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ture life? What muft man be to man, when every moral principle, that would check his passions and regulate his desires, is exploded and laughed to scorn? Shall writings, which would turn mankind loose, like beasts of prey, to devour one another, have free circulation? Shall they be read with pleasure and avidity? In this case the education of children and youth can avail nothing. The instructions of parents, and others who are appointed to guide their early steps, must be lost. Any impressions of virtue will wear off. The direction to train up a child in the way he should go was unneceffary. The instruction of such books will efface them all. The amount of it is, to forfake the guide of your youthful and tender years, and forget the covenant which bound you to God-to treat the good doctrine of your father and law of your mother, the fear of the Lord in which you were brought up, as the suggestion of weakness and folly, meriting your contempt, not your regard. Will you listen to fuch instruction, and number fuch books among your favourite authors ? Ufeful information and knowledge is the proper end of reading. And the proper end of writing books is to impart needful instruction. But the books which contain such instruction are few compared with those which inftruct in errour. Books of this kind are multiplied only in proportion to the de. mand for them. This clearly indicates the extent of a vicious taste, and proclaims the shame of these times.
Beware left any author spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit-Beware of books on infidelity, written with great labour and subtilty. In them errour is taught by the rules of art. There are but few comparatively whose talents and situation enable them to read deep speculations on infidelity—to detect their fophiftry, and examine all sides. It requires much study, extensive reading, and consequently free access to the various defences of religion, to form a clear and found judgment of the most studied publications against it. Religion does not shun, it invites, examination: It appeals to our understanding : It com. mands us to “be ready always to give a reason of our “ hope"—to “prove all things, and hold fast that “ which is good-Let every man be fully persuaded 55 in his own mind."
The principal vouchers for revelation are prophecy and miracles. This branch of the evidence is an appeal to fact, of which men in common life, and of common understanding, are as good judges as the learned. If the Author of our religion, by speaking the word, gave fight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, restored withered limbs, healed all manner of disease, raised the dead, and made winds and seas obey him, then he was a teacher sent of God. All who have eyes and ears can judge of such facts. If Jesus died and rose again, they could easily determine the fact of his resurrection. This also was an infallible proof of his divine miffion. The extraordinary events which preceded, accompanied and followed the destruction of the Jewish temple and capital city, the perpetuity of that desolation, the dispersion and preservation of that people, are facts of which all men are alike competent judges. The foresight that could distinctly predict them must be divine. Here then is another decided proof of revelation, which all men may fee. The wild Arabs, the posterity of Ishmael, have existed, for thou. sands of years, a signal instance of the truth of prophecy; and this is also a case of which all men may judge. I do not insist on the moral instructions of the bible, the decalogue, for instance, and the sermon on the mount: For these belong to the internal evidence of revelation--their fuperiority to any fystem of morali, ty ever taught by the most learned philosophers, is a proof of the divinity of the scriptures, which he who runs may read. Such proofs are abụndantly sufficient to convince all men of the divinity of our religion.
There are other proofs, of which the learned are the proper judges; and to them it belongs to meet
the sceptic and infidel philosopher on such points. But the arguments of infidels, however studied and fpecious, can have no weight against the external evidences of religion, which are open to all mankind. With this evidence before you, be assured, that the fophiftry of the sceptic and fatalist, though it may bewilder, need not shake your faith. For faith standeth not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. The testimony of God should not be confronted by the speculations
Facts should never give place to conjecture, nor practical principles to theory. "If you should read books, written with much ability and art, against religion, justice requires that you also read the ableft defences of it. If you have any with that religion may be true, you may be sure to find it fo, upon the strictest scrutiny. The more you examine, with such a temper, the more you will be satisfied that it contains the words of eternal life. The more reason will you find to join with an apoftle in his determination to know nothing compared with Jesus CHRIST, and bim crucified. For the excellency of this knowledge all other will be accounted lofs. Pray that “the God " and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would enlight“ en the eyes of your understanding ; that you may “ know what is the hope of his calling, and what the “ riches of the glory of his inheritance in the faints.”
Upon considering what has been said, to guard you against bad books, you are, perhaps, convinced, that all your wisdom and care, and wisdom from above, are necessary to preserve you from the trifles of one class, the indelicacy of another, the fashionable depravity of a third, the ridicule of a fourth, and the sophiftry of a fifth. Sacrifice to none of these your judgment, principles and morals, your peace, your honour, and your souls. Be assured, that to follow where they lead, is to wander in pursuit of reft thro' dry places. But few of the class of books we have referred to can be read with safety and fewer with
improvement. A wise man will hear the instruction that will increase his stock of valuable knowledge, and that will be wisdom in the latter end; not the instruction that causeth to err from such knowledge-instruction at the expence of character, usefulness, kindred, friends, the true enjoyment of this life, and which must end in infamy and perdition in the next.
No good end can be proposed from the use of fuch books, which would not be more easily and fully at. tained by books of another description. They can answer no purpose long; because life is short. They may have the worft issue in time and through eternity, unless you soon cease from following their instruction. If ceased from at all, must it not be in youth? Erring from the words of knowledge at this period, the errour may grow with your growth, and strengthen with your strength.
The desire of our progenitors to forbidden knowledge has descended to their pofterity. Knowing the fatal effects of such desire in them, check it in yourfelves. Bad books are read at a similar peril as they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The inftruction of such books is forbidden fruit. You desire such wisdom at your peril. If they have been put into your hands, and at all drawn your attention, the sooner you lay them afide, the better. If you have not been conversant with them, why should you wish to be? The reasons are obvious and weighty for refraining from them: They ensnare and poison the foul: They lead in the way to hell. We recommend, in your choice of books, a determined selection of the folid and chaste, those distinguished for elegant fenti. ment, seriousness, and for clear and sound reasoning. Would you prefer to these, the trifling, the immodeft, the merely fashionable, the ludicrous, and the fophistical? What is the chaff to the wheat? Let a few books, stored with good sentiments, well arranged, adapted to your genius, talents and fituation, and written in a pure style, suffice you.
In a moral and religious discourse, designed as a caveat against dangerous books, it would be an essential omiffion, did I not particularly exhort you to a careful study of the book of books. Search the scriptures.
They are able to make you wise to falvation.
They are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for “ correction and instruction in righteousness;” they
thoroughly furnish you to every good work. ” They contain instruction adapted to persons of every age, rank and condition-instruction in the whole duty and happiness of man. It will be your highest honour and advantage to be well acquainted with them in the morning of life—to make them your delightful ftudy by day, and meditation by night. There you will find a treasure of wisdom and knowledge more precious than gold. They will be your beft guard against the snares and allurements of the world, and best support under the various afflictions of life. They will elevate your views and affection from terrestrial and transitory objects to things above, eternal in heaven--things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man. The scriptures, emanating from the Father of lights, guide into ail truth, and lead in the way everlasting. There is no light in those who will not be guided by the oracles of infallible wisdom. “ The wisdom from above “ is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be “ intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without “partiality, and without hypocrisy.” However well instructed in human science, or in the theory of religion, man knoweth nothing as he ought to know, until he is taught of God by the fanctifying influence of the Spirit. I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. May this precious word be fulfilled in the youth of this society. Cease, my young brethren, to hear the counsel that causeth to ert from the words of knowledge. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. AMEN.