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The arguments I shall produce, shall be persuasive, as well as probative; drawn ab æquo, from its equity-ab honesto, from its honourable distinction—à commodo, from its advantage -à periculo, from the danger of neglecting it.
I. Ab æquo, from its equity: it is an equal, just, rational thing. Practical godliness is the most rational thing in the world; so saith the apostle Rom. xii
. 1. The presenting of our bodies as a sacrifice to God, is called a “ reasonable service;" it is most conformable to right reason, as,
1. It is most equitable, that the Supreme Being should have the choicest sacrifices devoted to him by all created beings. Those high intellectual spirits, the angels, are the chief, who are absolutely devoted to God. Next to them are rational beings, made a little lower than argels, and with respect to them, God deserves the very best of what they are or have. Now youth is, as it were, the male of the flock : Saul is called “a choice young man, and a goodly."* Surely such a one is fittest for God,
who is worthy of the best men, best faculties, best time, and best days; for none is like unto him.
2. As God is our Creator, so it is equitable that he should have the best, the flower, cream, and quintessence of our time: this is the argument in the text, considered already. If a man make an instrument for his own use and service, it is fit he should have the best thereof. God made us for himself, 0 let him not have the devil's leavings ! Ingenuousness should move you to gratify God your maker, proprietor, governor, and benefactor, with the first-fruits of your time, thoughts, and actions.
3. Jesus Christ redeemed the young. The promise is to believers and their seed: and if they be within the covenant, no doubt but they are redeemed. “Suffer little children," saith
• our Lord, “ to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” If you be bought with a price, you are “not your own;"
" therefore must you " glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are his.” † If he bought you, you should be devoted to him betimes. Christ made haste into the world, he made haste to the cross to suffer for you; therefore you should make haste to devote yourselves to him : this is very reasonable. See Rom. xiv. 7-9. 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
4. It is very equitable, because you were devoted to God from your infancy. Your parents presented you to him in baptism; wherein you were dedicated to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which was an enlisting of you as soldiers under his banner, when bounty-money was taken for you to fight his battles, and you were brought under allegiance to the King of hea1 Sam. ix. 2.
+ I Cor. vi. 19, 20.
yen. Now turn not your backs upon him, but enter immediately into his service, and you shall have present pay. It is perjury, yea sacrilege, to renounce your baptism. Now make good what your parents promised on your behalf, be really holy, as you are federally holy. O for a nature according to your name! Look after internal, spiritual baptism, as well as that of water.
You must be born again “ of water and of the Spirit.” It is most reasonable that you answer the whole of this ordinance: water on your face will do you no good, without grace in your hearts.
II. An argument is fetched ab honesto, from the honourable distinction, respectability, and acceptableness of it.
1. Youth is most acceptable to God. It is observed, that in the Old Testament, God frequently chose the younger brethren: as Abel, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, and David ; for God delights in the young. A German divine saith : “ God loves to be taken hold of by little hands." Dr. Andrews saith : “ The children's hosannahs were as delightful melody in our Lord's ears, as men's hallelujahs.” Jesus loved his youngest disciple, John, best: and will not you seek to be most acceptable to our gracious God? 2. It is most desirable among men.
Who will choose an old man for a servant ? In Scripture, all persons that were fit to keep servants, had young men to wait on them. Abraham “ took two of his young men with him :” this implies that most of his servants were young. They were young men that waited on David, Elisha, Boaz, and Jonathan : * and God tells Israel, that their king will take their “ goodliest young men for his work," 1 Sam. viii. 16. Nebuchadnezzar chose out of the captives, “ children in whom was no blemish, well favoured, to stand in the king's palace.”+ Yea, it was so essential to a servant to be young, that, in the Hebrew, a lad and servant are expressed by the same word: and is it not decent, and very becoming that God should have young men to stand in his courts? this is an amiable sight indeed.
3. For young persons to be in God's service is a kind of honour and ornament. It is a young person's honour to be religious: this is a sparkling diamond in a gold ring. Youth is the golden age : grace is a precious pearl : and what greater preferment can a young gentleman have than to attend his prince ? “ Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable," saith God. “ The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour," I saith Solomon. Yea, this also reflects credit on religion. what a noble sight was it, to see Gen. xxii. 3. 1 Sam. xxi. 4. Ruth ii. 3.
+ Dan. i. 3, 4. # Isa. xliii. 4. Prov. xii. 26.
that brave company of two hundred and thirty-two in Ahab's army, that were young men of the princes of the provinces, " into whose hand God gave all the Syrian host. What a glorious appearance of divine power was it, to see little, young, ruddy David, return with the giant's head in his hand : it was a credit to the cause to see such a conqueror.
* Youth may be considered the sinews and ornament of a nation; young men are the beauty of our assemblies; “ Children's children are the crown of old men.”+ O give honour to the “ Ancient of days," by attending his royal throne in the prime of your age: honour the Lord with your first-fruits.
4. It is honourable, or of good report, among the saints and churches, to see young persons own God and his ways. The apostle saith, “ Provide things honest in the sight of all men :" yea, saith he, "providing for honest things in the sight of the
, Lord :" | I pray God that ye do that which is honest. Now honest dealing, in these places, imports being irreprehensible, and unreprovable; not obnoxious to censures either of God or man: scandalize none, nor give any just offence, but allure others by your good example. O what a lovely thing is this in young men! To walk so justly, holily, and friendly to all, as to recommend godliness to others, and give them an occasion to glorify God, embrace, and run hand in hand with them in the way to heaven; that old men may be ashamed to be outstript in virtue by young people, and may be provoked by a holy emulation to haste after them. What an excellent thing it is, to see young men “blameless, and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining as lights in the world,” Phil. i. 15.
III. The next head of argument is drawn à commodo, from the advantage of being religious, and devoted to God in early life. There is a fourfold advantage in being religious in
1. In younger days, persons are more pliable, and gentle, and more easily wrought upon, than when grown up. Take a piece of clay, fresh and newly brought out of the pit, it is more easily prepared for use and moulded, than when it is hardened by the sun: tender-hearted youth is more easily cast in a mould and stamped with new impressions than afterwards. If you take a young willow betimes, you may sooner bend it than when it is grown up:
Flexilis est juncus, salices flectuntur amaræ :
Robora dura, minus.Some have observed, that young persons have good feelings, • 1 Kings xx. 14, 15. 1 Sam. xvii. 33, 57.
+ Prov. xvii. 6. * Rom. xii. 17. 2 Cor. viii. 21.
many convictions, and if they wear out these, they are more rarely wrought upon. They take notice that betwixt the ages of fifteen and twenty, usually sinners are converted ; if they pass the flower of this age, it is doubtful whether ever their souls be espoused to Jesus Christ. There are (candida tempora) fit and proper seasons for God's working; miss them, and you miss for ever. Who knows but this is the accepted time,"
“ your “ day of salvation ?** God's Spirit will not always strive. Esau outlived his day, so may you; and woe be to you if your day of grace be past and gone.
2. What you get in your younger days will make more durable impression on your spirit. * Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from
, it,” Prov. xxii. 6. We see by experience the strength of education. What persons learn in childhood, grows up with them, and becomes a second nature: a vessel seasoned with any thing new will savour of it long after: if cloth be first dyed in the wool, it holds its colour. When David would have his countrymen skilful, he bade them teach the children the use of the bow :t they prove the best artists that learn their trade young:
Thus it is in matters of religion: none are such experienced Christians, as they that set out young ; these are they that are best acquainted with the mysteries of grace, the methods of Satan, the danger of sin, the deceits of the heart; these have been long trained up in Christ's school, and have got a holy custom of gracious practices, a habit has been thus acquired, by reason of use they have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
3. The scriptures distinguish with a high emphasis and encomium, such persons of alì degrees, as have been religious in youth. It is very observable what an eminent character God gives of several young persons: the Holy Ghost noting not only their piety, but the age in which their piety manifested itself : -Isaac and Joseph were young patriarchs—Joshua and David, young commanders--Samson and Gideon, young judges
-Solomon and Josiah, young kings-Mephibosheth and Abijah, young princes—Chimham and Obadiah, young courtiersSamuel, Daniel, and Jeremiah, young prophets-Elisha and Baruch, pious attendants on aged prophets-Elihu and Heman, amongst the wise men-Paul and "John, young among the apostles— Timothy and Titus, young evangelists-Ruth and Anna, young widows eminent for piety-Philip's daughters, prophetesses, who were virgins: and many more, husbands,
wives, children, servants, rich and poor might be produced ; and they
+ 2 Sam. i. 18.
# Heb. v. 14.
2 Cor. vi. 2.
proved most eminent in their advanced age, who remembered God most affectionately in their youth. Behold a cloud of witnesses, go ye and do likewise : “Do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem,” Ruth iv. 11.
4. The remembering and acknowledging of God in youth, will be great satisfaction in old age. O what joy will reflection upon youthful piety yield! Even Seneca a heathen could say, youth well spent is the greatest comfort of old age."* David could confidently plead with God for deliverance out of the hand of the wicked, “ For," saith he, “thou art my hope, O Lord God, thou art my trust from my youth,” Psal. lxxi. 5, 6. Then he could plead with confidence, “ Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth,” ver. 9; see also ver. 17, 18. An ingenuous master, will not turn off a superannuated servant. When the proconsul bade Polycarp deny Christ and swear by the emperor, he answered, “I have served Christ these eighty-six years, and he hath not once injured me, and shall I now deny him ?" Jacob could say, “God hath fed me all my life long unto this day;" + he hath been kind to me all my days, and I trust he will look to me even to the end; and shall I now turn my back on him ? Whither can I go to mend myself for a master ? “ Thou only hast the words of eternal life." He that hath been the stay of my youth, will be the staff of my age? I dare venture my soul upon his promise, who hath hitherto maintained me by his providence. “In the days of my youth, the secret of God was upon my tabernacle, his candle did shine upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness ;” and though now “the sun, and the light, and moon and stars be darkened," in this my natural horizon, yet "the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear ?” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." || I have abundant experience of his grace and presence. O the days of mercy I
I have had many years ago! A good man said, " I got that in my youth,which I would not for all the world have to get now."
IV. The last head of arguments is fetched, à periculo, from the danger of neglecting to remember our Creator in the days of our youth. There is a twofold danger to which young persons are exposed.
First, Young persons, more than others, have many difficulties to break through, that they may sincerely be religious and duly think of God. I shall hint at a few : * Optimum senectutis solatium, bene transacta juventus. + Gen. xlviii. 15.
John vi. 68. || Job xxix. 4. Eccl. xii. 2. Psal. xxvii. 1. xxiii. 4.