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esteem religion now, that the time is not far distant when, to be a true Christian, to belong to Christ, and to be in union with him, will be felt to be a greater happiness than to be master of the world. Every other honor will fade—every other enjoyment will be exhausted-every other distinction will pass away-every other glory will vanish-while the crown of righteousness, which Christ will give to his sincere followers, will shine with undecayed brightness in the ceaseless ages of eternity.
My young friends, be persuaded to embrace Christianity in the morning of life. It will add unspeakable charms to the graces of youth-temper its vivacity with wisdom—tincture its passions with innocence—and form your character for a happy, useful, and honorable life. It will be an ornament to youth, a sate directory in the active pursuits of life, a staff and consolation amidst the decays and infirmities of age. To see you set out in the ways of piety, to behold you renouncing the vanities of life, will afford the highest satisfaction to the church of God, the most exalted pleasure to your religious parents, who watch every movement of your mind with anxious solicitude, ready to rejoice over you with transport whenever they behold in you true signs of piety.
2. We cannot but look back with regret to that period when the followers of Christ were known by no other name than that of Christian. Happy period; when, instead of being rent into a thousand parts, and split up into innumerable divisions, the church of Christ was one fold and me shepherd. The seamless coat of the Redeemer was one entire piece from top to bottom. The world was divided into two grand parties—Christians and Pagans. This happy state, we have no doubt, will occur again. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain ; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. In consequence of a more copious communication of the spirit, some of our difference of opinion will be removed, and the shepherds will see eye to eye ; and others of them will be lost in the indulgence of Christian charity, in the noble oblivion of love.
Sermon to Young Men. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." - Eccl. xi., 9. . We live in a world where we are surrounded by temptations and snares, to which all are exposed, especially the young and inexperienced. These temptations and snares throw 'enchantments around themselves, and fill the young mind with delusive hopes and vain expectations. When the passions are once excited, they plead eloquently for gratification, and hurry on the inexperienced in the path of ruin. And in the same proportion as they are indulged, our evil propensities are strengthened ; and as our propensities to evil are strengthened, they become the more clamorous when we resist their inclinations. No man ever perceived these truths more clearly, or felt them more forcibly, than did Solomon. He well understood the delicate situation of young people, with all its lights and shades, and manifested in his writings a constant regard for their welfare; and this is one evidence of his wisdom, for youth is the proper age of instruction and discipline. He, therefore, gives them line upon line, and precept upon precept. Sometimes he soothes, and sometimes he rebukes; sometimes he beseeches them with paternal tenderness, and sometimes he persuades them as knowing the terrors of the Lord ; and saves them with fear, pulling them out of the fire; and this he does in the words of our text: Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes : but know thou for all these things God will bring thee to judgment. In speaking from these words, we propose to explain them—to enforce the caution they suggest--and to conclude with some reflections.
And may Almighty God make this discourse as a solemn trumpet, to arouse the young men who hear me this evening, from the slumbers of spiritual death, that they may become alive to God, and serve him with their bodies and spirits, which are his.
I. We are, in the first place, to explain the words. We are not to understand these words in a literal or rigid sense, as though we are forbidden the enjoyment of the bounties of providence and the blessings of life. The religion of Christ is far from forbidding a cheerful use of the blessings of life, for, without such a use of them, they are given to the possessor in vnin. Every thing that God has made, is good in itself
, and when sanctified by the word of God and prayer, may be used with thanksgiving. All things are given us richly to enjoy; and this fully agrees with the sentiments of Solomon, as expressed in the different parts of his writings: There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of the Lord. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. Behold that which I have seen, it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy all the good of his labor that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God has given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor: this is the gift of God. Such are the sentiments that were entertained by Solomon; and such are the pleasures that he regarded not only as innocent, but even as expedient. And far be it from us to recommend a gloomy and melancholy religion. Instead of dissuading you from a life of true pleasure, we are desirous of directing you in the way of it.
These words are intended as an awful and lively caution to young persons, to be upon their guard against the indulgence in those gratifications, whereby the conscience may be wounded and God dishonored. They are spoken ironically : that is, the words are to be understood in an opposite sense from their literal import. This method of expression is adopted for the purpose of giving words a sharper point and a keener edge. This style of writing is not uncommon in the Sacred Oracles. It was used by Elijah, the prophet, in his address to the priests of Baal: And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god: either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And so these words forbid what they seem to allow upon a literal construction, and are as if he had said: “Thou poor thoughtless creature, who, in this giddy intoxication of thy youth, art so madly bent upon sensual pleasure, take thy fill of it, and withhold not thy heart from any joy. Follow all the most impetuous appetites of thy nature, and wantonly bound over every restraint of reason and piety, trample on all the admonitions of thy teachers, shake off the fetters of a strict education, and burst the bonds of religion, like the threads of flax when they are touched by the flame. But think not, O sinner! that thou shalt always carry it off with such haughty triumph; know, as thou hast thy day, God will also have his: a day of strict account, and of ample recompense. Know thou, for all these things, God will bring thee into judgment. Dearly shalt thou then pay for every present indulgence, and every sweet morsel shall then be turned bitter, and be as the gall of asps within thee."
This, I say, appears to be the evident meaning of the words ; for I am sure they are generally used in a bad sense, and signify an indulgence to the irregularities of appetite and passion, in the neglect of reason and Scripture. Thus, the Israelites are charged
to wear fringes on their garments, that they may remember the commandments of the Lord and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes. To judge after the sight of the eye and hearing of the ear, was a proverbial saying to express corrupt judgment. Hence, it was said of Christ, by the Prophet Isaiah: And he shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, nor reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. Solomon was well acquainted with the writings of Moses, who says: The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. And the connexion requires the interpretation we have given them.
I would further observe, that the judgment to which Solomon here refers, must undoubtedly be that of a future state ; since he has expressly said, that here all things come alike to all. And of this judgment he solemnly warns the young sinner, as a most powerful antidote against the baits of sensuality; as an awful thought, which might fix the most roving eye, and be the means of reducing the most ungovernable heart to the discipline of wisdom and piety.
II. To enforce the admonition by such considerations as are expressly suggested in the text, or may naturally grow out of it. And permit me to beg your most serious attention, while I may offer a few things for your consideration.
1. Think of the corruption and depravity of your own hearts, to deter you from walking in the way of them. The heart of man is described by that God, who alone perfectly knows it, as being deceitful and desperately wicked. And again, inspiration declares, God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart 'was evil continually. We are degenerate plants of a strange vine, whose fruit are the grapes of Sodom and the clusters of Gomorrah. What is man that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous ? : When our hearts were pure, they were the palace of God; but they have become the cage of every unclean bird. If you have never known the plague of your own hearts, it is because you are ignorant of them. Consider for a moment what has passed there; how many evil thoughts you have indulged, how many irregular passions you have gratified, and how many unhallowed tempers, like a mighty tempest, have driven you into the greatest absurdities. How you have abused the means of grace, and despised the riches of the goodness, forbearance, and long suffering of God. Consider how many times you have resisted the strivings of God's Holy Spirit, and rejected the counsels and admonitions of his word. Consider how many vows you have made and broken ; and, in spite of all the checks of conscience, have rushed forward into new scenes of debauchery and wickedness. And must these treacherous hearts still be trusted ; and will you go on in the way
of them, when they have already led you into so much sin, when they have already plunged you into so much distress? If you continue still to follow the dictates of your own corrupt hearts, they will plunge you deeper and deeper into the abyss of wo, and lead you further and further into the shades of darkness and night. May God arrest you in your course of madness and folly, rend in sunder the veil of sin that obscures the moral vision of your souls, disclose in full view the fountain of iniquity within you, and dispose you all to seek his face and favor with full
of heart. 2. Think of how muny delusive charms are daily offering themselves to your eyes, that you may not walk heedlessly in sight of them. Remember, O young man, that you are walking in the midst of snares, and that your situation is highly dangerous. The most mortal poisons are sometimes mixed with the sweetest dainties, and the most dangerous enemies of our souls frequently accost us in the fairest forms. The fruit of which our first parents tasted, presented a pleasing appearance to the eye; but, however engaging and attractive, it was filled with the poison of death. By walking in the sight of their eyes, they were led to transgress the divine commandment, and brought death upon themselves and all their posterity. It is sometimes the case, that young people desire to witness scenes in which they would shudder to be engaged. This is always a dangerous experiment, and is not unfrequently productive of the worst consequences. By beholding, we are transformed into the same image, and finally led to the repetition of the
Seriously consider how many, within the compass of your own knowledge, have been ruined by the blandishment of the senses. And perhaps some of these individuals, in other respects, were per
of no contemptible character ; and had they, like David, made a covenant with their eyes, they might have escaped the fatal ruin which finally overtook them. Do not walk in the sight of your eyes, lest you be like the bird, which, struck by some gay and promising appearances, hastens to the snare, not knowing that it is for its life. But turn off thine eyes from beholding vanity, and by faith look into the eternal world, and it will secure you from the power of temptation. Behold and copy the bright example of Jesus Christ, and it will lead you to the paradise of God.
3. Let me remind you, that the elernal God is the inspector of all your conduct. This is strongly implied, although it is not expressed in the text. The Scriptures teach us that, The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. They not only run to and fro through the whole earth, but they are in every place