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conscience is then tender, and strongly susceptible of moral impressions. From the sufferings which it is thus compelled to endure, the mind naturally seeks for relief; and gradually finds it in arguments, employed to annihilate, or at least to lessen, its guilt; in sport and ridicule summoned to fritter it away; and in examples which quiet its fears, and strengthen for future perpetrations. That which can be defended, or even palliated, always appears less alarming, than when it was thought absolutely indefensible. That which can be laughed at, ceases to alarm at all: and that which is done by others, it is readily believed, may be done by one's self with some degree of safety. To be no worse than others is, in the view of most persons, to be in no very dangerous or distressing circum
Thus, although the soul was terrified by the first sin, yet with these sources of justification in its possession, it becomes quiet under the second, proceeds familiarly to the third, and cheerfully commits the fourth.
While all these causes thus contribute to harden the heart, it derives, also, not a little consolation and support from the consideration, that neither its own sins, nor those of others around it, are either generally or obviously punished. All things in this world substantially come alike to all; and there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked. For this reason no man knoweth love or hatred by all that is before him. This, indeed, furnishes no solid reason why any man should encourage himself in sin. For, though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet shall it not be well with the wicked, nor with him any more than with the rest of the wicked. Yet it is true at the present day, no less than in the time of Solomon, that, because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. To most persons the consciousness of safety, even now, becomes the foundation of a strong and supporting hope, that they shall be safe hereafter.
On all these accounts, the periods of life which succeed youth, and that of old age especially, are, as they are styled
in the text, evil days,-not only uncomfortable, but peculiarly unfavourable to the duty of remembering God, and the attainment of salvation.
Fourthly, These seasons may never arrive.
You have already seen that, if they should actually arrive, and you should live to old age, your prospects of performing this duty would continually lessen. The danger is not only real but great, that your views of all spiritual objects would become more erroneous; your meditations on them more unfrequent and uninteresting; your affections more obtuse and worldly; your hearts more callous to religious impressions; your consciences more enervated; your thoughts more distracted both by business and pleasure; and your hopes more dim, distant, and fading.
But what right have you to satisfy yourselves, that such seasons will ever arrive to you? The uncertainty of human life is so palpable, that, independently of the immense importance of the subject, all observations concerning it would long since have ceased to interest the mind, and become as dull and tedious, as a string of vulgar proverbs. It is written in almost every chapter of the Bible. It is inscribed by the finger of God on almost every page of his providence.
Nor is life less uncertain to youth than to manhood; nor to the most promising youths than to the dullest; nor to the gayest, than to the most gloomy; nor to those, who assure themselves of the most days, and the best, than to the disconsolate and desponding.
Go to yonder burying-ground, and read the inscriptions engraved on the monuments of the dead. How often will you find them announcing, that those who sleep beneath entered these solitary chambers in the morning of life. How often have you yourselves already followed to the tomb the young, the sprightly, the sportive, your own companions in life, nay your own friends, and seen them lodged in the dark and narrow house! How often have you seen them in the midst of cheerfulness and activity, in the full possession of health and vigour, full of hopes, and gay with brilliant prospects, promising themselves long life in the sprightliest career of plea
sure, and forming many coloured visions of paradisaical happiness in this world, arrested by disease, stretched upon the bed of death, bidding a melancholy farewell to all things here below, and summoned to their final account before the bar of God! How solemnly do these things admonish you that man knoweth not his time! How affectingly do they prove that, as fishes are taken in an evil net, and as birds are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
But in so mighty a concern, in a duty of such immeasurable importance, nothing ought to be left to hazard, and especially to a hazard so alarming. When your all may be lost in a day, an hour, or a moment, what folly, what madness, must it be to postpone, even for the best reasons, the performance of a duty on which that all depends! But here you can allege no reason. The very sins which you are required to forsake, are themselves the only causes why you do not forsake them. The very sins of which you are required to repent, are the preventives of your repentance. The very dangers which you are summoned to shun, are themselves the reasons why you do not escape. Miserable choice! Deplorable determination! Who, but for the irresistible proof from experience would believe, that rational beings could refuse their own salvation, and be in love with ruin. Think, I beseech you, what has become of your gay, deceased companions ponder with alarm and terror what is to become of
THE DUTY OF REMEMBERING THE CREATOR IN YOUTH.
ECCLESIASTES XII. 1.
"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth; while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."
In the preceding discourse, from this passage, I proposed,
I. To explain the duty which is here enjoined.
II. To suggest several inducements to the performance of it; and
III. To mention several reasons which usually prevented it from being performed.
Under the first of these heads I observed,
First, That to remember our Creator is to make him, frequently, an object of our thoughts.
Secondly, To possess thoughts concerning him which are true and just, or such as are communicated by his word and works.
Thirdly, To remember him cordially, or with supreme love, complacency, gratitude, reverence, and admiration.
Fourthly, To remember him practically, or with universal confidence and obedience.
Under the second head, as inducements to perform this duty in youth, I observed,
First, That all the obligations which require it of others, require it of those who are young.
Secondly, That youth is the best season for performing this duty.
Because it is in their possession.
Because their hearts are more tender, and susceptible of religious impressions, than they will probably be at any future period.
Because it is comparatively unoccupied by other objects: and
Because it is the season at which the duty will be most acceptably performed.
Thirdly, That future seasons will be comparatively unfavourable to the performance; and
Fourthly, That future seasons may never arrive.
I shall now proceed to the consideration of the third head of discourse, proposed at that time, viz.
III. To mention several reasons which usually prevent this duty from being performed.
Notwithstanding these solemn and powerful reasons for remembering our Creator in the days of our youth, we cannot avoid perceiving that multitudes (the greater part by far,) appear not to remember him at that time, nor at any other. This fact, like every other, has its causes. These operate in much the same manner wherever they exist, the nature of the mind on which they operate being substantially the same. They will, of course, naturally prevent those who are present, as well as others, from performing this duty. It is, therefore, of no small importance that they should know, remember, and feel, the moral causes, or reasons, which have this malignant influence, that they may be upon their guard, and as much as may be, overcome their pernicious efficacy.