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religious life, is too much : but they are very ready to barter with God Almighty. ,
Some of them will ask, what almsgiving to the poor will do for them? They are willing to cover their fins by great bounty in this way; but these traders must be informed, that, as far as themselves are concerned, they might as well keep their alms in their pockets. Theirs is just the old popish practice of indulgences. In both cases, money is paid for a liberty to commit fin.
In the same manner, others endeavour to cover their fins with what they call their virtues. Their honesty—their temperance-their veracity, or some other virtue which they think they pofsess, they set in opposition to some favourite sins; and hope, under such cover, to escape.But thefe men must not be surprised to hear, that virtues arising from such motives are no virtues at all; and, instead of atoning for sins, are in fact themselves only sins in disguise.
Others again will endeavour to cover their fins, by pleading the bounty of heaven. The earth is full of good things; why may, I not use them? What were they given me for ?—You may use them : with gratitude to God, you may use them ; but in gratitude to God, be content with the use. All beyond is finful abuse.
Another cover for fin is sometimes drawn from the infirmities of human nature: they are fuch that fin is unavoidable, and therefore excuseable. That sin is unavoidable, is certain ; and hence arises the necessity of a Saviour. But how far we are to make this a cover for such fins as we wilfully continue in, is a point which, it is to be feared, will be settled at the last day much to our confusion.
Their circumstances, and situation in life, are considered with many as making a good cover for fin. While we live in the world, they cry, we must in some degree follow the ways of the world. The ways of the world are not always consonant with strict duty; but we must now and then temporize, or we are nothing.-But perhaps our situation in life is not so commonly seductive as we are apt to suppose. No honest profession, I believe, has any thing in it opposite to the duties of religion. If however we have unhappily chosen a profession which avowedly leads us into fin, we have our option: we may take either the broad or narrow way; and serve either God, or mammon.
There are others again, who seek to cover their fins under the mercies of God; which they
say are infinite, and cannot be exhausted. But these people seem to forget, that the attributes of the Deity must not be construed so as to contradict each other. The mercy of God, it is true, is infinite ; but his justice is infinite also: they both universally extend to all people.
There is still one more cover for fin, which some people plead; and indeed the only one they can plead-humble confession, and sincere repentance; with trust in the mercy of God through the merits of Christ.
Is any among you afflicted? let him
any merry? let him sing psalms.-James, v, 13.
HE text seems intended rather to regulate our gloomy, and cheerful hours, than as a piece of literal advice. The life of man is a chequered shade: light and darkness are continually reciprocating. The former often twinkles on the very spot, which had immediately before been occupied by the latter.—Man therefore, thus subject to such opposite paroxysms, should possess something to secure him from the pernicious effects of both.
Now a sense of religion is the only security he can have ; and this may have its full effect in all circumstances, if the mind be fully and seriously impressed with it. If the instrument therefore is well-tuned, the music may be good, whether it play a dirge or a sonnet.Something like it is the apostle's advice: If you are afflicted, pray; if you are merry, fing psalms. Not that, 13
when you are aflicted, it is supposed you are always to pray. But as prayer is the grand fupport of affliction, you should always live, especially when the hand of God is upon you, in the spirit of prayer in that trust in God, and in the merits of a Redeemer, which every one must feel who-prays with fincerity.—Again, when you are enlivened with a ray of prosperity, and the spirits are boyant, though it is not expected you should always fing psalms, yet you should always live under such a sense of that gratitude, and religious thankfulness to the Difposer of all events, as will prevent your joy from running rigt; and will change it from an earthly into a heavenly feeling.