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UNDOUBTEDLY the most precious of man's gifts, invaluable and indispensable as they all are, is revealed religion. In comparison with this, the pleasures and the treasures of the world, and even the endowments of his own nature, sink into insignificance. Without religion, he would stand on the earth a forlorn and desolate being, aimless and hopeless. The very faculties which now contribute so largely to his happiness —which invest him, in fact, almost with the


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attributes of a God—his reason, his imagination, and his habit and power of reflection, would tend to aggravate his despair. He would behold himself made but to perish, after enduring a life which, in its best aspect, could be regarded only as a burden. . Ignorant of his origin, his nature, and his destination, this wise and elevated being would be confounded by his own superiority, and envy the worm crawling at his feet. A spectacle more harrowing, or more awful, it would be difficult to conceive. Thought, now so fruitful of enjoyment, would then become torture; a sullen gloom would settle on his mind; and, flying from reflection as from a tormentor, he would, if still tolerating life, sink into a savage state, but little removed from the beasts of the forest.

Religion is thus made one of the most essential conditions of our being; and Nature, to use a philosophical term, has not left it unprovided. Apart from Revelation, the mind itself is impressed, at a very early period of its development, with an intuitive consciousness of a superior Power—a Deity, or a fellowship of

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Deities, to whom it is subject and accountable. This supplies at once a restraint, a support, and a source of elevation; and so deeply rooted in man's heart is the instinctive conviction of a Presiding Intelligence, that all the inventions of superstition, accumulating through successive ages, till scarcely a vestige of reason or understanding remained, have never completely obscured it. A vague sense of an immortal destiny, and of a supreme, overruling Being, has clung to the benighted mind in the darkest night of its faculties, in its most desperate and most degraded state, raising it up from that slough of despond and abasement in which it must otherwise have been immersed. Man has thus, under circumstances of the most depressing tendency, become reconciled to his situation, supported in his reverses, comforted in his sorrows, and ennobled in his duties and aspirations.

If such is the effect produced by mere natural religion, it must be immeasurably enlarged by a faith emanating directly from God, and disseminated by Revelation. Enlightened by such a

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communion, man becomes immediately a new creature, inspired by divine sensibilities. His mysterious origin, hitherto so distracting a problem, is unravelled and explained ; his mission is defined, and he receives an assurance of perpetuity. Light streams upon his mind, and virtue and self-respect kindle in his heart. His feelings, impulses, and passions, so long ungoverned and ungovernable, learn, with but little effort, the sacred lessons and beautiful restraints of morality, and readily submit to their wholesome discipline. Ferocity, revenge, sensuality, and selfishness, the propensities developed by indulgence, are in great measure abandoned; and the redeemed man is happy, beyond what can be expressed by words, in the assiduous cultivation of forbearance, continence, charity, forgiveness of injuries, and self-denial. He is baptized in knowledge, as well as in faith, and the expansion of his heart induces a corresponding advancement of intellect. He 'no longer gropes in the dark, embarrassed alike by the past and the present; but walks erect and free, assured of the overruling care of a tutelary

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