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in the days of your youth. Begin a religious life with the first opening of your reason. Devote to God your best days, the flower of your strength. Is there any room for evasion ?-Is there any sub'terfuge by which you can withdraw yourselves from the authority of so express a command? So long as you neglect religion, you live in plain disobedience, not only to the command, which enjoins religion on all men, but to that also which enjoins it distinctly and explicitly on you. And if repentance must respect all known sin, it must whenever it takes place, particularly respect this youthful delay of repentance. Paul laments, that he was born out of due time. He honours those who were in Christ before him.
2. To convince you farther of the necessity of youthful religion, I would remind you of the means which God has required others to use with you for this purpose.
Your Creator has brought you into existence in a manner favourable to your early nurture and education. He has placed you under the care of those who naturally feel for your welfare. He has, in most express terms, enjoined on them an attention to your moral conduct and religious improvement. As you advance from childhood to youth, you become entitled to more publick instructions. The ministers of religion are to consider you as a part of their charge. While they intreat the aged to be grave, temperate, sober, and sound in faith, they are to exhort the young to be soberminded.
If youthful religion were of little importance, such orders would never have been given. If you had a right to live in the neglect of religion, there could be no reason, why they who go before you, should teach you knowledge, make you to under*stand doctrine, and give you line upon line, and precept upon precept. The success of their la
bours depends on your concurrence. Obstinacy and perverseness in you, will defeat their wisest and best endeavours. If they must instruct, warn and reprove, you must hear, learn and obey. If they are to watch over you, you are to watch over yourselves. If they are to commend you to the grace of God, you are to seek unto God betimes. Every precept which you find in the Bible, requiring others to consult your spiritual interest, is an admonition to you of the necessity of early religion, and a call to remember your Creator in the days of your youth.
3. The importance of youthful religion farther appears in the particular promises of grace, which God has made to the young.
The gospel, which teaches us our native depravity, and the necessity of a moral change in our tempers, teaches us also, that to effect this change a divine influence is necessary. Sinners are indeed required to make them a new heart. But whatev er means they use for this purpose, it is the grace of God, which gives them success. And not only so, but the first convictions and awakenings, by which sinners are excited to the use of the appointed means of religion, are the effects of God's preventing grace. Behold, says the Saviour, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him. It is not the sinner's towardly disposition, which first invites the Saviour to knock; but his knocking which first awakens in the sinner a disposition to open. The first motion is from the Saviour; not from the sinner.
Now it is to be remembered, that God has given particular encouragement of success to them who seek him early. To them he will pour out his spirit, and make known his words. To them he is peculiarly near, and of them he will be found. Where
ever he sends his word, he sends the influence of his spirit to accompany it. The gospel is called the ministration of the spirit; and men are said to receive the spirit in the hearing of faith. This gracious influence is especially promised and vouchsafed to the young. This is God's promise to his covenant people-I will pour my spirit on thy seed, and my blessing on thine offspring. There is undoubtedly a time, when the spirit of grace strives with them, to awaken serious sentiments, convictions, and resolutions, and to excite their attention to their immortal interest. He may strive with sinners in a more advanced age: But in youth he fails not to strive often and earnestly. There are some, whom God gives over to a reprobate mind. But these are such as have rebelled and vexed the Holy Spirit. There are some, from whom the things of their peace are hidden. But there was first a day
Remember, my young friends, the peculiar advantages which attend this early period of your life. You not only enjoy the external means of religion, but in addition to these, there are some attendant influences of the spirit, of which you are the subjects. And let me ask you, Have you not experienced them?-Can you not recollect some sensible convictions of conscience-some deep remorse for your youthful follies-some sober resolutions for a virtuous life, which have been excited in your attendance on the appointed means of religion ?-Are not these the fruits of that promise of the spirit, which God has made to the young? This is the voice of divine wisdom; and it is directed particularly to the young-If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her, as for hidden treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. Turn ye
at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you.
How precious is this opportunity! You have not only the means of religion in common with others; but calls and encouragements peculiar to yourselves. Say not, There is nothing, which you can do. Impotent you are in yourselves. But you are not left to yourselves. Under the instructions of the word, and the strivings of the spirit, there is something which you may do. Imagine not that all your prayers and endeavours are abomination to God. Those prayers and endeavours, to which you are excited by the convictions and strivings of the spirit of God, are not to be called by this name. God does not abhor the work of his own spirit. I beseech you, neglect not this season. When will you find another as good? You may, perhaps, still enjoy some of the same means; but you will not enjoy them all. Parental instructions, admonitions, and restraints, will soon cease. You will gradually out grow your native tenderness and sensibility. Vicious indulgences will introduce a hardness and obstinacy of heart. And, what is especially to be regarded, you will soon get beyond the encouragement arising from the promises made peculiarly to the young There is indeed always room for the awakened and thoughtful to hope in God's mercy. But the en couragements given especially to the young, you can apply no longer than while you are young. In a little time you will have no more right to them than your grandsires have now. You will have lost the benefit of them. Your hope must be drawn from more general declarations of God's mercy. Is it nothing to throw by an encouragement, which God has vouchsafed peculiarly to you? Is it not your wisdom to improve an opportunity so kind and favourable as this?
You cannot possibly get forward to mature age, in a state of impenitence, without aggravated guilt. The guilt of abusing youthful advantages, and of opposing the spirit of God, will pursue you through all the stages of an ungodly life. If you believe that, in the work of your salvation, you are dependent on the grace of God, attend to it at this time, when you have the express offers of his offers of his grace. You know not, but when this season is past, his grace may be forever withdrawn.
4. The various contingences, which attend futurity, prove the necessity of early religion.
If religion is necessary to your eternal happiness, it demands your immediate attention. Rash adventures in matters of everlasting importance, ought never to be made. The frailty and uncertainty of human life, are plain to your observation, and ought to be familiar to your thoughts. The continuance of reason depends on God's good pleasure; not on your intentions. What changes of condition await you, and how soon you may be placed beyond the enjoyment of the means of salvation, you know Nor can you tell what temptations and inticements may meet you, when you step forward on the stage, mingle in the affairs, and associate with the men of the world. If the principles of virtue are not early fixed in your hearts, the dangers before you may be fatal. There is such a thing as the final withdrawment of God's grace, and a heart hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. We hope this not to be the case of the young. But the highminded and presumptuous youth, knows not how soon it may be his case.
You see then, that you have no security of any opportunity but the present. All before you is darkness and uncertainty. If you consider religion as necessary, it is your wisdom to engage in it immediately. Remember now your Creator, before VOL. I. Ff