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Secondly. Dare to act, and fixedly determine to act, according to the dictates of your own judgment.
This may seem to you a singular direction. You have been told by all your instructors, and what is infinitely more, you are told by the Word of God, that to listen to advice is the highest wisdom of youth, and that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. As I have often repeated, and enforced, these doctrines to you, you will not imagine, that I now intend to impeach their truth, or to lessen their importance. The direction which I am now considering, is, if I mistake not, perfectly accordant with these maxims of wisdom. Seek, and receive advice, on every occasion; but of that advice, and of every thing else, judge for yourselves. For what other end were you endowed with the capacity of judging ?
In the mean time, allow me to say, this direction is not merely true, it is also of high importànce. A large part of the follies, the vices, and the miseries of mankind may be traced solely to an unhappy adoption of fashionable opinions, and a thoughtless imitation of fashionable practices : opinions which few of those, who adopt them, believe; and practices, of which few of those who follow them, approve. A desire to be like others, is one of the most prominent features of the human character. To resemble others in wisdom and virtue is glorious; to resemble them in things indifferent is certainly not censurable; but to assume folly, and to make vice your pattern, because others are foolish and vicious; to tread in the steps of blockheads, coxcombs, infidels, or villains, merely from a propensity to imitation, is a sacrifice of reason, a voluntary idiocy, a wanton suicide. When others around you utter wisdom, and act with rectitude, avail yourselves of the social spirit, and catch the wisdom and the rectitude. When others swerve, nobly assert your own independence, and refuse to follow them. Determine to have only your own faults to answer for. If mankind would universally thus act, folly would scarcely grow in this unhappy world, and vice would soon be esteemed an exotic.
Thirdly. Diligently read, and faithfully obey, the sacred Scriptures.
Assuming, what is a mere and totally irrational assumption, VOL. 1.
that the Scriptures are not of divine origin, they will still teach you more wisdom, and lead you to better conduct, than all the volumes produced by man. This they will also accomplish with a certainty and an efficacy, wholly singular; in ways most ingenious and happy; and with motives of every kind, addressed to every feeling, and fraught with infinite force. The single aim of the Scriptures is to make men virtuous. The end is supremely excellent; it is glorious ; it is divine. The means used in them for its accomplishment are scarcely less deserving of these epithets; for to say the least, which can be truly said, almost all the virtuous men, who have existed, have been made such by them. We know of no other book which has made men virtuous at all.
But the Scriptures are of divine origin. Numerous, ingenious, and most industrious men, have, through more than sixteen hundred years, laboured to disprove their character, as a Revelation. The work is, however, no nearer to its accomplishment, than when it was begun. Had the design been practicable, it could scarcely have failed of coming before this time, to an issue. If you will faithfully examine, and will at the same time dare to judge for yourselves, you will find that the controversy between Christians and Infidels has been merely; whether man should yield to passion and appetite, or to argument, to duty, and to God; whether he should live for time, or eternity; as an animal or as an intelligent being; for earth or for heaven ; for himself or for his Maker; whether God is the Moral Governor of all rational beings, or the Sluggard of Epicurus, housed in his own Elysium, quaffing sensual enjoyment, and wholly indifferent to the Universe of creatures.
Fourthly. In all your conduct, think before you act, and especially inquire, how such action would appear to you, on a dying bed.
On that bed you will drop most of your prejudices, and will no longer be under the influence of passion or appetite, of reverence for the world, or devotion to fashionable opinions and practices. This world, and its objects, will recede; and Eternity, with its infinite concerns, will draw nigh. Should you then possess, unimpaired, your rational faculties, you will see the true nature of things more clearly, and estimate their value more justly. You
will see, that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and the means by which they are gratified ; form a wretched character, constitute a wretched possession, and furnish a wretched hope. You will see, that the scramble for wealth, honour and pleasure, ardently as it may have engaged you, and wholly as it may have engrossed others, was, on the one hand, a silly puppet show of children, and, on the other, a frenzied tu. mult of bedlam.
Although you cannot perfectly form the same estimate of things, until you come to this solemn, this life-explaining situation ; yet you may, in no unhappy degree, reap its advantages through every period of your lives. It is in the power of man, with suitable efforts to place himself in any situation, to realize the scenes, which it would present, and to imbibe the sentiments, to which it would give birth. Accustom yourselves to the situation, in which you will actually be on a dying bed; and you will realize such sentiments as will be there entertained. Your estimate of the world, of yourselves, of duty, and of happiness, will, by degrees, resemble the final estimate ; your passions, appetites and prejudices, will lose their dominion over you; the world will cease to be your God; present enjoyments and sufferings will appear to be the dreams of a moment; and future things no longer distant or dim, will rise, expand and approach, with amazing solemnity and grandeur. Thus circumstanced, it will be impossible for you not to live, as candidates for eternity, and for heaven.
Fifthly. Remember, that God is always where you are, and perfectly sees, hears, and knows whatever you think, speak, or do.
Sixthly. Remember, that you are sinners; and that it is therefore impossible, that you should be virtuous in this Life, or happy in that to come, but by an interest in the Redeemer.
I will not attempt to prove to you that you are sinners. If you have ever looked into your own hearts, or examined at all your own lives, you cannot but know this to be your real character. Nor can you, instructed as you have been, in divine things from the cradle, nor even in the exercise of sober reason unassisted by Re-" velation, seriously believe for a moment, that impenitent sinners can be accepted, justified, and blessed of God. God, the infinite
ly holy, cannot but hate sin, and determine that without holiness no man shall see his face. His unchangeable law admits of no repentance as the ground of restoration; and his voice has declared Christ to be to mankind the only hope of glory. On his Expiation, then, Man, if ever to be saved, must rely; for there is no salvation in any other. To become interested in this Expiation, you must confide in it. Distrust or Unbelief will be a wall of partition between you and him so long as it remains ; and confidence can alone unite you to him. Why should you not believe in him? Is he not worthy of being trusted ? Is he not able ; is
e he not willing; is he not faithful? Has he not satisfactorily proved all these things by what he has done? Does he demand of you any sacrifice, but of your sins ? Does he impose on you any burden, but your duty ? Is not this sacrifice gainful? Is not this burden light? Is not he the best of all friends; present at all times, and in all places, on earth, in heaven, in time, and in eternity? Will you not need his favour and an interest in his atonement on a dying bed ? Seek him then, while he is to be found; fly to him, while he is near. Seek him early; and you will find him, and be loved by him forever.
In what manner let me ask you would you act, if you were standing before the Shechinah of the Jewish temple ; and beheld the cloud rolling and the lightnings darting over your heads ? How would you
you were with the Israelites at the foot of Sinai; while the earth trembled beneath, the trumpet of God sounded above, the smoke of the mountain ascended up to Heaven, and the glory of the Lord embosomed its summit in the flame of devouring fire ? You would undoubtedly, with Moses, exceedingly fear and quake; if you did not, with the congregation, fall down to the earth, deprived of motion and sense.
The same God will always accompany you, equally awful in himself, though not manifested in a manner equally terrible, Ask yourselves, then, always, when about to act, how will this conduct appear to the eye
of God? If it cannot stand this test, it will never abide in the day, when he shall judge the secret things of men.
Thus have I attempted to form a compendious directory for the future conduct of your lives. Much, that I wished to say, I have been obliged to omit; but if what I have said be faithfully regard
I have now,
ed, many other useful things will follow of course. and always earnestly wished your good and laboured to promote it. To hear of your prosperity, your wisdom, and your virtue, will sweeten the cup, which God appoints to me; and furnish an additional beam, to cheer the evening of my life. The connection formed between you and me, is of such a nature, that it cannot be destroyed, but by folly and vice, on your part, or on mine. While we both live, you will have my best wishes, and most fervent prayers : and whenever God should be pleased to call me away from this world, should he in infinite mercy call me, at the same time, into his kingdom, to share with his children the blessings of his everlasting love, it will give me transports, which no tongue can utter, to see you all around me; and to be able to say, " Behold, here am I, and the children, whom thou hast given me.”