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Now, sinner, is this your experience on the subject of religion? Do you love to please God? Is it your business? Is it your happiness? In other things, in regard to the affairs of this world, every thing you say or do, is viewed as having a relation to the object of your supreme affection. If you love money supremely, everything is judged of, is hated or loved, is desired or rejected, according to the relation it sustains to your own pecuniary interest. If you can make money by it, you have pleasure in it. If it would prevent the acquisition of wealth, you are displeased with it. So, if you have an earthly friend, whom you greatly love, it is natural for you to inquire, in every thing you say and do, how it will be received or looked upon by this object of your affection; what relation it sustains to him or her; and all your conduct is modified, and all your pursuits are regulated, by this controlling and absorbing affection for this idol. Now, sinner, I ask you again, is it true, in your own experience, that every thing pleases or displeases you; that you love or hate it; that you desire or reject it, according to its relation to the will of God; that if you see it will please him, it pleases you; if it is agreeable to his will, is it agreeable to your will? If it will promote his glory, do you desire it? If it will dishonor him, do you reject and abhor it? If not, why do you pretend to love God? You could not believe that your children or your wife loved you, unless you saw that they delighted to please you. And why should you deceive yourself, by supposing that you love God, when you know it is not your happiness to please him?
Again, from the constitution of our minds, we delight in the society and conversation of those whom we greatly love. To commune with them is sweet. To be alone with them; to enjoy their confidence; to pour into each other's bosom the overflowings of our affections, constitutes some of the sweetest and most sacred of our joys. This law of mind shows itself, in all its strength, on the subject of religion.
Saints, in all ages of the world, have delighted to commune with God, having sought his society, and loved the retirement of the closet, where they can be alone with God; and never are they more supremely and sacredly happy, than when alone, in secret and holy communion with the blessed God. Now, sinner, is this your experience? Do you love to be alone with God? Do you delight to pray? Is it your most sacred, most endeared employment, to get alone, and low upon your knees, pour out your heart in communion with your God? I do not ask you whether you pray, for this you may do from a variety of motives, but is it because you love to pray? Because you love to be alone and commune with God? If you are an unrepentant sinner, you know that you do not love the society of God.
Again, we naturally prize the approval of one whom we love. We account it of the greatest importance, and it is indispensable to our own happiness, that we should have the approval of the object of our supreme affection. We are so constituted, that it gives us great pain to know that our conduct is disapproved of by our dearest friends. This is so in regard to our worldly friends, and it is so in regard to God. Nothing will wring a Christian's heart with more intolerable anguish, than the conviction, that his conduct merits the disapproval of God; and this is not principally, and, in many cases, not at all, through fear of punishment. The Christian may have, and often does have, the most thrilling and painful emotions, in view of his having merited and the disapproval of God; while, at the same time, he is not distressed with fear of punishment. But he has offended God; he is ashamed, and cannot look up; he feels as an affectionate child or wife would feel, under the consciousness of having done what the parent or the husband highly disapproved.
The question naturally arises, and has a controlling influence over our lives, will this or that please or displease him or her whom I love. To gain the approval of this object of affection, is our ambition, and our highest joy. Now, sinner, I appeal to you, is not this true, in your experience, as it respects him or her, who is the object of your greatest affection? And is it true, that you, above all things, prize the approval of God? Is it your study? Is it your delight to gain his approval? Does the consciousness of having done what he disapproves, wring your heart with anguish, irrespective of its consequences to yourself, and separate from all fear that you shall be punished? Do you feel the same emotions of sadness, of shame, of distress and sorrow, when you have merited the disapproval of God, that you do when you have incurred the disapproval of your most beloved earthly friend? I appeal to your own conscience, in the sight of God. Do you not know, that you do not supremely desire the approval of God?
Again, we naturally have reference to the feelings of the object of our supreme affections, in all our conduct. The affectionate husband or wife, parent or child, is careful not to wound the feelings of those they love; and if they find that they have wounded their feelings, they have no rest until they have confessed, and healed the wound, and are forgiven. This is true in religion. If you love God, you cannot reflect that you have wounded his feelings, without pain. You would not complain that you could not repent: The truth is, that if you were in the exercise of love to God, you could not help repenting, any more than an affectionate wife could refrain from grief, if she had wounded and grieved her husband.
Again, we naturally love to think of the object of our affection. Every one knows how sweet it is to be alone, to meditate, to call up before the mind, and to dwell upon some absent object of our love. Thus lovers are apt to seek solitude, and there is a kind of sacredness thrown around those hours, when, in the stillness of our bed-chamber, or in the retirement of the lonely walk, we dwell in silent, but delightful musings, upon the character and person of him or her whom we fondly love. The deep hour of midnight will often witness the wakeful musings of a heart, which, in the sweetness of its own fond imaginings, is dwelling upon that beloved friend, who though absent, is at once the circumference and the all-absorbing center of its affections. These musings enkindle our affections into a flame. See that husband from home; he is a husband and a father; when the bustle of the day is over; when the distractions and cares of business have passed away; see his busy thoughts, going out and dwelling upon his absent wife; upon his little prattling babes, until his heart is all in aglow, and tears of unutterable affection fill his eyes. This is nature; and these laws of mind act with equal uniformity, when God is the object of supreme affection. The lone walk; the quiet bed-chamber; the hour of sacred retirement, are sweet to the Christian. He loves to send out his thoughts after God; to dwell upon his glories; look into the mysteries of his love; to think, and think, and meditate, and turn the subject of his glorious character, over and over before his mind, till his heart dissolves in love. Thus, the Psalmist says, "while I was musing, the fire burned." Now, sinner, do you love to think of God? Do you delight to have God in all your thoughts? Do you seek solitude and retirement, that you say, unmolested, dwell upon him in your fondest, holiest musings? And when you think, and meditate, and pray, do you find in it a sweet, and tender, and all-satisfying happiness? Are you sensible of emotions of love to God, as strong, nay vastly stronger than those you exercise when thinking of your dearest earthly friend? I appeal to your own experience, and to your own conscience, in the sight of God.
Again, we naturally delight in conversing about an object of our affections. It gives us pleasure to speak of one we love. It is gratifying to us, to let our lips speak out of the fulness of our hearts. Sometimes an affection is cherished, where there is some particular reason for concealing it; but even in those cases, a great affection is seldom cherished without being divulged, to some one. But where there is no reason for concealing it, we see how natural it is, to make the object of affection the subject of conversation. This law of mind manifests itself, as uniformly, on the subject of religion, as upon any other subject. It is a maxim in philosophy, as well as in morals, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. You see a person whose heart is warm with the love of God; if God is in all his thoughts, He, and the interest of his kingdom, will be, in all his words. If his heart is set upon God, his lips will speak of God; unless he be under circumstances to require reserve, and then he will naturally remain silent, sooner than converse upon a subject upon which his heart is not set. If he is under circumstances, where he cannot consistently speak of God, he is inclined not to speak at all. Now, sinner, look at your own experience; do you love to converse about God? Is it delightful to you to speak of his character, of his person, and of his glory? I leave it with your conscience to decide.
Again, we are pained when separated from those we love. Every body knows this is true, as it respects worldly friends; and it is true in a still higher sense, as it respects God. Every Christian knows, just what saints of old knew, that they cannot live, and have the least enjoyment, if they are far from God. If he hides his face, if the manifestations of his presence are withdrawn, alas, how mournful, and lonely, and sad, is the Christian, in the midst of all the gaiety and enjoyment of the world around him. Sinner, do you know what it is to feel as much pain, at the withdrawal of God's presence from you, as you do when separated from your dearest earthly friend? Do you feel lonely in the midst of company; sad in the midst of gaiety; away from home in the midst of all your worldly friends, if God's presence is withdrawn from you?
Again, we naturally love the friends, of the object of our affection. We feel attached to them for his sake. We love to converse with them, and we seek their society, because their views and feelings, upon the subject that engrosses our attention, correspond with our own. Upon this principle, politicians, who are in favor of the same candidate, are fond of each other's society. And individuals, differing widely in other respects, enjoy each other's company, if they have one common and absorbing object of affection and conversation. Thus, Christians love to associate with each other. They love other Christians, because they love God. They delight in their society and conversation, because their views, and sentiments, and conversation, accord with their own. But, do sinners love the friends of God? Do you love Christians, because they are Christians? Do you delight in their conversation, and in their character, because they love God? You may love some of them for other reasons, and in spite of their religion; but it is not for their religion that you love them.
Again, we naturally avoid the enemies of our friends. See that woman, is she intimate, and do you find her every day running in, and spending her time, in that family where they are enemies to her husband? Does she select as her friends and intimates, those that speak against her husband or her children? No, she naturally and instinctively avoids them. See that little child, he goes in to play with a neighbor's children; but while there, he hears them speaking against his father; he listens, and looks grieved and offended. He is a little one, and they do not notice him, but continue to vilify and abuse his father. He steals silently and sadly away, and goes weeping home; and hereafter you will perceive that he will avoid those persons as he would avoid a serpent. Just so with Christians; they naturally avoid the society of those that abuse God, unless they mingle with them to warn and save them. Sinners, very often imagine that Christians avoid them, because they feel above them; but this is not the fact. It is true, that some professorsof religion do not delight in the society and fellowship of the saints, but manifest a preference for the company of the gay and ungodly. But this is demonstration that they are hypocrites, and is no exception to the uniform action, of this law of mind. "Know ye not, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God; he therefore, who will be the friend of the world, is the enemy of God."
Again, we are grieved, when our beloved friend is abused in our presence. It is amazing to see the blindness and stupidity of sinners upon this subject. When Christians manifest grief, at the wicked conduct of sinners, they ascribe it all to superstition. If the pious father or mother manifest grief, when an unrepentant son or daughter is engaged in sin, and rebellion against God, they imagine that it is all superstition, and say, they have forgotten that they were ever young. See that husband, when he breaks the Sabbath, and swears, and abuses God, his wife weeps, and leaves the room. He says, his wife is very superstitious; is a great bigot; is under the influence of priestcraft. He wonders that she should concern herself about him; he shall do well enough; he can take care of himself. He does not seem, at all, to understand the principle upon which his wickedness affects her. See here, man; suppose you are sitting in your house, with your wife, and an enemy comes in, and begins to abuse you in her presence, and when he had heaped numberless vile epithets upon you, he looks and your wife is in tears; and now he says, what ails you woman? You must be very superstitious. What affects you so? What would you think of such questions? Could you see no reasons why his abuse of you distressed your wife? Would you not think it strange if he did not understand the reason of her tears? Now, your wife is a Christian, you disobey and abuse God in her presence, and she expostulates and weeps, and you wonder at it, and call it superstition. Turn over the leaf; suppose , when this man, of whom I have been speaking, abuses you to your face, your wife manifests no emotions of grief, nor of indignation; but on the contrary, upon casting a glance at her, you perceive her conniving at it, and appearing evidently pleased with it. What! a wife pleased to see her husband abused, you would from that moment, set her down as a hypocrite. You would not, you could not believe that she loved you. Now, the same holds true, where God is the object of affection. When God is abused, in the presence of his friends, they feel emotions of grief, and of indignation, as a thing of course; and this is the reason why the society of unrepentant sinners is so disagreeable to a spiritual Christian. It is not because he feels above you, sinner, but because your conduct is a grief to him. When Christians mingle with sinners, it is upon business, or for the purpose of doing them good. Not because they can have any delight in their unrepentant characters, or conversation, while they are the enemies of God.
I ask you, sinner, whether you are grieved with those that disobey God? Whether you feel mingled emotions of grief and indignation; as if your wife, or dearest friends were abused in your presence? Does it pain you, even to agony, to hear men swear in the streets; to see them break the Sabbath; and trample on God's holy commandments? Should you go through the streets and bear execrations, and abuses poured upon your dearest earthly friend, from every quarter, it would fill you with grief and indignation unutterable. And can you walk the streets, and hear God's holy name profaned; see his Sabbath desecrated; hosts of unrepentant sinners, trampling, with unsanctified feet, upon his high and holy authority, and not be grieved? Then you are a hardened, and shameless hypocrite, if you pretend to love your Maker.
Again, we are naturally credulous, and pleased, if we hear any good of one whom we love. It is a well known fact, that it is comparatively easy to believe, what we desire to believe. And we can believe in accordance with our feelings, upon slight testimony. A man will believe, what he wants to believe, almost against testimony. If the thing accord with our desires, we are not inclined to question the validity of the testimony, by which the desired fact is established. We witness the developments of this law of mind, in the transactions of every day. So on the subject of religion; when Christians hear of the conversion of any one, or of a remarkable revival of religoin; or of any thing else, that glorifies God; they manifest a readiness to believe it, because it so accords with their desires. But do unrepentant sinners show that they love God, that their hearts are set upon his glory, and the interests of his kingdom, by manifesting a readiness to believe what they hear, in favor of religion? Let your conscience speak.