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rock; which, as soon as it sprang up, withered away, because it lacked moisture." "When they hear," says our blessed Lord, "they receive the word with joy ; but having no root, they for awhile believe, and in time of temptation," understanding by temptation every kind of trial, they fall away."
The effects resulting from this want of constancy and perseverance are so nearly similar, that we may well consider them, in their combined operation, under the same general defect of character.
Morally speaking, and more especially with reference to the great duty of prudence, the fickle and inconstant man should consider, that his unfortunate disposition, admitting that it does not, in his intercourse with the world, necessarily lead to baseness and practical falshood, to implied treachery and criminal desertion,always has a tendency to multiply the hardships and disappointments of life. The time of our sojourning here is so short and uncertain, that a few only acquire eminence and distinction, by pursuing one laudable object of ambition, with patient industry, and unceasing perseverance. The man, therefore, who is continually engaged in some new scheme of profit, or of pleasure;
who changes from one profession to another, encountering the difficulties of all, and reaping the emoluments of none, squanders away life to no useful purpose, and is treasuring up stores of mortification, and disappointment, for himself and others. Instead of improving the talent bestowed on him, he is gradually wasting it by a sort of active idleness; and, in the great day of account, his condemnation, will be more severe than that pronounced on the slothful servant, who, from groundless apprehensions, "hid his talent in the earth."
It is lamentable to reflect, how many persons have sunk from a rank of the greatest utility to mere nothingness, and how many innocent families have been reduced to poverty, and wretched dependence, by the operation of scarcely any other vices, or imperfections of character, than those of fickleness, inconstancy, and the love of change.
When the venerable Jacob, just before his death, called his sons together, that he might tell them, in the spirit of prophetic wisdom, what should befal them in the last days, he said of Reuben, his first-born, "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Nothing could be more expressive of his wavering and unsettled state of
mind, and no more satisfactory cause could be given for his not excelling. Accordingly, the imperfections of his own character seem to have been entailed on his children, and to have been transmitted, (such is the influence of a father's example) from one generation to another: for we no where read of a single individual of that tribe being a judge, a chieftain, a president, or a governor. But, as men of this description are generally apt to be factious and discontented, envious and proud, and always ready to accuse others, as the authors of their failures and misfortunes, rather than to suspect themselves of being in the slightest degree, blameable or foolish; we know that two of the descendants of Reu ben, Dathan, and Abiram, were actively engaged in the causeless and presumptuous rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and suffered the awfub punishment that was due to their crime, by a sig nal, and miraculous judgment of the Almighty.
For the reasons which have been stated, and for others that might be adduced, it is not easy to impress the minds of the young with a more useful and important lesson, than the necessity of first making a prudent and deliberate choice, and then of pursuing it with steadiness and ardor, (notwithstanding the difficulties and harde
ships, that may attend it,) rather than encounter again the disadvantages of a young beginner, at a later period of life, together with the irrecoverable loss of time, and the numerous evils, which must always result, from a fickle, and unsettled state of mind.
But if constancy and perseverance are essentially necessary to our interest and happiness, in a worldly, and prudential point of view, they become much more so, when considered with reference to our religious duties. Every motive to action, indeed, ought to rise in the scale of importance, in proportion to the magnitude and value of the object to be obtained. Now, it is impossible that any thing, which this world can offer, should be put in competition with the glorious rewards of immortality, promised to all true believers, through the mediation and atonement of Christ; and, therefore, constancy and perseverance become virtues of high estimation, and indispensable necessity. Amid the storms of life, they serve to direct our course in safety, and are "an anchor unto the soul both sure and stedfast." The unstable man, who is always addicted to change, must be a stranger to peace, and contentment, in his common intercourse with the world; and the same imper
fection of character, which disqualifies him for reaping and enjoying the benefits of this present life, will preclude him, it may be feared, from the blessings of that which is to come.
Casual emotions of piety, short intervals of obedience, accompanied, perhaps, with alternating changes from faith to uncertainty, and all the evils of " a doubtful mind," will certainly avail us nothing. On the contrary, instead of being accepted, as our reasonable service, they will hereafter be made the just grounds of our condemnation and reproach. "He that wavereth," says the apostle, "is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed: let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." It was the complaint of the holy prophet against Ephraim and Judah, that "their goodness was as a morning cloud, and that it passed away, as the early dew." This, indeed, is too true a picture of the frailties of man, in all ages of the world. At the same time, no one can be so visionary, as to advocate the necessity of sinless perfection; for we all know that such constancy is impossible, and that due allowance will be made for the unavoidable infirmities of our nature but that which is so strongly condemned, in the Gospel of Christ, is such a change, or