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and with many it is a great difficulty. This power of hope, which as St. Paul observes of it, is that which places the invisible world before our view, is specifically described in scripture, as amongst the gifts of the spirit, the natural man standing indeed much in need of it, being altogether of an opposite tendency. Hear St. Paul's prayer for his Roman converts ; “ The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Again to the Galatians, how does he describe the state of mind of a Christian? “ we through the spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."
Again, another impediment to the thought of religion is the faculty and the habit we have acquired of regarding its concerns as at a distance. A child is affected by nothing but what is present, and many thousands in this respect continue children all their lives; in a degree this weakness cleaves to us all, or produces upon us the same effect under a different form, namely, in this way, when we find ourselves
necessarily disturbed by near or approaching evil, we have the means of forgetting the nearness or the approach of that, which must bring with it the greatest evil or the greatest good we are capable of, our change at death. Though we cannot exactly offer any arguments to shew that it is either certainly or probably at a distance, yet we have the means of regarding it in our minds as though it were at a distance; and this even in cases in which it cannot possibly be so.
Do we prepare for it? no; why? because we practically regard it in our imaginations as at a distance: we cannot prove that it is at a distance: nay, the contrary may be proved against us: but still we regard it so in our imaginations, and regard it so practically; for imagination is with most men the practical principle. But however strong and general this delusion be, has it any foundation in reason? Can that be thought at a distance which may come to-morrow, which must come in a few years? In à rery few years to most of us, in a few years to all it will be fixed and decided, whether we are to
be in heaven or hell; yet we go on without thinking of it, without preparing for it, and it is exceedingly observable, that it is only in religion we thus put away the thought from
In the settlement of our worldly affairs after our deaths, which exactly depend upon the same event, commence at the same time, are equally distant, if either were distant, equally liable to uncertainty, as to when the disposition will take place, in these, I say, men are not usually negligent, or think that by reason of its distance it can be neglected, or by reason of the uncertainty when it may happen, left unprovided for.
This is a flagrant inconsistency, and proves decisively that religion possesses a small portion of our concern, in proportion with what it ought to do. For instead of giving to it that superiority which is due to immortal concerns, above those which are transitory, perishable and perishing, it is not even put upon an equality with them ; nor with those, which, in respect to time, and the uncertainty of time, are under the same eircumstances with itself.
Thirdly, Thirdly, The spiritual character of religion is another great impediment to its entering our thoughts. All religion, which is effectual, is and must be spiritual. Offices and ordinances are the handmaids and instruments of the spiritual religion, calculated to generate, to promote, to maintain, to uphold it in the heart, but the thing itself is purely spiritual. Now the flesh weigheth down the spirit, as with a load and burthen. It is difficult to rouse the human constitution to a sense and perception of what is purely spiritual. They who are addicted, not only to vice, but to gratifications and pleasures; they who know no other rule than to go with the crowd in their career of dissipation and amusement; they whose attentions are all fixed and engrossed by business, whose minds from morning to night are counting and computing; the weak and foolish and stupid; lastly, which comprehends a class of mankind deplorably numerous, the indolent and slothful; none of these can bring themselves to meditate upon religion. The last class slumber over its interests and concerns; perhaps they cannot be said to forget it absolutely, but they slumber over the subject, in which state nothing as to their salvation gets done, no decision, no practice. There are, therefore, we see, various obstacles and infirmities in our constitutions, which obstruct the reception of religious ideas in our mind, still more such, a voluntary entertainment of them, as may bring forth fruit. It ought therefore to be our constant prayer to God, that he will open our hearts to the influence of his word, by which is meant that he will so quicken and actuate the sensibility and vigor of our minds, as to enable us to attend to the things, which really and truly belong to our peace.
So soon as religion gains that hold and that possession of the heart, which it must do to become the means of our salvation, things change within us, as in
in many other respects, so especially in this. We think a great deal more frequently about it, we think of it for a longer continuance, and our thoughts of it have much more of vivacity and impressive
First, We begin to think of religion