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ness; when the grasshopper is a burden, God will ease you of the burden of guilt, the greatest evil; when natural desires fail, your spiritual desires shall be strong, and your last shall be more than
first. Thus I have despatched the doctrinal part of this subject, which being practical, I shall have less need to enlarge in the application.
First, This subject is calculated to produce conviction and lamentation,
1. In them that oppose and discourage the young when they become seriously disposed, by doing what they can to hinder them from remembering their Creator. What! (say some who have become old,) must we have these green-heads old before their time? what a noise do these raw lads make about religion ! they may have a good intention, but are rash and simple, forward and giddy-headed, and run before their betters: what! will they condemn all others ? shall we be accounted by them old, doting fools? we are sure of their folly. I like not this hasty forwardness, saith one, soon ripe, soon rotten, young saint, old devil, this is but a flash, they will soon become sober on it; yea, they will tire and fag presently, nothing violent is permanent; I have seen many as forward in setting out, but they have soon become jaded and turned back. However, saith ano ther, I love not to see young people like old folks, meddling with matters too high for them; such studies will crack their brains, make them melancholy or mad, it dulls their spirits, so that they will never make any figure, but are always poring over a book; I love to see young men sprightly and active. Thus some parents and masters discourage their children and servants from the duty recommended in the passage
under consideration; and drive them from God, doing what they can to make them Satan's slaves, and more children of wrath than they were by nature. Some even take bibles and good books out of their children's hands, and put into their hands romances and plays. Ah cruel parents ! ah wicked masters, tutors, and governors ! either you dispirit them and drive them from God, or you do not; if you do, will it be any comfort to you to have them call for vengeance upon you in hell ? Surely the sight of them in that devouring fire will not relieve but torment you, when you reflect on yourselves as instruments to drag or drive them thither. Oh merciless parents! that are reluctant to have your children happy, and rejoice to see them miserable !—But if you do not discourage them, or keep them from God and his ways, will they not still be witnesses against you? how could you bear their challenges ? and what will become of
you, when their sighs and groans will rise up in judgment against you? yea, and will it not be an overwhelming sight to perceive those whom you have disregarded, sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and yourselves, the children of the kingdom, church members perhaps, shut out into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ?* that is, at your own egregious folly, which would neither enter in yourselves, nor suffer them to enter, if you could have hindered them ; your case is very dreadful, for,
(1.) You are of the spirit of the chief priests, who hearing the children cry in the temple, Hosanna to the Son of David, were sore displeased, and would have had their mouths shut; or of Festus's spirit who said to Paul, “ much learning doth make thee mad.”+
(2.) Do not you bring upon yourselves by offending one of these little ones that believe in Christ, that terrible woe, “it were better that a millstone were hanged about your neck, and you drowned in the depth of the sea ? |
(3.) Do not you act the devil's part, and become as he is, accusers of the brethren, and opposers of true godliness ?.
(4.) Do not you come near the unpardonable sin, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall never be forgiven? I say not, you have committed it, but you are in the high road to it, when you oppose the known truth, and your consciences cannot but bear witness against you that these young people are better than yourselves, and therefore you dislike them and say, they make themselves singular. Well, so must a child of God be: what do you more than others, saith our Saviour, or what singular thing do ye? You say, but they are more precise than wise. I answer, they are commanded to walk circumspectly or accurately. || You say, but they are gloomy, we weuld have them merry. I answer, but God would have them go to the house of mourning, and tells us, some sorrow is better than laughter ; $ for by the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better: besides, they have a more solid joy, than your giggling laughter. If you say, you love not to see the young so sober and grave; I say, in that you are contrary to God, who saith, young men exhort to be sober-minded ; if you say, they will soon have done; I answer, how know you that? If it be of God you cannot overthrow it, and perhaps you may be found, even to fight against God; be it known unto you, that saving grace is not a mere flash of zeal, but an abiding principle, which God is engaged to maintain, and we may be
Matt. viii. 11, 12. + Matt. xxi, 15, 16. Acts xxvi. 24. * Matt. xviii. 6. || Matt. v. 47. Ephes. v. 15. & Eccles. vii. 2—4. Tit. ii. 6. Acts v. 39.
confident of this very thing, that “ he that hath begun a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," Phil. i. 6.
2. This consideration falls heavily on dissolute and profligate young men. Alas, for the carnal youth of our assemblies ! All men come into this world with their backs turned upon God; the wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies ; * and till converting grace change their hearts, they will wander all their days, and perish at last: most part of their time is spent before they know where they are, or what they came into the world for. Poor creatures get hold of sin, and draw it with cords of vanity, and are held fast with the cords of their own iniquity;t yea, which is worse, some slide back by a perpetual backsliding, they hold fast deceit and refuse to return. How careless are most young persons ! there are many sins peculiar to youth, as ignorance, “we were but of yesterday, and know nothing," Job viii. 9.inconsiderate rashness, Simeon and Levi, Gen. xxxiv. 25.envy, Joshua, a young man said, “My lord Moses, forbid them," Numb. xi. 28.-pride, “the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient,” Isa. iii. 5.—ambition, Absalom and Ado nijah_error, Judges xvii. 11, 12.-prodigality, Luke xv.sensuality, Shechem, Amnon, and the prodigal--inconstancy, Eph. iv. 14, “ children tossed to and fro"-obstinacy, Eli's
hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them,” 1 Sam. ii. 25. These and many others are the sins of young people, to which they are most inclined, and into which they are most apt to run, except restraining or renewing grace change or stop them. And ò how easily are the young overtaken with sin ! for they cannot foresee the consequences thereof, nor keep out of the ways of transgression ; they are even apt to presume on a long day for repentance ; as children, they cannot refuse the evil, and choose the good; as children, they are unskilful in the word of righteousness, and very ignorant, and therefore Paul saith, “ While I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child." I Youth, which is the next step from childhood, is oft little better, sometimes much worse. O how many errors are there in this second paragraph of life! God Almighty humble your hearts under them, and teach you to avoid them. Even sanctified young men may slip into sin: though Timothy was a picture of mortification, yet Paul thinks it needful to say, “ Flee youthful lusts." ] There are some lusts that dog youth
|| • Psalm lviii. 3.
+ Isa. y. 18. Pror. v. 22. #Isa. vii. 15. Heb. v. 14. 1 Cor. xii. 11. || 2 Tim. ii. 22.
at the heels more than at any other age. Oh how many young men run into extravagancies in these days; could I speak or write to our volatile youth, I would ask these questions :
(1.) Can you think your jovial days will always last ? No, no; the wise man makes an ironical concession : Eccles. xi. 9, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes.” O brave, saith the vain young man, this I would be at, this merry life I like well, I will cast away cares and sing away sorrows, this will be delightful : but hark, youth, after revelling comes a doleful reckoning, read on : " But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." Thou must pay dear for this folly, God will not let thee go scot-free, thy sweet meat must have sour sauce, thy pleasant cups will be succeeded by exposure to fire and brimstone, thy unseemly laughter will be echoed with gnashing of teeth: woe unto you that laugh now, for
shall mourn and
** saith truth itself: your wild oats will prove to have a sad harvest—if you sow the wind, you
the whirlwind. Prodigality ends in penury, the prodigal son would . be glad of husks with swine ; the rich glutton's sumptuous fare was followed with the want of a drop of water to cool his tongue.t
(2.) May you not shorten your days by your own folly and frolics ? How many have by sin cut off themselves from the land of the living? Jehu's chariot is soon broken to pieces: the sun of young gallants soon sets. There is a promise of long life to such as obey God's commands, and a threatening that evil doers shall be cut off; they shall be as the fat of lambs, consuming in smoke. Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days, that is, which they might have lived according to the course of nature, or which they promised to themselves. God threatens old Eli's sinning posterity, that they shall die in the flower of their age: this is a sore judgment. The Hebrews call immature death (n79, excidium) å slaughter, when men die betwixt 20 and 60, or as some say, before they reach 30. Oh how
Oh how many have gone off the stage before that time ! How many young men have we seen waste their spirits by lewd practices, and exhaust their radical moisture by excess and intemperance, that might have lived longer if they had sinned less. “ Be not over-much wicked,” saith the wise man, ther be thou foolish: why shouldst thou die before thy time?" not that he would connive at a moderation in sinning, for all sin is an excess ; but let not loose the reins to licentiousness, • Luke vi. 25.
+ Luke xv. 16. xvi. 19, 24. Psalm xxxvii. 20.
# 1 Sam. ii. 33. Eccles. vii. 16.
because “ a wicked man may prolong his life in his wickedness," for thou mayest accelerate death by sin, and dig thine own grave. Oh how many have stabbed themselves to the heart ! and cut their own throats ! a felo-de-se that should be staked through and buried in a cross way, as a token of perpetual infamy; but our young gallants are honourably interred with a funeral encomium, though they were self-murderers: but God judgeth righteously, and amongst good men these fond youngsters will be branded with folly; they are the devil's martyrs, and would rather ride post to hell, than creep on their knees to heaven. God Almighty pity these forlorn creatures that have no pity on themselves, either souls or bodies. What, if one should say to you what formed the posey of a ring, as it is said, given to a vain young knight, “ Drink and die,” to whom it happened accordingly, would not this daunt you? What, if it be said, the next time thou art guilty of lewdness, thou shalt be taken like Zimri and Cosbi, and thrust through, wouldst thou hazard such a termination of life? What, if the next time thou swearest, or tellest a lie, or takest God's name in vain, thou be struck down dead, would not this affright thee? But how many astonishing instances hast thou before thine eyes, of the woful death of profligate youths ? and will nothing prevail ? Remember Prov. xxix. 1, “ He that being often reproved, and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
(3.) Are you too strong for God to deal with? God can tame the wildest prodigal : he hath a long arm to reach you, a strong arm to conquer you. You can deal well enough with ministers, parents, christian friends, or even magistrates that should punish you,
either you can dissemble before them, or outrun them, or hector them down; but “can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong in the day that God shall deal with thee?" the Lord has spoken it, and he will do it. “He is wise in heart, and mighty
“ in strength : who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered ?" “ Do men provoke the Lord to jealousy ? are they stronger than he ?** Where is aspiring Nimrod, or stubborn Pharaoh, or vain Nebuchadnezzar, or ambitious Herod, or cruel Nero, or daring Julian? What is become of the persecuting emperors or usurping tyrants, that would needs pull God out of his throne, and mount into it themselves ? Their bodies are in the silent dust, and their souls amidst the torments of hell. The scripture saith, “ They are gone down to hell with their weapons of war; they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities are upon their bones, though they were the
* Ezek. xxii. 14. Job ix. 4. 1 Cor. x. 22.