That it is a very desirable and commendable thing for young men to be really godly early.
Other scriptures speak out this to be a truth, besides what you have in the text to confirm it. "Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was pleasing in the Lord's sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn aside from doing what was right. During the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David. Then in the twelfth year, he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all the pagan shrines, the Asherah poles, and the carved idols and cast images." 2 Chronicles 34:1-3.
It was Obadiah's honor that he feared the Lord from his youth, 1 Kings 18:3; and Timothy's crown that he knew the Scripture from a child, 2 Tim. 1:1, 5, 15; and John's joy that he found children walking in the truth, 2 John 4-5; this revived his good old heart, and made it dance for joy in his bosom. To spend further time in the proving of this truth, would be but to light candles to see the sun at noon.
The grounds and reasons of this point, namely, that it is a very desirable and commendable thing for young men to be really godly early, are these that follow:
Reason 1. First,Because the Lord commands it; and divine commands are not to be disputed—but obeyed. In the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, and the first verse, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them." Remember now! I say, now! Now is an atom which will puzzle the wisdom of a philosopher, the skill of an angel, to divide. Now is a monosyllable in all learned languages: "Remember now your Creator." Remember him presently, instantly, for you do not know what a day, what an hour—may bring forth! You can not tell what deadly sin, what deadly temptation, what deadly judgment, may overtake you—if you do not now, even now, "remember your Creator."
"Remember now your Creator." Remember to know him, remember to love him, remember to desire him, remember to delight in him, remember to depend upon him, remember to get a saving interest in him, remember to live to him, and remember to walk with him. "Remember now your Creator;" the Hebrew is Creators—Father, Son, and Spirit. To the making of man, a council was called in heaven, in the first of Genesis, and 26th verse. "Remember your Creators:" Remember the Father, so as to know him, so as to be inwardly acquainted with him. Remember the Son, so as to believe in him, so as to rest upon him, so as to embrace him, and so as to make a complete resignation of yourself to him. Remember the Spirit, so as to hear his voice, so as to obey his voice, so as to feel his presence, and so as to experience his influence, etc.
"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth." He does not say in the time of your youth—but "in the days of your youth," to note, that our life is but as a few days. It is but as a vapor, a span, a flower, a shadow, a dream; and therefore Seneca says well, that "though death is before the old man's face, yet it may be as near the young man's back," etc.
Man's life is the shadow of smoke, the dream of a shadow. One doubts whether to call it a dying life, or a living death.
Ah! young men, God commands you to be godly early. Remember, young men, that it is a dangerous thing to neglect any of his commands, who by another command—is able to command you into nothing, or into hell. To act or run cross to God's command, though under pretense of revelation from God, is as much as a man's life is worth, as you may see in that sad story, 1 Kings, 13:24, etc.
Let young men put all their carnal reasons, though ever so many and weighty, into one scale; and God's absolute command in the other, and then write Tekel upon all their reasons—"they are weighed in the balance and found too light."
Ah, sirs! what God commands must be put in speedy execution, without denying or delaying, or disputing the difficulties which attend it. Most young men in these days do as the heathens: when their gods called for a man, they offered a candle; or, as Hercules, offered up a painted man instead of a living man. When God calls upon young men to serve him with the primrose of their youth, they usually put him off until they are overtaken with trembling joints, clouded eyes, fainting hearts, failing hands, and feeble knees; but this will be bitterness in the end, etc.
Reason 2.Because they have means and opportunities of being godly early.
Never had men better means and greater opportunities of being good, of doing good, and of receiving good—than now. Ah, Lord! how knowing, how believing, how holy, how heavenly, how humble—might young men be, were they true to their own souls. Young men might be godly, very godly, yes, eminently godly, would they but improve the means of grace, the tenders of mercy, and the knockings of Christ, by his word, works, and Spirit.
The ancients painted opportunity with a hairy forehead—but bald behind, to signify, that while a man has opportunity before him, he may lay hold on it—but if he allow it to slip away, he cannot pull it back again.
How many young men are now in everlasting chains, who would give ten thousand worlds, had they so many in their hands to give—to enjoy but an opportunity to hear one sermon more, to make one prayer more, to keep one Sabbath more—but cannot! This is their hell, their torment; this is the scorpion that is still biting, this is the worm that is always gnawing. Woe! woe! to us, that we have neglected and trifled away those golden opportunities that once we had to get our sins pardoned, our natures changed, our hearts bettered, our consciences purged, and our souls saved, etc.
I have read of a king, who having no child to succeed him, espying one day a well-favored youth, took him to court, and committed him to tutors to instruct him, providing by his will, that if he proved fit for government, he should be crowned king; if not, he should be bound in chains and made a galley-slave. Now when he grew to years, the king's executors, perceiving that he had sadly neglected those means and opportunities, whereby he might have been fit for government, called him before them, and declared the king's will and pleasure concerning him, which was accordingly performed, for they caused him to be fettered, and committed to the galleys. Now what tongue can express how much he was affected and afflicted, with his sad and miserable state, especially when he considered with himself—that now he is chained, who might have walked at liberty; now he is a slave, who might have been a king. The application is easy.
Ah! young men! young men! shall Satan take all opportunities to tempt you? shall the world take all opportunities to allure you? shall wicked men take all opportunities to ensnare you, and to undo you? and shall Christian friends take all opportunities to better you? and shall God's faithful messengers take all opportunities to save you? and will you, will you "neglect so great salvation"? Heb. 2:3. Plutarch writes of Hannibal, that when he could have taken Rome—he would not; and when he would have taken Rome—he could not. Many, in their youthful days, when they might have mercy, Christ, pardon, heaven—they will not; and in old age, when they would have Christ, pardon, peace, heaven—they cannot, they may not. God seems to say, as Theseus said once, 'Go, and tell Creon, Theseus offers you a gracious offer. Yet I am pleased to be friends, if you will submit; this is my first message; but if this offer prevail not, look for me to be up in arms.'
Reason 3.Because, when they have fewer and lesser sins to answer for and repent of—multitudes of sins and sorrows are prevented by being godly early.
The more we number our days—the fewer sins we shall have to number! As a copy is then safest from blotting when dust is put upon it, so are we from sinning when, in the time of our youth, we remember that we are but dust. The tears of young penitents do more scorch the devils than all the flames of hell; for hereby all their hopes are blasted, and the great underminer countermined and blown up. The devil's bids us to tarry—there is time enough to repent. God bids repent early, in the morning of your youth, for then your sins will be fewer and lesser. Well! young men, remember this: he who will not at the first-hand buy godly counsel cheap, shall at the second-hand buy repentance ever dear.
Ah! young men! young men! if you do not begin to be godly early, those sins that are now as jewels sparkling in your eyes, will at last be millstones about your necks, to sink you forever! Among many things that Beza, in his last will and testament, gave God thanks for, this was the first and chief, that God, at the age of sixteen years, had called him to the knowledge of the truth, and so prevented many sins and sorrows that otherwise would have overtaken him, and have made his life less happy and more miserable. Young saints often prove old angels—but old sinners seldom prove godly saints, etc.
Reason 4.Because TIME is a precious talent which young men must be accountable for. The sooner they begin to be godly, the more easy will be their accounts, especially as to that great talent of time. Cato and other heathen held that account must be given, not only of our labor—but also of our leisure. At the great day, it will appear that those who have spent their time in mourning over sin, have done better than those who have spent their time in dancing; and those who have spent many days in pious humiliation, than those who have spent many days in idle recreations.
I have read of a devout man who, when he heard a clock strike, he would say, Here is one hour more past, which I have to answer for! Ah! young men, as time is very precious, so it is very short. Time is very swift; it is suddenly gone. In the 9th of Job, and the 25th verse, "My life passes more swiftly than a runner. It flees away." The Hebrew word translated "more swiftly than a runner," signifies anything that is light, because light things are quick in motion.
The ancients emblemed time with wings, as it were, not running—but flying. Time is like the sun, which never stands still—but is continually a-running his race. The sun did once stand still, yes, went back—but time never did. Time is still running and flying! It is a bubble, a shadow, a dream. Can you seriously consider of this, young men, and not begin to be godly early? Surely you cannot. Sirs! if the whole earth whereupon we tread were turned into a lump of gold, it would not be able to purchase one minute of time. Oh! the regrettings of the damned for misspending precious time! Oh! what would they not give to be free, and to enjoy the means of grace one hour! Ah! with what attention, with what intention, with what trembling and melting of heart, with what hungering and thirsting—would they hear the word! Time, says Bernard, would be a precious commodity in hell, and the selling of it most gainful, where for one day a man would give ten thousand worlds, if he had them. Young men, can you in good earnest believe this, and not begin to be godly early?
Ah! young men and women, as you love your precious immortal souls, as you would escape hell—and come to heaven; as you would be happy in life—and blessed in death, and glorious after death; don't spend any more of your precious time in drinking and gabbing, in carding, dicing, and dancing! Don't trifle away your time, don't swear away your time, don't whore away your time, do not lie away your time—but begin to be godly early, because time is a talent that God will reckon with you for. Ah! young men and women, you may reckon upon years, many years yet to come, when possibly you have not so many hours to make ready your accounts. It may be this night you may have a summons, and then, if your time is done, and your work for eternity to be begun—in what a sad case will you be. Will you not wish that you had never been born?
Seneca was accustomed to jeer the Jews for their ill husbandry, in that they lost one day in seven, meaning their Sabbath. Oh that it were not too true of the most of professors, both young and old, that they lose not only one day in seven—but several days in seven.
Sirs! Time let slip—cannot be recalled. The foolish virgins found it so, and Saul found it so, and Herod found it so, and Nero found it so. The Israelites found it so; yes, and Jacob, and Josiah, and David, though godly men, yet they found it so to their cost.
The Egyptians draw the picture of time with three heads: the first of a greedy wolf, gaping, for time past, because it has ravenously devoured the memory of so many things past recalling; the second of a crowned lion, roaring, for time present, because it has the principality of all actions, for which it calls loud; the third of a deceitful dog, fawning, for time to come, because it feeds some men with many flattering hopes to their eternal undoing. Ah! young men and women, as you would give your accounts at last with joy, concerning this talent of time, with which God has trusted you, begin to be godly early, etc.
Reason 5.Because they will have the greater comfort and joy when they come to be old.
The 71st psalm, 5, 17, 18, compared, "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."
Polycarp could say, when old, "Thus many years have I served my Master Christ, and hitherto has he dealt well with me." If early converts live to be old—there is no joy compared to their joy. Their joy will be the greatest joy, a joy like to the joy of harvest, a joy like to their joy who divide the spoil. Their joy will be soundest joy, the weightiest joy, the holiest joy, the purest joy, the strongest joy, and the most lasting joy! Isaiah 9:3. The carnal joy of the wicked, the glistening golden joy of the worldling, and the flashing joy of the hypocrite—is but as the crackling of thorns under a pot—compared to the joy and comfort of such, who, when old, can say with godly Obadiah, that they "feared the Lord from their youth." If, when you are young, your eyes shall be full of tears for sin—when you are old, your heart shall be full of joys. Such shall have the best wine at last!
Oh! that young men would begin to be godly early, that so they may have the greater harvest of joy when they come to be old, etc. It is sad to be sowing your seed—when you should be reaping your harvest; it is best to gather in the summer of youth—to store up for the winter of old age.
Reason 6.Because an eternity of felicity and glory hangs upon those few moments which are allotted to us.
It was a good question, which the young man proposed, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke10:25. I know I shall be eternally happy—or eternally miserable; eternally blessed—or eternally cursed; eternally saved—or eternally damned, etc.
"Oh! what shall I do to inherit eternal life!" My cares, my fears, my troubles—are all about eternity! No time can reach eternity, no age can extend to eternity, no tongue can express eternity. Eternity is that one perpetual day which shall never have end; what shall I do, what shall I not do—that I may be happy to all eternity?
I am now young, and in the flower of my days; but who knows what a day may bring forth? The greatest weight hangs upon the smallest wires, an eternity depends upon those few hours I am to breathe in this world. Oh! what cause have I therefore to be godly early—to know God early—to believe early—to repent early—to get my peace made and my pardon sealed early—to get my nature changed, my conscience purged, and my interest in Christ cleared early—before eternity overtakes me—before my hour-glass of time runs out—before my sun sets—before my race finishes—lest the dark night of eternity should overtake me, and I made miserable forever!
I have read of one Myrogenes, who, when great gifts were sent unto him, he sent them all back again, saying, I only desire this one thing at your master's hand—to pray for me that I may be saved for eternity. Oh! that all young men and women, who make earth their heaven, pleasures their paradise, that eat the fat and drink the sweet, that clothe themselves richly, and crown their heads with rose-buds; that they would seriously consider of eternity, so as to hear as for eternity, and pray as for eternity, and live as for eternity, and provide as for eternity! Luke 15:12-20. That they might say with that famous painter Zeuxis, I paint for eternity. We do all for eternity, we believe for eternity, we repent for eternity, we obey for eternity, etc.
Oh! that you would not make those things eternal for punishment, which cannot be eternal for use.
Ah! young men and women, God calls, and the blood of Jesus Christ calls, and the Spirit of Christ in the gospel calls, and the rage of Satan calls, and your sad state and condition calls, and the happiness and blessedness of glorified saints calls; these all call aloud upon you to make sure a glorious eternity, before you fall into that dreadful ocean of eternal misery! All your eternal good depends upon the short and uncertain moments of your lives; and if the thread of your lives should be cut before a happy eternity is made sure, woe to you that ever you were born! Do not say, O young man, that you are young, and hereafter will be time enough to provide for eternity, for eternity may be at the door, ready to carry you away forever. Every day's experience speaks out eternity to be as near the young man's back as it is before the old man's face.
Oh grasp today the diadem of a blessed eternity, lest you are cut off before the morning comes! Though there is but one way to come into this world—yet there is a thousand thousand ways to be sent out of this world. Well! young men and women, remember this, as the motions of the soul are quick, so are the motions of divine justice quick also; and if you will not hear the voice of God today, if you will not provide for eternity today—God may swear tomorrow that you shall never enter into his rest, Heb. 3:7-8, 15-16, 18-19.
It is a very sad and dangerous thing to trifle and dally with God, his word, his offers, our own souls, and eternity. Therefore, let all young people labor to be godly early, and not to let Him who is goodness itself alone—until he has made them godly, until he has given them those hopes of eternity that will both make them godly and keep them godly; that will make them happy, and keep them happy—and that forever.
If all this will not do, then know that before long those fears of eternity, of misery—which beget that monster Despair, which, like Medusa's head, frightens with its very aspect, and strangles hope, which is the breath of the soul, will certainly overtake you; as it is said, other miseries may wound the spirit—but despair kills it dead. My prayer shall be, that none of you may ever experience this sad truth—but that you may all be godly in good earnest, early, which will yield you two heavens—a heaven on earth, and a heaven after death!
Reason 8.Because you do not begin to live, until you begin to be really godly.
Firstly, until you begin to be godly—you are dead God-wards, and Christ-wards, and heaven-wards, and holiness-wards. Until a man begins to be really godly, he is really dead, and that first in respect of working; his works are called dead works, Heb. 9:14. The most glittering services of unregenerate people are but dead works, because they proceed not from a principle of spiritual life, and they lead to death, Romans 6:23, and leave a sentence of death upon the soul, until it be washed off by the blood of the Lamb.
Secondly, he is dead in respect of honor; he is dead to all privileges, he is not fit to inherit mercy. Who will set the crown of life upon a dead man? The crown of life is only for living Christians, Rev. 2:10. The young prodigal was dead until he begun to be godly, until he begun to remember his father's house, and to resolve to return home: "My son was dead—but is alive," Luke 15:24; and "the widow that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives," 1 Tim. 5:6.
When Joshaphat asked Barlaam how old he was, he answered, forty-five years old; to whom Joshaphat replied, You seem to be seventy. True, says he, if you reckon ever since I was born; but I count not those years which were spent in vanity.
Ah, sirs! You never begin to live until you begin to be godly, in good earnest. There is the life of vegetation, and that is the life of plants; secondly, there is the life of sense, and that is the life of beasts; thirdly, there is the life of reason, and that is the life of man; fourthly, there is the life of grace, and that is the life of saints; and this life you do not begin to live until you begin to be godly. If "a living dog is better than a dead lion," as the wise man speaks, Eccles. 9:4, and if a fly is more excellent than the heavens, because the fly has life, which the heavens have not, as one says, what a sad, dead, poor nothing is that person, who is a stranger to the life of grace and goodness—who is dead even while he is alive!
Most men will bleed, sweat, part with an estate, yes, with a limb, ay, limbs, yes, and many a better thing, namely, the honor of God and a good conscience—to preserve their natural lives; as he cries out, Give me any deformity, any torment, any misery, so long as you spare my life! And yet how few, how very few, are to be found who make it their work, their business—to attain to a life of holiness, or to begin to be godly early, or to be dead to the world and alive to God—rather than to be dead to God and alive to the world. This is for a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation—that natural life is so highly prized, and spiritual life so little regarded, etc.
Reason 9.Because the promise of finding God, of enjoying God, is made over to an early seeking of God.
Proverbs 8:17, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me early shall find me." or, as the Hebrew has it, "those who seek me in the morning shall find me." By the benefit of the morning light we come to find the things we seek. Shahhar signifies to seek inquisitively, to seek diligently, to seek timely in the morning. As the Israelites went early in the morning to seek for manna, Exod. 16:21, and as students rise early in the morning to get knowledge; so says wisdom, those who "seek me in the spring and morning of their youth, shall find me."
Now, to seek the Lord early is to seek the Lordfirstly. God has in himself all the good of angels, of men, and universal nature; he has all glories, all dignities, all riches, all treasures, all pleasures, all comforts, all delights, all joys, all beatitudes. God is that one infinite perfection in himself, which is eminently and virtually all perfections of the creatures, and therefore he is firstly to be sought. Abstracts do better express him, than concretes and adjectives; he is being, bounty, power, wisdom, justice, mercy, goodness, and love itself—and therefore worthy to be sought before all other things. Seek first the good things of the mind, says philosophy, and does not divinity say as much?
Again, To seek early is to seekopportunely, to seek while the opportunity does present: Judges 9:33, "You shall rise early, and set upon the city," that is, "you shall opportunely set upon the city."
Such there have been who, by having a glass of water opportunely, have obtained a kingdom, as you may see in the story of Thaumastus and king Agrippa.
Ah! young men and women, you do not know but that by an early, by an opportune, seeking of God, you may obtain a kingdom that shakes not, and glory that passes not away, Heb. 12:28.
There is a season wherein God may be found: "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call you upon him while he is near," Isaiah 55:6; and if you slip this season, you may seek him and miss him: "Though they cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them;" "When you make many prayers, I will not hear;" "Then shall they cry unto the Lord—but he will not hear;" "Then shall they call upon me—but I will not answer; they shall seek me early—but shall not find me." This was Saul's misery: "The Philistines are upon me, and God will not answer me," 1 Sam. 28:15. It is justice that they should seek and not find at last, who might have found had they but sought seasonably and opportunely, etc.
Again, To seek early is to seekearnestly, affectionately: "With my soul have I desired you in the night; yes, with my spirit within me will I seek you early," Isaiah 26:9. The Hebrew word signifies both an earnest and an early seeking. In the morning the spirits are up, and men are earnest, lively, and affectionate.
Ah! such a seeking shall certainly be crowned with finding: "My voice shall you hear in the morning, O Lord! in the morning will I direct [Heb. marshal] my prayer unto you, and will look up" [Hebrew, look out like a watchman]. "Let all those who put their trust in you rejoice, let them ever shout for joy; because you defend them" [Hebrew, "you covered over, or protected them"]. "Let those also who love your name be joyful in you: for you, Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor will you compass him [Hebrew, "crown him"] as with a shield." None have ever thus sought the Lord—but they have, or certainly shall find him: "Seek and you shall find," Mat. 7:7; "your hearts shall live that seek God," Psalm 69:32; "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much," Jas. 5:16, or, as the Greek has it, "The working prayer of a righteous man avails much." That prayer that sets the whole man a-work will work wonders in heaven, in the heart, and in the earth. Earnest prayer, like Saul's sword and Jonathan's bow, never returns empty.
One speaking of Luther, who was a man very earnest in prayer, said, This man could have what he would of God, etc.
Again, to seek early is to seekchiefly, primarily, after this or that thing. What we first seek, we seek as chief. Now, to seek the Lord early is to seek him primarily, chiefly; in the 63d psalm, and the 1st verse, "You are my God—early will I seek you," that is, I will seek you as my choicest and my chief good. God is Alpha, the fountain from whence all grace springs; and Omega, the sea to which all glory runs; and therefore early and primarily to be sought. God is a perfect good, a solid good. That is a perfect good—to which nothing can be added; that a solid good—from which nothing can be spared. Such a good God is, and therefore early and chiefly to be sought.
God is a pure and simple good; he is a light in whom there is no darkness, a good in whom there is no evil, 1 John 1:5. The goodness of the creature is mixed, yes, that little goodness that is in the creature is mixed with much evil; but God is an unmixed good; he is good, he is pure good, he is all over good, he is nothing but good. God is an all-sufficient good:"Walk before me, and be upright: "I am God all-sufficient," in the 17th of Genesis and the first verse. Augustine said, "He has all—who has the haver of all." God has in himself all power to defend you, all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you, all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you, all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.
God is a satisfying good, a good that fills the heart and quiets the soul, Cant. 2:3. In the 33d of Genesis, and the 11th verse, "I have enough," says godly Jacob; "I have all," says Jacob, for so the Hebrew has it, I have all, I have all comforts, all delights, all contents, etc. "In having nothing, I have all things, because I have Christ; having therefore all things in him, I seek no other reward, for he is the universal reward," says one. As the worth and value of many pieces of silver is to be found in one piece of gold, so all the petty excellencies which are scattered abroad in the creatures—are to be found in God. Yes, all the whole volume of perfections, which is spread through heaven and earth, is epitomized in him. No good below him that is the greatest good, can satisfy the soul. A good wife, a good child, a good name, a good estate, a good friend, cannot satisfy the soul. These may please—but they cannot satisfy. "All abundance, if it be not my God, is to me nothing but poverty and want," said one. "Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26.
Ah! that young men and women would but in the morning of their youth seek, yes, seek early, seek earnestly, seek affectionately, seek diligently, seek primarily, and seek unweariedly this God, who is the greatest good, the best good, the most desirable good; who is a suitable good, a pure good, a satisfying good, a total good, and an eternal good.
Reason 10.Because the time of youth is the choicest and fittest time for service.
Now your parts are lively, senses fresh, memory strong, and nature vigorous. The days of your youth are the spring and morning of your time, they are the first-born of your strength; therefore God requires your youth, as well as your old age; the wine of your times as well as the lees—as you may see typified to you in the first-fruits, which were dedicated to the Lord, and the first-born, Exod. 23:16, Num. 3:13. The time of youth is the time of salvation, it is the acceptable time; it is your summer, your harvest-time. O young man! therefore do not sleep—but up and be doing; awaken your heart, rouse up your soul, and improve all you have; put out your reason, your strength, your all—to the treasuring up of heavenly graces, precious promises, divine experiences, and spiritual comforts, against the winter of old age. And then old age will not be to you an evil age—but as it was to Abraham, "a good old age," Gen. 15:15; do not put off God with fair promises, and large pretenses, until your last sands are running out, and the days of old age have overtaken you.
That is a sad word of the prophet, "Cursed be the deceiver, which has in his flock a male, and yet offers to the Lord a corrupt thing," Mal. 1:14. Ah! young men and women, who are like the almond tree; you have many males in the flock, your strength is a male in your flock, your time is a male in the flock, your reason is a male in the flock, your parts are a male in the flock, and your gifts are a male in the flock. Now, if he is cursed who has but one male in his flock, and shall offer to God a corrupt thing, a thing of no worth, of no value, how will you be cursed and cursed—cursed at home, and cursed abroad, cursed temporally, cursed spiritually, and cursed eternally—who has many males in your flock, and yet deals so unworthily, so fraudulently, and false-heartedly with God, as to put him off with the dregs of your time and strength, while you spend the primrose of your youth in the service of the world, the flesh, and the devil, Mat. 21:20.
The fig-tree in the Gospel, which did not bring forth fruit timely and seasonably—was cursed, to the amazement of all. The time of youth is the time and season for bringing forth the fruits of righteousness and holiness; and if these fruits are not brought forth in their season, you may justly fear, that the curses of heaven will secretly and insensibly soak and sink into your souls, and then woe! woe! to you that ever you were born. The best way to prevent this hell of hells, is to give God the cream and flower of your youth—your strength, your time, your talents. Vessels that are early seasoned with the savor of life never lose it, Proverbs 22:6.
Reason 11.Because death may suddenly and unexpectedly seize upon you; you have no lease of your lives.
Youth is as fickle as old age. The young man will find many graves of his length, in in the graveyard. As green wood and old logs meet in one fire—so young sinners and old sinners meet in one hell and burn together. When the young man is in his spring and prime, then he is cut off and dies; "One person dies in prosperity and security, the very picture of good health. Another person dies in bitter poverty, never having tasted the good life. Both alike are buried in the same dust, both eaten by the same worms." Job 21:23-26. David's children die when young, so did Job's and Jeroboam's, etc. Every day's experience tells us—that the young man's life is as much a vapor as the old man's is. "All flesh is grass!" Isaiah 40:6.
I have read of an Italian poet, who brings in a healthy young man, rich and powerful; discoursing with death in the likeness of a mower, with his scythe in his hand, cutting down the life of man. "And will you not spare a young man?" says the youth. "I spare none!" says death. Man's life is but a day, a short day, a winter's day. Ofttimes the sun goes down upon a man before it be well up. Your day is short, your work is great, your journey long—and therefore you should rise early, and set forward towards heaven early—as that man does, who has a long journey to go in a winter's day.
"You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath." Psalm 39:5. The life of man is absolutely SHORT. The life of man is comparatively short, and that if you compare man's life now to what he might have reached had he continued in innocency. Sin brought in death; death is a fall—which came in by a fall. Or if you compare man's life now to what they did reach to before the flood: then people lived six, seven, eight, nine hundred years, Gen. 5; or if you compare men's days with the days of God, which are eternal; or if you compare the days of man to the days of eternity.
Ah! young men, young men! can you seriously consider of the brevity of man's life—and trifle away your time, the offers of grace, your precious souls, and eternity? Surely you cannot, surely you dare not, if you do but in good earnest ponder upon the shortness of man's life. It is recorded of Philip, king of Macedon, that he gave a pension to one to come to him every day at dinner, and to cry to him, Remember you are but mortal!
Ah! young men and old had need be often put in mind of their mortality; they are too apt to forget that day, yes, to put far from them the thoughts of that day. I have read of three that could not endure to hear that bitter word death mentioned in their ears; and surely this age is full of such monsters.
And as the life of man is very short, so it is very UNCERTAIN: now well, now sick; alive this hour, and dead the next. Death does not always give warning beforehand; sometimes he gives the mortal blow suddenly; he comes behind with his dart, and strikes a man at the heart, before he says, "Have I found you, O my enemy?" 1 Kings 21:20. Eutychus fell down dead suddenly, Acts 20:9; death suddenly arrested David's sons and Job's sons; Augustus died in a compliment, Galba with a sentence, Vespasian with a jest; Zeuxis died laughing at the picture of an old woman which he drew with his own hand; Sophocles was choked with the seed in a grape; Diodorus the logician died for shame that he could not answer a witty question propounded at the table by Stilpo; Joannes Measius, preaching upon the raising of the woman of Nain's son from the dead, within three hours after died himself.
Ah! young men and women, have you not cause, great cause, to be godly early? for death is sudden in his approaches. Nothing more sure than death! Nothing more uncertain than life! Therefore know the Lord early, turn from your sins early; lay hold on the Lord, and make peace with him early, that you may never say, as Caesar Borgias said when he was sick unto death, "When I lived," said he, "I provided for everything but death; now I must die, and am unprovided to die," etc.
Reason 12.Because it is ten to one, if ever they are converted—they will be converted when they are young.
God usually begins with such early—whom he has had thoughts of love and mercy towards them from everlasting. The instances cited to prove the doctrine confirms this argument; and if you look abroad in the world, you shall hardly find one saint among a thousand but dates his conversion from the time of his youth. It was the young ones who got through the wilderness into Canaan, Num. 26. If the tree does not bud and blossom, and bring forth fruit in the spring, it is commonly dead all the year after. If, in the spring and morning of your days, you do not bring forth fruit to God--it is a hundred to one that you shall never bring forth fruit to God when the evil days of old age shall "overtake you, wherein you shall say you have no pleasure," Eccles. 12:1. For, as the son of Sirach observes, if you have gathered nothing in your youth, what can you find in your age? It is rare, very rare, that God sows and reaps in old age. Usually God sows the seed of grace in youth—which yields the harvest of joy in age.
Though true repentance is never too late—yet late repentance is seldom true. Millions are now in hell, who have flattered themselves with the thoughts of repentance in old age. The Lord has made a promise to late repentance—but where has he made a promise of late repentance? Yes, what can be more just and equal, that such should seek and not find—who might have found but would not seek; and that he should shut his ears against their late prayers—who have stopped their ears against his early calls? Proverbs 1:24-32. The ancient warriors would not accept an old man into their army, as being unfit for service; and do you think that God will accept of your dry bones—when Satan has sucked out all the marrow? What master, will take such into his service—those who have all their days served his enemies? and will God? will God? The Circassians, a kind of mongrel Christians, are said to divide their life between sin and devotion, dedicating their youth to rapine, and their old age to repentance. If this is your case, I would not be in your case for ten thousand worlds!
I have read of a certain great man that was admonished in his sickness to repent, who answered, that he would not repent yet, for if he should recover, his companions would laugh at him; but growing sicker and sicker, he was again admonished to repent—but then he told them that it was too late, for now, said he, I am judged and condemned.
Reason 13.Because if not converted while young, they will never attain to the honor of being old disciples. (Next chapter)