« PreviousContinue »
The thoughts become gloomy; the temper morose ; the purposes base; the character despicable; the life gross with turpitude; the man hostile to every thing which is good; and the hope of immortality lost in eternal night.
Finally. In these chambers of death commence habits of intoxication. Strong drink here becomes, in a sense, necessary to sustain the riot; to restore the decaying spirits; to drown the remembrance of his loss; to renew the oath and the curse; to invigorate licentiousness; and universally to keep up the tone of sin. Example, in this case as in others, the serpent, which charms its miserable victim to the jaws of ruin; the magician, which enchants all the rational powers, and benumbs the conscience with eternal sleep ; draws the wretched culprit onward from sin to sin, until he crosses the irremediable limit of hopeless transgression, and is lost forever. Fixed beyond recall in iniquity ; judicially hardened; he henceforth reels onward to the grave and to the judgment. Such are the characteristics, such the pursuits and such the end, of sloth in a Seminary of Learning.
All these persons by the courses of vice, which they voluntarily pursue, are driven also to others. These courses, in many ways, in a sense compel them to be disorderly in their attendance upon
their collegiate duties. They are absent from their recitations, from prayers, and from public worship. For these transgressions they are obliged to invent excuses ; true, perhaps at first, in some respects, and as they are capable of being derstood; but certainly false, as they are intended to be understood. Here the youth sometimes begins, and, if he has already begun, always strengthens, the spirit of prevarication. Here he loses the high reverence for truth which this eminently sacred object demands of every child of Adam. Here he chills the susceptibility of conscience; that apprehensiveness of guilt, under which the soul thrills with an electrical alarm, whenever temptation and sin are presented to its eye, and which is the first and chief security against transgression, inwoven into the constitution of our nature. Here he learns to look at falsehood with an eye
less and less trembling, until it becomes cool, steady, and satisfied. Finally, here the habit of falshood is often riveted ; and the melancholy career begun, which ends only in perdition.
At the same time, the idleness, the profaneness, the riot, and the gambling, compel the Instructors, if they have sufficient integrity to discharge the duties of their office faithfully, to animadvert in various modes upon his conduct. He is reproved, warned, and rebuked. This rouses his resentment; awakens a spirit of revenge; and prompts him to new and more violent perpetrations. He is then formally and solemnly censured. The same spirit, stung into new hostility, endeavours to reek its resentment in new crimes. Detected again, he is finally sent away, with disgrace to himself, and extreme mortification to his parents.
Into the world he carries nothing, but wasted time; abused talents; an empty mind, shrunk by sloth and polluted with vice; and a life, in which conscience finds nothing to approve, and God sees every thing to condemn. His habits have now become too fixed to permit any reasonable hope of a change for the better. Knowledge he has none, to qualify him for those kinds of business, for which learning and science are the indispensable preparation, Study he cannot; because his idleness in these walls has rendered the employment loathsome. For active business of every kind, he is unfitted, both by his ignorance and his inclination. He, who has been idle here, will ordinarily be idle wherever he is: and he, who has spent so much of life in sedentary idleness, is peculiarly disqualified for the exertions of activity. Besides, he leaves this place under a cloud. He has acted in such a manner, as to be driven from these walls. The reason, whatever it may be, will always be believed to have been an unhappy one for him; and usually will be the true one. The subject has been so long under the eye of the public, and has been so often illustrated in the experience of ages, that it is well understood by the community at large. All men know that vice is the regular object of collegiate censures: and most men entirely be. lieve, what thirty years experience enables me to know, that idleness is that bitter and prolific stem, of which all rank and poison
ous vices are the fruits. Of twenty students who leave this Seminary in disgrace, nineteen are ruined by sloth. So long, and so regularly has this been the fact, that it is in a sense proverbially as well as generally known.
With these stains upon his character the miserable youth enters the world. The course, by which alone he can recover a decent reputation, is all ascending, steep, and difficult. Who can wonder, that to him habitually slothful and vicious it should seem too long and too hard, to be resolutely encountered. Sloth, according to ancient fable, had charms even for Hercules. What must be its power over a youth, who was fascinated by it at first, and has regularly chosen for a succession of years to bow himself under the yoke, without opposition or reluctance. Hardly ever are the exertions made, which, in the case before us, are indispensable to success. Idle here, he is idle every where. Vi cious here, he is vicious through life. Without reputation here, disgrace accompanies him to the grave.
As he is useless to mankind; it cannot be supposed, that they will regard him either with esteem or affection ; or that they will take any measures to render his life pleasant. But he is not merely useless. He is a common nuisance. Too indolent to provide for himself an honest subsistence, he is obliged, if he subsist at all, to derive the means from a succession of tricks and frauds; or to receive them from the hand of charity. His character at the same time is contemptible, and his example contagious and baleful. Of course, he becomes an object on the one hand of contempt, on the other of loathing. Want, with shrivelled cheeks, and haggard eyes stares him in the face wherever
Wherever he goes, he is followed by the finger of scorn, the jeer of derision, and the hiss of infamy.
In the mean time he has a soul; and, in spite of his sloth and his wishes, is accountable and immortal. He, who is idle in his temporal concerns, will be lazy in those which are spiritual. In the case before us, vice, of many kinds and in gross degrees, combines with riveted sloth, to render the work of salvation doubly difficult. To a slothful mind the way to eternal life is
full of obstacles ; steep ; rough; hard of ascent; immeasurably long ; solitary; and doubtful in its termination. On all these accounts it is forbidding ; full of discouragements ; full of toil; devoid of comfort ; devoid of hope. To a vicious mind it is disgusting in itself. Such a mind regards the business of obtaining salvation as an odious, painful employment; all the parts of which it considers only with disgust. Equally disagreeable to such a mind is the salvation itself. It sees nothing in eternal life worth the possession ; much less worth the labour of attainment. All the disadvantages, therefore, under which man labours with respect to this mighty concern, combine their influence to prevent this man from securing the glorious acquisition, and to shut him out of heaven.
On such a man it cannot be expected that God will smile. He, who will do nothing for himself or his fellowmen ; who only devours what they earn ; and who lives to no end, but to sin, and to make others sin ; he who does nothing for the Author of bis being ; but violates his precepts, abuses his grace, and dishonours his name, through life : can certainly expect no favour from God. We know the end, as well as the character, of the servant who wrapped his talent in a napkin, and buried it in the earth. How much less guilty was he, than most of those whose character has been described in this discourse. What then can these persons expect, but to be given over to premature hardness of heart, and blindness of mind ? Useless and noxious only, while they live in the present world, what can they hope, but to be miserable in that which is to come. Wicked and slothful here, they will of course, with all the other wicked and slothful, be there bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is remarkable, that this useless, worthless, wretched being, throughout all the parts of this deplorable progress, hugs himself" upon his superiour wisdom. This strange union of selfcomplacency with folly and vice, has not escaped the observation of that profound investigator of the human character; the author of the Book of Proverbs. “ The sluggard,” says he,
" is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men who can render a reason.” In this Seminary, and probably in others, he always pronounces himself a genius ; vain of his talents, priding himself particularly in his sagacity, and looking with contempt on his industrious companions, although commonly superiour to him in every valuable endowment as well as attainment. This silly dream of his own shrewdness passes with him through life; and, with all his rags, and shame, and sin, he thinks himself wiser than any of those around him.
We are now prepared to sum up the account. The idle member of this Seminary enjoys what pleasure he can, in sloth, in dress, in visiting, in vicious company; in profaneness, gaming, drinking, and riot. On the other hand, he is ignorant, pitied, despised, and punished. At the same time he imbibes and rivets habits of vice, which cling to him through life. Into the world he enters with the same pleasures, continually lessening indeed, together with the means of them ; until at a period not very tant, he can enjoy them no more. Thither vice and shame follow him. His character, here broken, is there lost. Poverty, contempt, and disgrace, seize upon him as their prey. By good men he is pitied; by bad men despised; and by both regarded with reprobation. Parents point him out to their children, as a warning against sloth and sin: and the Providence of God holds him out to mankind for general instruction as a wretched monument of abused talents and neglected privileges. He lives undesired. He dies unlamented. For eternity he makes no preparation; and enters it with no hope. “He, that hath an ear to hear, let him hear."