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such promises and threatenings all persons, whether old or young, are deeply concerned. If so, religion is of the highest importance. It is the one thing needful. As it reinstamps the divine image upon the soul, it constitutes the highest wisdom, and most substantial good, that man can possess on this side heaven. If, my young friends, you, in any good degree, realize the truth of what has been suggested, you are prepared to consider,
II. How necessary it is, and what encouragement is given you, to make religion the object of your first attention and care. .
The reasonableness and importance of religion in general prove its claim to your regard; and your own personal concern in the effects it is to produce in time and eternity, teaches the necessity of early devoting yourselves to its study and practice. A wise and prudent person will attend to that first, and with the greatest diligence, which he believes to be most interesting and important to him. He is always esteemed unwise, who amuses himself with trifles, and neglects things of the greatest moment; on which, perhaps, his very life depends. This, as well as other considerations, ought' to have weight in your minds. It should ever be a rule with all men, to attend to that object first, from the neglect of which the greatest evil, or from the possession of which the highest good will result. Apply this rule to the case before you, and you will at once perceive that religion demands your first and principal care; and that, if you would act with prudence, in view of your mortal condition, it is necessary for you to devote yourselves to it without delay. Can any thing more deeply affect your happiness in this and in the world to come? The vain imagination of man gives importance to many other things; but his sober reason, his better judgment, places religion above every other concern, . esteeming it the most momentous that ever employed the human mind. Indifference about it is folly; contempt of it, high presumption desperate madness!
But, my young friends, early piety is proof of a sound mind, of a wise and understanding heart. It commands respect and confidence. Even the wicked are constrained to pay it some homage. If you consult your own consciences, you will find that you entertain a secret esteem and approbation of one of your young companions, who appears to be sober, pious and good. If you ubserve a change in one, who was des
titute of religion and virtue, he at once rises in your estimation. Convinced that the change is real, you view him with a respect that he never before received from you. I appeal to your own hearts for the confirmation of these truths. Very few can resist the charms of religion and virtue in others so far, as not to feel a secret reverence for their character. Thoughtless youth, in this way, honour' piety, while they refuse to let it adorn their own lives. They silently confess its moral beauty, and its necessity, while they take no care to possess it themselves. By your inward respect for the truly religious, you may see how necessary early piety is to your reputation, and to your own self-approbation. You would be thought wise and prudent; be pious and good, and you will be really so. If you are conscious that true religion in others commands your respect, you must perceive its importance, in this view, to yourselves. Make the experiment, and you will find that serious religion gives peace of mind, hope in God, trust in his providence, and submission to his will; that it enables you to bear the ills of life, refines the heart, exalts the soul, and prepares you for death, and a happy immortality beyond the Besides, your early piety and virtue may have great influence upon the conduct and happiness of your fellow beings. Those with whom you converse may be affected, and inclined to imitate “ your good conversation in Christ.” Moved by your example, they too may become the obedient servants of the living God, and ever live with him. It may even affect aged sinners, who are tottering over the grave with all their guilt and pollution, and bring them to a sense of their folly and danger. If not, it will have some influence on your young companions, and, under God, may save them from ruin. It will give credit to religion, and dignity to your character ; check the progress of vice, redound to the divine glory, and to your own felicity. To all the true friends of religion, “ who live godly in Christ Jesus,” it will afford joy, while it quickens them in duty, and renders their service more delightful. They will offer thanks to God on your account, and encourage you to persevere unto the end.
Your religious parents, in a particular manner, will be comforted by your early piety. It will give them the highest satisfaction, to see their “ children walking in the truth.” Their pious concern, their fervent prayers for you,
their labours and care, will be answered and rewarded, if you, in the morning of life, dedicate yourselves unto God, and " walk before him' with a perfect heart.” Filial duty, the debt you owe to parental tenderness, ought to influence you to choose wisdom's ways, and to follow her paths. You would not wound their hearts, who have been ready to impart every good to you, and are daily pleading that God would give you spiritual wisdom, and sanctify you to himself. Hearken then to the voice of wisdom, and go in the way of understanding.
But, if it hath been your unhappy lot not to have religious parents, still you may be a blessing to them, and means of their salvation. We will not suppose them so totally lost to a sense of real excellency, as to be grieved and offended with your piety and moral purity. This would be extreme depravity. They see the wisdom of your choice, and feel that their own folly is reproved in a way that can scarcely fail to affect their hearts, and excite a better tem. per. But whatever effect your piety and holy examples may have on such parents, you may learn from them the danger of delay to make religion your concern and first business. They, probably, at your age formed some resolutions,