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when free from what the world calls vice, there is often little to be found besides pride, vanity, and folly. That fair morning of life, which a few happily improve for the glory of God, and their own eternal welfare, most spend as if religion were no concern of theirs; as if they had no soul to save; no death to fear; no heaven to seek; no hell to escape. Many of the young followers of Christ have done their business for eternity, before others, their equals in age, had begun theirs for time; and have been ripe for an eternal weight of glory, before others had begun to think of everlasting things. Thus the rareness of early religion may well make it peculiarly pleasing in the sight of the blessed Jesus. He sees the greater part of the young utterly careless of his dying love, or even treating religion as a thing unsuitable to youthful gaiety; but here and there he beholds a few, that are offering him their best years; and he beholds them with pleasure, and will remember the kindness of their youth. He who will remember even "a cup of cold water, given to a disciple," out of love to himself, will never forget the numble resolutions of that young disciple, who says to him, "Blessed Redeemer, I would be more thy friend, because thou hast so few that are thy friends at all. Few offer
thee any of their time, so I would offer thee all the rest of mine. Few show any gratitude for thy living kindness, or thy dying love, but, O thou compassionate Saviour! take my youngest and best years, that thou nayest have all my life, since thou hast none of theirs."
The advantages of early religion.
WHILE recommending early religion to you, think not that I wish to render you poor or unhappy. Far from it: I rather wish you to be truly rich, and truly happy, not merely for the little span, in which earthly pleasures or riches are enjoyed; not merely for a period so short, as ten thousand thousand ages, but for ever and ever. Where is that treasure to be found that will enrich you for eternity? Not amidst the wealth of this world. "Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold." Where are they that, but a few years back, possessed pleasures and honours, parks and palaces, crowns and kingdoms? All vanished from the world.
"And now ye lying vanities of life,
While entreating you to pursue more solid good, I would recount to you some of the advantages of religion in youth.
Early piety is comparatively easy. The total corruption of man's heart is such, that, at every period of life, there are difficulties in turning to God in reality. At any time, it is needful to strive to enter the strait gate; but it is much easier to turn to God in youth, than it is in later life. The heart is not then so hardened, as it is by a longer life of impenitence and sin. The scriptures also clearly show to us the difficulty of conversion late in life," Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil."
Before your sins are more multiplied, before your heart is hardened, before Satan gains a firmer hold upon you, O turn to God! Make not work for future repentance. Harden not your heart now, lest God, in righteous judgment, should harden it for ever. Employ not your best years in shutting the gate of life against yourself, or in filling with difficulties the only pathway to heaven. If a person with but one way from a precipice, were to employ himself, for
weeks and months, in stopping up that way, or in making his escape by it tenfold more difficult, how great would be his distraction! If another, with one door opened, to let him escape from a dismal dungeon, were to spend the time, in which he should flee from prison and the gallows, in fastening up that one door with bolts and bars, how great, how dismal would be his folly! But, O my young friend, if you do not now turn to Jesus and to God, far greater will be yours! By continuing careless of the Lord, you will fill with difficulties that one way of escaping from hell, which is now comparatively easy; you will shut against yourself the door of mercy, by which you should flee from destruction; and will make it tenfold more difficult for your own soul to escape the flaming sword of divine justice; the eternal prison which is never opened; and the fire that never shall be quenched.
Another advantage attending early piety is, that it is that which is most honourable to God, and to yourself; and it is that which has the fairest prospect of becoming eminent piety. Religion is honoured, when the young, but faithful votaries of the Lord, are seen renouncing the world in the prime of their lives. The world seems to imagine, that religion is only suited for gloom and