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are prepared to say that the ardour of youthful passion needs no restraint, that the extravagance of youthful hopes needs no correction, and that the arrangement of life is not to be affected by the views which religion gives of its true design, you must admit, that religion is never more necessary than in the season of youth.
Another consideration is, that religion may be most easily and permanently engrafted on the mind in youth. The soul is not yet filled with the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches. It is not yet torn by ambition, and tortured by envy. It is not yet agitated by the tempests of politics, or swallowed up in the whirlpool of fashionable dissipation. It is not yet so bound down to the pursuits of the world, as to leave it no leisure for the thought of heaven. Those sublime views which religion reveals, if permitted to enter the mind, will not find the place, which they ought to possess, preoccupied by merely terrestrial cares. The soul is yet white, and fair, and unsullied. Seize then this precious moment to engrave on it the everlasting characters of celestial truth.
But not only is the mind most open to religion in youth, the heart also is then most susceptible of its sacred influence. The fetters of habit are not yet bound around us. That tendency of our nature to settle in the course which we have long pursued, not only does not yet obstruct the power of religion, but may be brought to lend its aid to enthrone piety forever in the breast. But unless this law of our constitution is early made the friend of religion, it will become its most formidable foe. There is a constantly increasing indisposition to change produced by the influence of habit. The longer the invitations of religion are neglected, the more unsusceptible does the soul become of its impressions. The repetition of the same arguments and the same resistance, of the same calls and the same excuses, renders us more and more fixed and easy in sin. The breast no longer smarts with remorse, the old scruples are no longer felt, the language of the scriptures, and the remonstrances of conscience, strike more and more faintly on the ear; till at length the heart becomes callous, seared, completely selfish, and thoroughly worldly, outgrows every thing but its insensibility to religious truth, and no longer has hope or resolution left.
But even when this fatal tendency of habit is counteracted, and we are arrested in the course of impenitence, still we can scarcely ever wholly avoid its consequences. There is a sceptical turn of mind too often produced, when we advance into the middle of life in habits of irreligion, which it is extremely difficult to overcome. Perhaps we meet with so much deception in the world, that we get the habit of confounding the evidence of truth with the sophistry of error; at any rate it is certain that distrust and suspicion are apt to creep over and incrust the soul, the beams of truth
as powerfully as ever, but they have no longer the same efficacy in penetrating, illuminating and warming it, which they possessed in the soft and ingenuous period of youth. The reason may be satisfied, but incredulity still makes her power felt, though she no longer utters her voice. There is not the same connexion between the judgment and the will, between our faith and our practice, which once existed. Truth, however well supported, will no longer take that full possession of the soul, which it once did. They are gone—that generous confidence, that warm persuasion, that heartfelt homage as well as assent, which we could have given in the unsuspicious days of youth. They are all
gone. Rarely, if ever, unless your temperament be peculiarly sanguine and enthusiastic,can you recal those vivid impressions and that transporting assurance, with which you might once have welcomed the truths of the gospel. Though his conviction may be entire, and he may act habitually on his belief, still, a man who defers his attention to religion till late in life, can seldom be a christian with more than half his soul. Cherish then, young man, the treasure of thy moral sensibility, and if thou wouldst know all the joy and peace of believing, give God thine heart in the days of thy youth.
But let us suppose that the power of habit, and this growing insusceptibility to the influence of truth, could be successfully counteracted; yet why should
you be willing to encounter the misery
and sorrow of a tardy repentance ? Why should you not spare yourself the anguish of being obliged to review a long course of transgression; of remembering the wasted hours, which you cannot recal; of thinking how wantonly you have slighted all the obligations of gratitude, all the convictions of your understanding, all the reproaches of conscience, and all the invitations of
? How too can you always assure yourself, that your repentance, when greatly protracted, is sincere ? Who shall determine the value of the professions, which the approach of death may call forth? If indeed, by the favour of Heaven, you should be permitted to live long enough to give proof of your sincere reformation, it is well. But if you die in the midst of your extorted and unexecuted resolutions of amendment, who in this world can answer for their reality or their worth? But were it nothing more, still what ingratitude is it, to defer to the end of life that religious obedience, which is every moment due to the most High ? What a return is it to the God of mercy, to come to Him, only when the world has left us alone ? How unjust, that we should give to Him nothing but the feeble powers, which
and sickness have spared us ? Is he worthy of nothing more than these slıreds and patches of human obedience ; this poor remnant of activity; the miserable dregs and lees of a guilty life?
“ Remember then thy Creator in the days of
thy youth.” If this were a call to a life of hardship and severity, still it ought not to be slighted. If the dedication of ourselves to God were a vow of separation from society; if the enjoyment of this life, and the attainment of another, were incompatible ; if religion were all sacrifice and no reward, all self-denial and no indulgence, all darkness and mortification, and no light and encouragement ; still, at God's command, all this ought to be endured. If this path, so thorny and narrow, leads to the glories of immortal life; if this dark and dreary avenue opens at last in the bright and sun clad regions of the celestial country, why should we not enter it without fear, and pursue it without doubt or fainting?
But får different from this is the truth. God has mercifully connected our happiness and our duty. Religion calls for no sacrifice, which a true regard to our own well-being alone would not lead us to make. There is nothing austere or terrific in her aspect.“ Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour; her
ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” “ The path of the just is as a shining light.” “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright for the end of that man is peace.” “For great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.”
But the blessings and rewards of early piety will not be extended to yourselves alone. To say