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superior dignity and new graces ; so that the beauties of holiness seem to radiate about her, and the by-standers are almost induced to fancy her already worshipping among her kindred angels.
But to return to the point immediately before us.;
that the habit of seriousness and devos tion in church, will produce very desirable effects on your temper and conduct out of it. By beginning the week well, you will retain through the remainder a certain impression of goodness, that will follow
you every where ; at the same time that, by such avowed testimonies of respect for your Maker and Saviour, you will ensure the continuance of the divine benediction and assistance.
The great advantages arising from a diligent attention to the preaching of the word, and also from an early, frequent, and devout participation of the Lord's supper, I will not now 'enter on. They are abundantly obvious, and have been frequently enforced. But I cannot quit the subject of the sabbath without observing, that to those, who join in the public services of that day, its utility is often totally defeated by their resigning the evening to company and recreation ; the general tendency of these being to efface any serious impressions made in the preceding part of it.
For such a practice you, my fair charges, who have commonly so much leisure upon your hands, cannot plead the least excuse.
Very hard it is, if those who give so many other evenings to amusement, cannot find in their heart to give this or a part of it to God. But, alas ! it is that very passion for amusement, which prevents or dulls the taste for devotion. To her indeed, who will not be persuaded to rescue so small a portion
of her time from the gaieties of the world for the purposes of her salvation, we cannot hope to say any thing that will be of use. She who cannot enjoy the company of her Creator for an hour or two, remote from all other company, was never initiated into the mysteries of divine friendship; she is yet in her sins, “ alienated from the life of ^ God, dead while she lives in a spiritual sense dead, alive only to animal nature and the tumultuous dreams of a distempered mind; in short, a poor giddy worthless creature, incapable of whatever is wise or happy.
" Oh ! lost to virtue, lost to sober thought,
I tremble at the thought. Nor will it avail you, in this case, to plead even the utmost exactness and constancy in your attendance on the sanctuary. That alone will prove nothing. Entertainment may still be the idol which you worship, and worship even in the temple of Jehovah. If you say it is not, let us bring you to the test. When you re. turn home from the house of God, can you retire with pleasure to your closets, impose silence on your fancies, command your passions to be still, exclude every thought of dress, and diversion, company, and admiration; review what you have been doing, recall what you have heard, make application if it admit of any ; (there are few discourses that admit not of some ;) and then casting yourselves down
at the footstool of the the throne of God, pour out your hearts before him, confess with simplicity and sorrow your sins and corruptions, implore the grace of repentance and remission for what is past, of discernment to know your duty for the future, and of fortitude to do it, forining at the same time unfeigned resolutions to that purpose ; joining to the whole the adoration of the divine attributes, as they successively or jointly rise to your view ; and, finally, throwing yourselves on the divine mercy through Christ Jesus ?--Can you do this? Is it your favourite and habitual employment, in the evening of that day which God has made for him-" self! To 'her who can honestly answer in the affirmative, I will acknowledge freely that, next to the daily tenor of a conduct uniformly christian, she gives one of the best proofs of sincerity in her religious profession; nor is there any thing excel. lent in that, which I should not expect from a practice so wise and pious. But what is to be expected of those who know nothing of this? Or what can be said of their intentions in going to church, who the moment they leave it, leave 'every reflexion which it ought to have imprinted, and resolve to think of religion that day no more than if they had not heard or mentioned a syllable relating to it? St. James will inforın you whom they are like. They are “ like unto a man beholding his na“ tural face in a glass : for he beholdeth himself " and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth “what manner of man he was.”—Do meu then so readily lose the image of themselves ? No; but the apostle must be understood to speak of some thoughtless creature, who, on looking accidentally into a glass, and observing certain spots or stains in
his face, which he ought instantly to wipe off, turns away in haste without availing himself of the discovery, and, in the pursuit of other objects, entirely neglects a circumstance that demanded his immediate attention. I leave you to apply the remark, and only add in general, that the closet must enforce what the pulpit has suggested ; that as, like Lydia, you should attend diligently to the things which are spoken in the name of God, so, like Mary, you should keep and ponder them in your hearts; and that as Jesus himself, dismissing the multitudes together with his disciples, “ went up " into a mountain apart to pray,” so you, disengaging yourselves from the interruption of a crowd, and the company, even of your most intimate connexions, should step aside, more particularly at the season in question, to converse with his Father and your Father, with his God and
Think not from any thing I have said, that I want to subject you to the rules of Jewish rigour, under the mild dispensation of the Gospel. What I propose will render the Christian sabbath no less pleasant than improving. Nor do I mean to preclude on that day the cheerful reciprocations of holy friendship ; which they that have a taste for them will easily distinguish from the unseasonable pastimes and promiscuous, risitings, in which many fine ladies of the present age pass their Sunday evenings.
Thus I am brought to say something of Religious Conversation. An attempt to discuss so important a topic would carry me too far. To manage religious conversation with propriety and advantage, is for the most part an affair of great delicacy: In the more retired intercourse of congenial minds,
well taught and well furnished, it may not be difficult. But such, I fear, are not often found ; and even where such have the happiness to meet, grave discourse will require to be frequently varied, relieved, and suspended, in order to keep up its relish.
Much sentiment is apt to overwhelm. The soul quickly seeks relaxation. The bow cannot be long bent without having its elasticity impaired. In general company, subjects of devotion and morality would, as the world goes, be utterly improper. Good Lord! to what is this generation sunk, that even amongst characters otherwise decent, a man can seldom or ever introduce a solemn reflexion, without incurring the imputation of cant or impertinence ? When shall it be the mode to converse like immortal beings ? Where is the fashionable circle now, in which a serious observation can be prudently hazarded, if not stolen upon them with art and insinuation? Neither is this a part for you to take upon yourselves.
Female modesty is often silent ; female decorum is never bold. Both forbid a young woman to lead the conversation ; and true religion dreads every thing that might look ostentatious. The most prudent course you can pursue is to associate, as much as possible, with those that from real principle love the shade. With them you may safely unbosom yourselves on the best subjects, without the danger of ridicule, or the suspicion of affectation. When the children of Wisdom assemble, out of the sight and din of Folly; what improvement and felicity crown the scene! How delightfully do they then mingle souls ! Nor does their parent disdain to sport with her offspring. I mean, that genuine piety knows how to blend recreation and smiles with sentiment and gravity.