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On the other hand, if you go on in the neglect of God and religion, it is very possible you may be undone for this world, as thousands have been, by debauchery and folly: Or, under some restraints of common prudence, which may secure you from that, if you do not violently over-bear the voice of conscience, it will often disquiet and torment you by its remonstrances and expostulations; till in a little time death will remove you to the seats of horror, where The worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched*. For God has solemnly declared, that he will render Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, to every soul of man that doeth evil; when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God, and obey not the gospel‡.
Are not the youngest of you concerned in such declarations as these? And if you are, let conscience say, whether they are to be despised. It evidently appears, the question is this: Shall you spend your days upon earth like rational creatures, in the noblest enjoyment of God and of yourselves, till you rise to the glories and pleasures of the heavenly world? Or shall you live like idiots and like brutes, in the amusements of a vain imagination, and the indulgence of the meanest appetites, till you sink for ever under all the shame and remorse of a polluted guilty mind, and the almighty vengeance of an incensed God? And can you be so stupid as to imagine this question will bear a debate, or that any of the little interests of time and sense are to be regarded, while these things are forgotten? Surely I may say, with the utmost propriety, as Moses to the children of Israel, I have this day been setting before you life and death, a blessing and a curse; chuse which shall be your portion; but make the choice as those that remember, It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life||.
"It is true," may you perhaps reply in your own minds, "these are solid arguments to prove, that religion is to be attended to, sooner or later; but it will not appear from them, that it is peculiarly the concern of the rising generation." answer in one word, as you have often heard more at large, If it is to be regarded at all, it should be regarded immediately; because all the futurity you presume upon is utterly precarious. The uncertainty of human life, and our entire dependence on that sacred Spirit, who is perfectly free in all his operations, concur to demonstrate, beyond all possibility of contradiction,
Mark ix. 44.
+ Rom. ii. 8, 9.
2 Thess. i. 7, 8.
the madness of delay; and the ruin of thousands bears testimony to it. I might add, that there are many peculiar advantages of early piety, which render it vastly preferable to a late repentance, even supposing it were as certain, as it is dubious: But I shall not enter into the enumeration of them now, since I intend them for the subject of a distinct discourse*. What I have already said may be sufficient to convince you, if you allow yourselves to reflect, that your own present and future happiness is apparently concerned in the case before us. I add,
II. That it is of great importance to the happiness of others, that you of the rising generation be early tinctured with a sense of religion, or, in the language of the text, be a seed who shall serve the Lord.
And here I would shew at large,-that the happiness of all who converse with you may be considerably influenced by your character and behaviour;-that the comfort of your pious parents and ministers is peculiarly concerned in it ;-and that the propagation of religion to them who are yet unborn sons, under God, must evidently depend upon you.
1. The happiness of all who converse with you will be considerably influenced by your character and behaviour.
They who have any sense of religion themselves will be tenderly concerned for your happiness. They will rejoice to see you go on in those ways which must surely lead to it; and they will be heartily grieved to see you chusing your own misery, and Rejecting the counsel of God against yourselvest. And others of a humane and generous temper, though destitute of the principles of true piety, will be solicitous for the honour, the comfort, and the usefulness of your lives.
But besides this pleasure or uneasiness, which will redound to such persons, in consequence of these friendly and benevolent sentiments, you ought to consider, that all who converse with you may find their happiness increased or diminished, by your regard to religion, or your neglect of it, as your behaviour to them will be influenced by it.
If you be early delivered into the mould of the gospel, you
Mr. Jennings's excellent sermon on this subject, amongst his other Discourses to young People, has prevented the publication of the sermon here referred to. I hope my young friends will furnish themselves with those condescending and useful pieces, if there be any of them that have not yet done it.
+ Luke vii. 30.
will quickly learn you were not born for yourselves. The mercies of God, and the example of a Redeemer, will teach you to exert yourselves to the utmost for the service of mankind, and To do good to all as you have opportunity* And in how many instances may your pious and charitable cares be effectual for the benefit of your fellow-creatures! In the series of life, how many in the depths of poverty may be relieved by your liberality! How many in perplexed and intricate circumstances may be guided aright by your prudent counsel! How many weeping eyes may be dried, and how many mourning hearts revived, by your tender sympathy and friendly condolence! And if there be already in your natural temper a tendency towards such expressions of humanity, how happily may it be directed and enlivened, when divine and evangelical motives are brought in to its assistance!
But farther, your christian charity will teach you to be above all things solicitous for the spiritual and eternal happiness of those about you. And who can say, how much you may promote it! How many more aged christians may be excited to shake off their indolence, and quicken their pace when they observe your ardency and zeal; and how happily might your piety tend to awaken and reclaim those, who are going on in the paths of the destroyer: How amiable would the graces of christianity appear, as exemplified in you, amidst all the insnaring allurements of childhood and youth! and how affecting might it be to other young people, to hear religion recommended to them, not only by their parents and ministers, but by their brethren and companions!
Thus useful might you be in your earliest years; and as you were advancing in age and experience, your usefulness might be daily increasing; and if God should spare you to the decline of life, you might bring forth much nobler fruits in old age, than you could have done, if your entrance on a religious life had been deferred to that unseasonable time.
Thus may the whole period of your life be filled with eminent service: And I will add, that your beneficial influence may extend far beyond the circle of your personal converse. You may be blessings to your country, indeed to the whole world, by drawing down the favour of God upon it, in part as a crown of your piety, and an answer to your prayers. But,
On the contrary, if you neglect religion, you will deprive the world of all those benefits, which it may otherwise expect
from you. If you are naturally covetous, you will probably indulge that unworthy temper, so as to withhold relief from those to whom it is most justly due: Or if you be of a liberal disposition, your generosity will degenerate into prodigality; or perhaps you will squander away so much of your estates in vanity and debauchery, as to throw yourselves out of a capacity of assisting those, whom you most sincerely pity, and would gladly relieve: And as to the eternal happiness of others, it is not to be imagined that you will have any regard to it while you are negligent of your own.
Nor is this the worst; for, as hardly any are mere cyphers in life, it is much to be feared, that instead of blessings, you may prove mischiefs to the world. The licentiousness, to which corrupt nature will prompt you, may lead you by unthought-of consequences, to injure and defraud, as well as to grieve and torment others. And where your behaviour is most friendly, it may be most pernicious. Instead of restoring and reclaiming the souls of your companions, you may pervert and destroy them by sinful discourses and impious examples. Thus you may draw down the vengeance of God on the places where you live, and provoke him to send some public calamity, as a punishment for that universal degeneracy which you have abetted. So that, to close the melancholy scene, at the bar of God, and in the seats of torment, you may meet with multitudes of unhappy creatures, who will cry out on you, as the fatal cause of their ruin in this world, and their condemnation in that.
By such a variety of arguments does it appear, that the happiness of those you converse with will be considerably influenced by your temper and conduct. And are you so utterly lost to all sentiments of honour and goodness, as to be unconcerned at such a consideration as this? Again,
2. The comfort and happiness of your religious parents, in a great measure, depend on your seriousness and piety.
What I have just been saying on the former heads, will evidently prove the truth of this observation. Your pious parents have a generous concern for the happiness of others, and this will engage them earnestly to wish, that you may be blessings, and not curses, to the world about you: And their peculiar affection for you must tenderly interest them in a case, on which your happiness, both in time and eternity, depends.
If they see you under the influences of early piety, unknown pleasure will arise in their minds: They will rejoice in it, not merely as it will be a security to them of a respectful and
grateful treatment from you; but as it will, through grace, secure to you, their dear offspring, the entertainments of a religious life, and the prospects of a glorious immortality.
These reflections will give them inexpressible pleasure in a variety of circumstances. Their daily converse with you will be more agreeable to them, than it could otherwise be, when they discern the lively impressions of religion upon your spirits, and perceive that you have a relish for those truths and promises of the gospel, which are their joy and Song in the house of their pilgrimage*. It will sometimes add a sweetness to the social exercises of devotion, to think that your souls are engaged with theirs, and regaled with the same sublime and transporting entertainments. And when they have reason to apprehend that you are retired for the duties of the closet, it will cheer their hearts to think, "Now is my child with his heavenly Father. Now has he separated himself from those vain amusements, which most of the same age pursue, that he may converse with God and his own soul, and be prepared for the business and the pleasures of heaven. And I hope, God is smiling upon him, and teaching him, by happy experience, that those pious labours are not in vain."
With such consolations will their hearts be supported in all the occurrences, which providence may allot, either to you, or them. If they meet with prosperity in their worldly affairs, and have a prospect of leaving you in plentiful circumstances, it will be a satisfaction to them to think, that they shall not consign their estates to those, who will meanly hoard up the income of them, or throw it away in foolish and hurtful lusts; but to persons who will consider themselves as the stewards of God, and will endeavour to use what he has given to them for the honour of their Lord, and the good of mankind. Or if they can give you but little, this thought will relieve them, that they commend you to the care of a guardian and a father, who is able abundantly to supply your necessities, and who has engaged, by the promises of his covenant, that Those who fear him shall want no good thing. They will have the pleasure to think, that, how low soever your outward condition may be, you will be rich in grace, and in the entertainments of religion now, and in the glories of the heavenly inheritance at last. When they are themselves sinking under the decays of nature, their vigour and cheerfulness will be renewed in yours: Or should yours be impaired by an afflictive providence, they will