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Lastly, Consider how much better it is to serve God' from your youth up, than to be at last compelled to return to him in the decline of life, laden with sin and infirmity, after tasting the bitter husks of misery and humiliation. Remember therefore your Creator in the days of your youth, and devote to his service the untainted bloom of innocence, which is the noblest sacrifice you can offer. Resolve never to forfeit the glorious privilege of being born in the house of God, and under the blessed covenant of redemption from sin : rather let it be your first care to make the best use of that advantage, by preserving the good seed sown in your hearts Read therefore the written word of God, meditate on the great works of his divine power in the dispensations of nature and providence, and hearken to his voice, when he speaks to you by your conscience, by his ministers, or the powerful language of divine grace. So will you see your goods prosper upon the earth ; so will your faith and piety increase with your increasing years ; and after having been a comfort to your parents and an ornament to religion in this world, you will one day be received into everlasting habitations, at the right hand of your Father which is in heaven.
And he took his journey into a far country, and
there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields, to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him.
ST. Paul, reproaching the Romans with the w shameful irregularity of their past conduct, Very justly asks them, “What fruit had ye then "s in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed ?" And the same question may, with equal justice, be asked of every imprudent and abandoned sinner. And what the true answer to this question must ever be, let the woeful experience of the young man in my text declare, whose imprudent conduct I have on a former occasion en
deavoured to describe to you in plain and artless language, to deter the young and unthinking from persuing the dangerous paths of error and ruin. So long as he remained under the guidance of a wise and kind father, and followed the path of his duty, he was happy, because he was innocent: but no sooner did he shake off the yoke of parental authority, and abandon himself to debauchery, than distress and shame followed, and he was reduced to the lowest state of poverty and misery: for, as the Apostle well adds, “the “ end of those things is death."
It appears that this unhappy young man set no bounds to his youthful excesses. For the word made use of in the original * to describe his conduct, is expressive of the most abandoned debauchery and extravagance. And of what kind this debauchery and extravagance was, we are told by his elder brother, who reproaches him with “having devoured his living with harlots.” Here then we see the fatal rock, upon which the virtue of unguarded youth is ever in danger of being shipwrecked. Captivated by the syren tongue of beauty, and ensnared by the woman " which forsaketh the guide of her youth and " the covenant of her God,” he soon forgot all the instructive lessons of an aged father, and the
* Aoutws, .
improving example of a faultless elder brother. Lost to his country, lost to his friends, to his interest, to every thing that was manly, wise, and virtuous, he slumbered on in the lap of pleasure, till the voice of distress awaked him to shame and remorse;-to tell him that he had spent his all;—that the gripe of famine was ready to seize him, and to bring him down to the chambers of death.
In the fate of this unthinking prodigal, then, let every young man see, as in a glass, the unavoidable consequences of lawless lust and ungoverned passion. Let him be assured from the experience of all ages, that there is not a surer, there is not a more direct road to absolute ruin, and that the wise king of Israel spake the lauguage of unerring truth, when he said, that “' by means of a whorish woman a man is brought “ to a piece of bread.” Suffer me therefore to address you all in the affectionate language of the same wise king, Hearken unto me now " therefore, Oye children, and attend to the
words of my mouth. Let not thine heart
decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. • For her house is the way to hell, going down
to the chambers of death,” And here I cannot but take occasion to remark, and at the same time sincerely to lament, that mass of folly
and obscenity which is circulated through every part of the kingdom in indecent prints and publications, replete with danger and ruin to the youthful part of both sexes. For sure I am, that nothing can tend more fatally to inflame the passions and corrupt the minds of young persons, and prepare them for the commission of every species of destructive debauchery. And at the best, had they no worse tendency, even the most harmless of them fill the mind with frivolity, enervate the powers of the understanding, and generate an unaptness in young minds to apply to what is serious, manly, and best deserving of attention and regard.
But let us proceed in our history of this in- considerate prodigal. — “When he had spent all, “ there arose a mighty famine in that land, and " he began to be in want.”
See here the mistaken folly of youthful minds ! When they first enter upon the career of vice, they think that it is strewed with pleasures, with the rose-buds of the spring, and will reward them for the loss of their innocence by a thousand enjoyments. But how great and fatal is the mistake! The prodigal thought that in a remote country, far from the intruding eye of censure, and the painful restraint of parental authority,