Obrazy na stronie

ing to thesë admonitions, and tempering the vivacity of youth with a proper mixture of serious thought, you may ensure cheerfulness for the rest of life; but by delivering yourselves up at present to giddiness and levity, you lay the foundation of lasting heaviness of heart.

When you look forward to those plans of life, which either your circumstances have suggested, or your friends have proposed, you will not hesitate to acknowledge, that, in order to pursue them with advantage, some previous discipline is requisite. Be assured, that, whatever is to be your profession, no education is more necessary to your success, than the acquirement of virtuous dispositions and habits. This is the universal preparation for every character, and every station in life. Bad as the world is, respect is always paid to virtue. In the usual course of human affairs, it will be found, that a plain understanding, joined with acknowledged worth, contributes more to prosperity, than the brightest parts , without probity or 'honour. Whether science, or business, or public life, be your aim, virtue still enters, for a principal share, into all those great departments of society. It is connected with eminence, in every liberal art; with reputation, in every

branch of fair and useful business ; with distinction, in every public station. The vigour which it gives the mind, and the weight which it adds to character; the generous sentiments which it breathes, the undaunted spirit which it inspires, the ardour of diligence which it quickens, the freedom which it procures from pernicious and dishonourable avocations, are the foundations of all that is high in fame, or great in success, among men.

Whatever ornamental or engaging endowments you now possess, virtue is a necessary requisite, in order to their shining with

proper lustre. Feeble are the attractions of the fairest form, if it be suspected that nothing within corresponds to the pleasing appearance without. Short are the triumphs of wit, when it is supposed to be the vehicle of malice. By whatever arts you may at first attract the attention, you can hold the esteem, and secure the hearts of others, only by amiable dispositions, and the accomplishments of the mind. These are the qualities whose influence will last, when the lustre of all that once sparkled and dazzled has passed away.

Let not then the season of youth be barren of improvements so essential to your future felicity and honour. Now is the seed-time

totally withdrawing themselves from the circle of cheerful life, they deliver up the entertainments of society into the hands of the loose and the corrupted; and permit the blind power of fashion, uncontrolled, to establish its own standards, and to exercise its danger, ous sway over the world.

In the fifth place, It is an error to believe, that devotion nourishes a spirit of severity, in judging of the manners and characters of others. Under this reproach, indeed, it has so long suffered in the world, that, with too many, the appellation of devout, suggests no other character, but that of a sour and recluse bigot, who delights in censure. But the reproach is unjust ; for such a spirit is entirely opposite to the nature of true devotion. The very first traces which it imprints on the mind, are candour and humility. Its principles are liberal. Its genius is unassuming and mild. Severe only to itself, it makes every allowance for others which humanity can suggest. It claims no privilege of looking into their hearts, or of deciding with respect to their eternal state. If your supposed devotion produce contrary effects; if it infuse harshness into your sentiments, and acrimony into your speech ; you may conclude, that, under a serious appearance, carnal passions hurk. And, if ever it shall so far lift you up with self-conceit, as to make you establish your own opinions as an infallible standard for the whole Christian world, and lead you to consign to perdition all who differ from you, either in some doctrinal tenets, or in the mode of expressing them ; you may rest assured, that to much pride you have joined much ignorance, both of the nature of devotion, and of the Gospel of Christ. Finally,

In the sixth place, It is an error to think, that perpetual rapture and spiritual joy belong to devotion. Devout feelings admit very different degrees of warmth and exaltation. Some persons, by the frame of their minds, are much more susceptible than others of the tender emotions. They more readily relent at the view of Divine goodness, glow with a warmer ardour of love, and, by consequence, rise to a higher elevation of joy and hope. But, in the midst of still and calm af, fections, devotion often dwells; and, though it produce no transports in the mind, diffuses over it a steady serenity. Devout sensations not only vary in their degree, according to the frame of different tempers ; but, even among the best disposed, suffer much interruption



and decay. It were too much to expect, that, in the present state of human frailty, those happy feelings should be uniform and constant. Oppression of worldly cares, languor of spirits and infirmities of health, frequently indispose us for the enjoyment of devout affections. Pious men, on these occasions, are in hazard of passing judgment on their own state with too much severity; as if, for some great iniquity, they were condemned by God to final hardness of heart. Hence arises that melancholy, which has been seen to overcloud them ; and which has given occasion to many contemptuous scoffs of ungodly men. But it is a melancholy which deserves to be treated with tenderness, not with contempt. It is the excess of virtuous and pious sensibility. It is the overflowing of a heart affected, in an extreme degree, with the humble sense of its own failings, and with ardent concern to attain the favour of God. A weakness, however, we admit it to be, though not a crime; and hold it to be perfectly separable from the essence of devotion. For contrition, though it may melt, ought not to sink or overpower the heart of a Christian. The tear of repentance brings its own relief. Religion is a spring of consolation, not of terror, to every well-informed mind, which, in a proper manner, rests its


« PoprzedniaDalej »