mind in a sound body. Sloth is so inconsistent with both, that it is hard to determine whether it be a greater foe to virtue, or to health and happiness. Inactive as it is in itself, its effects are fatally powerful. Though it appear a slowly flowing stream, yet it undermines all that is stable and flourishing. It not only saps the foundation of every virtue, but pours upon you a deluge of crimes and evils. It is like water which first putrifies by stagnation, and then sends up noxious vapours, and fills the atmosphere with death. Fly, therefore, from idleness, as the certain parent both of guilt and of ruin. And under idleness I include, not mere inaction only, but all that circle of trifling occupations, in which too many saunter away their youth; perpetually engaged in frivolous society, or public amusements in the labours of dress, or the ostentation of their persons.Is this the foundation which you lay for future usefulness and esteem? By such accomplishments, do you hope to recommend yourselves to the thinking part of the world, and to answer the expectations of your friends and your country?-Amusements, youth requires. It were vain, it were cruel to prohibit them. But though allowable as the relaxation, they are most culpable as the business of the young. For they then become the gulf of time, and the poison of the mind. They foment bad passions. They weaken the manly powers. They sink the native vigour of youth, into contemptible effeminacy. Redeeming your time from such dangerous waste, seek to fill it with employments which you may review with satisfaction. The acquisition of knowledge is one of the most honourable occupations of youth. The desire of it discovers a liberal mind, and is connected with many accomplishments, and many virtues. But though your train of life should not lead you to study, the course of education always furnishes proper employments to a well-disposed mind. Whatever you pursue

be emulous to excel. Generous ambition, and sensibility to praise,are, especially at your age, among the marks of virtue. Think not, that any affluence of fortune, or any elevation of rank, exempts you from the duties of application and industry. Industry is the law of our being; it is the demand of Nature, of reason, and of God. Remember always, that the years which now pass over your heads, leave permanent memorials behind them. From your thoughtless minds they may escape; but they remain in the remembrance of God. They form an important part of the register of your life. They will hereafter bear testimony, either for or against you, at that day, when for all your actions, but particularly for the employments of youth, you must give an account to God. Thus I have set before you some of the chief qualifications which belong to a virtuous and religious character; piety, modesty, truth, benevolence, temperance, and industry. Whether your future course is destined to be long or short, after this manner it should commence; and, if it continue to be thus conducted, its conclusion, at what time soever it arrives, will not be inglorious or unhappy.

Let your attention be recalled to that dependence on the blessing of Heaven, which, amidst all your endeavours after improvement, you ought continually to preserve. It is too common with the young, even when they resolve to tread the path of virtue and honour, to set out with presumptuous confidence in themselves. Trusting to their own abilities for carrying them successfully through life, they are careless of applying to God, or of deriving any assistance from what they are apt to reckon the gloomy discipline of religion. Alas! how little do they know the dangers which await them? Neither human wisdom, nor human virtue unsupported by religion, are equal to the trying situations which often occur in life. By the shock of temptation, how frequently have the most

[ocr errors]

virtuous intentions been overthrown? Under the pressure of disaster, how often has the greatest constancy sunk? Every good and every perfect gift, is from above. Wisdom and virtue, as well as riches and honour, come from God. Destitute of his favour, you are in no better situation, with all your boasted abilities, than orphans left to wander in a trackless desert, without any guide to conduct them, or any shelter to cover them from the gathering storm. Correct, then this ill-founded arro gance. Expect not, that your happiness can be independent of him who made you. By faith and repentance, apply to the Redeemer of the world. By piety and prayer, seek the protection of the God of heaven. In fine, remember the solemn words, in which a great Prince delivered his dying charge to his son; words which every young person ought to consider as addressed to himself, and to engrave deeply on his heart: Thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy fathers; and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind. For the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will east thee off for ever.

From Dr. Blair's Sermons.


Quinctilian says, that he has included almost all the duty of scholars in this one piece of advice which he gives them, to love those who teach them, as they love the sciences which they learn of them; and to look upon them as fathers, from whom they derive not the life of the body, but that instruction which is in a manner the life of the soul. Indeed this sentiment of affection and respect suffices to make them apt to learn during the time of their studies, and full of gratitude all the rest of their lives. It seems to me to include a great part of what is to be expected from them. Docility, which consists in submitting to directions, in readily receiving the instructions of their masters, and reducing them to practice, is properly the virtue of scholars, as that of masters is to teach well. The one can do nothing without the other; and as it is not sufficient for a labourer to sow the seed, unless the earth, after having opened its bosom to receive it, in a manner hatches, warms, and moistens it; so likewise the whole fruit of instruction depends upon a good correspondence between the masters and the scholars. Gratitude for those who have laboured in our education, is the character of an honest man, and the mark of a good heart. Who is there among us, says Cicero, that has been instructed with any care, that is not highly delighted with the sight, or even the bare remembrance of his preceptors, masters, and the place where he was taught and brought up? Seneca exhorts young men to preserve always a great respect for their masters, to whose care they are indebted for the amendment of their faults, and for having imbibed sentiments of honour and probity.

[ocr errors]

Their exactness and severity displease sometimes at an age when we are not in a condition to judge of the obligations we owe to them; but when years have ripened our understanding and judgment, we then discern that what made us dislike them, I mean admonitions, reprimands, and a severe exactness in restraining the passions of an imprudent and inconsiderate age, is expressly the very thing which should make us esteem and love them. Thus we see that Marcus Aurelius, one of the wisest and most illustrious emperors that Rome ever had, thanked the gods for two things especially-for his having had excellent tutors himself, and that he had found the like for his children. Quinctilian, after having noted the different characters of the mind in children, draws, in a few words, the image of what he judged to be a perfect scholar; and certainly it is a very amiable one: "For my part," says he, "I like a child who is encouraged by commendation, is animated by a sense of glory, and weeps when he is outdone. Á noble emulation will always keep him in exercise, a reprimand will touch him to the quick, and honour will serve instead of a spur. We need not fear that such a scholar will ever give himself up to sullenness." Mihi ille detur puer, quem laus excitet, quem gloria juvet, qui virtus fleat. Hic erit alendus ambitu: hunc mordebit objurgatio: hunc honor excitabit: in hoc desidiam nunquam verebor. How great a

value soever Quinctilian sets upon the talents of the mind, he esteems those of the heart far beyond them, and looks upon the others as of no value without them. In the same chapter from whence I took the preceding words, he declares, he should never have a good opinion of a child, who placed his study in occasioning laughter, by mimicking the behaviour, mien, and faults of others; and he presently gives an admirable reason for it: "A child," says he, "cannot be truly ingenious, in my opinion, unless he be good and vir

« VorigeDoorgaan »