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268

SERMON XII.

The young warned against the dangers that most

easily beset them.

I KINGS, Chap. 20, VER. 11.

“ Let not him that girdeth on his harness, boast himself as he that putteth it off.”

MANKIND, in general, seem to judge of human life, and indeed of every thing else, more by their present feelings and dispositions, than by a calm attention to the nature of things. Hence, the appearance which the world presents to different men, varies according to their several tempers and characters. To the man whom misfortune has deprived of the external sources of pleasure, or whom wickedness or infirmity has rendered incapable of enjoying the good things which he possesses, human life appears a barren and dreary wilderness, and the whole face of nature seems overspread with a settled gloom. On the other hand, the man whose natural temper is contented and cheerful, who enjoys the blessings of uninterrupted health, who is success. ful in his enterprises and happy in his connections, feels a constant gaiety of spirits, which enlivens every scene around him, and he imagines himself placed in a flowery and fruitful paradise, where the thorn of sorrow will never spring up to perplex his path : and he seems to live under a serene and bright horizon which, he thinks, will never be overcast with the clouds of adversity,

In no instance is this partial and prejudiced judgment of things more visible than in the sanguine expectations which youth usually form of their condition and character in future life. Having had little experience of the uncertainty which attends all human pursuits, they promise themselves the most unlimited success before they commence their attempts to acquire the gifts of fortune. . They hope, that, the industry of a few years will be rewarded with all the blessings of affluence and independence. Conscious of the benevolence and generosity of their own dispositions, and unacquainted with the disguises which are assumed, and the artifices which are practised

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in the world, their hearts are warmed with the idea of disinterested affection, and they expect to find in every gay companion, a sage adviser, a sincere and faithful friend. Having never measured the extent of their abilities, they flatter themselves that they are capable of making improvements, and executing designs, which shall surprise the world, and crown them with immortal honour. Having never tried the strength of their moral powers, or observed the snares which beset the path of unsuspecting innocence, they presume that they shall find it no difficult task to preserve their integrity inviolate, and their reputation unblemished and to persevere in a course of uncorrupted and distinguished virtue to the end of their lives. “ But let not him that

girdeth on his harness, boast himself as he “ that putteih it off.”

Considering this proverbial maxim as an admonition which may be, with great propriety, addressed to young men, to guard them against that presumption and confidence to which they are peculiarly liable ; I shall in this discourse endeavour to convince you my young brethren, of the great necessity and importance of caution and circumspection, at

;

cure of

your first entrance into the world, by pointing out some of the dangers to which you are exposed, and, by exhorting you not to be too confident in your opinions, not to be too sanguine in your expectations, not to be too se

your

virtue. I. Be not too confident in your opinions. Nothing is more amiable in all orders of men, and particularly in the young, than modesty. and diffidence. It is a certain proof of rising merit; it indicates a good understanding not to be positive in deciding, where we have not sufficient knowledge and experience to direct us; and it gains the good will of all, for it offends the self-love of none.

On the contrary, nothing is more ill-founded and disagreeable, and yet nothing more common with the young, than a conceit of their own abilities, and an obstinate adherence to their own opinions. But be not ye wise in your own conceits, and learn not to think of yourselves more highly than you ought. Those untried abilities which you, now, think adequate to every undertaking, experience will, hercafter, teach you to distrust. You have, as yet, bad, comparatively, but few opportunities of improvement; your experience is nothing, and your acquain

tance with the world extremely limited; your minds are not sufficiently matured and improved by reading and conversation. Submit therefore to the wiser and more experienced ; receive their opinions, and listen to their advice. At any rate, presume not to dictate to them, or imagine that your unfledged fancies, your crude conceptions, are to rectify the ancient constitution of things, and

supplant those received opinions and customs which are founded on the wisdom of ages. Nothing is more unjust or unsafe than to judge of any thing by first appearances. It is seldom, but that opinions, formed in this way, are found by experience to be extremely errone

Few men have lived long in the world without finding that in many things they had mistaken ; without altering, in many material respects, the opinions which they once firmly entertained concerning men and things. And many more have blundered on in errour because they were too obstinate, or were ashamed to retract sentiments, which, in former times, they had rashly adopted or positively defended. Self-conceit is a fatal enemy to advancement, it shuts up every avenue to improvement, it prevents you from pressing for

OUS.

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