« السابقةمتابعة »
ments upon us. Heaven has favored us with great and distinguishing privileges. We have been indulged with more instructions and examples of virtue and religion, than any other nation on earth. We have had line upon lipe, and precept upon precept. We have been planted in the house of the Lord. We have lived in virtuous and religious families. And great numbers of us have been long inured to the political virtues of economy, industry, temperance, and commutative justice. By falling into vice, therefore, we shall do violence to our customs and habits, as well as to the enlightened dictates of reason and conscience. Add to all this, the great and marvellous deliverances, which God has, from age to age, and especially of late, granted to our nation. These will amazingly aggravate our guilt, if we forsake the Author of our mercies. and the God of our fathers, and defile the land which he hath taken from the heathens, and given to us. We may justly conclude therefore, that God will deal with us for our sins, as he said he would deal with his own people, on whom he had bestowed great and distinguishing favors. "You only of all the families of the earth have I known, therefore I will punish you for· your iniquities."
Now if our sins do really abound and eminently expose us to ruin and reproach, what is our duty? Is there a single person at a loss to know? Our guilt and danger speak louder than words, and call upon us to exert every effort,to prevent and restrain the corruption of the times. But what course shall we pursue? Let us awake from our lethargy, consider our situation, and remove the grounds of our danger. We shall be enemies to ourselves as well as the public, if we do not put away our strange vices, as the polluted Israelites put away theirs, in the days of Ezra, and in a time of
reformation. And let us moreover do, as some of the same people did, on the account of the corruption of morals. They sighed, and cried, and prayed for the guilty nation; and then united their exertions to reform their public vices. They entered into a solemn engagement, and sealed it with their own hands, to employ all their influence in restraining open and shameful immoralities.
Nor let any imagine, that it is either impracticable or fruitless in these times, to form unions in virtue to weaken and destroy combinations in vice. This mode of reformation has been tried, in various parts of the British dominions, with great success. At the end of the bishop of St. David's sermon, preached to the Societies for the Reformation of Manners, is subjoined the three and thirtieth account of the progress made in the cities of London and Westminster, and places adjacent, by those virtuous and respectable Societies. The account says, "This undertaking begun by a few persons, has mightily spread itself, not only in Great Britain, but in foreign parts. And the great good which, by God's blessing, has been done by the said Societies has very much animated their endeavors. They have likewise been encouraged by several Royal proclamations, orders of Sessions, presentments of grand Juries, in many counties in England; by the lord Mayors and court of Aldermen of the city of London; by many sermons of the right reverend the Bishops, and other eminent divines preached to the Societies, and by the writings of other learned men.” After this, the account further says, "The said Societies have presented, and been assisting in presenting, from the first day of December 1727, divers sorts of offenders; viz. For lewd and disorderly practices, common gaming houses, and other disorderly houses, common
gamesters, profane swearing and cursing, exercising their trades, or ordinary callings on the Lord's day, and for drunkenness; in all 1363.
"The total number of persons prosecuted by the Societies, in or near London only, for debauchery and profaneness, for 36 years last past, are calculated at about 94,322."
These accounts carry convincing evidence, that unions in virtue may be so formed and conducted, as to restrain, in some measure at least, the progress of vice. What is there then, which can possibly prevent us, in this day of declension, from uniting, our exertions for the reformation of manners, but merely the want of virtuous resolution? Were we sufficiently possessed of virtuous resolution, we might easily form such respectable unions, as would put the bold and brazen vices to the blush, and cause them to creep into corners. Union is of singular service to any, who are engaged in promoting the same common cause. It collects their wisdom, adds weight to their characters, and at the same time, enlivens their zeal and fortitude. Indeed, union in a good cause, scarcely ever fails of sucCan we therefore answer it to God, or to our selves, if we neglect to pursue those measures, which we believe are wise and expedient, and would effecttually check the progress of vice, and produce a reformation of manners? I mean not, however, to urge this point. I choose to submit this subject to your more private, deliberate, and solemn reflections.
But if the measure which we have now suggested, should surpass the strength of your virtue; yet there remain many other methods of restraining vice, which lie equally open to every individual. Be entreated then to act properly as individuals, and exert all the influence of your private characters and connexions, to restrain the licentiousness of the times.
Let the aged lead in this good design. They have lived to see the happy fruits of virtue, and the baneful effects of vice. They have lived to observe that course of conduct, by which these infant States gradually arose to greatness and affluence; and that course of conduct by which they are now subjected to great embarrassments. They have lived in the days of industry, economy and temperance, and owe their ease, reputation, and fortunes to the practice of these political virtues. They are able, therefore, by their own observation and experience, to warn the young and inexperienced, of the folly and danger of departing from their primitive purity and simplicity of manners; and to exhibit the most forcible evidence, that diligence and virtue will raise men to wealth and honor, but idleness and vice will sink them to poverty and wretchedness.
It is the duty of parents to employ their peculiar power and authority in promoting the reformation of morals. They have the first and easiest access to their children, while their minds are young and tender, and susceptible of the deepest impressions. They have peculiar opportunity of inculcating the precepts of dence, virtue and religion, before their minds have been hardened and corrupted by the pollutions of the world. They may, by a proper mixture of instruction, persuasion, authority, and example, form their external conduct and behavior, almost just as they please. And in this way they can do more to restrain the prevalence of vice, than all the exertions of ministers and rulers can do, without their particular concur rence and aid. They are, therefore, under the strongest obligations, to give their children a virtuous and pious education. They ought, in season, to teach them the knowledge of God, the nature of religion, the
beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice. They ought to enforce all their instructions by their own amiable and virtuous examples. They ought to keep a vigilant eye upon the conduct and disposition of their children, and carefully restrain them from those particular evils, to which they perceive they are particularly exposed. They ought to shut their doors against the entrance of vice: and never suffer their children to push into the world, before they are possessed of either age or experience to govern their conduct. These are methods, by which parents may preserve the peace and purity of their own families, and at the same time universally promote the reformation of manners.
It is the proper business of executive officers, to employ their power and authority in suppressing those public vices, which corrupt the morals and disturb the peace of society. We have strict and severe laws against profane swearing, sabbath breaking, gaming, tavern haunting, drunkenness, lewdness, and debauchery. But have these laws against these public and pernicious vices been duly executed? We have scarcely known a single person, in the course of twenty years, who has been prosecuted either for swearing, sabbath breaking, drunkenness, or gaming. Has this been owing to the scarcity of ofenders, or to the want of evidence? If not, can it be imputed to any thing else, than the neglect of informing and executive officers? Better had it been,to have had no such laws enact. ed; better would it be, to have them now repealed; than to have such silent laws and silent magistrates. Can those who wear the sword of justice, wear it in vain, and yet be blameless? Or can they answer for their negligence, before the Supreme Ruler, whose ministers they are, and before whom they have lifted