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or deacons, or heads of the parish, but are compelled to go home in the returning throng of men, women, and children, and pass their thresholds in quietness, and sit down to their Bibles in silence, and, if possible, with humility. This will not do at all; there is no relish, no savour, in it; nothing to lift up the hearts of little men, or satisfy the greedy self consequence of bustling and insignificant women. But at a conference meeting, a prayer meeting, or an inquiry meeting, held by a select number, at an unusual season, or in an unusual place, the scene is reversed, and they can make themselves of some importance. The spell of silence is taken off, and they can display their acquirements and their acuteness, and can handle the most knotty points of divinity without the least symptom of fear or modesty, and can measure their spiritual growth with much apparent meekness, and confess the vileness of their nature, and the enormity of their sins, with much real pride, and while they are calling themselves worms, mean all the time that they are the chosen of God's creatures. "In the multitude of dreams, and many words,” says the wise man, there are also divers vanities."

It is no small thing for those, who could never have hoped for distinction in any other way, to be accounted in their neighbourhood cunning expounders of Scripture, or astonishingly gifted in prayer, or fearful wrestlers with Satan. And even if they do not happen to possess any great flow of words, or store of superficial knowledge, they can at least be gratified by the personal attentions of the minister, and gain considerable credit for unusual piety, and remarkable absorption in heavenly things. Now in the common concerns of life vanity is bad enough, but to pursue a routine of observances, which so cheaply satisfies their fears.

Some people are always going to church, lecture, and conference, because they have nothing else to do that is to say, because there is nothing else that they will do—for if we were disposed to do all our duty, we should never lack employment. They feel their time lying like a weight upon them, and they go and throw it off in a meeting house, because they can get rid of it there, not only without reproach, but with some credit. They roam from a prayer-meeting to an inquiry meeting, and from one pulpit to another, to wear away the hours, and bring about sleeping-time. They are spiritual idlers, who, to be sure, may as well be at church as lolling at home or sauntering in the streets, but who are by no means to be particularly commended for making religion a pretence for their laziness.

Such are some of the motives which give rise to outside devotion. No person of observation will deny their existence and influence; and no person of good sense will claim for them any desert. But I have allowed that others are actuated by purer motives. I am sure that very many of those who so assiduously wait on the various assemblies and exercises connected with religion, do so from the persuasion that they are engaged in a high and actual duty, and are performing what is well pleasing in the sight of God. However much I may respect the feelings of such persons-and I do most sincerely respect them-I cannot but lament their erroneous views, and I cannot give up my conviction that their conduct proceeds from mistaken im. pressions.

They entertain the idea, as it seems to me, that they cannot be properly religious, nor perform the proper acts of religion, except when they are attending on its stated ministrations. They are not aware that religion loves the fire-side as well as the altar, and leads us to the latter, principally that we may be taught to estimate the joys and discharge the duties of the former. They divorce religion from morality, and devotion from holiness, without considering that they are only beautiful in union. They see not that by giving too much time to the means of grace, they may neglect their end, and sin against God in the house of God. The eye of Heaven rests as complacently on the family circle, as on the congregation of worshippers; and the congregation have worshipped in vain, if they do not return better fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, than they went; and worse than in vain, if while joining in prayer, or listening to an exhortation, their domestic arrangements have been disturbed, and the beings who depended on their care have suffered for the want of it. The duties wbich are nearest to us, are those which are to be first discharged; the persons who are immediately connected with us have the earliest and the strongest claims on our attention, for if we do not attend to them, who will? and why did God place them under our protection, or give them a right to our service, if he did not mean that we should protect and serve them? There is one day in seven set apart for public worship. Is it not enough? Who shall ask Him who appointed the Sabbath, why he did not ordain its more frequent recurrence? It is enough. It is enough for public instruction and social devotion. Let family or private prayer, and the reading of the Bible, that fountain of religious knowledge, complete our religious discipline. If two sermons on the Sunday, together with our own devotions and meditations, and the use of the Scriptures, are not enough to regulate our conduct for the rest of the week, either the sermons are very miserable, or our memories are very short, or our understandings are very shallow, or our hearts are very cold.

I always suspect the religion, which leads people too often from home. There must necessarily be in it a deficiency of reason or of feeling, or a superabundance of pretence and form. I mean not to disparage the institutions of public and social religion. I delight to see a village pointed out by its church spire. I delight to hear the voice of praise filling the house of God. I delight to behold those who enjoy the blessings of Christianity, endeavouring to diffuse them by every suitable means in every possible place. But I hate to see a man leaving his business or trade, to be instructed in the doctrine of total depravity, or to talk solemn fustian himself; and I hate to see a woman take all her religion to church or conventicle, and let her own house burn up, if it will, with every thing in it, while she is dissolving in tears at some shocking story about the Hindoo widows who burn themselves.-Oh! why will we not make religion the unreserved and smiling companion of our hearts and our homes and our duties, instead of forcing her to be the object of formal and mysterious and lifeless ceremony.

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Our Ignorance of what is Best for us.

COMPLAINTS of human ignorance have been common in all ages. The poets of antiquity, who were the historians and moralists of the people, often feelingly uttered them. They are found in all writers, who have left us reflections on life. “Who knoweth,” asks Solomon, in beautiful and impressive language, “what is good for a man all the days of his vain life, which he spendeth as a shadow” We are, in fact, surrounded with darkness. We are ignorant not merely of that which is remote, and in no way concerns us, but of much which is near and about us, much with which, it would seem, we ought to be familiar-ignorant of ourselves, and of what is best for us.

What is more,

this ignorance admits of no remedy on this side the grave. We must bear it with us to the tomb.

Such may be pronounced, at first view, a melancholy picture of human nature. It may appear most of all things unfortunate for us to be ignorant of what is good for us all the days of this vain life, which we pass as a shadow. What greater calamity, it may be asked, than not to know what contributes to our happiness, and what may occasion our misery? Yet nothing is more true, than that what men desire as a good is often found to be an evil, and what they fly from as an evil becomes productive of good. Their wishes are traitors to their happiness. No greater misfortune could happen to them, than that the expectations they indulge should be answered, and the cup they would reject as distasteful should be removed,

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