Evils of Youth
Evil 1. The first evil which mostly attends youth, is PRIDE.
Pride of heart, pride of apparel, pride of parts, 1 Tim. 3:6. Young men are apt to be proud of health, strength, friends, relations, wit, wealth, wisdom. Two things are very rare: the one is, to see a young man humble and watchful; and the other is, to see an old man contented and cheerful.
Bernard says, that pride is the rich man's delusion, and experience every day speaks out pride to be the young man's delusion. God, said one, had three sons—Lucifer, Adam, and Christ; the first aspired to be like God in power, and was therefore thrown down from heaven; the second to be like him in knowledge, and was therefore deservedly driven out of Eden when young; the third did altogether imitate and follow Him in his goodness, mercy, and humility, and by so doing obtained everlasting inheritance.
Remember this, young men, and as you would get a paradise, and keep a paradise—get humble, and keep humble. Pride is an evil that puts men upon all manner of evil. Accius the poet, though he were a dwarf, yet would be pictured tall of stature.
Psaphon, a proud Lybian, would needs be a god, and having caught some parrots, he taught them to speak and prattle: 'The great god Psaphon!'
Menecrates, a proud physician, wrote thus to king Philip: Menecrates is a god, to Philip a king.
Proud Simon in Lucian, having got a little wealth, changed his name from Simon to Simonides, for that there were so many beggars of his kin; and set the house on fire wherein he was born, that nobody should see it.
What sad evils Pharaoh's pride, and Haman's pride, and Herod's pride, and Belshazzar's pride, put them upon, I shall not now mention.
Ah! young men, young men, had others a window to look into your breasts, or did your hearts stand where your faces do, you would even be afraid of yourselves, you would loathe and abhor yourselves.
Ah! young men, young men, as you would have God to keep house with you, as you would have his mind and secrets made known to you, as you would have Christ to delight in you, and the Spirit to dwell in you, as you would be honored among saints, and attended and guarded by angels—get humble, and keep humble!
Tertullian's counsel to the young converts of those times was excellent: "Clothe yourselves," said he, "with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, and with the purple of modesty; so shall you have God himself to be your suitor."
Evil 2. The second evil that youth is subject to is, sensual PLEASURES and delights.
"Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see; but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment!" Ecclesiastes 11:9. The wise man, by an ironical concession, bids him to be happy, etc., sin, etc. You are willful, and resolved upon taking your pleasure—go on, take your fill. This he speaks by way of mockage and bitter scoff, etc. "But know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment!"
So "Samson threw a party at Timnah, as was the custom of the day." Judges 14:10. The hearts of young men usually are much given up to pleasure. I have read of a young man, who was very much given up to pleasures; he standing by the godly Ambrose, and seeing his excellent death, turned to other young men by him, and said, "Oh, that I might live with you, and die with him."
Sensual pleasures are like to those locusts, Rev.9:7, the crowns upon whose heads are said to be only as it were such, or such in appearance, and like gold. Buy in verse 10, it is said there were—not as it were—but really—stings in their tails.
Sensual pleasures are but seeming and appearing pleasures—but the pains which attend them are true and real. He who delights in sensual pleasures, shall find his greatest pleasures become his bitterest pains.
The heathens looked upon the back parts of pleasure, and saw it going away from them, and leaving a sting behind.
Pleasures pass away as soon as they have wearied out the body, and leave it as a bunch of grapes whose juice has been pressed out; which made one to say, I see no greater pleasure in this world than the contempt of pleasure.
Julian, though an apostate, yet professed that the pleasures of the body were far below a noble man; and Tully says, he is not worthy of the name of man—who would entirely spend one whole day in pleasures. It is better not to desire pleasures, than to enjoy them. "I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless. "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" Ecclesiastes 2:1-2. The interrogation bids a challenge to all the masters of mirth, to produce any one satisfactory fruit which it affords, if they could.
Xerxes, being weary of all pleasures, promised rewards to the inventors of new pleasures, which being invented, he nevertheless remained unsatisfied. As a bee flies from flower to flower and is not satisfied, and as a sick man moves from one bed to another, from one seat to another, from one chamber to another for ease, and finds none; so men given up to sensual pleasures go from one pleasure to another—but can find no contentment, no satisfaction in their pleasures. "Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content!" Eccles. 1:8. There is a curse of unsatisfiableness, which lies upon the creature. Honors cannot satisfy the ambitious man, nor riches the covetous man, nor pleasures the voluptuous man. Man cannot take off the weariness of one pleasure by another, for after a few evaporated minutes are spent in pleasures, the body presently fails the mind, and the mind the desire, and the desire the satisfaction, and all the man.
Pleasures seem solid in the pursuit; but are mere clouds in the enjoyment.
Pleasure is a beautiful harlot sitting in her chariot—The four WHEELS are pride, gluttony, lust, and foolishness. The two HORSES are prosperity and abundance. The two DRIVERS are idleness and security. Her ATTENDANTS and followers are guilt, grief, shame, and often death and damnation!
Many great men, and many strong men, and many rich men, and many hopeful men, and many young men, have come to their damnation by her; but never any enjoyed full satisfaction and contentment in her. Ah! young men, young men, avoid this harlot, 'pleasure'—and come not near the door of her house!
And as for LAWFUL pleasures, let me only say this--it is your wisdom only to touch them, to taste them, and to use them as you use medicines--to occasionally fortify yourselves against maladies.
When Roger Ascham asked Lady Jane Grey how she could forego such pleasurable pastimes, she smilingly answered, All the sport in the park is but a shadow of that pleasure I find in this book—having a good book in her hand.
Augustine, before his conversion, could not live without those pleasures which he delighted much in. But after his nature was changed, and his heart graciously turned to the Lord, he said, "Oh! how sweet is it to be without those sweet delights!"
Ah! young men, when once you come to experience the goodness and sweetness that is in the Lord, and in his word and ways, you will then sit down and grieve that you have put more wine in the cup of pleasure, than oil in the lamp of holiness.
There are no pleasures so delighting, so satisfying, so ravishing, so engaging, and so abiding--as those which spring from union and communion with God--as those which flow from a from a humble and holy walking with God!
Evil 3. The third sin of youth is RASHNESS.
They many times know little and fear less, and so are apt rashly to run on, and run out often to their hurt—but more often to their hazard. "Exhort young men to be sober-minded or discreet," Titus 2:6. They are apt to be rash, to be Hotspurs. As you may see in Rehoboam's young counselors, who counseled him to tell the people, 1 Kings 12:8-11, who groaned under their burdens, that "his little finger was thicker than his father's loins, and that he would add to their yoke; and that whereas his father had chastised them with whips, he would chastise them with scorpions." This rash counsel proved Rehoboam's ruin; yes, David himself, though a godly man, yet being in his warm blood and young, how sadly was he overtaken with rashness! "For I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal's men would be alive tomorrow morning." 1 Samuel 25:34. And this he binds with an oath. Because the master was foolishly wilful, the innocent servants must all be harmed; and because Nabal had been niggardly of his bread, David would be prodigal of his blood.
Ah! how unlike a Christian, yes, how below a man does David carry it when his blood is boiling, and he is a captive to rashness and passion! Rashness will admit of nothing for reason—but what unreasonable SELF shall dictate for reason. As sloth seldom brings actions to good birth, so rashness makes them always abortive before well formed. A rash spirit is an ungodlike spirit; a rash spirit is a weak spirit, it is a harmful spirit. "A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit," or as the Hebrew will bear, is of a cool spirit, not rash and hot, ready at every turn to put out his soul in wrath, Proverbs 17:27. Rashness unmans a man, it will put a man upon things below manhood. Erostratus, an obscure base fellow, did in one night by fire destroy the temple of Diana at Ephesus, which was two hundred and twenty years in building, by all Asia, at the cost of so many princes, and beautified with the labors and cunning of so many excellent workmen. The truth is, there would be no end were I to discover the many sad and great evils that are ushered into the world by that one evil, rashness, which usually attends youth, etc.; and therefore, young men, decline it, and arm yourselves against it, etc.
Evil 4. The fourth sin that ordinarily attends on youth is, Mocking and scoffing at pious men and pious things.
They were young ones that scoffingly and scornfully said to the prophet, "Go up, you bald-head; go up, you bald-head," 2 Kings 2:23-24. And the young men derided and mocked Job: "But now those who are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock. Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction," etc., Job. 30:1, 12-15. And oh! that this age did not afford many such monsters, who are notable, who are infamous in this black art of scoffing and deriding the people of God, and the ways of God!
The Athenians once scoffed at Sylla's wife, and it had well near cost the destruction of their city, he was so provoked with the indignity; and will you think it safe to scoff at the people of God, who are the spouse of Christ, who are as the apple of his eye, who are the signet on his right hand, his portion, his pleasant portion, his inheritance, his jewels, his royal diadem? Ah! young men, young men! will you seriously consider how sadly and sorely he has punished other scoffers and mockers, and by his judgments on them, be warned never more to scoff at the people of God or his ways?
Julian the emperor was a great scoffer of Christians; but at last he was struck with an arrow from heaven, that made him cry out—O Galilean, meaning our Savior Christ, you have overcome me. Felix, for one malicious scoff, did nothing day and night but vomit blood, until his unhappy soul was separated from his wretched body. Pherecydes was consumed by worms alive, for giving religion but a nickname. Lucian, for barking against religion like a dog, was, by the just judgment of God, devoured by dogs. Remember these dreadful judgments of God on scoffers, and if you like them, then mock on, scoff on; but know, that justice will at last be even with you, nay, above you.
Evil 5. The fifth and last evil that I shall mention that attends and waits on youth is, LUSTFULNESS and sexual immorality.
Which occasioned aged Paul to caution his young Timothy to "flee youthful lusts," 2 Tim. 2:22. Timothy was a chaste and chastened piece; he was much sanctified and mortified; his graces were high, and corruptions low; he walked up and down this world with dying thoughts, and with a weak, distempered, declining, dying body; his heart was in heaven, and his foot in the grave; and yet youth is such a slippery age, that Paul commands him to flee, to run from, youthful lusts. Though Timothy was a godly man, a weak, sickly man, a marvelous temperate man, drinking water rather than wine, yet he was but a man, yes, a young man; and therefore Paul's counsel and command is, that he "flee youthful lusts."
And Solomon, who had sadly experienced the slipperiness of youth, gives this counsel: "Put away the evils of your flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity, "Eccles. 11:10. He was a young man that followed the harlot to her house; he was young in years, and young in knowledge, Proverbs 7:7-11, etc. Salazer says upon the words: That was a happy age which afforded but one simple young man among many, whereas late times afford greater store. Ah! too many of the youths of this age, instead of flying from youthful lusts, they eagerly pursue after youthful lusts.
Chrysostom, speaking of youth, says, it is hard to be ruled, easy to be drawn away, apt to be deceived, and standing in need of very strict reins.
The ancients did picture youth like a young man naked, with a veil over his face; his right hand bound behind him, his left hand loose, and Time behind him pulling one thread out of his veil every day; intimating that young men are void of knowledge, and blind, unfit to do good, ready to do evil; until time, by little and little, makes them wiser. Well! young man, remember this, that the least sparklings and kindlings of lusts will, first or last, cost you groans and griefs, tears and terrors enough.
These five are the sins that usually are waiting and attending on youth; but from these the young man in the text was by grace preserved and secured, which is more than I dare affirm of all into whose hand this treatise shall fall. But though these five are the sins of youth—yet they are not all the sins of youth; for youth is capable of and subject to all other sins whatever; but these are the special sins that most usually wait and attend on young men when they are in the spring and morning of their youth.