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But perhaps in a few days afterwards your sense of things begins to wear off, you grow unwatchful, and a careless vain temper by little and little returns upon you; your vain companions make you a visit, they invite you to some recreations, and you have a mind to go. It may be, on this occasion, your conscience reproves and warns you; telling you how things looked to you at such a time, and at such a place, and what solemn resolutions you made; and goes on to say, "If you do go with these, your old companions in sin, you will get to be as vain and careless as ever; you will presently have done with secret prayer, and with reading the bible and good books: you will be just where you was, or rather in a much worse condition, and more unlikely ever to come to God: you know, that vain company has always been of hurtful tendency and many a time has put an end to hopeful beginnings and therefore you must not go." But when your conscience has been thus dealing with you, you have replied in some such foolish and self-flattering manner as this: "pray, let me go this once; I will be upon my guard, and behave seriously and civilly; so I hope it will do me no hurt and I will come home in season, and not neglect my prayers." Thus you have quieted your conscience, and have gone with enticing companions: and so all your concern for your soul has gradually worn off; you have returned to folly, and have got as good a heart for vanity as ever; but secret prayer is now left off, and your bible and good books are all now neglected. Much so, perhaps, it has been with some of you, time after time.
And thus, as it is God's usual way, time after time, to meet with young persons, and awaken them, and try them, to see if they will return to the Lord; so, after a while, the spirit of God being often grieved, their resolutions broken, the dictates of their consciences not obeyed; God begins to leave them they grow more secure and hardened, and almost forget that they ever had any serious thoughts. And now they lay the reins loose, and give themselves a full indulgence; they spend their younger days in pride and wantonness, and their riper years in worldliness, and in contention; in familycontentions, between the husband and the wife; in neigh
bour-contentions, in society-contentions: and at last they go down to the dead, and to hell. No doubt there are now thousands and millions in hell, who went thither in this very road.
And shall not this melancholy view of things, O young people, awaken you to reflect more seriously on your way, and to change your course! Can you, will you, dare you, go on any longer, in the very face of your own consciences, against light and knowledge, and in spite of all the inward warnings of God! O, stop this day, and come to an unalterable determination, to go not one step further, in your foolish, vain, and sinful courses! Lest you, as it were, tire the patience of God, and he swear in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest. Read Prov. i. 24-31. and consi
der what you do.
8. Consider how many resolutions and solemn vows you have made to God, and to your own consciences, in days past, that you would forsake all the ways of vanity and sin, and that in good earnest you would make a business of religion. And think of it seriously, "that all these resolutions. and vows are now as much binding in the sight of God, as ever they were, yea, as much as when they were newly made." You have broken them so often, perhaps, that they now seem to have lost all their binding nature, and you can now break them without horror. Once, perhaps, it seemed a dreadful thing, almost an unpardonable crime, to break your resolutions; but now you can do it, and never so much as reflect upon it. And yet those vows are as binding as ever. God remembers them all, and conscience will remember them all at the day of judgment, and in their light will your conduct be viewed. Think of it, O young man; think of it, O young wo man; and tremble to see what you have been doing! And this day, even this hour, come to an unalterable determination, without any delay, by the help of God, to put all your old resolu tions in practice.
9. Consider, if ever you intend to become religious, now is your time, your best time, and it may be your only time. It will be great stupidity and folly, to flatter yourselves with the notion of a better time hereafter. For by every day's delay, 60
your sins, your guilt, your hardness, and God's anger are increasing; and you ripening for ruin, and divine patience is growing weary. Youth is the best time to begin to seek after God. As hard as it is to bring yourselves to it now, yet it will be more difficult hereafter. As many temptations as you have now, yet you will have more, (though perhaps of another sort,) hereafter. And as little hope as there is now of your obtaining mercy, yet there will be less in years to come. So that now is your time, your best time, and it may be your only time; for unexpected death may stop your breath, and put an everlasting end to all your opportunities. O, therefore, delay not; but remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. While the evil days come not nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.
Lastly; Let it be considered, God claims a special propriety in your youthful days; as being the best, and most sprightly and active part of your lives. This we may learn from some injunctions under the Jewish dispensation. For God always insisted upon it, that the first and best of every thing should be in a peculiar manner devoted to him; the first-born of man, and the first-born of beast, and the first-fruits of all the increase of the field, were to be the Lord's. And the very best of their herds and of their flocks, were to be offered in sacrifice to the Lord. It was an abomination to bring their blind, their lame, and their sick for an offering, to sacrifice unto the Lord a corrupt thing, while they reserved the best for themselves. And surely it was perfectly reasonable, that God, who is the first and the best of beings, should have the first and the best brought him in sacrifice. How directly contrary, therefore, to reason and Scripture, are the natural notions of young people, (yea, and of parents too,) who are ready to think, and say, "Certainly young people may be allowed some more liberty; there is no need that they should live by such strict rules; now is their time to take their pleasures; it is time enough for them to be serious and religious hereafter, when they are settled in the world." Just as if it was reasonable and fitting, in the nature of things, that the world, the flesh, and the devil, should have their first and best days; and that God should be turned off with hereafter, when
they are become too old for carnal delights, for sports, and frolics, and vanity. "And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor, will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Mal. i. 8.
That wretched plea, although it be a very common one, easts infinite contempt upon God: for it supposes, that young people have good reason for it, and may very warrantably please themselves, rather than God; may reasonably disobey his will, to have their own; may reasonably spend the best part of their lives in vanity and sin, and turn off God with an hereafter. Just as if themselves and their corruptions were more worthy of regard than the blessed God. It even supposes, that there is more benefit and comfort in vain compa. ny, than there is in communion with God; yea, that to love and serve God is a piece of mere drudgery, which cannot be borne with; but that the ways of sin are ways of liberty. Blush, O parents! Be ashamed, O children! To treat the Lord of glory, the delight of heaven, the joy of angels and saints, in such a contemptuous manner!
You that are in your youth, realize it, these are your best days, and therefore they must be the Lord's. These are your sprightly, active years, and therefore they must be devoted to him that made you, to serve him. Now your understanding is active, and your memory strong, your affections warm, and nature all alive. Now you are more free from worldly cares and incumbrances; now therefore you have many leisure hours for reading, meditation, and prayer; now you have, in a sense, nothing to do, but to seek after God. And surely now you must be the Lord's. These active powers, these blooming days, these pleasant years, these leisure hours, must all be consecrated to the Lord. Nor can you, without abominable sacrilege, spend them away in vanity and sin.
Thus, you lie under many and great obligations to early piety. Since God is what he is in himself; since you are rational creatures; since God has such an entire right to you, and authority over you, therefore you must be the LORD'S. And since Christ has died for sinners; since you have been given up to God in baptism through him; since God has ta
ken so much pains with you by his spirit; since all the soleman vows you have made are still as binding as ever; and since this is your best time, yea, perhaps your only time, and a time that God claims a special propriety in; therefore you must be the Lord's, you must remember now your Creator in the days of your youth. There is no saying, Nay. The obligations are infinite, and you must be the LORD's.
III. To offer some directions and motives, to assist and encourage young people to early piety, to remember now their Creator in the days of their youth.
In the first place, I begin with directions. And in general, I lay this down for a certain maxim, that "whatsoever has a natural tendency to make you unmindful of God, must be conscientiously avoided; and whatsoever has a natural tendency to beget and cherish a sense of God in your hearts, must be carefully practised." This the light of nature teaches; and so do the holy Scriptures. Heb. xii. 1. Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us. And, Eph. vi. 11. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand. Read also ver. 12. to the 18th. See also 1 Cor. ix. 24-27. Eph. iv. 29, 30. Are you under infinite obligations to remember God? by consequence you are under infinite obligations to avoid every thing that has a natural tendency to make you unmindful of him; and under infinite obligations to practise all those means which have a natural tendency to beget and cherish a sense of God in your hearts. You are not, therefore, at liberty to choose whether you will follow good directions, or not; but are under infinite obligations to hearken and obey. And here,
1. I will point out some things that have a natural tendency to make you unmindful of God; which you must therefore industriously watch against and avoid.
1. Indulging a ruin, light, airy, jovial, wanton frame of spirit, has a natural tendency to banish all sense of God from the heart; and therefore must be industriously and continually prayed, and watched, and laboured against. Young people are naturally inclined to such a temper, and it is their