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merely; you are certain of it, if you will do your best to insure it. You cannot, under any possible circumstances, stand up in your place among the lost, and shake your raiment, and say, “I am clean from my own blood.” On the contrary, if you perish, though others may have contracted guilt, your blood will be preeminently on your own head.
The souls of men cannot perish without involving somebody in the guilt of soul-murder. The body may die by the operarations of natural law. Its dissolution may be only' a blessingthe taking down of a comparatively incommodious and even vile tabernacle, that the indwelling spirit may go to reside in heavenly mansions; but the soul cannot die but by an unnatural death; it can perish only by murder and suicide. Take heed that its blood stain not your garments. Apply to Christ for cleansing, and see to it, that, through his atoning blood, you may be prepared to walk with him in white.- Rev. Dr. Parker.
LIFE-NOT DEATH–THE GREAT ARGUMENT FOR RELIGION.
“I shall not die, but live.”—Psalm cxviii. 17.
"Godliness is profitable unto all things, having PROMISE OF THE LIFE THAT NOW IS, and of that which is to come.”—1 Tim. iv. 8.
PERHAPs the most common argument for religion is, that men must die. We are exhorted to consider our latter end; and to prepare for death.
Death is the tremendous word which gives emphasis to every appeal.
In our view—as the end of Probation--death may well excite emotions of solemnity. Yet I fear that this mode of speaking, to some minds, may obscure the present necessity of religion. Its sole value is as a preparation for another world. Thus its utility is postponed to the extreme point of life. It is not necessary to us now, except as we are in danger of dying suddenly, and as a prudent man will be insured against the least exposure. But for the present we hold it, not in use, but in reserve.
So long as we are in the full tide of life, we need it not. It is only as a provision for a distant futurity. Such is the impression often produced, though it be not intended.
This is a mournful mistake. It is not alone in death that religion has power, but all along through life. And it is as necessary to enable man to live well, as to fit him to die in peace.
From this point of view I mean to plead for religion-draw. ing arguments-not from the dark domains of death, but from the most animated scenes of life. Let us behold man-not as he may be in some unknown hereafter, but as he stands before us to-day, in the strifes, difficulties, and temptations of the present hour. Here I find an immediate and pressing demand for religion. Not because men are to die ; but because they live, and must live. Nay, if they were never to die, they would need religion as much as now. As living men, they bave duties to discharge, and trials to bear; and religion alone can enable them to perform the one, or endure the other. Life is forced upon them. They must bear the great burden of existence; and it is as beings doomed to suffer, and compelled to act, that they need this Celestial Companion, Teacher, and Guide.
Whoever observes the common experience of men, or watches how his own life goes, must feel that the great drawback to every man's happiness is the want of that animating and directing power which religion alone supplies. It is the want of its principle which makes men weak and vacillating. It is the absence of the fear of God which leaves them to rush into end. less folly and sin. It is the want of religious faith that permits a whole life to be clouded by misfortune, which the mind cannot rise above.
And from this source flow all human ills, both small and great. Take life's first scene--a family. You can hardly look into a household without being pained by faults of temper, and sources of unhappiness, which Christian love would charm away. Piety, including the trinity of graces--Love, Faith, and Hope, is the foundation of domestic bliss. The sweet charity of the Gospel binds heart to heart. It banishes discord and strife, and all the elements of misery. It teaches brothers and sisters how beauti. ful it is to sacrifice their wishes to make each other happy. Thus it saves a thousand petty jealousies. Every happy family in the world, and every unhappy one, is a living illustration of the value, or of the sad want of religion. It is a social as well as personal necessity.
Again: observe men on the broad theatre of the world, and you discover sin working out its terrible effects in thousands of wretched lives. One is ruined by his ungovernable temper-another by his vices. Religion would save both. Never was a man imprisoned or executed for an act of violence and blood, whom the fear of God would not have kept from committing that act. Religion would have saved him ; but his own passions have destroyed him.
In other minds, not yet polluted by gross passions, nor torn by rage, we see evil principles beginning to work; or a malignant disposition acting like a slow poison. One is cankered by envy. He hates so much to see the prosperity of a neighbor, that he cannot enjoy his own. Another is bloated with pride and gluttony-a huge mass of selfishness, absolutely rotting for the want
of one active or generous feeling to thrill his body of death. Others have been shrunk and shrivelled by avarice.
Religion counteracts this force of an evil nature. It has a charm to touch even the selfish heart, and to stop the bitterness of the envious and the malignant. Teaching every man to look, not on his own things, but also on the things of others, it enlarges the affections, and ennobles the heart.
At the same time it sets man free from those terrors which false views of the Deity awaken. What millions of minds are so darkened by ignorance, or so tormented by superstition, that they cannot enjoy the life that God has given them! Through fear they are all their lifetime subject to bondage. such fears an intelligent religious faith would dispel. What bright views it would impart of the goodness of God. What firm hopes it would inspire! Indeed Christianity is as necessary to the understanding as to the heart. Without faith in a religion that is divine and infallible, it is almost impossible to have any fixed or systematic opinions. Infidel sentiments induce a skeptical habit of mind on all subjects. There is no foundation for a philosophy. Where a man's religion is afloat, his whole mind is afloat.
As the inevitable consequence, such spirits are restless and uneasy. They have no object in life, at least none great enough to be worthy of their ambition. And this is one of the chief miseries of man upon earth—the want of a vast object to keep his faculties employed, and to aggrandize his intellectual and moral being.
Religion alone can thus occupy the mind-giving the widest scope, both to thought, and to the active powers. It assigns to every human being a work on the earth--that of doing good. Thus it keeps his sympathies in constant and healthful action, and prevents the spirit from languishing into indolence, and wasting life in idleness.
But when it has roused the mind, it has another office—to control it; to keep it from rushing into disordered action. For the safe conduct of life, man needs to be pressed by two forces_Stimulus and Restraint. And one must balance the other.
It is so common to speak of Religion as a consoler in sorrow, that an impression is given that its chief value is to be the pillow of sickness, and the last refuge of the unhappy. It is summoned to soothe mental anguish, and to make death easy. Hence strong men feel that it is necessary only for those whose nerves are weak. It is not required in the noon of lusty life, but only for the palsied and trembling old man, sitting in the twilight of age.
Physical strength and hardihood breed self-reliance. Hence it is the boast of men firm in body and in mind that they are competent to govern themselves. The vulgar need religion, but they do not need it. Alas! that extreme confidence is their greatest danger. Their physical strength is their spiritual weakness. For when the frame stands strong, the hot blood rushes through it like a river. Then the eye flashes fire, and the veins are swollen with passion. Nature is unmanageable. Its impulses will not be restrained. Heroic firmness, which could bear any shock of calamity, is utterly impotent to withstand the violence of passion. If religion be needed to support decrepitude and decay, it is far more so to check the impetuosity of manhood. For that is the period of most rapid and decisive action. Then is the greatest danger of committing mortal sins, and of throwing away life and happiness. At such a moment ordinary rules of virtue are swept away like a light bark on a stormy sea. It needs a stronger power at the helm. It is only the fear of that God who rules in heaven, that can hold the spirit in awe, and keep man from the desperate acts which would drown his soul in guilt and woe.
Nor is this necessity of religion superseded by any natural sagacity or swiftness of thought. It is the error of many active and brilliant intellects, that while the ignorant may require a revelation, their superior intelligence stands in no need of supernatural light.
But it is the high and soaring intellect which requires it most. For if it penetrates farther than other minds, it but ranges round a wider circumference of darkness.
Perhaps of all men he who most needs the light of faith, is the man of genius. His soul is all imagination and sensibility, and is exposed to a far keener suffering than pierces common minds. It is ever on the wing, "wandering through eternity;" exploring the regions of the dead, and conjecturing its own fate hereafter. In these flights it is attacked by doubts and fears to which most are strangers. Gross natures feel only sharp physical pain. They cannot follow the rapid thought of a mind of this ethereal temper, nor understand its intellectual suffering. A torpid na ture is protected by its dulness and stupidity. It sleeps by the cataract, while this restless and tortured spirit hovers and screams over the abyss.
Who can tell what the poet Shelley—troubled by those “questionings which haunt the eternal mind”—suffered from perplexity? He had begun by casting off old beliefs; by doubting and denying; and he ended in total scepticism and despair. Such has been the sad result of many an earnest spirit, forever speculating, yet unable to find the truth.
What is the first necessity of such a mind? Is it not faith in God—a glimpse of divine goodness, breaking through the clouds like “ the clear shining after rain," and
“Casting on the dark its gracious bow."
This alone relieved the fearful gloom which hung over the spirit of Cowper.