Page images




OUR nature is so formed, that we must dislike every thing that is painful or uneasy, and cannot but wish to avoid it if possible. The desire to escape from evil is, therefore, not blameable in itself; but it often becomes a most dangerous temptation, because it inspires us with an inclination to do what is wrong. Fear is one of the strongest passions of the heart. When we think ourselves in danger of suffering shame, disappointment, the loss of what we possess, or the enjoyment of what we expected; it is then apt to obtain such power over the mind, as to represent every object with the ap. pearance of terror, and alarm us with the most dreadful presages of approaching misery. Yet, as every passion becomes ser. viceable to virtue when under proper regu. lations, so was the principle of fear implanted in the human soul by its great Creator with a design to our advantage. fear of future punishment is one of the most powerful preservatives from guilt, if it is not


overcome by the inclination of immediate pleasure that, indeed, may, for a time, silence the apprehensions that would kindly terrify us from a bad action; but the horrors of deserved chastisement can never be long supended; for "there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."

I shall, at present, consider the subject in two different respects: first, as it may tempt you to the commission of a crime, through the fear of any immediate inconvenience, or to omit an actual duty from the same consi deration; and I will endeavour to point out the proper objects of fear, and the reflections which ought to regulate and direct it.

Our blessed Lord has admonished his disciples very clearly on the point in question, in the advice he delivered to his apos. tles, when he sent them forth to preach the gospel. They were, at that time, com. manded by their Divine Master to work miracles, and instruct the people in his doctrine, but to visit only the particular places to which he meant his own ministry should be more immediately confined; they were then "to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," in order to prepare the

minds of the people to receive that Messiah, who, though he was to be the Deliverer of all nations, was peculiarly to sojourn among the descendants of Abraham, the tribe of Judah, the chosen people of God. "Behold, I send you forth," says he, "as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." By which he represents to them the dangers to which they would be exposed by the profession of his religion, and the prudence and gentle. ness that ought to distinguish their conduct; a serpent being the common symbol of the former, as the innocence of the dove is the well-known emblem of the latter. He told them to "beware of men;"" for," continues the Divine Teacher, "they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues, and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake."

Thus did he openly represent to his fol lowers the trials they must expect, and the difficulties they would suffer in owning him for their master; but, in order to encourage their faith and constancy, he promises them the assistance of his Heavenly Father, whose

[blocks in formation]

spirit would inspire them with needful pow.. ers, and bestow on them such gifts as the necessity of their ministry should require: and, as the most powerful motive to repress their apprehensions on the prospects of the evils he had predicted, our Lord has added this prevailing consideration: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." You, my young friend, are in like manner sent forth as the apostles of old. You may not, perhaps, be called to preach the gospel, but you are sent forth "as sheep in the midst of wolves," to practise the laws of Jesus Christ. You are to be witnesses unto him, in the midst of a world, where his maxims are often derided, and his religion, though it is professed, is but too frequently neglected. You will be called to acknowledge your Master, if not before kings and rulers, yet before your superiors in age, rank, and consequence, and must be content. sometimes to endure ridicule and contempt for his sake; that is, for your steady adherence to his precepts. The fear of evil will likewise beset you with difficulties in the

path of duty. If you have done amiss, the idea of being censured by your parents may induce you to increase your fault by a mean prevarication, or an absolute untruth. You will fear the disgrace of detection, and may hence be led from one failing to repeated crimes. The prospect of present mortification and deserved reproof, will rise before you in all their mournful colours. The dread of such feelings as it is natural to dislike, will plead in your mind, and incline you to adopt those methods of conduct you may think most likely to evade the vexation you apprehend; but however irksome it is to endure uneasiness, remember that no earthly object, no temporary distress, should lead you to the resolution of doing wrong.

The circumstances of life may be so perplexed, and the incidents which arise, so opposite to our wishes, that a good heart may be misled into danger, while it seeks to maintain its comfort and satisfaction. It is impossible to point out the peculiar situations in which you may find the dictates of piety inconsistent with your desires; but thus far may be certainly advised, that you should ever "abstain from all appearance

« PreviousContinue »