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and a jest in the eye of him who swears commonly, wantonly, and falsely. In a word, since the Almighty has thought proper to prohibit it in so solemn a manner, to practise a vice, which neither can contribute to our temporal interest or our temporal pleasure, is certainly but few degrees short of actual insanity.
All vices are more easily prevented than reformed; and, as this is not a vice of passion, but of habit only, and is frequently, I might say generally, acquired by imitation only, one most obvious mode of preventing it, is to avoid the company and conversation of those, whose contagious manners may affect the rectitude of our hearts, and especially of those minor wits, who would purchase at an easy rate a few transient applauses from dulness and ignorance, by retailing the trite objections of infidel and profligate writers. In this too, too liberal age, such a caution will be thought, or rather will be said, to savor of bigotry. But let us not, I entreat you, in our zeal for toleration, forget that there is a very ample difference between persecution and encouragement; between actually laying violent hands upon a man for the sake of his opinions, and giving countenance and support to those opinions by taking that man to our bosom. The utmost stretch of charity surely cannot require an entire sacrifice of common sense and private happiness. It is impossible to esteem
that man my friend, who would deprive me of every dearest hope, of every best of comforts, would leave me without a single motive to virtue and single principle of belief. Let such a man enjoy with freedom his own gloomy and discontented disposition; but let me enjoy at least the same equal liberty, and give me leave only to make choice of my company. May the God of truth and righteousness ever defend us from that liberality, which shall induce us to become tame and patient spectators of blasphemy and impiety, 'to stand in the way of sinners, and to sit in the seat of the scornful.'
This caution applies principally, indeed, to the inexperienced and the young. To those sinners, who may have deviated from the paths of truth and piety, and yet wish to return, it may be satisfactory to add, that of all vices, this of profaneness is perhaps the most easy to be reformed. Even when the habit is already fixed, a few exertions will reclaim it. It is but putting a slight restraint upon yourself at first; and this restraint will be attended with a further advantage; namely, that it will reduce you by degrees, to the habits and order of a religious life, teach you to subdue other evil propensities, make you acquainted with discipline, and render it easy and commodious to you.
To insist on the danger of continuing in the habit must be totally unnecessary after what has been
said, and since the consequences of unrepented sin are so notorious, and so generally understood. There is, however, one doctrine of our religion, which will perhaps be more effectual than any other in promoting your reformation. I therefore conclude with earnestly recommending it to your most serious attention. As Moses gave the law to the children of Israel, I give it you,- for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes;' for a maxim to be engraven on your hearts, and of which you are never to lose sight,-"by our words we shall be justified, and by our words we shall be condemned; and, at the last great day, every idle word must be accounted for.'
GOVERNMENT OF THE PASSIONS.
TO JUDGE more perfectly concerning the necessity of subduing our passions, let us but mark their effects upon the individual. The man who is under the dominion of passion, is incapable of any great or virtuous undertaking. The abject slave of appetite, he mingles with the common instinctive herd, and his thoughts are never elevated for a moment above the grovelling pursuits of the brute creation. Propelled by the love of passion, every trifling incident is able to disappoint and
disconcert him; and, as the gratification of appetite is transitory, the very completion of his wishes is satiety and disgust. As guilt is the consequence of every unlawful passion, he has to encounter shame, and remorse of conscience, and the fear of discovery. As expense and profusion are ever connected with vicious pursuits, he is generally in want, he is haunted with importunate creditors, he is abridged of his liberty, he is obliged to submit to innumerable meannesses, and, possibly, he is at length engaged in some criminal action to supply his prodigality, which brings him with sorrow and late contrition, to an ignominious end.
It would doubtless be highly satisfactory to be able to guide you out of the track of these alarming evils, and to be instrumental in rescuing you from the fatal empire of passion. Your own sagacity will point out many motives and expedients, and, if you heartily wish and resolve to dedicate yourselves to the practice of virtue, the grace of God will strengthen and assist you. I shall nevertheless briefly state a few of the most practicable means of cultivating good and virtuous affections, and of eradicating vicious and corrupt propensities from the heart.
1. Let me exhort you earnestly to recommend yourselves to the peculiar care and attention of the Divine Providence; to pray, morning and eve
ning, that he will strengthen your good intentions, and correct whatever he observes amiss. For, if you lose your religion, or become remiss in these duties, I must tell you, that every other foundation of morality is laid upon the sand; and if you prove good, it will be, as it were, by chance.
2. Whatever leisure you may have, employ it in the reading of good books. By the term good books, I do not mean to confine you to books of devotion; I mean books that will inform your understanding and refine your sentiments; all, in a word, that have a virtuous or moral tendency. By thus cultivating the intellectual pleasures, your minds will become elevated above the sensual; you will experience enjoyments of the sublimest nature, and unalloyed by any mixture of gall or bitterness.
3. You cannot be too careful in the choice of your company. It is almost unnecessary to inform you, that the instances are few of persons depraved by the natural force of passion, in comparison with the multitudes who owe their ruin to the allurements of bad company. Connected with this, is the obligation to avoid most carefully every species of indelicacy or licentiousness in conversation. In an age, indeed, when almost every person aims at the reputation of wit, it is no wonder that obscene allusions should be in some measure in fashion, since they enable a man to