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THE YOUNG SINNER'S INGRATITUDE TO GOD, AND CRUELTY TO HIS OWN SOUL, URGED AS REASONS FOR EMBRACING RELIGION IN YOUTH.
§ 1. I HAVE already, my young friend, shown you, that by the piety of youth you may testify the most gratitude for divine love; and that God would remember this kindness of your youth, to your infinite advantage: but perhaps you still remain undecided. I beseech you then, spend a few moments in meditating on the unkindness of a youth of sin to God, and on its cruelty to yourself. Indulge those thoughts that may now be useful; but which will otherwise fill your last hours with horror, and plant your dying bed with thorns.
While you continue careless of religion, you lead a life of base ingratitude to the God that gave you being. Ingratitude has been pronounced
"Of vices first, most infamous, and most accurs'd." It is indescribably base when manifested to a friend or parent, in this world; but baser still is ingratitude to God. Has not he given you life. and crowned that life with comfort? Whence flows the ease of health? or whence the cheerful vigour of youth but from his kindness to you? Whence the friends, the parents, the comforts that you have enjoyed? All are the gifts of God. He has blessed you here, and in the gift of Jesus, provided for your blessedness hereafter; and does all this goodness merit no thankful return? Shall God be thus kind to you, and
254 BY IRRELIGION THE YOUNG BASELY
you unkind to him? Do you remember a fable, which perhaps you may have read in your childhood? A compassionate countryman found a serpent, chilled with frost; he pitied it; he put it in his bosom. The vital warmth restored it to life and activity; but what was its first action? It would fain have destroyed its benefactor. Apply this fable to the present subject. Has not God done more for you than words can express? Are not you indebted to him for life, breath, being, and all things? Through his fostering care, you have reached the vigour and bloom of youth; and what are your first actions? Neglect of God and religion; and thus base ingratitude and sin. O, is not this imitating the serpent? It is true, your abused benefactor is beyond the reach of real injury; but your ingratitude is the same, as if he could receive the greatest injury from you. You deny him your favoured youth. The time in which you are most favoured by God, the blooming season which he values most, that very time, that very bloom, you give to Satan, the world and sin, O! while you act this part, little as you may suspect it, the venom of the old serpent is rankling in your heart.
Perhaps you delude yourself by imagining that you shall present him the latter part of life; but does not his goodness claim all your days? Besides, what can the aged convert offer? "His riches? but he can use them no more: his pleasures? but he can enjoy them no longer : his honour? but it has withered on his brow: his authority? but it has dropped from his feeble hand. He leaves his sins, when they will no longer bear him company."
UNGRATEFUL TO GOD AND CHRIST.
§ 2. In neglecting early piety, you are ungrateful to the Son of God. He humbled himself to earth, he hungered and thirsted, groaned and wept, endured the thorns, the scourge, the cross, and even bled and died in pity to your soul; and he demands no return, but what is for your good as well as his glory. He demands your heart, and you refuse to give it. Were not they basely cruel and ungrateful to him, who cried, "Not this man but Barabbas ;" who thus preferred a murderer to the Lord of life; but you act as guilty a part while you prefer the world, that delusive destroyer, to a dying Saviour, and a gracious God! Rather you do worse than the murderers of the Lord of glory did. Many of them knew not what they did, when they preferred the murderer Barabbas to the blessed Jesus. You are more ungrateful to Christ than they; while you profess to view him as the Son of God, and Saviour of men, and yet, in reality, prefer to him, not Barabbas, but sin and Satan. Perhaps you say, "Surely I do not act this horrid part;" but O! deceive not your own heart, for in God's esteem you do, while you refuse to yield your youth to Christ. Though you may merely neglect his grace, yet according to the Scriptures, grace neglected is grace refused; and though you may be merely careless of the Lord Jesus, through thoughtlessness or love to the world, yet it is most certain, that a Saviour slighted is a Saviour rejected; and O dreadful! rejected for what? for vanity, folly, and pleasure; or, in plainer words, for the service of the world, and the devil. And O! rejected by whom? by one to whom Christ has an everlasting right. He has such a right to you, and in denying your
IRRELIGION, INGRATITUDe to god,
heart to him you are not merely guilty of the most base ingratitude, but of the vilest injustice. You rob him of his right. You rob not man, but God; you rob God of his honour, and the divine Saviour of what is most justly his; God said of old to Israel, "Will a man rob God? yet ye have robbed me." The language of his word is, "Ye are not your own, but bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." What would you think of a man, that might rob an affectionate parent, to give what he stole from his best friend, to a most detestable and cruel enemy of that parent and of himself? Oh, folly, madness, wickedness, ingratitude! My young friend, is not this the part you act, if you deny Jesus what is his due? and give what his love claims to his greatest enemy and yours! If you refuse him your youth and prime, to which he has an endless right, and give that youth and prime to Satan? Love so amazing, so divine as his, demands "your life, your soul, your all;" and shall it have no grateful return? When you owe God every thing, will you be so base as to give him nothing?
§ 3. In refusing your youth to God, you are guilty of the greatest cruelty to yourself. Better far had it been for you never to have been born, than to come into the world to spend a few sinful years, and then to go and make your sad abode with devils and the damned; where the worm never dieth, and the fire never shall be quenched. You would think any one dreadfully cruel to himself, who might cut and mangle his own body, who might tear off his own flesh, who might thrust his own limbs into the fire, and keep them there, in misery till they were consum.
AND CRUELTY TO THE SOUL.
ed. But which is worst, to mangle a mortal body, or undo an immortal soul? to thrust a limb into the fire, or to throw the soul into hell? If you beheld one, that, by a fall from his horse, or from a house-roof, had his limbs broken, and lay writhing in agony on the ground, would you not declare him cruel to himself, if a friend stood by ready and able to cure him, and he were to refuse the needful help? But which is worst, to linger down to death in agony, through slighting a surgeon's aid; or linger a few years, a depraved, condemned, and ruined creature, and then sink to endless wretchedness, through neglecting a divine Saviour's help? If your body were in such melancholy circumstances, you would welcome friendly aid, and while your soul is in a state far more melancholy, I beseech you, neglect not that of the Lord Jesus Christ. You would not be so cruel to yourself, as to thrust a foot, or a hand, or even the point of a finger into the fire; O, be not so cruel to your own soul, as to undo it with a sure and everlasting destruction! Every moment that you delay to turn to God, is a moment of cruelty to your soul, your own, your immortal soul. What would you think of a husbandman, who, in spring, might sow his fields with poisonous weeds, and say, "I'll pluck them up in winter!" Distracted man! Where would be his harvest? In winter, he should be enjoying the harvest, of which the seed was sown in spring, and not then, in want and misery, be tearing up the weeds that had ruined his land. And will you, by neglecting early piety, sow the seeds of sin in youth, hoping to pluck up the poisonous weeds in age? Perhaps that age may never come. With all