Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

all-great God. Can we hesitate a moment as to which is more acceptable in his sight—the diffident, the lowly, the retiring, and yet solemn and impressive form of worship of our excellent church; and the wild and laboured exclamations, the authoritative and dictatory clamours of men, who, forgetting the immense distance at which they stand from the awful Being whom they address, boldly, and with unblushing front, speak to their God as to an equal, and almost dare to prescribe to his infinite wisdom the steps it shall pursue? How often has the silent, yet eloquent eye of misery, wrung from the reluctant hand of charity that relief which has been denied to the loud and importunate beggar? And is Heaven to be taken by storm ? Are we to wrest the Almighty from his purposes by vociferation and importunity? God forbid! It is a fair and a reasonable, though a melancholy interference, that the Lord shuts his ears against prayers like these, and leaves the deluded supplicants to follow the impulse of their own headstrong passions, without a guide, and destitute of every ray of his pure and holy light.

Those mock apostles, who thus disgrace the worship of the trųe God by their extravagance, are very fond of appearing to imitate the conduct of our Saviour, during his mortal peregrination; but how contrary were his habits to those of these deluded men! Did he teach his disciples to insult the ear of Heaven with noise and clamour ? Were bis precepts those of fanaticişm and passion? Did he infame the minds of his hearers with vehement and declamatory harangues? Did he pray with all this confidence—this arrogance—this assurance? How different was his conduct! He divested wisdom of all its pomp and parade, in order to suit it to the capacities of the meanest of its auditors. He

spake to them in the lowly language of parable and similitude; and when he prayed, did he instruct his hearers to attend to him with a loud chorus of Amens? Did he (participating as he did in the Godhead), did he assume the tone of sufficiency, and the language of assurance ? Far from it! he prayed, and he instructed his disciples to pray, in lowliness and meekness of spirit; he instructed them to approach the throne of Grace with fear and trembling, silently, and with the deepest awe and veneration; and he evinced by his condemnation of the prayer of the self-sufficient Pharisee, opposed to that of the diffident publican, the light in which those were considered in the eyes of the Lord, who, setting the terrors of his Godhead at defiance, and boldly building on their own worthiness, approached him with confidence and pride.

There is nothing so indispensably necessary towards the establishment of future earthly, as well as heavenly happiness, as early impressions of piety. For, as religion is the sole source of all human welfare and peace, so habits of religious reflection, in the spring of life, are the only means of arriving at a due sense of the importance of divine concerns in age, except by the bitter and hazardous roads of repentance and remorše. There is not a more awful spectacle in nature, than the death-bed of a late repentance. The groans of agony which attend the separation of the soul from the body, heightened by the heart-piercing exclamation of mental distress: the dreadful ebullitions of horror and remorse, intermingled with the half-fearful, but fervent deprecations of the divine wrath, and prayers for the divine mercy, joined to the pathetic imploring to the friends who stand weeping around the bed of the sinner

to pray for him, and to take warning from his awful end, contribute to render this scene such an impressive and terrible memento of the state of those who have neglected their souls, as must bring to a due sense of his duty the most hardened of infidels.

It is to ensure you, my young friends, as far as precept can ensure you, from horrors like these in your last moments, that I write this little book, in the hopes that, through the blessing of the Divine Being, it may be useful in inducing you to reflect on the importance of early piety, and lead you into the cheerful performance of your duties to God, and to your own souls. In the pursuit of this plan, I shall, first, consider the bliss which results from a pious disposition, and the horrors of a wicked one. Secondly, the necessity of an early attention to the concerns of the soul towards the establishment of permanent religion, and its consequent happiness; and, thirdly, I shall point out and contrast the last moments of those who have acted in conformity, or in contradiction to the rules here laid down.

The contrast between the lives of the good and the wicked man affords such convincing arguments in support of the excellence of religion, that even those infidels who have dared to assert their disbelief of the doctrine of Revelation, have confessed that in a political point of view, if in no other, it ought to be maintained. Compare the peaceful and collected course of the virtuous and pious man, with the turbulent irregularity and violence of him who neglects: his soul for the allurements of vice, and judge for yourselves of the policy of the conduct of each, even in this world. Whose pleasures are the most exquisite ? Whose de lights the most lasting? Whose state is the most enviable? His who barters his hopes of eternal welfare for a few fleeting moments of brutal gratification; or his who, while he keeps a future state alone in his view, finds happiness in the conscientious performance of his duties, and the scrupulous fulfilment of the end of his sojourn here? Believe me, my friends, there is no comparison between them. The joys of the infatuated mortal who sacrifices his soul to his sensualities, are mixed with bitterness and anguish. The voice of conscience rises distinctly to his ear, amid the shouts of intemperance and the sallies of obstreperous mirth. In the hour of rejoicing, she whispers her appalling monitions to him, and his heart sinks within him, and the smile of triumphant villany is converted into the ghastly grin of horror and hopelessness. But, oh! in the languid intervals of dissipation; in the dead hour of the night, when all is solitude and silence, when the soul is driven to commune with itself, and the voice of remorse, whose whispers were before halfdrowned in the noise of riot, rises dreadfully distinct -what!—what are his emotions !—Who can paint his agonies, his execrations, his despair ! Let that man lose again, in the vortex of fashion, and folly, and vice, the remembrance of his horrors : let him smile, let him laugh and be merry; believe me, my dear readers, he is not happy, he is not careless, he is not the jovial being he appears to be. His heart is heavy within him; he cannot stifle the reflections which assail him in the very moment of enjoyment; but strip the painted veil from his bosom, lay aside the trappings of folly, and that man is miserable, and not only so, but he has purchased that misery at the expense of eternal torment.

Let us oppose to this awful picture the life of the good man; of him who rises in the morning with

cheerfulness to praise his Creator for all the good he hath bestowed upon him, and to perform with studious exactness the duties of his station; and lays himself down on his pillow in the evening in the sweet consciousness of the applause of his own heart. Place this man on the stormy seas of misfortune and sorrow -press him with afflictive dispensations of Providence -snatch from his arms the object of his affectionsseparate him for ever from all he loved and held dear on earth, and leave him isolated and an outcast in the world, he is calm—he is composed-he is gratefulhe

weeps, for human nature is weak, but he still preserves his composure and resignation-he still looks up to the giver of all good with thankfulness and praise, and perseveres with calmness and fortitude in the paths of righteousness. His disappointments cannot overwhelm him, for his chief hopes are placed far, very far beyond the reach of human vicissitude. He hath chosen that good part, which none can take away from him.'

Here, then, lies the great excellence of religion and piety; they not only lead to eternal happiness, but to the happiness of this world; they not only ensure everlasting bliss, but they are the sole means of arriving at that degree of felicity which this dark and stormy being is capable of, and are the sole supports in the hour of adversity and affliction. How infatuated then must that man be, who can wilfully shut his eyes to his own welfare, and deviate from the paths of righteousness which lead to bliss ! Even allowing him to entertain the erroneous notion that religion does not lead to happiness in this life, his conduct is incompatible with every idea of a reasonable being. In the Spectator we find the following image employed to induce a conviction of

« PreviousContinue »