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lar concurrence and aid.
They are therefore under the strongest obligations to give their children a virtuous and pious education. They ought, in season, to teach them the knowledge of God, the nature of religion, the beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice. They ought to enforce all their instructions by their own amiable and virtuous examples. They ought to keep a vigilant eye upon the conduct and disposition of their children, and carefully restrain them from those particular evils, to which they perceive they are particularly exposed. They ought to shut their doors against the entrance of vice; and never suffer their children to push into the world, before they are possessed of either age or experience to govern their conduct. These are methods, by which parents may preserve the peace and purity of their own families, and at the same time universally promote the reformation of manners.
It is the proper business of executive officers, to employ their power and authority in suppressing those public vices, which corrupt the morals and disturb the peace of society. We have strict and severe laws against profane swearing, sabbath-breaking, gaming, tavern-haunting, drunkenness, lewdness, and debauchery. But have these laws against these public and pernicious vices been duly executed ? We have scarcely known a single person, in the course of twenty years, who has been prosecuted either for swearing, sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, or gaming. Has this been owing to the scarcity of offenders, or to the want of evidence? If not, can it be imputed to any thing else, than the neglect of informing and executive officers? Better had it been, to have had no such laws enacted; better would it be, to have them now repealed, than to have such silent laws and silent magistrates. Can those who wear the sword of justice, wear it in vain, and yet be blameless? Or can they answer for their negligence before the Supreme Ruler, whose ministers they are, and before whom they have lifted up their hand to be faithful? It is devoutly to be wished, that all from the highest to the lowest in the executive department, would personally obey and faithfully execute the laws of the land.
The supreme judges in the several States may throw the weight of their great and respectable characters into the scale of virtue. Their sacred regard to the Sabbath ; their constant attendance on public worship and family devotion; their open profession of the great principles of natural and revealed religion; their shining examples of virtue and piety in all their public and private conduct; will give great encouragement to the practice of virtue, and pour the highest contempt upon the practice of vice.
The subordinate judges, justices, and informing officers, being much more numerous and much more conversant with the people at large, have a far greater opportunity for employing their exemplary characters and peculiar powers in promoting a reformation of manners, through all the counties, towns, and parishes in each of our commonwealths. We
e must, in tenderness and compassion to those who are pursuing the paths of vice, beseech them to consider not only the present but future consequences of their pernicious course. The contagion of their vices may reach to future ages, and destroy, after they are dead and sunk in oblivion, the souls of millions. “One sinner destroyeth much good.” One sinner destroyed the ten tribes of Israel. It is repeated again and again, “ Jeroboam the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin Jeroboam the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin- Jeroboam the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin."
What a load of guilt did that vile and corrupt seducer contract! What curses did he heap upon his own head, by drawing away the souls of thousands, age after age, from the service, from the house, and from the favor of God! With what a stigma of reproach hath God linked his name and character together, and conveyed them down to the latest generations, as a warning to all who shall dare to corrupt and destroy the souls of others! Let such at this day be entreated to regard this kind and salutary warning, and immediately repent and reform. It is possible they may now, in some measure, undo what they have already done, by endeavoring to reclaim and save those from ruin whom their vicious examples have wellnigh destroyed.
But though every other description of characters should either neglect or obstruct the reformation of manners, yet we trust all the friends of God will cheerfully join in promoting this virtuous and benevolent design. They will not cease to sigh and cry for the abominations committed in the land, nor neglect to pour out their hearts before God, for the effusions of his Spirit, and the revival of religion. The Noahs, Jobs and Daniels, have great encouragement to wrestle with God in prayer, that he would graciously take the work of reformation into his own hand, and change the lives of men, by changing their hearts. This would be a reformation indeed. This would destroy the roots and branches of vice together.
Thus every person in every station of life has some weight and influence to be employed in the cause of virtue. And who can hesitate in these evil days, which side to take, or what part to act?
Every man will find his account in the reformation of morals. For “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin
is a reproach to any people. There are various motives, which urge us immediately to exert our best endeavors to restrain our prevailing vices, and to revive those languishing virtues, which were once our distinguishing glory and happiness.
If we now begin to check our growing vices and corruptions, we may hope to succeed. The piety and virtue of some, and the distresses of others, bear a favorable aspect upon the reformation of morals. Delays will afford us no help nor encouragement, but only weaken our resolutions, and increase our difficulties. If we can ever restrain our public immoralities, we can restrain them now. Now therefore is the time to begin. The work of reformation devolves upon us; and we cannot refer it to another generation, without neglecting our own duty, and suffering the cause of virtue to languish in our own hands.
Besides, if we are remiss in checking those vices and corruptions which spring up and prevail while we are upon the stage, we shall actually partake in the guilt of those whom we neglect to reform; and must expect to share in the dreadful calamities, which may justly fall upon a corrupt and incorrigible people.
But if we faithfully endeavor to suppress the prevalence of vice, as far as our power and influence extend, we shall merit that noble and distinguishing character which belongs to reformers. And who would not wish to be placed on the list which enrolls the names and embalms the memory of Asa, Josiah, Jehoiada, and many other great and amiable men, who improved the virtues, and restrained the vices of the several ages in which they lived? God, who carries the characters of all in his hand, hath expressly said, “ Them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
But if all our efforts in the cause of virtue should fail of success, and only expose our characters to the reproach of those whom we labor to reclaim, yet the approbation of conscience in the hour of death will afford us an ample and sufficient reward. When all our civil and social relations on earth shall finally cease, then to be able to reflect, that we have done all in our power to leave those behind us more virtuous and happy, will be the strongest support and the highest satisfaction that our natures can know.
PREACHED SEPTEMBER 3, 1792.
But to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. -2 Takss. iii. 9.
ENSAMPLE is only another word for example. Each of these terms properly denotes a copy or pattern, which is designed to convey either natural or moral instruction. And this mode of teaching is, of all others, the most easy and 'forcible. Precept constrains; example allures. Precept compels; example persuades. Precept is a dead, example is a living law. Such a law the apostles made themselves to the Thessalonians. The case was this. Some among them had neglected their daily business, misimproved their precious time, and become a burden and temptation to others. While the apostle, therefore, reproves such idle and disorderly persons, he reminds them, that he, and other preachers of the gospel, had labored night and day, merely to set them an example of diligence and activity in business. “ Not because we have not power," that is, a right to lay aside secular concerns, “but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us." These words, on this occasion, naturally lead us to consider the peculiar force of example. And in order to discover its great and extensive influence, it will be proper to view it in a variety of respects.
1. Let us consider it in respect to some other things, which are known to have great influence upon human conduct. Advice is persuasive, but example is more persuasive. Let a man advise his friend to act contrary to his own example, and what will be the effect? His friend will follow his example and reject his advice. The force of authority is great, but the force
of example is greater. A parent's habitual conduct has more influence upon his children, than his most positive precepts. The law of the land is not equal to the law of exarnple. Every written law must yield to common law; and common law is nothing but long and immemorial example. A man may safely travel any road, use any property, speak any word, or do any action, which common and uninterrupted custom allows. For all written laws are obliged to bend to the supreme law of example.
2. We may consider the force of example upon the human mind, in the various stages of life. These are usually divided into childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.
In childhood, example is always the governing motive of action. Every one comes into the world a total stranger to men and things. In this situation, the child takes example for his first and surest guide. By example he learns what is harmless and what is hurtful; what is decent and what is indecent ; what is pleasing and what is displeasing; what secures approbation and what creates disgust. He observes every person's conduct, and endeavors to act as he sees others act; especially those with whom he lives and on whom he depends. A sense of dependence and a desire to please, are habitual dispositions in children, which continually impel them to follow the example of others. They soon perceive their want of assistance from those who possess superior strength and superior wisdom ; and to secure this assistance is their first and supreme object. But to attain this desirable object, they find by experience that they must speak as others speak, dress as others dress, walk as others walk, sit as others sit, and, in all their behavior, conform to the example of others. In this way, they make swift advances in the knowledge of the world. They learn something every day and every moment. They let no person pass by them without observation nor without instruction. Hence to learn, and to learn by example, becomes a habit; and this habit, formed in this early and tender age, becomes a second nature, which time only serves to strengthen and increase.
In youth, which is the next period of life, they still retain their natural sense of inferiority and dependence, and are eager to secure the favor and patronage of those who have reached the years of manhood. To act like men, is the height of their ambition. They mean, therefore, to follow their example and tread in their steps, as nearly as possible. Nor are they inattentive to those of their own age, among whom there is great inequality in other respects. Some have superior wealth, some superior learning, some superior genius, some superior reputation, and some superior art and address. These become lead