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Think not, however, that the chief reward of piety is in this world. It will indeed bring you many blessings, and secure you from many evils : but still you are in a world of mortality and change.
Disappointment, pain, sickness, sorrow and death, await the saint in common with others : But he has consolations, to which the guilty can make no claim. · Peace of conscience, and hope in God, a persuasion that all things are meant for his good, and the prospect of immortal glory beyond the grave, are comforts which delight his soul in the day of affliction and in the approach of death. Since no man can escape these events, it is every man's wisdom to be prepared for them. Religion is the only preparation ; religion in youth is seasonable preparation. If it would be desirable to escape
afflictions ; next to this, at least, it is desirable to be prepared for them. Your preparation cannot be too soon, for the necessity may be near.
You will, I presume, set out in life with a desire of usefulness. To crawl obscurely through the world, like a mere reptile, only to eat and sleep, and breathe and die, is too despicable an idea for a rational being. To live only that you may disturb the peace, wound the feelings, injure the charac. ters, and corrupt the manners of mankind, is too near an imitation of infernal spirits, not to be ab. horred in your thoughts. Is it then your aim to spend life with dignity to yourselves, and usefulness to others; to enjoy peace of mind while you live, and good hopes when you die; to be had in hon. ourable remembrance among those who survive you ; and to meet the smiles of angels, and the approbation of the Judge of all ? Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth. Know the God who made and preserves you, whose mer. cy is your hope, and whose favour is your happiness; serve him with a perfect heart, and with a
willing mind. If you seek him, he will be found of you : if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
However indifferent this advice may seem now, the day is coming, when you will feel its importance. As you are now climbing the hill, and rising to maturity, worldly prospects open and expand to your view, and you promise yourselves a delightful and
prosperous journey through life. But, believe me, you will soon pass the summit, and find your. selves treading the downward path: Then your worldly prospects will shorten and shorten, and the · shadows will stretch over your heads; and when you sink into the vale of old age, your worldly prospects will disappear. Happy then, if you have better prospects in God.
Hear now the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments ; for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
The Youth assisted in forming his religious Senti
PROVERBS, ii. 10, 11, .
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleas
ant unto thy soul, discretion shall preserve thee, and under. standing shall keep thee; to deliver thee from the way of the coil man; from the man shat speaketh froward things.
SEVERAL of the first chapters of this book, and this in particular where our text is, are expressly addressed to the young : And the declared intention of them is, to give wisdom to the simple, and to the young man knowledge and dis. cretion. That by wisdom and knowledge we are here to understand the principles and dictates of virtue and religion, is so well known to all who are acquainted with the writings of Solomon, that there is no need of adducing instances to prove it.
Religion is founded in knowledge, and therefore it is called by this name.
He who acts religiously, acts understandingly. When knowledge is pleasant to his soul, understanding will keep him,
The young, however, are to consider, that there are instructions, which cause to err from the words of knowledge. Solomon therefore urges the necessity of discretion and understanding, to deliver them from the way of the evil man, the man who speaketh froward things ; who leaves the paths of uprightness to walk in the way of darkness; who rejoices to do evil, and delights in the frowardness of the wicked.
The serious youth will then inquire, How he shall distinguish between truth and errour; between the path of uprightness and the way of darkness?
My design is to answer this inquiry. And I solicit the attention of my young hearers, while I lay before them some plain rules for forming just opin. ions in matters of religion.
I. Let your mind be impressed with this sentiment, that there is such a thing as religion ; and that it is of serious importance.
While you are inquiring what religion is, resolve to embrace it, and to walk agreeably to it. Wise dom must enter into your heart ; knowledge must be pleasant to your soul, that it may deliver you from the way of the evil man.
If you consider religion merely as a matter of speculation and amusement, you will fall in with those opinions and usages, which best please your humour and inclination; or which are recommend ed by your favourite company and connexions ; or rather, you will receive no opinions heartily but those which relax the obligations of virtue.
When you see men triðing in religion, turning with every tide, and veering about with every wind of doctrine ; when you hear them talk lightly about the concerns of futurity, and arguing in support of notions which favour a licentious life; when you observe them pleased in throwing off those principles which are the greatest restraints from vice, and the most powerful incentives to virtue ; whatever degree of ingenuity, and whatever taste for reading they discover, you may .certainly conclude, that they are not inquiring after truth; but are contriving to satisfy their conscience in a course which they are determined to pursue.
The reason why many run into errours in religion, is, because knowledge is not pleasant to their souls; the love of wisdom has never entered into their hearts.
Religion, in its great and essential truths and duties, is so plain, that to understand it, there needs only serious inquiry, guided by a sense of its importance.
Look around, and you will see that there is a Deity daily present with you and working in your sight. Look into yourselves, and you will perceive that you are free and accountable creatures. You must then be under some obligations to this supreme Deity. And these obligations are reli, gion.
The obligations of creatures to their Creator, and the duties of moral beings designed for immor. tality, must be infinitely important; and therefore all your religious inquiries should be conducted with the greatest seriousness and integrity.
II. Always remember, that religion is agreeable to the nature of God. As it is a service which you owe to him, your ideas of it must correspond with his moral character.
Holiness, justice, truth, mercy, and goodness, are perfections of the deity ; and in an imitation of these perfections religion primarily consists.
The gospel requires, that you become partakers of a divine nature that you be renewed after the image of him who created you—that you be followers of God as dear children that you be holy; as he is holy; righteous, as he is righteous; merci.