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they have lost. The word may have suggested ideas of something heavy, spiritless, formal, and calculating; almost mechanical in all pursuits and interests—the image of a person narrow in his notions, plodding in his operations, placed wholly out of sympathy with everything partaking of ardour, sensibility, adventure, or enthusiasm; and at the same time taking to himself the credit of great mental energy for all this.
Are such the ideas that the word “ sober-minded” has conveyed to any of the young persons present? What, then, do you think of him who wrote this injunction,—viz., St. Paul? Was he such a sample of human character? Where is genius, where is variety, strength of mind, buoyancy, activity, enterprise, if not combined in him? We may then be perfectly sure that St. Paul's “ sober-minded” young men were not to be examples of sapient formalityof a creeping prudence-of extinguished passion—of a cold aversion to animated interests; in short, not examples of the negation of anything that is really graceful and excellent in youth. We will therefore presume that a few admonitory observations on such a topic will not be unacceptable to young persons.
We should attempt to shew what is the right notion of “ sober-mindedness;" then apply its principles or rules to some of the circumstances of youth; and lastly, suggest a few considerations for the enforcement of that application.
I. What is it that may properly be called sober-mindedness ? This is to ask, in other words, what it is that we are all charging the want of upon our fellow-creatures, while we are all, on all hands, censuring, reproaching, or ridiculing them for folly, absurdity, extravagance; for running into all extremes; for being the sport of fancies, tempers, and passions. Is there any injustice in these invectives which almost every one is uttering every day? And what is all this the contrary to? Sober-mindedness. But what is the principal cause of the difference? What is it that would reduce men from all this to sober-mindedness? Plainly, the effectual
freedom of sound reason. That, then, is the general description of sober-mindedness—that there be in habitual exercise a just judgment of things—and that this judgment be in real effective authority. But a little more particularly.
There cannot be the required state of mind, unless there be some great master principles decidedly fixed in the very habit of thinking and feeling-principles applicable to almost all things, in our interests and practice-principles so general that many special ones will grow out of them, for particular application. So that, whether in youth or in any other age, the man shall be, so to speak, a determined and prepared being—have certain positive principles, combined of judgment and conscience, which are to keep him to a certain state and character under all circumstances. We need not attempt to specify many of these principles; one is, that in all things, and at all events, God is to be obeyed; another, that there is the essential distinction of holiness and sin in all conduct, both within the mind and external action, and that sin is absolutely a dreadful evil; another, that that cannot be right long, where there is no self-denial; another, that that must not be done which must be repented of; another, the future should predominate over the present.
Such things, we said, must be established firmly and operatively in the mind; but how can this be without much and frequent exercise of serious thought? Do such principles grow and establish themselves spontaneously? Alas ! let any young person look into his mind and see ! Without much serious thought, therefore, there cannot be - sober-mindedness."
And, therefore, again, there cannot be this required state of mind if principles are admitted, or practical determinations adopted, from mere impressions of fancy and feeling; perhaps from some casual situation into which a person is thrown—perhaps from the pleasing impression made by some new acquaintance or friend, while no account is taken of the whole comprehensive view of the matter,-nay, perhaps, the judgment actually withheld from attempting this. Thus we can imagine a protestant falling into communication with a person like Fénélon-charmed with such piety and intelligence-carried by this feeling back into the popish church-no comprehensive view taken of the real character and operation of that church—no account taken of its essential connexion with secularity and ambition—of its general hostility to true religion—of the prevailing worthlessness of its priesthood -- of its wicked assumptions, maxims, and impostures—or its infernal persecutions; and of all this being the natural result of its
constitution. Again-no principles can suffice for the true “ sober-mindedness” in young persons, or any others, unless consciously held as under the sanction, and as having the authority, of the Supreme Power. Even supposing them intrinsically right—what will that—merely that_avail, amidst the commotion of the passions, the beguilements of immediate interest, the endless besetment of temptations? Man is not a being to be governed by principles detached from an overawing power.
Set them in the best array you can in his mind—to fright the evil powers within and from without—but refuse them weapons from the armory of heaven ; let no lightning of the Divine wrath, nor thunder of the Divine voice, come in testimony and in aid of their operation, and how soon they will be overwhelmed and trampled down, like the Israelites when deserted of God in their battles. The very ark of God surrendered to the Pagans.
Always, therefore, the earnest solicitude and endeavour of wise men is, that the good principles in their minds may be in full communication with the Almighty. Without this fortification and power of the principles, there cannot be that constancy and firmness which are of the essence of “ sober-mindedness;" for the term must imply a steady tenour of feeling and proceeding—not fluctuating, confused, alternating; and it implies a calm independence of spirit and conduct, not at the mercy of the winds and circumstances, the opinions and wills of the surrounding world; which holds one certain plan and aim, right onward through all the causes of interference and perversion.
But how can this be without the vital connexion of our governing principles with the unchangeable Spirit ? We must feel in them that his finger is upon us, who is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever.
Again—there cannot be a high degree of that well-ordered state — “sober-mindedness," without the person's forming à sound judgment of his own mind—because that state implies a strong regulation and government: and how can that be exercised without much insight into the mind that is to be governed ?
If there be an insensibility to the general corruption of the soul throughout its very nature, how little to the purpose will any scheme of self-government be!
And then, there are the special and peculiar circumstances and tendencies — the particular weaknesses and
strong propensities—the liability to some one evil in a strong and dangerous degree.
Without an attentive and deep cognizance of things so important, the person enjoined to maintain sober-mindedness will not at all know what he has to do not know against what he has to maintain it. As if a man should undertake to legislate and govern a country in ignorance of the quality of the people, should take it as an easy, straightforward concern with a community of well-disposed beings
- not know that they are partly Pagans, partly Mahomedans, and the Christians not much better.
We may add a most self-evident thing—that it is of the essence of “ sober-mindedness” to maintain a systematic, strong restraint on the passions, fancy, tempers, appetites and this was probably the most direct object of the apostle's exhortations to “young men.”
In these respects it is the very first point of sober-mindedness, to be aware how perilous their condition is. They are pleased that they are in this animated season; but it were very strange if they should not sometimes reflect on its circumstances with a degree of alarm. It would be a fine position, doubtless, for a man to stand on a spot where there was a powerful action of the elements almost close around him: the earth he stood on blooming with flowers
-water thrown in impetuous falls and torrents on the one side—some superb fire, near at hand, on the other—and the winds whistling as if to exasperate them both. But he would need to look carefully at his movements, especially if informed that others, carelessly standing there, had been whirled into destruction-or saw the fact. Let young persons observe what is actually becoming of those who surrender themselves to their passions and wild propensities. What numbers! Then, in themselves, observe seriously, whither the inward traitors and tempters really tend; and then think, whether “ soberness of mind” be not a pearl of great price, and whether there can be any such thing within their reach.
Whither things TEND—we were just now saying. For it is an essential principle of sober-mindedness to judge of things as viewed in their consequences. Everything tends and leads to something else, which latter thing is caused, or at least affected, by the preceding. Our whole progressive existence is drawn out (so to speak) in this succession of
consequences. The consequence foreseen will determine, or help to determine, the quality of the thing present; the consequences (in the matters of human spirit and conduct) can be foreseen—they are both natural, and are divinely declared. In the view of a thoughtful mind, the series stretches away into remote prospect. How far does it stretch on? through all life; to death, to judgment; into eternity!
The madness, then, of taking a thing just as what it is at this hour, day, or even year! This is a thoughtless folly not to be excused in even early youth. If youth have been but tolerably instructed in their education, they can understand enough to make it their own fault, and their sin, to be insensible or unbelieving when consequences are pointed out to them.
II. It is to young persons that all we have been representing is to be considered as especially addressed. Now, will the inculcation of “ sober-mindedness” in so many grave particulars be deemed by them a hard and austere statement of their duty ? Then let them honestly consider which of the principles and rules they can Do WITHOUT, and safe and happy? Which of them may be safely spared or neglected? Can they do without,-a prevalence of sound reason in their minds? Some settled, fixed master principles, to determine judgment, choice, and conduct ? Serious considerations for fixing these principles and applying them ? A care not to be misled and carried away by accidental impressions, occasional feelings, and slight, partial views of the matter? A sense of the Almighty sanction and authority in the principles that are to govern them? An attentive observation of the condition of their own minds? An habitual restraint on passions and propensities ? A consideration of the consequences of things ? These constitute soberness of mind. Now WHICH of these can they safely do hout? Let them consider which they would reject, and then consider what will follow! Shail it be—the solemn acknowledgment of the Divine Author ?-or, the necessity of a careful
government of the passions ?—or, the looking forward to consequences ? But, in truth, it is idle to talk of sparing ONE ; for no one of these can be rejected without rejecting them all. They will be all adopted by those young persons who are aware what important use they have for them. Young persons of any hopefulness will often have serious thoughts about what is to be the main, grand purpose of their