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Youth is the proper season for gaining knowledge, and form.
ing religious habits.
The duty which young people owe to their instructers, cannot be better shown, than in the effect which the instructions they receive have upon them. They would do well, therefore, to consider the advantages of an early atten. tion to these two things, both of great importance, knowledge and religion.
The great use of knowledge, in all its various branches, (to which the learned languages are generally considered as an introduction,) is to free the mind from the prejudices of ignorance; and to give it juster and more enlarged conceptions, than are the mere growth of rude nature. By reading, we add the experience of others to our own. It is the improvement of the mind chiefly, that makes the difference between man and man; and gives one man a real superiori-1 ty over another.
Besides, the mind must be employed. The lower orders of men have their attention much engrossed by those employments, in which the necessities of life engage them : and it is happy that they have. Labour stands in the room of education ; and fills up those vacancies of mind, which in a state of idleness, would be engrossed by vice. And if they, who have more leisure, do not substitute something in the : room of this, their minds also will become the prey of vice; and the more so, as they have the means to indulge it more in their power. A vacant mind is exactly that house mentioned in the gospel, which the devil found empty. In he ? entered; and taking with him seven other spirits more wick-> ed than himself, they took possession. It is an undoubted. truth; that one vice indulged, introduces others ; and that
each succeeding vice becomes more depraved. If then the • mind must be employed, what can fill up its vacuities more
rationally than the acquisition of knowledge ? Let us there fore thank God for the opportunities he has afforded us ; and not turn into a curse those means of leisure, which might " become so great a blessing...,,
But however necessary to us knowledge may be, religion ** we know, is infinitely more so. The one adorns a man, and gives him, it is true, superiority, and rank in life ; but the other is absolutely essential to his happiness.
lo the midst of youth, health, and abundance, the world is apt to appear a very gay and pleasing scene : it engages our desires ; and, in a degree, satisfies them also. But it is wis. dom to consider, that a time will come, when youth, health, and fortune, will all fail us : and if disappointment and veration do not sour our taste for pleasure, at least sickness and infirmities will destroy it. In these gloomy seasons, and above all, at the approach of death, what will become of us without religion? When this world fails, where shall we fiy, if we expect no refuge in another? Without holy hope in God, and resignation to his will, and trust in him for deliverance, what is there that can secure us against the evils of life? - The great utility therefore of knowledge and religion being thus apparent, it is highly incumbent upon us to pay a studious attention to them in our youth. If we do not, it is more than probable that we shall never do it: that we shall grow old in ignorance, by neglecting the one ; and old in vice, by neglecting the other.
For improvement in knowledge, youth is certainly the fittest season. The mind is then ready to receive any impression. It is free from all that care and attention which, in riper age, the affairs of life bring with them. The memory too is stronger and better able to acquire the rudiments of knowledge; and as the mind is then void of ideas, it is more suited to those parts of learning which are congersant in words. Besides, there are sometimes in youth a modesty and ductility, which, in advanced years, if those years especially have been left a prey to ignorance, become self-sufficiency and prejudice ; and these effectually bar up all the inlets to knowledge. But, above all, unless habits of attention and application are early gained, we shall scarcely acquire them afterwards. The inconsiderate youth seldom redects upon this ; por knows his loss, till he knows also that it cannot be retrieved.
Nor is youth more the season to acquire knowledge, than to form religious habits. It is a great point to get habit on the side of virtue: it will make every thing smooth and easy. The earliest principles are generally the most lasting ; and those of a religious cast are seldom wholly lost. Though the temptations of the world may, now and then, draw the well-principled youth aside ; yet his principles being continually at war with his practice, there is hope, that in the ead the better part may overcome the worse, and bring on
a reformation : whereas he, who has suffered habits of vice to get possession of his youth, has little chance of being brought back to a sense of religion. In the common course of things it can rarely happen. Some calamity must rouse him. He must be awakened by a storm, or sleep for ever. How much better is it then to make that easy to us, which we know is best ; and to form those habits now, which here. after we shall wish we had formed!
There are persons, who would restrain youth from imbibing any religious principles, till they can judge for themselves ; lest they should imbibe prejudice for truth. But why should not the same caution be used in science also : and the minds of youth left void of all impressions ? The experiment, I fear, in both cases, would be dangerous. If the mind were left uncultivated during so long a period, though nothing else should find entrance, vice certainly would : and it would make the larger shoots, as the soil would be vacant. It would be better that young persons receive knowledge and religion mixed with error, than none at all. For when the mind comes to reflect, it may deposit its prejudices by degrees, and get right at last : but in a state of stagnation it will infallibly become foul.
To conclude, our youth bears the same proportion to our more advanced life, as this world does to the next. In this life, we must form and cultivate those habits of virtue, which will qualify us for a better state. If we neglect them here, and contract habits of an opposite kind, instead of gaining that exalted state, which is promised to our improvement, we shall of course sink into that state, which is adapted to the habits we have formed.
Exactly thus is youth introductory into manhood ; to which it is, properly speaking, a state of preparation. During this season we must qualify ourselves for the parts we are to act hereafter. In manhood we bear the fruit, which has in youth been planted. If we havę sauntered away our youth, we must expect to be ignorant men. If indolence and inat. tention have taken an early possession of us, they will probably increase as we advance in life ; and make us a burden to ourselves, and useless to society. If again, we suffer ourselves to be misled by vicious inclinations, they will daily get new strength, and end in dissolute lives. But if we cui. tivate our minds in youth, attain habits of attention and industry, of virtue and sobriety, we shall find ourselves well prepared to act our future parts in life ; and, what above all
things ought to be our care, by gaining this command over ourselves, we shall be more able, as we get forward in the world, to resist every new temptation, as soon as it appears.
The truth of Christianity proved from the conversion of the
The conversion of St. Paul, with all its attendant circumstances, furnishes one of the most satisfactory proofs, that have ever been given, of the Divine origin of our holy religion. That this eminent person, from being a zealous persecutor of the disciples of Christ, became, all at once, a disciple himself, is a fact which cannot be controverted, without overturning the credit of all history. He must, therefore, have been converted in the miraculous manner alleged by himself, and of course the Christian religion be a Divine revelation ; or he must have been an impostor, an enthusiast, or a dupe to the fraud of others. There is not another alternative possible.
If he was an impostor, who declared what he knew to be false, he must have been induced to act that part, by some motive. But the only conceivable motives for religious imposture, are, the hopes of advancing one's temporal interest, credit, or power; or the prospect of gratifying some passion or appetite, under the authority of the new religion. That none of these could be St. Paul's motive for professing the fạith of Christ crucified, is plain from the state of Judaism and Christianity, at the period of his forsaking the former, and embracing the latter faith. Those whom he left, were the disposers of wealth, of dignity, of power, in Judea : those to whom he went, were indigent men, oppressed, and kept from all means of improving their fortunes. The certain consequence, therefore, of his taking the part of Christianity, was the loss not only of all that he possessed, but of all hopes of acquiring more : whereas, by continuing to persecute the Christians, he had hopes, nising almost to certainty of making his fortune by the favour of those who were at the
• This piece is extracted from the - Encyclopædia Britannica.” It is an abridgment of Lord Lyttelton's celebrated “ Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul.”
head of the Jewish state, to whom nothing could so much
secution. As to credit or reputation, could the scholar of Gamaliel hope to gain either, by becoming a teacher in a college of fishermen ? Could he flatter himself, that the doctrines which he taught would, either in or out of Judea, do him honour, when he knew that “they were to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness ?"-Was it then the love of power, that induced him to make this great change ? Power! over whom? over a flock of sheep, whom he himself had endeavoured to destroy, and whose very Shepherd had lately been murdered !-Perhaps it was with the view of gratifying some licentious passion, upder the authority of the new religion, that be commenced a teacher of that religion ! This cannot be alleged: for his writings breathe nothing but the strictest morality ; obedience to magistrates, order, and government ; with the utmost abhorrence of all licentiousness, idleness, or loose behaviour, under the cloak of religion. We no where read in his works, that saints are above moral ordinances ; that dominion is founded in grace ; that mona.chy is despotism which ought to be abolished ; that the fortunes of the rich ought to be divided among the poor ; that there is no difference in moral actions ; that any impulses of the mind are to direct us against the light of revealed religion and the laws of nature ; or any of those wicked tenets, by whicb the peace of society has been often disturbed, and the rules of morality have been often violated, by men pretending to act under the sanction of Divine revelation. He makes no distinctions, like the impostor of Arabia, in favour of himself ; nor does any part of his life, either before or after his conversion to Christianity, bear any mark of a libertine disposition. As among the Jews, so among the Christians, his conversation and manners were blameless. .
As St. Paul was not an impostor, so it is plain he was not an enthusiast. Heat of temper, melancholy, ignorance, credulity, and vanity, are the ingredients of which enthusiasm is composed : but from all these, except the first, the apostle appears to have been wholly free. That he had great fervour of zeal, both when a Jew and when a Christian, in maintaining what he thought to be right, cannot be denied ; but he was at all times so much master of his temper, as, in matters of indifference, to “ become all things to all men;" with the most pliant condescension, bending his notions and