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when he shooteth his lightnings in the heavens.
If youth, then, is the season when the foundation of wisdom is to be laid, and if that season passeth away thus rapidly, we must not suffer occasions to escape us, which admit of no substitute; nor neglect improvements, which no other period of life will ever enable us to attain.
By the yoke, I understand the sacred writer to mean, in general, a state of discipline; every thing which education teaches; the restraint of passions, the formation of habits, and the cultivation of faculties. It is not my intention, at present, to launch into so wide a field, as that to which this explanation would seem to lead; but in pointing out a few of the characteristic faults of youth, to shew in what manner the young are most likely to prove intractable to that yoke, which the prophet admonishes them to bear, and to make it clear what those sins, and infirmities are, which present the most serious obstacle to their progress in christian improvement.
The first error I shall notice, and to which I consider youth to be more exposed, than any other period of life, is conceit; that which our Saviour characterises under the name of high-mindedness, an overweaning opinion of our own good, and great qualities.
The reason of this is very obvious; the comparisons the young have made between themselves, and their fellowcreatures, are few, in proportion to what they must make hereafter; absolute standard of excellence there is none;—we only think ourselves great, because we think others little; and the more human beings we mingle with, and the more frequently we institute the comparison, the probable it is that we shall find our equals, and our superiors in every accomplishment, and in every virtue.
We often observe men, whose sphere of life has been extremely confined, to be conceited through every period of their existence, for the same reason that the B b
young are conceited in its earliest period, because they have measured themselves with very few of their species, and mistaking all that they have seen, for all that there is, have so confirmed themselves in habitual conceit, that the delusion is totally impregnable to all future conviction.
Growing experience, forces upon the young a perception of their unjust pretensions; they begin to discover that the world had made some progress in knowledge before their existence, and that their birth will not be hailed as the great æra of wisdom, and of truth. It is necessary to live for a considerable time, and in various scenes, to perceive fully the wisdom of those practices which the world has established, not at the suggestion of any one individual, but from 、the gradual conviction of all, that they
were best adapted to promote the general happiness. Our fathers, in their youthful days, questioned with as much acuteness, and decided with as much temerity, as we can do in ours; if the progress of life has taught them to respect, what in its origin
they despised; if they have traced to the dictates of experience, many things which they at first attributed to prejudice, and ignorance; if they have learnt to mistrust themselves, and confide more in the general feelings, and judgments of the world,—we ought not to suppose ourselves protected from the same revolution of opinions, or imagine, that those early conceptions of human life shall be permanent now, which never have been permanent before.
These remonstrances against conceit, (a failing, as injurious to the acquisition of Christian, as of human improvement,) are by no means directed against the spirit of free enquiry; from which a strong mind cannot, and ought not to be debarred, any more than a strong body ought to be, from perfect activity of motion; only the young should consider that it is not a necessary consequence that no reason can be found, because they can find none; or even obtain none, from a few persons to whóm they have proposed their difficulty; and who, perhaps, can see, and practice right, without the power of explaining, or defending it.
To incline to the one side, or the other, is natural, and not blameable in the young; but when you are so liable to error, do not decide, so that you cannot decently retract; avoid the fatal mistake of being so violent, and positive, that you are either sacramented for life, to the first crude system you have adopted, or forced to abandon it, hereafter, with the imputation of folly, or of guilt. Courage, and firmness in maintaining important opinions, are worthy attributes, but in proportion as any opinion is marked by moderation, and formed upon reflection, it is most likely to be retained with spirit. Extravagance in opinion is the parent of change, and frequent change produces at last a profligate indifference to all opinion The person who is firm, and consistent in his manhood, has most probably been modest in his youth; so true it is, that all the humility so strongly enjoined by the gospel is not calculated to repress, and extinguish human powers, but to adjust the degree of confidence with which they are exercised, to the degree of excellence with which they are endowed, and to take care