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those esteemed righteous. Thus they are constrained, notwithstanding the current of their conduct and conversation has been against it, implicitly to acknowledge that in heart they be. lieve the righteous to be more excellent than his neighbour, the man of religion more worthy of confidence than one destitute of it, the christian a better friend than the infidel. This secret veneration for piety and virtue is in general felt, and, without their intending it, often discovered by those who have no pretensions to either. If, then, we have the testimony of enemies in favour of the righteous, given under circum stances that admit ne doubt of its proceeding from the conviction of their minds, the conclusion is fair, that he is in reality, and in the estimation of mankind, more excellent than his neighbour.
But the inconsiderate are often dazzled and deceived by appearances, and led to attach ideas of respectability to circumstances that have no connection with real worth and goodness. This is more common with the young and inexperienced, than with those who have had opportunity to notice, and examine what passes in the world, and to learn how deceptive are the things after which many eagerly grasp. Every trait in
the human character, which is independent of religious and moral principles and habits, will be found, on a fair trial, to be comparatively mean and unworthy of esteem. The aspiring mind, in order to obtain its wishes, and possess real and conscious dignity and excellence, must begin with the fear of the Lord, and devote its best faculties to religion and virtue. Here let a youth fix his attention ; to this point let him direct the increasing energies of his mind, and he cannot fail to become truly worthy of esteem; and may expect to extort approbation from those who affect to condemn his sobriety, temperance, purity, and piety.
If these observations are just, how must we view that spirit which induces men to treat re. ligion with contempt, or neglect, as a matter of indifference, a thing in which they have no personal interest or concern; and to scoff at it, and, If possible, destroy its influence? It is a spirit of rebellion against God, and of hostility against the improvement and happiness of man. Actuated by whatever motives in their attempts to reason, or laugh, religion out of countenance, they must change the nature of things before they can render its possessor as unworthy as themselves, and blind the understanding of men
before they can prevent their perceiving the difference of character. .
Would you, my young friends, rise to dignity and true worth here, and to “glory, honour, and immortality,” in the future state; you must not form your resolutions and rules of life after the examples of free thinkers, or of more free actors in scenes of folly and wickedness; but according to that perfect standard, which exposes their enormity, viz. the word of God, and the example of Christ; and of those christians who have imitated him, and shone as lights in the world; whose faith, piety, virtue, magnanimity, constancy, and universal goodness have drawn honourable confessions even from the mouth of wickedness itself, and commanded the secret veneration of the most prof ligate.
Youth is the period during which the character of the future man is, in a great measure, to be formed. It is the time to plant and cher. ish the seed that is to bring forth the fruits of righteousness in advanced age. But, my friends, it is a dangerous period. Untaught by experience, possessing ardent minds, strong passions, lively imaginations, ambitious feelings, and aspiring dispositions, most of you enter upon the theatre of the world. Unapprized of the deceptions to which you are exposed, you are liable to be captivated by the illusions of fancy, and, while eagerly grasping after the mere shadow of bliss, to lose the substance. Objects of sense arrest your attention, and prospects of enjoyment, never to be realized in this imperfect state, may occupy your thoughts, inflame desire, and chain you to pursuits unworthy your rational nature, and inconsistent with the hope of future perfection in blessedness. Before they apprehend the danger, the young are, many times, drawn into inextricable difficulties, before they have learnt what constitutes the dignity and happiness of man. They become indifferent to the honour of virtuous deeds, and to the shame of those which degrade their nature, and blast all the hopes to which they were born.
Thus exposed, and beset with temptations on every side, the best office which parental af. fection can dictate, or the experience of years enable us to perform, is, to invite, and if possible engage, your early and serious attention to the things which alone can save you from disappointment, render you amiable and excellent, and gratify every reasonable desire. Religion
and virtue, in principle and practice, will do all this. By religion I do not mean any particular forms of worship, nor that gloomy sadness, superstition, or enthusiasm, which some call by the name; but a reverential fear and love of God, conscientious regard to his law, lively faith in Christ, respect to the sacred institutions, rules, and precepts of his gospel, and an habitual disposition of heart to abound in all the fruits of righteousness. Let your minds be established in these leading principles of universal goodness, applying them to every relative duty; and let your whole temper and conduct be formed upon this plan, and you will possess a real ex. cellence, and merit an esteem, which you can neither gain nor deserve in any other way. Let this be your object, this your course, this the eminence to which you strive to rise, and we will rejoice to observe in you a high spirit of emulation. Determined on this method to be. come great, honourable, and good, you can never cherish too aspiring a disposition. You may indulge a holy ambition to reach distinguished attainments, and resolve that you will not be retarded in your progress by the less vigorous and active, nor turned from the road of honour and felicity by an opposing multitude,