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-Behold the blessed God looking down from heaven, blending his claims with your welfare, and urging the language of command, and of promise: "Re"member thy Creator in the days of thy youth;' ;" "they that seek me early, shall find me." These are. parties concerned in the success of this endeavour. But, my young friends, there are characters here more deeply interested than all these; they are yourselves. To be pious in early years, is to be "wise for YOUR
SELVES:" it is your privilege, fhall I say, more than your duty? Yes, the gain will be principally your own. How shall I convince you of this? How shall I make you feel the importance of it? We shall take three views of the subject. We shall CONSIDER YOUTH AS
THE MOST FAVOURABLE SEASON IN WHICH TO COMMENCE A RELIGIOUS COURSE; SHEW THE BENEFICIAL INFLUENCE OF EARLY PIETY OVER YOUR FU TURE LIFE; AND EXAMINE, IN THIS AWFUL CONCERN, THE CONSEQUENCES OF PROCRASTINATION.
PART I. If unhappily the wickedness of any of our older hearers should have rendered infidelity necessary, and they should have abandoned a system hostile only to sin; we are "persuaded," my young friends, "better things of you." We presume that you are all ready to acknowledge the importance of religion, and that if any of you were asked whether you had resolved never to pursue it, but in the neglect of it to live and die, you would be shocked at the queftion. Since then you believe godliness to be the one thing needful, ánd determine on a religious course, I would propose youth as the most favourable season in which to commence it.
It is, first, a period which presents the fewest obstacles. It is far from my design to hold forth real religion as an easy thing at any period of life. I believe the doctrine of human depravity; I know the images the sacred writers employ to describe the arduous nature of the spiritual life; I hear our Saviour saying, "Strive ❝to enter in at the strait gate; for many will seek to "enter in, and shall not be able." But if there be difficulties, these difficulties will increase with our years; and the season of youth will be found to contain the fewest obstacles, whether we consider your external circumstances, your natural powers, or your moral habits. Now you are most free from those troubles which will embitter, from those cares which will perplex, from those schemes which will engross, from those engagements which will hinder you, in more advanced and connected life. Now the body possesses health and strength; the memory is receptive and tenacious; the fancy glows; the mind is lively and vigorous. Now the understanding is more docile; it is not crowded with notions; it has not by continued attention to one class of objects, received a direction from which it is unable to turn, to contemplate any thing else, without violence; the brain is not impervious; all the avenues to the inner man are not blocked up; to cure a dead man, and to teach and old one, says a heathen philosopher, are tasks equal-. ly hopeless. Now the soul is capable of deeper and more abiding impressions; the affections are more easily touched and moved; we are more accessible to the influence of joy and sorrow, hope and fear; we engage in an eterprise with more expectation, and ar
dour, and zeal. Evil dispositions also grow with time, and are confirmed by exercise. "Can the Ethi"opian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? "then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to "do evil." A man wishes to eradicate-is his task likely to become easier by suffering the shrub to grow year after year, till it becomes a tree, and is so deep rooted as to defy even a storm? A diforder has seized the body-common sense says, take it in time, send immediately for aid; by continuance it becomes inveterate, and baffles the skill and the force of medicine. An enemy has declared war-and surely he is no friend who advises you, instead of advancing forward, and seizing the most advantageous positions, to remain inactive, till the adversary striding on, gains pass after pass, and fortifies for himself what he has taken from you; spreads over your territory, and subsists at your expense, or with impoverished resources compels you to risk every thing on the issue of one desperate encounter. Who is the person intended by all these representations of folly? You, O young man, who by your delays are increasing an hundred fold all the obstacles of a religious life.
Secondly, The days of youth are of all others the most honourable period in which to begin a course of godliness. Under the legal economy, the FIRST was to be chosen for God; the FIRST born of man; the FIRST born of beasts; the FIRST fruits of the field.. It was an honour becoming the God they worshipped, to serve Him firft. This duty, my young friends, you, and you alone, can spiritualize and fulfil, by giv. ing Him who deserves all your lives, the first born of
your days, and the first fruits of your reason, and your affections. And never will you have such an opportunity to prove the goodness of your motives, as you now possess. "Now," says God, "I know that thou "fearest me;" but see an old man; what does he offer? His riches?-but he can use them no more. His pleasures?-but he can enjoy them no longer His honour ?-but it is withered on his brow. His authority? but it has dropped from his feeble hand. He leaves his sins; but it is because they will no longer bear him company. He flies from the world; but it is because he is burnt out. He enters the temple; but it is as a sanctuary; it is only to take hold of the horns of the altar; it is a refuge, not a place of dé votion he seeks; and need we wonder if he should hear a voice from the most excellent glory; "Ye have "brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the "sick thus ye brought an offering: should I accept "this of your hands? saith the Lord of hosts. But "cursed be the deceiver, who hath in his flock a male, "and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt "thing: for I am a great king, saith the Lord of hosts, "and my name is dreadful among the heathen." But you who consecrate to Him your youth, you do not profanely tell him to suspend his claims till the reft are served; till you have satisfied the world and the flesh, his degrading rivals. You do not send him forth to gather among stubble the gleanings of life, after the enemy has secured the harvest. You are not like those, who if they reach Immanuel land, are forced thither by shipwreck; you sailed thither by intention ; when you weighed anchor, you thought of it; it was
"the desired haven." You do not shun the world after a long experience of its vanity and vexation; but you have the honor of believing the teftimony of God concerning it, and of deciding without a trial. You do not yield to God when every other solicitor is gone; but you adore him, while you are adored by others; and guarding your passions and senses, you press through a thousand allurements, saying, "whom have "I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon earth "that I desire besides Thee." Religion is always an ornament; it does not refuse age, but it looks exquisitely attractive and suitable when worn by youth. In the old, it is alone; it is a whole; it decorates wrinkles and ruins. In the young, it is a connection and a finish; it unites with bloom, it adds to every accomplishment, gives a lustre to every excellency, and a charm to every grace. And as our early years furnish at season, in which to commence a religious life, attended with the fewest difficulties, and productive of the highest honour; so it is,
Thirdly, The most profitable; and at no other pe riod can we begin so advantageously. It requires no laboured reasoning to prove this. Only admit that there are innumerable benefits inseparable from religion, that "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all "her paths are peace;" that "godliness is profitable "unto all things, having promise of the life that now "is, and of that which is to come;" and the sooner it is embraced, the longer will the privilege be enjoyed; every hour is an hour of loss. Can you be happy too soon? Is it desirable to "feed" another day "upon: "ashes," while "angel's food" is placed within your