« PreviousContinue »
purchase the character at so very cheap a rate. That mind, however, which can condescend to entertain a company in such a manner; a company, who can patiently lend their attention to such entertainment, must be filthy and depraved in no trifling degree. He must be a weak as well as a wicked man, who wishes to publish his vices. It may, therefore, contribute to lessen the taste for this species of mock wit, to remark, that it can only be from a barrenness of real wit that men have recourse to it, and I have seldom known it practised but by very shallow persons. Mark the observation, that, unless it be through a preconcerted design upon the innocence of some of the company, the man who offends your modesty and delicacy by licentious conversation, is not only a very wicked person, but a fool.
In the fourth place, 'Be temperate in all things.' Those who indulge in the excesses of the table, can never answer properly for their own conduct, as, at seasons, they will not, they cannot, be their own masters. Besides, temperance and sobriety are among the first duties of our religion, and the practice of them will render us more particularly objects of the divine favor and protection.
5. Apply diligently to some lawful calling, which will absorb your attention, and engage that active principle, the mind. Suffer your thoughts as lit
tle as possible to wander from the track of virtue, and, if the enemy should at any time attack you, for it is in the hours of indolence that the tempter sows his tares, be instantly upon your guard, and divert your thoughts into some other channel, either of business or devotion.
The force of habit, and the accommodating power of the human mind, afford encouragement, not only to the young and innocent to persevere in the path of virtue, but even to those who have been less cautious in their demeanour to rectify their choice. The infinite superiority of the intellectual over the sensual pleasures, has been asserted by all who have made the experiment, and this ought to be an inducement to every reflecting being to direct his attention to those nobler objects. To acquire good habits is almost as easy as to acquire bad ones; nay, those who are yet undepraved will have much more to surmount, will find more real difficulty, in deviating into vicious excesses, than in adhering to that order and regularity, in which they are already initiated; and even the habitually vicious will find the victory much easier than they at first conceive. The passions are furious assailants, but their ardor is presently quelled by a spirited resistance. No man, I presume, who has the remotest belief in the truth of revealed religion, can possibly be at ease in his conscience, while engaged in the com
mission of those crimes, the end of which he convinced can be only a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. You who are involved in the giddy vortex of fashionable dissipation; you who sin through ignorance perhaps of your danger, or at least for want of attending to it; you, I exhort to bestow one hour's serious consideration on this important subject. Go, then ; and, if there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship in the Spirit, go, like the reformed Athenian youth, tear the ensigns from your brow, the festal garments from about your neck.* You have a much greater master to imitate. If the speech and practice of a heathen philosopher could work such a change in him, what ought the precepts of the gospel, and the example of the Son of God, to effect in us?
* Palemon, a young man of Athens, of a dissolute character, entered the school of Xenocrates one day, intoxicated, and in the dress of a bacchanal, with a view of making merry at the expense of the philosopher. Xenocrates was just at that time discoursing upon temperance and modesty. The discourse made such an impression upon Palemon, that it produced an immediate change in his manners. He applied himself to philosophy, and succeeded to the care of that very seminary, which he had attempted to disturb and insult.
HABITUAL REMEMBRANCE OF GOD.
SUFFER me to illustrate by some examples the duty of setting Almighty God, always, at all times, and under all circumstances, before you.
Be it supposed that you are prosperous. prosperity you owe to God. It is to him, and to him only, that you are to look for the continuance of the whole, and of any part, of your happiness. It is he who has filled your cup with blessings, and who keeps it full. It is he who has conferred success on your industry and exertions. It is he who has raised you up friends. It is he who has given you cause to rejoice in your relations and in your children. It is he only who can bestow upon you farther mercies in addition to the blessings which he may permit you to retain, or in the place of those which his wisdom may take away. Be grateful, then, for every mark of his loving kindness with which you have been favored. Give daily proof that you are sincerely and warmly thankful for his bounties, by possessing them with an humble heart, and by cheerfully employing a large portion of them for the good of your fellow creatures.
But you are encompassed by adversity and affliction. Your comforts are curtailed, your dili
gence fails of its reward. Sickness preys upon your strength. The stroke of death deprives you of near kindred, and even of your offspring. Fix your eyes on the Lord your God. Remember that no affliction overtakes you without his permission. Remember that the event, which you now deem a calamity, may hereafter prove to have been most conducive to your eternal interests. Remember that distress and sorrow are mercifully sent by your heavenly Father, as chastisements for your good in the end. You are by nature disposed to dote on the present world, and to think little of that which, whether you think of it or not, is assuredly to come. If God were not pleased continually to admonish you by crosses and disappointments, by infirmities of body and anxieties of mind, that here you are not long to remain, that on earth no durable happiness is to be enjoyed; you would dismiss the next life from your thoughts; you would forget to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; you would make no serious and habitual preparation for your appearance before your Judge. Consider what numbers there are, who, in contempt of all these warnings, set their hearts upon the present world, and neglect and despise their God. Consider whether, notwithstanding, you are not yourself neglecting or despising him. Think then to what excesses of carelessness and presumption you