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156 EARLY PIETY PECULIARLY ACCEPTABLE be honoured by the young, or by those who were religious in the prime of their days. Early piety is peculiarly pleasing to the blessed Jesus. One of the last commands he gave to Peter, was, “Feed my lambs.” The apostle John was his young disciple, but he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved." The case of the
ruler also in this view deserves attention. Excepting the apostles, he is the only person expressly mentioned in the New Testament as young who went to our Lord to inquire the way to heaven. He was a stranger to the Lord, and yet more is said of him, than of whole multitudes besides ; för of him it is said, that “Jesus loved him.” And though the Lord, notwithstanding all he saw so pleasing in him, afterwards spoke of him as a perishing sinner; yet even his want of real piety may show you how that blessing is valued by the Lord Jesus when possessed by the young. If, though not truly a child of God, the Lord was so much taken with him, how much more would he have won on Christ's affection, if to every other recommendation had been added, true pi. ety!
“ That last and best,
A parent may be pleased with another's child, but is more pleased with his own; and the Lord, who beholding that young man loved him, would doubtless have loved him more, if he had been his own disciple. Ah! had he listened to the call of Jesus, how high a place might he have possessed in his Redeemer's heart! Perhaps, the very first; for not even of the apostles themselves, is so much said of the Lord's loving
AND MOST HONOURED BY GOD. 157 them, before they became his disciples, as is said of his love to this young man.
§ 3. The marked and honourable distinction which God has placed on early piety, strikingly shows how peculiarly acceptable it is to him. He has made few, except those converted in early life, instruments of advancing, to any considerable degree, his glory upon earth. Late converts have
generally crept, as it were, singly into heaven ; while many converted young have been employed by God, to lead their friends, their children, or many others to the abodes of bliss. As by early piety the young peculiarly honour God; so he condescends, in return, peculiarly to honour them. Run over the list of names, which God has so honourably distinguished in his word, and observe they were converted while young. Abel, the first of martyrs, sought God in his youth. Enoch, celebrated for so glorious a translation to heaven, was removed thither, when considering the length of life at that period) a young man. Noah, the father of a second world, when young served the God of heaven. Abraham, pronounced the father of the faithful, and the friend of God, while young set out for the heavenly country. Moses, who was faithful in the Lord's house, in his youth refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Joshua, who made the noble resolution, “ as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” had made the same, long, long before. Samuel, that much honoured prophet, when yet a child, said to the Lord,“ Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Job, distinguished for bis patience and his piety, was pious in his early 158 EMINENT SAINTS GENERALLY life. Elijah, who was conveyed in a fiery chariot to glory, was, most probably, the servant of God in his youth. Elisha, on whom his spirit rested, seems to have given himself to God be. times. Isaiah, the sweetest herald of the Saviour's approach, while young became the prophet of the Lord ; so too did Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Daniel, who walked with God even in Babylon itself, and who found his God his protector even in the lions' den, had sought his God in his early days. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed. nego, whom God so honoured, that they passed unhurt through the burning fiery furnace, were all pious in their youth. Passing by others, we come down to the Redeemer's days. Then John the Baptist, the great forerunner of the Lord, in early life began to deliver the message of his God. The apostles of the Lord and Saviour, there is much reason to believe, were converted young. Thus was Peter; thus was James. Paul, once a persecutor, then an apostle and martyr, was a young man when brought to the knowledge of the Son of God. So, too, was John, the beloved disciple; so too most probably all that illustrious company. Timothy and Titus were young, but faithful followers of the Lord; and, as if to show that in youth God should be glorified, the Son of God himself came into the world, accomplished his great errand in it, and returned to his Father's bosom, when he had spent little more than three-and-thirty years up. on its surface. If we turn to some female cha. racters, which the scriptures commend to our re spect and imitation, still will the same observa tion hold. Mary, whóm, as the mother of our Lord, all generations shall call blessed haa
CONVERTED WHILB YOUNG,
doubtless given her youth to God. Mary, who sat at Jesus's feet, and heard his word, who possessed that good part which none could take from her, appears to have early chosen that one thing needful.* If we come to later times, still God seems, almost invariably, to have acted by the same rule, and seldom to have conferred distinguished honour, except on early piety. Baxter and Owen, Doddridge and Watts, Wesley and Whitfield, and hundreds more, that were in their day employed to lead thousands to heaven, were all converted young. Almost, if not quite, every living or departed missionary sought God in the days of youth. Carey and Ward, Brainerd and Elliot, Schwartz and Martyn, in youth were brought into the ways of peace,
Thus also have the most eminently distinguished women. Lady Jane Gray, and Queen Mary the Second, the Countess of Huntingdon, who from a comparatively small fortune is said to have employ
In proof of the youth of some of these persons, observe, Abel was dead before the birth of Seth, which took place when Adam was but 130 years old. Noah is spoken of as a just man, who walked with God. before the birth of any of his children, and Shem was born 450 years before his death. Abraham, when at God's command he left Horan, was 75 years old, which bears the same proportion to his age, as 30 would bear to the age of man in the present day. See respecting Miso ses, Heb. xi. 24. Joshua, see Exod. xxiv. 13; xxxiii. 11. &c. &c. Samuel, see 1 Sam. chap. iii. Job, see Job. i. l; xliii. 16. Of Elijali's age, but little is said. Elisha seems to have been a young man, ! Kings, xix. 20. Isaiah, the least possible term for the duration of his prophetical office, is 48 years ; (see Lowth’s Isaiah, Note 1.) and life being then about the present length, he appears to have entered while young on that office. Jeremiah exercised his propbetical functions at least 42 years, and seems to have been called very young to it. See Blaney's Jeremiah, Note 1, and Jer. i. 6. Ezekiel, see Preface to New come's Ezekiel. Daniel, Shadrach, &c. see Daniel, chap. 1. James, Peter, &c. See Doddridge's Remarks on the time when their Epistles were written; from their age at that time, it is easily inferred, that they were young when called by Christ. Paul, see Acis, vii. 58.' Ma. ry, the mother of Christ, see Luke's Gospel, chap. 2. Mary of Bethany, from the circumstarices recorsled rosoecting her, and from what ancient history says of her brother lazy se-m18 most probably t!) have been a young woman.
EARLY PIETY PECULIARLY ACCEPTABLE,
ed nearly a hundred thousand pounds on religious objects; the Countess of Suffolk, whose piety has often been displayed for the imitation of others, and many more; the lovely Harriet Newell, and others who like her have trod the missionary path, have all displayed the charms and obtained the honours of early piety. When God, my young friend, has thus distinguished youthful religion, while he has set such honour upon it, would you neglect it? Would you delay to seek it? Rather, I beseech you, yield yourself a living sacrifice to him who says, They that seek me early shall find me.”
§ 4. We may discern various reasons why the blessed Saviour should have a peculiar fondness for his young disciples; and why the Most High should take early religion as a mark of regard to himself, that he will distinguish with particular approbation at another day; that day when all the dear delusions and gay vanities of this world will appear wretched vanities indeed. One of these is the decided affection to the Lord which early piety displays. You suppose they love you most, who are ready to do the most for you; and depend upon it, the blessed Jesus judges by a similar rule. Those who are most willing to honour him, and give him most, show mostaffection. Now early piety is the best proof of this kind which you can offer. If in God's strength you resolve that the Lord shall have those blooming years, which others spend in sin and folly, this will manifest the most decided preference for him. “I love my Saviour much,” may be said by ore converted in old age; but “I have humbly proved I love him much,” is a declaration that must be left to those converted in youth.