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Let us not then deceive or torment ourselves with these senseless or fruitless researches. Let us not separate what ought to be united, or place those duties in a state of artificial hostility to each other which have a natural tendency to confer and to receive mutual advantage.

He that contemplates virtue most frequently is likely to practise it most successfully. He that retires from the world to examine his heart in silence and solitude, will return into action with purer principles and calmer passions. The Saviour of the world ascended up into a mountain to pray; but it is also recorded of him, that he went about constantly doing good. He dismissed the multitude, that he might discharge his duty towards God; but he did not dismiss them till he had taught and relieved them. In the whole course of the Sacred History you will find our Saviour's life a mixture of contemplation and action, of exemplary exactness that does not offend our good sense, and amiable freedom that does not relax our virtue. You meet him in the market-place, the synagogue, and the festal entertainment. You learn also that he withdrew himself from the crowd into deserts, or a mountain, or a garden--that he there held immediate intercourse with the great Father of Spirits, and employed himself in meditation, in fasting, and in prayer.

And here it may not be amiss to inform you, that for the accommodation of travellers, or of those who lived at a distance from great towns, many places, called Proseuchæ, were erected in Judea, to which persons, who were devoutly disposed, might betake themselves, and offer their addresses to Almighty God without rude interruption. Upon a principle not very dissimilar from this, crueifixes are erected near the highway in Popish countries; and if some offensive circumstances tending towards idolatry were happily removed, the opportunities and encouragement offered to prayer are highly meritorious, and deserve not only to be praised, but imitated among ourselves. A distinction is to be made between monastic retirement and frequent devotion. The one is not commanded, and seems unfit for us with our social feelings, and in all our social relations. But to pray must ever be our duty, and is in our power ever. Even when plunged in the business of the world—when annoyed by its cares—when charmed with its very pleasures, a truly good man will sometimes elevate his thoughts to heaven. He may not prostrate himself on his knees, or spread forth his hands, or observe any regular forms of supplication; but sentiments of reverence, affection, and confidence, and gratitude rise within his bosom; and he will give vent to them in a concise and fervent address to him who measures our piety not by the length, or number, or loudness of our prayers, but by the sincerity of the motives from which they proceed.

It must however be owned, that when we reflect on the majesty of Almighty God, and on our own extreme frailty, even this good work will be performed with more steady recollection, with greater propriety, and greater fervour, in the stillness of our

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closets than amidst the tumults of this restless world, and the glare of those alluring objects which solicit our senses on every side. As the text has often been wrested to support the wild and fantastic cause of those who contend for the necessity of religious retirement, I shall consider the real nature and extent of it as a duty. Aware I am well, that questions of this kind have not often reached your ears; but in the solemn and imposing garb of superstition such doctrines may not be totally unknown to you; and therefore, for two reasons, it will not be improper for me to guard my text from gross misconceptions. The first is, that while you perform diligently and faithfully the offices of your various stations—while you provide for the comfort of your children, and your own decent support-while you are good husbandmen, good servants, and good masters of families, you may not be discouraged by any idle fears, that you are not serving God. The next is, that however laudable such pursuits may be, you must not suffer them to engross your whole attention; for in those seasons when the laws of your country, or the customs of the world, permit you to have intervals of leisure, you will do well to employ that leisure in serious meditation, in examining your past conduct, and in preparing for the improvement of whatever is right in it, and the amendment of whatever is amiss. I need not dissuade

you

from the austerities of the hermit; but there

may

be great use in rousing you from the lethargy of the worldling, whether he be a rapacious miser, a listless trifler, or a thoughtless, hardened debauchee,

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Now I confess myself at a loss to conceive what countenance the advocate of solitude can borrow from the Sacred Writings. Of Moses, of Samuel, of Daniel, and the Prophets, we find that they were employed in active life, and many of them held very arduous and important offices in the Jewish state. They were engaged in the founding of states, the building of cities, the operations of war, and the intricacies of politics, and the ceaseless toils of government, and the cultivation of wastes. To the example of these holy men may be opposed the conduct of John, who lived in the wilderness, where he fed on locusts and wild honey, and where the coarseness of his dress was adapted to the abstemiousness of his diet. But the particular purpose for which he came into the world, as the precursor of the great Messiah, may account in some measure for this striking singularity. Add to this, that he professedly came in the spirit of Elias; and therefore to preserve a consistency of character he shunned the amusements and the business of the world, avowedly and indiscriminately. But this behaviour, conformable as it was to the station he held, and to the ideas the Jews entertained of the second Elias, is not to be applauded as a model for the generality even of the Jews theinselves. Yet less can it be a matter of obligation to us, who live under the easy yoke of Christiany, the social spirit of which is not compatible with such a plan of conduct, and the letter of which, I am confident, no where prescribes it in direct terms, or by fair implication. Be it observed, too, that John himself did not hold up his own example for the imitation of the people. When asked by them, what they should do to flee from the wrath to come, what was his answer? That they should abandon their houses, their occupations, and their families? That they should retire to the shaggy mountain and the gloomy wilderness ? No; it was a series of plain and salutary precepts adapted to their several callings, and calculated to make them worthy members of the community to which they belonged.

Now in our Saviour's life, as I before observed, we see no traces of rigorous mortification, or assumed melancholy-no peevish opposition to harmless pleasure—no haughty contempt of useful business. His discourses were spent in pressing men to exercise those graces which adorn the social state. The active, and even the passive courage which he recommended, could not be exercised in a desert; and accordingly you find that the Apostles themselves did not sequester themselves from mankind, but mingled with men of all nations, and of all religions—of all ranks and of all ages—with the elegant Athenian, and the haughty Roman, and the fierce Scythian-with Alexander the coppersmith, and Festus the governor.

From their illustrious example no argument can be drawn to justify that solitary and austere way of life, in which the mistaken zeal, or the sombrous temper of many well-meaning Christians, has induced them to place the highest perfection. Let us leave these visionary and useless plans of serving God to oriental devotees—to the dronish Bramin, and the superstitious Dervise. As Christians we have a nobler and ampler field opened

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