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All young men are naturally impatient of authority—“monitoribus asper;" but those, of whom I now speak, are more especially averse to all opinions and institutions that they find established in the world—they are animated by the consciousness of their own superior faculties, ambitious to display them, and only studying to be the objects of admiration, particularly among their companions and those of their own age, who in the meantime can most easily be won, and often are won, by daring views and unexpected paradoxes, always mistaken for the reasonings of a more profound and subtle sagacity.
Such are their intellectual temptations, to say nothing of their physical; and surely it is to know little of human nature to expect them to be reasonable on such a subject as the evidences of religion. The opinions of a man, when young, , if he is of superior genius, are often as tumultuous as are the waves of the ocean in a storm, and as wild in their aspect, and they may never properly subside, or may perhaps run into the opposite extreme of fanaticism.
But in the generality of young men, the character improves, as life proceeds; the taste for sparkling novelties gradually declines; the mind softens; becomes more calm, considerate and sober, and the man of twenty-five may
different from the youth of eighteen-much will depend, both in the earlier stage of their opinions and in this latter, on the example of the parents—not so much on their direct precepts, as on their visible example; their habits, the conversation at their table, their passing allusions to religious subjects, the feelings with which they are evidently themselves inspired, the opinions which they obviously themselves entertain. In the case of youth every allowance must be made and hope never abandoned.
We will next advert to men of a maturer age, the men of pleasure, the men of the world, as they are called—these are men, who may well be unbelievers, for they have no resource, but to resist the evidences of a religion, that denounces their vices— these are men, that make it the system of their lives to prefer the present to the future, to escape from everything that can awaken thoughts
of a serious, and what must be to them, of a gloomy nature-everything that requires grave reflection or any seclusion from the amusing scenes of life, or the agreeable topics of the day-self-indulgence, the impulses of the moment, the gratifications of sensual pleasure, these become the very habit of their lives, the very business of their existence. How are such men to turn to consider, or be disposed to receive, the evidences of a religion, the very object of which is, to warn men of the sinfulness of their nature, and of its awful consequences; to require from them purity of conduct and holiness of thought, self-denial and self-control, and to tell them, that they are intended for another state of existence, for which they are to prepare themselves, and that they are not to be engrossed by the enjoyments of this their present state.
Proceeding through the different descriptions of men that constitute society, we may observe a large portion of them, that are denominated men of business ; of these men, the fault is not so much a disinclination to receive the truths of religion, as a thoughtlessness, a carelessness, and an
unworthy and dangerous forgetfulness of religion. They are solely intent on their daily occupations it is not that God is not always in their thoughts, it is, that he is seldom or never in their thoughts —their kingdom is of this world.
“ Seldom at church, 'twas such a busy life,
But duly sent his family and wife."
Such is Pope's description of them—no ordinary observer—and though of these men the characteristic fault is a serious one, it is not one which we are at present called upon to consider, it is not exactly connected with scepticism or infidelity.
Much the same is the fault of another description of men, who may now be mentioned, those who cultivate the fine arts, and are too exclusively absorbed by those labours of the mind and of the imagination, which give rise to the productions of genius, but which are too often indulged to the exclusion of graver subjects, and of those more important meditations, which ought also to take their turn; meditations which religion enjoins, and which would in truth only elevate them to a higher perception, even in their own worldly pursuits, of the beautiful and the sublime. These men are like the former, intent only on the present. “ Art,” says Fuseli, in his Aphorisms, 66 Art absorbs the man.”
Of another description of men, the men of science, it has been often observed, that their habit of referring every thing to reasonings of an abstract and demonstrative kind, indisposes, and indeed incapacitates them from feeling the force of reasonings of a moral nature-- Everything with them is fact and experiment; they go not beyond the evidence of their senses and their understandingsand as such men have constantly before them the most important earthly interests of mankind, as the ardour of study or the necessities of their occupation engross their thoughts, it can be no wonder that they either do not think at all, or think lightly of subjects of a less palpable nature, and of conclusions that can be made out only by the patient examination, not of physical, but of moral evidence.
“ I can have nothing to say to your religion” said the celebrated Halley, “it is so full of mys