( Originally Published 1879 )
RELIGION is the daughter of heaven, parent of our virtues, and source of all true felicity; she alone gives peace and contentment, divests the heart of anxious cares, bursts on the mind a flood of joy, and sheds unmingled and perpetual sunshine in the pious breast. By her the spirits of darkness are banished from the earth, and angelic ministers of grace thicken unseen the regions of mortality.
She promotes love and good will among men, lifts up the head that hangs down, heals the wounded spirit, dissipates the gloom of sorrow, sweetens the cup of affliction, blunts the sting of death, and wherever seen, felt, and enjoyed, breathes around her an everlasting spring. The external 'life of man is the creature of time and circumstance, and passes away, but the internal abides, and continues to exist. One is thé painted glory of the flower; the other is the delicious attar of the rose. The city and the temple may be destroyed, and the tribes exiled and dispersed, yet the altars and the faith of Israel are still preserved, Spirit triumphs over form. External life prevails amidst sounds and shows, and visible things ; the internal dwells in silence, sighs and tears, and secret sympathies with the invisible world. Power, and wealth, and luxury, are relative terms; and if address, and prudence, and policy, can only acquire us our share, we shall not account ourselves more powerful, more rich, or more luxurious, than when in the little we possessed we were still equal to those around us. But if we have narrowed the sources of internal comfort, and internal enjoyment if we have debased the powers or corrupted the purity of the mind, if we have blunted the sympathy or contracted the affections of the heart, we have lost some of that treasure which was absolutely our own, and derived not its value from comparative estimation. Above all, if we have allowed the prudence or the interests of this world, to shut out from our souls the view or the hopes of a better, we have quenched that light which would have cheered the darkness of affliction. But if we let God care for our inward and eternal life, if by all the experiences of this life he is reducing it and preparing for its disclosure, nothing can befall us but prosperity. Every sorrow shall be but the setting of some luminous jewel of joy. Our very mourning shall be but the enamel around the diamond; our very hardships but the metallic rim that holds the opal glancing with strange interior fires.
If you stand upon the mountain, you may see the sun shining long after it is dark in the valley. Try to live up high! Escape, if you can, the malarious damps of the lowlands. Make an upward path for your feet. Though your spirit may be destined to live isolated, you cannot be alone, for God is there. Your best strivings of soul are there ! Your standard ground should be there ! Live upward ! The cedar is always developing its branches toward the top while the lower ones are dropping away. Let your soul-life be so! Upward ! Upward !
"Drink deep, or taste not," is a direction fully as applicable to religion, if we would find it a source of pleasure, as it is to knowledge. A little religion is, it must be confessed, apt to make men gloomy, as a little knowledge is to render them vain; hence the unjust imputation brought upon religion by those whose degree of religion is just sufficient, by condemning their course of conduct, to render them uneasy; enough merely to impair the sweetness of the pleasures of sin, and not enough to compensate for the relinquishment of them by its own peculiar comforts. Thus, then, men bring up, as it were, an ill report of that land of promise, which, in truth, abounds with whatever, in our journey through life, can best refresh and strengthen us. Would you wish, amidst the great variety of religious systems in vogue, to make a right distinction, and prefer the best? Recollect the character of Christ; keep a steady eye on that universal and permanent good will to men, in which he lived, by which, he suffered, and for which he died. Not in those wild and romantic notions, which, to make us Christians, would make us fools; but in those inspired writings, and in those alone, which contain his genuine history and his blessed gospel ; and which, in the most peculiar and extensive sense, and the words of eternal life.