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PREPARATION FOR LIFE.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye-lids look
straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. PROVERBS iv, 25, 26.
I THINK you cannot be ignorant, Young Men, that I have felt a great solicitude for your moral and spiritual welfare, and have taken some pains to promote it. I say, your moral and spiritual welfare ; for in an age like the present, when education is so much improved, and so widely extended, when the discoveries of science and the inventions of art have been so rapidly multiplied, and the means of knowing them have been placed to such an extent within the reach of the multitude, there is danger lest that which is moral and spiritual should be neglected amidst the attention to that which is merely intellectual ; lest talents should be appreciated more highly than virtues, and secular be more eagerly sought than religious knowledge. Yet it must be obvious to you upon reflection, that happiness, even for this world, to say nothing of the next, depends much more upon the state of the heart and the practice of the life, than upon the culture of the understanding. Not that these are antagonistic to one another. None but infidels, or weak-minded Christians, will ever attempt to set piety and science at variance. They are neither enemies nor aliens, but friends, and reci. procally helpful to each other. Under the influence of
this anxiety to promote your moral and spiritual wellbeing, I have, in the course of my ministry, addressed to you several courses of plain and practical discourses; and have also published a treatise to those of your class who have left the parental roof to embark on the stormy and dangerous ocean of human life. I have been rewarded for this “labour of love,” by the attention with which my efforts have been received, and the benefit which I believe they have imparted, and am thus induced to continue them, and now invite your serious and meditative attention to the following course of subjects.
I. Preparation for life.
Perplexity from religious controversies.
Disappointment or fulfilment of the hopes of
parents. XI. The importance of the present age. XII. Early death, or review of life in old age.
You will perceive at once that these subjects are all of an entirely practical character. Speculation and controversy are, with one exception, both excluded : and even doctrinal matter is but sparingly introduced. Not that these things are unimportant or unnecessary in their proper place, but they do not come within my design. I am a practical man, and am most at home on practical subjects: and at the same time that I believe that holiness is founded upon truth, and that christian duties are drawn from christian doctrines, and are to be enforced by them, I am still of opinion that what is practical will be more
for your edification, than what is theoretical or controversial. Speculation, novelty, dry criticism, or thorny controversy, will have a less beneficial influence upon your future character and happiness than the subjects contained in this course.
My first chapter is on preparation for life. We often speak of preparation for death; and most momentous, most necessary that is, but we too much neglect to speak of preparation for life. And yet how fit is such a subject for our discourses, and your serious consideration.
The passage of Scripture placed at the head of this chapter is much in point. It is selected from a portion of Scripture which is of incalculable value, and which proves that the Bible is a book, not only to make men wise unto salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, but to serve as a guide to them in their passage though this life, and in reference to their temporal condition: a book to form not only the saint and the devout man, but the tradesman, the parent, and the member of domestic and social life in general.
In the passage quoted above, you will at once perceive that a habit of consideration and forethought is inculcated. We must not only consider the past by looking back, or the present by looking round, but the future by looking onwards. All these are important; we must look back to consider what we have done that we should not have done ; what we have not done that we should have done; and what we have done well, that we might have done better; that thus from the past we may draw lessons for the future. It is true that in your case so short a space of life bas yet elapsed, as to afford comparatively few materials for reflection, and little aid for your future guidance. But even youth has something to look back upon, and the practice of retrospection cannot be adopted too early. It is well to begin life with the formation of a habit of selfscrutiny and self-accountability.