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then that God visibly acts, as it were, in him and through him; by him gives testimony of the truth ; instructs and reveals himself to mankind by him ; by him maintains the cause of virtue ; by him speaks comfort to the troubled soul ; by him pours balm into the wounded heart; by him administers help and support to the wretched, distributes bread to the hungry, and gives strength to the weak; by him he beautifies his world; and through him disseminates more life and joy. And to be such an instrument in the hand of God, to have such' an assimilation with the Allperfect, thus to approximate the Divinity, and in a manner to be his substitute on earth ; contributes much to the pleasures of Manhood,
Consider man in his outward form, and in his relation to the earth. Consider the place he occupies upon the globe; what he is and does, with all its other inhabitants. See how he stands erect and conscious, amidst all the inferior creatures ; how all proclaim him the sovereign of the globe and its inhabitants; the substitute of its author, and the priest of nature. With what a comprehensive view does he survey, distribute, regulate, connect, and apprehend all surrounding objects'; now darting his eye from earth to heaven, and then looking down from heaven upon the earth with sentiments of delight; affectionately cherishing every thing that lives and moves; his soft susceptible heart expands to the innumerable streams of pleasure and delight, which from all sides flow to meet him, till he is rapt in the delicious sentiments of love and adoration! How graceful, how august his mien! How significant and expressive every lineament of bis face, every attitude, every movement, of his person! What expression in the language of bis eye! His whole soul appears in one glance of it, and, with irresistible energy, at one time commands reverence, at another submission and obedience, and at another love; now inspiring courage and resolution, then pleasure and satisfaction, in all about him! How often by a look does he disarm malice, defeat the schemes of injustice, drive sorrow from the breast of the mourner, and dart life and heavenly joy where darkness and distress prevailed. If we consider man in the structure of his body, how superior in contrivance, in dignity, and in utility, to every other animal! But his mental powers most especially deserve our admiration. Those thoughts which range through infinite space, and wander into eternity—that memory, which treasures up things past, and, as by some strange magic, summons them back again, and makes them pass before the mind in orderly review that fancy, which mixes and combines the forms of things, and lends a kind of creative power to the painter's pencil, and to the poet's pen—that understanding, which imbibes the clear light of wisdom; which apprehends, which reasons, which judges, informs, and corrects. If to the consideration of these powers of the mind of man, we add that of the many virtues it is capable of exercising, industry, patience, piety, resignation, fortitude, purity, and charity in all its lovely forms,-when we consider the variety, the versatility, the grandeur, the importance, the energy and activity of the human intelligence-we exclaim with Shakspeare, “ What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel ! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals !"
Man has the greatest capacity for the enjoyment of happiness in himself, and for the diffusion of happiness around him, of any being in this world ; he is therefore the noblest and most valuable of all the beings in this part of the creation of God.
There is a pleasure in beholding the progress of a human being towards maturity, as there is in contemplating the increasing verdure and opening bloom of spring, and every object in nature in a state of progressive improvement; and the heart rejoices at the idea of arriving at the summit of Manhood. It should, however, be always remembered, that something more than the perfection of the bodily powers is necessary to constitute the perfection of a human being. Our
benevolent Creator has given to us an understanding to be cultivated, and a heart to become the seat of every virtuous affection. We are intended for intellectual and moral perfection ; and this depends much on our exertions. Wisdom and goodness are not, like bodily strength, given to us by our Maker independently of our own exertions, but only the capacity of acquiring them; and in order to acquire them, as we are accountable beings, we must voluntarily exert the powers which God has given us. We were not formed, like the inferior animals, just to appear on this theatre of action, and then to be no more. the intention of Providence, in our creation, that we should increase in wisdom and in goodness, and, in consequence of this, in happiness, through all the ages of eternity. Wisdom, therefore, (which, in the sense of scripture, includes religion,) should be the leading object of attention. To every young person, affection cries, with an audible voice,“ Get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.”
The increase of stature is confined entirely to the first part of life, during which, almost exclusively, the seeds of wisdom and happiness can be sown in the mind, by religious parents and wise instructors. This is the seed-time, which, not being properly improved, there can be no valuable harvest. It is absolutely necessary, at this period, to sow the seeds of wisdom and virtue, because this discipline alone will render the mind susceptible of improvement in future periods. The intellectual and moral capacity grows with the stature; and what is a truly important consideration, it almost ceases with that, unless kept open by constant and unwearied exercise. If the capacity of improvement be properly exercised in young persons, it will not only “grow with their growth, and strengthen with their strength,” but it will continue to increase, when their bodily powers can improve no longer. On the contrary, if it be not properly exercised, the mind, instead of expanding, will close; instead of receiving, will reject intellectual food. This is a consideration which is not sufficiently regarded. Perhaps it is known only to those who have been engaged in the business of education, or who have paid considerable attention to the operations of the human mind.
Man possesses an unbounded and immense field for the exercise of his reflecting powers. Heaven and earth, the animate and inanimate creation, whatever is within him and without him; the past, the present, and the future, the possible and the actual, all excite his attention, and invite him to reflection. The man who duly exercises his reflecting powers, walks not, ike the vain and wanton, thoughtless and insensible, about this magnificent theatre of divine munificence. His senses and his heart are always pliant to the impressions of the true, the beautiful, and good; and his mind is ever ready to admit, to arrange, to compare, to examine them, and to employ them in connecting his perceptions and knowledge to the advancement of his perfection and happiness.
The pleasures of Manhood can never be enjoyed by the narrow and selfish mind. Man finds his true enjoyment in seeking and promoting the happiness of his fellow-men. By attending to the following rules, every one may do something towards the promotion of the public prosperity:
Let each man seek to adapt himself to his particular destination, by which he may rest assured that he is most effectually promoting the benefit of every other. Let the farmer cultivate the ground, and procure from it as great abundance as unwearied industry can obtain. Let the citizen, the mechanic, and the artist, prepare and apply their respective productions to the most profitable use; whilst the merchant barters the superfluity for commodities which his country does not supply. Let parents inspire their children with the first notions and sentiments of religion, and with a deep veneration for virtue. Let the minister of religion develop and give effect to these sentiments, by public and private instructions. Let the scholar refute the baneful prejudices of the vulgar, by promulgating useful discoveries. Let the ignorant profit by the light which the scholar thus holds out to him, and prove, by experiment in his own person, whether it be practicable or not. Let the great and noble discharge the duties of their dignified station with propriety and vigour; whilst their dependents, by prompt and faithful services, facilitate the dispatch. Let the poor be industrious ; the rich beneficent; the judge impartial ; the magistrate vigilant; and let the sovereign bestow with caution the important offices of state: whilst the worthiest individuals are encouraged, let him promote all beneficial institutions by his fostering patronage; and, with an eye upon all, let him cement the united parts of the whole, in such a manner as will tend most to its happiness and perpetuity : thus each will fulfil bis vocation ; and, in the degree that he does so, will the bulk of society be prosperous and thriving.
Thy nature, O man! is noble; is far superior to that of the beasts of the field. Reason is its prerogative; virtue, its dignity ; similarity to God, its glory. Thy capacities are great, thy intellect capacious, thy heart sensible, and susceptible of vast enjoyments; thy force can execute much, and operate to a great extent. Remember, if thou leadest a sinful, unchristian life, thou degradest and disgracest thy nature. Let not thy reason be subjected to those senses which thou hast in common with the brutes ; nor thy understanding be pressed into the service of error and vice. Let not thy heart be forced to put up with vile and sinful gratifications, which always leave it empty, and cannot appease its longing after happiness. Let not thy strength be wasted on impertinent trifles, in idleness, or in wickedness. Occupy thyself in virtuous and laudable pursuits ; so shalt thou enjoy the pleasures of-MANHOOD.