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endurance, and many costly sacrifices. Can “I make up my mind to relinquish those indul
gences, for which the natural man pleads so “strongly, rather than injure the welfare of my “immortal soul? Can I resolve to despise the “scoffs of profane companions, the false opinions “ of the world, the sordid pursuit of gain, the “ charms of convivial intercourse, the reputation “ of talent, and more than all this, rather than “swerve, in the slightest degree, from my Chris“ tian integrity ? Can I do all this ? and what “is more, do I feel, in the very depth of my heart, “my own sinfulness of nature and infirmity of
purpose ? Am I prepared to lay aside all over“weening confidence in my own wisdom and
goodness, and to receive with meekness the “revealed word and will of God, and his free “unrequited mercy; and to seek for his grace “ by all the appointed means ? Dare I engage “myself, by a solemn compact and covenant “ with the Searcher of hearts, to do, or to
attempt all this? Shall I make religion my “choice, and from henceforth resign myself “unreservedly and implicitly to the service of “ Jesus Christ, and the guidance of his Holy Spirit? Yes, verily, by God's help I will.” Have any such thoughts as these at any time
occupied your minds, and produced their due impression on your hearts ? Some process of this kind must be gone through, before your religion can be such as may be depended upon; before you can be genuine, consistent disciples of that Master, who claims your best affections, your undivided allegiance. This is an act of choice; such an act as will be likely to fix religious principles in your heart; to fit it for the reception of grace; and to prepare you for every good word and work. The want of such an act is discernible in the inconsistency of men's practice with their outward profession of the Gospel, their cold and heartless prayers, their unfrequent and negligent reading of God's Word, their disregard of his ordinances, their excessive love of pleasure and amusement, or their exclusive devotion to worldly business. Whensoever these symptoms are plainly discoverable, there has been no choice of religion.
But again, I repeat it, the choice must be made. It must be made some time or other. If it has been forgotten or neglected in early life, it must be made at a later period; and will be made, when once the heart is really touched with a sense of its own condition and its wants. But it ought undoubtedly to be made in the morning of life ; as soon as the reason is sufficiently matured, to discern between good and evil. One of the most touching features of the commendation bestowed by St. Paul upon his youthful friend, is this; From a child thou hast known the Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Religion is the proper business of our whole lives. We are placed in this world for the express purpose of being religious; and every part of our existence, which is not employed in the business, either of preparation, or of actual religion, is so much time lost. Every person to whom the Gospel is proposed, as the way of salvation, ought very early to give it his most serious consideration, and to choose whom he will serve. It is too much the fault of parents that this is not done more frequently and more seriously than it is : and it is indeed a fault-a sin I should
sayof no trifling magnitude. What a strange and sad inconsistency there is in the conduct of many Christian parents! They know perfectly well that there is nothing in the world of so great consequence to their children, as that they should be fixed betimes in religious principles and habits; and yet they take little or no pains to
6 2 Tim. iii. 15.
effect it. They are for the most part contented to leave the religious instruction of their children to their teachers and spiritual pastors; whereas it is their own particular and sacred province, to watch, with jealous care, over the growth of principles and motives in the minds of their children; to give them an early insight into the peculiar doctrines and duties of the Gospel; to direct their attention, while young, to the immense difference between things temporal and things eternal; and to familiarize them, even in their childhood, with their holy, but merciful and kind Redeemer.
But, alas ! the usual course of education, the usual tenour of parental instruction, is not much calculated to produce religious seriousness. The young Christian is accustomed to hear a great deal concerning the advantages and enjoyments of the present life, and the best mode of securing them for himself. These are the ordinary subjects of conversation, the objects at which all the world seem to be aiming: the tide and current of human life, and the breath of popular opinion, are all moving in one direction. Christian parents manifest great anxiety, and take infinite pains to place their sons in lucrative situations ;
? See Paley's Sermons, p. 7.
and if a young man is fixed in a post, which gives him a fair prospect of a provision after a few years, his friends think they have done their duty; and for the rest he must look out for himself. But does he perceive anything of the same watchful solicitude about the concerns of his soul ? Do his parents exhibit the same intense anxiety respecting his choice of the religion upon which his salvation depends, as they manifest about his election of a business or profession? Is it made a topic of rejoicing and congratulation, if he should give decided evidence of his having, like Mary, chosen the good part? Alas! the contrary is notoriously the case.
Why does it happen, that when the Church invites her younger members to come forward, and make an open profession of their allegiance to Jesus Christ, and of their devotion to his service, Choose this day whom ye
will serve, so many still hang back, from ignorant timidity or bashfulness, or from a worse cause, an entire carelessness and unconcern? Why, but because they have never been made to feel the indispensable importance, the absolute necessity of choosing their religion once for all ? and the fault rests too commonly with their parents. Yet it is the duty of their parents, in a far higher degree than it is