The Excellence of a Religious Education.

Preached for the Benefit of the National Society for the Education of the Poor, on the first Sunday after a Confirmation, in the Year 1823.

Proverbs 4. 13.

Take fást hold of instruction,; let her not go; keep her ; for she is thy life.


E come into existence wholly uninformed

of the part we have to act in 'it; of the end, to which it will lead us; of the power, who gave it; and of the purpose, for which it was given. Even the means of preserving it, with every thing that can render it pleasant and happy, is to be learned in its progress. Most truly, therefore, are we admonished that instruction is our life.

There The Excellence of a Religious Education.

There is, however, much variety both in tbe modes and objects of instruction. Some knowledge is naturally salutary; and in its issues happy; of some the tendency in our frail and vitiated being is to evil; and all may be perverted to bad consequences, if the mind, which receives and retains it, be not formed in truth and rectitude. By one knowledge we preserve and extend life; in another we shorten or destroy it. As we apply our knowledge; we improve

and adorn, or deteriorate and deform our nature; dignify and exalt, or vilify and degrade it; render our existence happy, or fill it with trouble, pain, 'or disquietude.

But, there is one sort of knowledge far superior to every other; because, as I purpose to shew in this discourse, it enables us to turn other knowledge to a good account. It is attainable by the instruction, which the Royal Preacher exhorts us to lay fast hold on; by the instruction, that giveth true wisdom, shewing us the right end of life, and the way, by which we may reach it. In other words, this superior knowledge is the gift of true religion, or that light and information, which the spirit


[ocr errors]

The Excellence of a Religious Education.

of God pours into the soul, as well by his more immediate, but secret influence, as by his ordinary operation through the medium of human events, and human learning; to prepare us for happiness here and forever.

It is my intention, on the present occasion, trusting in God's assistance,

First-To set before you the excellence, utility, and beauty of this knowledge, and

SecondlyTo contrast it with that learning, which men so much regard, and are often $0 assiduous and anxious to acquire.

And lastly I intend to make some application of the subject to the cause, for which I now address you.

First then, I have to shew the excellence, utility, and beauty of the knowledge recommended by the wise king of Israel in the words of my text.

There is no person, who believes in the existence of God, and an overruling providence, and in even the probability of a future existence, who can deny the necessity or utility of


The Excellence of a Religious Education,

religion. Men may live without religion, as many, who profess it, too frequently do, and without any practical fear or love of the Deity in their hearts; but, if they believe that one Supreme Being made and governs all things'; that by his laws the universe, with all that it contains, is ordered and preserved ; and that it will finally be disposed of, as may seer good to his incomprehensible wisdom ; their reason, as often as it is consulted, must admit the necessity of learning and obeying his will ; of paying Him that reverence and worship, which they believe will conciliate his favour and blessing. Unless they suppose that God made the world, and yet has no care for it, but leaves it to be governed by chance, or fate, or any other name, which their imaginations may devise ; that He gave all the noble faculties of the human mind, and will require no account for the use of them, but leave their possessors to use or abuse them, without either punishment or reward ; unless they indulge this absurd conjecture, the conclusion is irresistable, that they owe Him obedience, adoration and service, as the first and proper business

of The Excellence of a Religious Education.

of their lives. And, hence they must acknow, ledge that an acquaintance with his law, and the power and inclination to keep it, coustitute their chief good, without which all other possessions, or endowments, must be unavail. ing to their permanent and final happiness.

Such is the inference of natural reason unassisted by divine revelation. A knowledge of the will of the Almighty Creator, in reference to the destiny of the creature, for the attainment of a well grounded hope of His favour, is the great and only sure consolation to the mind of man. This truth, at some time or other doth certainly discover itself to every living soul, that is capable of grave reflection, whether in the darkness of heathenism, or in the light of Christianity. For the mind, by its nature and constitution, desires this information. In solitude and depression, so long as it is unhardened by intercourse with the wicked world, looking into itself it considers whence it may be derived, and to what intended. In this contemplation it cannot rest, without some light that may irradiate futurity, affording a consolation of present ills in


« VorigeDoorgaan »