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In a word, may divine grace so co-operate with all, that all of you, according to your different relations and characters, may have reason to bless God for those awful thoughts which I have now been laying before you ; that such cutling reflections, as I have so largely described, under the former heads, may never be known by one parent, or one child in this assembly, otherwise than by description, by imagination, by reason, and by faith! Never may they be known by heart-rending, and overwhelming experience! On the contrary, may parents and children be mutually growing joys and comforts to each other, in life, and in death, at your appearance before the solemn tribunal of Christ, and throughout all the ages of a glorious eternity! Amen.
TO) YOUNG PERSONS.
Youth reminded of Judgment.
Eccles. xi. 9.Rejoice, O young Man, in ihy Youth, and let thine Heart
cheer thee in the Days of thy Youth; and walk in the l'ays of thine Heart, and in the Sight of thine Eyes : But know thou, that for all these Things
God will bring thee into Judgment. My dear young friends ! if it were possible for me, while I am speaking, to lay open my whole heart before you, in such a manner as that you should be witnesses to every secret sentiment of it with regard to you, I should do it with a great deal of pleasure. You would see a tenderer concern for your present and everlasting welfare than words can express, and a proportionable desire of approving myself Your faithful servant for Jesus' sake*. I know not, how far you may have considered what I have largely laid before you, concerning “ The Importance of the Rising Generationt;” but I am so thoroughly convinced of this importance, and so impressed with the conviction of it, that there is no part of my public work, to which I arise with a greater solicitude about the success, than I feel when I am thus particularly applying myself to you; and there is no prayers which I offer to God with greater earnestness, than that I may have the Joy to see you walking in the truthi, a seed to serve the Lord, which shall be accounted to him for a generations.
This is what I wish, and pray, with regard to all of you. It is with inexpressible pleasure that I see so evidently, as to many, that my prayers and my labours are not in vain. Many of you are My joy now, and I trust, through divine grace, will be my crown in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming||
. But would to God, there were none of whom I had occasion to say, I stand in doubt of you! Would to
* 2 Cor. iv. 5.
Psal. xxii. 30.
+ Sermon I.
* 3 John, ver. 4.
Gal. iv. 20.
God I could see that spirít of serious piety universally prevailing amongst you, which, wherever it doth prevail in young ones, is such a token of good to themselves, to their friends, and to the church of Christ!
Where it is otherwise, I look upon you with compassion and sorrow; but blessed be God, not with despair. I am not without hope, that God hath purposes of love and grace to serve on many of you ; especially those, who have been the children of so many good instructions, and so many prayers, as I have reason to believe many of you are ; and who can tell, but this is the day, and this the ordinance, in which these gracious
purposes are to take place?
I know, that the first step to your safety is a sense of your danger. We live in a world so full of snares, the Righteous scarcely are saved* ; and yet I fear, some of you have very little apprehension of this danger, very little concern about The whole armour of Godt, so necessary to preserve you from it. And therefore, not to give you any vain and groundless alarm, but to produce, if possible, that holy caution and solicitude of soul, which may be the happy means of your security and preservation, I am now setting myself to discourse on some of the most awful words, which are any where in the whole book of God, addressed to persons of your age. I hope you will listen to them, and that God will make them as a kind of solemn trumpet, whereby those that are spiritually dead may be awakened ; so awakened, as that the other trumpet to which they refer, and which will surely awaken your sleeping dust, may be heard not with sorrow, but with delight.
It is observable, that Solomon had a great regard to young people in his writings; and it is an evidence of his wisdom that he had so, for youth is the age of discipline. He therefore gives them line upon line, and precept upon precept. Sometimes he soothes, and sometimes he rebukes; sometimes he beseeches them with paternal tenderness, and sometimes persuades them, as Knowing the terrors of the Lordf; and saves them as with fear, plucking them out of the fireş. And this he doth in the words I have now been reading ; Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth ; and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes. But know thou, that for all these things, God will bring thee into judgment.
It will be my business to explain, and to inforce the
* Pet, iv, 18.
† Eph. vi, 11.
* 2 Cor, v. 11.
Jude, rer. 23.
caution, and then-to conclude with some reflections upon it. May the plain, but awful things I am to deliver, be, as The words of the wise are, like goads, to pierce and rouse our minds, and like nails fastened in a sure place by the skilful masters of assemblies*, which being given out from the one great Shepherd, are succeeded by his grace, and improved to his glory! 1. I am to explain the words I have been reading.
And, in order to fix the sense of them, I shall only observe, that some understand them, as intimating Solomon's readiness to allow young people in the innocent pleasures and gaieties of life ; whilst others interpret the whole as a solemn and a lively warning of the great danger they were in, of running into the most fatal excess. I shall in a few words give you my reasons, both why I mention the former, and why I prefer the latter of these senses. 1. Some understand these words, as an intimation of Solomon's
readiness to indulge young people in all the innocent entertainments of life.
They paraphrase the words in a soft and easy manner, as if he had said, “ Do not imagine, Oh young man that I give thee lessons of morality and piety in a gloomy humour, or with any rigorous and unkind design. Far from desiring to lay thee under any unnecessary restraint, I rather exhort thee to rejoice in the days of thy youth, those best days, in which the spirits are brisk and lively, and all the powers of nature in their most vigorous state. Let thine heart then cheer thee : Wear an habitual smile upon thy countenance, indulge that gaiety which is so natural in the spring-season of life; so natural, and indeed so decent. Walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes : Seck out every innocent object of amusement; gratify thy genius, thy temper, thy relish, in all the particularities. of it; provided only that thou dost still remember thy future account, acknowledging God in thy ways, and guarding against every abuse of his goodness, every thing that would on the whole be offensive to him, and detrimental to thyself.”
My brethren, I readily own, that there is nothing in this paraphrase of the words which is unbecoming the piety and wisdom of the author, and that he has in effect said the same in several passages of this very book. There is hardly a sentiment, which he more frequently repeats than this. There is nothing, says he, in express words again and again, There is nothing better for a inan than that he should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of his labour*. It is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun; for it is his portion, and a heart to rejoice in it is the gift of Godt. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart: Let thy garments be always white, and thine head lack no ointments. And once more, I recommend Mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat and to drink, and to be merrys. The sense of which, if we would find a sense worthy of the author, must no doubt be this, “ that religion is far from forbidding a cheerful use of the enjoyments of life, and that without such a use they are given to the possessor in vain ;" who indeed can otherwise hardly be called the possessor, but rather the steward and purveyor for the next heir, who may perhaps be as profuse, as his predecessor was penurious and insatiable.
* Eccles. xii. 11. Isai, xxii. 23.
And I hope you will not imagine, that in what I have farther to say, I intend any thing inconsistent with these observations and advices. To be devout, and to be melancholy, are two very different things ; and the greatest enemies of religion could not call it by a more invidious and unjust name, than a JValking mournfully before the Lord of hosts|l. Instead therefore of dissuading you from a life of true pleasure, I would rather direct you to it, and only urge you to despise that which is visionary and mean, to secure that which is solid and noble; in a word, to decline no delights which will not interfere with others much more valuable, none which will not be mingled with regret, or followed by a lasting anguish, a thousand times more than an equivalent for them. And so far as these precautions will admit, I will venture to say, even in this sense, Rejoice O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth. Nevertheless I am well persuaded this is not, and cannot be, the original sense of the words; and therefore I add, 2. They are rather to be understood, as an awful and lively
caution to young persons, to be upon their guard against
* Eccles. ii. 24. ii. 12, 13, 22. + Eccles. v. 18, 19. $ Eccles. viii. 15.
|| Mal. iii, 14.
1 Eccles, ix. 7, S.