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different frames of mind as to spiritual things. You have peculiar constitutions; and, therefore, various tastes, aversions, and attachments. In some of you, mirth and levity may be prevailing qualities; in others, sedateness and gravity. In some there may be an exquisite tenderness of feeling ; in others, a vivid imagination. In some, the love of society and amusement may be the ruling passion : while others may be fond of retirement, reading, and sentimental musing. As to religion, you know more or less about it: you may have kindly dispositions towards it, or strong aversion to it, or a total indifference about it. But I will suppose, that all of you allow, on calm reflection, that religion is—the great subject; one which cannot be regarded too early or too carefully. Conscience sometimes works even in perverse bosoms.
But in general, youth is the season in which the lighter and more volatile elements of our constitution obtain the ascendency: it is the season of fancy and of animated feeling. Those of the young who are naturally calm, sedate, retiring, and reflecting, do not, I imagine, form the majority. The nature of human life is not understood in early days: the solemnity that belongs to human existence is not felt : the natural materials of character act with freedom. In some we see pride and vanity : in some, an admiration of fashion and elegance : in some, the fire of ambition. If books are valued, they are chiefly those which are more calculated to foster the perverseness of youth, than to correct it. The youthful heart is captivated with what is brilliant in imagination and striking in incident; with what is elegant and exciting.
But a different view may be given of the young. There may be in them a large quantity of those natural and moral elements with which we are delighted. A young person, it may be readily supposed, is dutiful and affectionate in the endearing relations of human life. There is in the virtuous and amiable young a gentleness, a kindness of feeling, a modesty and diffidence, an openness and frank good-nature, a generous benevolence and ardour, and an unfeigned sympathy with those in distress, which are most highly pleasing. With what indignation do they hear of oppression, cruelty, and injustice ? With what satisfaction and delight do they relieve the indigent and sorrowful ? The amiable young person has a smile for all that is pleasing, and a tear for all that is painful. His heart is not cold or selfish. Even the elevation of birth and the brilliance of accomplishment are forgotten in the cottages of the poor, or by the couch of sickness and of age.
What a mingled picture, then, is before us, as we consider what may be called the spontaneous virtues and faults of the young! In what a deeply interesting point of view do they appear! What a singular combination and action of moral and mental elements do we behold! These indeed are pleasant plants, full of life and vigour. These are branches which we love to see :- but at the same time, they are those which we wish to prune, and whose growth we are anxious to guide. But it is impossible to say what they will be at a future period. If they regard those things which they ought to regard, they will be excellent and happy : but if they neglect them, they will become the victims of worldliness, vanity, and vexation.
Who does not readily admire in the young whatever is virtuous and amiable! Still they are—defective characters. One thing is needful: and in their case, that one thing is yet wanting. Bear with me, my young readers, while I advance a plain statement in a few words.--You are immortal creatures ; but you do not seriously think of immortality. You are the intelligent creatures of the Holy God; but you do not rightly consider this. You are Christians; but you do not properly examine the nature of that high character. You are pilgrims here; but you do not look upward and onward to another world and to everlasting ages. Life is a brief and uncertain span ; but you do not practically regard the frail tenure of all below. It is your duty, and your real happiness, to remember your Creator in the days of your youth ; but your own consciences accuse you of forgetting Him. You are amiable, virtuous, kind, dutiful, affectionate ; the delight of your parents, relatives, and friends. Is there nothing lacking? Are you truly good? Are you the children of God the servants and followers of Christ? We see and admit, we love and admire, your excellences :—but we see, and we would lead you to consider, your defects.
I cannot join the world either in a dark or in a brilliant rhapsody: I love discrimination and truth: and I wish you also to love them. I willingly acknowledge your pleasing qualities : but then I say—there is yet one subject which you do not study ; an excellence which you do not possess ; a happiness which you do not enjoy. There remains one thing which is essential to the perfection of your character, which has hitherto not obtained proper attention ; and without this essential thing, all the beauty and loveliness in which you rejoice, is as frail as the flower of the field ; as transient as the passing meteor. What is this one thing? A heart-felt reception of, and submission to, the Gospel of our God and Saviour.
Three things, omitting others, may be here mentioned as, in some degree, accounting for your inattention to the greatest of all subjects. I mean, wrong notions of human life; wrong notions of religion; and procrastination. As I shall give a separate chapter to the two former of these subjects, a few general remarks in this place on the last of them will be sufficient,
With respect to human life, I suppose that you If your
are concluding what may be called, the school-part of it. Certain restraints are taken off. You have threaded the tangled mazes of education, and are arrived at the borders of an extensive and diversified scene. The world is all before
you. circumstances afford you leisure, you can walk abroad, gather flowers, and plan to-day what you are to see, and do, and enjoy to-morrow. As your busy imagination passes on to the next year, and to following years, you readily promise yourselves unnumbered pleasures. You build castles more splendid than those of eastern romance ; and you picture to yourselves sweet prospects that are perpetually clothed with verdure. Life, in these delirious moments, is to be bright with sunshine ; as fair as the spring, and as calm as the gale of even. New connexions are to be formed ; and every step that you ascend on the ladder of your existence, is not only to widen the prospect, but also to increase
As to religion, which may sometimes present itself to your minds, you scarcely know what to think about it. Your Reason and Conscience compel you to approve it; but your views of it are indistinct, and your feelings respecting it are very confused. Perhaps your preponderating conviction is—"Religion is a very good thing ; but it will be time enough to give it serious attention at a future period. While the spring of life lasts, we will pluck the flowers of spring." The hope, or the