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SERMON CXLI.

EARLY PIETY.

2 CHRONICLES Xxxiv. 3.

While he was yet young, he began to seek after the God

of David his father.

An earthly panegyrist, in giving the character of a celebrated king, would have talked much of the extent of his dominions, the power of his arms, the splendour of his court; but the Spirit of God, overlooking these objects as unworthy of attention, mentions as the most glorious characteristic of the king of Judah, that, “ while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father.” How much more honourable to Josiah is this eulogium, than the most brilliant description of his dignities and wealth could have been! His dignities and wealth could not have accompanied him beyond the grave; his palace has long since fallen to the dust; his throne has crumbled to ruins; his crown has lost its lustre; but his early piety has followed him into the unseen world, where he dwells in the palace of the King of kings, seated on a durable throne, and having his brows encircled by a crown which shall never fade away. My young friends! this palace of God, this throne in the heavens, this crown of immortality, are offered to you as well as to Josiah. His example will teach you in what manner to attain them. Imitate his early piety, and you shall partake of his recompense. Like him, while yet young, seek the God of your fathers, and this God will confer upon you a felicity and honour, infinite in degree, eternal in duration.

My sole design, on the present occasion, is to persuade you thus to act, by presenting you with a variety of motives, to induce you early to consecrate yourselves to God. And do thou, merciful Father, accompany this discourse by the almighty energy

of thy spirit, and the omnipotent efficacy of thy grace, so that these youth may be converted from the error of their ways.

From the variety of motives which immediately occur to my mind, I find it difficult to select those that are most impressive. I shall confine myself, however, to the illustration of these few ideas :

1. Nothing is more amiable in itself, or more pleasing to God, than early piety.

Early piety, though not so venerable as aged virtue, is yet equally attractive and interesting. To see good principles thoroughly governing the whole conduct; to see them prevail over all youthful levities and follies; to see passions at a time of life when usually most ungovernable, yet subjected to reason and conscience; to see the spirit and vanity of the world despised and trampled under foot; to see constancy, steadiness, and uniformity of life, at a season when irresolution and the caprice of fancy frequently prevail; to see a person while yet in the morn of life, with the sentiments of a virtuous old

age, is surely in itself a desirable and interesting spectacle.

And this conduct, so agreeable in itself. is likewise most pleasing to God. Read your scriptures ; you will there find God frequently and affectionately calling upon you, to “ remember your Creator in the days of your youth;” (Eccles. xii. 1.) assuring yoụ, that “ if you seek him early, you shall find him;" (Prov. viii. 17.) and confirming the sincerity of these calls, the truth of these assurances, by examples of the especial favour with which he ever regarded early converts. God has then clearly expressed his desire, that you should turn unto him; and shall this consideration have no influence upon you? Methinks if no other argument could be offered for youthful piety but this, it is pleasing to God, a reasonable being ought not to hesitate how to act. Consider for a moment who is this God, who thus importunately urges you to seek after him. He is the all-perfect God, and therefore infinitely worthy of the service of a whole life, deserving of the attachment of our youthful hearts, as well as of our aged souls. He is the eternally blessed God, and can, there. fore, from the exhaustless source of his all-sufficiency, shed down upon us those streams of benedictions and favours which will satisfy our souls, and abundantly recompense us for those trifling gratifications that we relinquish for him. He is the creating God, and shall we, his offspring, rise in rebellion against him, and ungratefully use the faculties he has given us, in opposition to him ? He is the preserving God, without whose constant influence and support we should be blotted from existence. · Every pulse that beats, every moment that flies, is a new gift of his tender love, a new effect of his infinite power. If

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VOL. IV.

our first years flowed from a different source from our last, we might be excused for not consecrating them to him;, but since he gives you all your life, what right have you to rob him of the period of youth ? He is the Redeemer God, and he adjures you, by the agonies of the garden, and the blood of the cross, to devote yourselves to him. Of what must your hearts be made, if they can resist pleas so tender? He is the kindest of fathers, the best of friends, the most munificent of benefactors. He has already conferred upon you countless favours; and are you nòt dreadfully ungrateful, if, in the midst of these favours, you refuse to comply with his affectionate commands ?

God calls you then to cultivate early piety, and it is infinitely fit that you obey his will.

II. Youth is a season in which you have the greatest advantages for cultivating the principles of piety, and the greatest need of religion, as a defence from temptation and dangers.

The greatest advantages. It is true that you find, even in this age, the principles of sin in your hearts ; but these principles have not yet been so fortified by repeatedly impelling to action, nor by reiterated actions become such powerful habits, as they will be at any future time. You have not yet so connected your iniquities with all your pursuits, and made them so to mingle with all your occupations, as you will hereafter have done. Your mind is now open for the reception of truth; in a great degree uncorrupted by prejudices; at least, unattached to them from long possession; having a docility and teachableness of disposition, from a conviction of your inexperience, the principles of piety may more easily be implanted, and having fewer obstacles to

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oppose them, will take firmer root. Your heart is now warm and tender; unchilled by the commerce of the world; free from the callousness of age; its native emotions glowing with all their force, it is more easily moved by the love of its God, by the mercy of its Redeemer, by all those tender incitements to duty, which the gospel presents to it. Your passions, though more ardent, are, notwithstanding, more manageable, more easily turned from improper objects, than they will be when inveterate and confirmed' habits have been formed. As yet, the sentiments of modesty and propriety, a regard to the opinions of others, make you blush for your acts of vice, and endeavour to conceal them from the world. In riper years you will assume a boldness in iniquity; disregard the censures of others; cease to be restrained by them, till, at last, you may come to “ glory in your shame.” (Phil. iii. 19.) As yet you are not entangled in the business, the follies, the tumult of the world, which so often engross all the affections and thoughts of riper years; you are not yet entirely occupied with prosecuting the schemes of ambition, or amassing heaps of treasure, but have full time for meditating on the concerns of a better state. As yet, conscience has not been often stifled and deeply corrupted; it still preserves, if I may speak so, its tremulous delicacy and nice sensibility; it still elevates its warning voice, and strongly remonstrates at your deviation from virtue: but, in the aged sinner, weary of useless reproof, it is almost silent; or, if it still speak, it is almost always disregarded. As yet, you have an ardour and fervency, most remote from the timid prudence of age, and most favourable to a thorough conversion. Disdaining all resistance, ambitious of high achieve

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