Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

turns. Since that period, he informs us, Luxury ministers to Avarice, and Avarice to Luxury. Every prodigal is, in intention at least, a luxurious man. Every prodigal, almost, is avaricious. He grasps at money . that he may find the means of continuing his darling profusion; and covets with as craving an appetite, that he may spend, as the miser, that he may hoard. Like the miserable sufferers, described by Isaiah, he will not spare even his own brother; but will snatch on the right hand, and still be hungry; and devour on the left, and will not be satisfied. Equally erposed is he to the sin of Fraud; as perpetrated upon his fellow-men. Peculiarly is he of the number of those wicked, who borrow and never pay. No man is more lavish of promises, notes, and bonds; and no man more stinted in discharging his honest debts. The farmer, mechanic, and manufacturer, are peculiarly the objects of his fraud. The debts, which he pays at all, are those, which he is pleased to style debts of honour; the debts of luxury; debts, contracted to furnish the means of splendour and voluptuousness. The necessaries of life are objects, too humble to be ranked in the list of his enjoyments. Insignificant in themselves, that is, as he estimates them, they are not felt to be deserving of his attention. Those, who furnish them, also, are too modest, and too quiet, to compel his regard. Those, who gratify the demands of show and pleasure, are, in his view, persons of higher consequence; and are usually too clamorous, and too persevering, in their demands, to suffer them to be turned away by a mere succession of empty promises. Their claims are of course first satisfied. Not the rich, but the poor, and the hungry, are here sent away empty. The same necessity, which drives him to promise-breaking, urges him also into its twin vice of lying. He wants money daily; and as the ordinary means of obtaining it fail, he resorts to every art, and fetch, and falsehood, to supply his pressing necessities. A true account of his circumstances, and designs, would prevent every supply. To falsehood therefore, and to trick, he betakes himself, as the most obvious means of relieving his immediate wants. In this manner he becomes, within a moderate period, a common cheat, and a common liar. JNor is the prodigal much less in danger from drunkenness. The peculiar distress, which attends the consciousness of embarrassed affairs, made up of the strong pressure of wants, without the means of relieving them, a continual apprehension of approaching ruin, united with an insurmountable reluctance to make any efforts towards preventing it, edged, and pointed, by a succession of duns, mortified pride, vanishing pleasures, and clamorous appetites; this peculiar distress is a powerful and frequent cause of habitual intoxication. The unhappy being, who is the subject of such distress, instinctively hunts, { hunts in vain, for j and even for

consolation. Despair meets him at every corner. Orien, the only alleviation, which presents itself to his afflicted eye, is the terrible resort to the transient stupefaction of strong drink. Thus the forlorn wretch, with a varied indeed, but always downward, course, makes his situation worse and worse; and hurries himself to final ruin by the very means, on which he fastens for relief. JNor is the prodigal in small danger of becoming a Suicide. He has lived, for a length of time, in the gratification of Pride, the enjoyment of conscious superiority, i an uninterrupted course of voluptuous indulgence. When the dreams of greatness are over; and the riot of pleasure has ceased; the change to want and degradation is often too sudden, and almost always too great, to be borne with equanimity. In the earlier moments of desperation, it is not uncommon to see the prodigal betake himself, for refuge from the load of humiliation and despair, to poison, the pis.# or the halter. Among those, who become o in the possession of their reason, a more numerous list is no where found, than that, which is composed of ruined prodigals. Few men have sufficient fortitude to sustain, without shrinking, the excruciating evils, to which persons of this description regularly hurry themselves: excruciating, I mean, to such men. We do indeed meet, at times, beings, who, like disturbed ghosts, haunt places of public resort; and labour to keep in the remembrance of mankind the shadows, shreds, and tatters, of their former gayety and splendour; and serve, as way-marks, to warn the traveller of his o to a quagmire, or a precipice. But far more commonly they shrink from the public eye, and from the neglect, and contempt, which they are conscious of having merited ; and, not unfrequently, hide themselves for ever from the sight by hurrying into the future world. , The prodigal is, also, dreadfully exposed to hardness of heart. Should he continue to live; should he become neither a suicide, nor a drunkard; still the love of expense and pleasure, grown b indulgence into an obstinate habit, the long-continued i. ness of God, the total negligence of religion and all its duties, the entire absorption in the present, and the absolute disregard of the future, universally ho on this mode of life, naturally render the heart callous to every divine impression. A man, who, thus eagerly forgets God, ought certainly to . that God will forget him. For,. no man says to the Almighty more frequently, or more uniformly, Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways. From the house of God, from the Scriptures, nay, even from prayer, the last hope of miserable man, he ...} Cuts himself off. What prospects must he then form concerning his future being ! The Family of the Prodigal share necessarily in most of his calamities, and almost necessarily in many of his sins. A great part of the same temptations arrest them, of course. A great

part of the sins are provided for them, and regularly served up. Should they escape from moral ruin, the event would be little short of a miracle, unless it should be accomplished by an early, and timely, failure of the means of sin. The sufferings, to which they are exposed, are numberless. The prodigal, fascinated by show and pleasure, cannot attend to the education of his children. He cannot spare from his own enjoyments, in his view indispensable, the means of education abroad; particularly an education, at all suited to their original circumstances, the expectations which he has forced them to form, and the wishes which they have reasonably, as well as naturally, cherished. Religious instruction, admonition, and reproof; a prodigal never can give. He, who does not pray for himself, cannot be expected to pray for his family. The parent, who does not frequent the house of God, will soon see it forsaken by his children. Thus the education of his children will be deserted by the prodigal. The invaluable season of childhood and youth will be lost, and those early impressions, both economical and religious, those important habits, on which the good of this life, and of the life to come, is in a great measure .. are never established in their minds. To their comfortable settlement, whatever may be his wishes, he has voluntarily lost the power to contribute. Before the pe. riod arrives, at which this important object is to be accomplished, his wife, if she has not died of a broken heart, and her children, usually see him a beggar; and follow him to the hovel, which has become his only shelter. Hence, if they survive the ruin of their hopes, the children are soon turned into the world, to make their way through all the thorns and briers, which regularly embarrass the path of persons in such a situation. The #. which feeds the young ravens, when they cry, does, indeed, usually feed them. Earthly friends, at times also, they may find; and sometimes may be regarded by strangers with compassion and tenderness, which they never experienced from him, who gave them birth.

REMARKS.

1. By these considerations, Parents are taught the incalculable importance of educating their children to Industry and Economy. ". for a moment the miserable character, circumstances, and end, of those, who have been the subjects of this discourse. Who would be willing, who would not shudder at the thought, that such would be the character, such the circumstances, and such the end, of his own children? How shall this dreadful catastrophe be prevented Under God, only by a faithful education of children to Industry and Economy; by habituation to some useful, active business; or some diligent, sedentary employment; by thorough instructions, and a persuasive example. These are the fountains of sustenance to human life. A fortune, bequeathed to children, or provided for them at an earlier period, instead of be

ing a secure provision for their future wants, is commonly a mere incitement to ruin; a bounty, given to idleness; a watchword to begin the career of confusion. #. Jews are said, during some periods, at least, of their existence as a people, to have educated their children, universally, in active business; and to have adopted, proverbially, this aphorism, that he, who does not bring up his child to useful industry, brings him up to be a beggar, and a nuisance. It is to be fervently wished, that all Christian Parents would adopt the same maxim, and thus prepare their children to become blessings both to themselves and mankind. It has been repeatedly observed in these discourses, that Industry and Economy are not natural to man, and can only be established by habituation. These habits must both be begun in the morning of life; or there is danger, that they will never be begun successfully. As no man, consistently with his plain duty, can be excused from being industrious and ... himself; so no man can be justified for a moment, who does not effectually communicate both Industry and Economy to his children. He, who, at the first, made lo. the employment of mankind; and who afterwards commanded to gather up the fragments, that, nothing might be lost; will admit no excuse for the neglect of these duties, whether they respect ourselves, or our offspring. In this subject, Parents and children of both sexes are equally concerned. Both parents are bound to teach their j. and their children, of both sexes, are bound to learn, to be industrious, and to be economical; to fill up their time with useful employments; to methodize it, that it may $. thus filled up; and to feel, that the loss of time, the neglect of talents, and the waste of property, are all serious violations of their duty to God. The parents are bound to inspire, and the children to imbibe, a contempt, an abhorrence, for that silly, worthless frivolity, to which so many children, of fashionable parents especially, are trained; that sinful waste of the golden hours of life; that sickly devotion to amusement; that shameful, pitiable dependence on trifling, to help them along, even tolerably, through their present, tedious, dragging existence. Few i. are more to be pitied, as certainly few are more to be lamed, than those, who find their enjoyment only in diversions; and cling to a ride, a dance, a visit, a †. or a novel, to keep them from i. into gloom and despondence. Industrious persons, who spend their time in useful pursuits, are the only persons whose minds are serene, contented, and cheerful. If we wish happiness for our children, then; we shall carefully educate them to an industrious life. Let no parent, at the same time, forget what alarming temptations, and what gross sins, surround idleness and profusion. This consideration will, if anything will, compel parents to educate their children in this manner. The parent's fortune is, here, of no significance. The heir of a fortune is far more exposed to all these

evils, than he, who has none. If he is to go through life with a fortune; he is to be taught to earn, and to preserve, property. Without this instruction, he will, probably, ere long be beggared, tempted without any defence to multiplied sins, and become a liar, a cheat, a ... and perhaps a suicide. What parent would not tremble at the thought, that his own negligence would entail these evils upon his offspring 2 2. Young persons, whatever may have been their education, are, here, forcibly taught to pursue an industrious and economical life. The children of wealthy parents are generally prone to believe, that they are destined, not to usefulness, but to o ; and that they may be idle, therefore, without a crime. o opinion is more groundless; and very few are more fatal. God made all mankind to be useful. This character he requires of them without conditions. He, who does not assume it, will be found inexcusable at the final day. Every human ear ought to tingle, and every heart to shudder, at the doom of the unprofitable servant in the Gospel. Still more prone are youths to believe, that profusion is honourable; and to shrink from the imputation of niggardly conduct. There is no more absolute ... , than the supposition, that prodigality and generosity are the same thing. They are not even allied. Generosity consists in giving freely, when a valuable purpose demands it; and with a disposition, benevolently inclined to promote that o: Prodigality is the squandering of property, not for valuable, but base and contemptible purposes; for the mere gratification of voluptuousness, vanity, and pride. All these gratifications are mean, selfish, and despicable. The generous man feels the value of property. The prodigal has no sense of this value. The generous man gives, because what he gives will do real good to the recipient: the prodigal, because he cares nothing about property, except as it enables him to acquire reputation, to gratify his pride, to make an ostentatious display of wealth, or to outstrip and mortify a rival. In all this there is not an approach towards generosity. On the contrary, the motives are grovelling and contemptible; and the manner, in which they are exhibited to the eye, is disingenuous and hypocritical; a gaudy dress upon a loathsome skeleton. But the prodigal fails of the very reward, which he proposes as the chief object of his expense. In spite of all his wishes, and efforts, even weak men perceive, that he is ..". destitute of generosity; and those who most flatter, are the first to forsake, him : while, to shelter their own meanness and treachery, they proclaim, more loudly than any others, his weakness, faults, and miseries, to mankind. Let every youth, then, fasten his eye on this wretched character, this pernicious conduct, and this deplorable end. His own exposure let him strongly feel. Let him realize with solemn emotions of mind; that #. and Profusion are broad and beaten

« AnteriorContinuar »