« PreviousContinue »
I have seen a teacher bring tears and blushes upon the cheek of a pains-taking booby, by showing him the achievements of his brother; assuring him, that while the younger brother was sent to college, he, for his stupidity, must go behind the counter. I asked him if he wished that when that boy became a man, he should be pained by the superiority of others, or ashamed of the station to which Providence assigned him? He answered me, “ No: but emulation is the finest thing in the world—it is impossible to make anything of boys, without the stimulus of rivalry.” I have asked a lady, whose children I saw every evening playing at cards for halfpence, and vehemently contending for success, whether she was bringing them up to be gamesters, or to waste their hours in frivolous pursuits and unwholesome excitement of temper and feeling? Half laughing and half angry, as at a foolish question, she said, “Of course not—but it did not signify how children amused themselves.” Of another, who was cramming her children's minds with most pernicious nonsense in the form of books, I asked if she meant that they should be weak, ill-judging, and romantic women ? She, too, said, “ No—but children do not understand sensible books: she was glad to get them to read at all, and should give them better books when they were older.” A few times in my life I have seen parents take—no, not take, (for they would themselves have been ashamed to be seen there, but send—their children to the theatre, and other public places, which they had taught them to consider inconsistent with the spiritual requirements of the gospel, and the safe conduct of a corruptible nature through a corrupting worldalleging, that it is desirable, at a certain age, to Vol. II.
let young people taste these pleasures, that they may better appreciate the nature and tendency of them.
Let me pause a moment. Of those who are reading this, some will say, “ But we do not think there is any harm in attending places of public amusement, in dancing, and all these things you talk about.” I answer,
“ That is not the question. What I particularize applies only to those who do think these things objectionable, as leading into sin; and who wish their children should grow up in this opinion. To you these instances may not apply; but if there is any thing in the world you do think wrong or unbecoming in man or woman, suppose that to be the thing I have instanced, and the case will be in point. I meant not to blame any one for planting the root, of which he wishes to gather the fruit."
One word to those young persons who are free, or are allowed, in some measure, to judge for themselves; and perhaps a few years more of age, may not make the words inapplicable. What is it you intend to be? A child of God, a purified jewel of the Redeemer's crown, a heavenly plant, bearing seed a hundred fold; walking not after the course of this world in the vanity of your minds, but in meet and holy preparation for the bliss of heaven? Do
you desire to renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that you will neither follow nor be led by them; obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of your life; even as you have pledged yourself to do, in these words, or it may be some others of like
meaning ? These are great fruits : your fallow field is ill disposed to bear them : the air about you is well prepared to blight them. O! why are you so bold? Why do you reason so absurdly, and act so foolishly, as in many cases you are seen to do, when you insist on going once, but to see, what you
know is wrong, though you do not mean to make a practice of it. When you seek companions and employments you know will dissipate your thoughts and unsettle your habits; when you poison your minds, and stimulate your passions, and heat your imagination, and pervert your taste by every species of pernicious reading and unhallowed talk, by ambitious schemes and unsanctified desires? Would you be persuaded —would those who have the management of others but consider-how hard a thing it is to purify, and make meet for glory, a spirit born in sin, and conceived in iniquity, prone to evil as the sparks to fly upward, but to all good unwilling: a soil that bears indigenous every bitter and unwholesome weed, but will only be cultured into fruitfulness by toil and care, favoured with the dews of heaven, and the sunbeams of celestial grace! We must have had small experience in life, and less in religion, if we do not know the difficulties, the miseries, the conflicting feelings, entailed upon us by the tastes and associations of our past lives. How
difficult it is with every motive and inclination to the work, to subdue one evil propensity, or root out one ungodly feeling ; to correct even one, the smallest sin to which we are habituated, if we may venture to call anything small which is offensive to the vision of the Most High.
We scarcely expect to be understood, to the full extent of our meaning, by any but those, who, hav. ing come to be like-minded with their Lord, have
learned to know no misery equal to the consciousness of sin ; no desire so intense as to be holy in his sight; no hatred so deep, as towards iniquity, apart from its eternal consequences. But I could wish that the less experienced would take it on the word of those who are before them: for, if honest in religion, they will come to this mind at some time. It is then that the heart becomes conscious of the mischief of every habit, of every inclination, or taste, or feeling, that has been engendered by example, or cultivated by indulgence. Then the tossed and troubled spirit has cause to say, Why was I encouraged in these feelings, till they have become as natural to me as to think or breathe? Why did I feed my imagination with these images, till I find it impossible to expel them from my mind? Where did I learn this taste for vanities, that seems determined to go with me almost to heaven ?" I do not know whether what we hear be all a fiction ; or whether those who on their knees declare, that the memory of sin is grievous to them, and the burden of it intolerable, have any such sensations as their words express; but if they have, I am sure they cannot thank their parents for having poured one drop unnecessary of bitter memory into that full cup, nor themselves for having voluntarily added one feather's weight to that too heavy burden.
Admit that the thistles may be rooted out; that the girl who is taught vanity, will not be vain when she becomes a Christian woman; and the youth who is encouraged in oppression, rivalry, and pride, will not be contentious or dissatisfied when he becomes a Christian man: still be it rememberrd, it is no magic touch of the celestial wand that converts the bond-slave of earth into the meet inheritor of heaven. It can do
So, we know—but generally, as re
gards the sanctification of the heart after it has been pardoned and renewed, the process is a long, and often a very painful one. It is by fire the gold is purified. By many a painful excision the eye is made single. Sorrow after sorrow comes; draught after draught of misery is drained; and the heart has sometimes to be buried beneath the wreck of every thing it has loved and delighted in, before earth and self can be crushed out of it. Why should we be so mad, so unjust to our children, and cruel to ourselves, as to increase the difficulty of the cure, because confident it will in the issue be performed ? Why do we plant our ground with thistles, because, after years of labour, they may be rooted out ?