« PoprzedniaDalej »
friends to bear us to the presence of a smiling God.
Other sources of pleasure are open only during the season of health and prosperity. Admitting that they were all which their most impassioned admirers contend for, what can balls, routs, plays, cards, do, in the season of sickness, misfortune, or death? Alas! alas ! they exist then only in recollection, and the recollection of them is painful.
6. The pleasures of religion appear in the graces it implants.
" And now abideth these three, Faith, Hope, Charity.”
Faith is the leading virtue of Christianity. To believe, in any case, where the report is welcome, and the evidence of its truth convincing, is a pleasing exercise of the mind; how much more so in this case, where the testimony to be believed is the glad tidings of salvation, and the evidence of its truth most entirely satisfactory? Hope is a most delightful exercise. The pleasures of Hope have formed a theme for the poet; and it is evident that these pleasures must be in proportion, to the importance of the object desired, and the grounds that exist to expect its accomplishment. What then must be the influence of that hope which is full of immortality, which has the glory of heaven for its object, and the truth of God for its basis! which, as it looks towards its horizon, sees the shadowy forms of eternal felicity, rising, expanding, brightening, and advancing, every moment. Love is a third virtnie, implanted and cherished in the soul by religion. Need I describe the pleasures connected with a pure and virtuous affection ? Religion is love-love of the purest and sublimest kind; this is its essence, all else but its earthly attire, which it throws off as Elijah did his mantle, when it ascends to the skies. The delight of love must be in proportion to the excellence of its object, and the strength of its own propensity towards that object. What then must be the pleasure of that love which has God as its object, and which consists in complacency in his glories, gratitude for his mercies, submission to his will, and the enjoyment of his favour! This is a heavenly feeling, which brings us into communion with angels, and anticipates on earth thè enjoyments of eternity. Submission, patience, meekness, gentleness, justice, compassion, zeal, are also among the graces which true religion implants in the human soul ; which, like lovely flowers, adorn it with indescribable beauty, and refresh it with the most delicious fragrance.
7. Consider the duties which religion enjoins, and you will find in each of these a spring of hallowed pleasure.
How delightful an exercise is prayer! “Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempests; it is the daughter of charity, and the sister of meekness." It is pleasant to tell our sorrows to any one ; how much more to him who is omnipotent in power, infallible in wisdom, and infinite in compassion! With prayer is connected praise, that elevated action of the soul, in which she seems at the time to be learning motion and melody from an angel. How pleasant an exercise is the perusal of the scriptures! In prayer we speak to God, and in
the Bible God speaks to us, and both confer upon us honour indescribable. Passing by the antiquity of its history, the pathos of its narratives, the beauty of its imagery, how sublime are its doctrines, how precious its promises, how free its invitations, how salutary its warnings, how intense its devotions ! « Precious Bible ! when weighed against thee, all other books are but as the small dust of the balance." Nor less pleasant is the holy remembrance of the Sabbath. "I was glad,” exclaims the Christian,
66 when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord :" and there, when standing within the gates of Zion, surrounded with the multitude that keep holy day, he repeats, amidst the years of his manhood, the song of his childhood, and from the fulness of his joy, he exclaims
« Lord, how delightful 'tis to see
The sweetly-solemn engagements of the sea cramental feast; the flow of brotherly love, called forth by social prayer, together with the ardour of benevolence, inspired by the support of public religious institutions; in these exercises is true happiness to be found, if indeed it is to be found any where on earth.
8. As a last proof of the pleasures derived from religion, I may appeal to the experience of its friends. Here the evidences accumulate by myriads on earth, and millions in heaven.
Who that ever felt its influence, will doubt its tena doncy to produce delight? Go, go, my children,
to the saints of the most high God, and collect their testimony, and you shall be convinced
that light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Go not to the christian of doubtful character, for he has only just religion enough to make him miserable; go to the most holy, and you shall find them the most happy.
And then there are also two or three other circumstances which are connected with the pleasures of religion that deserve attention. It is pleasure that never satiates or wearies. Can the epicure, the voluptuary, the drunkard, the ball-frequenter, say this of their delights ? 6 How short is the interval, how easy
the transition, between a pleasure and a burden. If sport refreshes a man when he is weary, it also wearies when he is refreshed. The most devoted pleasure-hunter in existence, were he bound to his sensual delights every day, would find it an intolerable burden, and fly to the spade and the mattock for a diversion from the misery of an unintermitted pleasure. Custom may render continued labour tolerable, but not continued pleasure. All pleasures that affect the body must needs weary, because they transport ; and all transportation is violence; and no violence can be lasting, but determines upon the falling of the spirits, which are not able to keep up that height of motion, that the pleasure of the sense raises them to: and therefore how generally does an immoderate laughter end in a sigh, which is only nature's recovering herself after force done to it; but the religious pleasure of a well-disposed mind moves gently, and therefore constantly; it does not affect by rapture and
ecstacy, but is like the pleasure of health, which is still and sober, yet greater
and stronger than those which call up the senses with grosser and more affecting impressions.”
And as all the grosser pleasures of sense weary, and all the sports and recreations soon pall upon the appetite, so, under some circumstances, do the more elevated enjoyments of exalted rank, agreeable company, and lively conversation; it is religion alone that preserves an unfading freshness, an undying charm, an inexhaustible power to please; it is this alone of all our pleasures which never cloys, never surfeits, but increases the appetite the more it gratifies it, and leaves it, after the richest feast, prepared and hungry for à still more splendid banquet.
And then apother ennobling property of the pleasure that arises from religion, is that as the sources and the seat of it are in a man's own breast, it is not in the power of any thing without him to destroy it, or take it away. Upon God alone is he dependent for its enjoyment: Upon how many other agents, and upon what numerous contingencies, over which he can exercise no control, is the votary of worldly pleasure dependent for his bliss. How many things which he cannot command, are necessary to make up the machinery of his schemes. What trifles may disappoint him of his expected gratification, or rob him of his promised delights. A variable atmosphere, or a human mind, no less variable; a want of punctuality in others, or a want of health in himself: these, and a thousand other things, might be enumerated as circumstances, upon the mercy of each one of which the enjoyment of worldly pleasure depends: