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drive away'all sadness but despair ; to see the rational creation happy and flourishing, ought to give us a pleasure as much superior, as the latter is to the former in the scale of beings. But the pleasure is still heightened, if we ourselves have been instrumental in contributing to the happiness of our fellow-creatures, if we have helped to raise a heart drooping beneath the weight of grief, and revived that barren and dry land, where no water was, with refreshing showers of love and kindness.
2.- Religion never to be treated with Levity. IMPRESS your minds with reverence for all that is sacred Let no wantonness of youthful spirits', no compliance with the intemperate mirth of others, ever betray you into profane sallies'
. Besides the guilt which is thereby incurred, nothing gives a more odious appearance of petulance and presumption' to youth, than the affectation of treating religion with levity. Instead of being an evidence of superior' understanding, it discovers a pert and shallow' mind; which, vain of the first smatterings' of knowledge, presumes to make light of what the rest of mankind revere'. At the same time, you are not to imagine, that when exhorted to be religious, you are called upon to become more formal and solemn in your manners than others of the same years; or to erect yourselves into supercilious reprovers of those around you. The spirit of true religion breathes gentleness' and affability: It gives a native' unaffected' ease to the behaviour. It is social, kind', and cheerful'; far removed from that gloomy and illiberal' superstition which clouds the brow', sharpens the temper, dejects the spirit', and teaches men to fit themselves for another world, by neglecting the concerns of this'. Let your religion, on the contrary, connect preparation for heaven' with an honourable discharge of the duties of active life'
. Of such religion, discover, on every proper' occasion, that you are not ashamed'; but avoid making any unnecessary' ostentation of it before the world'. Blair,
3.-Thé Condition of the Wicked. KNOWEST thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite, but for a moment ? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever. He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found ; yea, he shall be chased away, as a vision of the night. The eye
also which saw him, shall see him no more; they who have seen him, shall say, where is he?--He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper's tongue shall slay him. In the fulness of his sufficiency, he shall be in straits ; every hand shall come upon him He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through. A fire not blown shall consume him. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The increase of his house shall depart. His goods shall flee away in the day of wrath. The light of the wicked shall be put out; the light shall be darkened in his tabernacle. The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down. For he is cast into a net, by his own feet. He walketh upon a snare. Terrors shall make him afraid on every side ; and the robber shall prevail against him. Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation. His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street. He shall be driven from light into darkness. They that come after him shall be astonished at his day. He shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty. From the Book of Job.
4.-On Charity TRUE liberal charity is wisely divided amongst many, and proportioned to the objects upon which it rests. It is not, it cannot be confined to near relations, intimate friends, or particular favourites. These it will never neglect ; nay, to these its first attentions are na: turally directed. But whatever may be its partialities to those immediately connected with us, or who love and resemble us, it cannot remain under these restrictions. The principle which gave it birth, extends its influence in every possible direction. The objects which solicit the friendly aid
of charity, are many and various. Here we find the afflicted body, there the grieved mind. Here a mourning desolate widow, there destitute orphans.--Perhaps both together sitting in silent dejection, or agitated with all the violence of grief. At one time we hear the plaintive voice of the solitary mourner-at another, the united cries of a numerous starving family. Turn to the one hand, and feeble tottering age requests support-turn to the other hand, and the deserted infant, or neglected youth, requires a kind interposition. These, and many similar cases of urgent necessity, claim the attention and care of the compassionate and generous. On such occasions, how does the man of liberal charity feel and act ? Is theatrical representation necessary to rouse his sensibilities ? Must he learn from the fictitious tale of misery to compassionate real distress ? Must his heart be taught by the tongue of the pathetic orator to move with sentiments of generous sympathy ? No! wellattested facts are sufficient to call them forth to the most seasonable and effectual exertions ; or he repairs to the house of the mourners, and seeing, with his own eyes, and hearing, with his own ears, he mingles his tears with theirs--his heart overflows with the tenderest emotions, and his hand readily administers according to his abilities. Amidst such various scenes of sorrow, that which overwhelms him most is, that he cannot extend his help to all. This, however, checks not the ardour of his charity, but prompts his wisdom and prudence to contrive how he may most usefully divide his labours of love. He cannot think of devoting them entirely to one, or a very few, because thus they might receive too much, and others too little. But while he cannot be confined within
very small circle, both prudence and charity forbid his taking too wide a range, lest he should defeat his own benevolent purposes, by extending thus too far, his means would prove unequal to the end. Much may
be given away, and yet lose its effect, by being divided into
so many small parts that almost none receive material benefit. He therefore considers who are the most needy, the most worthy, and what are their different resources, and he adapts his charity to their state and character. He clothes the naked, or feeds the hungry, or comforts the disconsolate, or educates the friendless youth, or administers counsel to the ignorant, the perplexed, and the unexperienced. Full of desire to answer all demands, when his own funds are insufficient, he thinks it not mean nor troublesome to ask assistance, and plead the cause of the destitute. He does not stop to inquire, who is my neighbour? By the ties of humanity he feels his heart knit to the whole human race. While he looks up with devotion and gratitude to this common Parent, he looks around him with kind and tender attachment, and says, “ Are we not all his offspring ?” -These amiable and humane dispositions rise to a still more exalted benevolence, under the experienced influence of the divine Saviour's grace and benignity. In one affectionate embrace the Christian clasps the whole world. Even to enemies and strangers he wishes to stretch his relieving beneficent hand. Though no returns in kind should be made, nay, though acts of generosity or friendship should meet with insensibility and ingratitude; the ardour of his liberal charity cannot be damped, or diverted from the honourable pursuits of goodness and mercy.
5.-Religious Knowledge, a Source of Consolation.
WITHOUT the belief and hope afforded by divine revelation, the circumstances of man are extremely for- . lorn. He finds himself placed here as a stranger in a vast universe, where the powers and operations of nature are very imperfectly known; where both the beginnings and issues of things are involved in mysterious darkness; where he is unable to discover, with any certainty, whence he sprung, or for what purpose he was brought into this state of existence; whether he be subjected to the government of a mild, or of a wrathful ruler; what construction he is to put on many of the
dispensations of his providence; and what his fate is to be when he departs hence. What a disconsolate situation to a serious, inquiring mind! The greater degree of virtue it possesses, its sensibility is likely to be the more oppressed by this burden of labouting thought. Even though it were in one's power to banish all uneasy thoughts, and to fill up the hours of life with perpetual amusement; life so filled up would, upon reflection, appear poor and trivial. But these are far from being the terms upon which man is brought into this world. He is conscious that his being is frail and feeble ; he sees himself beset with various dangers; and is exposed to many, a melancholy apprehension, from the evils which he may have to encounter, before he arrives at the close of life. In this distressed condition, to reveal to him such discoveries of the Supreme Being as the Christian religion affords, is to reveal to him a father and a friend ; is to let in a ray of the most cheering light upon the darkness of the human estate. He who was before a destitute orphan, wandering in the inhospitable desert, has now gained a shelter from the inclement blast. He now knows to whom to pray, and in whom to trust; where to unbosom his sorrows; and from what hand to look for relief.
Upon the approach of death especially, when, if a man thinks at all, his anxiety about his future interests must naturally increase, the power of religious consolation is sensibly felt. Then appears, in the most striking light, the high value of the discoveries made by the Gospel; not only life and immortality revealed, but a Mediator with God discovered ; mercy proclaimed, through him, to the frailties of the penitent and the humble; and his presence promised to be with them when they are passing through the valley of the shadow of death, in order to bring them safe into unseen habitations of rest and joy. Here is ground for their leaving the world with comfort and peace. But in this severe and trying period, this labouring hour of nature, how shall the unhappy man support himself, who knows, or believes not, the hope of religion? Secretly conscious to himself, that he has not acted his part as he ought to