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Content indeed to sojourn while he must
bo Below the skies, but having there his home. The World o'erlooks him.
He cannot skim the ground like summer birds,
Whose power is such, that whom she lifts from earth
She makes familiar with a Heaven unseen,
And shows him glories yet to be revealed."
3. But you may perhaps say, that religion is a derided subject. If those are fools who make a mock at sin, what are they who make a mock at religion? But, then, a subject that is derided, and which exposes its disciples to ridicule, cannot, you seem to think, deserve your cordial attachment. I can only ask you, Is such a sacred and momentous subject as religion to be treated with ridicule? Can the derision of it by the gay and thoughtless be regarded by you for a single mo-, ment, except it be to awaken in your bosoms feelings of pity for them? The soul of any man who can laugh at religion is an awful object for our contemplation. But most pitiably weak and mistaken is he who allows himself to be influenced in his determinations by such profane levity. Let a thousand dogs bay at the moon: yet does not she, the mild queen of night, proceed in her majestic course through the heavens, rejoicing to reflect the glory of the sun?
4. You may perhaps object, that religion is regarded chiefly by persons of weak minds, or by those who have been gross sinners, or by selfish and designing characters. Much of this sort is frequently said, and more is intimated, to prejudice men against it, by a degrading estimate of its disciples. But you cannot wish me to expatiate here; since all this, in fact, is gross and palpable calumny. If in every age a great quantity of talent has been enlisted on the side of error, profligacy, and folly, yet you cannot be ignorant that religion has had in all ages those names on her records, which by no means shrink from a comparison with the most accomplished of its adversaries, as it relates to intellect. Religion has had her poets, sages, and scholars; the splendid, the wise, and the profound; who beheld her majesty, admired her beauty, owned her authority, delighted to walk in her paths, and accounted her gifts the most invaluable treasures.-Will the calumniators of religion maintain, that the thousands who, blessed be God, seriously regard it at present in this land, are in fact the most despicable part of our population?
5. But you may proceed to remark, that the advocates of religion are frequently found to be no ornaments to their cause. If you take the sarcasms of the gay, and the invectives of the malignant, for truth and solid argument, you will, I admit, think very meanly of the pious. Or perhaps.
you have seen and heard things among some religious people, that were repulsive to your feelings. As to the first point, I would observe, The testimony of an enemy ought to be well examined before it is credited. As to the second point, I would ask you, Are you justified in cherishing aversion to religion because some of its friends speak absurdly, or act inconsistently! Surely the sacred cause is not to be judged of either from what some say, or from what others do, but by what it really and confessedly is in itself. Your business is to receive it, and then to exhibit it without the faults which you condemn.
I do not wish for a moment to deny, conceal, or palliate the real faults of Christians: but whatever these are, or may be, who, I ask, are pouring into society, by their benevolence, plans, actions, and examples, the largest measure of that moral excellence which is the happiness of human beings and the stability of empires? Are they the derided and reviled followers of Christ, or the gay and thoughtless votaries of the world, who accomplish this object? If religious persons, even in many instances, are not what we could wish them to be, yet it is but justice to say, that if the attribute "excellent" belong to any of our species, we must assign it to them.
6. You may say that religion will make you singular, and that you cannot endure singularity. You must join your friends: you must go with
your companions to their amusements! If you do not act thus, you will be regarded as mopish and precise beings. You must be what other young people are. How many a pleasing young person does the dread of laughter and of singularity lead to stifle the convictions of conscience! How many have yielded to the solicitations of companions, to their sorrow, confusion, and ruin! Your objection, however, furnishes but a feeble argument indeed for disliking religion. The laugh and taunt and jest may be your portion for a season: but if you are firm and consistent, if you are wise, and adorn your cause, the world will soon be silent, and own and admire that excellence which they have eyes to see, but not courage to seek for themselves.
"So spake the Cherub: and his grave rebuke,
7. But you may perhaps remark, that religion is a cold, tame, common subject, the truths of t which are familiar to most persons. Your feelings are alive, your fancies are active, and you suppose that religion has no aliment suitable for you. Yout think yourselves born to fly and soar; and you look upon religion as a monotonous theme, that w will compel you to walk in a dull circle. Un-of doubtedly divine truth is calm and sober, moderates
and dignified but I ask you to show me anyone topic in it which is not calculated to interest the beart, to to enlarge the mind, and to call into full ace tion the noblest powers of the soul. You may see religion reduced to a mere rite and form; or to a doctrine, speculation, and dispute; or to a peculiar dialect. But what has this perverseness to do with the subject? The moment we speak of Jehovah, of good and evil, the moral elements of the universe, and of eternal and unchangeable prospects and destinies, the trifling are awed, and the serious are delighted. These are things which will allow you to feel as strongly as you choose, and to soar as high as you are capable of doing. The world interests you now; but that interest will diminish; and what charms you at present will cease to charm you; unless you become the drivelling dotards of folly. But religion will diffuse a vital power, a moral sensibility, through all your faculties, and produce greater interest as you advance in years. Other fires may languish and expire: but that which is from above, kindled on the altar of the Christian heart, is an undecaying and inextinguishable fire.
What I have advanced is sufficient, I trust, to show you that aversion to religion is unjust and unreasonable; only grounded on prejudices which have no foundation, but which are agreeable to a heart that dislikes holiness, that is self-willed and impatient of control-indisposed, alas, to sub