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sciousness, that you have approved yourselves to God.
Religion, you know, is a fervice due to God. And if it be due to him at all, it is as really due in youth, as in old age. If you neglect it while you are young, you as impiously defraud and rob God, as if you should neglect it when you become old; for you are as much God's creatures, as dependent on him for happiness, and as accountable to him for your conduct now, as you will be then. If there be any fervice which you owe to God, the obligation commences with your intellectual capacity, and continues through all stages of life; and you can no more plead an exemption from it at one time, than at another.
Now if you should live in the neglect of religion until old age invades you, and should at that time retain any moral and intellectual fenfibility, you muft condemn yourselves for having wafted your best days in folly and vice, and referved for God the poorest and most useless part of life-that part in which you are leaft able to ferve him and do good to mankind. This will be like offering the blind, the lame and the torn for facrifice. And furely you may well be afraid, that fuch an offering will not be accepted at your hands. If after a life of impiety, you should be so happy in the laft ftage of your mortal exiftence, as to exercise a fincere repentance, yet how painful must this be? The iniquities of a long life will stand in order before you. The matter of your repentance will be, not mere infirmities, or accidental offences, but an habitual course of wickedness from your earlieft youth to that fad hour. How awfully will you have filled up the measure of your fins; what remorfe and anguifh will feize your minds; how will your hope tremble, when it attempts to lay hold on mercy
To those who feek God early there are many encouraging promifes. But what promise will you find for fuch as refufe to seek him until they are old? These have loft the benefit of all the encouragements given peculiarly to youth; for they have gone beyond this period. Their hopes muft now rest on more general declarations of God's
But how pleasant may be the last stage of life to him who can look back and fay, "Thou, O God, art my hope, and my trust from my youth. Thou haft taught me from my youth, and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. I have feared thee from my youth, and have not wickedly departed from thee." Such a man carries with him into old age, peace of mind, felf-approbation, hope of glory, and joy in God. He can adopt this pious language; "Thou art my portion, O God. I have faid, that I will keep thy ftatutes. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth, that I defire befides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but thou art the ftrength of my heart, and my portion forever."
4. Early piety gives comfort to old age, as it lays a foundation for eminent improvement in religion.
He who begins the religious life, when he is old, has but little time before him for progrefs in divine knowledge, for the correction of wrong biaffes, for the extirpation of evil habits and the formation of virtuous ones. The holy temper wrought in him will exift under great imperfections, and his fpiritual exercises will meet with many diffi. culties and obftructions. Confequently he cannot experience that comfort and pleasure in religion, which he wishes to enjoy; efpecially in so near views of another world.
But they who make religion their early choice and habitual practice, are continually advancing in the divine life. The graces wrought in them by the spirit of God, in their renovation, are ftrengthened by exercise, and the duties of the Chriftian life are facilitated by use. And the vir tues, which are most important to old age, fuch as fobriety, contentment, patience, devotion and heavenly mindednefs, come into familiar and agreeable operation. It is no eafy matter for an' old man to be calm and cheerful under his present trials, if he has been anxious and fretful in all his former days. It is difficult for him now to have his converfation in heaven, if it never has been there before. He can have little relish for devout and fpiritual exercises, if they are all new to him, and he now begins to learn them. My friends that religion may bring its confolations home to your hearts in that evil day, you must gain a familiar acquaintance with it in your better days.
5. Religion begun in youth, and continued through the fubfequent ftages of life, will be a fafe ground for ftrong hope in old age.
The man, who believes, that within a few weeks or months, he fhall enter into the eternal world, muft, if any fenfibility be left, earnestly defire a good evidence, that he shall be happy there. But this evidence cannot ordinarily be acquired in a day or week. It must be the refult of experience and felf-examination. There must be opportunity to prove the inward temper and to compare it with the word of God. A fudden and hafty confidence is generally deceitful, and always precarious. There is no doubt, that fome, even in old age, may be the subjects of a renovating change; but the reality of fuch a change must be
doubtful to them, until they have had more time to prove themselves, than the aged have reafon to expect. Such perfons, though they die fafely, yet cannot wholly difburden themselves of previous anxieties and fears.
Therefore, my friends, take up religion in feafon, carry it with you through life, cherish it in your old age; then you will have comfort in the decays of your nature, and good hope in your death. Your conftancy and improvement in religion from early life will be an evidence in your favour, in which you may place confidence. How pleasant will be this period, when you can review a long life with confcious approbation, and can look forward into the eternal world with the full affurance of hope? How bright will be the evening of your life, when light breaks in on your eyes from the heavenly world? How cheerfully may you step forward into the valley of death, when the light of God's countenance gilds your paffage? "If you prepare your hearts and ftretch out your hands to God; if you put away iniquity from your hands and wickedness from your fouls, then fhall you lift up your faces without fpot; yea, you fhall be ftedfast, and shall not fear; your age fhall be clearer than the noon day; you fhall thine forth, you shall be as the morning.'
6. Early religion brings this additional advantage to old age, that it enfures a more diftinguished degree of glory in the future world.
The fcripture affures us, that the heavenly rewards will be measured out to good men according to the works which they have done for God, and the attainments which they have made in holiness. "They who have fowed bountifully, will reap alfo bountifully; and they who have fowed fparingly, will reap fparingly." They who have spent
a long life in the steady practice of religion, muft have acquired more virtue in their hearts, brought more honour to God, and done more good to men, than they who never attended to religion before the last stage of their probation. Confe quently they have a capacity to enjoy, and a title to receive a proportionably larger measure of heavenly felicity. There are fome, who wili fcarcely be faved; and fome whose reward fhall be great. The late penitent will be found in the former clafs; the early Chriftian in the latter. And, O how pleasant must be the contemplation of death to fuch aged faints, as can depart in the full perfuafion, that an entrance will be miniftered to them abundantly into the kingdom of God, and that there they fhall receive an exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
I have reasoned with you, my young friends, on the fuppofition, that you will live to be old. And now fay, Does not religion, on this ground, appear to be your highest wisdom? Is not your judgment brought fully over to the fide, for which I have been pleading? Then fix your refolution immediately. Do you hesitate? There is another argument in your cafe, which certainly forbids delay. It is not certain that you will live to be old. And with refpect to each of you individu. ally, this is not probable. You fee fome die old; you fee more die young. The uncertainty of life is a powerful reafon, why you should choose God for your hope and your truft from your youth. Even though you should be spared to old age, this carly choice is, on many accounts, highly reasonable and advantageous; if you are to die in youth, and God knows whether this be not your destiny, then the choice, which I have recommended, is abfolutely neceffary. For this is the only time you can have.