« PreviousContinue »
to do me the justice to believe, that not a word or sentiment will be uttered, but with the sincerest desire for your present and everlasting happiness.
The subject proposed for present consideration, is the claims of society on young men. In illustrating this subject, I shall explain the nature of these claims-show how you are to be prepared to meet them—and enforce the duty by appropriate motives.
I. The claims, then, of which we speak, are of the most weighty and serious character. They grow out of those indissoluble relations which you sustain to society; and those invaluable interests, social, civil, and religious, which have come down to us, a most precious inheritance, from our fathers, and which, with all the duties and responsibilities connected with them, are soon to be transferred to your hands and to your keeping. I look forward a few short years, and see the aspect of society entirely changed. The venerable fathers, who have borne the heat and burden of the day, are dropping, one after another into the grave, and soon they will all be gone. Of those too, who are now the acting members of society, some have passed the meridian of life, others are
passing it, and all will soon be going down its decline, to mingle with the generations who have disappeared before them, from this transient scene of action. To a mind, seriously contemplating this mournful fact, it is an inquiry of deep and tender interest ;—who are to rise up and fill their places? To whom are to be committed the invaluable interests of this community? Who are to sustain its responsibilities and discharge its duties? You anticipate the answer. It is to you, young men, that these interests are to be committed and these responsibilities transferred. You are fast advancing to fill the places of those, who are fast retiring to give place to a new generation. You are soon to occupy the houses, and own the property, and fill the offices, and possess the power, and direct the influence that are now in other hands. The various departments of business and trust, the pulpit and the bar, our courts of justice and halls of legislation; our civil, religious, and literary institutions; all, in short, that constitutes society, and goes to make life useful and happy, are to be in your hands, and under your control.
This representation is not made to excite your vanity, but to impress you with a due
sense of your obligations. You cannot take a rational view of the stations to which you are advancing, or of the duties that are coming upon you, without feeling, deeply, your need of high and peculiar qualifications. In committing to you her interests and privileges, society imposes upon you corresponding claims and demands that you be prepared to fill, with honor and usefulness, the places which you are destined to occupy. She looks to you for future protection and support, and while she opens her arms to welcome you to her high immunities and hopes, she requires of you the cultivation of those virtues, and the attainment of those qualifications, which can alone prepare you for the duties and scenes of future life.
Such, then, being the claims of society, let us inquire,
II. How you may be prepared to meet them.
1. And first of all, it is demanded that you awake to a serious consideration of the duties and prospects before you. I mention this first, because, if á young man cannot be persuaded to consider what he is, and what he is to become in future life, nothing worthy or good can be expected of him. And, unhap
pily, this is the character of too many young men. They cannot be made to think. They seem resolved to live only for the present moment, and for present gratification. As if the whole of their existence were comprised in the passing hour, and they had no concern in any future duty or event, they never cast forward a thought to their coming days, nor inquire how they are to fulfil the great end of their being.
Of these gay and thoughtless triflers, society has nothing to expect. They may have their little day of sunshine and pleasure; then they will vanish and be forgotten, as if they had never been. This is unworthy the character of a rational being. Man was made for a nobler end than thus to pass away life in mere levity and trifling. He was made for thought and reflection; he was made to serve God and his generation in a life of beneficent action; and he never exercises his faculties more in accordance with the dignity of his nature, than when he considers the end for which he was created, and inquires how he may best fulfil the great purposes of his being. And this, my friends, is an exercise peculiarly appropriate at your time of life, Joyous and flattering as the prospect before you may seem, let me tell you,
there is much in it that is fitted to make you serious and thoughtful. You cannot take a just view of your state and prospects, without feeling that you are placed in circumstances of deep and solemn interest. Your Creator has placed you here in the midst of a shifting and transient scene, to sojourn, a little while, as probationers for eternity, then to pass from the stage and be here no more. He has formed you for society, for duty and happiness; and has so connected you with the living beings around you, that they, as well as yourselves, are to feel the good or ill effects of your conduct, long after you shall have gone to render up your account at his bar. How imperious, to beings in such a state, is the duty of consideration! How wise, how allimportant to inquire,-What am I, and what. is my destination in this and the future world? For what end was I created, and for what purpose placed here in the midst of beings like myself? What are the relations which I sustain to those beings and to society? What the duties which I owe to them? How can I be prepared to perform those duties, and how accomplish the great end for which my Creator gave me existence, and placed me in this world of probation and trial? The man