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Paul! Both, at the same time, are pre-eminently impressive. useful, and happy.
All Christians have their peculiar views of divine subjects, and their peculiar affections. All these also, when just, and true, have their own peculiar utility. In the familiar intercouse of Christians these views are continually interchanged; and these affections mutually communicated. By this interchange, the views of all become more just, more expanded, more noble. The varieties of divine excellence, the multiplied relations of divine truth, and the endless modifications of duty, are, in this way, far more extensively perceived by every one, than would otherwise be possible. The difference between the knowledge, thus imbibed, and that, which would be gained by a Christian in absolute solitude, is substantially the same with that, which exists between a savage, and a man educated in enlightened society.
Nor is this mutual communication of affections less improving. Piety, benevolence and self-government, are capable of being endlessly modified. In a solitary mind, it is impossible, in the present state of man, that they should fail of being sluggish, contracted, austere, or in some other unhappy manner defective. Even where persons of the same sect, class, or characler, consort with each other only, a narrow-minded, prejudiced, bigoted, and often very censurable, spirit is diffused, cherished, and confirmed. An expansive correspondence among Christians, on the contrary, enlarges the heart, exalts its feelings, and dignifies its designs. Let it be remembered, that to this immense good every Christian may contribute, whatever is his station, whatever the extent of his talents, and whatever the characteristical tenour of his affections. The greatest may learn, and amend, by the assistance of the least; the wisest, by that of the most uninformed. Thus, As iron sharpeneth iron, so every Christian sharpeneth the countenunce of his friend. Prov. xxvii. 17.
3. The affections of Christians are strongly invigorated by their frequent intercourse with each other.
Social beings are formed in such a manner, as to be easily, and deeply, interested in each other's concerns ; and to share in each other's hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. Naturally, and in a
sense instinctively, we love when others love, and hate when others hate; exult in their prosperity, and mingle our sighs and tears with theirs. Whenever these emotions are communicated, they are caught. Heart, in this case, beats in regular response to heart; and the bosom spontaneously heaves, and glows, and throbs, at the call of those, by whom we are surrounded. All this is continually seen in the common occurrences of life; particularly in the zeal of parties; the agitations of political assemblies; and the distracted violence of tumultuous crowds. Much more delightfully is it exhibited in the more rational and affectionate meetings of friends; and far more delightfully still in the inter-communion of Christians, the best of all friends. Here, the noblest subjects engage the attention ; and the most interesting of all concerns engross the heart : concerns, approved by the conscience, and approved by God. In their nature they are fraught with peace: in their progress they are sources of unceasing and immortal good. To every person in such an assembly, the Wisdom, which is from above, is the supreme object of pursuit ; that godliness, which has the promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come. In the pursuit of this glorious object, full of comfort, hope, and joy, the best emotions, which can be felt by the human heart, are awakened, and reciprocated. The flame, which glows in one breast, is caught, and kindled, in another. The light, which illumines one mind, sheds its lustre over all the minds, by which it is encircled. The soul, raised above itself by this happy communion, feels, that it has passed from death unto life, because it loves the brethren. On such an assembly the spirit of grace fails not to shower his balmy influence, and to awaken in the minds, of which it is composed, delightful anticipations of future glory. Peace, and hope, and joy, descending from above, scatter here their richest blessings; and with a divine enchantment raise up a transient, but beautiful, image of Heaven, on this side of the grave.
1. These observations teach us the invaluable blessing of being born in a Christian Land.
In such a land, all these advantages are primarily obtained. There, Christians live. There, religion is manifested in the life and conversation. There, its reality, dignity, solemnity, and loveliness, are seen by the eye, and declared to the ear. There, the words of the wise are as goads. They counsel, exhort, reprove, and alarm, with evangelical power. The minds of sinners are there awakened, in this manner, to a sense of their guilt; and urged, by motives of singular import, to listen to the alarming denunciations of offended Justice, and to the delightful invitations of boundless Mercy. There, the worth of the soul, its immortal being, and its amazing destinies, are explained, and understood. There, the charms of a religious example are displayed, and felt. There, of course, man is taught, allured, and compelled, to provide for his eternal welfare.
In other lands how dreadfully reversed is the scene! What a bleak and barren wilderness, what a dreary solitude, does their moral state present to the compassionate eye! Stretch the wings of your contemplation, and pass over them with a momentary, but painful, survey. From climate to climate, not a house of God, is presented to your eyes : not a pious family; not a religious example. Listen. No voice of prayer rises on the winds. No notes of praise are wafted to the Heavens. Look. No sabbath smiles with peace and mercy on the desolate waste. No dews of divine grace, no showers of life-giving rain, descend on the sterile soil. The heaven over their heads is brass: the earth under their feet is iron.
2. The same observations teach us the peculiar blessing of being born in a religious Family.
In such a family religion lives and prospers, is visible and powcrful, in a still more emphatical manner. It is seen always : it is seen in the most beautiful attitudes, and the fairest colours. It is seen with an influence, peculiarly persuasive and heavenly.
In their morning and evening devotions piety begins, and closes, the day ; prepares the heart to go patiently, serenely, faithfully, and gratefully, through its active concerns; and the eyes to close in peace, and to cnjoy the sleep of such, as are beloved by God. The interval between these solemn seasons is filled up with successive acts of justice, truth, and kindness to others, and to the happy circle where they originate; and with a watchful, assiduous, and faithful, superintendence of themselves. In the blessings of their intercourse with others, all around them successively share: while their friends and neighbours are delighted, strangers are welcomed, and their enemies are not excluded. The poor and suffering not only make peculiar claims, but find those claims cheerfully admitted.
With each other, life is only a sweet interchange of lovely affections, and evangelical offices; and assumes an aspect, on which Angels would smile with complacency, and heaven descend in a shower of blessings. Every day, which passes over their heads, calls forth, from them all, new displays of Evangelical love, new efforts to make each other happy. Every place furnishes them new opportunities of showing how much more blessed it is to give, than to receive. But the sabbath, of all days, surrounds them with peculiar lustre and loveliness. Of all places, the sanctuary most unfolds their excellence, sublimes thcir virtues, and prepares them to meet the assembly of the first-born.
How can those who are young grow up in such a family, in the midst of such conversation, by the side of such examples, and in the sight of such excellence hourly displayed, and fail of becoming wise! The example is that of parents ; the most venerable, and the most impressive, which in this world was ever presented before the eyes. The excellence is that of brothers and sisters; the most lovely, the most alluring, which is found below the sun. Must not the Angels of the Lord er.camp round about such a family? Will not God behold them with uninterrupted and unclouded smiles ? Who can be a witness of the piety, the benevolence, of such a family and not exclaim,
“ Thus on the Heavenly hills
3. These observations teach us the wisdom, and goodness, of Christ in establishing a Church in the world.
The Church is one great family ; in which all Christians are united, and enabled to walk together, and drive wisdom from each other. Here, their correspondence is intimale; and their advantages are all concentrated. Their instructions, their reproofs, their prayers, their example, are here mutually exhibited, and mutually enjoyed. Here, also, these blessings are perpetuated. Religion, here, is visible from day to day, and from age to age; and piety and beneficence shine, like the sun, with perennial beams. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob, Glorious things are spoken of thee, O Cily of God. The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever : here will I dwell. I will abundantly bless her provision. I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
In this assembly of the faithful, the word, and worship, of God, the means of eternal life, and the religion of the Gospel, have all been preserved. By the example, the labours, the prayers, and the piety, of the Church in one land, and in one age, have piety and salvation been extended, and perpetuated, through other lands, and other ages. This is the stem, from which have sprung all the blossoms, and fruits, of righteousness, which have gladdened this desolate world. Here, sinners, in millions, have seen, felt, and acknowledged, the reality and power of religion ; and under its divine influence have turned from darkness to light, end from the power of Satan unto God. Of Zion it shall be said, " this and that man was born in her.” The Lord shall count, ahen he writeth up the people, that this man was born there.
4. We hence learn, also, how important it is, that Christians should adorn their profession with a holy life and conversation.
Considerations, very numerous and highly interesting, urge the performance of this duty. On this occasion I shall, however, omit them all, except those, which have been insisted on in this discourse. These ought to be more than sufficient for a design, 80 strongly commended by its own inherent importance, and so necessary to peace of mind, and the final approbation of God.
If religion be not fervent in the heart, it will not be conspicuous in the life. If it be not conspicuous in the life, saints will not be edified, and sinners will not be saved. Vol. V.