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authority is relinquished, and no other control is usually attempted than that of counsel and remonstrance; the appeal is made to his judgment, and to his conscience; he follows the dictates of his own mind; and if he perish, his blood is on his own head.
That the young man must flee youthful lusts, that he cannot escape the awful punishments of an offended God, under the plea of his being led into sin by his passions, is evident from the words of the text. And as no plea is more common than the difficulty, nay, almost impossibility, of a young man being able to follow a course of holiness, and preserve his body in that subjection, which shall make it a fit habitation for the Holy Spirit of God, and shall save it from the consequences of that terrible judgment, which is declared in the text; it obviously claims our immediate notice. This plea stands on the very threshold of our subject, and must be overthrown before we can enter upon it. For it will be utterly useless to point out the dangers and advantages of the young man's situation, if he is prepossessed with an opinion, that he can neither escape the former, nor avail himself of the latter, to any effectual purpose. He who fancies what is required to be almost impossible, will be likely to refuse it altogether, or at least to put it off to some “ more convenient season."
I shall, therefore, begin with showing, that it is quite in the power of the young man not to “ walk
in the ways of his heart;" and what he sees to be possible, he may set about performing heartily, and with good courage. It is not meant to be affirmed, that the
young man can be entirely free from the errors and sins into which, from the imperfection and corruption of our nature, he is continually liable to be betrayed ; but he may, by a due exertion, and a proper use of the means of grace, which in mercy are granted him, he may, by these, withdraw himself from occasional snares, recover from sudden falls, and avoid the dominion of habitual and flagrant wickedness.
1st. The first argument in proof of this may be drawn from the purpose, and comprehensive nature of the Gospel of Christ. He came into the world to call all men to repentance; no age is excepted; the invitation to come to the waters, is to all that thirst; the exhortation to put off the deceitful lusts, to shake off the bondage of sin, and to serve the living God, is universal. And the Gospel is styled
grace of God, which bringeth salvation to all men 1. Under it are “ given to us all things, that pertain unto life, and godliness, through the knowledge of Him, that hath called us to glory and virtue. Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust ?.”
1 Titus ii. 11.
2 1 Pet. i. 3, 4.
Christ, therefore, considers all as capable of being His disciples, in word and in deed; and excludes not even young children from coming unto Him, and being partakers of the kingdom of heaven. In conformity with this design of the Gospel, and with the conclusion deduced from it, that the
young man may frame his life according to its dictates, we have,
2dly, Instances, and many instances are upon record, of young persons who have overcome the temptations and lusts, so powerful at this time of life, and distinguished themselves by their obedience to the commandments of God, and their devotion to the cause of holiness.
We have already noticed the cases of Samuel and Josiah, who, from their earliest age, were distinguished for their piety and virtue. Moses appears, from the time he came to years of discretion, to have immediately embraced that faith, for which he is mentioned with honour by St. Paul, and by which he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”
Hezekiah, also, is another example, not only of a young man, but of a young king, amidst all the luxuries and temptations of a court, becoming eminent for his piety, and his love and patronage of religion.
If we proceed to the New Testament, we shall also find many similar examples equally encouraging as establishing the fact, that the subduing of youthful lusts, and the most devoted attachment to religion, are not at all impossible or unusual at the age we are speaking of. John the Baptist, though but a young man, obeyed the motions of the Spirit, quitted the cheerful haunts of society, dwelt in the wilderness, and submitted to all the privations and austerities requisite for adapting him to sustain the character, which the spirit of prophecy had marked out for him. Young as he was, he forsook all to be the messenger before Jesus, and to prepare his way. Boldly, and fearlessly did he preach repentance to all; unsparingly, and without respect of persons, did he rebuke vice, and called upon all to forsake their sins, and come to the light of the Gospel. His namesake, John the Evangelist, the faithful witness, the beloved disciple of his Master, was another instance of a young man forsaking all, to follow Jesus. Even the rich young man, whose failure in one point is recorded in the Gospel, is an example of the possibility of a young man subduing many passions. For in many points he had made such proficiency, that Jesus loved him, and told him there was only one thing more which was wanting in him. In that one thing, indeed, he would not make the required sacrifice; but the request of Jesus shows, that it was in his power to do so; for Jesus was a Master too just and too gracious to
desire any thing impossible from his servants. I will only notice one more example, out of the numbers which might be adduced, and that is the case of Timothy, who, though a young man, was so distinguished for his piety and virtues, that St. Paul invested him with the office of Bishop, and both reposed in him the greatest confidence, and felt for him the warmest affection. He congratulates him upon his early knowledge of those Scriptures, which are able to make us “wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” And he thus describes the natural tendency of being well versed in the Scriptures, and the effects which they may reasonably be expected to produce in the young, as well as in the old. “ All Scripture,” he says, “ is given by inspiration, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be throughly furnished unto all good works.”
These advantages they offer to all who are willing to embrace them, and St. John addresses his young converts as having embraced them. “ I write,” he says, “ to you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one;" and again, “ 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.”
And in every period of the world many bright examples have shone forth, of young men eminent in virtue, and in the practice and faith of the Gospel