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Is not our mistress, fair Religion,
As worthy of all our hearts' devotion
As we do them in means, shall they surpass
THE privileges of man which make the difficulty in assigning him his place in the vast scheme of the universe, we have described as consisting in his being an intellectual, moral, and religious creature. Perhaps the privileges implied in the last term and their place in our argument, may justify a word more of explanation. Religion teaches us that there is opened to man, not only a prospect of a life in the presence of God, after this mortal life, but also the possibility, and the duty of spending this life as in the presence of God. This is properly the highest result and manifestation of the effect of religion upon man. Precisely because it is this, it is difficult to speak of the effect without seeming to use the language of enthusiasm; and yet again, precisely because it is so, our argument would be incomplete without a reference to it. There is for man a possibility and a duty of bringing his thoughts, purposes, and affections more and more into continual unison with the will of God. This even natural religion taught men, was the highest point at which man could aim, and revealed religion has still more clearly enjoined the duty of aiming at such a condition. The means of a progress towards such a state belong to the religion of the heart and mind. They include a constant purification and elevation of the thoughts, affections, and will, wrought by habits of religious reflection and meditation, of prayer and gratitude to God. Without entering into farther explanation, all religious persons will agree that such a progress is, under happy influences, possible for man, and is the highest condition to which he can attain in this life.* Whatever names have been applied at different times to the steps of such a
* The pleasure which affects the human mind with the most lively and transporting touches, is the sense that we act in the eye of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, that will crown our virtuous endeavours here with happiness hereafter, large as our desires, and lasting as our immortal souls. Without this the highest state of life is insipid, and with it the lowest is a paradise.
progress;-the cultivation of the divine nature in us; resignation; devotion; holiness; union with God; living in God and with God in us; religious persons will not doubt that there is a reality of internal state corresponding to these expressions; and that, to be capable of elevation into the condition which these expressions indicate is one of the especial privileges of Plurality of Worlds, Chap. IV.
FOR what else is Religion in Mankind,
As God by it with us communicates,
With all by using all things of our own
And ev❜n this sacred band this heavenly breath
In body temperance; life humility
Pure only when God makes the spirits pure,
He shows his glory clearly to the best,
LORD BROOKE. A Treatise on Religion.
Ir is a great error to think that Religion does only consist in one sort of duties. It is as various as the dispositions, the qualities, the conditions of men; with some the severe, the strict, the retired are best: with others the bountiful, the affable, the cheerful, the friendly: of both which kinds I will not say whether is to be prefer'd. But this is true, that while the first are chiefly limited to the regulating of our hearts, the influence of the last extends much farther; to spread the fame of the
gospel in the world; to make it appear lovely in the eyes of all beholders; and to allure them to submit to the honourableness, the gentleness, the easiness of its yoke. And this methinks is evident in our Saviour's life: for whenever He intended to convert any to His faith, He did it by some visible good work in the sight of the multitude. But He never gained any disciple by the conflicts which He was pleased to undergo in His own mind, for He performed His fast and His agony alone in the wilderness, and the garden.
SPRAT. History of the Royal Society. MAN without Religion is the creature of circumstances. Religion is above all circumstances, and will lift him up above them. HARE. Guesses at Truth.
How much superstition mingles with that Religion to which men are driven by distress or fear? You must first apply to it as the guide of life, before you can have recourse to it as the refuge of sorrow. You must submit to its legislative authority, and experience its renewing influence, before you can look for its consolatory effect.
HE that will persuade men to Religion, both with Art and Efficacy, must found the persuasion of it upon this, that it interferes not with any rational pleasures, that it bids nobody quit the enjoyments of any one thing that his reason can prove to him ought to be enjoyed.
THE men whom I term despicable are those who have no power over themselves; who cannot do what they will; and who even if they appear virtuous, are so from base motives, from a concern for fortune and comfort, from a fear of remorse, or even of future punishments. It is indeed good and useful to avoid sin, even from these motives alone, but he who looks at the disposition and state of the soul, cannot have pleasure in such. The nobility of our nature consists in doing good for the good's sake; either from an interiorly recognized law of pure duty, or from a feeling of the exalted nature and attractive beauty of virtue. It is only these motives which show the character to be itself great and noble; and only these re-act upon, and improve it. If then religion unites itself to these, as in worthy
Great minds, like Heaven, are pleased with doing good,
Tho' the ungrateful subjects of their favours
Are barren in return. Virtue does still
minds is always the case; this also can operate in two ways. Religion can neither be felt in its true greatness, nor attained by a mean disposition. He who serves God only out of a regard to his own interests; who thinks only of obtaining in return for his services the Almighty protection, assistance, and blessing; who would exact from Him that he shall concern Himself in all the little worldly inconveniences of his lot, makes himself the centre of all. But he who in the depth of his heart regards the greatness and fatherly goodness of God with such admiring worship, and with such humble and deep thankfulness, that he has thrust aside all of self that does not accord with the purest and noblest feelings, as well as with the thought, that what duty and virtue require of him, is also the will of the Highest, and the demand of that moral order of the world which He has established, he, I repeat, is alone the truly religious and virtuous
VON HUMBOLDT. Letters.
FAIR and young light! my guide to holy
Wander'd through darkness, dens, and mire.
That I term'd then meer bonds and thrall! *
If all the subtilties of vice
With scorn the mercenary world regard;
* And yet this task which the rebellious deeme
Too harsh, who God's mild laws for chaines esteem,
H. VAUGHAN. St. Paulinus to his wife Therasia.
Yet would not men grant their ill fate
H. VAUGHAN, Silex Scintillans.
So now is come our joyful'st feast;
Each room with ivy leaves is drest
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.
BUSINESS AND PLEASURE.
THE two common shrines to which most men offer up the application of their thoughts and their lives, are profit and pleasure; and by their devotions to either of these, they are vulgarly distinguished into two sects, and are called busy or idle men; whether these words differ in meaning, or only in sound, I know very well, may be disputed, and with appearance enough; since the covetous man takes as much pleasure in his gains, as the voluptuous in his luxury, and would not pursue his business unless he were pleased with it, upon the last account of what he most wishes and desires; nor would care for the increase of his fortunes, unless he thereby proposed that of his pleasures too, in one kind or other; so that pleasure may be said to be his end, whether he will allow to find it in his pursuit or no. SIR W. TEMPLE.
To excel in any profession, in which but few arrive at mediocrity, is the most decisive mark of what is called genius or superior talents.
SMITH. Wealth of Nations. GENIUS is supposed to be a power of producing excellences, which are out of the reach of rules of art; a power which no precepts can teach, and which no industry can acquire,
SIR J. REYNOLDS.