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instance of the ancient philosophers, does violence, by its false refinements in some of the most essential truths of religion, to the clearest principles of nature and of reason. The latter illustrates, corroborates, improves, and perfects them. This has been shown to be the case in one very important doctrine, and might be shown in more. Our divine Master is indeed, in every instance, and especially in that we have been now considering, "THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE;" and whenever we are tempted to desert this heavenly guide, and to go away either to philosophy, or to any other instructor, we have our answer ready prepared for us in that noble and affecting reply of St. Peter to Jesus, "Lord, to whom "shall we go? Thou hast the words of 66 ETERNAL LIFE: and we believe and are 66 sure that thou art THAT CHRIST, THE "SON OF THE LIVING GOD †.”
* John xiv. 6.
† Įb. vi, 68, 69.
TITUS ii. 6.
YOUNG MEN LIKEWISE EXHORT TO BE SOBER-MINDED.
HERE is scarce any subject of exhortation so necessary to youth, as that which is here recommended by St. Paul. Alacrity, emulation, benevolence, frankness, generosity, are almost the natural growth of that enchanting age. What it chiefly wants is something to regulate and temper these good qualities; and to do that is the province of Let not the young man be frighted with the solemnity of the name. It implies nothing unsuitable to his years, or inconsistent with his most valuable enjoyments. It tends to improve his cheerfulness, though it may restrain his
extravagancies; to give the warmth of his imagination and the vigour of his understanding a right direction; to single out such enterprises for him as are worthy of his natural vivacity and ardour; to prevent his talents and industry from becoming mischievous, his pleasures from proving ruinous, and to render his pursuits subservient, not only to present delight, but to substantial and permanent happiness,
It is evident that there is both a moral and an intellectual sobriety; a modest reserve, a rational guard upon ourselves, not only in acting, but in thinking: and the original word rogove, which we translate, to be sober-minded, includes both these kinds of sobriety. Its primary signification is, to be wise, prudent, temperate; and this wisdom chiefly consists,
I. In the government of the passions.
First then, we are commanded to teach young men the government of their passions. "To flee youthful lusts," is an apostolical admonition, not very grateful, perhaps, to
2 Tim. ii. 22,
youthful ears; but so indispensably requisite both to temporal and eternal happiness, that it must, at all events, and by every possible means, be inculcated and enforced. It comprehends all those irregular desires, to the influence of which is owing much the greatest part of the vice and misery that desolate mankind. "From whence come
wars and fightings among you? Come they 66 not hence, even of your lusts, which war "in your members*?" From whence (may we add) come murders, frauds, breaches of trust, violations of the marriage-bed, the ruin of unguarded and unsuspecting innocence, the distress and disgrace of worthy families, the corruption and subversion of whole kingdoms? Come they not all from one and the same impure source, from the violence of headstrong and unruly appetites, which, in pursuit of some unlawful object, burst through all restraints of decency, justice, honour, humanity, gratitude; and throw down every barrier, however sacred, that stands between them and the attainment of their end?
The passions, then, must be governed, or
* James iv. 1.
they will govern us; and like all other slaves when in possession of power, will become the most savage and merciless of tyrants. But at what time shall we begin to govern them? The very moment, surely, that they begin to raise commotions in the soul; the moment we know from conscience, from reason, from Revelation, that the gratifications they require ought not to be granted. This period may in some be earlier than in
others; but it can scarce ever be later in any than the usual time of being transplanted to this place*. Here then you ought at once to enter on the disposition of your studies and the regulation of your desires. There is no danger of your undertaking so arduous and necessary a task too soon. If you hope to acquire any authority over your passions, you must inure them to early obedience, and bend them to the yoke while they are yet pliant and flexible. It will, even then, indeed be a difficult task. But what is there worth having that is to be obtained without difficulties? They are inseparable from a state of probation, and
* Cambridge; where this Sermon was preached. See the Table of Contents.