« PreviousContinue »
"Bless'd eyes, which see the things we see!
And yet this tree of life hath prov'd
So like an angel's is our bliss
(Oh! thought to comfort and appal)
It needs must bring, if used amiss,
An angel's hopeless fall."-Christian Yeanad
Wha "The cause of enmity against real Christianity is in the heart. The angel Gabriel might exhibit the truth, but the heart would rise in enmity. To suppose that there is any way of preaching the Cross so as not to offend the world, is to know nothing of the subject.”
If I were to say without any discrimination, that young persons are averse to religion, some of you might remark with great justice, that my position was far from being true. The fact perhaps is, that some of them are kindly disposed towards it, and think highly of it; that some think but little, or not at all, about it; and that some are strongly disinclined to it, and look upon it as a gloomy
subject, a rigid discipline, a heavy yoke, an unreasonable restraint. May I not add, that there is a
secret aversion to religion, even in many of those
who approve it? When the world and religion are put in direct contrast, when they are brought in competition with each other, a distaste is felt towards the latter; and then it is conveniently laid aside as a subject for consideration on some future day.
I am no advocate for vague and sweeping statements of any sort. In heaven all is perfect goodness: in hell all is perfect evil: we upon earth are in a mingled state, so that there may be more evil combined with goodness, and more goodness combined with evil, than we are generally inclined to admit. I may, however, safely say, that aversion to religion is very common: and my object in the present chapter is to show some of the sources of it, and also its unreasonableness: for aversion to religion can only be grounded on prejudices; and it ought to be treated accordingly.
1. Perhaps you say that religion has no grandeur. Many seem to think so: and it is a very unfortunate circumstance that they should entertain such a notion. You exult and glow when you read the lofty and animated descants of the poet, who floats on the surface of things, who dazzles your eyes with bright colours, who pleases you with fine and shadowy forms, and leaves all in the attitude of a splendid, intangible generality. Your minds are expanded: your imaginations are delighted. But when you turn to religion, you hear of sin and guilt, of repentance and self-denial, of
conversion, warfare, humility, sacrifice, vigilance, duty and these appear to you in such a repulsive form, that, in your estimation, the subject to which they belong must be destitute of all magnificence and beauty. The heroes of the novel and of the romance are animated and generous: but the disciple of religion, as you think, is a flat and heartless character. Your ungrounded idea acts with a chilling power on the mind: the soul is alarmed, and shrinks back, at the name of religion. I would only observe, that you do not yet rightly understand the terms mentioned above which you condemn; and you censure a whole subject from unjust notions of a part of it. This, you will allow, is neither wise nor candid conduct.
It is very true, that religion will dissipate mere fancied splendour, and teach you to look upon the world and yourselves in a just light. It will lead you to discoveries which at first will not be agreeable to you; and it will make you familiar with feelings which at present you are not inclined to cherish. But does it follow from this, that it is destitute of grandeur? If there is any subject that is stamped with it, religion is that subject. That subject which treats of things invisible, infinite, unchangeable, eternal; which relates to God, the soul, and salvation; which raises man from this world to another; which imparts to him some of the attributes of his Creator; which fits a feeble and polluted being for the society of angels and for
the presence of Jehovah that subject destitute of sublimity and grandeur! All glory compared with the glory of religion, is only as the transient blaze of a meteor compared with the perpetual effulgence of the sun. Aversion to religion, therefore, on this ground is absolutely preposterous. nr 2. Perhaps you think that religion is harsh and severe. The careless world seem to entertain this notion; and you may listen to their statements. You, therefore, look upon religion as a stern schoolmaster, not as a kind friend; as a rigid tyrant, not as a mild and gentle governour; as a severe master exacting service, not as a gracious benefactor conferring many and inestimable benefits; as a winter's storm, or as a desolating flood, not as the spring's sweet smile, or as the refreshing and invigorating shower. You have been taught, that youth is the period of pastime, when you are sto look about you, to see and to be seen, to learn what the world is, and to enjoy yourselves in it. With religion you have associated ideas of sourness, sternness, and melancholy, because it con↑ demns what most persons regard, and enjoins what most neglect. You think that it would destroy your happiness. A most strange notion indeed! The love of God, the imitation of Christ, the lessons and laws of the wisdom from above-these accounted a blight and mildew, that render the scene around you a field of deformity and death! If you are not to have the companions and the
pleasures which the world offers you, does it follow that you are to have no companions and pleasures?
Supposing religion were as rigid and harsh as you think it to be, yet, since it is from God, it would be your duty to receive it, and to be led by it. The fact, however, is, that your notion, and the aversion grounded upon it, are altogether unjust. It is true, Religion is a queen, and she has a sceptre but it is a sceptre of gold, and not a rod of iron. She has her laws; and they are strict and holy but they are reasonable, and not arbitrary. She has her yoke: but it is easy, not galling and intolerable. She has authority: but it is mild and dignified, not rigid and austere. She exacts a faithful service, and she gives the best rewards she demands sacrifices; but she also confers benefits.
It is a most strange idea, that religion;—the illumination of man's mind, and the renovation of his heart; a sacred vision, and a pure spiritual taste; a holy course of living; an exalted and heavenly frame of mind;-should be accounted gloomy and stern-the unsparing destroyer of joy, comfort, and happiness.
"He is the happy man, whose life e'en now
Of virtue, and whom virtue, fruit of faith,