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of one active or generous feeling to thrill his body of death. Others have been shrunk and shrivelled by avarice.
Religion counteracts this force of an evil nature. It has a charm to touch even the selfish heart, and to stop the bitterness of the envious and the malignant. Teaching every man to look, not on his own things, but also on the things of others, it enlarges the affections, and ennobles the heart.
At the same time it sets man free from those terrors which false views of the Deity awaken. What millions of minds are so darkened by ignorance, or so tormented by superstition, that they cannot enjoy the life that God has given them! Through fear they are all their lifetime subject to bondage. How many such fears an intelligent religious faith would dispel. What bright views it would impart of the goodness of God. What firm hopes it would inspire! Indeed Christianity is as necessary to the understanding as to the heart. Without faith in a religion that is divine and infallible, it is almost impossible to have any fixed or systematic opinions. Infidel sentiments induce a skeptical habit of mind on all subjects. There is no foundation for a philosophy. Where a man's religion is afloat, his whole mind is afloat.
As the inevitable consequence, such spirits are restless and uneasy. They have no object in life, at least none great enough to be worthy of their ambition. And this is one of the chief miseries of man upon earth-the want of a vast object to keep his faculties employed, and to aggrandize his intellectual and moral being.
Religion alone can thus occupy the mind-giving the widest scope, both to thought, and to the active powers. It assigns to every human being a work on the earth-that of doing good. Thus it keeps his sympathies in constant and healthful action, and prevents the spirit from languishing into indolence, and wasting life in idleness.
But when it has roused the mind, it has another office-to control it; to keep it from rushing into disordered action. For the safe conduct of life, man needs to be pressed by two forces-Stimulus and Restraint. And one must balance the other.
It is so common to speak of Religion as a consoler in sorrow, that an impression is given that its chief value is to be the pillow of sickness, and the last refuge of the unhappy. It is summoned to soothe mental anguish, and to make death easy. Hence strong men feel that it is necessary only for those whose nerves are weak. It is not required in the noon of lusty life, but only for the palsied and trembling old man, sitting in the twilight of age.
Physical strength and hardihood breed self-reliance. Hence it is the boast of men firm in body and in mind that they are competent to govern themselves. The vulgar need religion, but they do not need it. Alas! that extreme confidence is their
greatest danger. Their physical strength is their spiritual weakness. For when the frame stands strong, the hot blood rushes through it like a river. Then the eye flashes fire, and the veins are swollen with passion. Nature is unmanageable. Its impulses will not be restrained. Heroic firmness, which could bear any shock of calamity, is utterly impotent to withstand the violence of passion. If religion be needed to support decrepitude and decay, it is far more so to check the impetuosity of manhood. For that is the period of most rapid and decisive action. Then is the greatest danger of committing mortal sins, and of throwing away life and happiness. At such a moment ordinary rules of virtue are swept away like a light bark on a stormy sea. It needs a stronger power at the helm. It is only the fear of that God who rules in heaven, that can hold the spirit in awe, and keep man from the desperate acts which would drown his soul in guilt and woe.
Nor is this necessity of religion superseded by any natural sagacity or swiftness of thought. It is the error of many active and brilliant intellects, that while the ignorant may require a revelation, their superior intelligence stands in no need of supernatural light.
But it is the high and soaring intellect which requires it most. For if it penetrates farther than other minds, it but ranges round a wider circumference of darkness.
Perhaps of all men he who most needs the light of faith, is the man of genius. His soul is all imagination and sensibility, and is exposed to a far keener suffering than pierces common minds. It is ever on the wing, "wandering through eternity;" exploring the regions of the dead, and conjecturing its own fate hereafter. In these flights it is attacked by doubts and fears to which most are strangers. Gross natures feel only sharp physical pain. They cannot follow the rapid thought of a mind of this ethereal temper, nor understand its intellectual suffering. A torpid nature is protected by its dulness and stupidity. It sleeps by the cataract, while this restless and tortured spirit hovers and screams over the abyss.
Who can tell what the poet Shelley-troubled by those "questionings which haunt the eternal mind"-suffered from perplexity? He had begun by casting off old beliefs; by doubting and denying; and he ended in total scepticism and despair. Such has been the sad result of many an earnest spirit, forever speculating, yet unable to find the truth.
What is the first necessity of such a mind? Is it not faith in God-a glimpse of divine goodness, breaking through the clouds like "the clear shining after rain,” and
"Casting on the dark its gracious bow."
This alone relieved the fearful gloom which hung over the spirit of Cowper.
Genius-it is not too much to say-has an affinity to God. In such natures there are mighty instincts which draw them towards the future and the invisible; and wretched indeed is the mind which ranges the universe, and finds no place of rest!
But further-as the intellect is transcendent, its ambition is excited. The mind is “ vital in every part." It is seized with a passionate thirst for glory, and religion is needed to restrain its wildness. Many are the instances in history of great minds intoxicated, and finally maddened, because they had not that self control which religion gives. The action of the brain becomes fearfully rapid. Faster and faster the spirit whirls. The passions flame like a volcano, until the burning mountain crumbles to ashes.
There is a danger to which excitable and ambitious minds are the most exposed. It is that of INSANITY. God often punishes intellectual pride with madness. When men of extraordinary talent yield the whole force of their minds to unscrupulous selfishness, the vehemence of their passions not unfrequently overwhelms their intellects. Reason totters on her throne, and the great mind becomes a melancholy wreck.
Against this terrible disaster religion is the best security. It is the great balancing and restoring power of the mind. It moderates ambition. It checks the violence of the will. It soothes the agitated breast. While, by its cheerful and hopeful character, it keeps the spirit from sinking into melancholy—a milder madness. There is a mournful argument for religion, in the vast number of the learned and the powerful who, without it, have perished in their pride. For want of this many of the greatest minds that ever existed have gone to utter ruin.
But if this intellectual catastrophe be averted, still more melancholy is the moral retribution which overtakes such a man. Observe a mind like Voltaire's-of infinite subtlety and witpossessing the activity of a disembodied spirit, but prostituting genius to the spread of false and poisonous principles. How perverted becomes the moral nature by this life of evil. The venom is sucked into the blood, and cannot be cast forth.
Awful is the death struggle of such a spirit-proud, daring and defiant. What terrific agony it endures before it goes to judg ment. The human mind, when once disordered by a long course of evil, has no power of self recovery. Reason alone saves no man. No matter how lofty the genius, or how vast the knowledge collected in one mind--if that mind breaks away from God, it goes to destruction. If the planet Jupiter once departed from the sun, it would rush to chaos as swiftly as the smallest asteroid that revolves unseen in the heavens. So all life emanates from God, and must revolve around that central sun. A mind that has lost this divine attraction, and begins to waver in its orbit, will drop from heaven like a falling star. Then the relics of the majestic intellect only make more vivid the impending ruin
like the lights of a ship, that flash on dark and angry waves, and show that she is hopelessly in the power of the storm.
Proud Philosophy! How many hast thou destroyed whom religion would have saved. The learned infidel may laugh at the poor cottager who walks by faith, and morning and evening directs his prayer to Heaven. But that poor man, with his simple piety, is more likely to be truly happy, to be kept from daring sins, and to be saved in the great day of judgment, than the man of science with all his philosophy. Genius has left a million wrecks upon the shore of time. But religion-not one. Where is the man whom religion has undone? What mind has it shattered? What heart has it broken? Christianity has no such ruined beings to answer for. The grace of God infallibly brings salvation!
But--if no such fearful danger impended over the too violent or misdirected action of the mind--still it is easy to perceive that sin destroys the chaste beauty of the soul, and robs the character of an indefinable grace. It makes the motives low and selfish, and even renders the range of thought narrow and limited. It gives to the whole mind a sordid and petty character. Even talent is sure to breed conceit, and to make its possessor pretentious and absurd.
On the other hand, religion, united to genius, imparts to it a spiritual and angelic beauty. It preserves the great from the intoxication of power. It teaches the exalted how to wear their honors with humility.
Then what majesty it gives to the whole man. "Religion," says Daniel Webster, "is an indispensable element in every great human character." True, there have been men of vast capacity-men forcible in action-that had not a thought of religion. But I do not believe that all the ages of human history ever produced a truly sublime character without this divine inspiration. Approach these heroes of the world, and you always find in them something coarse and low. Religion alone is the inspirer of greatness. It unchains man from the earth. Prometheus is unbound. The soul is led away from itselfaway into infinity--" beyond the solar walk or milky way. Thus religion feeds the intellect with vast conceptions, and the heart with noble examples. It inspires enthusiasm for that which is great and holy. Thus it multiplies resplendent instances of virtue from generation to generation.
Religion then is the great want of all men-of the learned, as well as the ignorant-of the mighty as well as the weak. Every class in society has its peculiar want of it. The poor need it, to keep them from being envious; and the rich, to keep them from being proud. The wretched need it to cheer their sad lot; and the great, to moderate their ambition. It raises the miserable out of the dust, and keeps the favored of Fortune from plunging to perdition. All then alike need religion as their preserver.
All have duties to perform, and temptations to resist. find trials in their course through life, which it alone can make supportable.
Why then virtually postpone religion by telling men that they need it to prepare for death? as if they had no use for it until they reached that gloomy shore. This mode of speaking comes from a false idea of religion, as if it were something apart from man himself, and which could be applied to him like extreme unction at the last moment of life. But no-religion is an internal principle-or rather it includes all right principles. It is therefore the regulator of all man's judgment, passions and will-bringing them into harmony with truth and reason.
And is this a thing which can be postponed? Can peace, patience and mercy be deferred? Are a spirit of love and a principle of duty, virtues which it is as well to have years hence as now? Nay, can life go on at all as it ought without these primary conditions of well-being? It cannot be. No-not for an hour. If I delay one hour, then that is an hour lost. If I defer it till to-morrow, then I am deferring so long my happiness. Then I am doomed to pass one more day of misery. Its sorrows I must bear alone. If I have tears to shed, I shall find no comforter. And can I afford to lose even one day of existence? Are my days so many that I can afford to drag on one after another in weariness and pain.
Thus we attach a value to every passing hour. I acknowledge no pre-eminence of the day of one's death over an ordinary day of life. I cannot understand that religion should be more important at one period than at another; at the hour of dissolution than at this moment. If man's happiness depend on the proper government of his mind, that government is as necessary now as at any future period of existence. I admit that there are certain crises of life-moments of agony, in which ages of suffering are concentrated into an hour; and when the absence of this great consolation may be felt most bitterly. So it may be when the memories and reproaches of a life misspent, rush upon the dying soul.
The moment of death too is unspeakably solemn as the limit of opportunity-the last light of day.
But beyond that I see not that religion is more important at the hour of death than at this hour. Now, and always, and everywhere, it is the great necessity of man.
We see then that the chief argument for religion is, not coming death, but actual life. We need no spectre of a King of Terrors to warn us against taking guilt upon our souls, while these breasts palpitate with a life which guilt may render more terrible than death.
Nay, more. We need not send forward our imagination into a dark eternity to derive additional horrors from that tremendous gloom. Why repeat so often the lamentations of hell, as if