If there be a moment in human life, in which the foundation of virtuous character can be laid, it is at this period. If there be a discipline which can call forth every nobler faculty of the soul, it is such early exercises of piety. They establish a tone and character of thought, which is allied to every virtuous purpose. They present those views of man, and of the ends of his being, which awaken the best powers of the soul. They afford those prospects of the Providence of God, which can best give support and confidence to virtue.

1. The first advantage of youthful piety is, that it tends to establish that tone and character of thought which is allied to every virtuous purpose. There is no man perhaps, who, in some fortunate moments of thought, has not felt his mind raised above its usual state, by religious considerations. There are hours in every man's life, when religion seems to approach him in all her radiance; when its truths break upon his mind with a force which cannot be resisted; and when, in the contemplation of them, he feels his bosom swell with emotions of unusual delight. In such moments, every man feels the dignity and the purity of his mind increased; the illusions and the temptations of the world appear beneath his regard; his heart opens to nobler and purer affections, and his bosom regains for a while its native innocence. In the greater part of mankind, however, these moments are transient; life calls them back again

to their usual concerns the habits of usual thought return,—and they relapse again into all the folly and weakness of ordinary conduct. It is the tendency of early piety, on the contrary, to fix this character of thought, and of emotion,-to render that temper of mind permanent, which in most men is only temporary and transient. By the great objects to which it directs the minds of the young; by its precedence to every other system of opinions which might oppose its influence; by its power to arrest and retain their attention, it tends gradually to establish in the soul a correspondent dignity in every other exercise. While yet the world is unknown, and the calm morning of life is undisturbed by passions, it awakens desires of a nobler kind than the usual pursuits of life can gratify, and forms in secret those habits of elevated thought, which are, of all others, the most valuable acquisitions of youthful years; and which, whether in the pursuits of action or of speculation, fit it for future attainments in truth and virtue, beyond the reach of ordinary men.


2. It is a second advantage of early piety, that it presents those views of man, and of the ends of his being, which call forth the best powers of our nature. We naturally accommodate our acquisitions to the opinions we entertain of the scene in which they are to be employed, and to the expectations that are formed with regard to us.

It is hence that the different situations of human life produce so great diversities of character and of improvement. The poor man, whose life is to pass in obscurity, and on whose humble fortunes the regard and observation of the world is never to fall, is seldom solicitous to distinguish himself by any other acquisitions than those which are suited to the humility of his station, and which the exigencies of his situation demand of him. The great and the opulent, on the contrary, who are born to be the objects of observation and attention, feel themselves called upon to suit their ambition to the opinions of mankind; and, if they have the common spirit of men, usually endeavour to accommodate themselves to these expectations.

It is in this manner that the piety of early life has an influence in forming the future character. It represents man in colours which afford the most dignified aspect of his nature. It represents him as "formed in the image of God," as but a little lower than the angels," and as crowned with glory and honour. It represents life, not as the short and fleeting space of temporary being, but as the preparation only for immortal existence ; as a theatre, on which he is called to act in the sight of his Saviour and his God, and of which the rewards exceed even the power of his imagination to conceive. It represents all this, too, in the season when no lower passions have taken the dominion of his heart, and when his powers are

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all susceptible of being moulded by the ends which are placed before him. In such views of man, all the best qualities of his nature arise involuntarily in the soul;-the Benevolence which burns to diffuse happiness, and to be a fellow worker with God in the designs of his providence -the Fortitude, which no obstacles can retard, and no dangers can appal in the road of immortality-the Constancy, which, reposing in the promises of Heaven, presses forward in the path of strenuous and persevering virtue. Such views also have the tendency to fortify the mind against all those narrow and unjust conceptions of life, which are the source of the greatest part of the follies and weakness of mankind. They level all those vain distinctions among men, which, in one class of society, are productive of oppression and of pride, and in the other of baseness and servility. They silence that feeble and complaining spirit which is so often mistaken for sensibility and superiour feeling, and which, from whatever cause it springs, gradually poisons the source of human happiness, and undermines the foundation of every real virtue. They dispel those dark and ungenerous views of man, and of his capacity for happiness and virtue, which are in general only the excuses for our own indolence or selfishness, and which, wherever they have prevailed, have so often withheld the arm that was made to bless, and silenced the voice that was destined to enlighten

them. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever "things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely and "of good report," these are the objects at which the spirit of early piety forms the mind to aim,wherever, by the production of happiness, Virtue is to be acquired, or, by the performance of duty, Praise is to be won.

3. It is the last advantage of early piety, that it affords those views of the providence of God, which can best give support and confidence to conduct. There is a natural belief in mankind of the connexion between prosperity and virtue; and there is an instinctive hope, that the laws of the divine administration have prepared happiness for the righteous. If it is from life, however, that we judge, a variety of appearances occur at first to perplex our understandings. Here, as of old, "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the 66 strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor riches to "men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill, "but time and chance happen unto them all."-No permanent law seems to regulate the course of human affairs, and no just hand appears to distribute the balance of good and evil. A broken and imperfect system only appears, in which all things happen alike to all, and fortune disposes at pleasure of the blessings and miseries of humanity. To such vulgar views of Nature and Providence, the commerce of life, and the habits of attention to temporal pursuits, too naturally lead and hence

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