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will produce a kind of religious fervour, which, rousing the mind to a greater exertion of its pow. ers, will produce good resolutions with consideraa. ble strength and vigour; and thereby break their growing attachment to the world. These fer: vours, however, will of course remit, and other ob: jects will necessarily resume some part, at least, of their influence: but if a sense of God and of reli: gion have once taken firm hold of the mind, in the early part of life, there will be reason to hope, that an express regard to them will return with greater force, and after shorter intervals, perpetually. By this means such strength will be given to the prin ciple of conscience, that in the farthest 'excursions they make from the 'strict path of religion, even while they maintain no express regard to God in their actions, the bare apprehension of a thing being * right, and their duty, will, in all considerable instances, immediately and mechanically determine their minds; so that they will never deliberately do any thing which they are convinced is unlawful, and offensive to God. At most, ifever a stronger temptation than usual should induce them to transgress their known duty, in any of the greater in- . stances of it, the state of their minds will be such, as that these transgressions will be followed by the
keenest compunction and contrition, which will make them less liable to commit the same offence a second time. - Thus we see that those persons, in whose minds. there is this prevailing disposition to virtue, will bé improved both by the uniform practice of their duty, which necessarily strengthens the habit of it, and even by oecasional transgressions, which gives a stronger stimulus to the power of conscience. But there is great danger, lest these violations of known duty be either so great as to produce de spair, which naturally hardens the mind, or so fre, quent as to beget a habit. Both these weaken the power of conscience. The man then goes backward in religion, and may at last, even from this more advanced state of virtue, be brought to com.. mit all iniquity with greediness. Let him, then, who thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall ; and let all of us, conscious of the frailty of our natures, be intent upon working out our saluation with fear and trembling
An habitual regard to God being the most effectual means of advancing us from the more imperfect to the more perfect state I have been describing, I shall endeavour to recommend this leading duty to you, by a fuller and more distinct enume
ration of its happy effects; and I shall then shew what I apprehend to be the most effectual methods of promoting it, and of removing the various eb. structions to it.
1. An'habitual regard to God in our actions tends greatly to keep us firm in our adherence to our duty. It has pleased divine providence to place men in a state of trial and probation. This world is strictly such. We are surrounded with a great variety of objects, adapted to gratify a vari: ety of senses, with which we are furnished. The pleasures they give us are all innocent in modera. tion, and they engage us in a variety of agreeable and proper pursuits. But our natures are such, as that the frequent indulgence of any of our appetites tends to make its demands inordinate, and to beget an habitual propensity to indulge it; and this proneness to the excessive indulgence of
any' of our passions enslaves our minds, and is highly dangerous, and criminał. By this means we too often come to forget God our maker, to injure our fellow-creatures of mankind, and to do a still
great. er, and more irreparable injury to ourselves, both in mind and body.
It has pleased Almighty God, therefore, from the concern he had for our good, to forbid these im
moderate indulgences of the love of pleasure, riches, and honour, by express laws, guarded with the most awful sanctions. Now we are certainly less liable to forget these laws, and our obligation to observe them, when we keep up an habitual regard to our great lawgiver and judge; when we consider him as always present with us; when we consider that his eyes are in every place, beholding both the evil and the good ; that he sees in secret, and will one day reward openly. In this manner we shall acquire an habitual reverence for God and his laws, which will end in an habitual obedience to them, even without any express regard to their authority. Thus we should certainly be less likely to neglect the request of a friend, or the injunction of a master, if we could always keep in mind the remembrance of our friend, or master ; and a constant attention to them would certainly give us a habit of pleasing them in all things.
2. An habitual regard to God promotes an uniform chearfulness of mind; it tends to dissipate anxiety, or melancholy, and may even, in some cases, prevent madness.
Without a regard to God, as the maker and governor of all things, this world affords but a gloomy and uncomfortable prospect. Without this, we see no great end for
which we have to live, we have no great or ani. mating object to pursue; and whatever schemes we may be carrying on, our views are bounded by a very short and narrow space. To an atheist, therefore, every thing must appear little, dark, and confused. And let it be considered, that, in proportion as we forget God, and lose our regard to him, we adopt the sentiments and views of atheists, and shut our eyes to the bright and glorious prospects which religion exhibits to us.
Religion, my brethren, the doctrine of a God, of a providence, and of a future state, opens an immense, a glorious, and most transporting prospect; and every man, who is humbly conscious that he conforms to the will of his maker, may enjoy, and rejoice in this prospect. Considering ourselves as the subjects of the moral government of God, we see a most important sphere of action in which we have to exert ourselves, we have the greatest of all objects set before us, glory, honour, and immor. tality; an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and - that fadeth not away, as the reward of our faithful perseverance in well-doing ; and we have a bound. less existence, an eternity, in which to pursue and enjoy this reward. These great views and objects, the contempla