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most important revolutions in the moral character of man-if into the midst of families, we find it severing or uniting the firmest links of natural connection-giving solemnity to the sad parting-over the glad meeting after long separation diffusing a holy joy — imparting reverence to the attributes of age-purity and happiness to the cheerful smiles of childhood and presiding with its sanctifying influence over all the different offices of duty, and charity, and love-or if we look into the human heart, it is here that religion is seen controlling the fiery passions of youth, subduing the stubborn will, softening down the asperities of nature, and mingling with the springs of earthly feeling the pure, inexhaustible waters of eternal life.
How would the fond mother endure with fortitude the sad farewell, that separates the son of her hopes from the genial atmosphere of domestic peace, if she did not in her heart consign him to the more judicious care of his heavenly Father? or how would she send him forth alone to trace his distant and dubious pathway through the wilderness of life, but for her faith in the guiding hand which she implores to direct him through its manifold temptations, to lead him safely through its dangers, and bring him back to her yearning bosom unspotted from the world. It is the internal support derived from religion that nerves her for the trial, and reconciles her to the after hours of watchfulness and care, when she may look in vain for tidings from the wanderer, and calculate with fruitless anticipation upon
the hour of his return. It is the same feeling of religion, not unfrequently excited to enthusiasm, that tears away the youthful devotee from all the joys of nature, and the endearments of domestic love; clothing her fair forehead in the mournful vestments of monastic gloom, and shadowing the young cheek from which the last rose has faded, with the sable pall of a premature and living death.
It is religion too that steals upon the soul of the contemplative student, and lures him away from the haunts of convivial mirth, from the excitement of the flowing bowl, and from the ambition of the sordid or the gay, to devote the highest powers and energies of his mind to the edification of his fellow creatures, and the spring time of his existence to the service of his God.
It is this support which keeps alive the hope of the heart-stricken wife, as she pursues her reprobate husband through the dark windings of his sinful course, wooing him back with her unfailing gentleness to the comforts of his home, watching over him in his unguarded moments, with the balm of Christian consolation ever ready for his hour of need, and supplicating with incessant prayers, that a stronger arm than hers may be stretched out to arrest the progress of his erring steps.
Without this active and living principle, operating upon the various dispositions of mankind, we should never witness those instances of self denial in the cause of virtue, which afford the strongest evidence of the all-sustaining efficacy of religion. How, for instance, would the compassionate maiden find strength to reject her worthless lover, because the stain of guilt was upon his brow, and because his spirit refused to bow down and worship at the altar of her God, if the claims of duty were not paramount to those of affection? And yet such things have been; and warm, young hearts, whose cords of happiness were rent asunder by the fierce and fiery trial, have chosen for themselves a solitary lot, separate and distinct
from the sphere of their long cherished enjoyments, and have dwelt in peace and resignation under the guiding influence of the one divine light, by which all others, from whence they had ever derived hope or gladness, were extinguished.
Yes; and the man of strong affections, whose downward tendency in the career of worldly occupation, had reduced a tender wife and helpless children to the last extreme of poverty and wretchedness, has been visited with powerful temptation in his hour of weakness, when his perceptions of right and wrong were so confused with bodily and mental suffering, that the limitations of moral good seemed to be yielding to the encroachments of physical evil, when the wants of his starving family were bursting forth in audible and heart-rending appeals for which he had no answer, when the shadows of despair fell around him, and squalid misery encircled his cold hearth. And he too has stood his ground, strong in the confidence that real good, or lasting happiness, never yet was purchased by the sacrifice of virtuous rectitude.
But if we measure the strength of the principle by the weakness of the agent it inspires,
we would point out, above all other instances of its operative power, that in which a child looks boldly in the face of authority, and daring the retributive judgment which must inevitably follow, openly and freely tells the truth. Sometimes a single falsehood, or a mere evasion would save the little culprit from the pain of public ignominy, from the fury of a tyrant master, and from the punishment that, even in anticipation, checks the warm current of his youthful blood, and sends a shivering thrill through every nerve and fibre of his trembling frame. But he has been instructed by parents whose word he cannot doubt, to believe that there is a good and gracious God looking down upon the children of earth, caring for their sufferings, listening to their prayers, teaching them his holy law, and encouraging them to regard the performance of it above all the enjoyments afforded by the world; and knowing that a strict adherence to the truth is one of the essential points of that law, the penitent child, even with the tears of anguish on his cheek, pronounces the decisive word of truth which seals his sentence upon earth—the word which rejoicing angels bear to the courts of heaven, as the richest tribute