William Ellery Channing.

The complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction online

. (page 87 of 169)
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critical child is one of the most unpromising
characters in the world. You should have
no secrets which you are unwilling to disclose
to your parents. If you have done wrong,
you should openly confess it, and ask that
forgiveness which a parent's heart is ready to
bestow. If you wish to undertake anything,
ask their consent. Never begin anything m
the hope that you can conceal your design.
If you once strive to impose on your parents,
you will be led on, from one step to another,
to invent falsehoods, to practise artifice, till
you will become contemptible and hateful.
You will soon be delected, and then none
will trust you. Sincerity in a child will make
up for many faults. Of children, he is the
worst who watches the eyes of his parents,
pretends to obey as long as they see him,
but as soon as they have turned away does
what they have forbidden. Whatever else
you do, never deceive. Let your parents
always learn your faults from your own lips ;
and be assured they will never love you the
less for your openness and sincerity.

Lastly, You must prove your respect and
gratitude to your parents by attending se-
riously to their instructions and admonitions,
and by improving the advantages they afford
you for becoming wise, useful, good, and
happy for ever. I hope, my young friends,
that you have parents who take care, not
only of your bodies, but your souls; who
instruct you in your duty, who talk to you
of your God and Saviour, who teach you to
pray and to read the Scriptures, and who
strive to give you such knowledge and bring
you up in such habits as will lead you to use-
fulness on earth and to happiness in heaven.
If you have not, I can only pity you; and I
have little hope that I can do you good by

what I have here said. But if your parents
are faithful in instructing and guiding you,
you must prove your gratitude to them and
to God, by listening respectfully and atten-
tively to what they say; by shunning the
temptations of which they warn you, and by
walking in the paths they mark out before
you. You must labour to answer their hopes
and wishes by improving in knowledge ; by
being industnous at school ; by living peace-
ably with your companions; by avoiding all
profane and wicked language; by fleeing
bad company ; by treating all persons with
respect ; by being kind and generous and
honest, and by loving and serving your
Father in heaven. Tluis is the happiest and
most delightful way of repaying the kindness
of your parents. Let them see you growing
up with amiable tempers and industrious
habits ; let them see you delighting to do
good, and fearing to offend God; and they
will think you have never been a burden.
Their fears and anxieties about you will give
place to brighter views. They will hope to
see you prosperous, respected, and beioved
in the present world. But if in this they are
to be disappointed, if they are soon to see
you stretched on the bed of sickness and
death, they will still smile amidst their tears,
and be comforted by the thought that you
are the children of God, and that you are
going to a Father that loves you better than
they. If, on the contrary, you slight and
despise their instructions, and suffer 3roar
youth to run waste, you will do much to
embitter their happiness and shorten their
days. Many parents have gone to the grave
broken-hearted by the ingratitude, perverse-
ness, impiety, and licentiousness of their
children. My yotmg friends, listen seriously
to parental admonition. Beware, lest you
pierce with anguish that breast on which
you have so often leaned. Beware, lest by
early contempt of instruction you bring your-
selves to shame and misery in this workl, and
draw on your heads still heavier ruin in the
world beyond the grave.
* Children, I have now set before you your
duties. Let me once more beseech you to
honour your father and mother. Ever cling
to them with confidence and love. Be to
them an honour, an ornament, a solace, and
a support. Be more than they expect, and
if possible be all that they desire. To you
they are now looking with an affection which
trembles for your safety. So live that their
eyes may ever fix on you with beams of hope
and joy. So live that the recollection of you
may soothe their last hours. May you now
walk by their side in the steps of the ho^
Saviour, and through his grace may you
meet again in a better and happier wond.

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The Scriptures of the Old and New Testa-
ments agree in enjoining prayer. Let no
man call himself a Christian who lives with-
out giving a part of life to this duty. We
are not taught how often we must pray ; but
Lord, in teaching us to say, "Give us
» day our daily bread," implies that we
luld pray daily. He has even said to us,
ray always ;" ap-injunction to be explained,
!ed, with tl^latitude which many of his
lepts requi»3, but which is not to be satis-
we tliinJ^, without regular and habitual
•tion. M to the particular hours to be
this duty, every Christian may
'or himself. Our religion is too
liritual to bind us to any place
of prayer. But there are parts
particularly favourable to this
which, if possible, should be re-
T it. On these we shall offer a few


P" ,




or any
of the d^
duty, ani


The fjrst of these periods is the morning,
which open nature seems to have pointed out
to men/of different religions as a fit time for
offerinigs to the Divinity. In the morning
our minds are not so much shaken by worldly
cares and pleasures as in other parts of the
day. Retirement and sleep have helped to
allay the violence of our feelings, to calm the
feverish excitement so often produced by in-
tercourse with men. The hour is a still one.
The hurry and tumults of life are not begun,
and we naturally share in the tranquillity
around us. Having for so many hours lost
our hold on the world, we can banish it more
easily from the mind, and worship With less
divided attention. This, then, is a favourable
time for approaching the invisible Author of
our being, for strengthening the intimacy of
our minds with Him, for thinking upon a
future life, and for seeking those spiritual
aids which we need in the labours ancl temp-
tations of every day.

In the morning there is much to feed the
spirit of devotion. It offers an abundance of
thoughts friendly to pious feeling. When we
look on creation, what a happy and touching
change do we witness ! A few hours past,
the &irth was wrapped in gloom and silence.
There seemed "a pause in nature." But
now a new flood of light has broken forth,
and creation rises before us in fresher and
brighter hues, and seems to rejoice as if it
had just received birth from its Author. The
sun never sheds more cheerful beams, and
never proclaims more loudly God's glory and
goodness, than when he returns after the
coldness and dampness of night, and awakens

man and inferior animals to the various pur-
poses of their being. A spirit of joy seems
breathed over the earth and through the sky.
It requires Httle effort of imagination to read
delight in the kindled clouds or in the fields
bright with dew. This is the time when we
can best feel and bless the Power which said,
"Let there be light;" which "set a taber-
nacle for the sun in the heavens," and made
him the dispenser of fruitfulness and enjoy-
ment through all regions.

If we next look at ourselves, what materials
does the morning furnish for devout thought 1
At the close of the past day, we were ex-
hausted by our labours, and unable to move
without wearisome effort. Our minds were
sluggish, and could not be held to the most
interesting objects. From this state of ex-
haustion, we sank gradually into entire
insensibility. Our limbs became motionless;
our senses were shut as in death. Our
thoughts were suspended, or only wandered
confusedly and without aim. Our friends,
and the universe, and God Himself were for-
gotten. And what a change does the morning
bring with it ! On waking, we find that sleep,
the image of death, has silently infused into
us a new life. The weary limbs are braced
again. The dim eye has become bright and
piercing. The mind is returned from the
region of forgetfulness to its old possessions.
Friends are met again with a new interest.
We are again capable of devout sentiment,
virtuous effort, and Christian hope. With
what subjects of gratitude, then, does the
morning furnish us! We can hardly recall
the state of insensibility from which we have
just emerged without a consciousness of our
dependence, or think of the renovation of
our powers and intellectual being without
feeling our obligation to God. There is
something very touching in the consideration,
if we will fix our minds upon it, that God
thought of us when we could not think ; that
He watched over us when we had no power to
avert peril from ourselves ; that He continued
our vital motions, and in due time broke
the chains of sleep, and set our imprisoned
faculties free. How fit is it, at this hour, to
raise to God the eyes which He has opened,
and the arm which He has strengthened ; to
acknowledge his providence; and to conse-
crate to Him the powers which He has
renewed ! How fit that He should be the
first object of the thoughts and affections
which He has restored ! How fit to employ
in his praise the tongue which He has loosed,
and the breath wliich He has spared !

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But the momitig Is a fit time for devotion,
not only from its relation to the past night,
but considered as the introduction of a new
day. To a thinking mind, how natural at this
hour are such reflections as the following : —
I am now to enter on a new period of my Ufe,
to start afresh in my course. I am to return
to that world where I have often gone astray ;
to receive impressions which may never be
effaced ; to perform actions which will never
be forgotten ; to strengthen a character which
will fit me for heaven or hell. I am this day
to meet temptations which have often subdued
me; I am to be entrusted again with oppor*
tunities of usefulness which I have often
neglected. I am to influence the minds of
others, to help in moulding their characters,
and in deciding the happiness of their present
and future life. How uncertain is this day !
What unseen dangers are before me I What
unexpected changes may await me ! It may
be my last day ! It will certainly bring me
nearer to death and judgment ! — Now, when
entering on a period of life so imp>ortant, yet
so imcertain, how fit and natural is it. before
we take the first step, to seek the favour of
that Being on whom the lot of every day
depends, to commit all our interests to his
almighty and wise providence, to seek his
blessing on our labours and his succour in
temptation, and to consecrate to his service
the day which He raises upon us 1 This
morning devotion not only agrees with the
sentiments of the heart, but tends to make the
day happy, useful, and virtuous. Having cast
ourselves on the mercy and protection of the
Almighty, we shall go forth with new confi-
dence to the labours and duties which He
imposes. Our early prayer will help to shed
an odour of piety through the whole life.
God, having first occupied, will more easily
recur to our mind. Our first step will be in
the right path, and we may hope a happy

So fit and useful is morning devotion, it
ought not to be omitted without necessity.
If our circumstances will allow the privilege,
it is a bad sign when no part of the morning
is spent in prayer. If God find no place in
our minds at that early and peaceful hour. He
will hardly recur to us in the tumults of life.
If the benefits of the morning do not soften
us, we can hardly expect the heart to melt
with gratitude through the day. If the world
then rush in and take possession of us, when
we are at some distance and have had a res-
pite from its cares, how can we hope to shake
it off" when we shall be in the midst of it,
pressed and agitated by it on every side ? Let
a part of the morning, if possible, be set apart
to devotion ; and to this end we should fix the
hour of rising, so that we may have an early
hour at our own disposal. Our piety is sus-

picious if we can renounce, as .too many 60,
the pleasures and benefits of early prayer,
rather than forego the senseless indulgence of
unnecessary sleep. What ! we can rase earl^
enough for business. We can even anticip^e
the dawn, if a favourite pleasure or Ian \m-
common gain requires the effort. JBut we
cannot rise that we may bless our great B*nc-
factor, that we may arm ourselves for the
severe conflicts to which our principles arc to
be exposed I We are willing to rush into t
world, without thanks offered, or a blessi
sought t From a day thus begun, wl
ought we to expect but thoughtlessness
guilt ?

I-.et us now consider another part of the
which is favourable to the duty of prayer
mean the evening. This season, hke
morning, is calm and quiet. ) Our lal
are end^. The bustle of life '^M^I^Me by,
The distracting glare of the day lH[ Vanished.
The darkness which surrounds^us favours
seriousness, composure, and solei
night the earth fades from our
nothing of creation is left us but
heavens, so vast, so magnificent, so
if to guide up our thoughts above
things to God and immortality.

This period should in part be
prayer, as it furnishes a variety of dev<
topics and excitements. The evening
close of an important division of time,
therefore a fit and natural season for stop{>uE)£^
and looking back on the day. And can we
ever look back on a day which bears no wit-
ness to God, and lays no claim to our grati-
tude? Who is it that strengthens us for
daily labour, gives us daily bread, continues
our friends and common pleasures, and grants
us the privilege of retiring, after the cares of
the day, to a quiet and beloved home ? The
review of the day will often suggest not only
these ordinary benefits, but pecuh'ar proofs of
God's goodness, unlooked-for successes, sin-
gular concurrences of favourable events,
signal blessings sent to our friends, or new
and powerful aids to our own virtue, which
call for peculiar thankfulness. And shall all
these benefits pass away unnoticed? Shall
we retire to repose as insensible as the wearied
brute ? How fit and natui'al is it to close
with pious acknowledgment the day which
has been filled with Divine beneficence 1

But the evening is the time to review, not
only our blessings, but our actions, A re-
flecting mind will naturally remember at this
hour that another day is gone, and gone to
testify of us to our Judge. How natural and
useful to inquire what report it has carried to
heaven. Perhaps we have the satisfaction of
looking back on a day which, in its general
tenor, has been innocent and pure, which,
having begun with God's praise, has been

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spent as in his presence ; which has proved
tJje reality of our principles in temptation ;
and shall such a day end without gratefully
acknowledging Him in whose strength we
have been strong, and to whom we owe the
powers and opportunities of Christian im-
provement? But no day will present to us
recollections of purity unmixed with sin.
Conscience, if suffered to inspect faithfully
and speak plainly, will recount irregular de-
sires and defective motives, talents wasted
and time misspent ; and shall we let the day
pass from us without penitently confessing
our offences to Him who has witnessed them,
and who has promised pardon to true re-
pentance? Shall we retire to rest with a
burden of unlamented and unforgiven guilt
upon our consciences? Shall we leave these
stains to spread over and sink into the
soul? A religious recollection of our lives is
one of the chief instruments of piety. If
possible, no day should end without it. If
wie take no account of our sins on the day on

which they are committed, can we hope that
they will recur to us at a more distant period,
that we shall watch against them to-morrow,
or that we shall gain the strength to resist
them, which we will not implore ?

One observation more, and we have done.
The evening is a fit time for prayer, not only
as it ends the day, but as it immediately pre-
cedes the period of repose. The hours of*
activity having passed, we are soon to sink
into insensibility and sleep. How fit that we
resign ourselves to the care of that Being who
never sleeps, to whom the darkness is as the
light, and whose providence is our only safety 1
How fit to entreat Him, that He would keep
us to another day ; or, if our bed should
prove our grave, that He would give us a part
m the resurrection of the just, and awake us
to a purer and immortal life. The most im-
portant periods of prayer have now been
pointed out. Let our prayers, like the ancient
sacrifices, ascend morning and evening. Let
our days begin and end with God.


Being Extracts from Observations on the Proposition for Increasing
the Means of such Education at the University in Cafnbridge,


As a proposition is now before the public for
increasing the means of theological education
at Harvard University, it is thought that a
few observations on the subject may he accept-
able to those who have not been able to give
to it much attention, and whose aid and
patronage may be solicited.

It mav perhaps be asked by some, though
I hope the question will be confined to a few,
Why ought we to be so solicitous for the
education of ministers ? The answer is ob-
vious. The object of the ministry is pecu-
liarly important. To the Christian minister
arc entrusted in a measure the dearest and
most valuable interests of the human race.
He is called to watch over the morals of
society, and t9 awaken and cultivate the
principles of piety and virtue in the hearts of
individuals. He is set apart to dispense that
religion which, as we believe, came from
God, which was given to reform, exalt, and
console us, and on the reception of which the
happiness of the future life depends. Ought
we not to be solicitous for the wise and ef!ec-
tuaJ training of those by whom this religion
is to be unfolded and enforced, and to whose
influence our own minds and those of our
children are to be so often exposed ?

Our interest in a minister is very peculiar.
He is to us what no other professional man
can be. We want him, not to transact our
business and to receive a compensation, but
to be our friend, our guide, an inmate in our
families; to enter our houses in affliction;
and to be able to give us Ught, admonition,
and consolation, in suffering, sickness, and
the last hours of life.

Our connection with men of other profes-
sions is transient, accidental, rare. With a
minister it is habitual. Once in the week, at
least, we are to meet him and sit under his
instructions. We are to give up our minds
in a measure to his influence, and to receive
from him impressions on a subject which,
more than all otheis, concerns us, and with
which our improvement and tranquillity
through life and our future peace are inti-
mately connected.

We want the minister of religion to address
our understandings with clearness ; to extend
and brighten our moral and religious con-
ceptions ; to throw Ught over the obscurities
of the sacred volume; to assist us in repel-
ling those doubts which sometimes shake our
convictions of Christian truth ; and to estab-
lish us in a firm and rational belief.


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We want him not only to address the un-
derstanding with clearness, but, still more, to
speak to the conscience and heart with power ;
to force, as it were, our thoughts from the
world ; to rouse us from the slumbers of an
imreflecting Ufe; to exhibit reUgion in an
interesting form, and to engage our affections
on the side of duty. Such are the offices
and aids which we need from the ChHstian
minister. Who does not see in a moment
that much preparation of the intellect and
\ i heart is required to render him successful in
^ these high and generous labours?

These reasons for being interested in the
education of ministers grow out of the
nature and importance of religion. Another
important remark is, that the state of our
country demands that greater care than ever
should be given to this object. It will not be
denied, I presume, that this country is, on
the whole, advancing in intelligence. The
means of improvement are more liberally and
more generally afforded to the young than in
former times. A closer connection subsists
with the cultivated minds in other countries.
A variety of institutions are awakening our
powers, and conununicating a degree of
general knowledge which was not formerly
diffused among us. Taste is more extensively
cultivated, and the finest productions of polite
literature find their way into many of our
families. Now, in this state of things, in
this increasing activity of intellect, there is
'peculiar need of an enlightened ministry.
Religion should not be left to feeble and
ignorant advocates, to men of narrow and
unfurnished minds. Its ministers should be
practical proofs that it may be connected
with the noblest improvements of the under-
standing ; and they should be able to convert
into weapons for its defence the discoveries of
' philosophy and the speculations of genius.
y Religion must be adapted, in its mode of ex-
hibition, to the state of society. The form
in which we present it to the infant will not
satisfy and interest the advanced understand-
ing. In the same manner, if in a cultivated
age religious instruction does not partake the
general elevation, it will be shghted by the
very minds whose influence it is most desir-
able to engage on the side of virtue and

I have observed that an enlightened age
requires an enlightened ministry. On the other
hand, it may be observed, that an enlightened
ministry is a powerful agent in continuing
and accelerating the progress of light, of
retinement, and of all social improvements.
The Umits of this essay will not admit the full
development of this sentiment. 1 will only
observe, that perhaps the most reflecting men
are not aware how iax a society is indebted
for activity of intellect, delicacy of manners,

and the strength of all its institutions, to the
silent, subtle influence of the thoughts and
feelings which are kept alive in the breasts of
multitudes by religious instruction.

There is another most important considera-
tion for promoting an enUghtened ministry.
Religious teachers there certainly will be, of one
description or another ; and if men of well-fur-
nished minds cannot be found for this office,
we shall be overwhelmed by the ignorant and
fanatical. The human heart is disposed, by
its very nature, to religious impressions, and
it wants guidance, wants direction, wants
the light and fervour of other minds, in this
most interesting concern. Conscious of weak-
ness, and delighting in excitement, it will
follow the blindest guide who speaks with
confidence of his communications with God,
rather than advance alone in the religious
life. An enlightened ministry is the only
barrier against fanaticism. Remove this, and
popular enthusiasts would sweep away the
multitude as with a torrent, would operate
with an imresisted power on the ardent ima-
gination of youth, and on the devotional
susceptibility of woman, and would even
prostrate cultivated minds in which feeling is
the most prominent trait. Few of us consider
the proneness of the human heart to extrava-
gance and fanaticism, or how much we are
all indebted for our safety to the good sense
and intellectual and rehgious improvement
of ministers of religion.

Ignorant ministers are dri\'cn almost by
necessity to fanaticism. Unable to interest
their hearers by appeals to the understanding,
and by clear, judicious, and affecting delinea-
tions of religion, they can only acquire and
maintain the ascendency which is so dear to
them, by inflaming the passions, by exciting
a distempered and ungovemed sensibility,
and by perpetuating ignorance and error.
Every man of observation must have seen
melancholy illustrations of this truth ; and
what an argument does it afford in favour of
an enlightened ministry !

Nothing more is needed to show the great
interest which the community ought to feel in
the education of young men for the ministry.
But it will be asked, Are not our pres«:"nt

Online LibraryWilliam Ellery ChanningThe complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction → online text (page 87 of 169)