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SERIOUSNESS IN RELIGION INDISPENSABLE
ABOVE ALL OTHER DISPOSITIONS.
1 PETER, iv. 7.
Be ye, therefore, sober, and watch unto
No impression can be made without it. An orderly life, so far as others are able to observe us, is now and then
produced by prudential motives, or by dint of habit; but without seriousness there can be no religious principle at the bottom, no course of conduct, flowing from religious motives; in a word, there can be no religion. This cannot exist without seriousness upon the subject. Perhaps a teacher of religion has more difficulty in producing seriousness amongst his hearers, than in any other part of his office. Until he succeed in this, he loses his labour; and when once, from
any cause whatever, a spirit of levity has taken hold of a mind, it is next to impossible to plant serious considerations in that mind. It is seldom to be done except by some great shock or alarm, sufficient to make a radical change in the disposition ; and which is God's own way of bringing about the business.
One might have expected that events so awful and tremendous, as death and judgment; that a question so deeply interesting, as whether we shall go to heaven or to hell; could in no possible case, and in no constitution of mind whatever, fail of exciting the most serious apprehension and concern.
But this is not so. In a thoughtless, a careless, a sensual world, many are always found who can resist, and who do resist, the force and importance of all these reflections, that is to say, they suffer nothing of the kind to enter into their thoughts. There are grown men and women, nay, even middle-aged persons, who have not thought seriously about religion an hour, nor a quarter of an hour, in the whole course of their lives. This great object of human solicitude affects not them in
any manner whatever.
It cannot be without its use to enquire into the causes of a levity of temper, which so effectually obstructs the admission of every religious influence, and which I should almost call unnatural.
Now there is a numerous class of mankind, who are wrought upon by nothing but what applies immediately to their senses; by what they see, or by what they feel; by pleasures or pains, or by the near prospect of pleasures and pains which they actually experience or actually observe. But it is the characteristic of religion to hold out to our consideration consequences which we do not perceive at the time. That is its very office and province, Therefore, if men will restrict and confine all their regards and all their cares to things which they perceive with their outward senses ; if they will yield up their understandings to their senses, both in what these senses are fitted to apprehend, and in what they are not fitted to apprehend, it is utterly impossible for religion to settle in their hearts, or for them to entertain any
serious concern about the matter. But surely this conduct is completely irrational, and can lead to nothing but ruin. It proceeds upon the supposition, that there is nothing above us, about us, or future, by which we can be affected, but the things which we see with our eyes or feel by our touch. All which is untrue.
66 The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are seen ; even his eternal Power and Godhead;" which means, that the order, contrivance, and design, displayed in the creation, prove with certainty, that there is more in nature than what we really see; and that amongst the invisible things of the universe, there is a Being, the author and origin of all this contrivance and design, and, by consequence, a being of stupendous
and of wisdom and knowledge incomparably exalted above any wisdom or knowledge
which we see in man; and that he stands in the same relation to us as the maker does to the thing made. The things which are seen are not made of the things which do appear. This is plain : and this argument is independent of Scripture and revelation. What further moral or religious consequences properly follow from it, is another question ; but the proposition itself shows, that they who cannot, and they who will not, raise their minds above the mere information of their senses, are in a state of gross error as to the real truth of things, and are also in a state to which the faculties of man ought not to be degraded. A person of this sort may, with respect to religion, remain a child all his life. A child naturally has no concern but about the things which directly meet its senses ; and the person we describe is in the same condition.
Again ; there is a race of giddy thoughtless men and women, of young men and young women more especially, who look no further than the next day, the next week, the next month; seldom or ever so