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[A Lecture is a stated part in the MORNING SERVICE of the Church of Scotland, and follows immediately after the first prayer. The Minister reads some passage of Scripture, consisting, for the most part, of a considerable number of verses: these he successively explains, and, where necessary, illustrates them, not only from the context, but both from sacred and profane history. Besides making observations upon each verse, he generally, upon concluding, draws moral inferences from the whole.
It is obvious, that the practice of Lecturing must, on those accounts, not only give scope to the learning of the preacher, and to his talent for bringing many particulars into one or a few points of view; but must tend, at the same time to make the people more acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures, and to derive, from the experience of past times, very useful instructions with regard to life.]
1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth shall pros
4. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
HRISTIANS and Brethren! The most critical period of human life is when we set out into the world. Frequently the first step is decisive. The Ff
young adventurer, set free from the authority of pa rents and of guardians, becomes his own master, and follows his own inclination. It is then that he begins to form his character; and the character that is then formed generally lasts through life. Mankind for the most part continue in the same path in which they set out. The passions of youth may resign to the passions of age, and one set of vices or of virtues give place to those of a similar kind; but seldom does the formed character undergo an essential change. Our first steps ought therefore to be ordered with the greatest care and deliberation, as upon them, in a great measure, depends not only our present, but also our eternal happiness.
It was with a design to direct us in this important period, that the Psalm before us was written in which the practice of righteousness is recommended, not only from the advantages attending it in this life, and in that which is to come, but likewise from the pernicious tendency of sin to embitter our earthly enjoyments, and to render us unqualified for inheriting the joys of heaven. The gradual deviation of a sinner from the onward path of virtue, till he is inextricably bewildered in the insidious mazes and winding ways of iniquity, are here most beautifully des cribed.
The first step in reality, though it be the second in the description, is, He standeth in the way of sinners. Frequenting the company of the wicked is a certain introduction to a life of wickedness. Mankind are oftener led astray by the company of the profligate than their own depraved inclinations. This unhappy bias to associate with the profane arises from two causes, which operate powerfully on the minds of inexperienced youth. The first is that rigorousness and austerity which some gloomy-minded Christians attach to their religion. There are many persons of such an unhappy constitution, as to indulge themselves in perpetual moroseness and melancholy. Those sons of sorrow turn every house into a house
of mourning, and behave in life as if it were one of their principles, that mirth was made for reprobates, and cheerfulness of heart denied to all those who have the best title to be cheerful. My brethren, there is no connection; God and nature have established no connection between sanctity of character and severity of manners. To rejoice evermore, is not only the privilege, but is also the duty of a Christian. A cheerful temper is a perpetual hymn to the Divinity. A gloomy cast of mind is not only a certain source of misery and discontent; but is really in itself sinful, by deterring others from a holy life, by representing religion in an unfavourable and forbidding light, as if it conjured up a spirit to darken the face of the heavens and the earth, to trouble the peace and the harmony of nature, and to banish gladness from the circle of human society. Very opposite is the conduct of the votaries of vice. To betray unwary innocence into their snares, they put on the mask of mirth; they counterfeit gladness amidst the horrors of guilt, and borrow the accents of pleasure, and the air of joy. "Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds," say they; "let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they be withered, let no flower of the spring pass away, let us devote the present moments to joy, and give thought and care to the winds." By their flattery and fair speeches, too often are the innocent ensnared. They mark the fair attire, and the smiles upon the cheek of the deceiver, Sensual pleasure; but they discern not, till too late, the pains, the diseases, and the destruction that follow in her train. They discern not that her steps lead down to the grave, and that her bower is an antichamber to hell.
There is a second cause which has often been known to make men associate with the profane, and that is, an opinion that wickedness, particularly some kinds of it, are manly and becoming; that dissoluteness, infidelity, and blasphemy, are indications of a sprightly and a strong mind. By the most unhappy of all associations, they join together the ideas of
religion and dullness; and if they have a good opinion of a man's faith and his morals, they are led to have a very bad one of his understanding. This opinion, although it has gained ground where it might not have been expected, is without foundation in nature or in fact. Some instances there may have been of great men who have been irregular; but the experience of ages is on the other side. Those who have shone in all ages as the lights of the world; the most celebrated names that are recorded in the annals of fame; legislators, the founders of states, and the fathers of their country, on whom succeeding ages have looked back with filial reverence; patriots, the guardians of the laws, who have stemmed the torrent of corruption in every age; heroes, the saviours of their country, who have returned victorious from the field of battle, or more than victorious, who have died for their country; philosophers, who have opened the book of nature, and explained the wonders of almighty power; bards, who have sung the praises of virtue and of virtuous men, whose strains carry them down to immortality; with a few exceptions, have been uniformly on the side of goodness, and have been as distinguished in the temple of virtue as they were illustrious in the temple of fame. It was one of the maxims which governed their lives, that there is nothing in nature which can compensate wickedness; that although the rewards and punishments, which influence illiberal and ungenerous minds, were set aside; that although the thunders of the Almighty were hushed, and the gates of paradise were open no more, they would follow religion and virtue for their own sake, and co-operate with eternal Providence in perpetual endeavours to favour the good, to depress the bad, and to promote the happiness of the whole creation.
The second stage in the perversion of a sinner is walking after the counsel of the ungodly. It is a maxim established by the sad experience of ages, that evil communication corrupts good manners. The