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Almost every youth, who has been ruined in this seminary, within my knowledge, has been ruined in this manner. I speak not of those, who were ruined at home; who entered these walls, tainted with vice; and, spreading their infection through the better and healthier minds of those around them, became nuisances to the institution; a blast to the hopes of parents; and a curse to their children. These persons have at times brought with them, in different gradations, the character, the arts and the corruptions, mentioned in the preceding discourse; and, settling here in unsuspected silence, blighted the harvest of worth, apparently advancing towards full maturity. I speak of such youths, as have come hither with no peculiar corruption; with a reputable freedom from vice; with fair hopes; and with honourable designs. Of these, some have found, here, means and motives, which have operated to their ruin. But probably not more than one, in one hundred of those who have been destroyed, has accomplished the destruction for himself. Left to themselves, unsolicited and unseduced by others, the ninety-nine would, at their return home, have in all probability become the joy of their parents, and blessings to mankind. But here, where so many youths assemble, and where some of course will be of a vicious character, they became the prey of evil companions; and of the sophistry, the arts, and the tricks, which I have described. Let it be remembered, that I have been almost thirty years a resident in this seminary; that I entered it, when a child; and that I continued in it without interruption twelve years; and that a great part of the modes of corruption, mentioned in these discourses, I have personally seen and heard. Nay, not a small number of them have been practised upon me. I can, therefore, speak with certainty, as well as with strong feelings, on this subject. Every one of you may rest assured, that I have not mistaken the case, nor any part of it; and that the representation, which I have made, is exactly true, as well as infinitely important.
Shun therefore, every one of you, this course of danger and mischief. Especially shun, because you are in peculiar danger from them, and because resistance here will usually prove a final victory, the first approaches of temptation; the first appearances
of sin; the first obtrusions of evil companions; the first sacrifice of your own time; the first neglect of your daily studies; the first solicitations to any improper conduct; and the civilities, flatteries and persuasion, with which they will be attended. Keep your hours of study sacred to yourselves and with invincible firmness preclude every stranger from intruding upon you in those hours, which God has made sacred.
Should you be solicited to visit the haunts of sinful pleasure; of gaming, profaneness, drinking, and obscenity; consider the solicitor as the enemy of your peace; who, if not decisively resisted, will rob you of your reputation, blast your hopes of improvement, wound your conscience, pollute your souls, and shut you out of heaven. With persons of this character keep no terms. Their company is baleful: their solicitations are the poison of asps and every accommodation with them, is only a compromise for your destruction.
4thly. How anxiously ought parents to prevent their children from frequenting evil company!
Parents are guardians of their children, appointed by GoD himself. The trust is supremely solemn and important; and the thing entrusted of pre-eminent value. What earthly object is more precious than children? How willingly, how patiently, how perseveringly, with what unbroken, unwearied affection, care and anxiety, do parents labour to promote the safety and prosperity of their beloved offspring? How cheerfully do they give up their own gratifications, and sacrifice their ease, convenience and comfort? What does all this prove? Their intense love to this favourite object. For what is all this done and suffered? That the well-being of their children may be secured.
But, if this be the great end, aimed at in all these exertions; they ought certainly to be directed to their true well-being, their everlasting good. To provide for them the pleasures of this world; to gratify their pride, avarice and sensuality; to heap up for them enjoyments, which at the end of an idle, empty, momentary life will vanish forever; and to make no efforts for their endless happiness in the future world; to take such vast pains to
pamper their bodies, and to neglect their souls, as aliens and outcasts is folly supreme and immeasurable.
But this endless happiness evil companions will prevent. The very hope of immortal life they will destroy forever. From this incomprehensible danger, then, this final ruin, let these affectionate, these divinely appointed, guardians secure their beloved offspring; whatever efforts or anxiety it may cost. Let no parent say, that he cannot prevent his children from consorting with such companions. Unquestionably they may be powerfully allured by them; nay, they may have already become strongly attached to them. They may be deaf to parental remonstrance. They may artfully elude inspection. They may obstinately resist authority. But would any, would all these difficulties persuade a parent to yield them up to temporal destruction? Were it in his power, would he not preserve them from suicide; whatever exertions, whatever sacrifices, it might cost? How much more willingly, and perseveringly, ought he to undergo any labour, and make any sacrifice, to save a child from perdition?
Ordinarily, however, the case is far from being attended with the difficulties here supposed. Let the parents begin their active government of their children with an universal determination to know, at all times where, and with whom, their children are ; and suffer them to frequent no places, and consort with no company, which they themselves do not approve, nor without their permission. Let them warn their children affectionately, and from the beginning, of the immense danger always found, and the fatal evils regularly suffered, by those who are companions of the wicked. Let them allure to their own houses such companions for their children, as will be at once agreeable and safe. Let them make their own company and conversation easy and inviting; and their fireside cheerful and pleasant; and let them daily ask God to preserve their children, and crown their own labours in educating them for his service with success. If they faithfully perform these duties; they will ordinarily find their task easy; their children safe; their consciences satisfied; and their hopes continually brighter, and brighter, of seeing their family united forever in the enjoyment of immortal life.
THE DUTY OF REMEMBERING THE CREATOR IN YOUTH.-SERMON I.
ECCLESIASTES xii. 1.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth: while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, "I have no pleasure in them."
THE writer of this book was, as you know, distinguished above all men for his wisdom, and peculiarly for his knowledge of the character, and business, of men. At the time when it was written, he was advanced in years; and from his youth had with a keen and scrutinizing eye, watched the character of mankind, and marked carefully the advantages, which accompany a virtuous life, and the evils, which attend a sinful one; and had derived from this course of observation a collection of the best maxims for the regulation of human conduct, of which mankind have ever heard. The attention of this great man was especially directed to youth; probably because he knew the importance of that period. He had seen in innumerable instances, that the future character chiefly depended on the instructions given, and the habits established, in the morning of life. His views of this subject he has completely expressed in a single sentence: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it." Hence, he directed his efforts peculiarly to the reformation of youth; and, as he informs us, wrote the book of Proverbs, or important and pithy moral precepts, to give the young man knowledge and discretion. The wisdom and benevolence of such a design need no illustration; and the book, in which it is here executed, is without a rival.
To the instructions of such a man thus employed, every youth is bound by every obligation to listen with gratitude, veneration, and faithful obedience. To these high and solemn sanctions, furnished by the character of the writer, and to the inestimable value of the instructions themselves, is added the seal of inspiration; the decision of GoD, the only wise, and the only good.
In the book of Ecclesiastes this great man forgot not his favorite object; but, while investigating subjects, mysterious in their nature, incomprehensible in their extent, and immeasurable in their importance, he turned aside, not unfrequently, to resume the direct instruction of youth, and to promote in the most efficacious manner their wisdom and piety. In this chapter particularly, he shows us, that the book of Ecclesiastes, as well as that of Proverbs, was written, primarily, for the young. This chapter is what, in the language of writers of sermons, would be called the practical application, or improvement, of the whole disIt commences with the text; and in this manner shews, that the writer had all along aimed at the benefit of this class of mankind, as a primary object in this book, as well as that of Proverbs. While he has here left a noble example to other moral instructors, and taught them to direct their own labours, extensively, towards the same object, he has also laid the foundation of the strongest claims upon the affection, and respect, of those, whom he has thus made his pupils. There is something peculiarly edifying as well as delightful, in seeing a man so pre-eminent in wisdom, power, splendour and fame, as Solomon, and so occupied by the complicated business of a great empire, making the instruction, virtue and happiness, of the young a primary object of his thoughts, and the primary purpose of his writings. It is, still, a much more interesting theme of our recollection, that the GOD of the spirits of all flesh has been pleased, in his own most holy Word, to pursue the same purpose; to make youth a peculiar object of his gracious attention; to raise up for them in his Providence so able an Instructor; and, agreeably to his perfect wisdom, to employ him in communicating these invaluable lessons.