S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The main distinction between real Christianity and the system of the bulk of nominal Christians chiefly consists in the different place which is assigned in the two schemes to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. These, in the scheme of nominal Christians, if admitted at all, appear but like the stars of the firmament to the ordinary eye. Those splendid luminaries draw forth, perhaps, occasionally a transient expression of admiration when we behold their beauty, or hear of their distances, magnitudes, or properties; now and then, too, we are led, perhaps, to muse upon their possible uses; but, however curious as subjects of speculation, it must, after all, be confessed they twinkle to the common observer with a vain and idle lustre; and except in the dreams of the astrologer have no influence on human happiness, or any concern with the course and order of the world. But to the real Christian, on the contrary, these peculiar doctrines constitute the centre to which he gravitates! the very sun of his system! the origin of all that is excellent and lovely! the source of light, and life, and motion, and genial warmth, and plastic energy! Dim is the light of reason, and cold and comfortless our state while left to her unassisted guidance. Even the Old Testament itself, though a revelation from Heaven, shines but with feeble and scanty rays. But the blessed truths of the Gospel are now unveiled to our eyes, and we are called upon to behold and to enjoy the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, in the full radiance of its meridian splendour. The words of inspiration best express our highly-favoured state: We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
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 often 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.
When the pulse beats high, and we are flushed with youth, and health, and vigour; when all goes on prosperously, and success seems almost to anticipate our wishes, then we feel not the want of the consolations of religion: but when fortune frowns, or friends forsake us; when sorrow, or sickness, or old age comes upon us, then it is that the superiority of the pleasures of religion is established over those of dissipation and vanity, which are ever apt to fly from us when we are most in want of their aid. There is scarcely a more melancholy sight than an old man who is a stranger to those only true sources of satisfaction. How affecting, and at the same time how disgusting, is it to see such a one awkwardly catching at the pleasures of his younger years, which are now beyond his reach, or feebly attempting to retain them, while they mock his endeavours and elude his grasp!