- Sermon I. the Rising Generation Exhorted to Adopt the Religion of Their Christian Forefathers.
- Sermon II. Hope In God.
- Sermon III. On the Means and the Importance of Grace.
- Sermon IV. Corruption of Heart the Source of Irreligion and Immorality.
- Sermon V. Against Despair and Suicide.
- Sermon VI. On the Folly and Danger of Thoughtlessness.
- Sermon VII. Perseverance In the Religious Principles Taught In Youth, and Particularly In Faith and Hope, Recommended.
- Sermon VIII. Good Intentions the Least Fallible Security For Good Conduct.
- Sermon IX. Religion the Chief Concern of Life.
- Sermon X. On Conformity to Fashion and the Customs of the World
- Sermon XI. On Seeking a Remedy For Sorrow, In Vice and Dissipation.
- Sermon XII. Christian Politeness
- Sermon XIII. On the Duty of Preventing Evil, By Actual Coercion, As Well As By Advice and Remonstrance.
- Sermon XIV. On Pursuing Visionary Schemes of Happiness, Without Attending to Scripture, and Revealed Religion
- Sermon XV. the Pride of Human Learning and False Philosophy, a Great Obstacle to the Reception of Christianity.
- Sermon XVI. On the Duty of Servants.
- Sermon XVII. On the Wickedness and Misery of Envy and Contention.
- Sermon XVIII. the Cunning Oe the Wicked Inconsistent With Wisdom.
- Sermon XIX. On the Snares of the Devil, and Means of Escaping Them.
- Sermon XX. Moderation Necessary to All Solid and Durable Enjoyment.
- Sermon XXI. Happiness to Be Found Rather In the Enjoyment of Health and Innocence, Than In the Successful Pursuits of Avarice and Ambition.
- Sermon XXII. On the Duties of the Preacher and the Hearer.
- Sermon XXIII. * On the Benefits to Be Derived From the Sight of a Funeral.
- Sermon XXIV. a Preparatory Persuasive to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
- Sermon XXV. the Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace to Be Established On the Principles of Christian Philanthropy.
- Sermon XXVI. On the Necessity of Increasing the Places of Public Worship On the Establishment; and On the Duty of Supporting the Objects of the Philanthropic Society.
- Sermon XXVII. the Support of the Magdalen Hospital Recommended.
- Sermon XXVIII. the Education of the Poor Recommended.
on the duty of preventing evil, by actual coercion, as
well as by advice and remonstrance.
1 Sam. xxv. 32, 33.—And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent thee this day to meet me.
And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, who hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with my own hand.
The text exhibits a remarkable instance of human folly, and the happiness of restraining it David had rashly engaged in a vindictive enterprise, which could not but redound to his disgrace, and involve him in guilt. He intended to avenge himself with his own hand, where there had been but a slight provocation; and to shed innocent blood, in a most unjust and dishonourable cause. But Abigail met him as he was on his journey, and, by a seasonable remonstrance, deterred him from the execution of his sanguinary purpose. On her representation, he sees his intention in its true light, and abhors it. Exulting in the conquest over himself, he breaks out in the words of the text, which I have here selected for your present consideration.
I mean to take occasion from these words, to lay before you the wisdom and the kindness of preventing mischief, either by good advice, or by more effectual precautions.
Nothing is more common than to hear parents deploring the profligacy of their children, when arrived at the manly age. The pleasure which their little ones afforded them, is then converted into anguish. Their own offspring is become a scourge to them. They wish, when perhaps it is too late, that they had exercised that wholesome discipline over them, which prudence directs and experience fully justifies.
The parent advises his son to pursue a wiser conduct, and laments his degeneracy; but the advice is too late. The taste of the young man is vitiated, his heart is corrupted, his habits are confirmed. Ruin and disgrace involve both the parent and the child in misery, which timely care might easily have prevented.
There are many cases worse than mere ignorance, and want of accomplishments or qualifications, which careless parents will have cause to deplore. The boy no sooner arrives at the years which should be years of discretion, than he shows the dispositions of a prodigal son. The parent is surprised, and ready to blame every thing and every person but himself, often the sole cause of the evil which he laments. He allowed his son, when a child, every licentious indulgence, and encouraged all his capricious wants. Unaccustomed to restraint, the young man cannot bear it with patience. He eagerly obeys the impulse of his passions and appetites. They grow more unruly by indulgence. The consequences are, indeed, severe punishments. The youth suffers much more than he ever enjoyed. Happy, if at last he grows wise by dear-bought experience∗ How much less trouble would, have been felt, less expense and less infamy incurred, if proper care had been taken, in early youth, to prevent, in the very bud, the growth of a vicious principle.
Health, peace, innocence, reputation, and fortune, might have been preserved uninjured by timely care, though they can seldom be recovered when once they are lost.
If these things were duly considered, none surely would be disposed to controvert the necessity of early instruction in piety and virtue, as well as in the polite accomplishments and the pursuits of science and elegant letters. The greater part of mankind are happily persuaded of this necessity; hut yet there are some among the frivolous and pleasurable, who seem to pay little attention to it, and even to argue against all strictness and regularity of discipline. They usually suffer severely in consequence of their mistake, and are frequently found, in the advanced periods of life, to acknowledge it with shame and sorrow.
For the actual prevention of young persons from folly and ruinous expense and dissipation, let no one persuade himself that precept and admonition will be sufficient. They will indeed effect much; but, I think, it will be necessary to add to them, some real restraints, by the exercise of personal authority. Parents are too timid in the exertion of that power with which nature and reason have invested them, for the laudable purpose of preserving their inexperienced offspring from those dangers which themselves have remarked in the voyage of life. The following conduct may perhaps be advisable.
If a son show a disposition to loose and irregular pleasures, he should be removed from all places where temptations particularly abound. His pecuniary allowance should be diminished. He should be kept from theatres, and all other amusements more particularly dangerous; and at a proper age, should be led to form some virtuous connection, in which his passions may be gratified, consistently with honour, principle, health, and fortune. All this care might indeed fail, if the disposition were extremely vicious; but nothing would have been omitted for which a parent would deem himself culpable: a child would thus have the best chance of becoming virtuous and happy, and the parent's sorrow, if the case should be incurable, would not receive any addition from self-condemnation.
I lay it down as a maxim, that to promote as much happiness, and to prevent as much evil as possible, is the duty of every good man; and it is a duty which he owes to mankind in general. How much more urgent to the performance of it, is the consideration, that the happiness of those whom we have been instrumental in introducing into a world where misery abounds, depends upon our conduct of them before they can conduct themselves with safety and propriety?
But many are deterred from the exercise of discipline on their children, by the idea that it is to be unreasonably severe on those whom they are bound by duty, and inclined by nature, to indulge. But they consider only immediate consequences, without any regard to the future and remote. That only is kind, which is essentially and ultimately beneficent. Now, improper and excessive indulgence pleases for the moment, but produces permanent misfortune.
Let us look forward to the age of maturity and confirmed manhood, or of old age; and let us ask oar child in these stages of life, his real opinion, whether he approves excessive indulgence, or reasonable restraint? His experience will have corrected the errors of his earlier age, and he will be ready to thank, with heart-felt gratitude, that paternal hand which was held out to restrain him from evil, and to guide him to good. In the words of the text he will say, remembering his father, “Blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou who hast kept me,” by the salutary restraint of a careful education, from those evils which have caused many to fall, on my right hand, and on my left.
Tutors and guardians are representatives of parents; and therefore whatever recommends salutary restraint to the practice of parents, must have equal weight with tutors and guardians.
Tutors have indeed, in some situations, as in the universities for instance, the care of young men, when they are liberated from parental observation, and when their passions render their conduct extremely dangerous. It is necessary, therefore, that tutors, in this case, should exert themselves with peculiar spirit and authority. They are apt to content themselves with general advice, and to decline the imposition of actual restraint, as impossible, because it is difficult. But this conduct appears to me to argue no less a want of judgment than of courage. Young men, like the spirited and unruly steed, require to be curbed and guided by a strong bridle; and however impatient they may be, will often, at the very time, have sense enough to see the propriety of their tutor's controul; and hereafter, goodness enough to thank him for his activity, in preventing their ruin.
But from the necessity of imposing actual restraints on young men, I infer the expediency of engaging such only in the office of tutors as possess a personal authority. Many men, not without learning or ingenuity, are totally destitute of those talents which alone can qualify for government; I mean a commanding, authoritative spirit, which awes the audacity of youth into due obedience.
A man, happily endowed with this noble quality, is indeed born to command; and he will not be contented merely with haranguing his pupils on the subject of temperance and regularity; but will insist on the practice of those virtues, by sternly reprimanding and punishing the neglect of them, whenever he discovers it.
In order to discover it, he will deem it his duty to follow his pupil closely, and at hours when he is not expected. He will claim and exercise the privilege of breaking in upon his retirement, at whatever time he shall think it proper. With a tutor, thus vigilant and authoritative at hand, what pupil would ever dare to be guilty of any flagrant enormity, or be able to contract any profligate habits?
Pupils in the universities, and young men in general, frequently involve themselves in debt, and all the misery of embarrassed circumstances. In this state, no attention is paid to letters or science. Their minds are entirely engaged by the fears of a creditor, or in devising expedients to raise money. The parent is urged by importunate demands, which his prudence is obliged to refuse; and the refusal alienates the son's affection, and unhappily causes him to forget his filial piety. Hence domestic infelicity. Finding no comfort at home, the youth resolves to seek it abroad. He too often hopes to find it at the tavern and the brothel. The misery which must follow, I shall not describe, as it is obvious to every one's imagination. But however great and complicated it ultimately becomes, it might have been effectually prevented by the actual and efficient interposition of the tutor. And blessed had he been, if he had exerted himself in defiance of all opposition, in controlling his pupil, and keeping him from the beginnings of evil by actual coercion. He could not have had a finer opportunity for the exercise of Christian charity. There are few means by which he could have occasioned more good, and prevented more evil.
And what is said, respecting the necessity of preventing the pupil from incurring debt, is equally applicable to the prevention of all other evil in its first origin; as for instance, habits of gaming, of drunkenness, and of debauchery. But from Parents, I proceed to the consideration of the duty of Masters, in the prevention of evil.
Masters may be said to represent both tutors and parents. As tutors, they are bound to instruct their dependants in the art or trade which they profess; and as parents, to preserve them from evil, and promote their moral and spiritual advantage. But they are too much inclined to acquiesce in the inferior parts of their duty, those which are employed in the care of temporal things, or in qualifying for a lucrative occupation. The consequence is, that many young men, carefully brought up by their parents, no sooner enter on their apprenticeships, than they give themselves up to a dissolute profligacy, which terminates in the ruin of all that is most valuable. It is in vain to expect success in their trade or art. No due attention will be given, in the midst of the avocations of lust and debauchery, to the sober employments of an honest trade. If they ever become masters themselves, they usually expend more than they gain, and finish their career by insolvency, imprisonment, and a broken heart, with a broken fortune.
A thousand injuries of various kinds, which these young men suffer during their youth, are imputable to the neglect of Masters. I must therefore exhort traders and merchants, who have occasion to engage young assistants, and who covenant with them for their services during seven years, the most susceptible in human life, to consider how great a duty is incumbent on them; to consider, that as they take the children from the eye of the parent, it is their part to supply the parent's place; and not only to provide clothing for the body, but good principles and sentiments for the soul.
They will therefore require their yonng assistants to frequent the public worship on Sundays, and to read good books in the intervals of leisure throughout the week. They will require them to keep good hours, and they will endeavour to know the characters of the company with which their dependants associate; forbidding the growth of every improper connection immediately on its commencement. This care, which is no more than their duty absolutely requires, will prevent evils innumerable, and misery inconceivable. Industry, honesty, and sobriety, will, in consequence of it, adorn and enrich the mercantile walks of life.
But I proceed to consider Masters in another relation; that which they bear to menial servants. The menial servants of a family have been kindly called humble friends. If they are faithful, they are often the most beneficial friends whom a man can possess. But however they behave, it is certainly incumbent on Masters to exert themselves in preventing that evil, of which they are the first to feel the effects, and to complain. Punishment avails but little in a country where slavery is not tolerated. If the Master and servant disagree, on whatever side the fault may lie, a separation commonly takes place, and there the matter terminates; but where punishment fails, prevention may succeed.
In the first place, it should be an inviolable rule in reputable families, never to admit a menial servant, without an oral character from the relinquished family. Characters are indeed usually required, but with too little caution and strictness of inquiry.
When once a servant is admitted with a good character, let due attention be paid by the Master to its preservation. Let him not open his mouth solely for reproof and imperious command, but for advice and instruction. Let him observe the hours of leisure, not indeed with austerity, but with that friendly vigilance which tends to keep the servant from the haunts of vice, drunkenness, or dishonesty; from the temptations to sin, and the corruption of bad example. We shall be rewarded by the improvement of their principles, and by the consequent improvement of their behaviour; but if this should not happen, we shall be rewarded by the consciousness of having done a most important duty; most important to many of our fellow-creatures in subordinate situations, who have no instructors but ourselves; and most important to society at large, the welfare of which must always be much affected by the morals and behaviour of the inferior classes.
Is there any one who will deny, that the care of Masters, which I have recommended, would contribute greatly to prevent theft, robbery, and all those crimes which disgrace human nature, and injure the community? Masters have it more in their power than magistrates, to mend the police, and correct the profligacy of any country. As good citizens, therefore, no less than as good Christians, those Masters of families will deserve high approbation, who labour to prevent that evil among their servants, which, though it may be punished, cannot be committed without diffusing private, social, and public misery.
The prevention of evil, though an object worthy the attention of the wisest and best of men, is comparatively easy. It is said of strife, that it is as when one letteth out water. The same may be said of all evil. At first it may be stopped in its progress without important or incurable mischief, and with little difficulty; but let it once take its own violent course, and like the inundation over the meadows, it cannot be reduced to its channel, till it shall have overwhelmed many a fair flower, and swept away the corn that laughed in the vallies, and the vine and olive trees which promised abundance.
A thousand occasions occur, by which a man, with very little exertion or trouble, may be able to. prevent great mischief; and let it be remembered as a maxim, that whenever it is in a man's power, it is at the same time his duty. Let not indolence prevail on any man to neglect his duty, for he can in no respect be active to so good a purpose; and let not any one presume to say, It is not my business, and why should I interfere? but let him recollect, that there is a great difference between the interference of a busy-body, and of a Christian actuated by pure benevolence. The one is influenced by selfish motives, and the gratification of his own curiosity; the other acts from humanity, and a sense of his duty as a follower of Jesus Christ.
But while we endeavour to prevent evil in others, we must keep a constant eye over ourselves, to prevent our own corruption. Many and great are the miseries of life into which they fall, who are not upon their guard to watch the beginnings of evil, and to check the first tendencies to deviation from virtue. To gain, wisdom by experience of the pains and penalties of folly, is a costly purchase. How much better to prevent the wound from festering, than, after suffering muck anguish, to find at last a tardy cure∗
But as we are weak, and, after our best endeavours, unable of ourselves to help ourselves, let us never omit to seek assistance of him who has taught as to supplicate him daily for deliverance from evil. And he can deliver. His grace, his preventing grace, will be a shield against all the fiery darts of the wicked one. In his strength our weakness shall triumph.
God is able to foresee consequences in their causes; to see evil likely to become the fruit, while the blossom appears to us goodly, and worthy to be cherished with all our care. To him, then, let us have recourse for guidance and support, as we sojourn here in the pilgrimage of life. We must do our utmost for ourselves, but after all depend upon him. His hand acting in secret, like the magnetic influence on the needle, shall guide the feet of the faithful into the paths of peace. His hand unseen, like the repellent power of electricity, shall turn away many a dart dipt in poison, and pointed at our vitals. He shall guard us from the pestilence that walketh at midnight, and from the arrow that flieth at noon-day. To him, then, let us fly for succour; duly remembering to be thankful for the many deliverances from evil unknown, and dangers unsuspected, which every one here assembled has frequently experienced; though peradventure at the time unconscious of the mercy. O let us all join in one voice of gratitude, and say, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath preserved us to this day, and enabled us to meet in his presence, as at this time and blessed be the means of grace, which, he has now and often afforded us; and blessed be his Providence, who has not lead us into temptation without a way to escape; and who, in instances more in number than tongue can tell, has delivered us from the evil in which our own folly and wickedness would have involved us for ever∗