Imatges de pÓgina

vice, dissipate themselves in pleasure, in vanity, and in every trifle that strikes their imagination; and devote themselves to those things, body and soul, without ever stopping to consider what they are doing, whither they are going, and what the consequences must be of their madness and folly! In vain does reason urge; in vain does God command; in vain does religion call upon them to retire a little from the world, to commune with their own hearts, to prostrate themselves before God, to lament their sins, to acknowledge their wretchedness, and intreat forgiveness through the atoning blood of their Redeemer. Against all these admonitions they shut their ears, and harden their hearts; and press forward in the course they are engaged in, though leading down to the chambers of death!

The psalmist asks this important question,→ Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? And he immediately replies, By taking heed thereto according to thy word. What youth, for example, would plunge into the gulph of intemperance and sensuality, if at the moment he were to realize the solicitude, the anxiety, the disease and shame with which these vices are succeeded? When lust impels and its temptations invite, would he go, as too often he does, like an ox to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, if he anticipated its disgusts, its baseness, and its riot; the habits of dissipation which it at present produces; or the real insignificance and contempt which it never fails to generate? The sensualist, who disdains

all restraint, is odious in the public eye. His vices become gross; his character contemptible; and he ends in being a burden both to himself and to society.

But these are not the only considerations which self-reflection will suggest. It will teach us to extend our views to the consequences of actions beyond the present life, and to consider their relations to that which is to come. When we unite in one view our whole being, and consider the eternal retributions of mercy and of justice which shall be made to the righteous and to the wicked, what stronger motives can be suggested to animate the former to a patient continuance in well doing, and to excite the latter to flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold of eternal life? Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. What an air of solemnity does this consideration throw over the whole of life! Every thought, every word, and every action, has a relation to that day of trial, and to our everlasting state. Whatever, therefore, you undertake or do, raise your thoughts to that decisive tribunal, and demand of your own heart-What account shall I render of this to God my Judge? Do nothing which you would be ashamed to have revealed at his bar; engage in nothing in which you would not be willing to be found at his appearance. This, if any thing, will restrain your feet from the paths

of destruction, and dispose you to walk in wisdom's ways, which are ways of pleasantness, and in her paths, which are peace. Stand in the way, and see. Think, and the resolution will soon be formed. I thought on my ways, says the psalmist, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Our way lies plain before us, and we shall be in no danger of mistaking it, if,

2. To self-reflection we add reflection on the word of God.

I do not mean to enter upon the consideration of all the excellences of the sacred writings-the sublimity and divine perfection of their spirit-the light which they shed upon a benighted worldthe mercies of heaven which they hold forth to the penitent-the consolations which they have in store for the afflicted: I mean simply to illustrate their superior excellence in guiding and directing us in the way that conducts to present peace and everlasting happiness.-Now their superior excellence in this respect will appear, if we consider,

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1. That the way therein marked out is a way of holiness and purity. The law of God does not accommodate itself to our passions and prejudices. It is not expressed in ambiguous terms, under the covert of which men may find an apology for their offences. All is plain, and simple, and just, and wise, and good. It does not aim merely at regulating the outward conduct. To merely external duties it is a stranger. It enters into the heart, and purifies the lives of men by purifying their sentiments and dispositions. Its first demand is, My

son, give me thine heart. This just demand of the Almighty Proprietor of all things is conceived in such terms of endearing affection, and paternal tenderness, as one would think could not be easily resisted. In the order in which the words run in the original, they are still more endearing : • Give, my son, thine heart to me; not to sin, Satan, and the world, which solicit thine affections, but to me, thy Creator, Preserver, and sovereign Lord, who bear a paternal love and affection for all the works of my hands, and am not willing that thou shouldst perish, but that thou shouldst turn unto me and live. How often hast thou provoked me with thy sins; and I have borne with thy transgressions; and instead of calling thee to the throne of judgment to receive a sentence according to the deeds which thou hast done, I have, with much long-suffering, waited to be gracious to thee! Nay, I sent my only and beloved Son, to redeem and save thee from sin and misery-to redeem and save thee, by dying himself for thee, to make atorement for thy transgressions. Ask, in his name, and for his sake, the influences of my grace and Spirit, to create in thee a new heart and right spirit. And, in the diligent use of the means and ordinances of religion, which I have appointed for this end, a new heart shall be given thee, and a right spirit put within thee; and I will cause thee to walk in my ways, and to keep my judgments, and do them.'

Now, when, under the constraining influence of these endearing motives, we yield ourselves up to God, love to him becomes the supreme affection in

our breasts, and regulates the whole of our conduct and behaviour towards him towards our fellow. creatures, for his sake. Hence, all the duties of religion and morality which the scriptures inculcate are summed up in these few words, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind ; and thy neighbour as thyself,

If mankind loved God supremely, there would be no profanation of his name or ordinances; no opposing, corrupting, nor perverting of the truth; no perjuries nor hypocrisies; no despising of them that are good; no arrogance, pride, nor ingratitude under the smiles of Providence; and no repining, murmuring, sullenness, nor suicide, under its frowns. Love would render it their meat and their drink to fear, honour, and obey him, and induce them to submit to his will in all things.

And if they loved their brethren of mankind as themselves, for his sake, there would be no wars, rivalships, antipathies, nor breach of treaties between nations; no envyings, strifes, wrongs, slanders, duels, nor litigations between neighbours; no fraud, injustice, nor overreaching in trade; no provoking severity in parents or masters; no ingratitude or disobedience in children or servants; no unkindness, treachery, nor implacable resentments between friends; no jealousies, nor bitter contentions in families; none of those evils which embitter society, and poison all its enjoyments. Such is the principle, and such the rule of Christian piety and morality. Our duty in these respects is

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