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although all the happiness which we can enjoy in this world, and still more that which we can expect in another, is clearly to be traced to the Author and Giver of all good things; and although the misery which we may endure hereafter, can only result from our own misconduct; yet, it is certain, that we may suffer here great misfortunes and severe afflictions ; in fact, be rendered very miserable from causes not proceeding from ourselves, and over which we have no control;—whether they are to be ascribed to the visitations of Providence, or to the malice and injustice of our fellow-men. For these, the reward held out to us by the Gospel in another life, can alone afford us any compensation. To that future life, therefore, every reasonable man must look with the deepest anxiety ; and whether he feels that he has reason to expect its happiness, or to dread its misery, when he reflects that at every moment he is liable to be summoned before that awful tribunal which will inevitably pronounce his eternal and unalterable destiny; he can neither require, nor conceive, a more powerful motive to keep himself in that state of constant vigilance and preparation which our Saviour himself has so earnestly exhorted him to maintain. And he will see clearly, that the uncertainty of the present life is a strong argument for the certainty of another ; because, together they form a system of perfection worthy of the Divine Being from whom it proceeds; in which, all that now appears confused, unintelligible, or wrong, will ultimately be restored to order, harmony, and justice, in which the ways of God to man will be fully vindicated : and none will be finally unhappy but those to whom the solemn warnings of reason, of conscience, and of revelation, have been addressed in vain : but who have obstinately continued to live in disobedience to God's commandments, in distrust, or in denial of his power, or his intention, to reward or punish them according to their deserts. May our conduct from henceforth be the very reverse of this and may we live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, in sure expectation of the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in earnest hope of being received by him, with these transporting words--Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world!
Luke ii. 10, 11.
And the angel said unto them, fear not : for behold I
bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
These words present our holy religion to us under a point of view the most interesting, and the most satisfactory that can be conceived; and the best adapted to lead us to such reflections as are peculiarly suitable to the occasion, upon which we are now assembled. However Christians
may themselves upon points of faith, and consequently divide themselves into separate churches and sects; they probably would all agree that this is the common character of Christianity, under all its various forms, that it is a subject of great joy to all those who live
under its protecting guidance and control, whose conduct is regulated by its precepts, whose virtues are kindled by its hopes, whose vices are restrained by its terrors. From its first promulgation to the present hour, this may truly be affirmed of it, notwithstanding all the reproaches that have been cast upon it; for it is justly chargeable with none of those things which have so frequently been urged to its prejudice. All the dissensions, the persecutions, the wars, and the atrocities, which have been ascribed to it, have been, in reality, in direct opposition to its benevolent genius and spirit: and have been owing entirely to its wilful perversion by wicked and unprincipled men. Though we should be obliged to admit the assertion of a late celebrated historian, that it is a “melancholy truth, that Christians, in the course of their intestine dissensions, have inflicted far greater severities on each other than they have experienced from the zeal of infidels? :" it would still remain unquestionable, that it is not to any of the real doctrines of their religion, but to the bigotry, the ambition, the avarice, and various other
bad passions of the human heart, that all this calamity is to be imputed. Its very announcement from heaven, in the words of the text, is utterly inconsistent with the notion, that it is not in itself eminently calculated to diffuse joy and happiness wherever it is known and received.
How then does it appear, that this is its essential property and characteristic ? To this I should say, that the mind of man requires religion for its support, as much as his body requires food. Hence it has happened, that no civilized nation has existed, or can hardly be conceived to exist, without religion. It has always been either the cause, or the necessary consequence of a change from a state of barbarism to one of social order and wellregulated government. Some mode of religion, however erroneous, has ever been found necessary to the support of society, and has powerfully contributed to the happiness of those who have lived under it. And if this be true, even of those religions which we know to be founded in error, it must be more evidently so, of that which we justly believe to be divine. For it must be remembered, as