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should always endeavour to be, in many respects, what we once were, and what we still see little children to be. So shall we do no evil. So shall we be Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile.
6. This history affords encouragement to young persons arrived to the use of reason and understanding to come to Christ, and offer up themselves to God in and through him. Jesus received the little children who were brought to him; and he proposed them to others as patterns of resemblance, they being free from customs of sinning. But after all, they were rather emblems of virtue, than virtuous themselves. Much more then will they be received by him, who being still without guile, have an actual propensity and disposition to virtue and goodness. If you should neglect yourselves, when you have attained to the use of your rational powers, and are entering into the world, bad principles and habits will grow up, like weeds in a rich soil, of which no care is taken; and you will soon lose all that innocence and simplicity which endears little children to the Lord Jesus.
Let me therefore propound to you the few following counsels and directions.
1.) Be induced to give up yourselves to God with deliberation, and with all the seriousness and solemnity you are able, engaging, and resolving, that you will not sin against him, or do any thing contrary to his holy commandments, so far as you are acquainted with them. Such a fixed and deliberate purpose and resolution of mind, once formed, may be of great and lasting advantage to you.
2.) Be diligent, and improve your time for gaining knowledge. You are not to be like little children in every thing. You should resemble them in innocence: but in "understanding you are to be men," 1 Cor. xiv. 20. Beside attending to the instructions you receive, in order to qualify you for some honest and reputable employment, whereby you may gain a subsistence, without being burthensome to any, and may be useful to others: as you have opportunity, employ yourselves in reading the scriptures, especially the history of the Patriarchs, in Genesis, and the Psalms, the Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles; and indeed all the books of the New Testament, and also other useful and instructive books. You may likewise endeavour to improve by conversation with persons of sobriety and discretion, and, if it may be, of such as are somewhat advanced above you in years and knowledge. Hereby the mind will be enlarged. You will gain generous sentiments.
Your usefulness, when you are settled in the world, will be more extensive. You may have the greater influence and reputation. And you will certainly lay a foundation for a great deal of entertainment and satisfaction within yourselves, which some others want.
3.) Pay a regard to every branch of duty: not doing one thing, and neglecting others, as many do, but aiming at every part of holiness. You know that St. Paul says: "The grace of God which bringeth salvation teaches us to deny all ungodliness, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world," Tit. ii. 11, 12.
Live godly fear and reverence the Divine Majesty, in your thoughts. Frequent the assemblies of divine worship, and forsake them not; as some do, who fancy themselves wiser than others, without really being so.
Live soberly: govern your affections, and take care not to be led by evil examples to any excess or indulgence, contrary to strict sobriety.
Live righteously: do to others as you would others should do unto you. Attend much to relative duties. Behave as you ought to superiors, equals, inferiors, agreeably to your rank and station. It is easy to perceive from the epistles of Christ's apostles in the New Testament, that much of religion lies herein; and that they are very imperfect Christians who are defective in relative duties.
4.) Be persuaded to accustom yourselves to private prayer. This may be understood to be included in a preceding direction. Nevertheless, I have chosen to mention it here particularly and expressly. Pray, as you are able. Use the compendious prayer, which our Lord taught his disciples; or some other prayer, suited to your age and condition. What you want, ask God for. Look up to him, and humbly entreat his gracious and watchful care and protection. Say: O Lord, I am thine. Thou hast made me, and I have promised to serve thee. Thou knowest my 'weakness, and all the snares and dangers that surround me. Do thou keep me from evil, and vouchsafe unto me 'all those good things which are needful and convenient for 'me. I would acknowledge thee in all my ways: do thou 'direct my steps. Grant that I may seriously attend to, and carefully improve all the means and helps which thou 'affordest me for obtaining true holiness, and for persevering therein, notwithstanding the temptations I may 'meet with. May I cheerfully perform all the duties and 'services owing from me to those to whom I stand related, and with whom I converse, or have any dealings. And
may I so serve and honour thee on earth, as that I may be received in thy due time to the joys of thy heavenly and 'eternal kingdom."
5.) Once more, ever remember the importance of right conduct. This is not a matter of indifference, or of but little moment. But all depends upon it. Good and evil, life and death, are set before you; therefore choose the one and refuse the other. Sin is a root of bitterness. It yields bitter fruit, torment, and vexation of mind. But" the fruit of righteousness," or virtue," is quietness and assurance for ever," Is. xxxii. 17.
Moreover, it should be considered, that "you have been brought to Christ," and instructed in the principles of religion. If after you have had some knowledge of the way of righteousness, you should turn from it, your case would be extremely sad and deplorable. But, I trust, you shall not fall away, but persevere to the end, and at last be placed at the right hand of the Judge of the whole earth, and, together with others, hear that gracious sentence and invitation; "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," Matt. xxv. 34.
THE HAPPINESS OF HAVING RELIGIOUS PARENTS, AND OTHER PIOUS RELATIVES.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, that in thee also. 2 Tim. i. 5.
THE ensuing discourse is chiefly intended for the benefit of my younger hearers. And upon occasion of this text I would propound these several observations.
I. It is an advantage to be descended of pious parents, and other religious ancestors.
II. It is commendable in children to attend to the instructions, and imitate the virtues, of their parents, and other religious ancestors.
III. They are to be blamed who degenerate from the virtues of their family.
IV. Children have a right to excel their parents in such things as are good and praise-worthy.
V. It is a great and singular happiness, where there is a general agreement and harmony, as to things of religion, among friends and relatives, and the several branches of a family.
I. It is an advantage to be descended of pious parents, and other religious ancestors.
This is evident at first sight. If piety, or any virtue, be preferable to irreligion, and to vicious dispositions and practices, it must be an advantage to be related to such as are religious and virtuous. It cannot but be a privilege, to descend from those who have a knowledge of God, and some just apprehensions of his perfections, and a serious sense of religious things upon their minds. For thereby they are restrained from what is evil: and are obliged, engaged, and excited to that which is good. Moreover, all the behaviour of such persons, and their treatment of others, especially of those who depend upon them, is pleasing, desirable, and agreeable. They therefore who have pious parents enjoy a kind and mild treatment, which many others want.
There is a benefit likewise in the instructions received from such. For they who are themselves pious and religious, will" teach their children, and their household after them, to keep the way of the Lord," Gen. xviii. 19. You, therefore, who are descended from pious parents, have heard of the eternal and unchangeable existence of God, the Maker of all things. You have been informed of the goodness and bounty, the mercy and loving-kindness of God to all his creatures, especially those that fear and serve him: and that as he has all power in heaven and earth, he is able to defend and uphold all his sincere worshippers, and to reward such as diligently seek and serve him.
You who are born of christian parents have heard of the love of Jesus Christ in dying for us. You have heard of the mean birth, and humble life of Jesus, who has most clearly taught the way of salvation. You have been acquainted with the promise he made of everlasting happiness to those who sincerely obey the rules of life delivered by him, who love God with all the heart and soul, and their neighbour as themselves, and who persevere in the profession of truth, and the practice of virtue, notwithstanding worldly difficulties and discouragements.
You have likewise such a knowledge of the wonderful works he wrought, that you cannot doubt of the truth of
his words. For no man could do such works unless God was with him. His cures of the sick and infirm, and that by a word, and instantly, and raising the dead, are undeniable proofs, that he spake in the name of God, or that the Father had sent him, and that the whole of his doctrine is true, and from heaven.
You have also been instructed in the history of his resurrection and ascension, and the mighty works that were done by the apostles of Jesus after he had left this world, when they preached the doctrine they had received from him. And you have no doubt but he will come again in glory, to judge the quick and the dead, and to give to all men according to the things done by them in this their state of trial.
By the advantage of your birth you have been favoured with the knowledge of divers maxims and observations of unquestioned truth and certainty, and of great use to the right conduct of life. You have been told, that a little with the fear of God, is better than great revenues without it, or than the riches of many wicked: that the fear of God, a sense of his care and providence, hope in his promises, especially the great promise of eternal life to the truly pious and virtuous, will afford great peace and satisfaction at all times: that these dispositions will increase the happiness of outward prosperity, and abate the bitterness of all worldly afflictions.
To have been early instructed in these things is a great benefit. How deplorable is the case of those who are ig norant of them!
One thing more I shall mention here, that to your descent from religious parents, possibly, you owe divers temporal advantages. Solomon says: "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked; but he blesseth the habitation of the just," Prov. iii. 33. From the usefulness, and honourable and discreet behaviour of your ancestors, you have inherited credit and reputation. And to their frugality, discretion, diligence, sobriety, and other virtues, you may reckon yourselves indebted for the competence or the abundance of the good things you possess and enjoy, which otherwise might have been squandered away in luxury and
II. They who have this advantage ought to improve it. And it will be commendable in them to attend to the instructions, and imitate the virtues, of their religious parents, and other pious ancestors.
St. Paul esteemed it matter of much joy and thanksgiving,