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communicating bad ones, forms, with them, a chief part in the discipline of life. A talent of inestimable value is entrusted to their care; much has been given, and therefore much will most assuredly be required.
The holy Apostle was so sensible of this, that he directed us, both by precept and his own example, to "abstain from all appearance of evil." And it ought to be a matter of the most serious consideration with every human being, who fills a station in society, which gives him any influence over his fellow-creatures, to reflect, before he commits evil, before he indulges folly, or sacrifices at the shrine of guilty pleasures, that his example may spread, like the stream that rushes from the mountain, and leave monuments of his vices behind, when his body is mouldering into dust, and his soul is gone give account of the things done in the body, before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Consider yourselves, then, in this respect, as public teachers, responsible for your conduct to God, your neighbour, and yourselves. Your station in life is very different from the poor villager, who lives by daily labor, and mixes but with a few. A large portion of his time is spent, perhaps, in solitary occupations, and a great
part of the remainder is passed in the necessary refreshments of sleep. If virtuous, he does
much less good; if vicious, much less harm than you. His virtues, indeed, are scarcely known be yond the cottage which he inhabits, and his ordinary frailties are buried in the bosoms of his few friends but the eye of curiosity will be directed, from various quarters, to almost every part of your conduct and behaviour that busy spirit will be about your path and bed, and spy out all your ways." What is particularly vexatious, also, and deserves your utmost vigilance is, that trifling improprieties are liable to be magnified into serious evils, by ignorance and envy, by vanity or malice. What you deem, perhaps, appropriate leisure and amusement, might in your humble imitator be confirmed idleness, and habits of licentiousness, or dissipation; the fashionable excesses, in which your fortune might enable you to indulge, will provoke, perhaps, the silly ambition of another, and involve him in misery and ruin.
Greater omissions, and transgressions of duty, will be magnified in proportion. By absenting yourselves from places of public worship, and neglecting the duties of the Sabbath, you only gratify, perhaps, your love of indolence and
ease, or follow some trivial pleasure: you mean no serious injury, or outrage, to the interests of Christianity, by your indifference and irregularity; but you are stabbing her to the vitals, and injuring her authority, as far as your power extends, more than the professed libertine, or the scoffing infidel; and on the obvious principle, that a treacherous friend is more dangerous than an avowed enemy. Your children, in the mean time, find the sacred ties of religion loosened before they are fully felt, or properly understood; your servants will be happy to be freed from restraint, by the sanction of your example, and will follow pleasure and amusement in their own way; while your dependents, instead of submitting to instruction, when reminded of their duty, will ask, like the Jews of old, "How do the dispensers of fashion, how do the Rulers of the people, the modern Pharisees, and men of fortune, spend their Sabbath?" Under every omission, and transgression of duty, they will look up to you, to quiet their consciences; and, in the inconsistency of your conduct, will endeavour to find a sanction for every irregularity and neglect in their own. Let me hope, then, that you will deeply impress your minds with a sense of your importance in
society, and of those appropriate duties which are necessarily connected with it. By importance, I mean the power of doing good or harm; which is the only importance, on the present occasion, that deserves attention. And this, when considered with regard to children, is indeed great. To answer for our own transgressions, and neglect, is sufficiently awful; but to reflect, at the hour of death, that, instead of "going about doing good," like our heavenly Master, we have propagated iniquity, and disseminated vice, or folly ;-to be sensible, that we have tainted by the vices of our own conduct, where we should have instructed both by precept and example ;-to know, that we have taken the human plant from the field of nature, where it would have flourished, perhaps in wild, but luxuriant beauty, and grafted it on corruption;-must hereafter overwhelm the conscience with shame, with terror, and confusion. It is of this last offence, that our blessed Lord speaks with greater energy than almost any other. "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones,' or rather, shall be the cause of their offending, "it were better for him," he declares, "that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." But,
on the contrary, if your conduct be circumspect, and your example good, many are the benefits which your fellow-creatures will derive from it, and great will be your reward in heaven. You will be considered as "the salt of the earth," that preserves the mass of human society from utter corruption. Thousands may trace back to you the good principles, which they were taught to form, and the virtues which, by divine assistance, they were enabled to practise.
Can there be a higher satisfaction than this to man, whether we consider him as influenced by reason, or religion, by humanity, or the love of virtue? But though the influence of our example might not be so extensive and beneficial as we hoped it would, yet we may always rest assured of having done some good; and let us remember, for our comfort and encouragement, in every good word and work, "That he who converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."