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Blessed with true piety, a youth may be happy any, and everywhere. The apprentice, serving the most tyrannical master, or oppressed by the most unfeeling and hard-hearted mistress, will still find, if he possesses religion, a relief sufficient to lighten the yoke and soften the rigours of the service. And how will it cheer the solitude of the clerk or the shopman in his private lodgings, when neither friend nor companion is near! There he can commune with his God, and pray to his heavenly Father, though his earthly one be far from him. He is not now tempted to leave his cheerless dwelling in quest of comfort, for he can find enough in religious exercises: or if he wishes, as he lawfully may do, to relieve his solitude, he can be happy. in hearing a sermon, or going to the meeting of some committee with which he is connected, or to the public meeting of some society which may be held in the neighbourhood. Solitude itself is not disagreeable, for he wishes to cultivate his mind by knowledge, and his hean by piety; and when exchanged for social intercourse and pleasures, these are of a kind to do him not harm, but good. Religion thus makes him comfortable whether alone or in society. Young man, I want you to be happy, and I am sure there is only one thing that will make you so, and that is, true piety. You may be amused and gratified, pleased and diverted, at least for a while, without this; but amusement and diversion are only substitutes for happiness, not the
thing itself. Man was made for the service and enjoyment of God, and he cannot be truly happy till he is brought to answer the end of his creation. How important, then, is it, that you should begin life with correct views of this subject! How much misery will it save you from, to mind religion young! A course of iniquity must, sooner or later, end in misery. Even while the pleasures of sin last, they are sadly mixed with the warnings, perturbations, and reproaches of conscience. Sin is a hard master, and Satan's service is often a galling yoke. Religion will save you from all this, and impose in its place a yoke which is easy, and a burden which is light.
Who can tell what sorrow awaits him in future life? Oh, could I lift up the vail of futurity, and disclose the scenes of your history, how would your heart sink to foresee the trials that are in reserve for you. Setting out upon the voyage of life, with a bright sky, a smooth sea, a fair wind, and every sail filled with the propitious breeze, you may soon have to encounter the storm that shall reduce you to a wreck on some inhospitable shore. Your trade may fail, your wife may die, and your constitution sink under the pressure of accumulated woes.
What is there to comfort and support you amidst solitude, and the long, dark, wintry night of adversity ? Religion, had you sought it in the season of youth and health, would have helped you to sustain the shock of misfortune by its consoling and strengthening in
fluence; but you have neglected it, and in its ab. sence there is nothing human or Divine to support you, and you fall, first, into poverty, then to drinking, then to the grave, and then to the bottomless pit. How many who have died of a broken heart, or as martyrs to drunkenness, and have gone from the sorrows of time to the torments of eternity, would, if they had possessed religion, notwithstanding their misfortunes, have lived in peace, died in hope, and been blessed for ever! Religion, if it led only to misery upon earth, if it were really the gloomy and pleasure-destroying thing which many represent it, and others believe it to be, yet, as it leads from everlasting misery to eternal bliss hereafter, would be our highest as well as our incumbent duty; for who would not escape from hell and flee to heaven, if it could only be done by passing through Cimmerian shades, or a perpetual martyrdom ? but instead of this, true piety is the most serene and delightsome thing on earth. It is the sweetener of our comforts, the softener of our cares, the solace of our sorrows. It deprives us of no enjoyment but what would injure us, and gives other and far better ones in place of those it takes. It is the spring flower of youth, the summer un of our
anhood, the autumn fruits of our declining years, and the lunar brightness of the wintry night of our old age. It is a verdant, quiet, secluded path to the paradise of God, and, after giving us the light of his countenance in life, the support of his
grace in death, will conduct us to his presence, where there is fulness of joy, and to his right hand, where there are pleasures for ever
RELIGION VIEWED AS A MEANS OF PROMOTING THR
TEMPORAL INTEREST OF ITS POSSESSOR.
Did you ever consider that beautiful allegory which is drawn by the pen of inspiration in the third chapter of Proverbs ? * Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain there of than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things that thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand: and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.” This is one of those sparkling gems of composition which decorate and enliven the pages of Scripture; it is as poetically elegant, as it is morally useful. I scarcely need to observe that by wisdom here, we are to understand religion; for the sacred writer has defined the meaning of the term where he says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.” The general idea presented is, that religion is happiness: “Happy is