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MADNESS OF IRRELIGION.
your soul-destroying sins in their full vigour, you may be snatched away to receive the judgment of an insulted and injured God. But if that age should come, it may almost be a hopeless task, then to mortify those corruptions which have been gaining strength through all the years of life; and which have brought forth much fruit unto eternal death. Cruel as the distracted husbandman would be to himself, more cruel will you be, if you spend the prime of life in storing up causes for bitter repentance hereafter, and thus make what should be your best years, your guiltiest and your worst. Alas! how dreadfully baneful to your best interests, is carelessness and irreligion on the edge of an eternal world! A drowning man will catch at a reed; a poor wretch sinking into an unfathomable abyss grasp a twig; but ah, miserable madness of unhappy men! though about to plunge into vast eternity, they slight that helping hand which offers sure deliverance. Still they go on, careless whither, till death, that forceful preacher, discovers all they would not learn, but which they must by sad experience know. O then for a reed of hope! then for a Saviour's helping hand! then for one day of offered mercy more! Misers would give their idolized wealth, monarchs their kingdoms, worldlings their pleasures, for such a blessing once again. Oh, miserable folly! to set no value now on those things, for which they would, ere long, think the wealth of worlds a trifling price. On this side the grave, to let eternal salvation be almost the only thing they neglect, while on the other, it will be the only thing that is worthy of their desire.
§ 4. In neglecting early piety, you are un
EXPOSTULATION WITH THE READER. 259
kind to all that wish you well. To that blessed Spirit, who strives with you; to those holy angels, who would fain rejoice over you; to those ministers of the gospel, that labour and pray for your conversion; to those friends, if you have such, that are the friends of Christ, and that wish to see you such also. How much comfort you deny them! What pleasure your conversion might give them! but you refuse them this pleasure. While thus basely ungrateful to your God, to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit ; while thus cruel to yourself; while thus unkind to angels, to ministers, to Christian friends; whom, O young sinner! do you please? Only those malignant spirits, who seek your ruin; only the devil and his angels. They look on you as their own. Only hell can rejoice over you, while the church of Jesus mourns; and while if angels could weep, they would weep for you. Oh! will you please your hellish foes, sooner than your compassionate God and Saviour! Oh! will you do that at Satan's secret bidding, which you will not do at Christ's open command! Will you comply with the devil's call, and yield your youth to him, while you neglect the call of God, and return him nothing but neglect and sin? Oh, could you see that hateful foe, would you then act this wicked part? yet, if you will not prepare to meet your God, remember you will soon be given up by him into the hands of Satan; then you will find that you were infinitely cruel to yourself, as well as basely ungrateful to God, while pleasing hell instead of heaven.
O, my young friend, would you lead a life so basely wicked? Would you have to reproach yourself hereafter with choosing destruction, in
MOTIVES FOR EARLY PIETY,
spite of what God and man do to make you happy? Would you have, at last, to lament that you have rushed headlong into hell, in spite of all that was done to turn your feet into the way of heaven? Prevent such sad reflections I beseech you. As ever you would find mercy at the bar of God, fly to the God of mercy now. Seek Jesus in these the fair days of your youth. I know with many young persons, it is now an easy thing to slight the friendly warning that bids them follow the Saviour, and to avoid, or deride the friend that gives it; but it will be dreadfully hard at last, to remember slighted warnings-abused privileges a gracious God forsaken -a kind Saviour neglected - a wasted youth a heaven lost- a hell incurred a devil pleased instead of God. One way only remains for you to escape all these evils, it is, to go to Christ for life. May God lead you to him.
THE VANITY OF YOUTH, AND THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE, REASONS FOR THE IMMEDIATE CHOICE OF EARLY PIETY.
§ 1. A DIVINE writer, when urging on the young attention to eternal things, employs this solemn argument: "Childhood and youth are vanity:" Eccles. xi. 10. And is it not so? Perhaps even now, while you hesitate, you die. Perhaps the shuttle has passed the loom, that wove your winding sheet. Perhaps in yonder
FROM THE VANITY OF YOUTH.
shop, lies rolled up, and ready to be severed off, that piece of cloth, destined to be your shroud." The admonition of the Lord is, "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth :" Prov. xxvii. 1. What is there so firm in youth, in health, or strength, that on their continuance, you should venture the salvation of an immortal soul? On no morning of the year can you positively say, that you shall see the evening; on no evening can you be certain of beholding the approaching morning. They who promise fair for most years in this world, may be the very first to enter the next. Possibly even by to-morrow, you may have forsaken this world for ever.
§ 2. Consider what others were a few seasons ago, that are now fixed in the eternal world. They were as young, and perhaps, alas! as thoughtless and as gay as you. When you pass through a burying ground, look at its graves; read the inscriptions there; and see how many, in the bloom of life, have been cut off and called to meet their God. There lie the young, the healthy, and the strong. There lie many whom the world once charmed, and who for it slighted their immortal souls. And what is the world to them now! Perhaps before twelve months more depart, your now youthful and healthful body may be like theirs; your active limbs may be mouldering into dust; your eyes closed upon the world; and all its pleasures, will neither pain nor please you in the grave. Where are they now, and where must you shortly be? They a few years back, were as gay as you can be, but O! all earthly things are for ever past with them. You are young now, so were they then; but
THE VANITY OF YOUTH EVINCED
youth and vigour have forsaken them. You are healthy now, so then were they; though since numbered with the dead. The world then seemed as enchanting to them, as it can do to you; they were as much set upon its dying pleasures, but, they are gone; and O, what is it to their poor breathless dust! What will it soon be to yours! They are mouldered back to dust. Their very coffins are decayed. Their gaiety is over. Their joys are past. They are gone into the world of spirits. They have met their God. O, what new scenes have opened upon them! With what terror have they, who refused God's grace in this world, been dragged by hellish fiends, to everlasting burnings! Could some of these unhappy creatures now address you, did not the malignity of their nature prevent them, they might say, "Avoid our folly. Shun our misery. Sin and the world have undone us; heart-rending thought; undone us for ever. A little while back, pleasure, health, and youth, were ours! Then we were as eager in the pursuit of fancied happiness, as you can possibly be. The world appeared drest in as gay colours to us, as it now does to you. We trusted in our youth, and looked on future years as our own, which, alas! we never lived to see. Vanity and pride filled our hearts; pleasure was our idol; and the world our delight. Alas! we lived as if it were our home, and forgot that we were but travellers through it, to eternal scenes. We quenched the warnings of conscience; we scorned the admonitions of pious friends; and thought those strangely impertinent, that reminded us of death and the grave, though, alas! we were so near to both. We deemed religion