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Thus the Prodigal Son, when he left his father's house, to engage in scenes of licentiousness, certainly quitted the place of safety ordained for him by God, and was obliged to support the evils that befel him in consequence. But had he continued at home in obedience to his father, and in the course of duty assigned, these misfortunes would have been avoided. Do not then charge the Divine Goodness with all the faults of your own bad temper, or the miseries of your vices.
It is in the compliance with his precepts that he has provided for your felicity, and not in eccentric courses of your own mis. guided imagination. When you patiently acquiesce with the injuries you receive, you are under the immediate protection of Heaven; but the case is widely different when you become the aggressor, and by your sullenness, passion, or malevolence, render others unhappy. Many absurd opinions are entertained by those who do not discriminate the designs of Providence ; for the way of the wicked is darkness in every particular, and they know not at what they stumble. But those who, by good temper and uniform virtue, comply with the
design of God, shall find as much comfort in their condition as this sublunary state will admit, and will experience that the path of the just is like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
ON OBEDIENCE TO PARENTS.
THE relation in which you stand to the authors of your being, evidently points them out as the first, the nearest, and the best friends you can possess. They were appointed by your Creator to be the supporters of your infancy, the guardians and directors of your youth, and the kind advisers of your riper years. They are attached to your interest by ties of affection which no one else can equally experience. Their solicitude for your welfare is a natural principle heightened by every softer emotion of sensibility, and they are anxious to render you as amiable in the opinion of others, as you are tenderly regarded by them.
I have before mentioned some of the obligations you owe to their care, and that
heart must indeed be destitute of feeling, which has not a most grateful sense of their kindness. Yet it sometimes happens, that although a child may appear to love its parents, it is evidently uneasy under the yoke of obedience. The little attentions required, though solely for its own advantage, are submitted to with reluc tance, while every exertion of their reasonable authority is esteemed to proceed from ill-nature or caprice. This fault may at first arise from negligence, but will soon ripen into guilt. If you can so far forget the reverence you owe your parents as to dispute their commands, your next step will be to act in opposition to them; and will you presume to suppose your judgment and knowledge is so great as always to penetrate the reasons of their conduct, or to decide on its propriety?
The Scriptures every where enjoin obedience to parents as a positive duty; a promise of long life was annexed as a reward to it by God himself in the fifth commandment; and under the Mosaic law, whoever cursed his father or his mother was to suffer the punishment of death. "For every one that curseth his father or his mother, shall be surely put to death he that hath cursed his father or his mother, his blood shall be upon him." Of so flagrant
a nature does the Almighty esteem the crime of ingratitude to those who gave us birth. The promise of temporal rewards and punishments was indeed confined to the Jewish commonwealth, whose government was more immediately directed by God. But the ten commandments still remain in force, and are now impressed by the higher sanctions of a future and eternal state of retribution. I would hope however that all arguments must be needless to prove the necessity of a duty to which you must be inclined by natural affection, and the emotions of conscious gratitude. Let me therefore point out to your thoughts the extent of its obligation, and excite your endeavours to aim at fulfilling it. The practice of every virtue must be attended with some difficulty. The first attempts to acquire knowledge cannot be made without exertion; you cannot learn the most trivial accomplishment without taking some pains; and as all application requires more resolution than is agreeable to the gaiety and thoughtlessness of youth, your parents are under the necessity of contradicting your inclinations from the first dawn of reason. Without an absolute neglect of their own duty, they cannot but enforce the observance of yours; and, however painful they find the task,
are obliged to oppose your desires, for the sake of promoting your happiness. The little infant, insensible of danger, is eager to walk without assistance, before it has acquired suffi cient strength for its support. But would you not blame those who, to gratify its caprice, and quiet its tears, should trust it to certain danger, and resign it to its own weakness?
It is likewise no disparagement to your understanding to suppose your parents have acquired a more extensive knowledge, and a more certain experience; and the greatest proof of wisdom that can be given at your age, is to yield to their guidance, and implicitly to fol. low their admonitions. They will lead you safely through the snares of life; and if their judgment should chance to err, no blame can remain on you, while you obey their direction. What a sweet satisfaction must a good child receive from such affectionate counsellors! With what delight should you open every secret sentiment of your heart to those friends who will never mislead you! Their advice may not indeed always accord with your wishes, but it will always provide for your real good. Suppose you should even sometimes have reason to conclude they treat you with undeserved petulance or severity: candidly reflect on the