Published on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 02:11:50 PM
Religion is the moral link that binds man most closely with his God—the spiritual garden where the creature walks in companionship with his Maker. This sentiment is the highest that man is capable of cherishing, since it binds him to a being fitted as no other being is to impart to the soul the highest moral grandeur that created beings can enjoy. It is the upper window of the soul, which opens into the clear, radiant light of God's eternal home. Its influence in every department of the mind is salutary and holy; no faculty can rise to its most exalted state without the sanctifying power of this sentiment. Neglect it not; the highest beauties of your souls, the finishing touch of your character, the sweetest charm of your life, will be given by due attention to this, your first and last duty.
If men have been termed pilgrims, and life a journey, then we may add that the Christian pilgrimage far surpasses all others in the following important particulars: In the goodness of the road; in the beauty of the prospect; in the excellence of the company, and in the rich rewards waiting the traveler at the journey's end. All who have been great and good without Christianity would have been much greater and better with it. True religion is the poetry of the heart; it has enchantment, useful to our manners; it gives us both happiness and virtue.
True religion hath in it nothing weak, nothing sad, nothing constrained. It enlarges the heart, is simple, free, and attractive. It enables us to bear the sorrows of life, and it lessens the pangs of death. It is the coronet by token of which God makes you a princess in his family and an heir to his brightest glories, the sweetest pleasures, the noblest privileges, and the brightest honors of his kingdom. It is a star which beams the brighter in heaven the darker on earth grows the night.
When the rising sun shed its rays on Memnon's statue it awakened music in the heart of stone. Religion does the same with nature. Without religion you are a wandering star. You are a voiceless bird. You are a motionless brook. The strings of your heart are not in tune with the chords which the Infinite hand sweeps as he evolves the music of the universe. Your being does not respond to the touch of Providence, and if beauty and truth and goodness come down to you like angels out of heaven and sing you their sweetest songs, you do not see their wings, nor recognize their home and parentage.
True religion and virtue give a cheerful and happy turn to the mind, admit of all real joys, and even procure for us the highest pleasures. While it seems to have no other object than the felicity of another life it constitutes the chief happiness of the present. There are no principles but those of religion to be depended on in cases of real distress, and these are able to encounter the worst emergencies and to bear us up under all the changes and chances to which our life is subject. The difficulties of life teach us wisdom, its vainglories humility, its calumnies pity, its hopes resignation, its sufferings charity, its afflictions fortitude, its necessities prudence, its brevity the value of time, and its dangers and uncertainties a constant dependence upon a higher and all-protecting power.
All natural results are spontaneous. The diamond sparkles without effort, and the flowers open naturally beneath the Summer rain. Religion is also a natural thing—as spontaneous as it is to weep, to love, or to rejoice. There is not a heart but has its moments of longing—yearning for something better, nobler, holier, than it knows now; this bespeaks the religious aspiration of every heart. Genius without religion is only a lamp on the outer gate of a palace. It may serve to cast a gleam of light on those that are without, while the inhabitant sits in darkness.
Religion is not proved and established by logic. It is, of all the mysteries of nature and the human mind, the most mysterious and most inexplicable. It is of instinct, and not of reason. It is a matter of feeling, and not of opinion. Religion is placing the soul in harmony with God and his laws. God is the perfect supreme soul, and your souls are made in the image of his, and, like all created things, are subject to certain mutable laws. The transgression of these laws damages your souls—warps them, stunts their growth, outrages them.
You can only be manly or attain to a manly growth by preserving your true relations and strict obedience to the laws of your being. God has given you appetites, and he meant that they should be to you a source of happiness, but always in a way which shall not interfere with your spiritual growth and development. He gave you desires for earthly happiness.
He planted in you the love of human praise, enjoyment of society, the faculty of finding happiness in all of his works. He gave you his works to enjoy, but you can only enjoy them truly when you regard them as blessings from the great Giver to feed, and not starve, your higher nature. There is not a true joy in life which you are required to deprive yourself of in being faithful to him and his laws. Without obedience to law your soul can not be healthful, and it is only to a healthful soul that pleasure comes with its natural, its divine, aroma.
Some well-meaning Christians tremble for their salvation, because they have never gone through that valley of tears and of sorrow which they have been taught to consider as an ordeal that must be passed through before they can arrive at regeneration. We can but think that such souls mistake the nature of religion. The slightest sorrow for sins is sufficient if it produces amendment, but the greatest is insufficient if it do not. By their own fruits let them prove themselves, for some soils will take the good seed without being watered by tears or harrowed up by afflictions.
There are three modes of bearing the ills of life—by indifference, which is the most common; by philosophy, which is the most ostentatious; and by religion, which is the most effectual. It has been said, "Philosophy readily triumphs over past or future evils, but that present evils triumph over philosophy." Philosophy is a goddess whose head is, indeed, in heaven, but whose feet are upon earth; attempts more than she accomplishes and promises more than she performs. She can teach us to hear of the calamities of others with magnanimity, but it is religion only that can teach us to bear our own with resignation.
Whoever thinks of life as something that could exist in its best form without religion is in ignorance of both. Life and religion is one, or neither is any thing. Religion is the good to which all things tend; which gives to life all its importance, to eternity all its glory. Apart from religion man is a shadow, his very existence a riddle, and the stupendous scenes around him as incoherent and unmeaning as the leaves which the sibyl scattered in the wind.
We are surrounded by motives to religion and devotion if we would but mind them. The poor are designed to excite our liberality, the miserable our pity, the sick our assistance, the ignorant our instruction, those that are fallen our helping hand. In those who are vain we see the vanity of the world, in those who are wicked our own frailty. When we see good men rewarded it confirms our hopes, and when evil men are punished it excites our fears. He that grows old without religious hopes, as he declines into age, and feels pains and sorrows incessantly crowding him, falls into a gulf of misery, in which every reflection must plague him deeper and deeper.
It is the property of the religious spirit to be the most refining of all influences. It has been termed the social religion, and society is as properly the sphere of all its duties, privileges, and enjoyments as the ecliptic is the course of the earth.
No external advantage, no culture of the tastes, no habit of command, no association with the elegant, or even depths of affection can bestow, that delicacy and that grandeur of bearing which belong only to the mind which has experienced the discipline of religious thought and feeling. All else, all superficial aids to etiquette, manner, and refinement as expressed in look and gesture, is but as gilt and cosmetic.
Your personal value depends entirely upon your possession of religion. You are worth to yourself what you are capable of enjoying, you are worth to society the happiness you are capable of imparting. A man whose aims are low, whose motives are selfish, who has in his heart no adoration of God, whose will is not subordinate to the supreme will, who has no hope, no tenable faith in a happy immortality, no strong-armed trust that with his soul it shall be well in all the future, can not be worth very much to himself. Neither can such a man be worth very much to society, because he has not that to bestow which society most needs for its prosperity and happiness.
Christianity teaches the beauty and dignity of common and private life. It makes it valuable, not for the cares from which it frees us, but for the constant duties through which we may train the soul to perfect sympathy with the design of the Creator. It shows that the humblest lot possesses opportunities which require the energies of the most exalted virtues to meet and satisfy. It impresses upon us the solemn truth that life itself, however humble its condition, is always holy; that every moment has its duty and its responsibility, which Christian strength alone, the crown of power, can do and bear. It teaches that the simplest experience may become radiant with a heavenly beauty when hallowed by a spirit of constant love to God and man.
Another of the lessons of Christianity is that of the inestimable worth of common duties as manifesting the greatest principles. It bids us to attain perfection, not striving to do dazzling deeds, but by making our experience divine. It shows us that the Christian hero will ennoble the humblest field of labor, that nothing is mean which can be performed as a duty, but that religion, like the touch of Midas, converts the humblest call of duty into spiritual gold.