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HINTS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL, RELIGION, DE
SIGNED CHIEFLY TO AWAKEN SERIOUS INQUIRY.
It is a trite maxim that self-preservation is the first law of nature, but it admits of a more extended and impressive application than it has been wont to receive. For there is a sense in which it may be adopted as a fundamental axiom of religion. The object which first recommends itself, in a moral view, to the solicitude and care of every rational creature, is his own character, or relation to the supreme Ruler. And we may conceive that the maxim of self-preservation, is, in this respect, countenanced by the sentiments and practice of all intelligences, who are happy and perfect in their conformity to the image of God. It seems reasonable to suppose, that they must shun every thing which might tarnish their pure, and angelic character, in the spirit of the same instinctive repugnance with which we fly from a danger, which
threatens us with the loss of animal life. That the primary concern with every man, should be his own moral interests, is evident from the circumstances of the case, and the current language of scripture. Every individual, indeed, must, in a great degree be dependent on his own care; with the exception of the omniscient Spirit, whose prerogative it is, to search the hearts, and try the reins of the children of men, he is the only being that finds full and immediate access to the temple of his own soul. No other creature, is conscious of all that passes within its mysterious recesses, and nothing can possibly supply the lack of personal observation
Revelation, accordingly, addresses us in our individual, as well as in our associate capacity. In pursuing its authoritative records, we find, that religion is represented to be a personal affair, and every one is supposed to incar a responsibility which is absolute, or irrespective of every other creature. On this principle each is solemnly exhorted to examine himself—to look well to the state of his own heart, as the spot in the moral world, which is peculiarly intrusted to his care, and for the condition of which he is accountable more than for that of any other to the Supreme Being
And it is evident, that these remarks on the attention which we are individually bound to be stow upon our moral welfare as a primary object of pursuit, are in perfect unison with extraneous and relative claims. All true beneficence must have its foundation in the existence of the christian character. The often repeated aphorism, “ that charity begins at home,” intimates that it does but BEGIN there. It is like the circle occa. sioned by the falling of a stone upon the surface of an upruffled lake. The point of percussion becomes the centre of a sphere which, progressively enlarges itself until it reaches the utmosi limit. Thus the love of all holy beings flows out in the first instance towards God, and then, extends itself towards all other intelligences who are deserving of their regard, or capable of receiving any benefit from them. There was much wisdom, therefore, in the reply of Socrates, when on being asked by his friends a little before his death, what service he wished them to do in regard to his family and affairs, he told them that there was no better way of obliging him and his kindred, than by acting up to the advice he had repeatedly given themto take good care of themselves. *
But the importance of personal religion, is placed in a peculiariy striking light by the subject of the present pages, which recommends it to us as the
• Τί δε τούτοις η εμοί επιτέλλη, και περί των παίδων, ή περί άλλου του, ό, τι άν σοι ποιoύντες ημείς, έν χάριτι μάλιστα ποιούμεν; Απερ άει λέγω, έφη, & Κρίτων: ουδέν καινότερον ότι υμών αυτών επιμελούμενοι υμείς, και εμοί και τους έμούς και υμίν αυτοίς εν, χάριτι ποιήσετε άττ' &ν ποιήτε κάν μή νύν ομολογήσητε.-Plat. Phed.
only possible link which can bring us into permanent and advantageous contact with each other, or with any other intelligences whose approbation and friendship are worthy of our desire, and fitted to promote our happiness. There are, perhaps, few who have not occasionally felt the force of this consideration; and since by making its appeal to the heart, it is fitted to awaken serious thought in the minds of some, who might be little affected by motives of a more direct and general character, it presses itself upon our attention as one of the many interesting inducements by which every per. son should be prevailed upon to inquire into the true nature of religion, and most sedulously to seek an interest in its invaluable privileges.*
* The celebrated Raynal, in his Hist. des Indes, mentions the case of an Iroquois Indian, who, when no other consideration seemed to produce the desired effect on his mind, was induced to reform his conduct, and to prepare for another world, under the fear of final separation from a deceased and muchloved associate. The passage in which the anecdote occars, describes, in lively and eloquent terms, the warm and disinterested friendship which is sometimes found, in an extraordinary degree, amongst the most unenlightened and uncivilized tribes.« Chez les sauvages l'amitié n'est jamais altérée par cette foule d'intérêts opposés qui dans nos sociétés, affoiblessent toutes les liaisons, sans en excepter les plus douces et les plus sacrées. C'est-là que le cæur d'un homme se choisit un cæur pour y déposer ses pensées, ses sentimens, ses projets, ses peines, ses plaisirs. Tout devient commun entre deux amis. Ils s'attachent pour jamais l'un à l'autre; ils combattent à côté l'un de l'autre; ils meurent constamment sur le corps l'un de l'autre, Alors même, ils ont la douce persuasion que leur séparation ne sera
It may be, that the eye of some person may chance to glance on the present page, who is happily connected in social life, and may rank, amongst his earthly friends and kindred, those who are the objects of his sincere and generous affection. And it may be, that he has never once seriously considered the moral and prospective condition in which he stands to those parts, as they may be called, or living ramifications of himself, and that he is a stranger to any heart-felt solicitude concerning his relation to that unspeakably glorious Intelligence who made them what they are, and whose will must shape the everlasting interests of every human creature. His thoughts and anxieties have, perhaps, revolved habitually within the contracted circle of this world's concerns, and if at any time they have stretched out into eternity, and made an awakening appeal to his conscience, he may have dismissed them, as grave and unwel. come visitants, with the promise of giving them a hearing at some more convenient season. That
que momentanée, et qu'ils se rejoindront dans un autre monde pour ne se plus quitter, et se rendre à jamais les plus grands services. Un Iroquois chrétien, mais qui ne se conduisoit par selon les maximes de l'evangile, etoit menecé des peines eternelles. Il demanda si son ami enterré depuis peu de jours étoit en enfer. J'ai de fortes raisons pour croire qu'il n'y pas été précipité, repondit le missionnaire. S'il en est ainsi, je ne veux pas y aller, reprit le sauvage. Il s'engagea, champ, à changer de næurs; et sa vie fut toujours depuis tres edifiante.”