. Why, every prayer—of a Christian at once perfectly rational, and perfectly devoted-every prayer is an excitement; and every religious service, every sermon, is an excitement as great as he can well bear; and every day's toil of virtue, and contemplation of piety, is a great and glorious excitement. Excitements! Is a man never to be moved by his religion but when some flood of emotion is sweeping through society—when agitation, and disorder, and confusion are on every side of him? Is it only when the tenor of quiet life, the pursuits of industry, the pleasures of relaxation are all broken up, that he is to feel the power of religion? I do not say that this is anybody's theory; but if this is the fact that results from any form of religious teaching, then I ask, for what end was the whole tenor of life—for what end were the pursuits of industry and the pleasures of society ordained? For what was the whole trial of life-s0 exquisitely moral, so powerfully spiritual—for what was it appointed, if the seasons for obtaining religious impressions are so ordered by human interference, that they come only in idleness, disorder, and a derangement of the whole system of life! Excitements in religion! Are they to be things occasional, and separated by the distance of years? Is a man to be excited about religion only in a certain month, or in the winter; and when that month, or that winter is past -yes, when all nature is bursting into life, and beauty, and songs of praise-is the religious feeling of the people to be declining into worse than wintry coldness and death? Is this religion?—the religion whose path shineth brighter and brighter to the perfect day?

Let us have excitements in religion, but then let them be such as may be daily renewed, as never need to die away. Any excitement in society that can bear this character, I would heartily go along with. The Christian religion, I am sure, was designed powerfully to excite us; nothing on earth so much—nothing in heaven more. It was designed to arouse our whole nature, to enrapture our whole affection, to kindle in us a flame of devotion, to transport us with the hope and foretaste of heaven. But its excitements, if they be like those that ap: peared in the great teacher, are to be deep, sober, strong, and habitual. Such excitements may God ever grant us; not periodical

, but perpetual; not transient, but enduring ; not for times and seasons only, but for life; not for life only, but for eternity!


1 PETER i. 17: “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons

judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear,"

I HAVE lately spoken to you of religious insensibility. I propose now to address myself to the case of religious indifference. It is a case which differs from the former, though the word may seem to import nearly the same thing; and it differs in this respect-that it is held by him to whom it appertains to be capable of some defence. A want of feeling in religion is one thing, and it is a thing which a man often regrets; he never, perhaps, boasts of it. But a want of all interest about religion is another thing. It is a position which a man sometimes voluntarily assumes to himself, which is preliminary with him to the very grounds on which religious feeling is claimed, and which, therefore, he defends. He has not got so far as to allow the demand for feeling to be brought home to his conscience; he has stopped short at the threshold of the whole subject; he denies that he is bound to take any particular interest in it; and is proud, it may bo, of his independence, and exemption from that great claim. Religious insensibility, then, admits and regrets its deficiency, or acknowledges, at least, that such regret would be proper; religious indifference does not admit so much ; it defends itself.

We have not, therefore, as on the former subject, merely to point out causes, but we have now to combat reasons. We have to argue with those who maintain that they have reasons for not taking any deep interest, or decided part, in religion.

What the nature of the reasons is, will appear in making another distinction. For there is a distinction to be made, as between insensibility and indifference, so also between indifference and positive criminality. The plea of crime, or of vice in general, is, that passion is so strong, and the temptation so great, that there is hardly power to resist: a plea, however, which was never made without the consciousness of guilt, and the strong contradiction of the offender's own mind. But indifference says to the earnest and solemn preaching of the gospel, “ I am very well as I am now.

I do not need religion ; I do not feel the need of it; my mind acknowledges no such want. The world suffices me, life satisfies me, without religion ; I am very well as I am now.” This may be called, perhaps, the practical apology of indifference; the apology which a man finds, or conceives that he finds, in the state of his mind. But in renc has also a theoretical defence; it shelters itself, sometimes, under the apology of a limited creed. It says to the earnest and solemn preacher of the gospel, “ I do not believe as you do; those moral dangers, those fearful doctrines, those dreadful warnings, which are preached to the people, I do not believe in: if I did, I should be bound, I admit, to bo


aroused to anxiety and earnestness." The neglecters of religion are often found taking advantage of the controversies that prevail, and they say,

“ We do not know about these things; some hold to one thing, and some to another; even learned men differ; and we do not know, in fact, whether anything is true.”

These are the two classes of reasons for religious indifference, and I intend to consider them in order. But let us dwell a moment longer on the case itself, that, in arguing on this subject, we may fight, not as one that beateth the air.

It is not indifference to certain circumstances in religion—to certain creeds, to certain forms, or to certain measures and enterprises in religion, against which, I wish now to contend; but it is against that indifference which is vital. It is against indifference to the religious care and improvement of one's-self. It is against that indifference which refuses to meditate, or read, or pray, or watch, or strive for the guidance, keeping, restraint, and salvation of the soul-an indifference which holds these very terms“ keeping and salvation of the soul,” to be out of its sphere entirely. It is against that indifference which has put on the almost impenetrable armour of settled habit and professed character; which is untouched by the most solemn appeals of the pulpit, because it says, “these are matters that I do not pretend to be zealous about; or it is against the indifference, which, if moved for the moment, immediately relapses into the same old mood of mind, and says the same thing in effect, all the week through, and all the year round. It is against the indifference, whether of philosophy that is too wise, or fashion that is too frivolous, whether of wickedness that is too bold, or of worldliness that is too easy, to care for any of these things. Nay, more ; it is against that indifference, which is not real; which assumes a garb for the sphere it moves in; which, while there really are deep reflections, and conscious wants, and thrilling solicitudes within, puts on a cold exterior towards religion, and consents to pass the foolish jest and the slighting remark on this subject, because such is the tone of the society in which it moves. Not a little is there of this assumed indifference in the world.

And where the indifference is real, I do not say that it always appears in a very manifest or fully developed and complete form. Moral states of mind seldom are very definite or complete. Religious indifference has many shades, and degrees, and disguises, and it defends itself by various, and, sometimes, almost unconscious and even contradictory reasonings; so that I cannot, on any account, hold myself responsible for the supposition that it is always one obvious and palpable thing. It is enough to say that there is, and is acknowledged to be, a large class of persons in the Christian world, in whom there are tendencies either to the neglect of all external religion, to forms, to public worship of every kind,-or, what is much more serious, to the neglect of all personal interest, of all vital concern with the subject. They do not consider this as a matter with which the have anything to do. Business belongs to them, or professional labours belong to them; and to think about these things, to inquire, to read, to take an interest about things of a worldly, nature,--all this is with them a part of the recognised object, and plan, and pursuit of life. But religion has no such place in their thoughts — not even in their

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