To the Reader.
THE outward ornaments of Youth are Beauty, Tallness, and Strength of the Bo∣dy, but Grace and Wisdom are the ornaments of the Soul and Mind: But Beauty without Grace, is but like a fair sign that hangeth at the door of a foul house; and Witt without Grace, is but like meat that tasteth sweet in the mouth, and breedeth ill blood in the Veins: and bodily strength, and comliness of Stature without Grace, it is but like so much Moss upon the body of a Tree, when there is no fruit upon the boughs. Absalom had a fair body, and a defiled Con∣science, St. Augustin receiving a witty Epi∣stle from Licentius, a young No∣ble Man,* and perceiving he had a∣bused it too loosely, returneth this answer to him. If thou hadst found a Golden Cup, wouldst thou not have given it to some Publick use? God hath given thee a Golden Witt, a Soul of Gold, and yet thou usest it an Instrument of Sensuality; take Page [unnumbered] heed of making it a vessel of abomination, and of presenting thy Soul as a Sacrifice to Satan, Diabolus cupit a te ornari, the Devil desireth to make thee an ornament to him, and thy witt and parts, the credit of his Court and Cause: Young Men many times have sharp Witts, but as the fire, in green wood is smothered by the vapours, that it cannot shine brightly; so holy Wisdom in youth is often smothered by Tempta∣tions and Concupisences.
Naturalists say, That the Butterfly spend∣eth the most part of her Life in painting of her Wings, so do many young men in guilding of their Brains. Youth is, (as the Hebrew word signifieth) the choice age of a Mans Life:* and a young Man is called, a choice or chosen one. 1. Because a Young man was rather chosen than an Old, chosen to most employments of action, and Youth is the time which a man would chose to live in. 2. Because youth is a time wherein a Man is to chuse what course to take, and it is the choicest time for the service of God. Remember thy Creatour in the daies of thy youth, or of thy choice, saith Solomon. That is, in such daies, as either thou wouldest chuse, or else, such daies wherein thou art best able to make thy choice; then are we called upon to remember God. Take it in that double variation. 1. In such Page [unnumbered] daies, as a man would chuse, whilst things yet go well with him, before the evil daies come, &c. Flourishing Youth and true Devotion, are sel∣dom companions: Youth, (unless sanctified) is full of vanity, serious in trifles, and trifling in serious things. Or, 2. In such dayes as we are yet able to make our choice, Death bed De∣votion proveth but little worth; then do we rather dream of God, than indeed do remember him.
Good reason it is that the Young Man should remember his Creatous. 1. Because uncertain of the future of his own life, uncertain whether he shall ever live to old age; a Soul should not be hazarded upon such uncertainties. 2. Be∣cause the young man commonly forgetteth God, is most tempted by Satan, most violently hurried away with Passions. Youth is full of folly, falsehood, frowardness, of high conceits of their own worth and sufficiency; full of inordinate and excessive love of liberty; full of wantonness, it is carried with strong affections upon weak grounds; it is stubborn, impatient of counsels, and just reproofs, Jerem. 31. 18, 19. It is given to Prodigallity, Luke 15. 12, 13. It is impudent and shameless, addicted to sensuality. It is the Emblem of a Young Man, to have a wing on one Arm, as if he had a desire to fly up to Heaven: but a clog on the other arm, to shew how the vanities and pleasures of the World do Page [unnumbered] clog his desires of Heaven. 3. Or it may be Young Menare called upon to remember God, because riper age is furnished with most abilities; a strong body, a pliable mind, a riper judgment, affecti∣ons free: Religion is not of so easie a per∣formance, but it will ask a man his best. Or 4. it may be, what is gotten in Youth, sticks fastest by us, as a Vessel retaineth a long time, that odour where•with at first it was seasoned. God's service should never be given over, and there∣fore learned betimes. Nebuchadnezzar would have young Men stand before him, the King of Heaven much more. Thy Creatour will not highly value thee, unless thou hast been bred up in his presence even from thy youth.
It is a most commendable thing for Young Men to be couragious, and resolute in resisting Sin. Some Heathens and Infidels have been not able in this kind. S•. Augustin bringeth in Polemon thus speaking concerning himself.
I was an Infidel, a young Man, deprived of the Knowledg of the True God resigned over to all sorts of Intemperance,* Wine, Love, Play, Rashness, were the Chariot, which drew my Youth to downfal. I was no sooner en∣tred into the School of an Hea∣then Philosopher, But beh•ld Page [unnumbered] I was wholly changed. He upon the Words of a man, layeth down his flowery Crowns which he bare on his head, his Riots and Drunkenness.
How unseemly then is it, for Young Men that are called Christians to go on in Riot, and Wantonness, after so many enlightnings, so many forcible instructions, and so many powerful convictions and inspirations? St. Ambrose like∣wise brings in one Spurin• thus speaking. I was a Gentile, (saith she) bred in the corrup∣tion of an age, where vertue was declining, and vice on the top of the Wheel: I was endow∣ed with an excellent Beauty, which by right of natural force gave me the key of Hearts; and I seeing it was too much affected, courted by wanton eyes, and served for a stumbling-block to chastity; I purposely made scars in my face, extinguishing with my Blood the flames of those that sought me; for I loved better to seal my innocence, as, with the seal of voluntary defor∣mity, than to possess a Beauty that served only as a bait for anothers Lust. How may this give a check to the vanity of those women a∣mong us, who in their youth paint themselves with an ill intention, seeking to gain that by Imposture, which they cannot gain by truth? and not satisfying themselves by adulterating their Beauty, spare not to discover in their Breasts and Faces the Impudence of their Page [unnumbered] Fore-heads. Oh! what will such with all their curiosity, answer to this Paynim, when her Blood and Scars, her Beauty disfigured, which served as a Sacrifice to her Chastity, shall ac∣cuse them before the Tribunal of Christ!
Cassian commendeth a Christian young Man, who having renounced worldly vanities, and betaken himself to an austere kind of Life, having received a packet of Letters from his Father, and diverse of his dear Friends,* he durst not look upon them but threw them into the fire with these words: Be gone ye thoughts of my Countrey, and burn for company, for fear lest ye tempt me to look again toward the things which I have for∣saken: He feared (as the story saith,) that by the reading of their lines, and the sight of their Names, he should have been perswaded, to warp towards their Company, and the vanities of the world again.
Oh how ought all young men, that have had good education, to take heed how they abuse it, and the many instrumental means which God hath granted them for the exercise of vertue; otherwise they shall pay the loss thereof in the length of a corrupt and miserable Life, and their bones in old age, shall be filled with the follies of youth, which shall rest with them Page [unnumbered] even in their •Tombs, and drag their Souls in∣to the bottomless Precipice, from whence there is no recovery. Many young people run on in much evil in the time of youth, adding sin to sin: but (as one saith) youthful sins may prove ages terrours. Many prophane young men that drink and quaffe, play and make sport, and further one another in sin, what do they therin, but as Abner said to Joab, 2 Sam. 14. Let the young men arise, and play before us? Observe what play this was. Then there arose and went over Twelve Men of Benjamin, which pertained to Ishbosheth, the Son of Saul; and Twelve of the Servants of David, and they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his Sword into his fellows side; so they fell down together. This was their play. So it is with young men many-times, when they come into company, by their licen∣tiousness, and drawing one another to sin, what do they but take the Sword, and thrust into one anothers bowels? and Labour (what in them lieth) to destroy each other for ever?
Oh how careful should Parents be, in the well nutring and educating of their Children, who are not only the living goods, but also pieces of their Parents? In Athens it was a custom, never to pole their Children till they were taught, and then to burn their hair, as a Page [unnumbered] Sacrifice to Apollo. How should Parents take heed of cockering their Children in sinful wayes: Indulgence of Parents, is the refuge of Vanity, the bawd of Wickedness, and the bane of Children. Look well to it ye Parents, (saith St. Hierome) That your Children ca∣rouse not in the cups of Babilon. The Sin and evil examples of Parents, is like rust which cleaveth close to their Children, and the greater they are upon Earth, so much the more malice and precipitation it hath; such children will one day complain at the Tribunal of God,* of the persidiousness of their Parents, saying, our Fathers and Mothers have been our parricides, saith Cyprian.
Ye fond Parents, behold Eli the Priest, from whose lips passed so many brave Oracles, who shined in the Tabernacle of God, and in the mean time for permitting youthful follies, and •nbridled liberty in his Children, to become the Object of God's just displeasure: behold him cast from the Priest-hood, as a rotten Member, and his House deprived of that ho∣nourable dignity, and all his Posterity Con∣demned to die in the flower of their age: His two Sons Hophn and Phinehas, slayn in one day, his Daughter in Law dead in Child•bed, and the Ark of God taken by the Philistines, and Page [unnumbered] dishonoured by Infidels: And lastly, himself buried as it were, under the ruines of his Coun∣trey, as the last Victim of God•s Justice.
Eleazar is a fit pattern for all aged persons to follow, of whom mention is made in the Book of Macchabees, That being assaulted with all sorts of Batteries, Banishments, and Torments, to make him counterfeit but one sole Sin against his own Law, he said to himself, •ut alas! The whiteness of that venerable Hair with which thy head is covered, after 〈◊〉 hath grown hoary in the exercise of thy Re∣ligion, hath it not yet taught thee, where the poynt of honour lyeth? It is not enough for Eleazar not to counterfeit impiety, but to pro∣fess vertue even at the price of his Blood. Now God grant, I may not serve as a stumbling-block to the youth of this City: since God will make this day, a Theatre of my con∣stancy; I will not be-lye the Law of my Ma∣ster, nor dishonour the School in which I was bred•nd brought up.
Memorable is that story of Polycarp, that constant Martyr of Christ, and Disciple of John the Evangelist, as he was brought to the fire to be burnt, the Proconsul having most earnestly solicited him to recant, and renounce his Faith with promise of liberty, I have (said he) these Fourscore and six years served Jesus Page [unnumbered] Christ, and I ever found him a good Master; therefore, I will not now Blaspheme my King and Lord; I will never do it. Many other words of admirable constancy and fortitude were uttered, then by this old Disciple, and faithful Martyr of Jesus Christ, which made him regardless of his Life, and resolutely to suffer Death for his Name.
Let none of us then offer the blind and the lame in sacrifice to God, nor offer that to him, which we would not offer to our Prince, Mal. 1. 7. 8. This were to make God's Service a Spit∣tle-House or Hospital, to maintain us in our age, when we have spent our strength in the service of Sin and Satan. This is not to leave sin, till sin leve us. What Noble Man would be willing to give entertainment to an old serv∣ing man, that hath spent his strength in the service of his Enemy? Why then should we think, that having given the flower of our youth to the Devil, that God will accept of the bran of our old age? Therefore every one like young Timothies, and Josia's should be∣gin to serve God betimes: and all parents should present their Children to God betimes, even as Samuel, whom his Mother offered to the Lord very young, who ministred before the Lord in his side-coates. Youth is not only more capable, but more curable than old age, If sin Page [unnumbered] get hold of youth, it is more easily cured in youth, than in men that are old; as a green wound is more easily healed, than an old festered sore, which hath dead flesh in it. A man may al∣most aswel give Physick to a dead man, as cou•sel to many an old man. If sin grow to an habit and custom, custom being another nature, makes it as ordinary to men as to eat and drink. But if any of us have spent the flower of our youth in vice and vanity; Let the fruit of our age only savour of vertue. Indeed an old man of youthful behaviour, is more ridiculous than a wanton toying young man: Let every man then (especially old men) put their houses in order and prepare for Death: when Death is between their teeth, it is too late to provide remedies for the Terrours thereof.