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attired. In the intercourse of the young with each other, and with the world generally, it is of much consequence that these excellencies be combined, and that they form the plane of their religious principles. The days, it is to be hoped, are rapidly passing away when extreme politeness may cover extreme contempt, and a bland manner conceal bitter hatred and determined revenge. Christianity indeed removes from the heart all such feelings towards a fellow-creature; and although it teaches us to make a distinction between the good and the evil, and between friends and enemies, yet it teaches us that we are to love all, though in a different manner, and that there must in all cases be the feeling of good-will in the heart while there is the form of kindness in the speech and behaviour. There should ever be integrity and sincerity in the mind, and kindness and gentleness in the outward demeanour: there should, at least, be no dissimulation. Whenever the principle of good-will towards men is cultivated in the heart, it will have a constant tendency to assume a form consistent with itself; and the principal object which the Christian should keep in view is to “cleanse first the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also.” It should therefore be a general rule with the young, as well as with the more advanced in life, to give esseirtial things the first place, and have all other things in becoming subordination to them.
2. We come now to speak of the pleasures of early life. Serious injury has been done to religion by clothing it in the garb of undue austerity. Religion has been represented as an enemy to pleasure, and on this principle the most useless and even the most dangerous mortifications have been insisted on or recommended in the name of religion. It is true that a life of mere pleasure is opposed to religion, because it is opposed to real happiness. But anything that usurps the place of religion, by taking possession of the whole heart, is equally an enemy to a religious and happy life. The error in which the denial of the delights of the natural affections has originated is, the notion which early infested the Christian Church, that what is natural is at enmity with what is spiritual. When this notion became a principle of the church, the crucifixion of all the natural affections was considered the highest duty which devolved on the Christian, and the highest virtue to which he could attain. All the affections which bind, or are supposed to bind human beings to the world and to each other, as children of the world, were sacrificed on the altar of a church which assumed the character of the only relation and object on earth that was to be loved and served. Such notions and practices still prevail in one great portion of the professing church, and their influence is more or less felt and
yielded to in the other. But all such notions and practices are grounded in a misconception both of the nature and use of religion, and of the natural affections of the human mind. Religion, owing its origin to the same beneficent Being who created the human race, is adapted to their nature, and is intended to regenerate and not to destroy the principle of human nature. One of the means by which it seeks to regenerate and save those to whom it is addressed, is by bringing the natural and spiritual affections into harmony. The spiritual part of our being is not regenerated alone, but in conjunction with the natural ; and God in His Providence has given the means of perfecting both. He has also given the means of gratifying both; and it is by their mutual and reciprocal gratification, in agreement with the laws of order, that the spiritual itself is perfected by the natural. Nothing is implanted, or at least perfected in our nature, till it has been an object of spiritual affection and of natural delight. But it is not only necessary that religion be made a subject of natural delight, in being manifested in the exercises of religion, such as devotion and charity in a limited sense: it is necessary that religion should be accustomed to regulate the natural affections in all their orderly gratifications. Although the natural affections may be denied all natural satisfaction, they are not on that account destroyed. And we have too many instances of the unhappy results of too much restraint on the natural affections, in the excess to which they are prone when the restraint is removed. It is the business of the church, therefore, to teach the duty of regulating the natural affections, but not to condemn all their gratifications as opposed to religion and heaven.
God fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna and with quails; the Divine promise was, when they asked for food, that “they should have flesh in the evening, and bread in the morning.” (Exod. xvi. 8.) And so does the Lord still provide for His children the gratification of the senses and the satisfaction of the soul. But if, like the Israelites, (Numb. xi.) we loathe the manna, and desire only the flesh, we shall, like them also, bring upon ourselves destruction, instead of securing life. For “while the flesh was yet between their teeth, a plague from the Lord came upon them, and took them away in their lust.” When natural pleasure is made the only desire and delight of life,—when it leads to. the loathing of what is spiritual and heavenly, then does it become the means of closing up the way of spiritual influences, and of destroying spiritual life. The pleasures of sense are to be held in subordination to satisfactions of mind. When this is the case, earthly gratifications are refined and exalted by their connection with a spiritual principle ;
and they become what they were designed to be—at once innocent and useful, serving as delights to expand the heart, and as recreations to strengthen both the body and the spirit. But when pleasure is pursued for its own sake, to the exclusion and disrelish of any higher good, it necessarily becomes a means of dissipation, enfeebling both mind and body, and at last destroying all true relish for pleasure itself.
3. It is useful to consider the temptations to which the younger members of the church are exposed. And I may here remark that I do not understand, nor do I wish them to understand, temptations in the higher sense, as signifying inward spiritual conflicts, but rather those allurements which assail the youthful from without, and which come under the form of worldly pleasures, wealth, or ambition. These have probably charms for the young more than for the advanced and experienced in life; or, if they have not greater charms for the youthful than the aged, they may perhaps have some greater influence over them. I am far however from supposing, with some, that the younger members of the church are, from the circumstance of their years, in constant and extreme peril, —peril far greater than the more advanced in life are exposed to. To suppose that their passions are necessarily so much stronger than their judgment, as to place them constantly in extreme danger of being seduced from the paths of rectitude and purity, or of being led away into unbelief and impiety, would be to impeach that wise and beneficent Providence whose tender mercies are over all His works, and who so provides for all His creatures, that they shall enjoy, in every period of life, a perfect freedom of will, and power sufficient to enable them to stand against all the wiles of the enemy both from within and from without. It is true that the passions of the young are ardent, and that they are inexperienced. But I am not aware that the passions of the younger members of the human family are stronger than we should desire them to be; and if they fall under the influence of their passions, it is not, I think, from the strength of their passions, but from the weakness of their principles. Every natural man can restrain his passions when he has a sufficient motive for doing so; but this is only one natural passion, acting through natural reason, control another. Much more is it in the power of those who have come under the government of religious principles, to control and regulate the natural affections and propensities. It is no doubt the duty of the young to exercise watchfulness over themselves, and to guard against giving way to any feeling which they know they should not indulge, or gratify any appetite or passion in opposition to their convictions of religious and moral obligation. In exhorting them to beware of yielding
to the seductive power of the world and of the senses, we caution them to exercise a vigilance which every one who inherits the common evils of our nature requires to use. To guard against temptation, as it comes to us in the alluring and deceitful forms which the world and the flesh supply, is a great duty which all owe to themselves, to their neighbour, and to the Lord. These alluring and deceitful forms are “the strange children whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” From these the young should pray to be delivered and preserved. And as every sincere prayer must be accompanied by corresponding action, it is their duty and their interest to shun them, lest they be deceived by them into compliance with their vanity and falsehood.
I have not thought it necessary to enter into the subject of inward temptation ; but it is not to be understood that these are altogether unknown to the young Christian. Every outward inducement to sin must be attended with something of inward trial, if there is an inward inclination to commit it, and some inward principle to produce an opposing conviction and affection. In the spiritual sense, the strange children are the vain and false thoughts and desires of our own hearts, as our sons and daughters are the genuine affections and thoughts of our renewed nature, so far as it has been renewed. And it is the duty of the young to pray to be delivered from these, since it is only when these are cast out that the good and true can become established within them. It is only as we are rid and delivered from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood, that our sons can be as plants grown up in their youth, and that our daughters can be as corner stones polished after the similitude of a palace.
4. If the young appear to labour under any disadvantages arising from the strength of their passions and from inexperience, there are, no doubt, other favourable circumstances which entirely counterbalance them. If the passions of the young are strong, their affections are generally warm and their sentiments noble and generous. There is also an ingenuousness which we commonly find in youth, which is not so often discernible in those of more advanced age. I speak, of course, of all these as natural attributes ; and only wish to show that the young
do not labour under any greater disadvantages than their elders, as beings capable of becoming religious in the true sense, by regulating their minds and lives by its pure principles and holy precepts. If any forsake the paths of religion, it is not because they have not the power, but because they want the will, to walk in them. They are more liable than [Enl. Series.—No. 107, vol. ix.]
the more anvanced in life to be betrayed into acts of indiscretion, for the warm affectious and generous sentiments of our nature may lead to excess, as the propensities lead to criminal indulgence; but these become tests of state and trials of principle. The young should no doubt guard against excess, and much more against sin; but they should make even acts of indiscretion opportunities of self-examination and means of improvement.
Although the young labour under the disadvantage of inexperience, they may have this to a considerable extent supplied by the experience of others. It is a general, if not a universal, opinion among those who have reached or passed the period of middle life, that if their life could be lived over again, they would be able to avoid many evils and errors iuto which they had fallen, and do much good which they had failed to accomplish. If this conviction ever induces any to wish that they might become young again, they have not acquired much wisdom by their experience; but if it is intended only as a reflection, which may be used for the benefit of life for the future, it is not to be considered improper or unprofitable. No one can look back upon the time that is passed without seeing much done which would have been better undone, and much left undone that might have been easily accomplished. But time past cannot be recalled. This wisdom which has been acquired by experience may be useful to others beside ourselves. The experience of the elder, may be useful to the younger, members of the human family. We cannot live our life over again ourselves ; but we can live it over again in others who are passing through those very years and states which we have passed through. And although the youthful cannot have in themselves the experimental wisdom which belongs to a period and to a state of life which they have not yet attained, they can, to some extent, anticipate those future years and states, and listen to those who have acquired wisdom by experience, who are able to direct them, and who have every wish to direct them right. There are many things, indeed, which nothing but experience can teach ; but it is dutiful, as well as reasonable, in the younger to be warned and advised by their elders, and especially by parents, who so ardently desire their welfare. By the mutual and reciprocal influence of the old and the young upon each other the states of both are tempered and improved ; and in nothing, perhaps, are the young and inexperienced able to derive benefit from the influence and counsel of their seniors, more than in being guarded, and thus armed, against temptation.
There is one important advantage which the young possess over those of riper years, that their minds are more flexible and impressible; they