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THE Sermons contained in this volume have all been preached in the chapel of Winchester College in the course of the last five years ; and they are printed, almost without exception, as they were delivered. It has been with some little hesitation that I have resolved upon printing one or two of them, lest it should seem to any persons reading them, that they indicate any unusual or remarkable state of imperfection or sinfulness on the part of those to whom they were addressed. This impression, as one wholly unfounded and incorrect, if it should be produced by anything contained in this volume, I am anxious by every means in my power to obviate. Evil, no doubt, and that in various degrees and measures, I have had to contend with; and I have thought it the most simple and faithful course, simply to retain what was simply written, and what not having been beyond the need when it was preached, may possibly not be beyond the need now that it is printed. But it would be a very unfortunate consequence of such a step, if, either those to whom the sermons were addressed should feel themselves discouraged in their efforts after holiness, or if other persons should conceive the idea of the prevalence of evil to any unusual or very great extent among them, in consequence of the language in which I have sometimes spoken of the sins existing among boys.
2. Indeed, I imagine that any person who has had much experience in the characters and habits of young boys in the upper classes of life in this country (and the same is no doubt the case in all the lower parts of society also) must be aware of the many sorts of evil which endanger them. These evils are so great and numerous, wherever large assemblages of young boys are collected together, that it is not without some appearance of justice, that such violent opposition has been often made to the education of our public schools. This opposition has been, indeed, so far entirely mistaken, that the persons who have conducted it have been unaware that the particular points in which public schools differ from private ones, are precisely those by which some portion of the evil belonging to all large assemblages of young boys is checked and prevented. But it is undeniable that very great evils are apt, (and unless great care, and wise measures are used to prevent them,) are sure to arise where young boys meet together in large numbers, away from the softer and gentler influences of their homes, removed from the control of those whom they have hitherto obeyed, and under circumstances in which example and mutual encouragement in mischief have the utmost scope and power.
As I have said above, I imagine that any person who has had much experience of boys, must be well aware of this original mass of evil in all schools. It is no doubt possible, and even easy, by advice and carefulness, to rescue many from * receiving considerable injury from contact with it. But still the original mischief remains. The coarser, more undutiful, more deceitful members of the little community propagate it. The young new-comers are tried and tainted with it; and the process of religious instruction, and the imparting of the most sacred means of grace, come to be rather remedial measures, telling upon a few, than the regular system of training, by which all are bred up in the complete and unfailing fear and obedience of God.
3. The earliest infantine training of boys, of the rank in life of which I speak, is, no doubt, very various. In very many families and every year adds greatly to the number of these) little boys are trained with very sincere care and attention, and the religious sentiment is cultivated with great success. In these cases the two most prevalent dangers are, first, idleness ; produced partly by volatility of mind, and partly (principally) by inexactness of requirement on the part of the parents : and secondly, deceitfulness; arising for the most part (as I have attempted
to trace it in one of the sermons of this volume) from imperfectness of duty, wording itself in
In other cases, unfortunately, little boys are either not trained at all, or, by being allowed to know of evil, and see bad example constantly or often exhibited before their eyes, are actually trained in sin. To these latter cases far the greatest portion of the evil which notoriously exists in the societies of our boys, our youths, and our grown men, is to be attributed, and until, by God's grace, the hearts of fathers may be more tenderly and earnestly turned to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers, whereby the interior conduct of our families, and the earliest training of our boys shall be regulated on a more perfect and Christian model, it is difficult to see by what means this original source and spring of sin and evil in our community can be stopped. This is indeed the point at which a real reformation of manners for the young generation must begin ; but this point it is beyond my present purpose to enquire
i Sermon xix.