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Think how different your circumstances might have been. Providence might have cast your lot in some distant age or country, where the true God had been unknown, where your early steps had been guided to the groves and temples of detestable idols, and you might possibly have been taught to consecrate lust or murder by the name of devotion. Or you might have been educated in popish darkness, where the scriptures would have been to you as a sealed book, and you would have seen christianity polluted with idolatrous rites, on some accounts more inexcusable than those of the heathen, and adulterated with the most absurd and pernicious errors. There the mistaken piety of your parents might have proved a dangerous snare, whilst it had infused a blind, and perhaps a cruel zeal, and a proud furious opposition to all the methods of better information.
Nay, even here, in a protestant country, is it not too evident, there are many families in which had you been born and educated, you had sate as in darkness and the shadow of death, though in the land of light and the valley of vision! Your infant-tongue had been formed to the language of hell, and exercised in curses and oaths, rather than in prayer. You had early been taught to deride every appearance of serious godliness; and all the irregular propensities of nature had been strengthened by examples of wickedness, which might have been sufficient to corrupt innocence itself. When you consider the wide difference between these circumstances and your own, surely whatever your portion of worldly possessions may be, you have reason to lift up your hands to heaven with wonder and gratitude, and to say. The lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, yea, we have a goodly heritage*.
Nor is this all: There are many around you, who have shared in such advantages as these, and have sinfully abused them, to the dishonour of God, to the grief of their parents, and to their own danger, and perhaps their ruin. And why are not you in that wretched number, or Who maketh thee to differ from them+? Why are not your hearts barred against the entrance of a Redeemer, but because The Lord has opened them? Why were not all the good instructions which have been given to you, like seed sown upon a rock; but because God gave the increase§! Adore the riches of this distinguishing
grace. And let me earnestly exhort you, that you be careful still farther to improve it. Give me leave to say, that these fair Acts xvi. 14. § 1 Cor. iii. 7.
* Psal. xvi. 6. + 1 Cor. iv. 7.
openings of early seriousness, do naturally raise a very high expectation of eminent advances in religion. Let it be your humble and diligent care, that these expectations be answered: That Your goodness may not be like the morning cloud, or the early dew, which soon goeth away*; but rather like The dawning light, which shines brighter and brighter till the perfect dayt.
Whilst providence continues these holy parents, to whom you have been so highly indebted, let it be your constant care, by all the most cheerful returns of duty and gratitude, to express your regards to them, and your sense of so great an obligation. And I will add, let it be your care, to hand down to future ages those important advantages you have received from them.
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. It is highly probable, that in a few years, numbers of you will be conducted into new relations; and we please ourselves with the hope, that you will carry religion and happiness into rising families.
Let not those hopes be disappointed. When God fixes you in houses of your own, let it be your first concern to erect there such domestic altars, as those at which you have worshipped with such holy pleasure, and sensible tokens of divine acceptance. Let the sacred treasure of divine knowledge, which has been deposited with you, be faithfully delivered down to your descendants; that they, in their turn, may arise with the same pious zeal, to transmit it to another generation, that shall be born of them.
And may divine grace, that inexhaustible spring of the most valuable blessings, sweetly flow on to add efficacy to all, that real vital religion, may be the glory and joy of every succeeding age; till this earth (which is but a place of education for the children of God, during their minority,) shall pass away to make room for a far nobler scene and state of existence; where pious parents and their religious offspring shall for ever enjoy the most delightful society, inhabiting the palace of our heavenly Father, and surrounding the throne of our glorified Redeemer! Amen.
⚫ Hos. vi. 4.
+ Prov. iv. 18.
Eccl. i. 4.