صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not be faint.

RELIGIOUS FEELING.

BEFORE recommending religious feeling, it is important to say what it is; for, like almost every other subject of religion, it is often sadly misunderstood, and the indulgence of a mistaken affection is too generally thought a sufficient substitute for the weary labour of ordering the life by the directions of Christianity. Is is, however, enough to say, that religious feeling is the same with all other feeling; and, instead of being a supernatural excitement of the heart, or a principle not originally belonging to human nature, and placed in the soul by the immediate act of God, it is simply the direction of our natural feelings to the subject of religion, and the deep interest naturally awakened by the considerations of God and our own destiny, which reason suggests and revelation opens.

And yet there are some, (I trust under the mistaken impression mentioned,) who doubt whether it is either useful or necessary. They say the Christian should be governed only by a sense of duty. This is true; and what is religious feeling but a sense of duty? Not the cold and uninspiring thing, that too often bears the name,-not the dead letter that measures and weighs our obligations, and tells us we need not go any further. Religious feeling is the sense of duty in its living force, urging us onward in the narrow way with pleasure instead of unwillingness, and making our labour light. Not necessary! Show me one man in the whole range of existence, who meets his duties faithfully, while his heart is not in them, let him feel his responsibility as he will; and did we ever find ourselves able to persevere long in what we knew to be right, against or without our feeling? We found that the hands grew weary the moment the heart grew cold. Besides, the reluctant and measured obedience arising solely from what men call the sense of duty, though unavoidable in

the beginning of a christian course, will not be accepted when we have long walked in it, and come near its close. There is nothing harder for a parent, in his age or infirmity, than to receive attentions from his children, which they feel bound to give, to content himself with that measure of kindness which they do not dare refuse him; and even if they fail in no single respect, and leave no ground for complaining, he feels that there is wretchedness in receiving their charities, when their hearts do not go with them. No more will God receive the exact but heartless offering. No good deeds, sacrifices or prayers, can be remembered on high, but those which come from the heart.

They say too that religious feeling will run into excess. It is true that fanaticism and hypocrisy often assume its name, but these are not excesses of religious feeling;—they have nothing to do with it, and the more fervent the true affection becomes, the sooner these counterfeit passions will die away. And suppose it did sometimes rise into excess, what then? We should no more quarrel with it on account of its accidental results, than with the winter fire that warms our dwellings, or the stream that revives our fields, because they sometimes pass their bounds and spread out into destruction. Prudence may be excessive; benevolence may be excessive; and, if we cast away all the feelings attended with this danger, we shall have very little worth retaining left in the heart. Would to God that this danger were less fanciful than it is! For little reason is there to fear, or I should say to hope, that any of our feelings will go too fast or far in the way of duty. If religion were a path of invariable pleasantness; if its days were all sunshine and its nights all peace; if there were no dangers to encounter, and no tears to shed, then we might not need the aid of the affections. But it is not, and it never will be so; and in the deep solicitings of temptation,-the whirlwind of passion,-the resistance abroad, and the selfishness within, the voice of reason cannot be heard, and will not be cared for if it is; the assault will be strong, and the defence must be resolute, and no part of our nature is strong enough to make it but the heart.

Next, if there is no doubt that the affections may be engaged in the service of religion, the thought of God should first employ them; for without hearts deeply impressed with

reverence for his greatness, gratitude for his goodness, dread for his power, and love for his milder perfections, we shall have nothing to inspire us in the performance of duty; we shall have no feeling of responsibility to a just and holy being, and no worthy object of prayer. But the affections are not to rest as they often do in the admiration of his perfection; for at this hour, and every hour, thousands are gazing with delight upon the visible world,-they are elevated with its sublimity, and melted with its beauty; and yet, in all the enthusiasm with which they dwell upon it, they never feel that its Creator is their father, and these are blessings which his kindness has made for them. These wonders of Providence, considered only as things to be admired, no more awaken devotion than the portrait or statue inspire affection. They must be regarded as the gift of a father's love, and intended to make us now, as well as permanently happy; and when the recollections of past and present enjoyment,-of rich treasures of happiness poured out at our feet, are assembled and considered as they ought to be, I do not say they must, but they will make the divine character the object of our affections. Many indeed are the clouds, and deep sometimes the darkness that surrounds God's throne; but there is an eye of faith that can discern him who is invisible, and there is a heart of religious feeling too, that can love though it sees not the Giver of every good.

The character of our Saviour and all the other subjects of religion, are so many expressions of divine goodness, and are calculated to direct and animate religious ieeling in the love of God,-especially that character, so humble yet so exalted, uniting the sensibility of human tenderness with the grandeur he derived from God, and even. while mingling in the crowds of men, surrounded by a distant and unapproachable solitude of more than earthly greatness. When we remember that he endured an existence of humility and wo,that he laboured without rest and suffered without the consolations that assuage the sorrows of men ;-that his hardship was relieved by no friendship, rewarded by no gratitude, encouraged by no applause, and when the long wretchedness of his life was ended, he could not go down to the grave in peace, and all this for us! religious feeling must be awakened powerfully by the willing self-devotion of the Son, and

the love of his Father and our Father, that sent him forth to enlighten and save the world.

But when I say what direction should be given to religious feeling, I would say that forms of faith should engage it no further than conscience sternly demands. They are too apt to engross it, and to excite unholy passion; and yet men fly to them as they hurry away from the places where they find nature as God first made it,-where the forests and fields, the blue heaven and dark waters address their hearts in vain, -and go to join in the rivalships and struggles of the world. But this is not right. I may not say that those who are thus earnest in their own faith, and zealous against others are guilty; their mistaken conscience may help to excuse them; -and yet one would think they might contend on other than holy ground; there are wars and rumours of wars enough to engage in without disturbing the religion of peace.

Again, what are the limits of this religious feeling? Beyond what bounds is it never to pass? Now a truly religious feeling could not run into excess;-it would never go near to prevent the performance of a single social duty, nor the enjoyment of one innocent pleasure;-it could only become more religious, and that change would be happy. But nothing human is pure; many fountains of worldly interest send their waters into the river of life. Then whenever what we consider our religious feeling is no longer controlled by our judgment,-when we begin to be enthusiastick, where reason has not first approved,-when we make feeling supply the place of action, and suppose that holy affections will atone for our want or violation of morality,-still more, when we compare ourselves with others, and our fancied superiority. awakens, or may awaken confidence and pride; then our religious is fast changing to irreligious feeling, and we are in the path that seemeth right unto a man, though the end thereof are the ways of death.

But the degree of religious feeling should be determined by what we know of our own nature. We can tell just how deeply we are interested in the concerns of life,-how well we bear its labours in the prospect of reward;-how much we rejoice when we have added to our possessions, and what feelings are awakened by the accidents either favourable or unfortunate that call up the fervour of the soul. Our

affections must be proportioned to our impression of the value of the objects that excite them. Then if heaven is better than earth, if the service of God is higher than the slavery of the world,—if eternity is more important than the passing day, religion must be followed with that deep and solemn earnestness, that gives a sabbath stillness to life, as if there were but one thing to do;-such an earnest feeling as might have once borne an Apostle through opposition, suffering, and desolation, as the mighty vessel dashes impatiently through the waters till she rests by her native shore.

How can our affections be any longer uninterested in religion? How can we suppose that the part of our nature most exalted in itself and in its powers, is the very one we have no use for in religion? We suffer those affections to be wrought into admiration when we witness the successful experiments of human art,-the works of human hands, and the noble results of man's intellectual exertion; we allow them to kindle into warmer enthusiasm at the thought of human glory, surrounded as it is with recollections of violence and blood; we invite them to linger and gaze on the magnificence of the heaven above and the familiar beauty of the earth beneath us; no feeling seems too strong to express when fine examples of human character demand our reverence and delight; why then should we keep the affections steadily away from things immortal, while we waste them in emotions that can go with us only to the grave? why can we not fasten them on those enduring things that shall not perish with the world at last? Why can we not give our best, yes, all our affections to religious duty and improvement? There only can they be devoted without danger and sorrow; there they will give rapidity and success to our preparation for joining the saints in light.

PERVERSION OF SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE.

EVERY one probably has found some difficulty in shaking off certain crude notions, which were received in early years; and even after he has been taught, by the sober convictions of his understanding, resulting from free inquiry, to correct

« السابقةمتابعة »