Ecclesiastes 12. verse 1.
THe wise man having first run through the vanities of Life by his own bit∣ter experience, now also hath taken a review of them (as it seemeth) with a penitent heart, and an amazed spirit; and drawing towards a Conclusion of this Page 2 work, as a principle Master of the assemblies, desireth to leave on naile driven to the head, and well fixed in the hard heart of the youn∣ger sort; who are so possessed with those vanities of mind, which he had all this while laboured to purge, that they think themselves priviledged in youthful wantonness; and con∣ceive that all restraints of their unbridled Lust, are but the froward or envious cavills of discontented old Age, or sullen Melancholy. Therefore it was expedient, that this 〈◊〉 prejudice, whereby they hurt none so 〈◊〉 as themselves, should be removed by a co•∣trary Exhortation; strongly enforced 〈◊〉 Pen-man beyond exception, a man of gr••t∣est sufficiency every way among the Son of Adam, excepting that only Immanuel. But let them not think, that the force of this exhortation is dead with the writer, or worn out of date with age; but let them know for a certainty, that a greater than Solomon is here, that the Spirit of Truth, who liveth for ever, breatheth most Manifestly in this holy Text, who must be heard and obeyed by all that would not be found to fight against God: Let every one then, whose ears God hath opened, hear what the Spirit speaketh unto the Church in this place, and especially to the younger sort within the Church. Remem∣ber Page 3 now thy Creatour in the daies of thy youth, &c.
In which words we have first, an Exhorta∣tion, and then an enforcement of it, pressed and amplified at large in many verses follow∣ing.
In the Exhor∣tation there is
- 1. The Duty, what,
- 2. The Object, whom,
- 3. The Time, when.
1. The word [Remember] 1. implyeth much danger of, and inclination to forgetful∣ness. 2. It includeth Heart as well as Head, Affection as well as Memory.
2. The second thing, The Object [Thy Creatour,] a Word, that addeth much force to the Exhortation: Taken either absolutely, as implying the Creatour of all things whom all Creatures, at all times, must glorify in their kinds, or with special relation to those, to who the Exhortation is more particular∣ly directed: [Thy Creatour.] Remember him whom Created Thee, and hath right to thy whole Self, thy whole Life, and especi∣ally, to the best of thy Life and Strength.
3. The Third thus, In the daies of thy youth. In the daies, rather than years; for they are but a few May-daies, soon gone and vanished 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 2〈1 page duplicate〉Page 3Page 4[of thy youth.] The word in the Original, is derived from a word which signifies to chuse, and thence issueth a word signifying, a young man: and thence again, this in the Text sig∣nifying, Youth; both shewing, that younger men are the choycest of men, or should be so; and that youth is the principal and choicest part of our Life: So some render these words, [In the daies of thy youth,] in the daies of thy choyce.
The sence therefore, ye may take in these few words. O ye young men, who are of all others exceeding apt to forget him, of whom you ought to be most mindful: Let me perswade you, to know, to love, to delight in, to fear, to remember, to cleaue unto, and obey, even in the best of your time and strength, your young vigourous and flourish∣ing daies: Him, who is the great Creatour of all things: Him, who gave you in parti∣cular, that breath which is in your nostrills: Him, who gave you this heat, this strength, these Spirits, this lively temper of youth: Him, in whom you live, move, and have your being.
THese things being briefly and plainly opened, the observations which I shall make, I shall refer to two heads.
Observ. 1. That young men are especially apt to forget their Creatour.
2. That young men ought especially to re∣member their Creatour.
The first of these is certainly implyed; the second plainly expressed in the words of the Text.
Of the first; the wise man seemeth of pur∣pose, to have deferred this Memento until the latter end of his discourse, as knowing how apt the younger sort are to fail in this art of memory, concerning the best things; and hoping that of all others, a speech of fare∣well, would make some notable impression.
In this point I will shew. 1. Wherein this forgetfulnes consisteth. 2. I will prove it to be, especially incident to youth. 3. I will shew the reasons or causes of it.
I. Now for the first, that I may shew wherein forgetfulness consisteth; both reason and our own experience in the working of the powers of our Souls, shew us, That memory is properly seated in the brain; and there∣fore Page 6 that forgetfulness, is a kind of emptiness in the same place. But we must attend to those Idiomes of the Holy Ghost, who by reason of that, near knitting of all the facul∣ties of the Soul in one single root of a Spiri∣tual and Intellectual Being, doth promiscu∣ously translate the name of the one to the other, and oftentimes include all in one. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God (saith our Saviour) with all thine Heart, and with all thy Soul, &c. Math. 22. 37. Why? All the powers of the Soul are not love: There is knowledge, memory, imagination, will, fear, joy, sorrow, hatred, courage, &c. which are all distin∣guished both in their Beings, and Effects from Love. But He, in whom all the Treasures of Wisdom were hid, knew well, that when the heart by love did truly close with God, and cleave unto him, it could not leave any of its effections behind it, but all must be gi∣ven up unto him.
The Lord complaineth, Isa. 1. 3. Israel doth not know, my people do not consider. Igno∣rance was not the only sin, whereof the Lord held them guilty: but in this was included, as well want of love, of fear, of delight in God, as of knowledge of him. Not to go too far about; This forgetfulness which now we have in hand, you shall find to have the Page 7 same force in the Scripture. Psal. 137. If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right-hand for∣get her cunning. ver. 6. If I do not remem∣ber thee, let my Tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, &c. The course of the words shew manifestly, that it was not simply to remem∣ber this City and Temple which he under∣took, but to be deeply affected with its cala∣mity; for he preferred Jerusalem above his chiefest joy.
But most plainly doth Moses expound this word unto us, Deut. 8. ver. 11. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his Commandements, and his Judgments, and his Statutes, which I command thee this day. Where to forget, is as well not to embrace in affection, and not to observe in practice, as not to keep in memory. Many other exam∣ples we have of like nature, in Psal. 119. be∣sides many other Texts of Scripture. So that in a word, Forgetfulness of God, is a with∣drawing, declining, and turning aside of the Heart and Soul from God, upon Earthly things, manifested in a course of neglecting God's Service and his Commandements, and running after the vanities of this life.
II. NOw that this is especially incident to the younger sort, I wish the lamen∣table experience of all times, and of this espe∣cially, did not too much ease me of the labour in proving; yet something must be said for it according to promise. The wise man in set∣ting forth the impudency of a graceless Strum∣phet, sheweth, that young men are especially apt to forget God, and to be ensnared by her, Prov. 7. 6, 7. At the window of my house I looked through my casement, and behold among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner, and he went the way to her house, &c. These are the men, who in the pride of their youth, and heath of their Blood, value their own witts at an high rate, and think themselves the wisest in the Countrey, despise the dulness of elder years, and more setled spirits; as if wisdom were born, and should dye with them: Yet here ye may see, how the wisest of men doth censure them for fools, simple ones, void of un∣derstanding; men especially forgetful of God, of his Word, and Will: such a one was seen going toward the house of a strange Woman, Page 9 toward a Whore-house: and such are some Ale-houses frequented so much by young men; for I know none so fit to keep a Stews, as those who professedly without regard of Magistracy, Ministry, Credit, &c. do keep common shops for Drunkenness. But mark the Wisdom of our young man, 21. 22, 23. With much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him: he goeth after her straight way, as an Oxe go∣eth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correcti∣on of the stocks: till a dart strike through his liver, as a bird hasteth to the snare, and know∣eth not, that it is for his life. She filled his head with her prateing and enticeing speech∣es, and put better things out of his mind: She caused him to forget God, and cast his fear behind his back, so she carried him cap∣tive in the bonds of lust, and driveth him as an Oxe to the slaughter, and as a fool to the correction of the stocks, &c. So the wise man in Eccles. 11. 9. Sheweth, the solly and forgetfulness of young men, where by way of Irony, and in an holy scorn, he bideth them do that which they will do, though ne∣ver so much forbidden and threatned. Re∣joyce O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the daies of thy youth.] put God the Judge of all the World out of thy Page 10 thoughts, lay aside all sad remembrance of the last Judgment, let none of these Melan∣cholick passions any whit interrupt thy youth∣ful delights; walk in the waies of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes.] Follow thy lusts, and senses like the bruit beasts, and for∣get all that will follow, even as if thy Soul should vanish away in the ayr at the hour of thy Death, like the breath of a Beast, with∣out hope of Joy, or fear of Vengence in ano∣ther World. By this irronical concession he giveth us an excellent description of the brutish and sensual forgetfulness of the youn∣ger sort, minding present things with the full bent of their Souls, and never seriously look∣ing towards the things that are above. But what is the issue? but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee to Judgment]
Even these things which thou makest no∣thing off, as pardonable Errours of youth; shall be scanned in the impartial judgement of God, and he will bring thee to Judgment for them all.
III. IN the next place I am to shew the cau∣ses of this forgetfulness in the youn∣ger sort, and here it were but an idle piece of Page 11 Philosophy to ascribe it to the natural moi∣sture and fluid temper of their brains, where∣by the impressions of things are presently dissolved, like letters written in the water. No; this forgetfulness is as well in the heart as in the brain, and requireth a further search into it's causes.
1. In the first place then, one special cause is, a fleshly confidence in the natural strength of body, and hope of long life. They look at Death as a thing afar off, even out of sight; and therefore suffer not the apprehension of it to make any such impression upon them, as in any degree to lessen that carnal, sensual con∣tent, which they take in the glut of earthly Vanities. The blind Worldling, when his barnes were full, blessed himself in his own conceited happiness; Soul take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many years. But these persons think they have the advantage of him; for whereas his Soul that night was to be taken from his goods; they think they have life in store for many years, an so with the unfaithful servant conclude, that their Master will defer his coming, and they may safely delay their Repentance, and put him out of their remembrance. As Gaal, and the men of Shechem, could eat and drink, and curse Abimilech, because they thought he Page 12 was not near them, though he was nearer than they were aware: so the younger sort can satisfy their lusts, and please themselves, and do what they will, scorning all admoni∣tions or threatnings of Death; because they think it not neer unto them: Whereas per∣haps Death (as the punishment of Sin) lyeth at their door, and will be found to have way-laid them in the midst of their vanities; and to cut them off in the midst of their strength and sins. Strength, Health, abundance of Spirits, freedom from aches, pains, and bodi∣ly distempers, do put Death out of their thoughts, and they will leave crooked and way-ward old age to vex it self with pensive remembrances of the Grave.
2. The lively vigour of youth, filleth them with a kind of carnal self-content, and maketh them please themselves in themselves, and so to feel no need they have of happiness, and of delighting themselves in the Lord; and therefore to neglect and forget their Creatour. Oh they think they are absolute men, they are as they desire to be, and cannot wish to be better; their blood hath free passage in their veins, their Spirits in their Arteries without obstructions, they are lively, amiable, merry, jovial, free from wants, fears, sorrows, trou∣bles: and (as Job describeth the young gal∣gallant) Page 13His Breasts are full of milk, and his Bones are mositned with marrow: thy are wholly at ease and quiet, and therefore God is not in all their thoughts.
3. This lusty youthful temper makes them every way more sensible, and capable of earthly delights, and pleasures, and so more apt to forget their Creatour and his service. Old Barzillai knew not what to do at Court, 2 Sam. 19. 35. I am this day Four score years old, and can I discorn between good and evil? Can thy servant (saith he to King David) Taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burthen unto my Lord the King? Old Age is not sensible, nor capable of many de∣lights, which younger persons take in with greediness. No carnal pleasure but it suiteth with their dispositions, they have a temper fit∣ted to all fleshly delights, and so can please their wanton appetites with variety of dishes; that is, their diverse lusts with variety of flesh∣ly delights, and in this case, no wonder though they forget their Creatour, when by reason of the constitution of their bodies peculiar to that age, they can so many wayes please them∣selves in the Creature. Men naturally for∣get God, untill they need him: But the Page 14 young man in his prime, finding so much be∣low in the earth, which ministreth matter of contentment to him, apprehendeth no pre∣sent need of him that made him, and so mind∣eth him not, unless the Lord open his eyes, and cause him to see the emptiness and vani∣ty of these things, and his own miserable fol∣ly in resting his Soul upon them.
4. A Fourth cause is, want of experience in the uncertain condition of earthly things. Young Men are in the Spring of their lives and pleasures, and know not yet what a Win∣ter meaneth. They have not yet (for the most part) been beaten off from their pleasing folly by any notable change of estate; they know not what sorrow meaneth, and so they securely promise themselves a continuance of this seeming happiness, and forget God; as not perceiving any special need of him. They hope to speed as well as they have done, and so long they care not. Those crosses which sometime befall the younger sort, may for the present make them exceeding passionate, but they are soon vanished, and no print of their foot-steps remaineth behind them; their de∣lights are after a while, never awhit embitte∣red by them: and thus forgetting their crosses, they become forgetful of their God, and that account which must be rendred to him: you Page 15 see how easie it is for youth, to spin a snare wherein to entangle it self, even out of its own bowels,
BUt left this should not hold them fast enough, Satan hath other instruments to help twist the threds; many wicked wretches there are in the world, who help them forward in their misery.
1. Want of care, and conscience in Pa∣rents, not obeying the charge of the Apostle, which is to bring up their Children in the nur∣ture and admonition of the Lord, Ephes. 6. 4. Not imitating the Father of the Faithful in the fruits of his Faith, Gen. 18. 19. In commanding their Children, and houshold af∣ter them, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do Judgment and Justice: Not tak∣ing advice of Solomon, who counselleth them to teach their Children in the trade wherein they should go, and giveth an hopeful promise for encouragement, That they will not de∣part from it when they are old, Prov. 22, 6. Not looking with a single eye, at the glory of God, nor with a tender eye, on the poor souls of their Children; to whom deriving mise∣ry from their own Loyns, they take no care to cure them of it.
2. The evil examples which even Parents Page 16 themselves give unto their Children, many of them in their ripest, yea in their rotten years, returning to the sins of youth, or (at least) glorifying in them, even in the hearing of their Children. How many young men are Drunk∣ards, Swearers, Unclean Persons, Scoffers at Holiness, Contemners of the Word even by Succession and Inheritance? The Son hear∣eth his Father Swear, he heareth him use fil∣thy communication; he seeth the old Beast come home Drunken, and who can wonder, though he forgeteth his Creatour, whom he hath not seen, whiles he findeth such wicked∣ness in his Father whom he daily seeth? or if they scorn such boys-play, yet many times by that aged Sin of Covetousness, they shewing themselves dead-hearted towards God, cold, careless in his services, not fee∣lingly and zealously mindful of his glory, teach their Children to forget him that made them, though they differ in those things, which they embrace. The very example of a coveous Father, may make a Son riotous, by teaching him to fall off from God; and then his heart will cleave to that which is most su∣itable to it. The Father's example setteth him out of the right way; and his own pecu∣liar lusts, and distempered passions carrying him in such a by-path, as best fiteth his own Page 17 foot; whereas, many times the Father is dis∣pleased, not because it is a wrong way, but because it is not his own; not because it is contrary to the wayes of God, but because it crosseth his wayes: no because it is more sinful, but more chargeable than his own course, which is most pleasing to him.
3. The neglect of Religious duties in the Fathers Family, is the ready way to make the Son unmindful of him that made him. When Christ hath no Church, but Mammon hath his Chappel in the house; when there is no serious remembrance of God from one end of the year to the other in effectual prayers, in constant reading of the Word, in whetting it on (as Moses speaketh) by re∣petitions, pious and seasonable admonitions, when the Lord hath no entertainment there, it is no marvel to find the younger sort for∣getful of God.
BUt besides these faults in Parents, many others will help to build up Satans Kingdom, upon the ruines of the younger sort, As,
1. Their own equalls in years, by whom they shall be drawn into the same excess of riot, which the others have followed. For as Satan himself being fallen, could not en∣dure Page 18 to lye alone, but sought companions in wickedness and wretchedness, so he instilleth the same disposition into those who are caught in his nects. These therefore partly by hel∣lish scoffs at those, who even out of ingenu∣ity, or good education, loath their courses at the first; partly by pleasing insinuations, smooth language, especially by that 〈◊〉 name of good fellow-ship, wherewith the Fa∣ther of lies hath sought to grace one of his own occupations, do hale others with them in the same wayes of Destruction; and be∣ing joyned together in a wretched society, by lewd and lustful songs, scurril jests, abusive speeches, loud laughter; ruffian-like out∣faceing better and wiser men than them∣selves, they encourage each others, they har∣den their hearts, they drown the voice of Conscience, they contemn the Word of God they fight against Heaven with prophane and horrible Oathes, and (as it were) seal al• their leagues of pretended good-fellow-ship even with a resolved 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a decreed for∣getfulness of God, and so of godliness, o• Death and of Judgment to come, wherewith St. Paul made even his Heathen Judge to shake, as he sate upon the Bench.
2. Secondly, and especially, a company o• grounded Drunkards, that are up and down i•Page 19 the Countrey, old Sotts that are setled upon their lees, who know almost every corner in every common or blind Ale-house, as well as the rooms in their own houses and ne∣ver think themselves so well at home, as in a Tap-house. Oh, how do these work about to poyson the youth of our age, and to make them (like themselves) the children of hell! who by the assistance of the Devil abuse their old crafty pates, to ensnare young heedless Souls, and to bring in Captives to the Prince of Darkness. Doth not the same doom be∣long unto these, which was due to Elymas the Sorcerer, for seeking to turn away the deputy from the truth? to whom St. Paul himself used this language, Thou Child of the Devil, and enemy of all goodness, wilt thou not cease to perven•• the streight wayes of the Lord? Do not these by the enchantment of their fawning tongues bewitch green years, and cast them into a dead sleep of security and forgetfulness of God? Oh that mise∣rable experience did not prove my words too mild! which yet some, that in their own cau∣ses can be merciles, perhaps will accuse me of too much roughness. But who can for∣bear, when he seeth them to be the very Emi∣ssaries of Hell, and (as I may so speak) Ipsi∣us ebrietatis leannes, the very Panders or Page 20 Bawds for Drunkenness, an inferiour sort of Tempters or Devils, Satan's under-Officers, and Factors for the Land of Darkness, who are not content to go to Hell without a Troop at their heels, as if it were not sufficient for them to be guilty of destroying their own Souls, unless they have many more Murthers of the same kind, to be put into the same In∣dictment. I tell you, who soever ye are, your society is more to be shunned, than his that hath a Plague-sore upon his body; ye are to be poynted at, and accounted by all that know you, as the very Mothes that fret the newest and the strongest Cloth, Juventutis pestes The very bane of youth, and the cor∣rupters of the next age, which shall then arise, when your bodies are rotten under ground: yea, the sins you now set in a course, may stream down unto the end o• the World, whilst they that are infected b• you, shall infect others, and so again suc∣cessively; so that by this means ye may b• guilty of those sins which shall be commit∣ted many hundred years hence, if the World so long continue.
3. Those Ale-house-keepers, who giv• way to all manner of excess in their houses whose Motto may be Lucri bonus odor, &c. In whose ears Swearing is good Musick▪ Page 21 in whose eyes beastly vomits are a pleasing spectacle, and the Lords day, a fit time for tipling and swilling with greediness, so that they may take mony, feed higher, go braver, and look bigger than men of more worth, and better employment: These have their trains to draw on the younger sort, who know not that their houses go down to the chamber of Death.
4 Those Magistrates and Officers cannot by any means be excused, under whom these youthful sins grows• fast, whiles they hold the Sword (that is put in to their hands) rusting in the sheath, where is the Spirit and cou∣rage that should be in these, that are the ve∣ry Triarii in the armies of the Lord of Hosts, the stoutest and choicest Soldiers? Are ye afraid of those who are but Lixae & calones, Scullions and Tapsters under Satans Banner? should such Men as ye fly or fear, and not dare to face those, who at the most are but Milites levis armaturae, Souldiers lightly armed, as I may so speak? What can they do against a Justice of the Peace, a Consta∣ble, or an Head-borough, more than let flye their Arrows, even bitter words? I know not what policy is in this connivance, unless it be to leave the envy and burthen upon us of the Ministry, whiles we alone fight against these Page 22 things with the Sword of the Spirit. But if ye refuse utterly to joyne with us in bear∣ing your part of the burthen, you must not look to share in the reward. I desire above all, that you would let the honour of God prevail with you, your Charge, your Oathes; but if these things move not, take heed lest the Lord repay you in your own Coyn; and whiles you tender not the Glory of God, nor the good of the younger sort in general by restraining their licentious meetings, by informing against or punishing those that en∣tertain them, he may justly leave your own Children to be thus corrupted, or at least your Childrens Children of the third or fourth Ge∣neration. The Lord give you zeal and cou∣rage, that you may not have your portion without among the fearful.
Vse. LEt me speak a few words to you that are of the younger sort. When so∣ever you see a young Man or Maid carried to their graves, that spectacle of Mortality for∣bids you to be forgetful of your Creatour in any Age or part of your Life. Look upon that Coffin that holdeth a body young, and very lately strong in constitution, and let it be unto thee, O young Man, an use of in∣structio•, n•t to trust to long life in the heat Page 23 of thy youth, or the best of thy strength; not to please thy self in a self-content arising out of thine own form, youthful, lively temper, not to magnify thine happiness, in regard of a seeming advantage which thou thinkest thou hast of old age, in being more capable of carnal delights than it; that thou art able to take in more of the Devils baits, which he never casteth forth without an hook. Let it teach thee not to hearken to the entice∣ments of Sinners, old or young, nor to think that house of all others the best adorned, that hath a Sign-post.
Let it reprove thy great forgetfulness of thy Creatour, in the daies of thy youth; Let it strike a deep apprehension into thine heart of the necessity of present repentance with∣out all delay; and let this so work upon thee, and stick by thee, that no potts m•y wash it off, nor no loud Ale-house clamours may drown the voice of thy Conscience, when it shall bring this to thy remembrance. Oh let not Satan bewitch thee! Weart thou as certain of a long life, as thou art uncertain, yet canst thou not possible be certain of the grace of Repentance, which is a rare gift; and (I am perswaded) seldome bestowed in decrepit years, where it hath been rejected in the more able age; especially by such, as Page 24 all their time have lived under a faithful and convincing Ministry. Doth the Apostle say, That the Gentiles were given up to a repro∣bate sence, because they did with-hold the truth in unrighteousness, going on in those unrighteous courses, which the Light of Truth Manifested to them by the works of Creation, did discover and Condemn? How much more mayst •hou tremble at this dreadful Judgment, who continuest in the pride of thy youth to sin with greediness, against that Light of the Word, which shineth unto thee farr more brightly, than that twilight of Na∣ture. The Lord make you wise unto Sal∣vation, and suffer you not with blind eyes, and obstinate Spirits, to run upon your own Destruction, forgeting him that made you; puting off the remembrance of your latter end, pass•••〈◊〉 in a dead sleep of present im∣pen••er 〈…〉 selfe dream of future 〈…〉 very flashes of Hell-fire 〈…〉 which the Lord preserve you, 〈…〉 of your Conscien∣ces, through 〈…〉 and Grace, that ye may not sleep 〈…〉 of everlasting Death.