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from motives of dislike to its peculiar doctrines, they will scarcely fail of entertaining more favourable impressions of it, if they can be prevailed on with impartiality to compare the Holy Scriptures, from whence alone the Christian religion is to be learned, with the stoic writings; and then fairly to consider, whether there is any thing to be met with in the discoveries of our blessed Saviour, in the writings of his apostles, or even in the obscurest parts of the pro etic books, by which, equitably interpreted, either their senses or their reason are contradicted, as they are by the paradoxes of these philosophers; and if not, whether notices from above, of things in which, though we comprehend them but imperfectly, we are possibly much more interested, than at present we discern, ought not to be received with implicit veneration; as useful exercises and trials of that duty which finite understandings owe to infinite wisdom.
THE GRAND OBJECT OF RELIGION.
The end and design of all religion; the proper effect and produce of good principles ; the good fruit of a good tree; the ultimate view and the fundamental intention of all religious truths implanted in men either by nature or teaching; is the practice of virtue. For the word religion, in its very native and original meaning, signifies an obligation upon men, arising from the reason of things, and from the government of God, to do what is just, and virtuous, and good; to live in a constant habitual sense and acknowledgment of God, in the practice of universal justice and charity towards men, and in a regular and sober government of their own passions, under a firm persuasion and continual expectation of the righteous distribution of rewards and punishments at their proper season, in the eternal judgment of God. This is the foundation of religion, the fundamental doctrine, in all places, and at all times, invariable and eternal. This, being corrupted by numerous superstitions among the Jews, and by the absurdest idolatries and most enormous immoralities among the heathen, Christ came into the world to restore ; and by the preaching of forgiveness upon true repentance and effectual amend. ment of life and manners, to bring back sinners to the kingdom of God, through the obedience of the gospel. In proportion therefore as any doctrine of truth has a greater, or more proper, and more immediate tendency to promote this great end, to produce this fruit of the spirit; exactly the very same proportion has it of weight and excellency, in the religious estimation of things : it is gold or silver, or precious stones (in the Apostle's language) built upon the foundation of Christ. And on the other side, any erroneous opinion, in proportion as it has any or no moral influence, in the very same proportion it is faulty or innocent. It is (in St. Paul's similitude) either wood, hay, stubble; something that is merely lost labour, useless only, and insignificant, and of no strength in the building; or else it is opposite to, and de, structive of, the very foundation of the temple of God. It is (in the analogy of our Saviour's parable) that which denominates a man either to be a vine, in which are many fruitless branches ; or that he is' a thorn or a bramble bush, from which it is impossible to expect there should ever at all be gathered figs or grapes.
COMFORTS OF RELIGION. THERE are many who have passed the age of youth and beauty, who have resigned the pleasures of that smiling season, who begin to decline into the vale of years, impaired in their health, depressed in their fortunes, stript of their friends, their children, and perhaps still more tender connections. What resources can this world afford them? It presents a dark and dreary waste, through which there does not issue a single ray of comfort. Every delusive prospect of ambition is now at an end; long experience of mankind, an experience very different from what the open and generous soul of youth had fondly dreamt of, has rendered the heart almost inaccessible to new friendships. The principal sources of activity are
when those for whom we labour are cut off from us, those who animated, and those who sweetened all the toils of life. Where then can the soul find refuge, but in the bosom of religion? There she is admitted to those prospects of providence and futurity, which alone can warm and fill the heart. I speak here of such as retain the feelings of humanity, waom misfortunes have softened, and perhaps rendered more delicately sensible; not of such as possess that stupid insen
sibility, which some are pleased to dignify with the name of philosophy.
It should therefore be expected that those philosophers, who stand in no need themselves of the assistance of religion to support their virtue, and wlio never feel the want of its consolations, would yet have the humanity to consider the very different situation of the rest of mankind, and not endeavour to deprive them of what habit, at least, if they will not allow it to be nature, has made necessary to their morals, and to their happiness. It might be expected, that humanity would prevent them from breaking into the last retreat of the unfortunate, who can no longer be objects of their envy or resentment, and tearing from them their only remaining comfort. The attempt to ridicule religion may be agreeable to some, by relieving them from restraint upon their pleasures, and may render others very miserable, by making them doubt those truths, in which they were most deeply interested ; but it can convey real good and happiness to no one individual. Gregory.
RELIGION THE FOUNDATION OF CONTENT. OMAR, the hermit of the mountain Aubukabis, which rises on the east of Mecca, and overlooks the city, found one evening a man sitting pensive and alone, within a few paces of his cell. Omar regarded him with attention, and perceived that his looks were wild and haggard, and that his body, was feeble and emaciated : the man also seemed do gaze stedfastly. on Omar; but such was the ab
straction of his mind, that his eye did not immediately take cognizance of its object. In the mos ment of recollection he started as from a dream, he covered his face in confusion, and bowed himself to the ground. "Son of affliction, said Omar,
who art thou, and what is thy distress ? " My name,' replied the stranger,“ is Hassan, and I am a native of this city: the Angel of Adversity has laid his hand upon me, and the wretch whom thine eye compassionates, thou canst not deliver.' "To deliver thee,' said Omar, ' belongs to Him only, from whom we should receive with humility both good and evil: yet hide not thy life from me; for the burthen which I cannot remove, I may at least enable thee to sustain.' Hassan fixed his eyes npon the ground, and remained some time silent; then fetching a deep sigh, he looked up at the hermit, and thus complied with his request.
It is now six years since our mighty lord the caliph Almalic, whose memory be blessed, first came privately to worship in the temple of the holy city. The blessing which he petitioned of the prophet, as the prophet's vicegerent, he was dili. gent to dispense : in the intervals of his devotion, therefore, he went about the city relieving distress and restraining oppression : the widow smiled under his protection, and the weakness of age and infancy was sustained by his bounty. I, who dreaded no evil but sickness, and expected no good beyond the reward of my labour, was singing at my work, when Almalic entered my dwelling. He looked round with a smile of complacency; perceiving, that though it was mean, it was neat, and though I was poor, I appeared to be