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OF THE NECESSITY OF RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION.
[Preached on possession being taken of the Benefice.]
2 PETER i. 12.
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in
remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
The various powers and faculties of the human mind have afforded matter for useful investigation to the learned and inquisitive of all ages. They have been defined and classed with the most laborious accuracy;
their excellences and defects pointed out and illustrated; and methods have been recommended of strengthening the former and rectifying the latter; and there is no doubt but that all the powers of the human mind, when submitted to the discipline advised by those who have made that subject
their wody, tay be, and chem are, carried on to a much bagher degree of perfection than if left to their native strength, and developed in the ordinary manner, by increasing years, and commerce with the world. But setting aside the other important endowments of our intellectual nature for the present, the faculty with which we have to do, and to which the text summons our attention, is that of memory. Now the observations that are usually made upon this head are to the following effect : that the incidents of youth make a more durable impression and are less easily effaced than those of advanced age: the first observable defect in the memory is, that the old man forgets the occurrences of his intermediate life, nay even the speeches or the observations of but yesterday; while the lessons or events of youth have retained an inseparable hold on his mind, and, though they may seem for a while to have been overlaid by the business of life, they are frequently brought forth to his recollection by the most trivial circumstances, by some similarity to present objects, some association with passing ideas : and the more recent images still fade, while the pristine impressions recur unimpaired, if they be not even strengthened by the recal.
To cultivate these advantages, therefore, and to remedy these defects of memory, in a religious way, it is evident that two courses must be adopted, early instruction and frequent admonition. It is necessary that lessons for our good conduct through life, and for the attainment of a happy eternity after life, should be inculcated at an early period, and that they should be invigorated by repetition: the instructor and the monitor are alike indispensable. A great master of moral wisdom · has said, that “what is 'known is not always present;" and as religion was meant for the regulation of our daily intercourse with our fellow-creatures, a pious maxim that slumbers whilst it should be put in action is like one never inculcated and not known: it may come hereafter to render our regret more poignant, but the loss sustained from its temporary absence
• Dr. Johnson, Preface to his Dictionary.
may be irreparable ; the illicit passion which it was meant to check may have had its full sway; it may have committed deep depredation on our own innocence; it may have contaminated the virtue, or violated the peace, or impaired the property of our neighbour. “ Wherefore,” saith the Apostle, “ I will not “ be negligent to put you always in remem“ brance of these things, though ye know “ them, and be established in the present “ truth.” And with equal force he adds, in another chapter, “ This second epistle, be
loved, I now write unto you; in both which “ I stir
up your pure minds by way of remembrance, that ye may be mindful of the words “ which were spoken before by the holy pro
phets, and of the commandment of us the Apostles of the Lord and Saviour b."
From these observations it may appear that the present discourse will naturally divide itself into two parts: the first of which will urge the propriety of youthful instruction, and the second evince the necessity of repeating and strengthening the lessons of early piety by habitual recollection ; in truth, by public worship, at stated periods.
b 2 Pet. iii. 1.
The first point I shall dispatch more briefly.
The second, as connected with those institutions of our country which have established a relation between you, my brethren, and myself, it is my intention to treat more at large.
The epistle from whence the text is taken is addressed by its inspired author, not to any particular Church planted by the Apostles, but to the Christian converts, wherever dispersed over the world: it is from hence called one of the general or catholic epistles. Now it is evident that the great body of these persons must have wanted the first of the advantages of which I have spoken above, namely, that of an early institution in the Christian faith. The greater part must have been converted to the belief of a Saviour at an adult age, some even in their declining years. Yet would such defect be more than compensated by the manner of their conversion. The novelty of the doctrine, the miraculous works in confirmation