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enjoying, as he supposes, the holy season. Such is the delusion under which many are living. Their religion is, in great part, a mere susceptibility of impression from religious subjects; it is a selfish, religious voluptuousness.
It is certain, that more importance is oftentimes attached to "sensible enjoyment," as it is called-to lively frames and feelings-than belongs to them. There is a great variety in the constitution of the human mind, not only as it respects the power of thinking, but also of feeling: some feel far more acutely than others; this is observable separate and apart from godliness. The grace of God in conversion, operates a moral, not a physical, change; it gives a new direction to the faculties, but leaves the faculties themselves as they were; consequently, with equal depth of conviction, and equal strength of principle, there will be various degrees of feeling, in different persons: the susceptibility of the mind to impression, and its liability to vivid feeling, were there before conversion, and they remain after it; and oftentimes the lively emotion produced by affecting scenes, or seasons, or sermons, is partly an operation of nature, and partly of grace. A man may feel but little, and yet, if that little lead him to do much, it is great piety notwithstanding. Of two persons who listen to an affecting tale, one is seen to weep profusely, and is overwhelmed by the story; the other is attentive and thoughtful, but neither weeps nor sobs. They retire: the former, perhaps, to wipe her tears, and to forget the misery which caused them; the latter to seek out the sufferer, and relieve him. Which had most feeling?
The former. Which most benevolence? The latter. The conduct of one was the result of nature, that of the other the effect of principle. Take another illustration, still more in point. Conceive of two real Christians listening to a sermon in which the preacher is discoursing from such a text as this "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another;" or this" Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye, through his poverty might be rich." His object, as that of every man should be, who preaches from such a text, is to show that a sense of divine love to us, should fill us with benevolence towards others. In order to bring the heart to feel its obligations, he gives a vivid description of God's love to man; and then, while his hearers are affected with God's mercy, he calls upon them, in imitation of Jehovah, to relieve those who are in want; to bear with those who are vexatious; to forgive those who have injured them; to lay aside their wrath, and abound in all the expressions of genuine affection to their fellow-christians. One of the individuals is deeply interested and affected by the first part of the discourse, sheds many tears, and is wrought up to a high pitch of feeling, while the preacher paints in glowing colours the love of God: the other hears with fixed attention, with genuine faith, the whole sermon, but his emotions are not powerful; he feels it is true, but it is tranquil feeling, unattended by either smiles or tears. They go home; the latter perhaps in silence, the former exclaiming to his friends, "Oh, what a delightful sermon! what a
precious season! did you ever hear the love of God so impressively, so beautifully, described?" With all his feeling, however, he does not go forth to relieve one child of want, nor does he attempt to extinguish one angry or implacable feeling towards an individual who had offended him. He is as passionate and unforgiving, as unkind and selfish, after the sermon, as he was before he heard it. The other retires with more of calm reflection than of strong emotion. Hearken to his soliloquy:-"The preacher has given us a most astonishing idea of the love of God to us, and most clearly and affectingly deduced from it our obligations to love one another. Am I interested in this love? What! has this ineffable grace lavished all its benefits on me, a rebel against God, upon me a sinner? And shall I not feel this love constraining me to relieve the wants, to heal the sorrows, to forgive the offences, of my fellowcreatures? I will bear ill will no longer; I will put out the kindling spark of revenge; I will go in a spirit of meekness and of love, and forgive the offender, and be reconciled to my brother." By that grace on which he depended, he is enabled to act up to his resolution. He becomes, upon principle, upon conviction, more merciful, more meek, more affectionate. Which has most feeling? The former. Which has most religion? The latter.
Any emotion, however pleasurable or intense, that does not lead to action, is mere natural, not holy, feeling while that, however feeble it may seem, which leads us to do the will of God, is unfeigned piety. In order to ascertain our degree of religion, we must not merely ask, how we feel under sermons,
but how this feeling leads us to act afterwards. The operative strength of our principles, and not the contemplative strength of our feelings, is the test of godliness. All that imaginative emotion, produced by a sense of God's love to us, which does not lead to a cultivation of the virtue considered in this treatise, is one of the delusive fires, which, instead of guiding aright, misleads the souls of men.
4. It is to be feared that many, in the present day, satisfy themselves that they are Christians, because of their zeal in the cause of religion. Happily for the church of God, happily for the world at large, there is now a great and general eagerness for the diffusion of knowledge and piety. Throwing off the torpor of ages, the friends of Christ are labouring to extend his kingdom in every direction. Almost every possible object of Christian philanthropy is seized upon; societies are organized; means adapted to every kind of instruments are employed; the whole levy en masse of the religious world is called out; and Christendom presents an interesting scene of benevolent energy. Such a state of things, however, has its dangers in reference to personal religion, and may become an occasion of delusion to many. It does not require genuine piety to associate us with these movements: from a natural liberality of disposition, or regard to reputation, or a desire of influence, or by the compulsion of example, we may give our property; for all these motives are no doubt in partial operation, when giving is in fashion. And as to personal exertions, how many inducements may lead to this, besides a sincere and an ardent love to Christ; an inherent fondness for
activity, a love of display, the spirit of party, the persuasion of friends,-may all operate, and unquestionably do operate in many cases, to produce astonishing efforts in the cause of religious benevolence, where there is a total absence of genuine piety. The mind of man, prone to self-deception, and anxious to find some reasons to satisfy itself in reference to its eternal state, short of the true evidence of a renewed heart, is too apt to derive a false peace from the contemplation of its zeal. In proportion as the cause of the delusion approximates to the nature of true religion, is its power to blind and to mislead the judgment. If the mind can perceive any thing in itself, or in its operations, which bears the semblance of godliness, it will convert it into a means of lulling the conscience and removing anxiety. This is to many persons the fatal opiate, the soul-destroying imposture-their activity in the cause of Christian zeal: none are more diligent in their devotedness to the duties of committees, none are more constant in their attendance upon public meetings; others, again, weary themselves in their weekly rounds to collect the contributions of the rich, or the offerings of the poor. These things, if they do not lead them coolly to reason and to conclude that they are believers, take off their attention from the real condition of their souls, leave them no leisure for reflection, repress the rising fear, and either stifle the voice of conscience, or enable them to drown its remonstrances in the eloquence of the platform, or in the discussions of the committee-room. We doubt not that some unworthy professors of religion, in the present