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Early Piety the Comfort of Old Age.
A Sermon to Young People.
For thou art my hope, O Lord God : Thou art my truft from my youth.
My young friends, I may venture to fay, there is not one of you, but who wishes to live to old age. And if you desire many days, certainly you defire to see good in them all, even in the laft of them. It is not a painful and difconfolate, but a pleasant and cheerful old age, which you defire. I cannot promise you long life, continu. ed health, or great riches; nor can I assure
you, that your declining years will be free from bodily pains and worldly afflictions. But I can tell you, how old age, if you should arrive to it, may be very comfortable; yea, more so than your youth. For instruction in this matter I will refer the experience of an aged man, whose words I just now read to you. They are the words of David; and words which he wrote, when he was
old and grey headed, and when he suffered great and fore troubles. In this condition, and in this period of life, his chief comfort arose from a recollection of that course of humble piety, which commenced in early life. « Be thou my strong habitation, to which I may continually resortfor thou art my hope, O Lord ; thou art my trust from my youth.” Imitate his example ; and whatever may be your outward condition, you will experience his comforts.
“ Trust in God” supposes a full belief of his existence, perfections and government. This belief is the first principle of all religion. “He that com. eth to God, must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them who diligently seek him.”
It implies also a knowledge of those gracious promises, which he has made to those of our race and in our condition. A general knowledge of his character gives an assurance, that he will never injure us ; but without a particular discovery of his kind intentions toward us, we can feel no afsurance of positive good. For divine goodness is free ; it is under no obligations, and subject to no demands; but is exercised under the direction of sovereign wisdom. And, besure, fallen and guilty creatures, such as we are, can ground their hope of future happiness on nothing less than the promise of God, because it is inanifest that such creatures deserve punishment ; and whether this punishment may, on any terms, be remitted, none can tell, without a declaration from God himself.
God's promises are conditional; and we become interested in the blessings promised only by a compliance with the conditions required. Trust in God therefore implies a submission of heart, and a conformity of life to those rules of duty, which he has prescribed. We are required “ to trust in VOL. V.
God and do good”_"to commit ourselves to him in well doing”—“ to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." If we look for good, without applying the means to obtain it; if we expect the bounties of providence without diligence in our calling ; preservation from evil with out circumfpection in our walk; the forgiveness of our sins without repentance toward God; the presence of God's grace without calling on his name; or the final salvation of our fouls without a patient continuance in well doing; our pretended trust in God is nothing better than presumption, insult and mockery.
David fays, "Thou art my trust from my youth." He professes to have made religion his deliberate choice, the will of God the rule of his conduct, and hope in God the comfort of his foul, in that early period of life, which too often passes away in trifling and vanity.
David's history verifies his profession. He was but a youth, when he went forth to the conflict with the giant of Gath, who bade defiance to the armies of the living God. The king of Ifrael judged him too young for fuch an encounter. “ Thou art not able,” says he, “ to fight with this Philistine, for thou art a youth, and he a man of war from his youth." But David was strong in faith, and his faith he strengthened by recurrence to past experience of God's merciful protection in times of danger. He answers the king, 6. Thy servant kept his father's sheep in the wilderness ; and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock. And I went after him ; and when he arose against me, I caught him by the beard and flew him. The Lord, who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and of the beár, shall deliver me out of the hand of this Phile iftine ; and he shall be as one of tho?e.".
As David began a life of piety in youth, so he continued it to old age. He says, “ O God, thou art my trust from my youth-Thou hast taught me from my youth, and hitherto I have declared thy wonderous works.” The religious knowledge, and the pious principles, which he had early embibed, governed his conduct in all the subsequent stages of his life.
In his history we find imperfections, and one in. Itance of gross and complicated iniquity; but not any habitual vice. His great transgression was followed with a profession of deep repentancehis imperfections were occasions of godly sorrow -his infirmities called up his daily vigilance. Repentance with him was not a transient exercise, but an habitual temper. Hence he prays, “ Remember not against me the sins of my youth ; but according to thy mercy remember me for thy goodness fake, O Lord.” -“Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults ; keep back thy servant also from presumptuous fins, then thall I be innocent from the great trans. greffion." Conscious of remaining corruptions, “ he laid God's judgments before him, and watched to keep himself from his own iniquity"from the fin which most easily beset him. Senfible of his liableness to err," he thought on his ways ;” and when he found himself going astray, he stopt, and “turned his feet into God's tefti. monies; and he made hafte and delayed not to keep the commandments of God.” Distrusting his own wisdom and stability, he held his ears at. tentive to reproof, and his mind open to convic. tion. “ Let the righteous smite me," says he, “ it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break
When the prophet expoftulated with him for his great transgression, he discovered no resentment at the freedom, which his monitor used with him ; but humbly received, and honestly applied the rebuke, and penitently confessed, “I have finned against the Lord.” David did this thing secretly, and might imagine, that it remained a secret still. What inward exercises of penitence preceded the prophet's reproof, we cannot say. Now, for the first time, he was explicitly admonifhed ; now he found that his iniquity was no longer to be concealed ; now he confefsed his guilt, and declared his repentance before men.
In all his life he was distinguished by a devout spirit ; by a humble submission to divine correc. tions ; by a wise improvement, of various afflictions ; by a constant obfervance of the ways of providence ; by a faithful attendance on the worship of the fanctuary; by a conscientious performance of domestic duties ; and by a thankful acknowledgment of mercies and deliverances. Few men appear to have walked through life in such an intimate communion with God, and under such an impressive fense of God's prefence and government, as this good man, who, from his youth, had chofen God for his hope and trust.
This early choice of religion was a spring of comfort to him in his declining years. In a time of affliction he prays, “Deliver me, O my God, for thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from my childhood. My praise shall be continually of thee."
In David's example we are taught, “ that early piety lays the surest foundation for comfort in old age.
This is a truth, in which you, who are now young, are deeply concerned, and which you