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nothing of the salutary influence of your example, think with what joy it will fill the bosom of those who
gave you birth, to see your life dedicated to God and virtue. You
may pay back something of the unspeakable debt of gratitude which you owe them. You may make that bosom, which has so often borne you in sickness and sorrow, throb with swelling joy; and that paternal countenance, which has always been turned on you with benignity, beam with the smiles of delighted thankfulness. Defer it and your repentance, if it come at all, may come too late to give joy to them—too late to prevent their grey hairs from going down in sorrow to the
grave. But one consideration more, and I have
continua Remember that your calculations on future life, however young you may be, are wholly precarious. Who shall tell you what a day may bring forth? Where is your charter of lengthened life? What armour of adamant have you to put on, which shall be proof against the dart of death? - Or do you hold the pledge of the grim monarch of the tomb, that he will spare you, when he spares none beside? You, who presume so much on your youth, did you never hear that the budding rose might be blasted ere it could unfold its bloom? Did
you never know the brightness of the morning darkened by the tempest, ere the sun had reached its noon? Does death, think
you, boast no trophies, but those which he gathers from age and feebleness?
Did you never see the cheek of early beauty grow pale with disease; the nervous arm of health sink languid and lifeless; the kindling eye become dimmed and quenched; and the untimely grave open to receive the ruins of youth and hope ? Ah then! presume not too much on your own exemption. Dream not that you are safe, when every step you take is fraught with danger. In these bright days of health, this fresh and sweet morning of life, listen to the voice of wisdom ; give her thine heart, and let thine
Defer not till to-morrow your good resolutions for that morrow may never dawn for you.
PRINCIPLE OF ACTION.
HEBREWS XI. 6.
He that cometh to God, must believe that he is; and
that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Every man, who values at all the dignity or happiness of his rational nature, would wish to pass through life with a character formed and
governed by some settled and determined principles. A man is both contemptible and miserable, who, in the various situations in which he is called to act, has no general rule of life, no fixed maxims of conduct, to which he can appeal ; whose opinions and actions vary and fluctuate with every passing event; whose mind is a mere chaos of contrary impulses and conflicting wishes; whose conduct is only a tissue of temporary expedients for the day that is passing over him; and of whose actions, therefore, in any given case, you can form no certain calculation, because they will be regulated by no principles, which the accidents of an hour may not change. They are at the
casual impulse and event, and you can no more determine whether they will be right or wrong tomorrow, than you can predict what new shape and colour the clouds may then assume. whose life proceeds on a settled system ; whose steady principles impart their own character and complexion to the events and circumstances which occur to him ; who follows a clear line of honorable conduct, at all times, and places, and seasons ; such a man is ever dignified, because ever consistent; and he alone can have any claim to the name of a man of high and uniform virtue.
Since then it is so important to the dignity and perfection of our natures, that our lives should be formed on some fixed rule; the question becomes beyond measure interesting, “ what that rule shall be.” In order that it may be perfect, it must comply with several important conditions. It must be invariable, or else we shall sometimes be inconsistent. It must be comprehensive, or it will not embrace every case. It must apply to our conduct, not only now, but at all times; not merely to one part of our existence, but to our whole being ; it must be enforced also by motives and sanctions of universal and unchanging operation.
It will be my present purpose to endeavour to show, that such a rule, enforced by adequate sanc- . tions, can be given to us only by religion. “ He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
him.” This is religion in its simplest and most elementary form, as it might exist independently of any peculiar dispensation which illustrates and enforces it. God and futurity are the all comprehensive ideas which it labours to imprint on every heart. He cannot come to God, cannot be an object of the divine favour, cannot have a perfect rule of action, whose character is not formed on those principles which flow from regard to the will of the Supreme Being, and whose actions are not influenced by a consideration of the
consequences which will attend them in another life. The importance, then, and necessity, of a religious principle of action, is the subject of the present dis
A man, whose life is not governed by a principle of religion, wants, we may say, the only genuine criterion and standard of morals, the only universal rule of virtuous conduct. I of course shall not be misunderstood to say, that such a man may not possess many amiable and admirable qualities, many kind and noble and
kind and noble and generous affections ; may not comply with all the established decencies of well-ordered society; may not be free from any just charge of doubtful integrity, of violated friendship, or neglected offices of domestic affection. Undoubtedly there are some, whose conduct puts to shame the dwarfish virtues of many a lukewarm professor. There are many, whose habits are better than their acknowledged principles, and who