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1. Original sin begins working betimes. Man is not an unblotted paper, rasa tabula, that you may write what you will on, as Aristotle dreamed ; nor doth he learn evil by example only, as Socinus maintained; but “ the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth :” yea, wicked and estranged from the womb; “ he goes astray as soon as he is born speaking lies." “ Vain man would be wise, though he be born like the wild ass's colt."* This root sprouts early; this spring diffuseth itself in many streams, and soon overflows all the banks, and breaks the bounds of modesty; so that without the grace of God restraining or renewing, it is not to tell what a height of shamelessness in sinning young men may arrive at, as Newgate and Tyburn have testified. You need the antidote of grace, to guard you from this infectious disease.
2. The nature and character of youth, call for this more than at any other period of life; it is an age exposed to many falls and slips. Of its own nature it is a light, trifling, and inconstant age, and therefore needs the counterbalance of grace; it is quickly hurried away with wind and tide, and hence ballast is necessary. Youth is a slippery, glassy age, as the word used Psal. cxix. 9, signifies; it is like quicksilver, and therefore requires the grace of God to settle and establish it. It is a fervid age, so the Greek word for youth imports, and has occasion for a cooler to quench the
flame of passion. It is a dark age, and so the word signifies Eccl. xi. 10; therefore wants light, both within and without, to guide it into and in the way of truth. Methinks a young man setting out in the world without grace, is as a ship proceeding to sea without pilot, victualling, masts, or rigging, which lies at the mercy of the winds and waves, and is quickly split on rocks, or driven on sands.
3. The temptations with which youth is assailed from Satan, vain company, &c. make this duty most necessary. The devil and his instruments do what they can to deprave and pervert youth. It is recorded of a philosopher, that he had spent forty years to corrupt youth. They say, “ Cast in thy lot among us, let us all have one purse. O what insinuating tricks of legerdemain have sinners! As it is said of the harlot, “ With her much fair speech, she causeth him (that is, the young man) to yield; with the flattering of her lips, she forced him.”+ They must be devoutly churlish that can resist her rhetoric. Satan and his agents, lay their strongest siege against virgin souls ; their main design is to corrupt and poison these springs. Thus swindlers entangle a young heir in their gambling scenes ; drunkards study to debauch youth, and, when they have done
Gen. viii. 21. Psal. lvii. 3. Job xi. 12. + Prov. i. 14. vii. 21.
it, glory in the conquest and accomplishment of their enterprize : and many times it is an easy victory. Youth is tinder, to catch sparks of temptation : you need a cover for the barrel of gunpowder. O what necessity of a fence, to keep off such bold intruders ! That fence is the fear of the Lord, the remembrance of our Creator.
4. The ingenious and wily shifts and excuses, which young persons are apt to invent for the purpose of resisting, or at least, delaying this great concern, make the minding of our Creator more necessary. It cannot be told what strange reasonings are framed in the witty heads
and wicked hearts of young people, to evade plain duty. Tush, say they, youth will have its fling. I must sow my wild oats. Would you have young people like old, sage, grave persons ? That would be ridiculous. I have all the world before me, I have room enough to mend, I hope to be better in a little time; sudden changes are dangerous, I am not so far gone yet, but I may be better. Have not old people had their youthful frolics? Such an honest man was but so and so, when he was young. Many an unhappy lad makes a good man, and many a sober, stayed youth hath fallen into intemperance in old age; as the proverb is, young saint-old devil. There are many demure youths that pretend piety, but they are no better than their neighbours. I am no hypocrite, I am what I seem, I scorn to seem one thing and be another, as I see some do. Such language as this, the devil and a wicked heart invent, to gull and beguile young men. The Lord open their eyes to see the fallaciousness of this arguing. Will this language be approved at the great day? Is this suitable to God's word, by which thou must be judged ?. Canst thou not answer this thyself? Wilt thou stand by it in a sober mood? There is nothing more common amongst libertine youths, than thus to evade good counsel, and harden themselves in sin : but the remembrance of God in youth will abundantly answer all these vain cavils, and prevail against these apologies. This is a great difficulty which young men have to encounter, which will put them hard to it, and nothing but serious godliness can be effectual for its counteraction.
Secondly, As young men have many difficulties in their way, they are also in apparent hazard, if they do not sincerely remember their Creator. For consider,
1. You grow worse and harder daily. Your minds are more corrupt, your wills more obstinate, your consciences more callous, (it is well if they do not become seared,) and your affections more extravagant. Every act of sin strengthens the
habit: custom in sin takes away conscience, and the disease may grow invincible : “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."* A callous hardness grows on the foot with much travelling. Sin will grow bold, and stupidity seizes gradually on all the faculties. Repentance becomes daily more difficult : he that will not repent to-day, will be less inclined to-morrow.t Disuse to holy exercises makes them appear a harder service; the further you go in sin, the greater space you have to return back; you are daily making yourselves work. Who would ravel yarn, which they must unravel again with more trouble ? God Almighty awake your spirits.
2. You daily grieve the hearts of your parents and pious relations, and that is a grieving of the Spirit of God : they pray for you, counsel, admonish, and endeavour to persuade you; they weep over you, and cannot prevail; if ever you repent, these pains they take will be as stings in your souls, to wound with remorse ;
do not, they will be as faggots to scorch you with flames of everlasting fire, and your parents will be brought in as evidence against you, yea, your dearest friends on earth will approve the execution of justice. I have heard of a tender-hearted, indulgent mother, that had a dissolute son ; being greatly afflicted with some outrageous villany which he had committed, she spoke thus to him: "Ah, my poor graceless son, thou hast been a great grief of heart to me, but the day is coming, when I shall triumph in vengeance being executed for ever upon thy forlorn soul.” This was spoken with so much earnestness by a mother, of whose strong affection he had so much experience, that it wrought trembling in his spirit, and from that time he became a new man. Oh that this were considered of! a day of reckoning is coming, wherein the recollection of parents' groans will produce horror.
3. You are daily losing a world of comfort, and heaping up sin, guilt, and shame, for future time. Little do you know what sweetness you fail of enjoying in the ways of God; for “wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and her paths are peace.” † This made the convert Augustine cry out, Too late have I loved thee, O Lord, too late have I loved thee. || O what a pity it is to have lost that pleasure I might have had in this course! On the contrary, you are daily treasuring up wrath by filling your souls with guilt ; and I will assure you, the sad remembrance of youthful vanities will fill your souls with bitter grief. Oh the worm of conscience you are feeding,
+ Qui non vult hodie, cras minus aptus erit. # Prov. iii. 17. li Serò te amavi, Domine, serò te amavi.
• Jer. xiii. 23.
the sting that you are preparing! That will be a dreadful day,
shall be forced to possess the iniquities of your youth; yea, when your very bones will be full of the sins of your youth: old strains will now be felt to purpose. Youthful sins cause fearful pangs in decrepid old age. Preventing physic is better than that which cures; for in the latter there is more pain and hazard. What madmen are they that make wounds in their flesh, (like mountebanks) to try the sovereignty of their balsam ! Surely such experience is the mistress of fools, especially since it is a great hazard whether you will repent or not, for it is a great peradventure, whether God will give you re
Oh therefore defer not application another day. 4. Your day is passing away apace: you are dying creatures. There is a time to be born, and a time to die : the time of life is not worth reckoning on, we quickly rise, then fall. Man cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down; in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up, in the evening it is cut down and withereth : no mention made of noon : thousands drop away in their minority or youth, and never arrive at old age. Your times are in God's hands, not in yours :t how quickly can God spurn you off the stage of this world, and lay you in the silent dust: you may never arrive at old age.
What you do, do quickly : to-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts : now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation: oh that you knew the day of your visitation ! seek him while he may be found, call upon him while he is near : I put not God off any longer : give him the prime of your days. let the time past of your lives suffice to have wrought the will of the flesh: you have time little enough behind, yea, less probably than you are aware of; if you reckon on many years to come, God may say, Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee. § You build castles in the air, if you imagine you shall certainly come to old
age. But suppose you should live to old age, the words of my text describe it as consisting of evil days and years, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them. It is a pity the best of your days should be spent in the devil's drudgery, and that God should be put off with your tottering age, as if you should keep your horses idle in the days of their strength, and begin to use them when lame and enfeebled with years; or keep your garments till old and moth-eaten, and then begin to wear them ; or keep your meat till it be spoiled and fit to cast to dogs, and then think of using it. Alas! sirs, old
• 2 Tim. j. 25.
+ Job xiv. 2. Psalm xc. 6. xxxi. 13 # Psalm xcv. 7, 8. 2 Cor. vi. 2. Luke xix. 42, 44. Isa. lv. 6, 7. W 1 Pet. iv. 3, 4.
§ Luke xii. 20.
age is an unfit time to commence the great affairs of repentance, faith, humiliation for sin, and mortification of sin; at least, it will be late to seek them, when you should have the benefit of them; that will be a time of spending, not of getting grace. You will find it hard to exercise grace in this evil time of old age or sickness. Evil days these are called, because they bring many troubles with them; they form the winter of life, for it is a frozen, stormy season, and will exhaust all that was gotten in the summer of youth. When infirmities bend thy back, do not keep thine iniquities to break it : how canst thou get thy eyes opened to see spiritual objects, when the sun of thy
reason is darkened ? Alas, what a dull scholar wilt thou be, when thou hast lost the light of perspicacity, the moon of thy memory, the stars of thy judgment and fancy! What comfort canst thou take in gaining knowledge, when thou hast no joy of thy life? Alas! the severe usurer, death, will exact for loan some part or other of thy goods, a sense, one day—a limb, another, so that thou shalt be forced to die daily to nature, who wouldst not die spiritually to sin. How canst thou keep thyself, when the keepers of thy house tremble ? A benumbing palsy seizing on thy hands and arms,-how wilt thou go upright in the ways of God, when thy legs and thighs falter and shrink under the weight of guilt, and the strong men bow themselves ? How canst thou eat thy spiritual meat, when the grinders cease, and thy appetite is decayed? O trust not in an arm of flesh, but see to it, that everlasting arms be under you; get an interest in the favour of that God, who is eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, support to the fainting. O learn to pray: embrace and profess Christ, before the doors be shut in the streets, and you be quite unhinged, so that your lips cannot readily do their office in shewing forth God's praise. Your hearing will grow defective; the very chirping of birds will be a disturbance, and you will take little delight in the most pleasant music. 0 young men, then, open all the doors of your hearts to let in Christ, that in old age he may be with you ; when appetite fails, he will sup with you, and you with him; when sleep faileth, he will be rest to your souls ; when you can take no satisfaction in any thing, a good conscience will be a continual feast, this will furnish songs in the night;* instead of fears in the
way, or fearing what is high falling, you shall have a guard of angels, no occasion of stumbling, and walk in your way safely.† And when the almond-tree flourisheth, your gray
hairs shall be a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteous
Psal. cxvi. 7. + Psal. xci, 11.
Prov. iii. 23_26. VOL. V.
Rev. iii. 20.
Prov. xv. 15.
Job xxxv. 10.
1 John ii. 10.