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their hand to be faithful? It is devoutly to be wished, that all from the highest to the lowest in the executive department, would personally obey, and faithfully execute the laws of the land.
The supreme Judges, in the several States, may throw the weight of their great and respectable characters into the scale of virtue. Their sacred regard to the Sabbath; their constant attendance on public worship and family devotion; their open profession of the great principles of natural and revealed religion; their shining examples of virtue and piety in all their public and private conduct, will give great encouragement to the practice of virtue, and pour the highest contempt upon the practice of vice.
The subordinate Judges, Justices, and informing officers, being much more numerous and much more conversant, with the people at large, have a far greater opportunity of employing their exemplary characters and peculiar powers in promoting a reformation of manners, through all the counties, towns, and parishes in each of our Commonwealths.
We must, in tenderness and compassion to those who are pursuing the paths of vice, beseech them to consider not only the present but future consequences of their pernicious course. The contagion of their vices may reach to future ages, and destroy after they are dead, and sunk in oblivion, the souls of millions. "One sinner destroyeth much good." One sinner destroyed the ten tribes of Israel. It is repeated again and again, "Jeroboam the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin-Jeroboam the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin-Jeroboam the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin."
What a load of guilt did that vile and corrupt seducer contract! What curses did he heap upon his own head, by drawing away the souls of thousands,
age age after age, from the service, from the house, and from the favor of God! With what a stigma of reproach, hath God linked his name and character together, and conveyed them down to the latest generations, as a warning to all, who shall dare to corrupt and destroy the souls of others! Let such at this day, be intreated to regard this kind and salutary warning, and immediately repent and reform. It is possible, they may now, in some measure, undo what they have already done, by endeavoring to reclaim and save those from ruin, whom their vicious examples have well nigh destroyed.
But though every other description of characters, should either neglect or obstruct the reformation of manners; yet, we trust, all the friends of God will cheerfully join in promoting this virtuous and benevolent design. They will not cease to sigh and cry for the abominations committed in the land, nor neglect to pour out their hearts before God, for the effusions of his Spirit, and the revival of religion. The Noahs, Jobs and Daniels have great encouragement to wrestle with God in prayer, that he would graciously take the work of reformation into his own hand, and change the lives of men, by changing their hearts. This would be a reformation indeed! This would destroy the roots and branches of vice together!
Thus every person in every station of life, has some weight and influence to be employed in the cause of virtue. And who can hesitate in these evil days, which side to take, or what part to act? Every man will find his account in the reformation of morals. For, "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." There are various motives, which urge us immediately to exert our best endeavors to restrain our prevailing vices, and to revive those Осса.
languishing virtues, which were once our distinguishing glory and happiness.
If we now begin to check our growing vices and corruptions, we may hope to succeed. The piety and virtue of some, and the distresses of others, bear a favorable aspect upon the reformation of morals. Delays will afford us no help nor encouragement, but only weaken our resolutions, and increase our difficulties. If we can ever restrain our public immoralities, we can restrain them now. Now therefore is the time to begin. The work of reformation devolves upon us, and we cannot refer it to another generation, without neglecting our own duty, and suffering the cause of virtue to languish in our own hands.
Besides, if we are remiss in checking those vices and corruptions, which spring up and prevail, while we are upon the stage, we shall actually partake in the guilt of those whom we neglect to reform; and must expect to share in the dreadful calamities, which may justly fall upon a corrupt and incorrigible people.
But, if we faithfully endeavor to suppress the prev. alence of vice, as far as our power and influence extend, we shall merit that noble and distinguishing character which belongs to reformers. And who would not wish to be placed on the list, which enrolls the names, and embalms the memories of Asa. Josiah, Jehoiada, and many other great and amiable men, who improved the virtues, and restrained the vices, of the several ages in which they lived? God, who carries the characters of all in his hand, hath expressly said, "Them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
But, if all our efforts in the cause of virtue, should fail of success, and only expose our characters to the reproach of those, whom we labor to reclaim; yet
the approbation of conscience, in the hour of death, will afford us an ample and sufficient reward. When all our civil and social connexions on earth shall finally cease; then to be able to reflect, that we have done all in our power, to leave those behind us both virtuous and happy, will be the strongest support, and the highest satisfaction, that our natures can know.
Delivered September 3, 1792, to the Society for the Reformation of Morals, in Franklin.
2 THESSALONIANS iii, 9.
-But to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
ENSAMPLE is only another word for example. Each of these terms properly denotes a copy or pattern, which is designed to convey either natural or moral instruction. And this mode of teaching is, of all others, the most easy and forcible. Precept constrains; example allures. Precept compels; example persuades. Precept is a dead, example is a living law. Such a law the Apostles made themselves to the Thessalonians. The case was this. Some among them had neglected their daily business, misimproved their precious time, and become a burden and temptation to others. While the Apostle, therefore, reproves such idle and disorderly persons, he reminds them, that he, and other preachers of the gospel, had labored night and day, merely to set them an example of diligence and activity in business. "Not because we have not power," that is, a right to lay aside secular concerns, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. These words, on this occasion, naturally lead us to consider the peculiar force of example. And in order to discover its great and extensive influence, it will be proper to view it in a variety of respects.
I. Let us consider it in respect to some other things, which are known to have great influence upon human