« السابقةمتابعة »
crept, as it were, singly into heaven; while many converted young, have been employed by God to lead their friends, their children, or many others of their fellow-creatures, to the abodes of bliss. As by early piety the young peculiarly honour God, so he condescends, in return, peculiarly to honour them. Run over the list of names, which God has so honourably distinguished in his word, and observe, many were converted while young. If we come to later times, still God seems, almost invariably, to have acted by the same rule, and seldom to have conferred distinguished honour, except on early piety. Baxter and Owen, Doddridge and Watts, Wesley and Whitefield, Hervey and Buchanan, and hundreds more, that were in their day employed to lead thousands to heaven, were all converted young. Almost, if not quite, every missionary now publishing the gospel in heathen lands, sought God in the days of youth. When God, my young friend, has thus distinguished youthful religion, while he has set such honour upon it, would you neglect it? Would you delay to seek it? Rather, rather, I beseech you, yield yourself a living sacrifice to him, who says, "They that seek me early shall find me."
We may easily discern various reasons, why the blessed Saviour should have a peculiar
fondness for his young disciples; and why the Most High should take early religion as a mark of regard to himself, that he will distinguish with particular approbation at another day-that day when all the dear delusions and gay vanities of this world, will appear wretched vanities indeed. One of these is the decided affection to the Lord, which early piety displays. You suppose they love you most, who are ready to do the most for you; and, depend upon it, the blessed Jesus judges by a similar rule. Those who are most willing to honour him, and give him most, show most affection. If, in God's strength, you resolve that the Lord shall have those blooming years, which others spend in sin and folly, this will manifest the most decided preference for him. "I love my Saviour much," may be said by one converted in old age; but, "I have humbly proved I love him much," is a declaration that must be left to those converted in youth. They do not give their Lord merely the evening of a day, whose best hours have been devoted to folly and to sin, but present him a better offering than it would ever otherwise be in their power to make. While your mind is not distracted with cares, nor your body worn with infirmities, nor your affections chilled with age; but while health, and
strength, and cheerfulness, and all the vigour of life are yours, is the season in which to make the best offering to your God. Before your soul is loaded with the black crimes of many ungrateful and wicked years, before your powers are enfeebled with the infirmities of old age, devote yourself a living sacrifice" to God. "God," it is said, "loveth a cheerful giver." If this is true, where gifts of much inferior value are concerned, depend upon it, that it is so in the present case. The Lord loves the cheerful offering, which the young make of themselves to him, in the bloom and vigour of their days, better than the offering of a few sad dregs of life, which are wrung, as it were, from the aged and infirm. The affection of the young is also commonly the most fervent; it glows with a stronger flame than that of age; and the young followers of the Lord resign their hearts to the impressions of his love, when most capable of loving him in return. They love him soonest, and are we to wonder if he loves them best? Some, like Manasseh, after long years of rebellion, are driven at last by a heavy rod to penitence, and they are welcome; but where is the late penitence of Manasseh celebrated, as equally acceptable to God with the early piety of Abijah, Josiah, Timothy, or John? He loves
all who humbly love him, but those best, who, beginning soonest, love him most. If you would be truly pious, apply to God for grace to be so betimes. If you would have your piety peculiarly pleasing to the Lord, let it be the piety, the kindness of your youth. Would you thank any one to offer you a purse, without the money? or a shell, without the kernel? or a stalk, when the flower were withered? or dross, when the gold were gone? and would you offer to the Lord the poor remains of a life spent in the service of Satan? and after having wasted your youth, your health, your strength, your prime, would you give the refuse to Christ? O act not so base a part! but if you would be pious, be so in these your early days! Then will they be your best days. Every year that departs will bring on a happier; and the last will be the happiest of all, because the last will land you in that world, where there is nothing but happiness.
Early piety is also peculiarly acceptable, as it manifests the truest gratitude for the love of God. His love calls for thankfulness more fervent than any imagination can conceive, or tongue express: but by devoting your youth to him, you may give the best expression of gratitude in your power. You may say, "Great God, I owe thee more than it is
in my power to conceive, much less to declare. I have no way of testifying gratitude equal to my obligations, but help me to show all the thankfulness I can. The warmest will be cold; the most will be little; but such as I am, take me; and by the offering of my youth, may I show that I am thankful, though I can never be thankful enough.' Say to the world, " Begone, vain world, I am a poor insignificant creature, but such as I am, thou art not rich enough to buy me from my God; I owe him such a debt as I shall never through eternity discharge; but what little I can offer him, that little, with his help, I will."
Another circumstance that may be mentioned, as rendering early piety peculiarly acceptable, is its rareness; for though most that come to Christ, come to him in youth, yet small is their number, compared with the multitudes that are strangers to the grace of God. Among the great, how many families are there in which not one true christian is to be found! among the poor, the case is the same. Look at the factories and mills, where twenty, thirty, forty, or even hundreds are employed, and among scores, perhaps but one or two will be found, that sincerely love and follow Christ. True religion was never in fashion upon earth. In youth, even