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miraculous interposition? The one talent is justly taken away from him who had hid it in the earth, and it is given to increase the store of the diligent and faithful servant, who, by wisdom and industry, had increa sed his five talents into ten.
The buman mind, put under early culture, may be made to produce any thing. It possesses a happy pliancy, which may be moulded into any form. But the same plant, which, young and tender, you could with a touch bend into what shape you pleased; when grown into a tree, resists every effort of your strength. Cut it down you may, break it you may, cleave it asunder you may, but bend it you cannot. And alas, how great a portion of human life is spent in useless, unavailing regret for opportunities lost, seasons mispent, mischief done, misery incurred! Yet men will not profit even by experience, that plainest, most faithful, and most powerful of all instructors.
Who can view, without pitying him, that wretched old man, deploring the guilt which he himself had occasioned, which he wants resolution to punish, and wisdom to cure; which is proceeding from evil to worse, filling the past with remorse, and overspreading the tuture with despair? Ah, how heavily he suffers in his age, because these profligate sons bore not the wholesome yoke of discipline and restraint in their youth! Who can conceive the anguish of Jacob's soul, as he was sinking into the grave under the loss of a gracious son by the stroke of Providence? But what is it, compared to the more dreadful anguish of Eli, looking forward in horror to the atter extinction of all his family, with the insupportable reflection, that all, all was chargeable upon himself?
The character and behavior of the unhappy young men is a melancholy and affecting representation of the progress of moral corruption. It begins in their making light of the ordinances of religion, which they are bound, by their office, to venerate themselves, and to
recommend by their example, to others. And you may be assured there is something essentially wrong about that man who expresses real or affected contempt for the worship of God. It is a gross violation of the laws of decency and good breeding. For what title can you have to insult that sober-minded person, who has given you no provocation, by deriding or profaning what he holds sacred? It is a direct defiance to the laws of your country, which have adopted the institutions of religion, to assist, at least, in carrying on and supporting good government, so essential to pub. lic happiness. He that despises, therefore, the ordinances of God, is a friend to anarchy, is making a wicked attempt to dissolve the bands of society, and deserves to be treated as a public enemy. It is an argument of a light and silly mind, aiming to supply the want of consequence, by affected boldness, impiety and singularity; and which, like every other species of affectation, generally misses its aim.
In the example before us, we find irreverence toward God speedily degenerating into violence and injustice to men. And indeed what hold has society of that man who has shaken off the first and strongest obligations of his nature, who has professedly degraded himself, and is become less than a man, in making the silly attempt to be thought something more. He who begins with defrauding God of his due, will not long be scrupulous about invading the rights of his fellow-creature. The same spirit which defers the sacrifice till an unruly appetite be first gratified, will, by and by, proceed to take by force" the portion of another; and will lose all sense of the just claims and real wants of mankind, in pride and selfishness.
The third stage of this humiliating progress, discovers to us men wholly brutified, plunged into the lowest, grossest sensuality; sinking deeper and deeper in the mire, till nothing remains but the image of the most odious and abominable of animals. Young man,
look at the picture, consider it well. If you are so happy as to have preserved your virtue, if you have any savour of piety, you must regard it with a mixture of indignation and pity; if you are not lost to the feelings of humanity, it will fill you with loathing and disgust. The sequel will teach us many important lessons. For my own part, ever since I became a father, 1 have never been able to read this history without trembling; and my anxiety has not been diminished by reflecting, that the children whom God has given me, neither in their bodies, nor their minds, nor their dispositions, are among the lowest of their species. I have an awful conviction, that if any of them should unhappily turn out ill, a great part of the blame will be imputable to myself. I am frequently tempted to rejoice that none of my grown children have made choice of my own profession, the most dangerous, the most responsible of all; and I am much more alarmed at the apprehension, that when they are become men and women, they may accuse me of over-indulgence, that I am now, of being thought harsh and unkind by children.
As the greatest and most respectable part of my audience are parents, I must of necessity apply the great and important subject of my discourse particularly to them. And, as I always flatter myself with the greater hope of success with female parents, I take the liberty of addressing myself first to mothers. Providence, my friends, as I have frequently repeated, has laid the earliest, the heaviest, and the most important part of education upon you; but it has also alleviated and sweetened the task by many peculiar affections and endearments. Let me suppose you have done your duty, and carefully reared up infancy and childhood. The charge must then pass into other hands. But surely both your heart and conscience tell you that you have not yet done with them. Female children in particular are an anxious and a lasting burthen the mother. They love you, they look up to you, they upon
imitate you. You must be therefore what you wish them to become. Will a daughter learn to be industrious from an idle, indolent mother? Will she learn to be sober minded, by seeing you habitually carried away by the pride of life? Will she catch the spirit of piety from one whose very sabbaths are devoted to dissipation and pleasure? I will not insult you by supposing that a positvely bad example has been set, or that your dailing 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 bcome 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 favor 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 poison of remorse. God grant that none here may ever feel 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 1 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 punishment at a distance be woe 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 bezan ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinpers entice thee, consent thou not," Prov. i. 8....10.... "A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son