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all sense of God and of decency, and common humanity to others, when they are themselves in the most awful situation, and the hand of death upon them: and at such seasons to appear easy and satisfied with themselves, when they have not only. neglected all those virtuous improvements for which they were sent into the world, and had the means of them put into their hands, but also go out of the world with such indulged evil passions, and selfish, malevolent, ungodly tempers and dispositions, as must make them miserable whereever they are placed.
There were such monsters of impiety and iniquity in Judea, where the true God was known and worshiped, and when the blessed Jesus himself preached and laboured to reform them.
It is to be feared, there are not a few instances of vice and impiety of the same magnitude in this our native land, blessed beyond many others with the knowledge of the one true God, and the most awakening calls and powerful motives to holiness delivered in the gospel.
But the universal neglect of instilling principles of piety and virtue into the minds of youth,
youth, the abounding of iniquity and contagion of unblushing bad example, accounts for every enormity which we behold, and for that prostrate state of things in a moral view and want of principle, which we so often hear complained of.
Let these things, however, be accounted for as they will, the fault it is plain will lie somewhere for there were remedies to apply to the evil, and it might in some degree at least have been prevented.
Be it our first care then, that we fall not away from truth and virtue ourselves, and also that we become not in any way which we could prevent the occasion of falling to others. For, of those unhappy persons who seduce the innocent, or dissuade and discourage the weak and wavering from virtue and the gospel of truth, our Lord says, (Matt. xviii. 6.) "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." i. è. It were better to undergo any temporal punishments, and the loss of life itself, than to be the cause of misleading others to sin and future ruin and misery.
O God, the kind universal parent, who art continually attentive to the work of thy hands, and who dost especially conduct all things that respect us, thy children of mankind, with an eye to our greatest happiness, which results from the knowledge of thee and obedience to thy righteous laws!
We desire to be thankful to thee for the example and instructions of the blessed Jesus, who hath opened to us the treasures of wisdom necessary to lead us to thee, and who hath himself gone before us in the narrow way, and encouraged thy faithful servants with the pleasing hope of being for ever with him, our honoured and endeared Lord and Master, in the heavenly kingdom which thy goodness prepared for us from the beginning of the world.
Make these powerful and awakening considerations to have their due weight upon us, to cause us to attend to the whole extent of our duty with cheerfulness and alacrity, and to keep us steady in it during this our short pilgrimage and day of trial.
Preserve us from corrupting the sacred pages of thy truth with false and softening
comments of our own device, which tend to make us careless and negligent of that purity which thou requirest of us; and to presume that we are high in thy favour, while we live in carnal security and disobedience to thy commands.
And suffer none of us to put off the great and necessary work of effectually turning to thee, O God, and acquiring a delight in thoughts of thee and in walking in thy holy ways, through the vain hope of repenting and having our dispositions changed at some future day but incline us to set about this chief business of our being, the present hour, because the next belongs not to us, and may never come; and we know the longer we put off what is now irksome to us, the more averse shall we become to it.
And, O thou sovereign all-righteous disposer of all things! when the hour appointed by thee shall come, that we shall be no more in this world, but return to give account of ourselves to thee, from whom we all came: may we be found watchful and prepared, and having nothing to finish at that uncertain hour; but with our evidences for heaven and thy favour clear and certain; that, by thy blessing
blessing upon us, we may enjoy some portion of that calm and composed spirit and firm confidence in thy mercy, which many of thy true servants have experienced before us; and may lie down in the grave, the bed of all the living, with assured and pleasing hope of being raised in thy good appointed time to that perfect and endless felicity, which of thine infinite mercy and goodness thou hast promised us by our Lord Jesus Christ!
Now unto Thee, O Father, &c.
May 20, 1781.