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that is pointed out by his word and Spirit; you shall have enough to direct you in all your ways.
2. It doth warn us of all our dangers. It doth not only, in the general, call upon us to “watch" (Mark xiii. 37), and “walk circumspectly” (Eph. v. 15); but it discovers all those deceits particularly whereby we may be surprised, diverted, and turned out of the way. There are snares in pros. perity, snares in adversity. Temptations you meet with in praying, trading, eating, drinking, in your public undertakings, and in your private converse. It shows your danger in all your ways, before you feel the smart of them; therefore give up yourselves to God's direction, reading, hearing, meditating, believing, and practising. Read, hear it often; then the deceits of Satan will be laid open, and the snares of your own hearts. Christians! an exact rule is of little use, if you do not consult it: “ As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy ” (Gal. vi. 16); that order their conversations exactly, the word signifies; that try their work as a carpenter doth by his square: they examine their actions by the word of God, what they are now a-doing: therefore consult with it often; then meditate of it, ponder it seriously : “ Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Tim. ii. 7.) If we would have understanding by the word, there must be consideration. Man hath a discursive faculty to debate things with himself: “Why, this is my duty; what would become of me if I step out of God's way? Here is danger and a snare; what if I should run into it, now it is laid before me?' And then, believe it surely : “ The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. iv. 2). Believe God upon his word, without making trial. You hear much of living by sense and by faith: living by faith is, when we bear upon the bare word of God, and encourage ourselves in the Lord; but living by sense, is a trying whether it be so or not; as they that will not believe Hell, shall feel Hell; and they that will not believe the word of God, shall smart for it: “Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark” (Heb. xi. 7). It may be there was no preparation to the accomplishment of the curse and judgment: the word threatened, it is a thing not seen ; yet he “prepared an ark.” When a man is walking in an unjust course, all things prosper for a while, the misery the word threatens is unseen. Ay; but, if you would grow wiser by the word than men can by experience, you must look to the end of things: “I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (Psalm lxxiii. 17). And then, practise it diligently: a young practiser hath more understanding than an ancient notionalist: “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Psalm cxi. 10). It is not they that are able to speak of things and savour what the word requires, but they that do what they hear and discourse of. Gregory saith, We know no more than we practise, and we practise as we know: these two always go together. The word doth us no good, unless there be a ready obedience; therefore this is wisdom, when we give up ourselves to God's direction, whatever it cost us in the world.
DOCTRINE II.—That young ones may have many times more of this wisdom than those that are ancient.
Divers instances there are. Joseph was very young, sold into Egypt about seventeen years of age ; and, when he was in Egypt, he taught his senalors wisdom (Psalm cv. 22), speaking of the senators of Egypt. With
how much modesty did he carry himself, when his mistress laid that snare. Isaac was young, and permitted himself to be offered to God as a sacrifice. Samuel was wise betimes: it is said, “The child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men ” (1 Sam. ii. 26). From his infancy he was dedicated to God, and God gives him wisdom to walk so, that he was in favour with God and men ; yea, God reveals himself to Samuel, when he did not to Eli. David, when he was but fifteen years of age, fought with the lion and the bear; and, some while after that, with Goliah, when he was a ruddy youth. Josiah, when he was but eight years old, administered the kingdom ; before he was twelve, sets upon serious reformation. Jeremiah was sanctified from the womb (Jer, i. 5). And John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb (Luke i. 41). In Job xxxii. the ancients, Job's friends, are spoken of, pleading their cause: wise young Elihu brings wiser words, and better arguments, than those that came to comfort Job. Solomon asked wisdom of God when he was young. Daniel, and his companions, those four children, as they are called, it is said the Lord filled them with wisdom above all the ancient Chaldeans (Dan. i. 17); and Timothy, the Aposile speaks of his youth, and bids him flee youthful lusts; he was young, yet very knowing, and set over the church of God. Our Lord Jesus at twelve years' old puzzled the doctors.
In ecclesiastical stories we read of one at fifteen years of age, who died with great constancy for religion in the midst of sundry tortures.
Ignatius pleads the cause of the bishop when he was but a very youth, but a man powerful in doctrine and of great wisdom; and therefore he saith, he would have them not look to his apparent youth, but to the age of his mind, to his wisdom before God. And he saith, There are many that have nothing to show for their age, but wrinkles and grey hairs. So there are many young ones, in whom there is an excellent spirit; and in all ages there are instances given of youth, of whom it may be said, that they are wise beyond their years.
For the reasons, why many times young ones may have more wisdom than those that are aged, God doth so,
First, That he might show the freedom and sovereignty of his grace. He is not bound to years, nor to the ordinary course of nature, but can work according to his own pleasure, and give a greater measure of knowledge and understanding to those that are young, and otherwise green, than he will to those that are of great age and more experience in the world. You have this reason rendered Job xxxii. 7-9, “I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom," there is the ordinary course: “But there is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise; neither do the aged understand judgment.” Though all men have reason and a spirit, yet the Spirit of God is a wind that blows where he lists. Those that exceed others in time, may come behind them in grace. He gives a greater measure many times of grace and knowledge, to show his freedom and sovereignty.
Secondly, Sometimes to manifest the power of his grace, both in the person that is endued with it, and the power of his grace upon others. As • to the person himself in whom this wisdom is found, when they are young,
the Lord doth show he can subdue them by his Spirit, and make their prejudices vanish, enlarge their understanding, and overrule their heart.
“I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one" (1 John ii. 14). In that slippery age, when lusts are boisterous, temptations most violent, and they usually uncircumspect and headstrong, and give up themselves to an ungoverned license, yet then can God subdue their hearts, and make them stand out against the snares of the Devil. And then, with respect to others, when by the foolish he will confound the wisdom of the wise, and blast the pride of man, and cast down all conceit in external privileges, and give young ones a more excellent spirit than the aged, as the Apostle intimates such a thing: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called ; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty" (1 Cor. i. 26, 27). And our Lord, “Thou bast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt. xi. 25, 26). Usually, God will do so, when he will punish the unfaithfulness of those that are in public place and office. The law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancient. God will not take the usual way and course, but will give his Spirit, and graces of his Spirit, to them, and deny it to those that should be builders. Now, what use shall we make of this?
There may be an abuse of such a point as this, and there may be a very good use.
USE I.-To prevent the abuse,
1. This is not to be taken so, but that there should be reverence showed to the aged: Elihu had waited till Job's friends had spoken, because they were elder than he (Job xxxii. 4-6). It is an abuse of men of a proud persuasion of their own knowledge and learning to despise the aged, especially when they also have a competent measure of the same Spirit. The Scripture speaks of “Paul the aged :" certainly, there is a reverence due to grey hairs; and it argues a great disorder when the staff of government is broken, and the established order is overturned; when the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient (Isa. iii. 5), and young men shall peark up to the despising of their elders. And,
2. This is not to be applied so as to prejudice the general case of consulting with the ancients, which was Rehoboam's sin; though God sometimes giveth wisdom to young men, yet the usual course is that, “I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (Job xxxii. 7). Certainly, those that are old, they are freer from passions, bettered by use and experience, and long continuance in study, have more advantages to add to their knowledge; therefore, usually, though the bodily eyes be dim, the understanding may be most clear and sharp.
USE. II. — The use in general is twofold, that young men should not be discouraged nor despised.
1. Not discouraged. We use to say, youth for strength, and age for wisdom; but if, they apply their hearts to religion, and the study of God's will, and with knowledge join practice, they may profit, and so as they may be a means to shame those that are elder, while they come behind them in many gracious endowments. They are not to be discouraged, as . if it were too soon for them to enter into a strict course, or grow eminent therein; for God may glorify himself in their sobriety, temperance, chastity,
zeal, courage, and the setting their strong and eager spirits against sin. It is a mighty honour to God, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies," &c. (Psalm viii. 2.) The graces of God in young ones, do mightily turn to the praise of his glorious grace, and God is admired in them, and it is an honour and comfort to you also: “In Christ before me” (Rom. xvi. 7); it is a just upbraiding to elder people that lie longer in sin.
2. Nor yet should youth be despised: “Let no man despise thy youth” (1 Tim. iv. 12). God's gifts should not be despised in any, nor stir up rancour: God may speak by them as he spoke by Samuel, and to Samuel when he spoke not to old Eli.
Having premised this, let me come to apply it particularly, though briefly; it conduceth then,
Ist, To the encouragement of youth, to betake themselves to the ways of God. Oh! consider! Let us begin with God betimes; do not spend your youth in vanity, but in a serious, mortified course. This is your sharp and active time, when your spirits are fresh; therefore, if your watch is set right, now you may understand more than the ancients. Give up your hearts to a religious course; let not the Devil feast upon the Power of your youth, and God be put off with the fragments and scraps of Satan's table. While you are young, take in with God: it is a great honour to God, and it will be an honour and advantage to you. When the children cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and the Pharisees reproved him for it, Christ approves of it, saying, “ Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (Matt. xxi. 15, 16.) When young ones take kindly, it is a great blessing; therefore is judgment hanging over this nation, that youth is so degenerated. Whereas, formerly, they were addicted to religion, now they are addicted to all manner of lusts and vanity. Then it would be an honour and comfort to you; the sooner we begin with God, the more we glorify God, and the more praise to God: " That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph. i. 12). They that get into Christ above others, they glorify grace above others: “Who also were in Christ before me” (Rom. xvi. 7). He that first gets into Christ, he hath the advantage of others; seniority in grace is a preferment, as well as in nature. And then it is a great advantage: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Eccl, xü. 1). When we begin betimes with God, we have more opportunity of serving and enjoying God than others have. A man should“ bear the yoke in his youth" (Lam. iii. 27). If the bent of our inclinations were set right in our youth, it would prevent much, and hinder the growth of sin. Though a man cannot plant grace in his heart, that is the Lord's own work; yet it keeps sin in, and prevents inveterate custom; for they will grow upon us; and therefore it makes for the encouragement of you, that they should sooner begin with God.
It makes for the encouragement of those that have the education of youth; as masters of families, parents, and the like. Do not say it is too soon for them to learn; no age is too soon for God: “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. iii. 15). When we suck in religion with our milk, it is a great advantage; those things we keep with us that we learn young: “ Train up a child in the way he should go; and, when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proy xxii. 6). When the new vessel is seasoned with this precious liquor, it will keep the taste;
tender twigs are bent this way, when they are as wax, capable of any impression.
Use III.-Caution for young ones. If young men should obtain this benefit to grow wiser than the aucients, notwithstanding this, yet they should learn to show reverence to the aged (Job xxxii. 4–6). And then to ascribe it to God, saith he, “ There is a spirit in man ; and the inspi. ration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (verse 8). It is not the sharpness of our wit, but the inspiration of his grace; he is the author of all this wisdom that is wrought in us.
USE IV.-To humble the aged, that have not made conscience of their time and ways, and therefore are more blockish than many children. “ There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days” (Isa. Ixv. 20); old men that are ignorant of the mysteries of faith, after they have long sat under the word of God, and have many advantages to improve their youth. “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Heb. v. 12). In this sense, God is said to take away the understanding of the aged ; that is, by a just judgment for their unfruitfulness and unprofitableness under the means of grace. They that are much younger than you, are wise in comparison of you, when they excel you for ripeness in wisdom, for solidness and settledness in manners in a course of godliness. Those old men that draw near to the grave before they have considered either the end wherefore they came into the world, or the state into which they shall be translated when they go out of it, those are children of a hundred years old, that have nothing to reckon age by but wrinkles and grey hairs.
DOCTRINE III.—That the way to increase in spiritual understanding, is to be studious in practical holiness.
The word that will give you understanding, will keep you out of all snares, sufficiently direct you to true happiness. But how shall we get it? Refer it to practice; practice what you know, and you shall know more : it must needs be so,
First, Because these are such as have God's promise: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John vii. 17). They that make conscience of their ways, season their course in the fear of God, that take God's direction with them, God will tell them, they shall know what doctrine is of God.
Secondly, They have a greater clearness of mind and understanding; therefore must needs discern holy things; why? Because they are freed from the cloud of lust and passion, which do insensibly blind, and make them stay in generals : “ Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God” (Matt. v. 8). Saith Nazianzen, Where there is purity, there is brightness; where there is a pure heart, there is a great deal more clearness in the understanding. Reason and fancy are dark, unless a man have a command over his passions and affections; over his passions of anger, fear, grief; and over his affections of love, and joy, and appetite towards sensual delights. Unless he be able to govern these things, he will never truly discern the mind of God for the seasoning his course in living a holy life. That of the Apostle is notable, “ Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge ; and to knowledge temperance” (2 Peter i. 5,6). Unless they be able to govern their affections in the use of worldly delights, pleasures,