« AnteriorContinuar »
3. GENUINE piety delights in religious exercises. We can easily conceive religious services performed regularly and frequently that will not avail the worshipper, and that, far from being well pleasing in his fight, are an“ abomination” unto God. Such are all the services in which the heart is not engaged. The truly pious feel, and seek, and expect, much pleasure in their devotions. They are by no means a penance they submit to, a drudgery through which they struggle, to avoid what is worse. The Sabbath is not a weariness; they are not “ detained before the “ LORD.” Sweet to them is the return of the hour of devotion; they count it all joy when it is said unto them, “Go up to the house of 46 the LORD.”
What feels an affectionate child in conversing with his dear and venerable parent, the highly favoured and honoured in the presence of his generous and munificent friend, the man of science in a society of learned, able, and communicative philosophers ? Their superior and exquisite pleasures, and if there are anymortal pleasures still higher and more perfect, are far inferior to the delights of devotion.
Feeling on earth the purer affections, and delightful emotions, and unspeakable joys of devotion, the pious burst, as it were, the li. mits of mortality; death is annihilated ; heaven is entered; its worship and joys are anticipated: with angels and archangels, with cherubim and seraphim, they rejoice in giving “ glory to Him that sitteth on the “ throne, and to the Lamb.”
But it is not to be omitted, that the pious carefully attend to the influence and effects of religious exercises on the temper and the life; for by these their genuineness and excellence are demonstrated to the world and to themselves.
That the tendency of the offices of devotion is to compose the mind, to purify and invigorate the heart, and to cherish and perfect every virtue, is very obvious, and will be readily allowed. What, like the divine prefence realized, can render us collected, folemn, and serious ? What, like the contemplation and love of supreme excellence, can inspire the love of excellence, and stimulate in presling forward to perfection ? He that
fears, fears, and trusts, and rejoices in God, has no other fear. Who does not fay with the apostle, * If God so loved us, we ought also to love 66 one another?” Who does not perceive that " the love of Christ constrains” those who are under its influence to all duty, and “ to e glorify the Lord in our fouls and in our “ bodies, which are the Lord's?” Be afsured, my friends, if you return from prayer, from praise, from the closet, from the church, or from the facrament, peevish and fretful, and easily discomposed, vain, proud, selffufficient, felfish, covetous, sensual, equally defective in duty, equally chargeable with transgression as before, the fpirit of true devotion is not yours; and that formality, and superstition, and self-deceit, are intermingled in your worship.
Such are the pious, male or female; and true piety in man or woman is entitled to praise. The text leads us more particularly to consider the claims of a pious woman on. our esteem and commendation,
II. Female piety, more than female beauty, has peculiar attractions. Female piety ren
ders every excellence and good quality more precious. A woman that feareth the LORD is an ornament of society, and a blessing in all the relations and conditions of life.
The text brings in view favour and beauty, not to depreciate them in themselves; for religion and good sense, no more than difcernment and good taste, do not neglect or despise symmetry of form, delicacy of feature, expression of countenance, and all the nameless charms of a beautiful woman. But when, I beseech you, is a beautiful woman most beautiful ? Is it not when the mind appears in the body; when the face is the mirror in which we behold the virtues and graces that adorn the soul; when gentleness, composure, dignity; when generosity, compassion, tenderness, and all the varying, affections of good will; above all, when devotion, with its varying, and amiable, and heavenly affections, are sweetly and naturally expressed, unconscious the while herself of the regard she commands? The homage due to excellence is cheerfully paid in the admiration and praises of a beautiful woman. In our high esteem and forward praise, we are
led to think of a more blessed society, where mildness, and grace, and perfection reign. How naturally we do so, we perceive, in fancy and the fine arts employing the beauties of the female form and female grace to represent the angels of God; the serenity and dignity, the benevolence and devotion of the inhabitants of heaven.
-- EXTERNAL “ beauty” is pronounced by the wise man to be “ deceitful and vain.” It may .be, it has been, as a mere statue, and little better than a mask or a picture. Outward form has made fome women vain; to some it has proved a snare: It has been surrounded by flattery, and folly, and vice ; it has been the seat of frivolity and insignificance: Sobriety of mind has been withdrawn, folly has taken her place. Alas! we have heard of deeper and more deplorable degradations of female beauty, and that all its charms have been incapable of lessening the disgust and horror of virtue. Let us turn from the mere statue and picture, from the poor regards of the superficial, not to say the censure and contempt of honest indignation, to the woman that feareth the LORD, and her