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sort of conversation; especially if they be young persons: and I am persuaded, that much mischief is actually done in this way.
It has been objected, that so much regard, or, as the objectors would call it, over-regard for religion, is inconsistent with the interest and welfare of our families, and with success and prosperity in our worldly affairs. I believe that there is very little ground for this objection in fact, and even as the world goes; in reason and principle there is none. A good christian divides his time between the duties of religion, the calls of business, and those quiet relaxations which may be innocently allowed to his circumstances and condition, and which will be chiefly in his family or amongst a few friends, In this plan of life there is no confusion or interference in its parts; and unless a man be given to sloth and laziness, which are what religion condemns, he will find time enough for them all. This calm system may not be sufficient for that unceasing eagerness, hurry and anxiety about worldly affairs, in which some
men pass their lives, but it is sufficient for
every thing which reasonable prudence requires: it is perfectly consistent with usefulness in our stations, which is a main point. Indeed, compare the hours which serious persons spend in religious exercises and meditations, with the hours which the thoughtless and irreligious spend in idleness and vice and expensive diversions, and you will perceive on which side of the comparison the advantage lies even in this view of the subject.
Nor is there any thing in the nature of religion to support the objection. In a certain sense it is true, what has been sometimes said, that religion ought to be the rule of life, not the business: by which is meant that the subject matter even of religious duties lies in the common affairs and transactions of the world; diligence in our calling is an example of this; which, however, keeps both our heads and hands at work merely upon business merely temporal, yet religion may be governing us here meanwhile; God may be feared in the busiest scenes.
In addition to the above there exists another prejudice against religious seriousness arising from a notion very commonly entertained, viz. that religion leads to gloom and melancholy. This notion, I am convinced, is a mistake. Some persons are constitutionally subject to melancholy, which is as much a disease in them as the ague is a disease; and it may happen that such men's melancholy may fall upon religious ideas, as it may upon any other subject which seizes their distempered imagination. But this is not religion leading to melancholy: or it sometimes is the case, that men are brought to a sense of religion by calamity and affliction, which produce at the same time depression of spirits. But neither here is religion the cause of this distress or dejection, or to be blamed for it. These cases being excepted, the very reverse of what is alledged against religion is the truth. No man's spirits were ever hurt by doing his duty. On the contrary, one good action, one temptation resisted and overcome, one sacrifice of desire or interest, purely for couiscience sake, will prove a cordial for weak and
low spirits beyond what either indulgence or diversion or company can do for them. And a succession and course of such actions and seif denials, springing from a religious principle and manfully maintained, is the best possible course that can be followed as a remedy for sinkings and oppressions of this kind. Can it then be true that religion leads to melancholy? Occasions rise to every man living; to many very severe as well as repeated occasions, in which the hopes of religion are the only stay that is left him. Godly men have that within them which cheers and comforts them in their saddest hours; ungodly men have that which strikes their heart like a dagger, in their gayest moments. Godly meir discover, what is very true, but what, by most mén, is found out too late, namely, that a good conscience, and the hope of our Creator's final favor and acceptance are the only solid happiness to be attained in this world. Experience corresponds with the reason of the thing. I take upon me to say that religious men are generally chearful. If this be not observed, as might be expected, supposing it to be true, it is because the chearfulness which religion inspires does not shew itself in noise, or in fits and starts of merriment, but is calm and constant. Of this the only true and yaluable kind of chearfulness, for all other kinds are hollow and unsatisfying, religious men possess not less but a greater share than others.
Another destroyer of religious seriousness, and wbich is the last I shall mention, is a certain fatal turn which some minds take, namely, that when they find difficulties in or concerning religion, or any of the tenets of religion, they forthwith plunge into irreligion; and make these difficulties, or any degree of uncertainty, which seems to their apprehension to hang over the subject, a ground and occasion for giving full liberty to their inclinations, and for casting off the restraints of religion entirely. This is the case with men, who, at the best perhaps, were only balancing between the sanctions of religion and the love of pleasure or of unjust gain; but especially the former. In this precarious state, any objection, or appearance of