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my young friends, and will read in your Bible, that God created and preserved you; and also when, by sin, all mankind had become subject to the eternal punishments of His justice, and abhorrence of wickedness, Jesus Christ died to save us from this terrible sentence. Of the great goodness of God, in the last of these mercies, you will not, perhaps, have so clear a knowledge, or so deep a sense, as you will when you grow older, and can understand better the guilt of man, and the dreadful danger from which Christ died to redeem us. Your mind will more readily conceive God's power, and goodness, in creating and preserving you. From thinking often on these, you will learn to feel how good a God we have rebelled against, and how great a God we have offended. You can all of you understand God's goodness in taking care of you when you could do nothing for Him, or for yourselves. You can judge, that no man could have made all the beautiful and wonderful things, which you see on every side.
You can perceive God's wonderful. power in forming the sun to give light in the day, the moon and stars by night; the earth, with all its green fields, its beautiful flowers, its useful and pleasant fruits; the rain and dew, to make things grow for your food and pleasure. You can perceive how wonderfully good He has been, in taking care of every thing, and of yourselves in particular; how He has clothed the sheep with their warm wool; given the birds their wings; the fishes their fins, to
row them along in the water, like the oars of a boat. How He has contrived for the tiny insects, that dance about in the air and sunshine, their powers of life and enjoyment; so that even the little gnat is made with more nicety, and all his movements directed by a machinery, more perfect and delicate a thousand times than that of the most beautiful clockwork. And, with respect to yourself, He has been even more bountiful and wonderful. He gives you a body furnished with all that is necessary for your support and enjoyment; He gives you a mind to think and learn; and a soul to live for ever in heaven, if you will enter in by the Gospel of Jesus. He made your parents love you, and take care of you, when you were helpless infants; He raised you up all your good friends, when you could not have known where or how to seek for them: so that without these parents and friends, and God's continual care, you could not have lived one hour. These, and many other blessings and mercies, you can easily and early understand; and you can also understand, that you could do nothing to deserve such goodness, and therefore ought, above all things, to love that good God from whom it proceeds.
And, when you understand and feel these mercies as you ought, you will wish to know more of His nature and works, to search out His will, to endeavour not to lose His favour and protection. "Remember thy Creator," says Solomon, " in the days of thy youth." You will advance step by step, from
remembering His goodness in this character, to understand His goodness in redeeming the life which He first gave. Your steps are first planted on earth; but you will ascend thence to heaven, and be shown greater things than these. In childhood you "speak as a child," you "think as a child." But even the child may advance beyond the mere knowledge of these; he is thankful for them, as well as conscious of them. And my youngest friends can easily understand, that if these blessings of God are needed, it is but reasonable that we should ask Him for them, and thereby acknowledge Him as the giver of all good. You can all understand, without any difficulty, that truth which St. Paul sets forth, as the very foundation, and first act of faith: "they that come to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder of those that seek Him." Therefore you will seek Him in daily prayer. You must not forget any morning or evening, to pray for what you want, and to thank Him for what He has done for you already. All those that you love, all things that you enjoy, He made, He preserves, and He could at any moment take away from you. You can see, then, that you ought to pray to Him, and thank Him daily and earnestly.
But, if you are grateful, and anxious for His protection, you will not think that you are to do nothing more than ask Him, or that while you expect Him to please you, and do what you desire, you are not bound to please Him, nor to do what
You cannot fail to understand, that it would be very foolish, and very offensive, to be asking God to favour you, when you are doing every thing that He bids you not to do, and refusing to do what you know He wishes done. You would not do so to your earthly friends and parents. You would know, that this would not be the way, to incline them to listen to your petitions; nor can you think this the way to incline God to hear your prayers. Moreover, all that God does for you, shows how good and merciful He is; and you can understand, that He, who is good Himself, must love goodness in others, and be displeased with those that act against His good designs to make His people happy. You cannot, therefore, reasonably expect Him to listen to your prayers, for things necessary to your happiness, when you act in all things against the peace and comfort of those about you; when you are proud, stubborn, spiteful, cruel, dishonest, or indulge in any feelings, or acts, which hurt, or cause unhappiness, to either man or the brute creation. All manner of wickedness you must know to be displeasing to Him; and to ask of Him favours and blessings for yourself, while you are injuring others, and thus doing things displeasing to Him, you must be aware, would be offering Him insults, and not likely to induce Him to grant your prayer. You can understand also that this God who made, and takes care of all things is every where present, and sees, and knows, what
every living creature either does, or says, or thinks. If, therefore, you desire His favour, and fear His displeasure, you will not speak of Him with disrespect, nor think, nor do any thing, that shows contempt of His laws. You would not dare to do this in the presence of a king, nor any great man, whose protection you desired, or whose anger you feared. How then shall you do it in the presence of the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS? If you would avoid doing things to excite His anger, and would seek to do His pleasure, you will be glad to be taught (both by those who have learned more than yourself, and out of God's word the Bible) more of His nature and His will, accordingly as you advance in age and understanding, and are more able to comprehend this excellent and important subject. For many things that your young minds cannot receive yet, and many other things, of which you cannot comprehend the reason now, will be made clear to you, as you grow older, if you will but attend to those whose age and office fit them to offer you instruction in what you ought to know. Therefore I will now take a few of those duties to man, which a child should be most anxious to perform; if he would grow in grace and knowledge, if, like His Saviour, he would grow " in wisdom, as in stature, and in favour with God and man.”
I. My young friends, be ready and willing humbly to receive instruction. You must receive a great