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Folly of deferring, to a Future Time, the religious Duties of
THERE are few young persons so careless and indifferent, as not occasionally to look forward to the time when they shall become devout. However they may neglect God, and disregard the duties of religion at present, they hope to serve and obey God, and to live virtuously, before they die.
Alas! they reflect not, that, by a continuance in evil practices, they render it almost impossible that they should attain to any love of virtue; that, by forming habits inconsistent with piety, in the early period of their lives, they expose themselves to the almost certain hazard of never acquiring one pious sentiment, how protracted soever their existence in the present world.
Be careful, I entreat you, my young friends, not to indulge such fallacious hopes. To whatever you now devote yourselves, to that you will, most probably, continue to adhere to the last hour. Your future pursuits may be in some respects altered, but they will never be totally changed. A vicious youth almost invariably becomes a vicious man; and they whose declining years are dignified by virtue and piety, are, for the most part, those who sought wisdom early and found her.
We are the creatures of habit; and, if we wish to be found, in old age, proceeding in the paths of wisdom and virtue, we must yield ourselves to the counsels of religion in the days of our youth. It is both the safest and the easiest way to form no habits which you propose hereafter to break; to cherish no dispositions which you hope, when time has confirmed them, to relinquish ; to gain a fondness for do practices which you know will, if not abandoned, disqualify you for the happiness of a future state.
If you cannot resolve to be pious now, how can you hope for the resolution hereafter? If passion exerts so strong an influence at present, how can you expect that long indulgence will lessen its power? If you neglect to form habits of virtue, when every thing invites and assists you in this important work, how can you trust to that period, when, to the labour and difficulty of acquiring new principles, will be added that of 'undoing all that the former years of your lives have effected ?
A moment's reflection will show you, that the attainment of pious affections in old age, after a long pursuit of folly; must require nothing less than an entire change of dispositions and of conduct, a complete regeneration of the mind and character. Old things must pass away, and all things become new. From reflecting, turn yourselves to the experience of mankind, and observe how few are capable of the exertion so necessary in this momentous concern.
“Remember, then, your Creator, in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, in which,” disturbed by reflections upon the past, oppressed by the consciousness of your inability to relinquish what you disapprove, and alarmed at the prospect of futurity, “ye shall say, We have no pleasure in them.”
It is an error, too commonly prevalent, that the duties of piety are inconsistent with the enjoyment of youth, and that they tend to damp, if not extinguish, the vivacity which adorns that season of life. You will perhaps be told, that devotion is not required in you; that it will serve only to render you gloomy, disqualify you for the society of those who are young like yourselves, and render you a fit companion for those only, who have forgotten the days of former years, and have arrived at the verge of the grave.
Be not influenced by such assertions; make the experiment for yourselves; and, if you do not find that the ways of piety are the only ways of pleasantness, and her paths the only paths of peace, I ask you not to walk in them: if the service of God do not yield you the only rational and pure pleasure, I will cease from advising you to avoid the debasing slavery of sin.
That devotion will interfere with the pursuits which young persons sometimes follow, and prohibit the pleasures in which they are too frequently seen to indulge, I will not deny. Yes, my young friends, if you will be virtuous and devout, you must refrain from all those pleasures which end in pain ; you must abandon all those pursuits which lead to disgrace and ruin; you must apply to other sources of gratification than those, which, however sweet to the taste, contain a deadly poison; you must fly the society of those “whose feet go down to death, whose steps take hold on hell;" and often send your thoughts to that land of promise, where all the wise and virtuous shall enjoy inconceivable and uninterrupted happiness. Are these requisitions unreasonable? are these injunctions oppressive? will these destroy your innocent gayety, or render you gloomy and austere? The most thoughtless and inexperienced will acknowledge, that no joys but such as are innocent can be pure and lasting; and piety requires of you no more, than that you indulge not in those that are impure and deceitful.
The peculiar enjoyment of youth arises from innocence, inexperience in the vicissitudes and trials of life, and ardent hope. Devotion, therefore, will increase your enjoyment, instead of lessening it, by rendering you secure against temptations, assuring you of the favour and friendship of God, encouraging you to contemplate, with satisfaction and with pleasure, whatever his providence shall reserve for you in future; and, above all, by giving a wider scope for your expectations to range in,—by opening before you the eternal abodes of the wise and the good.
Religion the best Preparation for the Duties of Life.—Norton.
The interest which we feel in the young should direct our attention to all those means, by which their virtue and happiness may be secured, and by which they may be saved, as far as possible, from the evils that are in the world. The worst sufferings, to which they are exposed, are those which may be avoided; for they are those which we bring upon ourselves.
The best preparation, which we can give them, for meeting the trials, and performing the duties, of life, is religious principle. Through the influence of this only can a character be formed, which will lead one to act, and suffer, and resist, wisely and honourably, in every situation. This only can deliver man from the power of the world, and secure him from becoming the slave of circumstances and accidents.
The essential truths of religion are those truths, which we know concerning God; and concerning ourselves, considered as immortal beings. It is religion which teaches us what we are, and on whom we depend; and which, widening immeasurably our sphere of view, discovers to us by far the most important of our relations,—those which connect us with God, and with eternity. It is little to say
that it is the most sublime, it is the most practical, of all sciences.
The foundation of all-true religion is a belief of the existence and perfections of God. We must conceive of him, and represent him to the young, as the Maker and Preserver of all things; as a being on whom the whole creation is entirely and continually dependent; who is every where invisibly present, and knows all our thoughts and actions; from whom we receive all that we enjoy ; to whom we must look for all that we hope ; who is our constant Benefactor, our Father in Heaven.
The feelings toward him, which should be first formed and cultivated in the minds of the young, are those of gratitude, love, and reverence. In endeavouring to impress them with these sentiments toward God, we ought to take advantage of those occasions when they are most cheerful and satisfied with themselves. It is then that his idea is to be presented to their minds. Should they be touched by the beauty or sublimity of nature, we may then endeavour to give them some just conceptions of that infinite Spirit, whose agency is displaying itself on every side, and of whose presence all visible forms are the marks and symbols.
When we teach them something respecting the immensity of the universe ; that the portion of this earth with which they are acquainted, is only a very small part of an immense globe, forever wheeling through void space; that this globe is but an inconsiderable thing, compared with others that are known to us; that the stars of heaven are a multitude of sons, which cannot be numbered, placed at distances from each other, which cannot be measured ; we may then direct their thoughts to that Power, by whom this illimitable universe was created, and is kept in motion, and who superintends all the concerns of every individual in every one of these myriads of worlds.
When we point out to them any of the admirable contrivances of nature, which appear around us in such inexhaustible profusion and variety, so that we tread them without thoughounder our feet; when we explain to them, that each of the countless insects of a summer's day is a miracle of curious mechanism; we can hardly avoid telling them by whose wisdom these contrivances were formed, and by whose goodness their benevolent purposes were designed.
When their hearts are opened by gladness, and their feelings spread themselves out to find objects to which to cling;
you may then, by a word or two, direct their thoughts to God as their Benefactor. When the occasion is of importance enough to give propriety to the introduction of religious ideas, you may lead them in their sorrows to the consolation and hope which a belief in him affords. You
may thus do what is in your power to enthrone the idea of God in their minds, so that all the thoughts and affections shall pay homage to it. You may thus do what is in your power toward forming that temper of habitual devotion, to which God is continually revealing himself in his works, and in his providence. You may thus give the first impulse to those feelings of love, reverence, and trust, which connect a good man so strongly with God, that, if it were possible for him to be deprived of the belief of his existence, it would be with the same feeling of horror, with which he would see the sun darkening and disappearing from the heavens.
The Young, of every Rank, entitled to Education.
GREENWOOD. The benefits of education should be extended to all chikdren, without exception. They never have been denied to those who are born to rank and wealth, or even to a competency and mediocrity of estate, except till very lately, and, in some respects, in the case of the female sex. But, even at this enlightened day, it is not entirely a superfluous task to vindicate the claims of the offspring of the poor,
of the poorest, of the vilest, to that mental cultivation, which it is in the power of every community to bestow,
That old notion is not yet stowed away among the forgotten rubbish of old times, that those, who were born to labour and servitude, were born for nothing but labour and servitude, and that, the less they knew, the better they would obey, and that the only instruction, which was necessary or safe for them, was that which would teach them to move, like automatons, precisely as those above them pulled the strings. I say, we still hear this principle asserted, though perhaps in more guarded and indefinite language; and a more selfish, pernicious, disgraceful principle, in whatever terms it may be muffled up, never insulted human nature, nor degraded