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Pure religion and genuine Devotion.
THE great sentiment which, upon this subject, I wish to impress upon your mind, and which I seize every opportunity to inculcate, is this,that in whatever point of light you place religion, whether you consider it as an act, or an affection; morality, from a pure and proper principle, comprises the whole of it. The spirit of religion is the love of rectitude, rectitude living and realized in the divine nature; the exercise of religion is the practice of that rectitude. Justice and mercy are not the adjuncts of religion, but religion itself.
In giving this account of it, I repeat the definition which one of the apostles has left us. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father" "pure religion"-not only calls for, as its appendage, but "is this," this is its constituent substance, "to visit the widows and the fatherless in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." This, the exercise of humanity to the whole circle of its objects, from among whom the particular situations of distress, which are set before us in this passage, are selected by the scriptures, as being prominent figures in the group of human miseries, to express, in one word, the various objects of mercy, and to represent the sons and daughters of affliction ;this discharge of the duties of humanity, this active service of God, this worship of the life, is all that, in itself considered, communciates any pleasure to the Almighty.
The great sacrifice, which is alone immediately, and directly acceptable to the Infinite Spirit is neither any thing that cometh out of the ground, or that goeth forth from the mouth of man; it is the sacrifice of our faculties upon the broad, immortal altar of society. The substance of divine service is social
service. Benevolence to man is the " beauty of holiness." The ground, where-ever it be, upon which honest goodness relieves the indigent; consoles the dejected; protects the oppressed; defends the defamed; communicates the truth; or inculcates virtue ; the ground, wherever it be, upon which good is done from a good principle; or upon which impotent pity drops an honest tear, and but wishes to do it ; is better consecrated, in the eye of heaven, by such transactions, or by such tears, than by all the religious ceremonies, that could have been performed upon it..
The house of mourning, the hovel of poverty, the prison of despair, when they receive the visit of charity, are temples, upon which the object of worship looks down with more complacency, than upon any other temples. The sphere of usefulness is the chief church of man: this is the most "holy place :" the "holy of holies :" the most sacred court in the temple of God: those that minister here are the high priests, whose office has most sanctity in his sight. Devotedness to society is the truest dedication to God. Generous offices are the noblest sort of religious exercises. He that teaches the sighing "heart to sing for joy," awakes the harp which best befits the fingers of devotion. He that tunes this animated instrument, he that raises this holy hymn, he that sends up this sacred music, he is the psalmist that, in the ear of heaven, excels all others in sweetness. Whoever wipes another's tear, lifts another's head, binds another's heart; performs religion's most beautiful rite, most decent and most handsome ceremony. To go. on an errand of mercy, is to set out on the only holy pilgrimage.
All other worship, with whatever height of solemnity, with whatever sublimity of circumstance, with whatever comeliness of form, it be accompanied, considered independently of this, and as terminating in itself, contains no degree of recommendation to the Divine Being. All the voices of assembled man
kind, joined together in a chorus of praise to God; all the musicial instruments in the world, united in a sacred concert; all knees of all the nations, bent together before the throne of high heaven; this sort of praise, ascending from all the earth at once, in itself considered, would yield no satisfaction to the object of worship, any more than all the frankincense of the earth, ascending in one cloud to heaven, or all the fruits of the earth, presented upon one spacious altar :-but peace prevailing among all nations: equity reigning all around the globe; all mankind concurring to promote the general good, and dwelling in fraternal amity together; this social order, this moral harmony, this concord of faculties, this music of minds, were an anthem that would enter the ear of him who " is a spirit: of him who hearkens to the silver chime of the spheres, and who set the silent harmonies of nature.
Transition from Time to Eternity.
Whoever left the precincts of mortality without casting a wishful look on what he left behind, and a trembling eye on the scene that is before him? Being formed by our Creator for enjoyments even in this life, we are endowed with a sensibility to the objects around us. We have affections, and we delight to indulge them: We have hearts, and we want to bestow them. Bad as the world is, we find in it objects of affection and attachment. Even in this waste and howling wilderness, there are spots of verdure and of beauty, of power, to charm the mind and make us cry out, "It is good for us to be here."
When, after the observation and experience of years, we have found out the objects of the soul, and
met with minds congenial to our own, what pangs must it give to the heart, to think of parting forever? We even contract an attachment to inanimate objects.
The tree under whose shade we have often sat; the fields where we have frequently strayed; the hill, the scene of contemplation, or the haunt of friendship, become objects of passion to the mind, and upon our leaving them, excite a temporary sorrow and regret. If these things can affect us with uneasiness, how great must be the affliction, when stretched on that bed from which we shall rise no more, and looking about for the last time on the sad circle of our weeping friends, -how great must be the affliction, to dissolve at once all the attachments of life ; to bid an eternal adieu to the friends whom we long have loved, and to part for ever with all that is dear below the sun! But let not the Christian be disconsolate. He parts with the objects of his affection, to meet them again; to meet them in a better world, where change never enters, and from whose blissful mansions sorrow flies away.
At the resurrection of the just, in the great assembly of the sons of God, when all the family of heaven are gathered together, not one person shall be missing that was worthy of thy affection or esteem. And if among imperfect creatures, and in a troubled world, the kind, the tender and the generous affections, have such power to charm the heart, that even the tears which they occasion delight us, what joy unspeakable and glorious will they produce, when they exist in perfect minds, and are improved by the purity of the heavens !
Now is your golden age. When the morning of life rejoices over your head, every thing around you
puts on a smiling appearance. All nature wears a a face of beauty, and is animated with a spirit of joy: You walk up and down in a new world; you crop the unblown flower, and drink the untasted spring. Full of spirit, and high in hope, you set out on the journey of life: Visions of bliss present themselves to view: Dreams of joy, with sweet delusion, amuse the vacant mind.
You listen, and accord to the song of hope, "To-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundant.” But ah! my friends, the flattering scene, will not last. The spell is quickly broken, the enchantment soon over. How hideous will life appear, when experience takes off the mask, and discovers the sad reality! Now thou hast no weariness to clog thy waking hours, and no care to disturb thy repose. But know, child of the earth, that thou art born to trouble, and that care, through every subsequent path of life, will hunt thee like a ghost. Health now sparkles in thine eye, the blood flows pure in thy veins, and thy spirits are gay as the morning: But alas ! the time will come, when diseases, a numerous and direful train, will assail thy life; the time will come, when pale and ghastly, and stretched on a bed, "chastened with pain, and the multitude of thy bones with strong pain, thou wilt be ready to choose strangling and death, rather than life."
You are now happy in your earthly companions. Friendship, which in the world is a feeble sentiment, with you is a strong passion. But shift the scene for a few years, and behold the man of thy right-hand become unto thee as an alien. Behold the friend of thy youth, who was one with thine own soul, striving to supplant thee, and laying snares for thy ruin! I mention not these things, my friends, to make you miserable before the time. God forbid that I should anticipate the evil day, unless I could arm you against it. Now, remember your Creator, consecrate to him the early period of your days, and the light of his countenance will shine upon you through life. Amid