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judgment infallible, and yourself beyond the need of further teaching. Others may have some light, which has not fallen to your share. Be open, therefore, to conviction. Though I would be far from insinuating that any one should be such a latitudinarian, as to say yes, yes, to every new thing brought forward; or, that he should always he changing one system of doctrine for another ; yet I think all should beware of shutting their minds against new light, or further conviction. And if one is convinced of error, in any point of doctrine, before embraced, he ought so far to rise above the pride of his heart, as to renounce the one, and embrace what has undeniable evidence of truth. There are, however, some truths, which are attended with such evident c!earness, that when once adopted, they need never be changed. Such are the existence and perfections of God, depravity of man, atonement of Christ, repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, new birth, walking in Christ as he is received, resurrection, and the final judgment; when men shall be judged and rewarded, as their works shall be.
Circumstances may sometimes require a defence of some of the above doctrines, or others you believe; at such a time, be cautious of indulging any bitterness or censure. Love is the soul of religion, and is the only proper temper to manage disputes, or to perform any other duty. Never seek disputes about doctrines, modes, and forms ; for they are unprofitable. When a man embraces, or has embraced a damning'error, and it is suitable to your age and rank to attack him, let it be done with modesty, tenderness, and sound reason, and not by railery and burlesque. And take heed how you refuse fellowship to any person, merely because he sets aside some non-essential article in your creed, or because his contains something which you think improper to be believed.
In the midst of disputes, concerning Christian denominations, it should be considered, that their experience, and their being objects of Christian fellowship, are to be proved by the tempers they manifest, and by their words and actions, rather than by their name. If one of the denomination you choose, lives unlike a Christian, do not force a fellowship for him, because he is called by your name ; and if one of another denomination, lives like a humble follower of Christ, do not distort and derange every thing which belongs to the evidence of Christian experience, in order to prove him a hypocrite, because he is called by another name, Nor yet, run
into the extreme opposite to bigotry ; and regardless of the evidences of the Christian character, take the devil and all his children into the arms of what is falsely called, charity. This is no part of genuine fellowship, and cannot, therefore, be required by the gospel. The medium lies exactly between bigotry, which excludes from fellowship all but those of your own party ; and the pretended charity of hypocrites and worldly professors, who think it is a breach of all religion, not to believe, that wide is the gate, and broad the way, that leadeth to heaven-and many, if not all, go in thereat. Take this medium, and you will appear an upright, consistent Christian.
Never choose men of corrupt principles and bad morals, for associates. Inspiration has said, “ Evil communications corrupt good manners”—and this maxim will be found a true one, by painful experience, without a strict adherence to this part of my advice. If business or duty should occasionally call
you into the company of such men, take up the resolution of the pious Watts :
“ If I am e'er constrain'd to stay.
With men of lips profane,
Nor let my talk be vain.
I'll not be overaw'd ;
That I can speak for God.”
Such a resolution, executed, will be a strong preservative against the corruptions of the world ; and will enable you to live and die an example of evangelical holiness. But being unguarded, and the feet once beginning to slide, it is impose sible to say where and when they will stop. There is no half way place in this matter--there must be such a separation from men of vicious principles and lives, as to keep you clear of their contagious examples. But, at the same time, shew nothing haughty or proud-nothing sour or morose ; but evidence to them, that you love, pity, and pray for them; and that a sense of duty to God, and a desire for holiness, call upon you to leave them, as unfit associates for one who feels himself a candidate for an eternal state of existence.
In the choice of friends, be cautious and discriminating. A man may have many acquaintances ; yet can rarely have
but few confidential friends. Never take a flatterer for a friend, nor one who presses hard after your secrets; adding repeated and unasked promises, that he will never reveal them. Men are not to be taken as friends, on a slight acquaintance ; however agreeable they may seem. They should be well tried, before they are ranked among contidants. When a man is found worthy of being thus ranked never desert, never grieve, never offend him. His secrets are to be kept, his interest and happiness are to be yours. But do not let partiality for particular friends, occasion others to be treated with a coldness and distance they do not de
This will create ill will, and enemies, unnecessarily. Men will not be trodden upon, even if they are not at objects of your most special confidence and regard. Let all men, therefore, be treated according to their age, rank, station, &c. Thus offences will not only be avoided, but respect secured, Men may be your superiors in age, office, learning, &c. and thus deserve respect; though their character in other respects, or some other circumstance, may render it im roper to rank them among your chosen friends. See, therefore, that all have their due ; tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear, custom to whom custom, honor to whom honor.
I will not say it will be improper to spend some little time in travelling, before you fix yourself down in the world ; yet I hope no wandering, unsteady habits will be acquired. Engage in some stated and honest occupation; and when once undertaken, let it be diligently pursued. Never get into the habit of often changing employments. No business can be set up without cost, and if many branches are set up, and none profitably worked at, they will destroy your whole income, and keep you forever poor. Be cautious of running in debt beyond the possibility, or even the probability, of paying. Let all promises be punctually fulfilled. Never imitate neighbor Careless, wbo promised me, and three others, to work on the same day, and worked for neither. On being asked why he promised, he said to oblige us.
Do not suppose men will think themselves obliged by such promises.Live not beyond your income--be contented to creep before you go. Do not repine, that a neighbor rides in a coach and six, while you are obliged to go on foot ; nor attempt to imi. tate hin, and thereby waste what you possess, and spend the remainder of life in a prison, or in poverty.
66 If riches Correase, set not your heart upon them.” They are not all
given for your sake ; but the poor have an interest in them, Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the distressed. Visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and keep yoursell unspotted from the world.
Supposing you may judge it proper, at a future period, to enter the married state, permit me to be particular concerning it; as it will have a very close connection with the happiness of life and of eternity. Mistake not the amours and intrigucs of a libertine world, as being necessary to a right and happy choice of a companion for life. It is proved by indubitable facts, that the practisers of these methods, as often miss in their election, and are aflicted with unhappy marriages, as well as other men. Indeed, it can hardly be supposed, that unrighteous methods should be followed with happy consequences. Such as conduct this business according to the dictates of reason and scripture, are much more likely to have success in the undertaking. Hasty and inconsiderate connexions are equally to be avoided. There must, there ought to be, an acquaintance with the temper, character, and condition of the person, to whom you make a surrender of your heart and hand. Else something may afterwards be known, which may serve to diminish her in your esteem, and proportionably lesson the anticipated enjoyment. Beside personal acquaintance, it may be proper to take the advice of a discerning and faithful friend, as an introduction to matrimonial life.
Religiously abstain from criminal indulgencies ; lest the person not chosen, be imposed on you by a kind of necessity. A remembrance of the crime, with the other consequences ever present, will embitter every enjoy ment. The votaries of amorous intrigue, are exposed to this evil; and not unfrequently are taken by it; and may repent, when it is too late, that they had not been guided by principles of chastity and virtue.
Avoid the extremes of apathy and violent passions, in matters which concern love and marriage. It is not beneath the dignity of a man and a christian to feel and acknowledge a predilection for one woman rather than another ; yea, than for all others with whom he is acquainted. The likeness of tempers, views, dispositions, abilities, ages, &c. may lead to such a predilection ; and he who does not act on some of these motives, cannot be said to act wisely. No man ought Therefore, to marry a woman, for whom he does not feel a warm, chaste, and well-regulated attachment.
Nor is the other extreme less to be avoided. Violent gusts of passion, which pass under the name of love, never indicate happiness in the married state. It is an old proverb, and true as old, that hot love is soon cold. Supposed or imaginary qualities, or a single external attraction, usually occasions this impulse of the moment; which, overleaping all the bounds of reason, must unavoidably subside ; and, perhaps, give place to the most malignant tempers.
Damon and Belinda yielded to this violence of passion ; and they dignified it by the name of love. They declared, with the warmest conôdence, that all the happiness of future life depended on being united in the bonds of wedlock. The parents opposed their designs--they nearly went distracted, and declared they should certainly hang or drown themselves,--and actually made the attempt. The parents yielded, and they were married. For the first three months their fondness was truly disgusting. In company, their conduct and conversation could not be witnessed without blushing and indignation-it was sickening and offensive to the last degree. But by them, it was considered as a mark of their refined and superior attachment. They wondered at the coldness of others, and spoke as if men and wives ought always to behave towards each other, with a kind of rapturous adoration. But the close of the above mentioned period saw their honey moon on the wane, and in three months more, nothing could be seen but its dark side—now, all was ill-nature and contention. Looks, gestures, words, all declared, and even in company, how much they hated, and that their hatred was likely to be as lasting as life.
Stoicus forms the opposite character. He is married, and does not quarrel with his wife; but he treats her with so much coldness and inattention, that among strangers, she is rarely taken to be the person with whom he has entered into the sacred engagements of matrimony. He converses as freely with others, and pays them the same attention, as he does his own wife. He has gone so far as to say, he knows no difference of affection, between her and hundreds of bis acquaintance. He even ridicules the idea of a warm and partial attachment to one person above others ; and treats all those who profess or defend it, as hardly deserving to be ranked among reasonable beings.
Philos and Philena form, in their conduct, the medium of the two extrenes. Conceiving a friendship for each other on