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momentous decision, or enter upon some great undertaking: or when we are under some pressing difficulty or deep distress, some excruciating bodily pain, or heavy affliction; or, on the other hand, and no less properly, when we have lately been receiving some signal benefit, experiencing some signal mercy; such as preservation from danger, relief from difficulty or distress, abatement of pain, recovery from sickness: for by prayer, let it be observed, we mean devotion in general; and thanksgiving is devotion as much as prayer itself. I mean private prayer, as here described ; and I also mean, what is perhaps the most natural form of private prayer, short ejaculatory extemporaneous addresses to God, as often as either the reflections which rise up in our minds, let them come from what quarter they may, or the objects and incidents which seize our attention, prompt us to utter them ; which, in a religiously disposed mind, will be the case, I

may say, every hour, and which ejaculation may be offered

up to God in any posture, in any place, or in any

situation. Amongst religious exercises I also reckon

с

family prayer, which unites many of the uses both of public worship and private prayer. The reading of religious books is likewise to be accounted a religious exercise. Religious meditation still more so; and more so for this reason, that it implies and includes that most important duty, self-examination : for I hold it to be next to impossible for a man to meditate

upon religion, without meditating at the same time upon his own present condition with respect to the tremendous alternative which is to take place upon him after his death.

These are what we understand by religious exercises ; and they are all so far of the same nature with religious ordinances, that they are aids and helps of religion itself; and I think that religious seriousness cannot be maintained in the soul without them.

But again ; à cause which has a strong tendency to destroy religious seriousness, and which almost infallibly prevents its formation and growth in young minds, is

ness.

levity .in conversation upon religious subjects, or upon subjects connected with religion. Whether we regard the practice with respect to those who use it, or to those who hear it, it is highly to be blamed, and is productive of great mischief. In those who use it, it amounts almost to a proof that they are destitute of religious serious

The principle itself is destroyed in them, or was never formed in them. Upon those who hear, its effect is this. If they have concern about religion, and the disposition towards religion which they ought to have, and which we signify by this word seriousness, they will be inwardly shocked and offended by the levity with which they hear it treated. They will, as it were, resent such treatment of a subject, which by them has always been thought upon

with awe, and dread, and veneration. But the pain with which they were at first-affected goes off by hearing frequently the same sort of language; and then they will be almost sure, if they examine the state of their minds as to religion, to feel a change in themselves for the worse.

This is the danger to which those are exposed, who

had before imbibed serious impressions. Those who had not, will be prevented, by such sort of conversation, from ever imbibing them at all; so that its influence is in all cases pernicious.

The turn which this levity usually takes, is in jests and raillery upon the opinions, or the peculiarities, or the persons of men of particular sects, or who bear particular names ; especially if they happen to be more serious than ourselves. And of late this loose, and I can hardly help calling it profane humour, has been directed chiefly against the followers of methodism. But against whomsoever it happens to be pointed, it has all the bad effects both

upon

the speaker and the hearer which we have noticed : and as in other instances, so in this, give me leave to say, that it is

much misplaced. In the first place, were the doctrines and sentiments of those who bear this name ever so foolish and extravagant (I do not say that they are either) this proposition I shall always maintain to be true, viz. that the wildest opinion that ever was entertained in matters of religion, is more

very

rational than unconcern about these matters. Upon this subject nothing is so absurd as indifference ; no folly so contemptible as thoughtlessness and levity. In the next place, do methodists deserve this treatment? Be their particular doctrines what they may, the professors of these doctrines appear

to be in earnest about them: and a man who is in earnest in religion cannot be a bad man, still less a fit subject for derision. I am no methodist myself. In their leading doctrines I differ from them. But I contend, that sincere men are not, for these, or indeed

any

doctrines, to be made laughing stocks to

, others. I do not bring in the case of methodists in this part of my discourse, for the purpose of vindicating their tenets, but for the purpose of observing, (and I wish that the observation may weigh with all my readers,) that the custom of treating their characters and persons, their preaching or their preachers, their meetings or worship, with scorn, has the pernicious consequence of destroying our own seriousness, together with the seriousness of those who hear or join in such sort of con

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