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but a few striking circumstances clearly related and strongly worked-up-as in a landscape it is not such a vast extensive range of country as pains the eye to stretch to its limits, but a beautiful, well defined prospect, which gives the most pleasure-so neither are those unbounded views in which philosophy delights, so much calculated to touch the heart as home views and nearer objects. The philosopher offers up general praises on the altar of universal nature ; the devout man, on the altar of his heart, presents his own sighs, his own thanksgivings, his own earnest desires; the former worship is more sublime, the latter more personal and affecting.
We are likewise too scrupulous in our public exercises, and too studious of accuracy. A prayer strictly philosophical must ever be a cold and dry composition. From an over anxious fear of admitting any expression that is not strictly proper, we are apt to reject all warm and pathetic imagery, and, in short, everything that strikes upon the heart and the senses. But it may be said, “ If the Deity be indeed so sublime a being, and if his designs and manner are so infinitely keyond our comprehension, how can a thinking mind join in the addresses of the vulgar, or avoid being overwhelmed with the indistinct vastness of such an idea. Far be it from me to deny, that awe and veneration must ever make a principal part of our regards to the Master of the universe, or to defend that style of indecent familiarity, which is yet more shocking than
indifference; but let it be considered that we cannot hope to avoid all improprieties in speaking of such a Being; that the most philosophical address we can frame is probably no more free from them, than the devotions of the vulgar ; that the Scriptures set us an example of accommodating the language of prayer to common conceptions, and making use of figures and modes of expression far from being strictly defensible; and that, upon the whole, it is safer to trust to our genuine feelings, feelings implanted in us by the God of nature, than to any metaphysical subtleties. He has impressed me with the idea of trust and confidence, and my heart flies to him in danger; of mercy to forgive, and I melt before him in penitence; of bounty to bestow, and I ask of him all I want or wish for. I I may make use of an inaccurate expression, I may paint him to my imagination too much in the fashion of humanity ; but while my heart is pure, while I depart not from the line of moral duty, the error is not dangerous. Too critical a spirit is the bane of everything great or pathetic. In our creeds let us be guarded ; let us there weigh every syllable ; but in compositions addressed to the heart, let us give freer scope to the language of the affections, and the overflowing of a warm and generous disposition.
Another cause which most effectually operates to check devotion, is ridicule. I speak not here of open derision of things sacred; but there is a certain ludicrous style in talking of such subjects, which, without any ill design, does much harm; and perhaps those, whose studies or profession lead them to be chiefly conversant with the offices of religion, are most apt to fall into this impropriety ; for their ideas being chiefly taken from that source, their common conversation is apt to be tinctured with fanciful allusions to scripture expressions, to prayers, &c. which have all the effect of a parody, and, like parodies, destroy the force of the finest passage, by associating it with something trivial and ridiculous. Of this nature is Swist's well known jest of “Dearly beloved Roger,” which whoever has strong upon his memory, will find it impossible to attend with proper seriousness to that part of the service. We should take great care to keep clear from all these trivial associations, in whatever we wish to be regarded as venerable.
Another species of ridicule to be avoided, is that kind of sneer often thrown upon those whose hearts are giving way to honest emotion. There is an extreme delicacy in all the finer affections, which makes them shy of observation, and easily checked. Love, Wonder, Pity, the enthusiasm of Poetry, shrink from the notice of even an indifferent eye, and never indulge themselves freely but in solitude, or when heightened by the powerful force of sympathy. Observe an ingenuous youth at a well wrought tragedy. If all around him are moved, he suffers his tears to flow freely; but if a single eye meets him with a glance of contemptuous indifference, he can no longer enjoy
his sorrow; he blushes at having wept, and in a moment his heart is shut up to every impression of tenderness. It is sometimes mentioned as a reproach to Protestants, that they are susceptible of a false shame when observed in the exercises of their religion, from which Papists are free. But I take this to proceed from the purer nature of our religion ; for the less it is made to consist in outward pomp and mechanical worship, and the more it has to do with the finer affections of the heart, the greater will be the reserve and delicacy which attend the expression of its sentiments. Indeed, ridicule ought to be very sparingly used; for it is an enemy to everything sublime or tender; the least degree of it, whether well or ill founded, suddenly and instantaneously stops the workings of passion; and those who indulge a talent that way, would do well to consider, that they are rendering themselves forever incapable of all the higher pleasures either of taste or morals. More especially do these cold pleasantries burt the minds of youth, by checking that generous expansion of heart to which their open tempers are naturally prone, and producing a vicious shame, through which they are deprived of the enjoyment of heroic sentiments or generous action.
In the next place, let us not be superstitiously afraid of superstition. It shews great ignorance of the human heart, and the springs by which its passions are moved, to neglect taking advantage of the impression, which particular circumstances, times and seasons, naturally make upon the mind. The root of all superstition is the principle of the association of ideas, by which, objects naturally indifferent become dear and venerable, through their connexion with interesting ones. It is true, this principle has been much abused; it has given rise to pilgrimages innumerable, worship of relics, and priestly power. But let us not carry our ideas of purity and simplicity so far as to neglect it entirely. Superior natures, it is possible, may be equally affected with the same truths at all times, and in all places; but we are not so made. Half the pleasures of elegant minds are derived from this source. Even the enjoyments of sense, without it, would lose much of their attraction. Who does not enter into the sentiment of the poet, in that passage so full of nature and truth,
He that outlives this hour, and comes safe home,
And say, tomorrow is St Crispian's. But were not the benefits of the victory equally apparent on any other day of the year? Why commemorate the anniversary with such distinguished regard ? Those who can ask such a question, have never attended to some of the strongest instincts in our nature. Yet it has lately been the fashion, amongst those who call themselves rational Christians, to treat as puerile, all attentions of this nature when relative to religion. They would