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life beyond the grave. Those happy days of careless innocence, when you could repose entirely on others, have now passed away. It was not to be expected that your path was always to be pointed out by a parent's hand, its dangers foreseen for you by a parent's wisdom, and its difficulties removed by a parent's tenderness and care. It is the order of nature that each one should in due time be called to act from his own mind, and consult for his own well-being. You do not wish it should be otherwise. I see your eye already kindling with hope, and your breast swelling with ardour, at the thought of grasping the reins of self control, and becoming the arbiter of your own conduct. The world is at length all before you, and
you see how lavish it is of its promises, to allure your affection, and captivate your young imagination. Life seems to you, as a distant and unexplored landscape appears to the
eye who views it from an eminence. All is beautiful and bright. The forests wave their green and lofty tops in the western breeze; the streams glitter in the morning sun; the mountains tower in calm and solemn majesty ; the vallies wind among them in luxuriant verdure; and as far as the eye can stretch, to where the land seems to touch and mingle with the sky, there is nothing to lessen the delight with which you regard so fair a vision. Here, you say, peace and contentment must surely dwell! what but happiness can find a residence here? But a nearer approach will undeceive
you. You will find that everything has been softened and improved by distance. You will no doubt still see much to admire; much to vindicate the wisdom and goodness of the Creator and Disposer of all. But you will find too, that the paths are rougher than you thought. You will meet with difficulties which you did not expect. Where you thought to find only security, you will see that innumerable dangers were lurking. You will find flowers blooming over the precipices which theyconceal; and unless you take heed to yourself, your feet will slide where you least imagined it, and you may fall never to rise. Do not, however, hastily arraign your Creator for calling you to pass through this scene of dangers. He has wisely, though mysteriously, ordered all things. He does not leave you to explore the dark and doubtful paths of life without a guide. He hath showed
you, what is good ; and it rests with yourself to say whether you
shall obtain it. He has sent me from his own right hand to direct your inexperienced steps, to lead you in ways of pleasantness, and paths of peace. My son, give me then thy heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways."
Such is the invitation which religion makes to the young. And never in the long annals of time was there one human being, who at the close of life, did not rejoice if he had listened to it, and lament with bitter tears, if he had rejected it.
Let us inquire, what is here meant by giving the heart to religion, and what are the peculiar motives which should induce the young to make such a dedication of it.
To give your heart to religion, means simply, to give to it the supreme control over your conduct and affections. It does not mean, that nothing else is to engage your regard; that you can have no duties and no pleasures, which are not strictly and exclusively the duties and pleasures of religion. It means only that you are to seek first and chiefly the kingdom of God; that every thing in life is to be made subordinate to this great object; that you are to do no actions, cherish no thoughts, indulge no feelings, gratify no desires, which religion cannot approve; that in all your plans in life you are to have respect ta the proper ends of your being, and are to reduce all the principles and affections of your nature under the guidance of conscience, enlightened by the gospel. In one word, to give your heart to religion must mean, that since there is a God, you should reverence, worship and love him ; that since Christ has come into the world to redeem you, he should always command your affectionate obedience and remembrance; that since life has been given you in this world for some important end, you should diligently inquire for, and faithfully pursue that end; that since you are born for another world, you should seek to fit yourself for it; and that since there is to be a day of judgment, you should
seriously prepare for it. The question is simply this; whether
pass through life with no aims that look beyond it; pursuing merely the pleasures, or riches, or honours, which open before you; and live and die as if you had no soul to be saved; or whether, remembering that your nature is immortal, and capable of exalted and impeperishable attainments, and that your condition in another life is to be decided by your conduct in this, you should, by habitual benevolence, incorruptible integrity, and sincere and unaffected piety, springing from christian principles, and proceeding on christian maxims, make sure your calling and election to the favour of God, and to the happiness of eternity.
I would call your attention to some of the motives for choosing the better part of the alternative thus presented to us, which are peculiarly applicable to the young. In the first place, religion is never more necessary than in youth. It is a common prejudice, arising from very erroneous views of its nature, to think that it is chiefly intended for the aged, the miserable, and the sick, and not for the young, the vigorous, and the happy. Religion is designed for our consolation, it is true; but it is also intended for our guidance and restraint ; for the enlargement and direction of our views, and the progressive purification and exaltation of our natures. But all these objects are as necessary, and ought to be as
interesting, to the young, as to the mature. When indeed do we feel the necessity of all our good principles to restrain and guide us most? Is it in the advance of life, when the first warmth of our wishes is cooled, and a sober selfishness, if nothing else, will preserve us from all wild excess? Or is it not at that season when passion rolls her impetuous tides through our veins ; when desires, yet unpalled by gratification, are rebels to our reason; and when the bitter consequences of guilt have not taught us to shun it? If too, you admit that any alteration ought to be made in our plans of life, in consequence of believing that there is a world of retribution to follow it, what season so proper for the exertion of this influence as that when our plans may be so arranged, that they shall need no alteration? How far better must it be, to set out in the career of life originally right, than to suffer the pain and mortification of being compelled to retrace our steps. How important, also, is it to our happiness, to be early taught by religion to estimate the world at its proper value ; to regard it as a school of virtue, more than a festival of pleasure ; a scene of high duties, not unmingled gratifications; to be warned before hand, that we shall have much to suffer, as well as to enjoy ; and thus to be preserved from those cruel disappointments, which sadden the days of those, who have indulged such extravagant hopes of felicity, as this state was never intended to realize. In short, unless