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do to others as we would reasonably wish others, in like circumstances, to do to us, which comprehend all the duties of our social connections, are established on the soundest equity, and calculated to promote the peace, good order, and happiness, of mankind. In the performance of the duties of benevolence, we cherish the best affections of the heart, and enjoy the pleasing consciousness of growing in resemblance to him whose tender mercies are over all his works. In forgiving injuries, we possess the approbation of our own minds, and that serenity which attends deliverance from the gnawings of hatred, malice, and revenge: and we have the assurance of our Lord himself, that, if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive us. In rejoicing with them that rejoice, we make the prosperity of our neighbour, in some measure, our own, and receive a pleasure equal to that of those whom we congratulate. In going to the house of mourning, to weep with those that weep, we cherish a temper of mind becoming our present state; we soothe our souls to resignation, and elevate them to pious gratitude; and the consolations we administer are reflected upon ourselves. Thus do many of our most tender and satisfying enjoyments arise from those kind affections which unite us to the great family of mankind; and heaven, as it regards the pleasures of society, is but the perfection of these amiable dispositions.
If we consider those precepts of the divine law which respect our conduct and government as in
dividuals, we shall find them no less pleasing and profitable. We are composed of a reasonable soul, and of an animal body; and the powers of the soul being of a superior order to the appetites of the body, it is fit, as the law of God requires, that the former should have the control and direction of the latter and it is also necessary to our happiness, for it is impossible to be happy under the dominion of appetite and passion. And the laws of God, in what they require and what they forbid in this respect, are evidently adapted to our comfort and happiness. Thus temperance is a continual feast; whereas, if we abuse, by intemperance, the gifts of God's bounty, we lose the pleasure and enjoyment we might otherwise have derived, and bring upon ourselves positive evil. The restless desire of more, is avarice; to extinguish this, is contentment: and contentment raises the cottage to a palace, swells the little store to an ample treasure, and derives a satisfaction from the common bounties of Providence, which a contrary disposition neither relishes nor perceives. 'What a vain thing,' says our traveller towards heaven, whose affections are placed on things that are above— What a vain thing is the world, with all its enjoyments! It will be of little importance a few years, or days, hence, whether I was rich or poor, applauded or despised. My great object is, to pursue my journey to a better country, and to pass through life quietly and usefully. What is good the Lord will give, and he only knows what is good for me. What I desire, above all things, is
the favour of God, a sense of it impressed upon my heart, and conformity of temper to the divine will.'
Such are the pleasures which the Christian enjoys, while pursuing his heavenly course: but these will be better estimated, when we come, in a subsequent discourse, to compare them with those that are to be found in the ways of sin.
I shall only further observe, at present, that the religious traveller has infinitely the advantage above every other, in this respect, that he is sure his journey will end well.
How melancholy and disastrous do journies often prove? How many are undertaken, that are never finished? How often is a stop put to them by some fatal accident? And how many, that have been accomplished, had much better never been entered upon? But the Christian, who pursues his journey towards heaven, not only finds it safe and pleasant as he proceeds, but is infallibly certain of its terminating well. The hand, which now holds the pilgrim's staff, shall be adorned with the palms of victory; and the feet, which now tread the narrow path, shall, ere long, stand upon mount Zion, and walk in the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem.
To this purpose we are assured, that they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, shall run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
The sun, when it is mounting its illustrious path, may be obscured by passing clouds, which,
for a short while, shade and diminish its beams; but it soon emerges from the obscurity that involved it, and breaks out with fresh splendour. So, the traveller towards Zion may have the light of heavenly truth obscured in his mind, and, through that obscurity, may wander into the by-paths of sin and error; but soon as the mists of prejudice and passion are dispelled, he will discover his error and danger, and being restored by divine grace into the right path, he will walk therein with enlargedness of heart, and with accelerated speed. Nor will he rest satisfied till he hath laid aside every weight, and the sin that hath hitherto beset him, and finished his course with joy. The God whom he acknowledges in all his ways, will direct his steps, and will keep him, by his mighty power, through faith unto salvation.
By this time, I hope, I have said enough to justify the representation which is here given of religion, and have proved, by a variety of arguments, that it may truly be denominated a good way. For, if its being marked out by God himself, the wisest and the best of Beings; if our having all necessary guidance and direction; if the best company, and the purest pleasure and enjoyment as we proceed, and the certain prospect of our arriving safe and happy at the end of our journey; if these be sufficient to constitute any way good, then the way of religion is, beyond all dispute, a good way.
Having considered the instructive view which
is here given of religion, I should now proceed to explain the duties enjoined respecting it; but, reserving this part of the subject for another opportunity, I shall only observe at present, by way of improvement, that the view which we have taken of religion, may serve to expose the error of those who, either in words, or by their conduct, represent religion as a gloomy and forbidding service. Contrast the way in which the sinner walks, and the company with which he associates, with the way in which the good man walks, and the constant companions of his journey, and say to which of these the preference is due? Recognising the presence of the great God of heaven and earth, of the blessed Jesus, the friend and Saviour of man, and of the holy angels, who are ministering spirits to them that are heirs of salvation, and how will your minds rise superior to the vain allurements and temptations of the world, and your affections soar to the things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God! Make the experiment, and I am certain that, if you are sincere and conscientious, you will find wisdom's ways attended with so great pleasure, that you will not fail to say, as the queen of Sheba did to Solomon, the half was not told us: for the joys of religion infinitely exceed all the fame which we have heard of it.
You know this by experience, my Christian friends, and have joys which no stranger can intermeddle with. Impressed with a sense of your obligations to redeeming mercy, is not the lan