« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
the poor; formed institutions for instructing the ignorant; purified the stream of justice, erected the throne of mercy. “ These, o Jesus, are the triumphs and the trophies of thy gospel, and which of thine enemies, Paganism, Islamism, or infidelity, has done, or could do, the like ?"
Even the avowed and inveterate opponents of the Gospel, have been reluctantly compelled to acknowledge, in this view, its excellence. Voltaire says expressly, “ that religion is necessary in every community; the laws are a curb upon open crimes, and religion on those that are private. “ No religion,” says Bolingbroke,
ever appeared in the world, whose natural tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind, as the Christian. The Gospel of Christ is one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, benevolence, and universal charity. Supposing christianity to be a human invention it is the most amiable and useful invention that ever was imposed upon mankind for their good.” Hume acknowledges, that" disbelief in futurity, loosens in a great measure the ties of morality, and may be supposed, for that reason, pernicious to the peace of civil society." Rousseau confesses, so that if all were perfect christians, individuals would do their duty, the people would be obedi. ent to the laws, the chiefs just, the magistrates incorrupt, the soldiers would despise death, and there would be neither vanity nor luxury in such a state.” Gibbon admits, " that the gospel discouraged suicide, advanced erudition, checked oppression, promoted the manumission of slaves, and softened the ferocity of barbarous nations; that fierce nations received at the same time'
lessons of faith and humanity, and that even in the most corrupt state of Christianity, the barbarians learnt justice from the law, and mercy from the gospel.
And yet with such concessions, and after having paid such a tribute of praise to the excellence of Christianity, these miserable men have been so vile and perverse as to conspire for her destruction.
Thus has it been most demonstrably proved, that godliness exerts a powerful and favourable influence over the temporal interests of mankind. Neglect it, my children, and you know not what awaits you, either in this world or in that which is to come. Decent, and sober, and steady, although not pious, you may fancy yourselves far enough removed from the probability of that wretchedness which vice brings with it. But, ah! in some unguarded moment, temptation may be successful to lead you astray ; one vice makes way for another; and the dreadful progress described in the chapter on the deceitfulness of the heart, may be realized by you. Neglect religion, and you will certainly be ruined for the world to come, and may be for the life that now is. Vice certainly brings hell in its train, and oftentimes a dreadful earnest of its future torments, in present poverty, disease, and misery.
I reflect with unutterable grief, as I now write, upon many young men, who were entering life with the greatest advantages and the brightest prospects, whom, to use a common expression, fortune favoured with her brightest smiles; but alas! they would not be happy and respectable, for taking to the ways of sin, they dashed all the hopes of their friends, and wantonly threw'away the opportunities which a kind providence had put within their reach. They went first to the theatre, then to the brothel, then to the tavern. They became dissipated, extravagant, idle. Unhappy youth! I know what they might have been, respectable tradesmen, prosperous merchants, honourable members of society: I know what they are: bloated rakes, discarded partners, uncertificated bankrupts, miserable vagrants, a burthen to their friends, a nuisance to the community, and a torment to themselves.
* See an interesting work, by Dr. Ryan, entitled, “ The History of the Effects of Religion on Mankind, in Countries Ancient and Modern, Barbarous and Civilized.” I very particularly recommend the perusa) of this volume to all young persons who can procure it.
Seek religion then ; for, as Solomon says in a passage quoted in a former chapter, “ She is more precious than rubies : and all things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her; Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to ho. nour, when thou dost embrace her."
On the choice of companions.
Man was made for society, and society is thought to be essential to his happiness. Adam did but half enjoy the lovely and untainted scenes of Eden, while there was no rational companion, to whom he could impart the rap." tures of his soul, and Paradise was incomplete till God gave him a friend. How much more might it be expected, that now, when the human
bosom is bereft of its innocence, man should look out of himself for happiness, and endeavour to find it in society. Young people especially, are anxious to form associations of this kind, and are in imminent danger of choosing companions that will do them no good. The design of the present chapter is to put you, my children, on your guard against this evil, and to assist you in the selection of those friends with whom you take daily counsel. This subject has been already adverted to, but it is of sufficient importance to occupy a separate chapter.
1. It becomes you very seriously to reflect on the influence which your companions, of whatever kind they are, will certainly have in the formation of your character.
• We are all,” says Mr. Locke, “ kind of camelions, that take a tincture from the objects which surround us." A still wiser man has told us, that “ He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Hence he cautions us; “make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go; lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” These admonitions are founded on the general principle, that the example of our companions will exert a plastic influence in the formation of our own character, slow and silent, perhaps, but irresistible and successful: and this influence will be in proportion to the love and esteem 'we cherish for them. All nations and all ages have confessed the truth of this sentiment. The example of a beloved companion 'is omnipotent, more especially if he be a sinful one, because a bad model finds in the depravity of
our nature something that prepares it to receive the impression. One evil companion will undo in a month, all that parents and teachers have been labouring for years to accomplish. Here then pause, and consider that the character of your associates will, in all probability, be your own. If you do not carry to them a similarity of taste, you will be sure to acquire it; “ for how can two walk together exc they be agreed?"
2. Let me now set before you the dangers to be apprehended from bad company.
By bad company I mean all those who are destitute of the fear of God; not only the infidel, the profligate, the profane, but those who are living in the visible neglect of religion. Now these are not fit companions for you. They may be respectable and genteel as to their rank in life; they may be graceful and insinuating in their manners; they may be persons of fine taste, and cultivated understandings; of facetious humour, and polished wit; but these things, if connected with irreligious habits, only make them the more alarmingly and successfully dangerous. They are like the fair speech, and lovely form, and glowing colours, which the serpent assumed when he attacked" and destroyed the innocence of Eve. Look through these meretricious ornaments, pierce this dazzling exterior, and recognize the substance, the fang and the venom of the wily foe. The more external accomplishments any, one has, if he be without the fear of God, the greater is his power to do mischief; and remember, that when you have listened to his wiles, and feel the sharpness of his tooth, and the deadly ago