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RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE,-ADDRESSED TO THE YOUTH OF HIS CONGREGATION IN LEEDS.
It is the earnest wish of my heart, that your minds may be well established in the sound principles of religious knowledge; because I am fully persuaded, that nothing else can be a sufficient foundation of a virtuous and truly respectable conduct in life, or of good hope in death. A mind destitute of knowledge (and, comparatively speaking, no kind of knowledge besides that of religion deserves the name), is like a field on which no culture has been bestowed, which, the richer it is, the ranker weeds it will produce. If nothing good be sown in it, it will be occupied by plants that are useless or noxious.
Thus, the mind of man can never be wholly barren. Through our whole lives we are subject to successive impressions; for either new ideas are continually flowing in, or traces of the old ones are marked deeper. If, therefore, you be not acquiring good principles, be assured that you are acquiring bad ones; if you be not forming virtuous habits, you are, how insensibly soever to yourselves, forming vicious ones; and, instead of becoming those amiable objects in yourselves, and those valuable members of society, which nature and the God of nature intended that you should be, you will be at best useless cumberers of the ground, a dead weight upon the community, receiving support and advantage, but contributing nothing in return; or you will be the pests of society, growing continually more corrupt yourselves, and contributing to the corruption of others.
Finding yourselves, therefore, in such a world as this, in which nothing is at a stand, it behoves you seriously to reflect upon your situation and prospects. Form then, the generous resolution (and every thing depends upon your resolution) of being at present what you will certainly wish you had been some years hence; what your best friends now wish you to be ; and what your Maker has intended, fitted, and enabled you to be.
Above all things, be careful to improve and make use of the reason which God has given you, to be the guide of your lives, to check the extravagance of your passions, and to assist you in acquiring that knowledge, without which your rational powers will be of no advantage to you. If you would distinguish yourselves as men, and attain the true dignity and proper happiness of your natures, it must be by the exercise of those faculties which are peculiar to you as men. If you have no higher objects than the gratification of your animal appetites and passions, you rank yourselves with the brute beasts; but as you will still retain that reflection which they have not, you will never have that unallayed enjoyment of a sensual life which they have. In fact, you are incapable of the happiness of brute animals. Aspire, therefore, to those superior pursuits and gratifications for which you were formed, and which are the prerogative and glory of your natures.
Let me urge you, my younger hearers, to a more than ordinary attention to regularity and propriety of behaviour, becoming men and Christians, that your conduct may be no disgrace to the rational and liberal sentiments which I trust you have imbibed. Let it be seen, that when God is considered as the proper object of reverence, love, and confidence, as the benevolent Father of all his offspring of mankind, and their righteous and impartial moral Governor, the principle of obedience is the most ingenuous and effectual. Cherish the most unfeigned gratitude to the Father of lights, that your minds are no longer bewildered with the gloom and darkness,
in which our excellent religion was, for so many ages, involved; but let this consideration be a motive with you to walk as becomes so glorious a light. If your conduct be such as, instead of recommending your own generous principles, furmishes an excuse to others for acquiescing in their prejudices and errors, all the dishonor which is thereby thrown upon God, and the injury which will be done to the pure religion of Jesus Christ, by keeping it longer in a corrupted state at home and preventing its propagation abroad, will be your peculiar guilt, and greatly aggravate your condemnation. Value the Scriptures, as a treasury of Divine knowledge, consisting of books which are eminently calculated to inspire you with just sentiments, and prompt you to right conduct; and consider them also as the only proper authority in matters of faith. In a thing so interesting to you as the business of religion, affecting the regulation of your conduct here, so as to prepare you for immortal happiness hereafter, respect no human authority whatever. Submit to those who are invested with the supreme power in your country, as your lawful civil magistrates; but if they would prescribe to you in matters of faith, say, that you have but one Father, even God, and one Master, even Christ, and stand fast in the liberty with which he has made you free. Respect a parliamentary king, and cheerfully pay all parliamentary taxes; but have nothing to do with a parliamentary religion, or a parliamentary God. Religious rights and religious liberty are things of inestimable value. For these have many of our ancestors suffered and died; and shall we, in the sunshine of prosperity, desert that glorious cause, from which no storms of adversity or persecution could make them swerve 7 Let us consider it as a duty of the first rank with respect to moral obligation, to transmit to our posterity, and provide, as far as we can, for transmitting, unimpaired, to the latest generations, that generous zeal for religion and liberty, which makes the memory of our forefathers so truly illustrious.
So long as it shall please that God, in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways, to continue me in that relation, in which I think myself happy in standing to you at present, I trust that I shall not fail to endeavour to impress your minds with a just sense of what you owe to God, to your country, and to mankind. Let it be our mutual care to derive the most durable advantage from our present temporary connexion, by growing continually more established, strengthened, and settled in the habit and practice of all the virtues which become us as men and as Christians; that we may secure a happy meeting and mutual congratulation in the future kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.
CHARACTER OF THE REv. RICHARD PRICE, D. D.
WE are now, my Christian brethren, assembled on the mournful occasion of the decease of a truly excellent man; one who stood in the endearing relation of pastor to this congregation,” but in a much more important relation to his country, and even to the world. If, after this, I may add, as an excuse for those who have made choice of me to addrses you on the occasion, he was one with whom I had been connected by an acquaintance of more than thirty years, and an intimate friendship of more than twenty. In consequence of this, I have never failed to occupy his place of preacher to you, on my annual visits to the metropolis; and if a circumstance, which adds something to the impression on my own mind, may be mentioned on the occasion, this is the very day on which, if our friend had been alive and well, I should of course have preached for him. Little did I expect, when I set out on my journey, that this would be his Funeral Sermon ; for at that time there were hopes of his recovery, and about a month before, there was no more appearance of his approaching dissolution, than there is of that of any of ours at present. For though he was not of a robust constitution, and was drawing toward the usual term of human life, he had of late years recovered a better state of health and spirits than had generally fallen to his share; so that, judging by appearances, he might have lived happily to himself, and usefully to the world, many years longer. May the reflection lead us all to the true wisdom of considering our latter end, that we may hold ourselves in constant readiness for our summons hence:
* At Hackney, near London.