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prejudices subdued; good habits rooted ; evil ones eradicated; dispositions strengthened ; principles confirmed; till, going on from strength to strength, they come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of " Christ."
But though serious instruction will not only be unin. teresting but irksome if conveyed to youth in a mere didactic way, yet if their affections are suitably engaged, their hearts, so far from necessarily revolting, as some ipsist they will, often receive the most solemn truths with alacrity. It is the manner which revolts them, and not the thing.
As it is notorious that men of wit and imagination have been the most formidable enemies to Christianity; while men, in whom those talents have been consecrated to God, have been some of her most useful champions, take particular care to press that ardent and ever-active power, the imagination, into the service of religion; this bright and busy faculty will be leading its possessor into perpetual peril, and is an enemy of peculiar potency till it come to be employed in the cause of God. It is a lion, which though worldly prudence indeed may chain so as to prevent outward mischief, yet the malignity remains within; but when sanctified by Christianity, the imagination is a lion tamed; you have all the benefit of its strength and its activity, divested of its mischief. God never bestowed that noble but restless faculty, with. out intending it to be an instrument of his own glory i though it has been too often set up in rebellion against him; because, in its youthful stirrings, while all alive to evil, it has not been seized upon to fight for its rightful Sovereign, but was early inlisted with little opposition under the banners of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Religion is the only subject in which, under the guidance of an holy and sober-minded prudence, this discursive faculty can safely stretch its powers and expand its ener. gies. But let it be remembered, that it must be a sound and genuine Christianity which can alone so chastise and regulate the imagination, as to restrain it from those er. rors and excesses into which a false, a mistaken, an
irregular religion, has too often plunged its injudicious and ill-instructed professor. To secure the imagination therefore on the safe side, and, if I may change the metaphor, to put it under the direction of its true pilot in the stormy voyage of life, is like engaging those potent elements, the wind and tide, in your favour.
In your communications with young people, take care to convince them that as religion is pot a business to be laid aside with the lesson, so neither is it a single branch of duty; some detached thing, which like an art or a language is to be practised separately, and to have its distinct periods and modes of operation. But let them understand, that common acts, by the spirit in which they are to be performed, are to be made acts of religion : that Christianity may be considered as having something of that influence over the conduct which external grace has over the manners; for'as it is not the performance of some particular act which denominates any one to be graceful, g ace being a spirit diffused throngh the whole system which animates every senti. ment, and informs every action; as she who has true personal grace has it uniformly, and is not sometimes awkward and sometimes elegant; does not sometimes lay it down and sometimes take it up; so religion is not an occasional act, but an indwelling principle, an in. wrought habit, a pervading and informing spirit, from which indeed every act derives all its life, and energy, and beauty.
Give them clear views of the broad discrimination be. tween practical religion and worldly morality. Show them that no good qualities are genuine but such as flow froin the religion of Christ. Let them learn that the virtues which the better sort of people, who yet are des. titute of true Christianity, inculcate and practise, resem. ble those virtues which have the love of God for their motive, just as counterfeit coin resembles sterling gold; they may have, it is true, certain points of resemblance with the others; they may be bright and shining ; they have perhaps the image and the superscription, but they ever want the true distinguishing properties; they want
sterling value, purity, and weight. They may indeed pass current in the traffic of this world, but when brought to the touchstone, they will be found full of al. loy ; when weished in the balance of the sanctuary,
they will be found wanting;" they will not stand that final trial which is to separate “the precious from the 66 vile;" they will not “abide the day of his coming "who is like a refiner's fire."
One error into which eren some good people are apt to fall, is that of endeavouring to deceive young minds by temporising expedients. In order to allure them to become religious, they exhibit false, or faint, or inade. quate views of Christianity; and while they represent it as it really is, as a life of superior happiness and advan. tage, they conceal its difficulties, and like the Jesuitical Chinese missionaries, extenuate, or sink, or deny, such parts of it as are least alluring to human pride. But besides that, the project fails with them as it did with the Jesuits; all fraud is bad ;. and a pious fraud is a contradiction in terms which ought to be buried in the rubbish of papal desolation.
Instead of representing to the young Christian that it may be possible by a prudent ingenuity at once to pur. sue, with equal ardour and success, worldly fame and eternal glory, would it not be more honest to tell him fairly and unambiguously that there are two distinct roads between which there is a broad boundary line? that there are two irreconcileable interests; that he must for. sake the one if he would cleave to the other? that there are two sorts of characters at eternal variance ? that nothing short of absolute decision can make a confirmed Christian ? Point out the different sort of promises an. nexed to these different sorts of characters. Confess in the language of Christ how the man of the world often obtains (and it is the natural course of human things) the recompense he sedulously seeks.
Verily I say unto you they have their reward." Explain the beatitudes on the other hand, and unfold what kind of specific reward is there individually promised to its concomitant virtue. Show your pupil that to that “poverty " of spirit” to which the kingdom of heaven is prom. ised, it would be inconsistent to expect that the recom. pense of human commendation should be also attached ; that to that “purity of heart” to which the beatific vis. ion is annexed, it would be unreasonable to suppose you can unite the praise of licentious wits, or the admiration of a catch club. These will be bestowed on their appro. priate and corresponding merits. Do not enlist them under false colours. Different sorts of rewards are at. tached to different sorts of services; and while you truly assert that religion's ways are ways of pleasant. (ness, and all her paths are peace,” take care that you do not lead them to depend too exclusively on worldly happiness and earthly peace, for these make no part of the covenant; they may be superadded, but they were never stipulated in the contract.
But if, in order o attract the young to a religious course, you disingenuously conceal its difficulties, while you are enlarging upon its pleasures, you will tempt them to distrust the truth of Scripture itself. For what will they think, not only of a few detached texts, but of the general cast and colour of the Gospel when contrast. ed with your representation of it? What notion will they conceive of the strait gait” and “ narrow way y?" of the amputation of a "right hand ?” of the excision of a "right eye?” of the other strong metaphors by which the Christian warfare is shadowed out ? of “crucify.
ing the flesh ?” of “mortifying the old man ?" of “dying unto sin ?” of overcoming the world ?" Do you not think their meek and compassionate Saviour who died for your children loved them as well as you love them ? And if this were his language, ought it not to be yours? It is the language of true love ; of that love with which a merciful God loved the world, when he spared not is own Son. Do not then try to conceal from them, that the life of a Christian is necessarily opposite to the life of the world ; and do not seek, by a vain attempt at accommodation, to reconcile that difference which Christ himself has pronounced to be irreconcileable.
May it not be partly owing to the want of a due in. troduction to the knowledge of the real nature and spirit of religion, that so many young Christians, who set out in a fair and flourishing way, decline and wither when they come to perceive the requisitions of experimental Christianity requisitions which they had not suspected of making any part of the plan.
People are no more to be cheated into religion than into learning. The same spirit which influences your oath in a court of justice should influence your discourse in that court of equity-your family. Your children should be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is unnecessary to add, that it must be done gradually and discreetly. We know whose exam. ple we have for postponing that which the mind is not yet prepared to receive : “ I have many things yet to
say to you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Accus. tom them to reason by analogy. Explain to them that great worldly attainments are never made without great sacrifices ; that the merchant cannot become rich with. out industry ; the statesman eminent without labour
; the scholar learned without study; the hero renowned without danger : would it not then, on human princi. ples, be unreasonable to think that the christian alone should obtain a triumph without a warfare ? the highest prize with the lowest exertions? an eternal crown with. out a present cross ? and that heaven is the only reward which the idle may reckon upon ? No : though salva. tion“ be the gift of God,” yet it must be worked out.” Convince your young friends, however, that in this case the difficulty bears no proportion to the prize ; though in one respect the point of resemblance fails, and that most advantageously for the Christian ; for while, even by the most probable means, which are the union of tal. ents with diligence, no human prosperity can be insured to the worldly candidate ; while the most successful ad.. venturer may fail by the fault of another ; while the best concerted project of the stateman may be crushed; the bravest hero lose the battle; the brightest genius fail of getting bread; and while, moreover, the pleasure