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dare not, despise the prayers of one of these little ones. from that, I am persuaded it would greatly revive and encourage us, and we should hope God had some singular mercy in store for us, and his people, if we were sure the children of the congregation were every day praying for a blessing on our labours.
3. Take heed that you do not learn in vain.
The great truths which you are taught from the word of God, are not intended merely to fill your heads with notions, but to make your hearts and lives more holy. You know the way to your father's house every step of it, but that would never carry you home, if you would not go in it. No more will it signify to know the way to heaven, unless you walk in it. If you know these things, says the Lord Jesus Christ himself, happy are ye if ye do them*. And I may add, that if ye do them not, it had been happier for you, if you had never known them. Dear children, consider it; it is but a little while, and you must die: And when those active bodies of yours are become cold, mouldering clay, the great God of heaven and earth will call your souls to his judgment-seat. As sure as you are now in his house, you will shortly, very shortly, be standing before his awful throne. Then he will examine, to what purpose you have heard so many religious instructions, so many good lessons. Then he will examine, whether you have feared him, and loved him, and served him, and received the Lord Jesus into your hearts, as your Saviour and your King; whether you have chosen sin or holiness for your way, earth or heaven for your portion. And if it be found that you have lived without thought, and without prayer, without any regard to the eye of God always upon you, and the word of God always before you, it will be a most lamentable case. You will have reason to wish, you had never heard of these things at all; for he has said, The servant which knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripest. Even while I am speaking to you, death is coming on; perhaps his scythe may cut you down, while you are but coming up as flowers. I speak to you thus plainly and earnestly, because I do not know but you may be in eternity before another Lord's day. Oh! pray earnestly, that God would give you his grace to fit you for glory; and that all you learn may be so blessed; that you may be made wise to salvation by it. The Lord grant that it may !
+ Luke xiii. 47.
John xiii. 17.
And I have one thing to tell you for your encouragement; and then I have done with you for this time. How young soever you are, and how broken soever your prayers may be, the great and glorious Lord of angels and men, will be willing to hear what you say. You may be sure to be welcome to the throne of grace. The Lord Jesus Christ, when he was upon earth, was very angry with those who would have hindered little children from coming to him; He said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. And Christ is as compassionate now, as ever he was. Go to him, and you may humbly hope, he will, as it were, take you up into his arms, and bless you. He hath said it, and I hope you will never forget it; I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me+. Oh! That I were but as sure, that every child in this assembly would go and ask a blessing from Christ, as I am that our dear Lord is willing to bestow it! But to draw to a conclusion.
III. I shall address myself to those young persons who are grown up to years of maturity, under the advantages of a religious education, and are not yet fixed in families of their own.
I hope, that many of you have been sensible of the value of those opportunities you have enjoyed, and by divine grace have been enabled to improve them well; yet I must add, that I fear, there are others amongst you, who have unhappily neglected and abused them. I must apply myself distinctly to each of you.
1. To those young persons, who have neglected and abused the advantages of a religious education.
I confess, there are hardly any to whom I speak with so little pleasure, because I have seldom less reason to hope I shall succeed. What shall I say to you? What can I say, that you have not often heard, and often despised? One is almost tempted in such a circumstance, to turn reasonings and expostulations into upbraidings; and even to adopt those too passionate words of Moses, "Hear now, ye rebels, you that have grown up in the knowledge, and yet in the contempt of divine things; you that have disappointed the hopes, and slighted the admonitions of your pious parents, and so have broken their spirits, and, it may be, their hearts too, and have brought down their Hoary hairs with sorrow to the graves. One way or another you have
Mark x. 13, 14.
Prov. viii. 17.
Numb. xx. 10. § Gen xlii. 38.
perhaps silenced them. But it Is a small thing to you, that you have thus wearied men, and will you attempt to weary your God also? Can you dare to hope, that you shall at last carry those proud thoughtless heads triumphant over all the terrors of his word? You imagine it a very happy circumstance, that you have got loose from those mortifying lessons, and uneasy restraint, you were once under. But really, when one seriously considers whither these liberties lead you, and where they will probably end, a just resentment of your ingratitude is almost disarmed, and indignation is converted into pity.
Alas! Sinners, The way of all transgressors is hard+; but yours is peculiarly so. You, to whom I am now addressing myself, are in the morning of your days, and it is not to be supposed, that the impressions of a good education are yet entirely effaced. What future years may do, I know not; but hitherto, I persuade myself, you have frequently your reflections, and your convictions: Convictions, which have force enough to torment you, though not to reform you: to plant thorns in the paths of sin, though not to reduce you to those of duty. But if you feel nothing of this remorse and anxiety, such a dead calm is then more dreadful than the fiercest storm and tumult of thought: A sad indication, that your course in wickedness has been exceeding swift; indeed so swift, that it is probable it may not be long. Oh that it might immediately be stopped by divine grace, rather than by the vengeance you have so much reason to fear!
At least be engaged to pause in it for a few moments, and let reason and conscience be permitted to speak. How is it that you make yourselves, I will not say entirely, but tolerably easy? Is it by the disbelief of christianity? Do you secretly suspect, that the gospel is but a cunningly devised fable? Yet even that suspicion is not enough. Let me rather ask, "Are you so confident it is so, that you will venture to stake even the life of your souls upon its falsehood!" If you were come to such a confidence, yet it is amazing to me, how, even on the principles of natural religion alone, persons in your circumstances can make themselves easy. Can any of the libertines of the present age, that believe a God, imagine that he is Altogether such a one as themselves? Can they flatter themselves so far as to hope, that they, in the ways of negligence, profaneness, and debauchery, are like to meet with a more favourable treatment
* Isa. vii. 13.
+ Prov. xiii. 15.
Psal. 1. 21.
from him, than those pious parents whose principles they deride; or that this loose and irregular course will end better, than that life of prayer and self-denial, of faith and love, of spirituality and heavenly-mindedness, which they discerned in them? Few are so abandoned, even of common sense, as to think this?
But these are more distant concerns. I bless God, this kind of infidelity is not in fashion here. You assent to the gospel as true, and therefore must know, that God, who observes and records your conduct now, will bring you into judgment for it another day. And if you go on thus, how will you stand in that judgment? What will you plead? On what will you repose the confidence of your souls, that will not prove a broken reed, which will go up into your hand, and pierce you deep, in proportion to the stress you lay upon it? While you behave like a generation of vipers, think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father*. Think not to plead a relation to the religious parents, whose God and whose ways you have forsaken. Think not to plead an early dedication to him in the baptismal covenant, which you have broken, despised, and in fact renounced. Think not to plead that external profession, which you have so shamefully contradicted, and even by wearing it, dishonoured. You will see the weakness of such pleas as these, and will not dare to trifle with that awful tribunal, so far as to mention them there. And when you are yourselves thus silent and confounded, who will appear as an advocate in your favour? Your parents were often presenting their supplications and intercessions for you before the throne of grace, but there will be no room to present them before the throne of justice: Nor will they have any inclination to do it. All the springs of natural fondness will be dried up; they will no longer regard you as their children, when they see you in the accursed number of the enemies of their God.
And when you are thus disowned by your parents, and disowned by God, whither will you cause your shame and your terror to go? You, who have had so many privileges, and so many opportunities, perhaps I may add, so many so many fond presumptuous hopes too, how will you bear to see multitudes coming from carnal and profane families, to share with your parents in the inheritance of glory, from which you are excluded? You, who were the children of the kingdom; whose remorse therefore must be the more cutting; whose condemnation therefore must be the more weighty! Observe in how strong and lively a
*Matt. i. 79.
view, our Lord has represented this awful thought, in words, which though immediately addressed to the unbelieving Jews, are remarkably applicable to you*: There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, (your pious ancestors,) in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out: And many shall come from the north, and the south, and the east, and the west, and shall sit down with them in the kingdom of God; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into utter darkness †.
But through the divine forbearance you are not yet shut out. There is still hope even for you, if you will now return to the God of your fathers, from whom, by these aggravated transgressions, you have so deeply revolted. Let me then once more tenderly intreat you, and solemnly charge you, by the consolations of the living, and by the memory of the pious dead, by your present comforts, by your future hopes, by the nearly approaching solemnities of death and judgment, by the mercies of God, and by the blood of a Redeemer, that you consider, And shew yourselves ment; that you set yourselves, as it were, attentively to read over the characters inscribed on your memories and understandings in the course of a religious education; that you hearken to the voice of conscience repeating those admonitions, and to the voice of the blessed God, as speaking in his word to confirm them; and finally, that you apply to him in a most importunate manner, for those victorious influences of his Spirit, which are able to mollify and transform these hearts of stone, and to raise even you, from so low a depth of degeneracy and danger, to the character and happiness of the genuine children of Abraham. God forbid that I should sin against your souls, and my own, in ceasing to pray that it may be so! And now,
2. I shall conclude all, with an address to those young persons, who have been, through grace, engaged to a becoming improvement of the religious education they have enjoyed.
I have the pleasure of being well assured, that there are many such amongst you: Many who are now the joy of ministers and parents, and the hope of the church for succeeding years. Let me intreat you, my dear brethren and friends, that you daily acknowledge the divine goodness, in favouring you with such advantages; and, what is still more valuable, in giving you a heart to prize and to improve them.
+Mat. viii. 11, 12.
Luke xiii. 28, 29.
Isa. xlvi. 3.