« PreviousContinue »
transcribe the excellent precepts of this great Apostle into your conduct; and remember, thut he mentions it as an essential to his young friend, "that he should have a good report of them which are without, lest he fall into reproach, and the snare of the devil;" that is, into various temptations that arise to those persons whose characters are obnoxious to reproach. They are liable to have their doctrines reviled and mali. ciously retorted on themselves; and their faith may not unjustly be questioned, when they preach the great truths of Revelation, and yet in their lives deny its dictates.
I cannot better conclude my advice, than with the words of the inspired teacher, in the epistle above mentioned: "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Give attention during the course of your educa. tion to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself
and them that hear thee." May this hope animate your endeavours, and this reward be your recompence in that world, where those who, by their precepts and example, turn many to righteousness, shall, themselves shine as the stars for ever and ever.
I HAVE now, my dear young friends, accomplished the plan intended for your instruction; may the execution be found in any degree answerable to the design, and my heart will be highly gratified. Your interest in society I consider as very extensive; your influence on the happiness of your parents and friends, as extremely tender and important; and your relative connexions with your companions and equals, as by no means inconsiderable. When I view you in this light, I behold the seeds of those virtues now shed in your hearts, as promising a future harvest of integrity, piety, and uprightness. That goodness which has early taken root in the mind, may be overshadowed for a time by
the allurements of temptation, and the gaiety of the world; but its powers will revive, and its sentiments gain the ascendancy over bad habits, when visited by the stroke of affliction, or roused by the reproaches of an accusing conscience. The Divine grace is then seconded by the recollection of former precepts, and those con. victions return in their full force, which, though long suspended, have not been wholly lost. These are often found to be the salutary effects of a religious education, even in the most unpromising prospects; and, perhaps, when the first years of existence have been dedicated to God, they may assist to draw down his blessing on the whole of life: and though he permits the youthful sinner to fall from his stedfastness, and prove his weakness when left to himself, yet, like the persecuting Saul, some good Ananias, some faithful minister of the Most High, may be permitted to restore his sight, to convince him of his error, to lead him back like the lost sheep, and restore him to the fold of the great · Shepherd. These are the hopes which many have fulfilled, where a good foundation has been
assiduously prepared; but it affords no encouragement for wilful licentiousness, no. excuse to sin that grace may abound, though a strong argument to induce both parents and children, to an early care, that the sentiments of religion may be steadily settled.
It has been the design of these Lectures, chiefly to recommend the relative duties, which are equally suitable to every condition, and consistent with all the modes of Christian worship. The period of youth is a very improper season to admit debates on abstruse subjects, where those who are more enlightened may be in danger of error. Let them follow the guidance of their parents, and trust to them the instruction of their early years; at the same time, that they are cautious to entertain no illiberal dislike or uncharitable sentiments towards those whose faith may, in some particulars, differ from their own. The spirit of Christ was ever exemplified in universal benevolence, and those who have not his spirit, are declared by the Apostle not to be his disciples.
You, my young readers, may now be addressed in the language of Elijah to the Israelites, when they were ensnared to idol
atrous worship: "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him but if Baal, then follow him." You have the duties of a Christian recommended to your practice: they are enforced on your obedience by the positive command of God; they are authorized by the experience of the wise and good, as productive of much present peace and satisfaction, and they are proposed under the sanction of the gospel, and the promise of eternal life and happiness when this life is ended. With some difficulties you must expect to encounter ; for many temptations you must be prepared. The prize of immortal glory is not to be attained in supineness, negligence, and sloth. A life of virtue must be a life of exertion. But the Almighty has promised you his support in assistance of your unremitted endeavours, and the graces of his Spirit will be with you always to the end of life. On the other hand, vice will offer you her incitements, and by the baits of present gratification, seek to allure you from a right course. "With her much fair speech she will, perhaps, cause you to yield, and try to force you with the flattering of