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to the theory of religion, till there exists in the mind some desire for the practice of it. When, therefore, I tell you that the subject upon which I am addressing you 'is Practicul Religion, I mean to say, that my desire is to lead you from the consideration of religion as a system of propositions, to the consider: ation of it as a system of principles and motives. And there is just as much difference between these two methods of viewing religion, as there is between possessing a clear understanding of the terms honour and justice, and the being practically honest and just. And as in the relations of human society, the knowo ledge of virtues, without the sentiment or practice of them, is viewed as utterly worthless and despicable, so in that higher society to which we were adr ted at our baptism; in that society whose purpose is holiness, and whose home is heaven, and whose King is the Redeemer; in that society, the knowledge of the most learned theologian is rated as nothing, unless as it is applied to the excitement of religious affections, and the direction of the moral conduct.
Religion, then, is a practical science: or in simpler language, God having revealed to us bis will in the Bible, our first duty is to use every means of ascertaining wbat that will is; and our next, to apply this knowledge to the actual performance of the duties which we find to be required of us. So much
is clear from a mere consideration of the Bible as a revelation of God's will towards us, with the announcement of certain rewards and punishments consequent upon obedience or disobedience. But there is another consideration, which may lead us not only to see more clearly the necessity for practical religion, but also to perceive more distinctly what are its real nature and its required extents and that is the consideration, that our existence here is intended by our Creator as a training, a process of education, tending to fit is for the enjoyment of heaven. And thus God, in Scripture, forbids certain practices and certain tempers, not merely because such is bis will, but because indulgence in them would leave our minds in a state of unfitness for heaven: and be enjoins certain duties and affections, because it is only by acting and feeling in such a way, that we can be brought into a state of mind capable of enjoying that particular sort of happiness which God has prepared in heaven for those that love him. You see then, my dear young friends, the grounds of that anxiety wbich those most interested in your welfare feel respecting your becoming practically religious. They are in terested in your advancement in every branch of knowledge which tends to render you honQarable, useful, or agreeable among your fellow-mortals, because, in the common course of natare, there will probably be a certain
portion of time, a certain number of years, during which much of your happiness will depend upon the use of those preparatory years which have been devoted to education And upon the same principle, namely, a deep interest in your future happiness, they are solicitous as to your religious attainments; because they know that your happiness,fi not for a few years merely, but for an immeasurable eternity, is to be determined by the use you bave made of those means of religious instruction, and of that term of life on eartb, which it is the intention of our Creator we should use as means to fit us for the en. joyment of heaven.
In my course of catechising, it has been my principal object to instruct you in the theory of religion, that is to say, to inform your un derstandings as to the truths that are really revealed in Scripture ; because it is evident that God's will must be known, before it can either be believed or obeyed. But even then, I trust that none of you who paid any atten tion to the subject, could fall into the error of supposing that mere knowledge was all I wished to instil : even then, as related to morality, you could not but see, that virtues and vices were described, defined, and illustrated, for the purpose, and only for the purpose, of enabling you to practise the one and avoid the other. And now, it is my earnest desire to impress upon your minds the same conviction with respect to the articles of Chris. tian belief. With respect to them, knowledge, however necessary, is but a preparatory step: and thougb it might be strange to speak of performing the articles of our creed; yet it is perfectly true and correct to say, that prac: tical religion consists in acting in accordance with a right belief of the Gospel revelation. And as honesty does not consist in koowing precisely what is my own, and what is my neighbour's ; nor yet in admitting as a certain truth, that it is the will of God I should ab, stain from all unauthorised use of that which is another's; but in a moving principle of aetion, a disposition and affection of the mind, directly prompting me to such an abstinence : so neither does that religion which is well. pleasing in God's sight, and available to the securing of our eternal welfare, consist in admitting or maintaining as truths, the facts that Christ made an atonement for the sins of all mankind, that holiness is essential for ad. mittance into heaven, and that it is attainable only by the aid of the Holy Spirit; but it eon sists in acting, externally and internally, in thought word and deed, as if we believed these tbings to be true.
I trust I bave now succeeded in conveying to your minds a general notion of wbat I mean by Practical Religion, and a conviction, that if you would be happy, you must be practically religious. And if this latter point be not yet apparent ; if you conceive that so long as you are free from any very glaring crimes, you may safely rely on the undefined mercy of God, and that any thing of positive holiness can never be required; I would beg you to consider how you would feel, if you were aware that you inherited, and could inherit no property from your parents, and that there was only one profession or trade by which you would in future life be allowed to support yourselves. Would you be easy, though you knew that you were perfectly ignorant of that profession, or at any rate, perfectly incapable of putting any little knowledge you might possess into practice ? Would you rest with such an indolent reliance on the providence of God, and be happy in the belief, that in spite of your incompetence, your wants would somehow or other be provided for. You know well that in earthly things you would not reason thus, or you are conscious that if you did, you would reason foolishly and mischievously. Why then, will you not apply to interests of infié nitely higher importance, the principles which you unbesitatingly and instinctively apply to the business, of common life? You would be in a pitiable state, if you were approaching a period of life at which all external support must necessarily fail you, and if you were at the same time utterly incompetent to practise the only lucrative profession open to you'; but is