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WORTHY ANd respectable gentleman,
MR. THOMAS WESTBY,
HEIR OF THE ANCIENT AND RELIGIOUS FAMILY OF RAVENFIeld, IN YORKSHIRE,
Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied from God the Father, our Lord Jesus, and the blessed Spirit of truth.
THE many obligations I have been under to promote the welfare of your worshipful family, did extort from me, some time ago, a promise to write something for your private use, comprising admonition to youth, of which, since then, I have in some measure repented, and could rather have wished I had totally waved. First, Because I now perceive there are many far more excellent treatises extant upon this subject, to which I might have referred you, better than to have troubled you with my jejune scribbling. Secondly, Because my various avocations have so long protracted my finishing and sending it to you, that you are almost past it and have grown up, not only to maturity in age, but have given such proofs of your unparalleled diligence in your studies, and proficiency in learning, yea, and also of your exemplary piety, that it may seem needless to write what you so well know, and so well digest and practise. Yet, notwithstanding, upon second thoughts, I have at last persuaded myself to set apart a little time to prefix this Epistle to it and send it to you. First, Because I am frequently called upon by such as are concerned for you, to do this, reminding me of my promise: and a promise is a debt which I am conscientious in discharging, though in the smallest cases. Secondly, Because you are not yet past all danger of miscarrying. As long as you are at sea you may suffer shipwreck: corrupt nature will be working, Satan will be tempting, a wicked world seducing, and the heart is very deceitful; who knows how God
may leave young men of good education, great hopes, and mighty progress in religion. Hazael would not believe that so gentle a lamb as he thought himself, should be transformed into such a mad-dog as the prophet predicts he would be, and did prove. But what saith he? "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?"* Ah, little do we know what is in these corrupt hearts of ours! How many remarkable instances doth this age afford, of very hopeful young gentlemen, whose surprising civility and tractableness in religious families have given great indications of internal sanctity and saving conversion, but who have so far degenerated as to prove a scandal to religion, a reproach to their friends, and a ruin to their families. A swine in a fair meadow gets not many spots; and a lion chained up neither roars nor ravens; sed solve leonem et senties. The viper on Paul's hand appeared not till it was heated; gunpowder lies as harmless as sugar till sparks fly upon it; occasio facit furem; and without regeneration there will be a degeneracy. Forced motions are of no long continuance; the stone ascending only by the strength of the hand, soon falls; but that which moves naturally stops not till it come to the
Saving grace is a second nature, yea, a divine nature; at first it is infused, but afterwards, being much exercised, it becomes as a settled habit. Besides, the man savingly converted and sanctified, comes under the promises of God relative to perseverance; being a member of Christ, he receives daily influence from him, and being in covenant with God hath omnipotence for his support, and God's fidelity for his sure auxiliary. But the most specious hypocrite, or the demurest formalist, hath not hold of God, nor hath God such hold of him, but he may and will fall foully, finally, totally, and so that sad verse is verified in him: Angelicus juvenis senibus satanizat in annis.|| It is not to tell what a height of prodigious villany persons well educated may attain, and how they may willingly choose and prefer vain company to religious society, the ale bench before the church, impure songs before sacred hymns, yea, and employ their wicked wit in defending it: as Florus sung on the 2 Kings viii. 13. + Unloose the lion, and he will shew you what he is. Opportunity makes a thief. The young angel becomes a devil in old age.
ale bench: Nolo ego Cæsar esse, ambulare per Britannos, rigidas pati pruinas, &c. The witty emperor Adrian, hearing of it, answered extempore: Nolo ego Florus esse, ambulare per tabernas, latitare per propinas, pulices pati rotundas. The sensualist feels nothing of the sweetness of heavenly pleasures, and being accustomed to objects of sense only, sits down contented with that in which brutes can take as much pleasure, and freely sells his birthright for a mess of pottage: and the voluptuous cardinal will part with his portion in paradise for his portion in Paris. Not that I suspect you, dear sir, of such sad things; I hope "better things of you, even things that accompany salvation," Heb. vi. 9; but caution is needful to the best; and to you, to see to it, that your principles be well grounded, your nature changed, and your soul interested in Christ, else you may prove as bad as the worst, though, for the present, you seem better than the best. It is very easy for the subtile fox to change his skin, and not his nature. Oh, how many like chameleons are coloured according to the description of things near them, conforming to the company they converse with! But the sincere Christian hath his principles fixed both in head and heart, and his spirit is fixed on God his centre; his motto is, (like queen Elizabeth's) semper idem. His foot standeth in an even place,* lying square to every command, not as the hypocrite, who is a globular body, touching only in a point, and so tumbles from one side to another, as occasion serves. O what an excellent thing it is to be holy, iv πáoy ȧvaoτpop, in every turn of place, company, condition, station, and relation !+ None will be truly so, but he that is firmly centred upon the rock of ages, whose heart is set right for God; this grace of God is the Christian's bias, that inclines him to keep the right course; it is as the little stone that the bee is poised with, that the wind blows her not away. Alas! you meet with many a dreadful blast in passing over the sea of the world, and unless your ship be well ballasted, it will split or be sunk: but be sure you engage our blessed Lord to be your pilot, and he will bring you safe to the haven. I know you are to pass a more critical hour than ever yet you have seen, when you are passing from your puerile years into a more
• Psal. xxvi. 12.
+1 Pet. i. 15.
adult state, and exchanging your juvenile studies for maturer law speculations, amidst the flower of the nation, in the inns of court. There, there will your Shibboleth be tried, when brisk and airy youth shall meet with a course of life, removed from the bondage of a slavish pupilage, and company suited to a liberal genius, where you will find right hand temptations adapted to seduce your flexible nature, and have a plentiful allowance capacitating for enjoying what the senses crave. In such a case, there is great hazard; this will be Satan's hour, and the power of darkness. O what need have you then to pray, as Augustine, that the heart and the temptation may not meet together? That you may be helped in the shooting of this gulf, I beseech you suffer the words of exhortation, and take the advice of one who hath passed a long voyage of almost sixty years, who hath spied Sylla and Charybdis, and discovered some land-marks and sea-marks, of which I am bound to give you warning, and doubt not, but you will take some notice of them.
1. Daily read some portion of the scriptures, not only in their original language, but in your mother-tongue also; not for speculation or controversy, but for exciting your affections, and directing your ordinary conversation.
2. Frequently attend a plain and awakening ministry. Inquire and find out pure and powerful ordinances; where Christ is, there be you. Be not content with jingling rhetoric, or moral lectures, or empty formalities; sit by pure waters of the sanctuary.
3. Get unquestionable evidence of your effectual vocation and saving regeneration. Be not content without a principle of saving grace, faith unfeigned, a repentance to salvation, love without dissimulation, hope that will not make ashamed, and sincerity in all.
4. Observe, and obstruct betimes, the bent of natural corruption; take special notice of your own iniquity, the peculiar plague of your own heart: be sure to obviate that with a mortifying process of means, watching, fasting, fencing, and fighting.
5. Lie not down under guilt. Oh, when you are stung, up by faith and prayer to the brazen serpent; let the
day's offences be the evening's recollection and humiliation, and to-morrow's caution and circumspection.
6. Always set yourself in God's presence: "Cave, spectat Cato." But you have a better watchword, there is an eye that sees, an ear that hears, a hand that writes down your words and works; nothing is hid from him.
7. Make conscience of thoughts. Heart sins and heart duties are not to be slighted. Springs and roots must be carefully looked to. Examine every passenger and its errand; if a bad thought assault thee, raise upwards a thought against it, for strength and pardon.
8. Give gracious admission to the Spirit's influence. This is a kind messenger from Father and Son. Send him not back without his errand; make him welcome when he comes to instruct in what is truth, to prompt to duty, or to keep back from sin.
9. Study your talents, and improve them for God. You are not master, but steward of health, riches, time, and faculties, and must give account. Keep straight reckoning, run not in arrears, think this the last day of your stewardship.
10. Think no sin nor duty little. A small duty omitted, leads to a great sin, and little sins are great in their tendency; a small wedge makes way for a greater; choose the greatest misery, rather than the least transgression.
11. Judge no mercy small; but look on it as worth the most sincere gratitude. It cost dear, even Christ's blood, and will cost you dear, if slighted-even the loss of it here, and eternal remorse hereafter. O study the claims of gratitude!
12. Be careful in selecting, and improve well your company. Make not the great, but the good your familiars. Countenance piety in the meanest, and bless not the profane, if rich, whom God abhors. Always make use of the wise, to improve yourself as a Christian or as a scholar.
13. Set every thing in its proper place and station. Let God be highest to you, as he is in himself. Love him above all, love other things for his sake, sit loose to the creature. Let religion be as your meat, recreation as the salt to other employments.
• Take care, Cato is observing.