Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

characteris

now,

under Divine assistance, of your own forming; your fate is, in some measure, put into your own hands. Your nature is as yet plaint and soft. Habits have not established their dominion. Prejudices have not pre-occupied your understanding. The world has not had time to contract and debase your affections. All your powers are more vigorous, disembarrassed, and free, than they will be at any future period. Whatever impulse you now give to your des sires and passions, the direction is likely to continue. It will form the channel in which your life is to run; nay, it may determine its everlasting issue. Consider then the employment of this important period as the highest trust which shall ever be committed to you; as, in a great measure, decisive of your happiness, in time, and in eternity. As in the succession of the seasons, each, by the invariable laws of Nature, affects the productions of what is next in course; so, in human life, every period of our age, according as it is well or ill spent, influences the happiness of that which is to follow. Virtuous youth gradually brings forward accomplished and flourishing manhood; and such manhood passes of itself, without uneasiness, into respectable and tranquil old age. But when Nature is turned out of its regular course, disorder takes place in the moral, just as in the vegetable world. If the Spring put forth no blossoms, in Summer there will be no beauty, and in Autumn no fruit. So, if youth be trifled away without improvement, manhood will be contemptible, and old age miserable. If the begin. nings of life have been vanity, its latter end can be no other than vexation of spirit.

Piety to God is the foundation of good morals, and is a disposition particularly graceful and becoming in youth. To be void of it, argues a cold heart destiiute of some of the best affections which belong to that age. Youth is the season of warm and generous emotions. The heart should then, spontaneously, rise in.

to the admiration of what is great, glow with the love of what is fair and excellent, and melt at the discov. ery of tenderness and goodness. Where can any object be found, so proper to kindle those affections, as the Father of the universe, and the Author of all fe. licity ? Unmoved by veneration, can you contemplate that grandeur and majesty, which his works every where display? Untouched by gratitude, can you view that profusion of good, which, in this pleasing season of life, his beneficent hand pours around you? Happy in the love and affection of those with whom you are connected, look up to the Supreme Being, as the is. spirer of all the friendship which has ever

been shewn you by others; himself, your best and your first friend; formerly, the supporter of your infancy, and the guide of your childhood; now, the guardian of your youth, and the hope of your coming years. View religious homage, as a natural expression of gratitude to him for all his goodness. Connected with so many tender sensibilites of soul, let religion be with you, not the cold and barren offspring of speculation, but the warm and vigorous dictate of the heart. But though piety chiefly belongs to the heart, yet the aid of the understanding is requisite, to give a proper die rection to the devout affections. You must endeavour, therefore, to acquire just views, both of the great principles of natural religion, and of the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. For this end, study the sacred scriptures, Consult the word of God, more than the systems of men, if you would know the truth in its dative purity: When, upon rational and sober inquiry, you have established your principles, suffer them not to be shaken by the scoffs of the licentious, orthe cavils of the sceptical. Remember, that in the examination of every great and comprehensive plan, such as that of Christianity, difficulties may be expected to occur; and that reasonable evidence is not to be rejected because the nature of our present state allows us only to

know in part, and to see through a glass darkly. Im press your minds with reverence for all that is sacred. Let no wantonness of youthly spirits, no compliance with the intemperate mirth of others, ever betray you into prophane sallies. Besides the guilt which is thereby incurred, nothing gives a more odious appearance of petulance and presumption to youth, than the affectation of treating religion with levity. Instead of being an evidence of superior understanding, it discovers. a pert and shallow mind; which, vain of the first smatterings of knowledge, presumes to make light of what the rest of mankind revere. At the same time. you are not to imagine, that when exhorted to be religious you are called upon to become more formal and solemn in your manners than others of the same years, or to erect yourselves into supercilious reprovers of those around you. The spirit of true religion breathes gentleness and affability. It gives a native, unaffected ease to the behaviour. It is social, kind, and cheerful; far removed from that gloomy and il.. liberal superstition which clouds the brow, sharpens. the temper, dejects the spirits, and teaches men to fit themselves for another world, by neglecting the concerns of this. Let your religion, on the contrary, cona, nect preparation for heaven, with an honourable dise. charge of the duties of active life. Let it be associated in your imagination, with all that is manly and useful; with whatsoever things are true, are just, are pure, are lovely, are of good report, wherever there is any virtue, and wherever there is any praise. Of such religion discover, on every proper occasion, that you are not ashamed; but avoid making any unnecessary ostenta. tion of it before the world.

To piety, join modesty and docility, reverence of your parents, and submission to those who are your superiors in knowledge, in station, and in years. Dependence and obedience belong to youth. Modesty is one of its chief ornaments; and has ever been es

[ocr errors]

fore you.

teemed a presage of rising merit. When entering on the career of life, it is your part, not to assume the reigns as yet into your hands; but to commit yourselves to the guidance of the more experienced, and to be. come wise by the wisdom of those who have gone be

Of all the follies incident to youth, there are none which either deform its present appeare ance, or blast the prospect of its future prosperity, more than self-conceit, presumption, and obstinacy. By checking its natural progress in improvement, they fix it in long immaturity; and frequently produce mischiefs, which can never be repaired. Yet these are vices too commonly found among the young. Big with enterprise, and elated by hope, they resolve to trust for success to none but themselves. Full of their own abilities, they deride the admonitions which are given them by their friends, as the timorous suggestions of age. Too wise to learn, too impatient to deliberate, too forward to be restrained, they plunge, with precipitant indiscretion, into the midst of all the dangers with which life abounds. Seest thou a young man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool, than of him.

- Positive as you now are in your opinions, and con. fident in your assertions, be assured, that the time approaches when both men and things will appear to you in a different light. Many characters which you now admire, will, by and by, sink in your esteem; and many opinions, of which you are at present most tenafious, will alter as you advance in years. Distrust, therefore, that glare of youthful presumption, which dazzles your eyes.

Abound not in your own sense. Put not yourselves forward with too much eagerness; nor imagine, that by the impetuosity of juvenile ardour, you can overturn systems which have been long established, and change the face of the world. Learn not to think more highly of yourselves than you ought, but to think soberly. By patient and gradual progression in improvement, you may, in due time, command lasting

esteem.' But by assuming, at present, a tone of superiority, to which you have no title, you will disgust those whose approbation it is most important to gain. Forward vivacity may fit you to be the companions of an idle hour. More solid qualities must recommend you to the wise, and mark you out for importance and consideration in subsequent life.

It is necessary to recommend to you, sincerity and truth. This is the basis of every virtue. That darkness of character, where we can see no heart; those foldings of art, through which no native affection is allowed to penetrate, present an object, unamiable in every season of life, but particularly odious in youth. If, at an age when the heart is warm, when the emotions are strong, and when nature is expected to shew itself free and open, you can already smile and deceive, what are we to look for when you shall be longer hackneyed in the ways of men; when interest shall have completed the obduration of your heart, and experience shall have improved you in all the arts of guile? Dissimulation in youth, is the fore-runner of perfidy in old age: Its first appearance is the fatal ou men of growing depravity, and future shame. It degrades parts and learning; obscures the lustre of every accomplishment; and sinks you into contempt with God and man.

As you value, therefore, the approbation of Heaven, or the esteem of the world, cul. tivate the love of truth. In all your proceedings be die rect and consistent. Ingenuity and candour possess the most powerful charm; they bespeak universal favour, and carry an apology for almost every failing. The lip of truth shall be established for ever; but a lying tongue, is but for a moment. The path of truth, is a plain and a safe path; that of falsehood, is a perplexing maze. After the first departure from sincerity, it is not in

your power to stop. One artifice unavoidably leads on to another; till, as the intricacy of the labyrinth increases, you are left catangled in your own snare,

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »