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As David began a life of piety in youth, fo he continued it to old age. He fays, "O God, thou art my trust from my youth-Thou haft taught me from my youth, and bitherto I have declared thy wonderous works." The religious knowledge, and the pious principles, which he had early embi. bed, governed his conduct in all the subsequent ftages of his life.
In his history we find imperfections, and one inftance of grofs and complicated iniquity; but not any habitual vice. His great tranfgreffion was followed with a profeffion of deep repentancehis imperfections were occafions of godly forrow -his infirmities called up his daily vigilance. Repentance with him was not a tranfient exercise, but an habitual temper. Hence he prays, " Remember not against me the fins of my youth; but according to thy mercy remember me for thy goodness fake, O Lord."" Who can understand his errors? Cleanfe thou me from fecret faults: keep back thy fervant alfo from prefumptuous fins; then fhall I be innocent from the great tranf greffion." Conscious of remaining corruptions,
he laid God's judgments before him, and watched to keep himself from his own iniquity" from the fin which most easily befet him. Senfible of his liablenefs to err, "he thought on his ways ;" and when he found himself going aftray, he ftopt, and "turned his feet into God s teftimonies; and he made hafte and delayed not to keep the commandments of God." Diftrufting his own wisdom and stability, he held his ears attentive to reproof, and his mind open to conviction. "Let the righteous fmite me," fays he, "it fhall be a kindnefs; and let him reprove me, it fhall be an excellent oil, which fhall not break my head."
When the prophet expoftulated with him for his great tranfgreffion, he difcovered no refentment at the freedom, which his monitor used with him; but humbly received, and honestly applied the rebuke, and penitently confeffed, I have finned against the Lord." David did this thing fecretly, and might imagine, that it remained a fecret ftill. What inward exercises of penitence preceded the prophet's reproof, we cannot fay. Now, for the first time, he was explicitly admonifhed; now he found that his iniquity was no longer to be concealed; now he confeffed his guilt, and declared his repentance before men.
In all his life he was diftinguifhed by a devout fpirit; by a humble fubmiffion to divine corrections; by a wife improvement of various afflictions; by a conftant obfervance of the ways of providence; by a faithful attendance on the worfhip of the fanctuary; by a conscientious performance of domestic duties; and by a thankful acknowledgment of mercies and deliverances. Few men appear to have walked through life in fuch an intimate communion with God, and under fuch an impreffive fenfe of God's prefence and government, as this good man, who, from his youth, had chofen God for his hope and truft.
This early choice of religion was a fpring of comfort to him in his declining years. In a time of affliction he prays, "Deliver me, O my God, for thou art my truft from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from my childhood. My praise shall be continually of thee."
In David's example we are taught, "that early piety lays the fureft foundation for comfort in old age."
This is a truth, in which you, who are now young, are deeply concerned, and which you
ought most seriously to apply. You love many days, that you may fee good. But how many foever your days may be, they will all pafs away, and the laft of them will come. You cannot then fee good, unless you now take up, and carry along with you, into that period, fomething better than the world can give; for the world, however liberal it may seem for a while, will then take back all its former gifts.
The best thing, which you can then have to comfort and refresh you, is the remembrance of early piety, and a consciousness of a patient continuance in well doing. If you wish to have this confolation at that time, a pious life must be your choice now. This will, on many accounts, be your best support.
1. Early religion will prevent many evils, which would be a torment in old age.
If you now are determined to caft off the great concerns of religion, and to walk in your own ways, and in the fight of your own eyes, be affured, that bitter things are written against you, and that your old age will fadly poffefs the fins of your youth in pains of body, remorfe of conscience, and the terrors of wrath to come; or, which is worse than all, in a stupidity of mind, which, though it may render you paft feeling for a feafon, will make your deftruction more certain and more awful.
And befides the evils which await you, there are mischiefs incalculable and inconceivable, which you are bringing on others; and efpecially on those with whom you moft frequently affociate. Many will be feduced into vice by your vain converfation-many will be corrupted in their manners by your ungodly example-many will be hardened in guilt by your profane contempt of re
higion. And these will be influential in seducing, corrupting and hardening many more. There is no poffibility of foreseeing how long the evil may continue, how far it may run on, and how widely it may spread around, after it has once been put in motion. "One finner destroys much good."
Now suppose you should live to old age, and in that folemn period fhould feel a serious sense of the judgment before you; will it not be painful to reflect on fuch a life as has been defcribed? It will then be too late to recall the evils which you have done. They who commenced the journey of life in your company, will generally have finifhed their courfe, and paffed to the judgment. The few who are left, will be placed at a distance from you. They will be out of the reach of your counfel and admoniton: or if you can speak to fome of them, perhaps they will, by this time, have become too infenfible to feel, and too obftinate to follow your good advice.
In this ftage of life, you will probably fee families, which sprang from you, and which, in confequence of your example, live, as you have done, without religion, without the fear of God, without regard to his worship. In a few days you muft go to answer before God for your own per fonal conduct, and for the important truft committed to you. What anfwer will you be prepar ed to give? In the perplexity of conscious guilt, from what fource will you derive comfort? God demands from you the fervice of your youth; if you will not give him this; behold, you have finned against him; and be fure your fin will find
2. Early piety will render you inftruments of much good in the world. Your zeal and forwardnefs in religion will provoke very many. And,
in the time of old age, will it not be a pleafing reflection, that you have not lived in vain; but, according to your ability, have brought honor to God's name, and done good to mankind? That by your youthful example you have encouraged fome of your fellow youths to forfake the foolish and live, and to go in the way of understanding; to feek unto God betimes, before their hearts were hardened through the deceitfulness of fin; to come forward with an open profession of religion, and to walk agreeably to the religion, which they profefs? Will it not be a pleasure to think that these pious youths, animated by your example, have extended and fpread among others the good, which you began; and that there are, within your knowledge, many pious and virtuous people, who perhaps might have continued and perifhed in their guilty courfe, if you, like fome, had lived in the contempt of religion, and in the neglect of your falvation? And if you fhould have pofterity, who may live on earth after you are gone, will it not be a great confolation and joy to fee them walking in the truth, maintaining religion in their houfes, promoting peace and virtue in fociety, and spreading among their neighbors, and handing over to their fucceflors the pious fentiments, which they received from you? Or whatever may be their conduct, will it not be a folace to your minds to reflect, that you have faithfully discharged your duty to them, have feasonably inftructed them in the truth, and have affectionately exhorted them to a holy life, and to appeal to God and them, as witneffes how holily and justly and urblameably you have behaved yourfelves among them?
3d. Early religion will be a comfort to your age, because it will be attended with a con