The Young Man's Friend and Guide
Through Life to Immortality

John Angell James (1785—1859)

"You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward
You will take me into glory!" Psalm 73:24


"All these men of Issachar understood the temper of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take." 1 Chronicles 12:32

"Can you not discern the signs of the times?" Matthew 16:3

In the first of these passages, the Israelites who were of the tribe of Issachar, in the time of David, received a high praise for understanding the times, and knowing the best course for the inhabitants of the kingdom to do. They were thoughtful, intelligent men, who studied and who understood the signs of the times; were well versed in public affairs; knew the character of the age that was passing over them, and what was best to be done for the exigencies of their nation; and perceived that it was the duty and the interest of Israel to advance David to the throne.

In the second passage, our Lord reproves the Pharisees for their not being able to discern the signs of their times. The signs of the times are the character and aspect of the passing age. Every age has its characteristic signs impressed upon it by the hand of God. To discern these is to mark and comprehend them. Such attention and discernment are our duty, and the neglect of it subjects us to the rebuke of Christ. Among many extremes to be avoided, there are two which are suggested by the subject of the present discourse. I mean too selfish a regard for our own personal affairs—or too absorbing an interest in the affairs of the state or the world.

There are some people, though they are not many, whose whole world is self. They have surrounded themselves by a very narrow boundary, within which they endeavor to keep their attention closed, and occupy themselves strictly in their own business, with as little inquisitiveness about, or connection or sympathy with, the great world outside as possible. Now this is wrong, for, as they are members of the community, they owe it some duties, which they cannot rightly discharge without knowing its condition. It is foolish, because their individual lot is influenced by the general one. It betrays a gross insensibility not to look up when Providence is passing by, and notice its stately march. It prevents their getting good, as well as doing good, for God is ever teaching us lessons by public events.

It is very true, there may be the opposite extreme of being so occupied by watching the progressive development of the great drama of Providence, as to forget and neglect our own individual concerns, and our immediate duties. We are placed in a very busy world, full of men and works; of transactions and events—and of vast varieties of human character and action. We may be acquainted with all that is going on, by reading, conversation, and observation. We are in the midst of the throng, and are moving on with it. It is of vast importance, then, to attend to two things—first, not to let our attention be too much drawn off from our own private matters to public ones; and secondly, to take care that our notice of public events be carried on wisely, so as to turn what we observe to profitable account.

Our Lord's reproof to the Jews contained in the text, condemns the habitual disregard of passing events in all ages of the world and in all periods of its history. But there are times when it is still more to be reprobated. Providence is always at work, and we, after all, are poor judges of the comparative importance of its operations, since preparations may be going on in its secret recesses, of which the stupendous dispensations that we witness are but the first manifestation. Still there can be no doubt of the wonderful character of our age, nor any danger of our unduly magnifying its importance.

It is obvious that the world is becoming a far more active, agitating, changing, tumultuous scene, than formerly. Discoveries and inventions; news and events; omens and alarms, come upon us not singly—but in troops; not in showers and streams—but with the rapidity, the copiousness, and the force of an inundation. In such an age, to be swallowed up in our own individual concerns, and to be such religious recluses, literary solitaires, business devotees, or domestic exclusives—as to have no sympathy with the actors and operations of the age, is sanctioned neither by true religion nor reason—but is contrary to both.

I. Let us inquire into the CHARACTERISTICS of the age in which we live. Almost every age has something in common with other ages and something peculiar to itself. What then are those peculiarities of the present times which should be pointed out to the inquiring and observant mind?

If we speak of the age as regards its INTELLECTUAL character, we cannot fail to notice an intense excitement and inquisitiveness. The human mind was never so active and so exploring in all the regions of thought as now. The discoveries of science are wonderful, and, as might be expected, the inventions of art are proportionate. The two must ever move together, being reciprocally helpful to each other. What surprising disclosures of the secrets of nature are going on, under the scrutinizing researches of scientific enquiry! Men seem to feel as if there were no limits to human inquiry, and as if there was nothing knowable which they could not and would not know; as if nothing would satisfy them until they had reached the furthest boundary of knowledge. How rapidly and how widely is the circle of universal knowledge expanding. We have grown so familiar with the wonders which have been of late years achieved by the human intellect, that we now think nothing too amazing for man to attempt or expect. Hence the magnificent—but somewhat presumptuous, title of his last publication by Humboldt, "Cosmos," "The World," as if he had laid open all the globe to our knowledge, and not only our planet—but the great universe itself, with all it comprehends.

If we regard the age in its SOCIAL aspect, we see the same proof of its extraordinary character. "The pervading connecting principle of community, throughout mankind as one immense body, has become much more alive. It is now much more verified to be one body, however extended, by the quicker, stronger sensations which pervade the rest of it, from what affects any particular part." Communication is so facilitated, quickened, and extended, that men begin to feel less and less the interposing geographical and political barriers, which separate them from each other, and are approximating to universal neighborhood; great social principles are also in operation, which are breaking down national prejudices and antipathies. The evils of war are being denounced in loud and emphatic terms, and schemes of universal brotherhood are put forth, which, if not likely to be immediately successful, are the harbingers of the approaching reign of love, and the shadows which coming events cast before them. The subject of slavery, the treatment of criminals, the foundation of government, the theory and practice of law, the physical condition of the people, the temperance reform, national education, the principles of international trade, the grand questions of civil and religious liberty, are all agitated and discussed with an inquisitiveness and an eagerness which look as if society were absolutely and resolutely bent on self-improvement, and was going on towards a point immeasurably in advance of anything it has yet reached. Nor should we forget the extraordinary impetus that has been lately given to colonization and emigration, by which new additions are being made to the great family of nations, and new experiments instituted in the principles of human government.

The POLITICAL character of the age, especially if we take in the whole of the present century, is almost unparalleled for the number, rapidity, extent, and magnitude of its revolutions. In what a state has Europe existed during this period! Almost every kingdom but our own has been the seat of war, and most of them the scenes of changes of dynasty and government. We have seen monarchs driven from their thrones; scepters broken, and crowns rolling in the dust. And though the great earthquake at present (1851) has ceased, and there is a lull in the tempests that have been raging; yet with four million men under arms at this moment, and nations jealously watching each other; with France uneasy and restless within itself, and containing the elements of mischief fermenting both in its capital and in its provinces, who can say how soon the spark will fall which may cause another explosion? Depend upon it, the next convulsion, come when it may, will be more tremendous than any that have preceded it. The liberties of Europe have yet to be established by the subversion of many of its old governments, who seem not disposed to gain wisdom by experience. The nations are panting for freedom, and the despots are resolved they shall not be free; and before long the slaves will break their fetters and the scepters of their tyrants, in the same furious struggle and in the same awful hour. Young men, you know not and cannot conceive what you may be called to witness. Happily you live in a country where whatever the many have to gain from the few—it will be won by reason and not by force.

The MORAL aspect of this age is no less impressive than either of the preceding. If asked to describe in one or two words this aspect of the age, I would say, first of all, it is the age of CONFLICT. The struggle always going on in our world between truth and error, good and evil, has assumed a character of earnestness, not to say fierceness, as if both parties were preparing for a last and decisive battle. The four great religious controversies are becoming more and more determined.

1. There is the conflict which is maintained by infidelity in all its forms (including atheism, pantheism, and deism) against Christianity.

2. There is the conflict which is carried on between those foundation truths which (as held by all the chief denominations of Christendom) may fairly be called orthodoxy, and heresy.

3. There is the conflict which is sustained by the advocates and opponents of State establishments of religion.

4. There is that mighty struggle which is becoming more determined every day between Popery and Protestantism.

Never was the 'war of opinions' so general and so determined as it is now. To a contemplative mind it is a somewhat dreadful exercise of thought, to look over this vast field of conflict, where such forces are contending for supremacy over the moral destinies of the present and all future generations of mankind, and to watch the movements of the armies, and their alternate victories and defeats.

Happily there is also another feature of the age, which, though in one sense it bears the aspect of conflict also, is sufficiently distinct from it to admit of separate consideration; I mean the evangelizing spirit, now manifested by professing Christians of all denominations. This though it may be unpraised, and even to a considerable extent unnoticed, by "the children of this world," wise as they are in their generation—is the grandest and most hopeful sign of the times.

If then asked for a second characteristic of the moral aspect of the times, I reply without a moment's hesitation, BENEVOLENCE. Yes, and that not a mere sentimental compassion, the benevolence that can weep before the pictures of imagination—but will do nothing to relieve the miseries of real life. Nor is it the benevolence that only builds alms-houses, hospitals, dispensaries; which would combat the ills that flesh is heir to, disease, poverty, and hunger, though I do not think lightly of this, nor is the age lacking in it. But the benevolence which characterizes this age, and in which I most delight, is that which lighted upon our orb from heaven in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to redeem man from sin, and death, and hell. That which lived and moved and had its being in apostles, when they went everywhere preaching the gospel, "to turn men from dumb idols to serve the living and true God." That which in modern times is embodied in the character of the devoted and self-sacrificing missionary, who, for the love of Christ and pity for immortal souls, leaves the comforts of civilized society to dwell among savages, amid the deserts of Africa or the ices of polar regions. That, in short, which aims at the salvation of souls, the rescue of the human mind from the chains of ignorance and the emancipation of the heart from the bondage of its lusts. This, this is the noblest characteristic of our age—a religious zeal to diffuse the blessings of the gospel over the face of the whole earth, more intense, more active, and more comprehensive than any which has existed since the apostles' days.

The missionary spirit, as manifested in the various organizations which it has called into existence, the numerous missions which it has established, and the triumphs over barbarism, idolatry, vice and cruelty which it has achieved; stamp upon this age its most beneficent, most important, and most sublime character. Christianity is the world's best friend. Apart from its being the means of eternal life in another world, it is the best benefactor of man in all his relations to the present world. "Christianity maintains an incessant struggle against all that is selfish, barbarous, and inimical to human happiness—and comprehends in itself the seeds of endless improvement; and it is this which rising upon us like a finer sun, has quickened moral improvement, and replenished our country with talents, virtues, and exploits, which, in spite of its physical disadvantages—have rendered it a paradise, the delight and wonder of the world." How great, then, and how noble an enterprise is that which attempts to make this the religion of the world, and thus to supplant all the vices and crimes which degrade the intellect, pollute the heart, deform the character, and fill the life with misery!

Such, then, Young Men, is the age in which you are called to exist; and such the signs, omens and portents by which it is distinguished—and to them may be added the reflection, which gives the consideration its most intense force and importance, that your lot is cast in the country which is placed by Providence at the center of the intellectual, social, and moral interests of the world! It is something more than an effusion of national vanity, to affirm that England, beyond all countries on the globe, is at present the temple of true religion, the hall of science, the school of learning, the citadel of liberty, the refuge of distress, the mart of commerce, and the seat of power. On her depend more closely than on any other nation, the intellectual, social and moral destinies of the world. The nations of the earth and all coming ages and generations have more to hope from her, than from any other country under the sun. Her decadence would be more their loss, as her continued glory and greatness would be more their gain—than the adversity or prosperity of any other state on the face of the globe.

It is not then allowed to you to look on from afar upon passing events, without being permitted to guide or influence them. You are in the midst of them, and can touch the springs of activity which are in motion around you. You are not only permitted—but invited; and not only invited—but commanded, to bear a part in all that is going forward for the world's improvement.

I therefore consider the CHARACTER of the men who are needed for the age. This will lead me to state what you should be. Men of the age, and for it. Men worthy of it, that can avail themselves of its opportunities for getting good, and doing good; that catch its spirit, and receive its impress; that can even do something to improve it, as well as be improved by it; that are wiser, holier, more benevolent, more active, than their fathers; that, like those of the tribe of Issachar, "understand the times, and knew the best course for Israel to take."

As the basis of everything else, of all the talents and the virtues by which you can act most beneficially, I mention of course PERSONAL PIETY. Maintaining, as I do, that real religion is the chief element in the world's well-being, as well as in the happiness of each individual, I ought to mention it as the first thing essentially necessary in him who would benefit the age in which he lives. I have as high an estimate as anyone of the value and importance of the sciences, literature and the arts; I am as strenuous an advocate of liberty as can be found; but I contend that they will never renew the human heart, or restore it to peace. It is true religion more than these things, or than all other things—that the nations need for their repose and felicity; and he who would do most to bless his species, must seek to spread the blessings of Christianity.

When I speak of true religion being the world's best friend, I mean true religion as we have it pure in the Bible, and in the hearts and lives of its true believers; and not as it is presented in the corrupt forms which it has assumed in the creeds, churches, constitutions, and professions of some that call themselves Christians; I mean the true religion of repentance, truth, holiness, and love; the subjugation of the heart and life to the word of God; "the wisdom that is first pure, then peaceable; full of mercy and good fruits; gentle and easy to be entreated; without partiality, and without hypocrisy." I see with pleasure the ever advancing tide of knowledge—but I am quite sure it is not upon this—but upon the stream of true religion, that men must float into the haven of sound morals and permanent peace.

The best benefactor of his race is not he who teaches them something they did not before know, though even he is entitled to their gratitude—but he who delivers them from the dominion of their passions, and the slavery of their vices. Hence, no man can serve his age so effectually as he who fears God, and under the influence of motives derived thence, seeks to benefit his fellow-creatures by implanting in their hearts the principles that sway his own. The worshipers of 'knowledge' award to the philosopher, the palm which is due to the Christian philanthropist, as the world's best friend. Hence, my young friends, I tell you that you are not men for the age, if you are not pious men. Neglect true religion, and you may by your vices become the world's bane and curse. Possess it, and you not only promote the moral interests of the age, which are its highest ones—but you also give the best guarantee, and use the best means too, of serving it in every other way.

It behooves you to be observant, thoughtful, reflective—for who in such an age as this can be in harmony with the times without such a disposition? Rise above the folly of those young men whose frivolous spirits, taken up with the levities, trifles and petty impertinences of little minds, seem incapable of serious reflection; men who would wonder what strange mysterious power was operating upon them, if at any time they found themselves in a pensive mood, and, in ever so slight a manner, musing on passing events—men who seem to think they are born to talk, and smoke, and laugh, rather than to think. Despise such men. From these mirthful and thoughtless triflers, society has nothing to expect. They may have their brief day of sunshine and pleasure—they will then die, vanish, and be forgotten, as though they had never been.

Belong, my young friends, to the class so characteristically described as "thoughtful men;" men who, knowing they were made for thought and reflection, fix their eyes on the currents of events, to see which way they are flowing; who not only make themselves acquainted with the surface of things—but who look beneath it, and endeavor philosophically to trace events backward to their causes, and forward to their consequences; who not only exercise their curiosity in knowing what is taking place—but their reason in judging of its tendencies and influences; who read the histories of past times, as well as the chronicles of the present age, to form opinions founded upon examination, comparison, and legitimate deduction.

Endeavor to discern the connection of events, and their influence upon the great interests of social happiness, liberty and true religion. And especially let the speculative contemplation of human life and passing events, be combined in you with active energy. Let observation constantly be converted into reflection, and reflection into action. Let your thoughtfulness be something more than musing. Be not like one who watches the swelling tide in a dreamy mood, and sees it rise and fall as a mere object of curiosity; but be as one who is waiting for it to reach a certain elevation, when he shall throw in a net or embark in a boat. Stand amid passing events, asking the question, "What does all this mean generally—and what does it require me to do? What practical teaching is there in all this? What must I rise from this scene to perform for myself, for society, or for the church of God? What is it that Providence, by what is now passing before me, calls on me to attempt?"

I do not by all this mean to impose upon you a premature gravity, an unnatural solemnity and reserve. I do not mean to depress the buoyancy and check the sprightliness of youth, to stiffen your manners into repulsive formality, and to transform a modest, humble youth, into a "Sir Oracle." Nothing of the sort—but still I entreat young men to be sober-minded.

Here, again, I bring in MENTAL CULTIVATION and robustness of intellect, as of great importance. Throughout the whole of this work I have insisted much on this, being well-assured that though true religion is the first thing, as an object of human pursuit, it is not everything; and that other things being equal—he is likely to be the most useful and happy man, who is best taught and best disciplined. I say to you most emphatically, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;" but I then add, Seek next a well-informed, well-cultivated mind. In an age like the present, so cultivated, so enlightened, no man can make way in the world, so as to gain respect, influence others, and do good, who has not some power of character, and some store of intellectual wealth. Character does something, I know, even where the jewel is not set in the gold of brilliant knowledge—but how much more when it is! He who is ambitious to be useful—and it is a noble ambition wherever it exists, and it ought to exist in all—must not neglect to improve his mind. Who in such an age as this will revere real excellence, if it be associated with imbecility? One of the characteristics of the age is, as we have considered, active benevolence; and another, the diffusion of knowledge. Many have taken part in the former, without being careful to take part in the latter, and thus have failed in doing all the good they wished.

I recommend the adoption of certain great principles, which ought ever to be present with you when looking abroad upon the course of events and the general history of mankind; and which every one who properly discerns the signs of the times will assiduously cherish.

Recognize, in the current of human affairs, the scheme and operations of an all-wise, all-controlling Providence. Behold in all events the permission or the appointment of God. Renounce not only the atheist's creed—but his mode of thinking and speaking of passing events. The transactions and affairs of the day, though brought to pass by a vast multitude of free and accountable agents, fulfill God's counsel, and contribute to the perfecting of his plan. Be the signs of the times therefore what they may, they are such as God has stamped upon them, and are significant of something pertaining to him and his purpose. Believe that the will of God controls all events. In looking over the scenes of history, as well as those of nature, realize the thought that all you see is governed by one controlling will, one infinitely wise and benevolent mind. This gives additional interest and grandeur to the view. There is no beauty, no interest, no pleasure, in the idea of 'chance'. It is not only impious and unphilosophical—but it is also an unpoetical thing—a repulsive negation, a sterile, hideous conception. On the contrary, how delightful it is to look upon the revolutions of empire, the discoveries of science, the inventions of art, the conflict of systems, the progress of society, and realize in all these the operations of an Ever-present, Omniscient Intellect—and thus to feel ourselves in the great workshop or laboratory of the all-wise, all-good, all-powerful Craftsman, and surrounded with the glorious, though as yet unfinished, productions of His consummate skill.

Another great principle to direct us in considering the events of the age, is that truth is far more excellent and important in matters of morality and conscience, than in matters of science or mere intellect; or in other words, that true religion and virtue are superior to science, literature, and the arts, as to all that affects the well-being of man. All truth is important; but all truth is not equally important. Man's moral is above his intellectual nature. The intellectual is for the moral, rather than the moral for the intellectual; and as the intellectual is for the moral, so the moral is for the eternal. I have glanced at this, in a former chapter; and renew the consideration of it here on account of its importance. It is, as I have already said, as a moral agent that man is farthest removed from the brutes that perish, and approximates nearest to God. The lower animals have moments of reason—but they have no susceptibility of moral ideas. Piety and virtue are loftier qualities of character in themselves, and far more productive of happiness, than merely intellectual acquisitions; they alone fit the soul for communion with God now, and for presence with him hereafter in heaven.

The extension of knowledge alone, without true religion and morals, even if every barbarian in existence were made a philosopher, would fail to make men happy; but true religion will make man happy in any state of society, in any condition of life. The Greenlander amid the never-melting ices and long nights of Arctic regions—the Red Indian amid his boundless prairies and interminable forests—the Hottentot amid the vast African deserts—or the Negro subjected to the yoke of slavery—may, by the external blessings of the gospel, and the internal graces of a holy mind, be happy.

One would imagine, from much that is said and done, in the present age, that 'knowledge' was the bread of life which would satisfy every desire of the soul hungering after bliss; the panacea which would heal every wound of diseased humanity; the crown of glory to our nature; the chief felicity of our present existence; and all we need for our happiness in another world. This is however a lamentable and fatal error—but one in which nearly the whole civilized world is involved. Education, apart from true religion, is hoped to do everything for man. Ideas, ideas, ideas, are alone needed to renew, reform, and bless the human race—let but mankind be admitted to the tree of knowledge, and they will find nothing but good to be the result—it is the darkness of the intellect only, that is the cause of the depravity of the heart—only let in the light of science, and it will set all right. Such is the deplorable error of the moral quacks of the age, whose remedy for the cure of all diseases is knowledge. Deluded men! They would rectify society without true religion, and govern it without God. Have they forgotten all history, especially that of Greece and Rome? Have they ever read what the apostle says, "Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used the foolishness of what was preached to save all who believe."

It is something for the moral and spiritual nature that man needs for his happiness; and you may offer mere intellectual knowledge to a man whose limbs are dislocated, or whose flesh is corroded by disease, as that which will give him health and enjoyment, as reasonably as you can offer it to the unholy man, as that which will give him holiness, ease, and contentment. While then, you concede to 'knowledge' all that is contended for, on its behalf, short of its being the supreme good, and the supreme means of good; and while you go on seeking it for yourself, and diffusing it among others—ever remember that Christian truth is infinitely more important than science and the arts; and give your most zealous interest to those institutions which promote it.

You see on every hand restlessness and dissatisfaction. Amid the advances of society in all that can exalt and dignify man as an intellectual being, amid all the wonders which his noble intellect is producing, amid all the homage he is ever receiving from his fellows and from himself, he is still as far from happiness as ever, and still lifting up the anxious inquiry, "Who will show us any good?" The nations of the earth, notwithstanding their marvelous advancement in physical knowledge and refinement, are still as ignorant of the nature, and as short of the attainment, of true bliss as ever. Yes, and they ever must be so, as long as any truth is set above that which is divinely revealed in the Word of God, and as long as the seat of happiness is supposed to be the intellect rather than the heart. Young men, be it your felicity to discover what it is that man needs to make him happy, and then to join those who are laboring to diffuse "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," which by renovating the moral nature—roots out all that can degrade and disturb it—and plants all those seeds of piety and virtue which can elevate, adorn, and bless it!

As another principle to guide you in your views conduct and relations in this important age, let it be your conviction that all social changes are subservient to the kingdom of Christ. In all difficult problems, and complicated schemes, it is a vast advantage to be furnished with a key to unlock the whole. Now this advantage we possess in the knowledge furnished by the Bible, concerning not only the tendency—but the actual design and final result, of all events to promote the advancement of Christianity on the earth. It is not at all necessary to prove to those for whom I am writing, that the universal diffusion of the Christian religion in its purity, would be a great blessing to the human race. What curses are Paganism, Mohammedanism, and Popery! What a withering blight has come from those sources over the moral interests of the globe! What a jubilee for the world would the universal reign of our Lord Jesus Christ be! How many evils would flee before him—war, slavery, tyranny, anarchy, and vice in all its branches! How many blessings would follow in his train—peace, liberty, good government, just laws, universal brotherhood! The diffusion of Christianity is the greatest thing that can happen in and to our world. Nothing can for a moment be put in comparison with it—nothing can be conceived more worthy of the Divine Being, as the supreme end of his government. Hence it is very delightful to know that all which is taking place is subservient to this end.

How grand is the position of a true Christian, a believer in Biblical revelation. He stands upon the mount of prophecy, and sees all the various operations of science, literature, art, history, commerce, navigation—all widening the channel and deepening the bed of the "River of Life," which is flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, for the salvation of the world. He sees statesmen, warriors, travelers, philosophers, merchants, engineers, while pursuing their own separate objects, and never dreaming of promoting Christianity—actually carrying on this great work. Is it not an immense advantage, in looking abroad upon the millions of events of all kinds that are ever occurring, events which seem to have no connection with each other, and no end and design in common, to know the center in which all these lines meet and converge? We are told that Christ is Head over all things to his church. That is the secret—the grand glorious and blissful secret!

In looking upon the progress of science and the arts, the question is often almost involuntarily asked, "Where will it all end? What will it all come to?" The Bible answers the question—In the setting up in our world, of Christ's kingdom of truth, holiness, and happiness. Take this conviction with you through life. Look abroad upon this wonderful age, with the knowledge of this still more wonderful and glorious fact; and while the unreflecting, the irreligious, the skeptical, or the atheistic philosopher, is reveling in the discoveries of science—but stopping there; you go on to that nobler cause, the universal diffusion of true religion, of which all the sciences are the handmaids, and the atheist himself, though he knows it not, nor does his heart think so, is but an unconscious instrument.

The last principle I would request you to take up and apply to the age, is this—Social reform must be brought about by individual regeneration. This principle is as important as it is true. We hear a great deal in various directions about the improvement of society, and a noble idea it is, whether politically or morally viewed. Social evils are so numerous, so deeply seated, and so pernicious, that it is desirable and important that they should be removed by extensive reform. But it is forgotten, even by those who declaim most loudly against these social evils, and call most earnestly for a better direction to be given to the masses—that the best, and only way to improve the whole, is by seeking the improvement of each part. Individual regeneration is the only method of general reformation. It is all well enough to talk about the latter, and to join in combined efforts to promote it; but it will end in talk, as long as there is no concern for personal regeneration. Public and general evil must, I know, be publicly and jointly attacked; but the assailants must begin with reforming themselves, and come to the assault on others, with clean hands and pure hearts.

It is of vast importance to set out in life with this view of things. He is the best reformer who begins with the reformation of himself; and no systems will be effectual for public amelioration which leave out of consideration the necessity of individual regeneration and Christian virtue. A deep sense of personal responsibility should lie on every man's conscience. Every man is a part of the existing generation, and does something by his own character and conduct to form the character of the age. Each ought therefore to resolve—What I would have the age to be, that I will endeavor to be.

No man can rightly appreciate his age who does not cherish Public Spirit. This, at all times incumbent, is especially so in the present day. By this I do not mean a noisy obtrusive and restless desire to obtain notoriety by a seeming zeal to rectify public evils, and to promote the public good—or a disposition to associate with those who are given to change. But I mean, a determination, founded upon conscientious conviction, associated with deep humility and modestly expressed, to do all the good you can, and to leave the world the better for your having lived in it. No man "lives to himself" is the dictate of reason, as well as the command of revelation. Each man is, as a member of society, a debtor to the community from which he receives benefits, and is under corresponding obligations to it. Every man can do something to benefit other men, and what he can do, he ought to do. If this is his duty at all times, it is especially so at the present time.

Benevolence, as I have already shown, is one of the noblest and most identifying moral features of the age. Never was so much doing for the well-being of mankind. It is a glorious thing, and makes one grateful for the present—and hopeful for the future. Men are everywhere stepping out of the 'center of selfishness' into the broad circumference of the general good. It is an age of action, of action in the cause of God and human happiness. Public spirit has become with multitudes a principle, and with multitudes more a habit. Selfishness acquires at such a time peculiar enormity, whether it be the selfishness of avarice, which will give no money for the public good; of indolence, which will give no labor; or of literary or scientific taste, which will give no time. Under the influence of public spirit the world is improving; ignorance, vice, and misery are yielding to its influence; and knowledge, truth, holiness, and happiness are bringing on the millennium. The religious institutions of this age are its own glory and the hope of every other institution yet to come. They are preparing the earth for its emancipation from the thraldom and misery under which it has been groaning for nearly six thousand years, and for the glorious liberty of truth, holiness, happiness.

At such a time, will you be torpid at the center of universal activity? Will you now refuse to sympathize with philanthropists, reformers, and evangelists? Never, no never, were the youth of any preceding generation called to a work so great, so noble, and so beneficent, as is offered to the young men of this generation. Never had they such an opportunity of ennobling themselves by active benevolence—or were they in such danger of disgracing themselves by selfishness and indolence, as in the present day. "Begin early then to cherish a public spirit, because if you do not possess this disposition in the morning of life, you probably never will. This is a virtue that rarely springs up late in life. If it grows and flourishes at all, it must be planted in youth, and be nourished by the warm sunshine and rain of the spring season of existence. He who cares only for himself in youth—will be a very selfish in manhood—and a wretched miser in old age." (Hawes' Lectures to Young Men)

III. A young man rightly impressed with the circumstances of the age, will guard assiduously against its EVILS, for every age has its peculiar dangers, and the present one forms no exception to the general rule. I can only briefly enumerate those perils.

He will check and restrain an excessive love of pleasure, which in many cases leads to self-indulgence, in others unfits for business, and in far more altogether indisposes the mind for sober thought, mental culture, and true piety. This is one of the growing tendencies of the day in which we live, and threatens infinite damage to the present and eternal welfare of mankind, by bringing on an age of frivolity, sensuality, and practical atheism. Find your pleasure, young men, in the improvement of your mind, in attention to duties, in true piety, and in active benevolence. Is there not scope enough for enjoyment here? "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."

Excessive worldliness is another of the dangers of this age. In our wealthy and materialistic country, there is most imminent peril of sinking into the mere worldling, and living only to get wealth. Never was competition so fierce, and never was there so great danger of having the conscience benumbed, moral principles prostrated, the heart rendered callous, and even the intellect rifled of its strength, or sharpened only into cunning and duplicity by the love of money, as in the age in which we live. Wealth is the idol of our day! Without watchfulness and prayer, you are in danger of bowing devoutly at its shrine, becoming its worshipers, and immolating your souls as a burnt-offering on its altars.

Pride of intellect, leading to skepticism and infidelity, is a most fearful source of peril in this age. I have already alluded to the conflict now going on between the various forms of unbelief and Christianity. The struggle is eagerly maintained by both parties; and though to the sincere believer in Christianity, there is no doubt how it will terminate—yet in the meanwhile there is great reason to fear, from the boldness and subtlety of the attacks of infidelity, that some, and not a few, victories will be gained by the opponents of Christianity. The natural bias of youth is almost always to infidelity. And such is the case, not merely because, as Bacon says, "a little philosophy inclines us to atheism, and a great deal of philosophy carries us back to true religion." Man has an intellectual bias against the gospel, because it humbles the arrogance of his pride of intellect. He also has a moral bias against the gospel; because it would check the indulgence of his sinful passions. These two causes will account for the prevalence of infidelity among so many young men of the present day.

In an age when the mind of man is pouring out its prodigies in such profusion, there is imminent peril of believing it almost omnipotent omniscient and all-sufficient, and of man's accounting himself his own God, and feeling as if he needed no other. The tendency is to that Pantheism which, instead of saying nothing is God—says everything is God. Man-worship is the idolatry of the day, as well as money-worship. And yet notwithstanding the prodigies of intellect which man can and does accomplish—how little way does all go to make him either holy or happy. The profoundest philosopher and the noblest son of science, as much need a revelation from God to guide them in matters of true religion and morals, as the peasant or the child.

Superstition, leading to formalism in religion, instead of the true piety of the intellect, the heart, the conscience, and the life—is with some, though not so much with you, a danger of the age. Yet though it is chiefly among that portion of our race most under the influence of passion and imagination, that superstition gains its victories—it is evident from many facts that even the most masculine minds are not proof against the seductions of Popery and its related systems. And when we see over what mighty intellects this dreadful system has cast its shade or thrown its spell, and what gifted minds it has induced to drink of the bewitching cup of its enchantments, we must not speak too strongly on the probability that none but the feeble or the imaginative will yield to its sorceries.

Young men, study then, seriously consider, and be duly impressed with, the dangers that characterize the age in which you live—dangers by which you are surrounded!

I speak not now of the ordinary perils which apply to every age alike—the dangers arising from the ardor of passion, the wanderings of imagination, the influence of example, the love of companionship, the temptations to sensuality, to intemperance, to dishonesty, to extravagance, which beset the young man's path at all times—these have been already considered in the previous chapters.

But I now speak of those which appertain to the age in which it is your lot to live. Do not be ignorant, insensible, or indifferent, in such a situation—nor treat the subject with carelessness or levity. Ponder, devoutly ponder, the subject. As your protection from these perils, you must have personal piety. This, and this only, is your adequate defense. This is your safeguard and shield. Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation. Put your trust in God. With the fear of God before your eyes, and his love reigning in your hearts, you are safe, and will escape unscathed from all these perils to which you are constantly exposed!

Reflect, then, upon your condition. Here you are in being, existing not by your own choice—but by the appointment of Providence, in one of the most eventful eras that ever elapsed in the history of the world or the flight of time. For you, all preceding nations, ages, and generations, with all their mightiest men, and their greatest discoveries, events, inventions, and exploits—have existed. Whatever valor has won, science explored, art contrived, labor achieved, suffering purchased—has come down to you. For you, heroes have bled in the field, martyrs suffered on the scaffold or at the stake, philosophers studied in the closet, monarchs reigned on the throne, statesmen legislated in the senate, and travelers crossed the desert or the ocean. All the light and experience of nearly six thousand years concentrate in your history. You receive the full benefit of the art of printing, the revival of letters, the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and the English Revolution of the seventeenth. For you, America has been disclosed in its secret solitude between the two great oceans. For you, the British sway has been established in Asia and Africa. For you, civil and religious liberty has been matured in its most unrestricted form. For you, Bible Societies, Missionary Societies, Tract Societies, and all the other institutions of Christian benevolence, have been established and made ready to your hands. All nations, all ages, all generations have labored—and you have entered into their labors! You stand surrounded with all the spoils of time, the wealth of nations, the achievements of humanity, and the gifts of Providence! And I now ask, "What kind of men ought you to be."

So much for the past and the present—and then the future. What a future! Which of the 'seals of Revelation' is breaking for the next century. All men are fixing an eye of inquisitive curiosity and anxious expectation upon the unfolding of the scroll which contains the history of the next century. What may we not expect from and for humanity, within that period! What may not be hoped for from science, the arts, learning, and true religion! All, all, under God, depends upon you and your contemporaries. Into your hands, as the next generation that is to be, must come the destinies of futurity. You, and others of your age, must cause the wheels of the world's progress to roll backward or forward. You, you are to determine the character of the next age, for you are to form it!

Look over the world's intellectual and moral condition, its civilization and evangelization; look over the civil and religious interests of your country, its government, its laws, its liberties, its institutions; look over the state and extent of the church of Christ—the world's illuminator and regenerator; and recollect that all these interests are soon to be in your hands. You cannot escape from this trust, and the responsibility which it involves. Providence has fixed it upon you, and you cannot throw it off. For the manner in which you sustain these interests, you are accountable not only to futurity—but at the judgement of God. "You must exist, you must exist in the midst of society, burdened with the weighty responsibility that grows out of the relations you sustain to the living beings around you, and to the generations that are coming after you; and you must take the eternal consequences of living and acting in these deeply interesting circumstances."

Young men, is there nothing here that deserves and demands reflection? Perhaps you have never thought of it as you should—have never seriously considered the obligations imposed by the peculiar features of the age—and have never contemplated the fact that the value, importance, and accountability of human life are to be measured, not by a fixed—but a variable scale, and that they rise and fall according to circumstances. In innumerable cases, one man can now do in the common arts and manufactures, what ten or twenty men could not do a century ago; and this is as true in regard to the operations of benevolence, as it is to those of trade, and thus the value of existence, and the importance of individual existence, are far greater than they once were.

A man is a man at all times—but he is more of a man—as regards power and achievement—at one time than another. In such a day as this, then, not only as related to the past but to the future, I again ask, and with all possible emphasis, "What kind of men ought you to be?" I want you to be worthy of what the past has done for you—of what the present confers upon you—and of what the future will demand from you. I am solicitous that you should not prove ungrateful to the one, or unfaithful to the other. I tremble lest the current of improvement which has flowed so strongly to you, should flow languidly from you.

I press again and again that question—What kind of men ought you to be? Yes, and I add to this question the apostle's words, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives!" For this, and this only, can prepare and fit you to become blessings in the highest sense of the term—to the age in which you live—or to those which follow. It is this you need for yourselves, above all arts and sciences.

True Christianity has done more to exalt human nature, and does exalt it more wherever it is possessed, than all other endowments combined. It is the noblest element of mental and moral growth, both in heaven and earth. Indeed, no man can be truly great, unless his mind is enlarged and his heart purified by its sacred power. This was the grace and glory of our first father when he came glowing in moral beauty from the hand of his Creator. It gave elevation and grandeur of soul to prophets and apostles; sacred heroism to martyrs; and in modern days it placed high in the scale of being, such men as Newton, Milton, Boyle, Locke, and Pascal. And while it is your own highest dignity and richest happiness, it will prove your mightiest instrument of power for the well-being of others. That which makes you Christians, is that which would make you philanthropists! Do you wish to benefit and bless the world in the most extensive and most lasting manner? Aim at its subjugation to the power of true religion. The world is to be converted to Christ, the beauties of holiness are to cover every region, and the song of salvation is to float on every breeze.

It is not science that is to hush the deepest groans of creation, nor the arts that are to wipe away the bitterest tears of humanity; these triumphs are reserved for true religion. Many a humble follower of the Lamb who has paced the walks of the Crystal Palace, and surveyed with but partial knowledge, its teeming wonders and indescribable beauties—shall do more to bless the human race in the way of direct moral and religious benefit, than any of the skillful artificers whose productions attracted the eyes and excited the admiration of gazing millions. One human soul possesses a value compared with which the unrivaled glories of that wonderful collection are but a thing of nothing—the loss of one such soul would be an infinitely greater calamity than the destruction of that whole building and all its contents by fire. While the salvation of that one soul, would be to him who obtains it, a greater treasure than his possession of all that wealth of nations, and to him who achieves it, a greater honor in the world of spirits—than to have contrived that palace, and to have crowded it with its matchless and innumerable wonders!

What a motive to seek our own salvation first of all, and then to obey our high and noble calling to seek the salvation of our fellow-men. Rise, my young friends, to your high, your holy, and your beneficent calling—live for the benefit of the present age, and send forward an influence through all future ages. Live for glory, honor, and immortality, and let nothing satisfy you—either for yourself or for others—but that which is eternal!