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Is it not all a great parade about the merest trifles? Does the case require all this interest and care and exertion? Can there be so much difficulty in prevailing on men to declare themselves Christians, when the only duties consequent upon that declaration are that they shall retain the name without any regard to its import, and profess a belief in the gospel, without caring what the gospel teaches, and frequent the house of God on stated days, without any interest in the object for which it was consecrated, and repeat some prayers without troubling themselves about their signification, and look forward to the happiness of heaven without making any efforts to attain it; in short, that they shall merely submit to be called Christians, and to do these and a few other equally unimportant actions, and thereupon be entitled to the reward of eternal life? Why what child would not most easily learn all these things, and most readily practise them, if he were persuaded that he should, in consequence, be for ever happy in another world? Surely there needs not much tuition or preaching to make men thorough proficients in all the mysteries of such an education as this! It seems an absurd course of instruction to be sure; but such as it is, it is acquired without difficulty, and carried into prac. tice without inconvenience.


Yet this is formal religion; and formal religion is the kind of religion that is most commonly embraced and cultivated. It is the religion most natural and agreeable to the indolence and sinfulness of man; it is the religion of all those who, at the same time that they attend to the outward ordinances of the Church, have no piety in their hearts, no pleasure in spiritual exercises, no worthy conceptions of the holiness of the God whom they profess to serve, no true relish for the pure enjoyments of the heaven which they profess to seek, no abhorrence of the sin which required the death of the Redeemer in whom they profess to believe. It is the religion of the world, and of worldly men ; it numbers among its disciples, multitudes of the unchaste, multitudes of the intemperate, the uncharitable, the covetous, and the sensual—multitudes even of the profane. It is the religion of many a Cain, who hates his brother; of many a Ham, who is irreverent to his father; of many an Esau, who sacrifices his most valuable birthright for a bodily gratification; of many a Potiphar's wife, who dishonours her husband's bed; of many a Korah, who despises the ordinances of God; of many an Ahab, who worships his own vain idols, instead of the Lord of Heaven ; of many a Gebazi, who scruples not to enrich himself by falsehood; of many a Pharisee, who trusts in himself, and insults God in his very temple; of many a Martha, who is busy and troubled about many things, to the neglect of the one thing which alone is needful; of many a Judas betraying his master with the symbol of love and loyalty, a kiss; of many a Herod, giving not to God the glory for the blessings which he enjoys; of many a Felix, who is touched with a sense of his danger, but cannot find a convenient season to repent of his sins; of many an Agrippa, who can never be persuaded to be more than almost a Christian; of many a Gallio, who considering religion to be nothing but a question of words and names, cares at heart “ for none of those things.”

This, beloved brethren, is formal religion, and such characters as I have enumerated are admitted among its disciples; its tenets are of the most accommodating nature, excluding none on account of their vices or worldliness, or want of piety, or indifference to their spiritual condition, but with open arms, as it were, embracing all except those who would absolutely be ashamed to be found within them. The great characteristic, the peculiar feature of this religion, is, that it has nothing to do with the heart, imposes no restraint upon it, and requires no affection of it. The passions may be unruly, the inclinations depraved, the


thoughts impure, the will obstinate, the temper unsubdued ; in short the whole mind in its natural state of corruption and alienation from God and goodness. With all this, formal religion has no concern, it is not its province to attend to such things, it is none of its business to purify the sullied fountain of our actions, or to regulate the disordered machinery of the soul; all its attention is engrossed with the exterior, it prescribes and adjusts the sheep's clothing, careless whether the wearer be a ravening wolf; it polishes the surface of the cup and the platter, leaving them foul and impure within ; it whitens and adorns the outside of the sepulchre, satisfied if it appear beautiful to the eye, though full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness; it deals in short only with externals. Instead of purity of heart, it requires only the outward and visible sign of baptism; instead of repentance, some trifling self denials; for humility, it will accept the bended knee; in place of faith, it will be satisfied with the repetition of the creed; as a substitute for prayer, it will be content with the motion of the lips, and the utterance of the tongue; charity it will consider well represented by alms-giving; for the love of God, it will put up with strict attendance on public worship; for gratitude to Christ, it will demand an outward participation of the Lord's supper :

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the neglect of mercy and justice, and all the weightier matters of the law it will overlook in consideration of a scrupulous regard to ceremonial observances. If it has a name, it is indifferent to the thing signified, for the show it will dispense with the reality, for the shadow, it will exchange the substance.

Now is not religion something truly puerile and irrational, if this be the whole of it? Was this worthy to be revealed from heaven? Can this proceed from the all-wise God, and have been communicated by him to man, as the rule of his life and the condition of his everlasting lot? To man, who although a weak and imperfect, is still a reasonable being? Was it such a revelation as this that was preceeded by the solemn harbingers of prophecy, and accompanied by the splendid testimony of miracles? Was it for the truth of such a religion as this that apostles toiled and martyrs bled? Was it to keep up such a system of trifling, that so many thousands of ministers are labouring and studying and exhorting in all quarters of the globe? Is this the religion, about which there have been so many wars and persecutions? Is it for this that such an interest is felt, so much talking, and reading, and writing, and preaching? Men are frivolous

? creatures indeed, to make so much ado about

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