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and ages. The moulding and forming period of youth is spent in the thoughtlessness and frivolity, in the dreams and fancies, that characterize that period of life. Manhood is spent in ambition and strife, in toil and care, in plans and vicissitudes. Religion is forgotten in youth amidst the prevalence of gaiety: it is forgotten in manhood through zeal and absorption in secular pursuits : and what remains afterwards but the feeble period of old age, when the past is recollected with sighs, and when the future is anticipated without solid hope?
Youth is, in reference to religion, unspeakably important. Supposing that a young person were certain of living sixty or eighty years in the world, yet if he spend the first twenty of them without seriously attending to it, what, humanly speaking, is the probability of his ever attending to it? Does not fact, so far as our observation can extend, justify this general remark? “If the morning of life be passed in folly and vanity, the noon of it will be spent in pride, worldliness, and toil; and the evening, in a dull, cold, self-deceiving, and incorrigible security.”
There is much in human nature that is directly opposed to the humble and pure, the exalted and strict religion of the Bible : but in general the elements of evil are more easily resisted in the hearts of the young than in the hearts of adults. The field of the heart, to speak so, is far less preoccupied in youth, than it is in manhood and in advanced years. Most young persons, who have been brought up with any propriety, feel, it may be supposed, more or less kindly affected towards the subject of religion. It probably employs many of their thoughts, and engages at times their best feelings. There is in young people a frankness, loveliness, tenderness, susceptibility, teachableness, ingenuousness, which are favourable to serious impressions ; but which are lost, as they become familiar with the errors, arts, manners, and follies of a rude and jarring, of a selfish and seducing world. As they proceed in life, their better thoughts and feelings, if religion be not made the primary concern, soon vanish ; and they become a part of the cold, unreflecting, formal, and worldly multitude. The vanity of the mind, the corruption of the heart, the influence of common maxims, and the wiles of the great Adversary prevail; and religion is reduced to a matter of customary form and social propriety. We might have guided the growth of the young plants in the nursery : but what can be done with the full-grown trees, which were neglected in former years? If youth be lost, the training period is lost.
Books on religious subjects abound among us; and many of them are particularly addressed to the young: but I trust that I may escape censure, when I add one to their number. Of the manner in which I have performed my undertaking, others will judge: I commit it, such as it is, to the blessing of the great Head of the Church, and to the candour of my readers. I remember the days of my youth; I feel much for the young : and I would gladly do something for their benefit, if it be the divine Will, before the days of my earthly pilgrimage are concluded.
My work is limited in two respects. It does not contain a full development of religion in a systematical form: it is, at the most, only an introduction to it. Further, though I would hope that no young person can calmly read it without benefit, yet it is especially intended for those young persons who may be accounted—the lovely plants of society. My pupils, then, are the amiable and virtuous :not the weeds and brambles of the dreary wild, but the flowers of the cultivated border. They are, indeed, supposed to be without true piety : but they have much of that loveliness which wins the admiration, and satisfies the wishes, of a mistaken world. Such I have often seen; and at the view of them I have said to myself—“These pleasing and interesting beings have yet only those charms that will soon expire-only virtues which in a great degree will soon perish. Would not our Saviour say to each of them—'One thing thou lackest ?'”
In these pages I would lead such young persons to see what they themselves are ; what their cir. cumstances are in the world ; and what religion is, in its gracious character, its transforming operations, and its guiding and governing power. I do not aim to discuss any topic at length. I appeal to the Scriptures, to the heart, and to obvious fact. The subjects on which I touch are so many and comprehensive, that I am often compelled to satisfy myself with advancing a few hints and general remarks.
It is very far from my wish to be stern and rude in any thing that I adduce: but I certainly wish to be plain and faithful. Some of my statements and some of my expressions may not be agreeable to my youthful readers. But when health or life is concerned, we are not offended with the physician, although he does not write his prescription with classical purity of style-we do not reject the medicine because it is not grateful to the taste. Plain, and not very pleasant, pages may convey the most valuable truths. Medicine that is bitter, and even nauseous, may possess the most salutary virtues.
If some lively young person take up my book, and see that I teach him to look upon himself as a sinful creature ; that I urge him to renounce the world and vanity; and to choose God for his portion, Christ for his Saviour, the Holy Spirit for his Sanctifier, and the works of piety for his employment; he may be inclined, perhaps, to close it and cast it aside. " What can this mean! The flowers of the border vile weeds! What absurdity and inconsistency is this !" I would only say“Be not so hasty in forming your conclusion : read, examine, and meditate upon the whole of what I have advanced. If you can then really
prove that I have been guilty of absurdity and inconsistency, I will allow you to condemn the writer, and to despise his work."
A young person of a different character may take up the book. He has some kindly thoughts about religion ; some pleasant feelings towards it; some leaning of heart to it. He knows that he does not yet possess what is essential to his happiness, and that the world cannot make him happy. He has the liveliness and thoughtlessness of the young : but there are times in which he has better thoughts and affections than those with which the world supa ply him. I trust that, by the divine blessing, these pages may be useful to him-leading him to make the wise choice, and to plant his feet firmly in the right way.
The young are pleased with what is animated and elegant in composition ; with thoughts that are splendid, and with taste that is exquisite and refined. I cannot, however, conduct my young readers to mountains and forests, to floods and cataracts : if they accompany me, they must be satisfied with an humble valley, and with a softly flowing stream. In other words, I advance only what is solid and simple, in a style adapted to the calm tone of thought which I use. I do not aim to amuse my readers with any thing novel or striking, or to excite any turbulent emotions in their bosoms. I studiously abstain from every thing of that kind. I look upon piety as a fine summer day, when the