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dissipation and pleasure? I will not insult you by supposing that a positively bad example has been set, or that your darling charge may have grossly deviated from the paths of virtue; but let me suppose, for a moment, a case that may, and does happen every day; that your daughter has grown up with a vain, light, worldly mind; has acquired a taste for dress and amusement; has be-, come a perfect mistress of the usual accomplishments of the day and place in which we live; has become an object of attention and admiration. Let me suppose her attacked with disease, and that disease, perhaps, the effect of levity and dissipation. See, the roses are fading upon her cheek, her “beauty is wasting like a moth;” all her vivacity is reduced to the sudden glow of the hectic, which is gone before it is well come; she feels the witness of death at her heart, she looks up to you with clouded, wistful eyes, and says, “Ah, my mother, you was too indulgent to me. You assisted the tongue of the flatterer, and taught me to forget myself. I was made to believe myself an angel, and now feel that I am a worm. Seeking to shine in the eyes of man, I have neglected the means of finding favour in the sight of God. I now wish I had frequented the house of prayer more; I wish I had not frequented the company of the giddy, the thoughtless, and the profane, I do not accuse my dear mother of designedly misleading me; but would to God she had better understood her own duty and my real interest. Life had been more respectable, and death less frightful than I find it to be. O my God, have mercy, have mercy upon me.” It had been easy to have added to the strength of this address; but even from this the maternal heart recoils, and deprecates with horror, an hour so dreadful. Well, blessed be God, it is yet a great way off, and what is more, it is in your power to prevent it; I do not mean the stroke of death; but the arrow of death dipt in the p. of remorse. God grant that none here may ever el it.
The criminality of Eli consisted, my brethren, in the neglect of his duty; and you have seen how fatal that neglect was to himself and to his family. Dare I suppose there is a father here, who has been more than passive in the corruption of his own child; who has been the promoter and the pattern of wickedness; who has with his own hand scattered the seeds of death in that precious soil; and trained up an immortal being to destruction? Pause, and consider. Are you prepared to meet the stings of an awakened conscience, accusing thee of murder, of soul-murder, the murder of thy own son, whom thou lovedst? Are you fortified against the cutting reproaches of that child, laying his eternal ruin to your charge? Have you prepared your defence against that awful day when a righteous God shall demand an account of the sacred trust committed to thee? If to contemplate his pumishment at a distance be wo unutterable, what were it to be at once the cause and the partaker of it? The terrified imagination flees from this hell of hells, and seeks refuge in prayer to a merciful God, that he would graciously save you from it.
Let young ones be persuaded to be patient of restraint, of correction, and of reproof. You are not grieved willingly, you are not afflicted unnecessarily, you are not chastised out of caprice. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not,” Prov. i. 8– 10. “A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother,” Prov. x. 1. Venerate the name, the day, the house, the worship of God. Remember that want of decency is want of sense: that the immoderate indulgence of appetite is inimical to all true enjoyment: that which is renounced, from respect to reason and conscience, is enjoyed: that present comfort and future happiness, are built on habits of order, self-government, justice, benevolence, and subjection to divine authority.
LECTURE XXII. .And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord and also with men.—l SAMUEL ii. 26.
NO appearance of nature is more striking, no one affords a more complete demonstration of the great Creator's consummate wisdom and unremitting attention, than the gradual and imperceptible progress of everything in nature, to its perfection, and to its dissolution. The dawning light insensibly advances to the perfect day, and the moment high noon is gained, an approach is made towards night. When the moon has waned, till she is lost in the sun’s brighter rays, she begins to emerge into form and lustre again; hav. ing waxed till her resplendent orb is full, that moment she begins to decay. We are prepared to bear the raging heat of the dog-star by the grateful vicissitudes. and advances of spring; and are fortified against winter's stormy blast, by the contracting light and the tem. perate cold of sober autumn. Human life too has its morning, noon and night; its spring and fall; and empires have their infancy, maturity and old age. Time is the dawning of eternity; earth is the scene of preparation for heaven; and motality, the passage to life and immortality. Everything is beautiful in its season, and every state is a preparation for that which is to succeed it. Nature and providence admit of few sudden and violent transitions; because the human frame, both of body and mind, is little qualified to endure them. . The passage before us presents one of the most pleasing objects of contemplation—human life at its happiest period, and in its most smiling aspect—early youth, increasing beauty and strength, gradual and regular improvement. While the family of Eli was exhibiting multiplied instances of the fatal effects of neglected infancy and unrestrained childhood, the son of Elkanah was silently demonstrating the importance of early culture, and modestly reproving grey hairs, by exemplifying the lessons which his pious and prudent mother had taught him. The self-same ideas are here employed to describe the early progress of Samuel in wisdom, beauty, and goodness, which are afterwards applied to Christ himself, at a similar period of his earthly existence, and they furnish us with many excellent additional hints respecting the important subject of education, which now deserve to be more at large unfolded. “The child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men;” and “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Observe here, first, What is the work of nature, namely, to grow on, to “increase in stature.” The moment, O man, thy child begins to breathe, a progress commences which nothing can stop. Grow he will, and must; cease from all solicitude on this score. These feeble limbs will gather strength; by stumbling and falling, he will learn to walk and run; after stammering for a while, he will come to speak plainly, and he who seems at present hardly to possess the faculty of sight, will soon distinguish object from object. Cease from the vain imagination of assisting or improving nature. Assist nature! If you try to mend that shape, trust me, you will spoil it. Every violent
attempt to quicken growth will but retard it, and an over-solicitude to preserve health, will infallibly scatter the seeds of distemper. Toward the improvement of the bodily faculties, the most anxious and intelligent parent can do just nothing at all; “by taking thought he cannot add one cubit to the stature;” it is by cultivating the mind, only, that the features, shape and person can be improved. The reverse of this is the practice of the world. The whole attention is directed to personal accomplishment. Nature is cramped, stretched, distorted, to humour an absurd taste and an erroneous judgment, and she avenges herself for the unwise encroachment on her province, by encroaching, in her turn, on the province of reason and discretion; rendering all their late efforts useless and unprofitable; making education, which is clogged with so many difficulties already, absolutely impracticable. What can the wisest master do, I beseech you, with a temper soured by habits of unnatural restraint, with a mind rendered sickly by petty attentions to punctilio, with a spirit swallowed up in a sense of its own importance? And yet the master is blamed for the fault, which parents themselves have committed. Guard your child as well as you can from accidents. See that his food be simple and wholesome, and administered in due season; let his body be free and unfettered; his clothing light and easy; his exercises, both as to kind and duration, of his own choosing; and he will grow on, and increase in stature, he will acquire vigour, will preserve sweetness of temper, will be happy in himself, and a source of happiness to all around him; he will pass with cheerfulness, like Samuel, into the hands of his instructor, without any prejudices, but such as are on the side of goodness, and, through the blessing of Heaven, will day by day fulfil a parent's hope, and constitute a parent’s joy. There is a fruitless, perhaps a sinful anxiety, of another kind, which parents sometimes express, and which WOL. III, 3 1