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authority. By degrees, he begins to hope there is no harm in doing as others do, and following à multitude in what are called fashionable amusements. He flatters himself that God will not be extreme to mark what is done amiss, that the merits of Christ are extensive, that the plea of human infirmity is strong, that there will be time enough to repent, when the fire of youth has spent its rage, and, at the worst, that he is not worse than his neighbours, and therefore can but share the same fate. Thus by imperceptible gradations his sins grow familiar and increasing, and he commits them daily with less scruple and remorse of conscience.
However, the remains of religion are still for some time a restraint upon him. For a man who has been brought up in the fear of God, and has had a christian and virtuous education, cannot in a moment root out the good impressions he has received. His conscience will from time to time fly in his face, and remind him of those days of peace, when God was his friend, and innocence his companion. Perhaps, too, a heart-felt prayer or well-meant sermon, a lingering sickness, or the unlooked-for death of a companion in iniquity, may chance to stagger him for a few moments, and stop him in the career of vice.
. But this is a state of violence, and therefore cannot last long. If it does not produce an immediate reformation, it will drive him on faster to ruin. If he has not the resolution to return to virtue, he will wish to lose the sight of it, which only serves to check and disturb him in his pleasures. Like the young man, therefore, in the parable, unable to bear the restraints of wisdom, he will take his journey into a far country: he will forsake God's house and his ordinances, he will avoid the company of gooel men, - he will turn a deaf ear to all advice, he will fortify himself with the foolish notions of his licentious companions, he will laugh at every thing sober, decent, and religious, till his actions become correspondent to his principles, and he lives as if there was no God to see and judge his folly, no heaven to lose, no hell to fear.
If there be any unfortunate habitual sinner who hears me this day, I appeal, as in the presence of God and his holy angels, to his own conscience, whether this be not an exact description of his own case? Whether his first intention was not, only to take innocent fieedoms, and comply with the customs of the world? Whether, if any one had charged him with an intention of committing those greater Crimes which are now written deep in his conscience, he would not have answered in the lan- , guage, though not in the sense, of Hazael, “Is " thy servant a dog, that he should do this “ great sin?”. Whether he has not, in the solemn silence of midnight, felt the stinging reproaches of awakened guilt; till, unable to bear the sore burden of his sins, he ha's fled for refuge to sottishness and stupefaction, to midnight riot and joyless mirth? Whether he has not endeavoured to stifle these uneasy feelings by departing into a far country, by shunning every thing serious and virtuous, that miglit remind him of his folly, or check him in his guilt? Whether he dreads not the house of his heavenly Father: whether the prayer of contrite devotion, the lessons of immortal wisdom, the arrows of ministerial reproof, the bread of life which we receive in remembrance of a flying Saviour; whether all these are not so many daggers to his soul, which he flies froin, because his pain is greater than he can bear?-Such then was the folly of the young man in leaving his father's house; and such is the folly of every one who follows so dangerous and fatal an example! .
: You have seen, then, my younger brethren, the miserable consequences, which followed this young man's impatient haste to quit the guid$ 3
ance and protection of a wise and experienced father. And be assured, that the same consequences will ever follow the rashness and indisa cretion of youth, when left to its own guidance. The love of liberty is indeed natural to all, and most of all so to the fervid impetuosity of a youthful mind. It is too a glorious and commendable passion, when it is the child of order; and tempered with wisdom. But reineinber withal, that there is no wisdom in breaking down the fences of parental authority, and rushing, unprepared and unprotected, into a dangerous world. The God that has made you, has appointed your parents the natural guardians of your early years, and the proper judges of your conduct in life. Submit therefore always with cheerfulness to their wise and salutary directions. Be persuaded firmly, that experience has taught them that wisdom which you want, and that natural affection will lead them to apply it to your advantage. And even •should they in some things,—for who is always
wise? --so far forget themselves as unwisely to mistake your interest, or rashly misjudge your conduct; yet still there is a reverence due to them, which a good child will never forget. Ile will rather wish to overlook the conduct he cannot approve, and, like the pious sons of Noah, with averted eyes, to cover the failures of parental infirmity with the veil of filial respect.
Put, But, at the same time, remember, that it is much more likely that you should form a wrong judgment of their conduct, than that they should either mistake or misguide yours. It will there-.. fore become you, on the one hand, not to entertain harsh suspicions against them on slender grounds, nor, on the other, to rely on the superiority of your own discernment without the strongest grounds.
· And as it is your duty, as it is your interest, not to throw off the guidance of your earthly parents, so it is of still more importance not to reject the government of your heavenly Father. - There cannot be a greater curse than to be left to yourselves. You have seen this in the case of the young man in the text, and you will soon feel it in yourselves, if you are rash enough to make the experiment. Your temptations are strong, and your nature is weak: the heart is corrupt, passion is blind. They are therefore unfit guides; they will lead you far out of the road of happiness. The God who made you is alone able to guide you. Beware therefore of offending or deserting him. Rather submit yourselves wholly to his will and pleasure, and pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit in all things to direct and rule your hearts.