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my sin and snare through lise, is even now the chief source of my danger. Tell me, Sir, if possible, how I am to escape an entanglement which to this hour holds me in thraldom ; how I am to dissipate a delusion which tantalizes and mocks me at every successive stage of my mortal pilgrimage; how I am to make the grand realities of eternity predominate over the toys and trifles of time! It is a miserable state to act in habitual opposition to the sober and deliberate convictions of one's own judgment. Is there no means of raising the tone and temper of the mind, of reconciling the dictates of conscience, and the tendencies of the will ? Tell me, Sir, if you can, how those weighty and momentous truths, which completely command the assent of my understanding, may control and effectually engage my affections; how the vivid impressions which the scenes and solemnities of a future everlasting state at times produce, may become more permanent and practically influential; how the resolutions, formed in my best hours, may be so strengthened and sustained, as to be capable of resisting the arts and assaults of my confederate spiritual enemies. Shall those dilatory and indolent habits continue till my few remaining sands are run down, till the dim taper of life sinks into the socket, and sends forth its last fitful blaze ? Shall I be still rivetted to this point of wretchedness, on which I have been so long writhing ? Sensible I am, that a narrow space only separates me from a state of endless wo or endless joy; and it is therefore high tinue to wake out of sleep.
I have ingenuously stated my case, and shall be appy to receive such counsels and aids from you, or any one, as shall save me from any farther procrastination, and lead me at once and without re
serve, to turn to the hope set before me in the Gospel.
ON THE CAUSES WHICH INCREASE THE PREJUDICES OF WORLDLY MEN AGAINST RELIGION.
It is impossible for any one who truly loves, embraces, honours, and defends Christianity, to remain indifferent while he beholds her covered with reproach and contempt. He sees, with deep regret, the operation of those causes, which excite and inflame the' enmity of the carnal mind. He sighs, and sheds many a tear in secret, when he finds religion wounded in the house of her friends.
The latent aversion of the depraved heart to every thing spiritually good, will easily account for much of that opposition which worldly men manifest to vital godliness; but it deserves enquiry, whether their antipathies are not augmented by the conduct of Christians themselves. The poison every where exists, and often lies in a dormant state; but the virulence of its action, the rage with which it spreads and operates, may, in general, be traced to certain excitements.
1. We have reason to believe that many Christian professors increase the prejudice of worldly men, by a coldness and gloomy reserve in their manners. Though religion is the only source of solid comfort and lasting joy, we must confess, that not a few individuals, avowedly and perhaps sincerely attached to it, give little proof of its happy influence upon themselves. Their fears predominate, their comforts are outweighed by their troubles, they are oftener walking in the chilling shade than in the cheering sunshine, and their sighs are more commonly heard than their songs. Persons of this character may be serious and conscientious, may even at times feel an earnestness and deep interest in the sacred engagements of closet-devotion, but their social intercourse is flat and insipid. Whether they are ill-informed with reference to the grand doctrines and gracious provisions of the Gospel, and as yet detained in partial thraldom ; or whether constitutional temperament gives a tinge of melancholy to the mind; or whatever other cause be assigned, religion in their deportment has a meagre and uninviting aspect. Their language is uncouth, harsh, repulsive, full of censures and complaints; their life is a dull routine of tame and tiresome formalities. Is it surprising, that persons of this description should raise in the minds of worldly men an unfavourable idea of religion? The system is charged with the faults of those who espouse it. Hence the hasty conclusion is drawn, that Christian principles darken the lustre, and damp the vivacity of youth; that they infuse a leaven, which sours both the mind and the manners which yield to their influence. Such reasoning is, indeed, unfair, for examples of cheerful and attractive piety are always to be found; but prejudice is not very anxious to discriminate. Let those who sincerely wish to promote the cause of God in an evil world, beware of furnishing its enemies with a plausible plea, by exhibiting in their conduct and conversation any gloom, moroseness, or austerity, which has a direct tendency to alienate and disgust. Let them be firm and steadfast, yet uniformly kind and courteous; spreading the charm of a winning affability and benevolence ever all the social circle in which it is their lot to move. By ease, freedom, cheerfulness, and suavi. ty, under the control of a vigilant discretion, they will be able to adorn and recommend the doctrine of God their Saviour, and silence the clamour of many of its enemies.
2. Many professing Christians increase the prejudices of worldly men by the inconsistencies they betray in their commercial dealings. One is hard and rigid in the bargains he makes, in the conditions he prescribes, yet lax and remiss in fulfilling the engagements into which he has entered; another is mean and mercenary in trifles, though upright and honourable in matters of prime importance. Hence is seen a spirit of speculation and eager competition, which breaks down every mound of prudence and moderation; there a gross want of diligence, order, and punctuality, which brings embarrassment and ruin. 6 These are your religious people," cries the scoffer, with an air of exultation and triumph.
It cannot, and must not be disguised, that numbers have assumed a Christian profession for selfish and sinister purposes. To this concession should be subjoined the fair and legitimate inference it warrants, namely, that if religious principle did not generally raise and improve the tone of morals, such instances of hypocrisy would be unknown; there would, in fact, be neither grounds to sustain, nor motives to produce them. But the culpable manner in which even some sincere Christians carry on trade, may greatly dishonour and injure the religion they profess. It ought, therefore, to be every good man's prayer and aim, to manage his business with such clear rectitude, exact punctuality, and uniform consistency, as shall shut out occasion from those who are eagerly seeking occasion to cast scandal and reproach on the cause of God. Frequent omissions will have an effect nearly as bad as direct and palpable violations of moral duty; and the want of consideration be readily confounded with the want of principle. “ What do ye more than others ?" is a taunt thrown at the servants of God, whenever any negligence on their part opens a tempting avenue for it.
3. Many professing Christians increase the prejudices of worldly people by their injudicious zeal in supporting or defending those noble institutions, which at once do honour to our own country, and bless the world at large. They are seen stepping, out of their own sober and proper course, to attempt a career, for which they are neither qualified by talents nor influence. Their measures are rash and ill-judged; their movements wild, irregular, impetuous and offensive. Whether opposed or encouraged, they are sure to run into extravagancies and absurdities. A Christian of enlarged mind and candid spirit will make every fair allowance in such cases. Their motives, says he, are good, but I regret the absence of a sound judgment, a due degree of experience, or a cautious adherence to the rules of prudence. Right principles and benevolent dispositions are too valuable to be thrown away or despised, because they are unhappily blended with some portion of alloy. On the contrary, the men of the world are not disposed to make
any allowances. They assault the vulnerable points of such warm-hearted but weak advocates of a good cause, with the keenest promptitude and the highest exultation. Having culled a few instances of a kind suited to their purpose, they hold up these fanatics as specimens and fair ave