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lative truth, but which is also a principle of action which purifies the heart, works by love, and regu. lates the whole conversation.
It is education chiefly that forms the human character; and it is a virtuous and religious education that forms the character of the Christian. The mind, at that early and innocent period, being untainted with actual guilt, and all alive to every gen. erous impression, bends without labour to the force of instruction; is easily formed to all the beauties of holiness, and by frequent and repeated acts, acquires habits of devotion and virtue. The principles that are then imbibed, and the habits that are then acquired, although they may be sometimes shaken and weakened by the contagion of evil example, are seldom or never entirely obliterated. When the good seed is thus fown, we have the promise of Almighty God, that he will grant it the increase, and cause it to spring up into everlasting life. When the Christian do&rines are thus received, not merely as articles of belief, but also as principles of action, through the blessing of God, they will attain the afcendant over the unruly passions, and exert such an entire influence over the mind, as will enable it to refist temptation, and to come off triumphant. When the good foundation is thus laid, the winds may arise, and the rains may descend ; the tempest may blow and beat upon the house, but the foundation of the structure shall not fail, for it rests upon a rock.
Next, In order to preserve our innocence and in-. tegrity uncorrupted from the world, let us beware with what company we associate. Evil communica
tion corrupts good manners. It is not indeed always in our power to avoid falling into the company of the wicked, but it is always in our power not to make such persons our confidents and companions. It is the grand secret of life, both with respect to virtue and to happiness, to select good and worthy persons to be our friends and companions ; such persons with whom we would not only wish to live, but also desire to die. Such persons whom we would not only choose to be the companions of our careless hours, but also the partners of our enjoy. ments through all eternity.
There is something in the friendship and familiarity of good men, extremely great and honorable to human nature ; and there are some considerations in Christianity that carry these to their highest perfection. The great commandment of our Lord to his followers, was to love one another. In the ho. ly sacrament of the supper, we are united together in such intimate bonds of union, as to become members of one body. We have one faith, one hope, one baptism, one Lord, the Father of all, one Saviour who died for the sins of the world, one Spirit who dwells in the hearts of the faithful. We are fellow heirs of the same grace of life, fellow expectantso the same heavenly rewards.
Under these considerations, the friendship of good men would be attended with the most beneficial effects. They would support each other in the temptations and afflictions of life, and by quickening each other's diligence, provoke one another to love and to good works. Such associations of good and worthy persons, in times of public degeneracy and corruption, are spoken of in Scripture with the high. est honor. " Then they that feared the Lord, fpake “ often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and “ heard it ; and a book of remembrance was writ“ ten before him for them that feared the Lord, 6 and that thought upon his name. And they shall « be mine, faith the Lord of Hosts, in that day “ when I make up my jewels; and I will fpare “ them as a man spareth his own son that serveth 66 him.”
Further, In order to keep ourselves unfpotted from the world, let us acquire firmness and forti, tude of mind. There is no principle in human na. ture that is attended with a train of more dreadful consequences, than that facility of manners, that fim. plicity of disposition, that weakness of soul, which is easily persuaded from its resolution, to comply with every propolal. This good nature, as it is falsely called, is the worst nature in the world, and is the occasion of more calamities, and of more crimes, than the actual inclination to wickedness. To oppose the a&ual vitious inclination, Almighty God hath indued us with an understanding to dil, cern its evil, and with a conscience to check its progress ; but this pernicious feebleness of mind has the appearance of sociableness and of virtue, and, by that appearance, deceives us to our ruin.
Persons of such a character make no original ef. forts of mind. They seem born to enlift under a leader, and are the finners or the faints of accident. Forţitude of mind, and strength of resolution, are Tequifite for every purpose of human life. In particular, they are necessary to keep us from the con
tagion of evil example. Let us be cautious in laying down resolutions : let us be cautious in concerting plans of action : but when we have once resolved, let us be immutable. When we have chosen our path, let us hold on, though the temptations of life should beset us on one hand, and the terrors of death on the other, not suffering the com. motions of the world, nor even the changes of na. ture, to fhake or to disturb the more stedfast pur, pose of our fouls. The most valuable of all poffeffions is a strenuous and a steady mind, a self-deciding spirit, prepared to act, to suffer, or to die, as occafion requires.
This is not an ideal character, which exists only in description. God hath never wanted his thou. sands who have not bowed the knee to the idols of the world. We can reckon up a venerable company of Patriarchs, and a sacred society of Prophets, a holy fellowship of Apostles, an innumerable army of Martyrs and Confessors, who were found faithful in the midst of the faithless, who approved themselves
the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of an : evil and profane generation, and having received
the recompence of reward, are now fitting on thrones, and singing Hosannah in the heavens.
The contemplation of their lives should animate us to run the race that is set before us, with the fame alacrity and zeal. Did we frequently and se. riously call up to our remembrance, the lives and the virtues of those who are now inheriting the promises. Did we, by faith and contemplation, rep. resent to our minds those unseen rewards of which they are now in possession, we should feel our hearts burn within us ; with zeal and emulation, we would inhale a portion of the same divine spirit, and behold. ing as in a glass reflected, their virtues and victories, we would be changed into the same image, from glo. ry to glory, as by the Spirit of the living God.