John Gorham Palfrey.

Sermons on duties belonging to some of the conditions and relations of private life online

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THE NEV/ YORK

PUBLIC LIBRARY

281323



ABTOft, I'-NOX AND
IfLOEN i ^'OAr|ONS

1008



Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1834,

By Charles Bowxn,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Maasachusetts.



CAMBRIDGE PRESS:
METCALF, TORRY, AJVD BALLOU.



THE CONGREGATION

WORSHIPPING IN

BRATTLE SQUARE, BOSTON,

THESE V

SERMONS ARE INSCRIBED, ~

IN GRATEFUL, MEMORY
OF HAPP^' YEARS PASSED IN THEIR SERVICE,

AND WITH HEARTY PRAYERS FOR

THEIR TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL WELL-BEING,

BY

THEIR FAITHFUL FRIEND,

JOHN GORHAM PALFREY.



ADVERTISEMENT



TO THE FIRST EDITION.



Most of the sermons, which compose the following vol-
ume, were written at the close of the year 1829. Five, then
repeated, — viz. the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, twen-
tieth, and twenty-first, — were written at different times,
some years before ; and one, the twenty-second, more
recently. The peculiarity of several of the subjects in the
course, and the detail with which it gave occasion to treat
some questions, attracted to these more attention than was
usual with my sermons, and I was repeatedly requested to
publish them. This would not have been in my power
immediately, as, on account of a free use of arbitrary
characters, the manuscripts were unfit to go to the printer ;
and new engagements, which soon after came on, dismissed
the idea from my mind. It would probably not have been
resumed, but for the kindness of two friends, who lately
proposed to make the copies. Had I been able to command
time to make them, it is likely that the revision would have
been more thorough. In reading over the sermons, I dis-
cover, particularly, chasms in the discussion, which I should



viii ADVERTISEMENT.

have been glad to fill ; and a want of proportion in some
instances, between the extent to which a subject is pursued,
and its relative importance, owing, partly, to accidental
causes, such, for example, as similar subjects having been
treated, or not, near the time. Repetitions of the same
topic in different connexions do not give me the same con-
cern ; I doubt, whether, if the thing were to do over again,
I should study to avoid such. Nor did I see reason to digest
what is said on each subject, into one composition. The
volume is not a treatise, nor a collection of treatises, but of
discourses, pronounced in the usual routine of parish ser-
vice. I supposed that it was best to allow them to retain
their identity of this kind, and to relieve the reader's
attention, like the hearer's, at convenient intervals, taking
up the subject again, when it was continued, with a brief
recapitulation of what had before been said.



DiviKiTY College, Cambridge
March 25th, 1834.



CONTENTS.



SERMON I.

IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION TO THE YOUNG.

1 Timothy V. 1. — Intreat — the younger men as brethren. . . 1
SERMONS II. & III.

DUTIES OP THE YOUNG.

Proverbs XXIII. 15. — My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart
shall rejoice 16

Jeremiah III. 4. — Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, my
father, thou art the guide of my youth 33

SERMONS IV. & V.

DUTIES OF THE AGED.

Proverbs XVI. 31. — The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be
found in the way of righteousness 48, 61

SERMON VI.

DUTIES OF THE AFFLICTED.

1 Thessalonians IV. 13. — That ye sorrow not even as others,
which have no hope. . '. "74



X CONTENTS.

SERMONS VII. & VIII.

DUTIES OF THE SICK.

Psalm XLI. 3. — The Lord will strengthen him upon the b?d of
languishing; tho-.i wilt make all his bed in his sickness. ... 85

Isaiah XXXVIII. 1. — Thus saith the Lord. Set thine house in
order, for thou shalt die, and not live 97



SERMON IX.

DUTIES OF THE POOR.

Luke VIL 22. — To the poor the Gospel is preached. ... 110
SERMONS X. & XI.

DUTIES OF THE RICH.

1 Timothy VL 17. — Change them that are rich in this world, that
they be not high-minded , nor trust in uncertain holies, but in the
living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy ; that they do
good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to
communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation
against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal
life. 121, 133

SERMONS XII. & XIII.

DUTIES OF FRIENDS.

Proverbs XVIIL 24. — A man that hath friends must shew him-
self friendly 145, 158



CONTENTS. xi

SERMON XIV.

DOMESTIC UNITY.

Psalm CXXXIII. 1. — Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for
brethren to dwell together in unity 172

SERMONS XV. & XVI.

DUTIES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES.

Ephesians v. 33. — Let every one of you in particular so love his
wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her
husband 182, 193

SERMONS XVII. XVIII. & XIX.

DUTIES OF PARENTS.

1 Timothy V. 8. — If any provide not for his own, and specially for
those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than
an infidel 205, 219, 233

SERMONS XX. & XXI.

DUTIES OF CHILDREN.

Ephesians VI. 2. — Honor thy father and mother, which is the first
commandment with promise 245, 257

SERMON XXII.

DUTIES OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

Genesis XLIII. 29,30. — And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his
brother Benjamin, his mother's son, — and he said, God be gracious



xii CONTENTS.

unto thee, my son ; and Joseph made haste, — and he sought where
to weep, and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. . 270

SERMONS XXIII. & XXIV.

DUTIES OF MASTERS AND SERVANTS.

Colossi ANS III. 22 — IV. 1. — Servants, obey in all things your
masters according to the flesh ; not with eye service, as men
pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. And whatsoever
ye do, do it heaitily, as to the Lord, and not unto men ; knowing that
of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye
serve the Lord Christ. But he that doth wrong shall receive for the
wrong which he hath done.

And there is no respect of persons ; masters, give unto your servants
that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a master in
heaven 288, 299



SERMON I



IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION TO THE YOUNG



1 TIMOTHY V. 1.

ENTREAT — THE YOUNGER MEN AS BRETHREN.

For a mind with any pretensions to considerateness, not
to say piety, it is impossible to look at the young without
strong feelings of interest. Here are beings, susceptible of
all the pleasures and pains incident to man's rational and
immortal nature ; capable of serving or displeasing God,
serving or harming the world, serving or ruining themselves
for time and for eternity. Which side of the question is to
result, is now a problem. It is a problem soon to be solved,
and the solution is their own to give. Experienced men
tremble and sadden, when they think how much of weal or
woe in this world depends on that decision. Christians
exult or shudder, as they mark one or the other course taken
in youth towards the world of retribution. No one can be
surprised that, in the passage which furnishes our text, St.
Paul, among other directions to Timothy for the administra-
tion of his charge over the church of Ephesus, is found
instructing him to address the exhortations of religion ex-
pressly to the young ; that is, (for, in the context, he
1



2 IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

distinguishes this class from that of children,) to those
who, having passed their period of childhood and strict
pupilage, have reached the age when they must look for
themselves at their dangers and obligations, though not that
when it is common to assume the relations of what we call
mature and active life.

Paul's advice to his young coadjutor ought, in this as in
other respects, to be viewed as a directory for the practice
of christian ministers. Accordingly, at the present time,
omitting all consideration of the general claims of religion
alike upon every mind, I would attempt to set forth some of
the reasons, why it peculiarly concerns themselves and the
community, that gospel truth should be received with im-
pression and effect into the minds of the young. My young
friends, you know that this is a subject of vast import to
you. May God give us grace to speak and hear under a
serious sense of this ; and whatever may be said according
with his will, may he bless it to your lasting good.

I. A consideration which might properly be first presented,
relates to the importance of the young as a class in society ;
being, as they are, the class to whose care all the great
interests of society are about to be transferred. But this,
as it will come under our notice in a little different connex-
ion, I pass over for the present, to notice briefly also,

II. In the second place, the special demand of youth to
be subjected to christian influences, on account of its being
an age especially improvable.

1. Here, indeed, childhood has, in one respect, the ad-
vantage over it. Childhood offers no obstacle, the result of
previous influences, to such impressions as it is desired to
make : and the permanent bias of the life is commonly taken
in its earliest years. Such as is the character of the child,
such essentially, only in fuller development, it is likely that
the character of the youth will be. But this calculation is



TO THE YOUNG. 3

one of no more than probability, nor can it be anticipated
with nearly as much confidence, that the dispositions of
childhood will adhere to youth, as that the character of the
youth will be matured in the man. For a general rule, that
is a severer trial of the principles, which takes place when
parental superintendence in its strictness ceases, than what
is sustained at any later period of life. A parent may well
rejoice, if, as far as his children's practice yet enables him
to judge, he has succeeded to establish right rides of con-
duct in their minds, and inure them to corresponding habits.
But he does not forget, (and though he remembers with
satisfaction, it is a satisfaction mingled with its full share of
anxiety,) that the time must come, when, if they have
anything of the considerate character of mind which he
desires to witness in them, they will no longer be content
with an implicit acquiescence in the rules of duty which he
had enforced, but will subject them to a rigid scrutiny to
learn what is, in truth, their obligation. That is a period
of profound interest, which may be expected to occur in the
youth of every reflecting person, when lie comes to inquire
whether the lessons, on which he has been taught to practise,
are to be dismissed as nursery tales, or acknowledged for
truths of sublime and eternal moment. That question rightly
and seriously determined, the character of the life may, with
no little confidence, be augured to have been determined
with it ; and the age when, from the growth of the under-
standing to that point that its curiosity is likely to be excited,
and its conclusions to be permanently settled, that question
is wont to arise and be resolved, is certainly to be regarded
as an age when the character, under proper treatment, will
receive a vast accession of stability and force, and when it
demands such treatment by an imperious claim.

2. Again ; youth is a peculiarly improvable age on account
of its susceptibility of religious influences. The religious



4 IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

sentiment is undoubtedly an inestimable acquisition at any
period of life ; and to what maturity the fruit may be carried,
at whatever time the seed be sown, is not for any man to
calculate. But, on the other hand, there seems little hazard
in affirming, that to give the heart to God when its affections
are yet fresh, unpalled by any weariness, and unchilled by
any disappointment, — when it is more a habit than in after
years, to give the whole heart without reserve to whatever
pursuit it chooses, — there can be little hazard in affirming,
that this is to make the choice of the religious life under a
great advantage. The ardor and disinterestedness, which
are reckoned characteristic qualities of youth, are qualities
in full harmony with a distinguished religious excellence.
To those who are altogether untaught by a painful experi-
ence to moderate their attachments, it is easier to love God
Avith all their soul and strength, and their neighbor as them-
selves ; and the flame of devotion and benevolence, fed thus
from the first rich fountains of the spirit, will keep its
brightness and intensity when other emotions may grow
dull. Give yourselves now, my young friends, to God's
service, and you do it with your capacity unimpaired and
complete to attain the highest excellence, and experience
the fullest satisfactions, of the christian character. Delay
it, and even if you find the will hereafter to do what should
now be done, you will also find that time has mournfully
crippled your power, and subdued your spirit, for the work.

III. But I proceed to a third consideration, and that on
which I am longest to dwell. Youth peculiarly demands
the blessing of christian influences, because it must needs
be characterised as, in some respects, a peculiarly tempted
age.

The causes, which make it so, are of course such as the
lapse of time removes. But, if they take effect, they none
the less leave abiding consequences. While some of the



TO THE YOUNG. 5

passions are never stronger than at that period, others, whose
tendency is to divide and counteract, and so moderate, their
control over the mind, are as yet in very feeble development.
Imagination, a power whose moral influence is so much
overlooked, has attained a full growth, while the judgment,
which should correct it, is as yet unripe, and experience has
not passed its infancy. With much partial vigor, there is
wanting that balance of the faculties which belongs to true
wisdom ; and with many transports, there is missed that
due proportion and blending of the affections, which makes
real, that is, tranquil happiness. The salutary discipline of
disappointment has not yet checked extravagant expecta-
tions, and discouraged from rash enterprises ; and, in the
pride of its untried strength, youth is quick in resentment,
and impatient of control. Some of the amiable distinctions
of youth are nevertheless snares to it. Its high sense of
honor sometimes leads it to prefer what is only reputed good,
to that which really is so ; and its warm, unsuspicious affec-
tions expose it to the evil communication of ill-selected
friendships. In youth, too, there is less than at other periods
of life, of that supervision of others, which is found a pow-
erful aid to the virtue of the most virtuous men. Childhood
has a close domestic oversight for its shield, while the age
to which it gives place is trusted with a large liberty of its
own. It goes forth to act upon the principles which have
been impressed. With youth begins the trying experiment
upon the power of independent agency. The ampler dis-
cretion of mature life, again, is controlled by its greater
publicity. Its conduct is subjected to the scrutiny of a
vigilant and fault-finding world, a restraint which youth is
not made to feel by any means in its fullest force. A man
holds what most he may be supposed to value by the tenure
of a character without reproach, while youthful irregularities
are more likely to escape remark, or, worse, may be in a
I*



6 IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

degree connived at. Especially is this release from restraints
imposed by others' observation to be remarked of that large
proportion of young persons in a populous city, who,
(resorting tliither with a view to preparation for their future
employments in life,) at the very period when their char-
acters, be they where they might, must be exposed to a
critical experiment, are removed from the care of their
natural advisers, and the observation of all whose good
opinion they have been used to regard ; and at the same
time that they acquire this unaccustomed liberty, are intro-
duced to a scene so new, that there is danger of their being
dazzled and bewildered by it to the degree of confusing
their moral perceptions, and to companions, among whom
it may well be feared that there will be some prepared to
exert a corrupting influence. The danger of such persons
is great, and well may anxious parental counsels follow, and
parental prayers ascend for them.

But youth, inexperienced, ardent, credulous, rash, exposed
by its very generosity, cannot but be called, under the most
favorable circumstances, a peculiarly tempted age ; though,
while the essential occasions of peculiar moral danger to
youth are sufficiently perceptible, they are so blended
together, and manifest themselves so much in union, that,
in attempting to specify, it may not be easy to arrange them
under a strictly logical division.

1. There are, for instance, mistakes of different kinds,
into which youth systematically falls in the search of hap-
piness. Uninstructed by experience, how apt impulse is to
betray, — it is prone to take counsel of its impulses. On
the worst disorders into which youth is thus cheated, it
cannot be expected that I should enlarge ; and, God be
thanked, in that state of society with which we are best
acquainted, there appears less urgent reason for caution
against them, than there has been in other times, and is in



TO THE YOUNG. 7

Other places. The period seems to have gone by with us,
when a foolish and mischievous excess, which called itself
gaiety and good fellowship, was recognised as the sign of a
young person of spirit. With a better justice to truth and
good morals, intemperance in one age or sex is coming to
be looked upon with as little favor as in the other ; — nay,
with some sense of its deserving the severest disapprobation
in the age and the sex where most it has been tolerated, on
account of the power of longer and wider usefulness which
in them it prostrates. A deplorable absurdity by which
society was long abused, suffering a licentiousness in one
sex which it visited with the heaviest penalties in the other,
is also fast doing away, and with it a silly maxim is losing
its currency, which represented what was called a reformed
(meaning in truth commonly no more than a sated) profli-
gate, as a fit object of domestic confidence, I pass from
these subjects ; but, if there should be any present disposed
to think that any degree of excess or libertinism is a tolera-
ble thing in youth, let them listen to what may be said in a
word on the other side of the question ; and if they persist,
let their future experience declare whether it is not as certain
as God's own truth. The vicious indulgences of youth will
poison the whole mind. They will infuse corruption into
the fountain ; and what infusion is there, of virtue afterwards
to cleanse the stream ? It is not of the loss of health, of
time, of habits of industry when they ought to be forming,
of a good name when it would affect the whole prospects of
life, — it is not of such losses that I speak. It is possible
that good care or good fortune may avoid some of these, and
that reformation may retrieve others. But the man's crimi-
nal indulgence has made him gross. It has permanently
dulled his relish for pure enjoyments of the mind and heart.
To use a poet's words, it has ' hardened all within, and
petrified the feeling.' It will be next to a miracle, if a mind



8 IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

so dealt with should ever again become capable of delicate
and elevated sentiment ; if an animal coarseness should not
cling to it like its life.

2. I pass to a less palpable and less certain error, into
which the young are prone, in their eager chase after hap-
piness, to fall. There are few subjects on which, while the
thouo-htless can settle it in a breath, the wise are so embar-
rassed to speak, as that of the rules and the moderation to
be observed in sharing in the pleasures of social intercourse.
On the one hand, we are made to enlighten each other's
minds, and cultivate each other's affections, in society ; not
to speak of such inferior things, as opportunity being there
provided for present innocent enjoyment, and a school for
the culture of the manners which beautify life, and the
taste that gives an added relish for God's bounties. Ques-
tions respecting social intercourse, then, must be questions
of the form which it ought to take. Indiscriminately to
condemn the forms which in civilized and christian com-
munities it has taken, is a harsh and ill considered step,
unless we are able to show that their absence, or the adop-
tion in their place of some others which we might propose,
would not lead to greater evils than we can charge upon
those now existing ; besides that it would tend to generate
a morose and censorious habit of mind, and to withdraw us
from the intercourse of cultivated, and wise, and religious
persons, whose society we might find on all accounts a
blessing to us. On the other hand, there is serious danger
of excess, especially as it is the young who are chiefly
concerned ; the young, who have not the experience that
would warn them against it. With their feelings, it may
well be feared that the pleasures of society will become to
them the most interesting subject, and take up altogether a
disproportionate share of their time, their minds, and their
hearts. A parent who has not been faithful by seasonable



TO THE YOUNG. 9

discipline to instil into the mind of his child high principles
of duty, and sober views of life, may well tremble when
the time of exposure comes to the bewildering influences of
the world of fashion ; so real is the danger not only that the
most improvable period of life will be made to pass without
fruit, making the life what the year would be without a
spring, but that a character of mind will be formed, which
gives no promise of happiness in this world of useful action,
or in the future world of spiritual enjoyment. To be con-
spicuous in the world of fashion, however well it may be
borne when such a thing comes about without purpose, can
be the object of no wise young person's ambition. There
are only a few individuals, of the strongest minds, who have
proved equal to that trial ; and the reason why such minds
have sustained the trials of the station is, that they have
been too strong to covet or prize such an eminence. But
in cases of less distinction, and accordingly less exposure,
while the inconsiderate are applauding, the judiciously af-
fectionate too often see cause only for concern or grief.
Most painful is it, to see a period, given for usefulness and
improvement, wasted in hollow gratifications of the present
hour, and the energies of an immortal intellect expended
on such unprofitable cares. Alarming is the thought of the
preparation which a mind engrossed with such concerns is
making for eternity, and most sad is the thought, even, of
the sacrifice which it is making of the happiness of future
earthly years ; for the tastes which it has formed will be
lasting, while the gratifications which they demand will
soon cease to be what they were in the period of thought-
lessness, inexperience, and novelty, — and querulousness,
vacancy, and discontent will prove the hard inheritance of
age. Let christian parents be thoughtful to fortify their
children betimes against such dangers, by impressing on
them beforehand just views of those great purposes of life^



10 IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

which, alike in youth and age, true wisdom and regard t»
true happiness demand should be pursued ; and, as long as
their authority lasts, let them use it in discouraging those
tastes for expensiveness, display, and undue devotion of
time to amusement, which, in any station of life, can do
their children nothing but mischief And let the young
show that they are not so weak, as to suppose happiness to
be promoted by any sacrifice of duty or improvement to
present pleasure. Let them manifest a worthier ambition
than that of being the lightest and idlest among the gay.
Let it not seem, as if, having passed the industrious prepar-
atory season of childhood, they thought that the period of



Online LibraryJohn Gorham PalfreySermons on duties belonging to some of the conditions and relations of private life → online text (page 1 of 24)