A MEMENTO To Young and Old,
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 But let them not think, that the force of this exhortation is dead with the writer, or worn out of date with age; but let them know for a certainty, that a greater than Solomon is here, that the Spirit of Truth, who liveth for ever, breatheth most Manifestly in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.
Eccles. 12. 1.
HAving spoken of the former point, I pro∣ceed unto the Second.
Observ. That young men ought especially, to Remember their Creatour in the daies of their youth. What it is to remember, (in the language of the holy Ghost) you may gather by that which I spake of the contrary, in opening the former point; where I shewed you, That this remembrance is not only of the brain, but of the heart, together with the head, implying affections as well as memory, and such as are powerful, Manifesting them∣selves in answerable Practices. So that, as to forget God, is a with-drawing, declining, and turning the heart aside from God; so to remember God, is a cleaving of the heart to him in love, whereby all the Powers of the Soul are given up to him, waiting upon his Will in an holy attendance upon the di∣rections of his Word, readily practising what∣soever he commandeth, and carefully shun∣ing whatsoever he forbideth. We read Page 26Num. 15. 38, 39, 40. That the Lord would have the people of Israel to have fringes on their Garments, that they might remember his Commandments: but not barely to keep them in their memories, but (saith he). That ye may remember, and do all my Commande∣ments, and be holy unto your God. An effectu∣al remembrance that should work upon the affections, and make them holy, that should shape them out an holy course of Life, and make them do all that the Lord had Com∣manded. This doth the Scripture in speci∣al manner require of young men. Psal. 119. 9. Where-withal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto, according to thy Word.
THis Point may be made more plain by Reasons.
Reason 1. The former Point shall be a Reason of this: Young Men are especially apt to forget their Maker; and therefore, young Men ought to be especially careful to remember him. The greater defect there is in any, the greater care is required in supply∣ing that defect. The stronger inclination there is to any sin, the greater watchfulness there ought to be in resisting and subduing that sin. The more unapt and sluggish we Page 27 are towards any duty, the more careful should we be to quicken and encourage our selves to that duty. The weakest parts of a City have special need of guarding. Men that have but weak memories, and have much dealings in the World, are so much the more careful to use their Pens, and commit such things to books and memorials; with which, if they should trust their memories, they would de∣ceive them. So especially in heavenly things; the more apt young Men are to forget their Creatour, the more careful should they be to remember their Maker, because their affecti∣ons are violent; because they are apt to be blinded with a fleshly confidence in youth and strength of body: because they are apt to doate with a carnal complacency upon the natural vigour of their youthful temper; be∣cause they are more capable of carnal plea∣sures, than the elder sort: because there are so many snares laid for them, above others; by all which means, they are apt to lose the best and happiest use of their memories, and to live in a sensual forgetfulness of, and neg∣lect of their God, and Creatour: therefore, should they with a double care and watchful∣ness, endeavour to stirr up their hearts to a conscionable, and affectionate remembrance of their Maker.
Page 28 2. We may also gather a reason from the second word in my Text.
[Now] Remember now &c. which noreth a special excellency of this time above others. As if he had said; Now is the chief time wherein thou mayst do God best Service, So then young men ought especially, to re∣member their Creatour, because, Now in their young daies, is the chiefest and choyce∣est time, wherein they may glorifie their God, and do him acceptable Service. Remem∣ber now, while sin is but budding, whiles cor∣ruptions are but twiggs, while lust is but con∣ceiving; while passion and anger is but a green wound, not festered and turned into a setled and cankered malice, and revengeful disposition. Now, whiles thy senses are quick, thy spirits lively, thy temper healthy, thy bo∣dy strong; while thy blood is warm, and eve∣ry part is fit for that imployment, for which it was ordained. Now, shew they self mind∣ful of thy Creatour, careful of his service, respectful of his Glory. Now, thou canst do something for him, Now, is the time wherein thou art able, and therefore Now especially thou must remember him.
3. This word [Now] may seem to imply somewhat more, viz. That this which is here required must be done, now or never. True Page 29 it is, some few may be converted in their elder years, who in their youth, were forget∣ful of their Maker; but ye must observe, that here the Lord requireth of every one, that he should give up the strength, the morning, the freshest and principal part of his life un∣to him, and his service. Now, this can ne∣ver be done but in youth; and he that spend∣eth his youth in sin and impenitency, can ne∣ver perform this work; he can never give up his strength, and the best of his time to God. The Lord saith, Remember ye keep holy the Sabbath day; this should be presently done without delay; but yet, some who have been careless prophaners of the Lords day, have afterwards been conscionable observers of it. But when the Lord saith, Remember your Creatour in youth, this cannot be done but in youth. He that spendeth his youth in impe∣nitency and ungodliness, can never afterwards give up his youth, and the strength thereof unto God. Under the Law, the Lord re∣quired the best of the Flock for Sacrifice; Now, he that should sell or kill all the best, and leave none but the old, the starveling, the blind, the lame, &c. That man could ne∣ver obey the Commandment; so when the Lord biddeth us to remember to give up our youth to him; if we spend this and our Page 30 strength in sin, we can never obey this Com∣mandment, for that time and strength is gone, and our importent time, crazy, drowsy old age is left.
4. From this Word [Creatour] God made all things for his glory, and the more excel∣lent any Creature is, either in regard of its specifical nature or kind, or in regard of its particular qualities and excellencies, the more is it tyed to glorify God that made it such. So among all earthly Creatures, Man being made of the most excellent nature, is most straitly tyed to glorify God the Creatour. And among Men, such as are in their youth and strength, being endowed with the most excel∣lent abilities, ought more especially to re∣member him.
5. Consider these Words, [Thy Creatour] God is the Creatour of young Men, as young Men. He did nor only give thee the being of a Man, but the years, the life, the health, the strength, the vigour of a young Man. He is the Author of thy youth, the Creatour of thy strength, he is thy Creatour in special; he hath now Created that strength, and ability in thee, which he hath not yet Created in Chil∣dren, that which he hath taken from old Men. Thou hast that work of his now wrought up∣on, and she•ing it self in thee, which is not Page 31 in others; and therefore, Remember thy Cre∣atour, that hath Created that hot Blood, that warmeth thy heart, that quickness of appre∣hension, and those lively Spirits that are with∣in thee.
6. Consider these Words [In the dayes of thy youth,] daies and not years, daies and not nights. Thy youth is but a few May-daies, it will presently be gone; and therefore in those few daies, that short time, thou should∣est give up thy self to thy Creatour. Could not ye Watch with me one hour? a just reproof of our Saviour to his sleepy Disciples. Could ye not afford me a few daies? a just reproof of all silly souls, who are not wise unto Salvation, and think their youth too good, too much to be given up to God. It is not three hundred years that the Lord asketh at thy hands, as at Henoch's; nor Nine hundred and upwards, as he required of other Patriaches, but a few daies of youth. Dai•s, and not Nights.] The times of youth, consist of Daies; then is the Sun-shine, the Night follow, dark times of old age; aches, weakness, sickness, sleepi∣ness. Now because these are Daies, they must be given up to God, who is Light; and not to the Devil, who is the Prince of Dark∣ness: not to sins, which are works of Darkness. This is gross folly to give the Page 32 Days of youth to Satan, and to leave the dimme evening of our old declining age to God; to give the good, the best daies to Satan, and the evil daies (as they are called after¦wards) yea the worst to God.
Vse. 1. THis sheweth the great folly of young Men, who think (of all others in a Congregation) that they have least reason to give any special heed, and yield obedience unto the Word Preached. Old Men (they think) had need to look about them, they smell of the Winding-sheet, the Grave groaneth for them, an earthy cold be∣numeth their Limbs, the beginnings of death are already upon them, and have taken deep possession of them: but as for themselves, they are full of Life, and feel no messengers of Death: Life aboundeth in their Blood, in their Spirits, it is strongly seated in their Bones, it beateth in their pulses, it looketh out at their eyes, and shineth in their faces: there is no sign, no shew of Death. Alass, poor souls! Death doth not alwayes give any long time of warning, it maketh many sudden surprizals, as well as tedious and lin∣gring seiges. It hangeth up young Absalom invironed with his Warlike troops; it shed∣deth Page 33 young Amnon's blood in the midst of his Cups; while Jobs Sons and his Daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest Brothers house, there came a great wind from the Wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and f•ll upon the young Men, and they dyed, Job 1. 18, 19. In one night Death sl•yeth the Sons and Heirs of Pha∣raoh, and of all the Egyptians; so that there was scarce one house, where there was not one young Man dead.
How often hath the supream Lord of Life and Death taught us by evident examples, that no age is priv•ledged, no years are ex∣empted; that the youngest cannot promise himself another year, another day, or hour? ye that sit here old and young, who knoweth when, or where the next blow will light? Sin hath perverted the order of Nature, and put it out of course; and therefore ye must not look, that the same order should be kept in passing out, which was in coming into the World; and that those who came first, should alwaies leave those behind them, which were born after them. The Son dyeth before the Father, the Nephew before the Grand-father, the Young before the Old, the Heir before him that is in possession. Sin hath let in Death into the World, and that cometh in as an Page 34 Enemy, not upon parly and conditions, b•• as a Conqueror by a forcible entry, and 〈◊〉 sacketh this City of the World, and maketh no difference of Sex or Age, but kille• and striketh on the right han•, and on th• left, It hearkneth to no such plea: The•• is an elder man, There is a Woman that 〈◊〉 old when I was a Child; let me alone, I am content to yield when mine Auntients a•• gone before me: No, if I will that he 〈◊〉 what is that to thee? follow thou m• Some daies in the year, are not near so lo•• as some others. Some mens lives will b• reach the middle of some others, their 〈◊〉 setteth at noon, and the night is come upo• them before they have begun their da••• work. Therefore let young men learn wi•∣dom from the wise man; yea, from the Sp•∣rit speaking in this Text, Remembering the Creatour, in the daies of their Youth. And 〈◊〉 thou, O young Man! whatsoever thou hea••∣est, concerning the wayes of God; thin• that whatsoever remembrances, are delive•∣ed from the Word, to put thee in mind of 〈◊〉Creatour, that they concern thee in especial. 〈◊〉 there were none but young Men in a Parist that place should have special need of th• Word of God. If there were no gray-he•• in a Congregation, yet there is need of sp•∣cial Page 35 Exhortations from the Word, to mind such of their Creatour. If thou hearest of present Repentance, conceive that it is spo∣ken to thee. If the danger of continuing in sin, and delaying conversion be set for•h in the Ministry of the Word, know that this belongeth to thee in special manner, who art in the daies of thy youth. If thou hearest the charge of our Saviour, Watch therefore, left at any time your hearts be overcome with Surfeiting and Drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you una∣wares, Luk. 21. 34. Know, that this is spo∣ken unto thee, and that thou in thy youth, must not at any time give way to these things; no, not when friends meet, nor when thou art urged, and haled to it. When Solo∣mon saith, My Son, when sinners entice thee, consent thou not Prov. 1. 10. Think that he speaketh to thee. Whom doth the Com∣pellation [My Son] better befit than the young Man? when St. Paul saith, God hath not called us unto uncle anness, but unto holiness; that every one of us should possess his vessel in sanctification and in honour, not in the lust of Concupisence, &c. 1. These 4. 4, 5. Believe 〈◊〉, that he speaketh unto thee, who art in thy youth; wherein he speaketh most plainly. 2 Tim. 2. 22. Fly also youthful Lusts.
Use 2. THis also sheweth another not able Errour of young Men, who think they may freely take that liberty which other• may not, and walk more at large, than thos• of elder years. Ye see the holy Ghost crosse this conceit, and calleth upon young Me• more especially, to Remember their Creatou• Know therefore, That when our Saviour saith Enter in at the strait Gate, He speake• unto you that are young, and requireth th• of you in your youth as well as any othe• He directeth both old and young to com• this way to Heaven; for broad is the way, an• wide is the Gate that leadeth to Destruction and many there be which go in thereat: becau•• strait is the Gate, and narrow is the wa• which leadeth unto Life, and few there be th• find it, Mat. 7. 13, Our Saviour charge• all to leave the broad way, that will not 〈◊〉 into Destruction; and therefore for youn• Men to think, that they may walk at large, an• follow their Lusts, is to imagine, that the• have liberty, to run into Damnation. Ther• is but one way, (and that is a narrow one but one Gate, (and that is a strait one) tha• leadeth unto Life; and they that would liv• for ever, must enter into Life by this strai•Page 37 Gate, and narrow way, whether young or old. If ye would know what allowance ye have in this kind, it is no more than that which Solomon giveth in Eccles. 11. 9. Rejoyce O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart chear thee in the daies of thy youth. Take thy plea∣sure; but so, that thou make sure account for all these vanities and sicentiousness of youth, to give a most strict account at the day of Judgment. If thou wi•t tipple, if thou wilt swear, if thou w•lt ••le away thy time, &c. know for a certain, that God will bring thee to Judgment for all these things.
Was it not to a young M•n that our Sa∣viour spake, when he said, Go and sell all that thou hast, give to the poor, and follow me? Mar. 19. 21, 22. Here was a narrow way, and yet this was required of a young Man, if he would be saved. And though h• were young, yet could he get no release of our Sa∣viour, but he goeth away with a sad and sor∣rowful heart. The like in effect, saith our Saviour to every young Man; sell all that thou hast: do away thy Lusts, put away thy Drunkenness, cast off Lying, Swearing, Idle∣ness, Pride, Vanities, and follow me. The way of Christ is the strictest 〈◊〉, the nar∣rowest path that ever Man went. Now Christ will have young Men follow him, and keep Page 38 their feet in the narrow way which he hath gone before, and tread in his steps. I hope none will be so Blasphemous, as to say, that Christ did take this licentious course, which young Men think they may take. Well then if thou wilt enter into life, thou must follow him, and go in that narrow path wherein he walked. It is to be observed, that Christ was young, and dyed young; therefore if ye that are young, look for Salvation by him, ye must follow him, in those waies of his youth. All those good works, all that ho∣l•ness, whereby he fulfilled all righteousness, these were the practises of his youth; if then ye will have him for your Saviour, who walk∣ed thus in his youth, ye must follow him in your youth. Christ went about doing good, and thinkest thou, that thou maist go about doing evil, that thou maist run about hunting after idle meetings, and ill company because thou art young, and in the flower of thy youth? No, Christ was young, when he went about doing good, Act. 10. 38. And therefore if thou takest liberty to go about doing evil, because thou art young, thou art no Disciple of Christ.
Use 3. LEt me exhort you that are young, That ye would effectually lay to heart these words of the holy-Ghost. Re∣member now thy Creatour in the daies of thy youth.] Oh that you would now enter into a Covenant with the Lord, and bind your selves resolvedly to seek your Creatour! To you that are young the Spirit of God here speaketh: Oh take heed of despising him that speaketh from heaven, because of your youth; but hear him so much the rather, be∣cause he speaks to young Men, and for this end let me urge you with some Motives.
1. Consider, what wrong it is to God, to give Satan the best of thy time? Under the Law, the first-Fruits were to be given to God. Levit. 23. 10.—14. And they might eat no bread until the Lord had the First-Fruits offered unto him. So that he who should presume to eat any of his Corn, before the Lord had his portion, even a sheaf of the first-fruits, he was no better than a Sacrilegious intruder upon the Lord's Possession. So the Lord requireth of thee, O young Man! the first-Fruits of thy Life, even thy youth and strength; and if thou dost not offer and consecrate thy young years to Page 40 the Lord, thou dealest Sacrilegiously, thou dost •lienate the Lord's Portion; thou de∣liverest Possessi•n unto Satan, of that which God hath committed to thy trust, to reserve wholly for him; sike some unfaithful Ten∣nant, yielding up the possession to him that hath but ap••tended Tirle, to the prejudi•• of the right owner. Oh do not give th• first-Fruits unto the Dev•l! and think that God will be pleased with the Gleanings, the refuse, and scattered ears, the dreggs of old age, Offer it now to thy Prince, see if he will accep• thee, Malac. 1. 8. As if he had said; Serve thy Princes Enemy in thy youth and strength, and then come to the Court• in thine old age, limping with thy stilts, a•• crutches, and say, Mine old Master hath cast me off, and now I will serve thee; see then if he will entertain thee. So it is in this case.
2. Consider that God loveth cheerfulness in his services; so many places of Scripture shew. Rejoyce in the Lord, &c. I will run the wayes of thy Commandments; saith David, Quicken me O Lord, &c. Now youth is the most cheerful part of a mans Life, then the heart is in the liveliest temper, then the spirits are freshest, and quickest; and natural cheerfulness being Sanctified, is a furtherance Page 41 of spiritual joy. The quickness of the natu∣ral temper (which is in youth most vigorous,) is a good servant to quickning grace. Think not, that God is best pleased with the lumpish old age, which many times is little more than a dead piece of Earth, with a little portion, a small remainder of life abiding in it. God is the living God, and he requireth living Sa∣crifices Rom. 12. 1. Now thy youth hath more life in it than thine old age: There is (as it were) a close union between the Soul and Body in youth. The Soul imparteth a more plentiful •nfluence of Life unto the Body in you•h, than •n old age, by the quick∣ness and plenty of the Spirits, which in youth are more abundent than in age. Give up therefore this most living part of thy life, thy young daies unto God; and not only that part of life which partaketh more of Death than of life; th•ne old decrepit and disabled age. The hoary head is a Crown of Glory, if it be found in a way of Righteousness, Prov. 16. 31. [Found,] He doth not say, if it enter into the way of Righteousness, but if it be Found there. If a Man hath turned to God in his youth, and persevered in upright walking before him, until gray haires come upon him; that Man needeth no Crown of Gold to adorn his head, his hoary head is a 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 40〈1 page duplicate〉Page 41Page 42 Crown of Glory to him. If under the Law a Man did burn the prime of his Beast in Sa∣crifice, it was accepted: yea, when it was al∣most consumed, even the remainders that were half burnt, did yield a sweet savour to the Lord: because the best was burnt also upon the Altar of the Lord. So let a Man consecrate the prime of his daies, his youth to the Lord; offer up this as a living Sacri∣fice, and then, even his worn old age, which is like a Sacrifice half burnt and spent, shall be exceeding sweet and pleasing to the Lord, because the best was given up unto him: whereas on the other side, should any of the Priests have burned a Sacrifice upon the Al∣tar of Baal, and then when it was half burnt should have brought the gleanings and laid them upon the Altar of the Lord, this would have been a grievous abomination in the sight of the Lord. So in this case, &c. Oh then, Remember thy Creatour in thy youth, lest he forget or despise thee in thine age. Remem∣ber him in thy youth, that thy hoar head may be found in the way of Righteousness, and so may be a Crown of Glory, and not a Specta∣cle of Reproach and Contempt unto thee.
3. Consider especially, the unspeakable danger of Sin, confirmed and rooted with time; wrought and wreathed into the heart, Page 43 and clasped in the affections, by long custom in sin. Oh when sin hath been thirty or forty years in growing, and taking root, it cleaveth like the skin to the bones; like the Leprosy that was rooted in a wall, which could not be taken away, untill the wall were pulled down. That sin which is in growing the whole time of a Mans youth, during the best of his strength, it is even a Wonder, if it doth not accompany that Man to his Death∣bed; yea, to the Judgment-seat of God. I know, the mercy of God is infinite, and he calleth at the Eleventh hour: but I am per∣swaded, those are very few which are so cal∣led: and especially very few, (if any) of those who have had the means of Grace in their youth, and regarded them not. Oh this willful hardning of the heart is dreadful. This continuing in sin against knowledge; this with-holding the truth in unrighteous∣ness, moveth the Lord to give men over to a Reprobate sence; Rom. 1. 21, 24, 25, 28. Into such a state, that he becometh uncapa∣ble, unteachable; that neither blessings, nor crosses; neither the Rod, nor the Word; neither sickness, nor health; neither gray haris, nor the approach of Death, can work him to to sound Conversion. Ah poor for∣saken Soul! such a one may come to say Page 44 with Saul, God hath forsaken me! A speech, that might rend a render heart to hear it. I speak not this to bring you to despair, but to stirr you up to speedy Repentance, that ye may prevent this desperate and woful con∣dition.
IN the last place, let me speak a few words to Parents, and old People.
1. To Parents: Ye that are Parents, la∣bour ye to season the very Child-hood of your Sons and Daughters with the true knowledg and fear of God; pray over them daily, in∣struct, exhort, rebuke, and use all good means, that the prime of their daies may be given up to God: Teach them to Remember their Creatour in their Childhood, that they may neither forget him in their youth, nor forsake him in their old age. I fear that most Pa∣rents among us, by neglecting their Duty herein; are guilty of their Childrens De∣struction.
2. To the Aged: Ye that are grown old, and have not remembred your Creatour in your younger daies, whose bones are full of the sins of your youth; Oh know that your case is exceeding dangerous! therefore be∣waile your lives, whereby ye have so much Page 45 dishonoured your Maker: humble and judge your selves in the bitterness of your Souls; cry continually, and importunately in the ears of the Lord, that (if it be possible) the sins of your youth, and the long continued wickedness of your Lives, may be forgiven you, that the often resistance which ye have made against the spirit of God may be pardo∣ned, if it be possible, that the frequent casting of the Word of God behind thy back may be forgiven. Oh how odious and contemp∣tible is the hoary head, found in the way of wickedness, in a state of impenitency? What is an old Drunkard, or Adulterer, a gray-headed Swearer, an old Covetous World∣ling, an hoary headed impenitent person, but even a monster among Men? What dost thou not yet remember thy Creatour? not in old age, not at fifty, at sixty, or seventy years? Oh wreched security! Awake! awake unto Righteousness, unto Repentance, ye old ones that sleep in sin, lest ye sleep the sleep of ever∣lasting Death, and never behold the face of God in Righteousness!
Eccles. 12. 1.
BEsides what hath been already observed, something yet may be further not∣ed, Viz.
Observ. That Grace and Holiness are exceeding fit, and no way unseemly for the younger sort. Man's Life hath in some re∣gards been compared to a Comedy, or Enter∣lude Acted upon the Theatre, or Sage of this World; and the truth is, many a Mans life is but a Play; and many in their courses do but act other mens parts, not in sincerity ex∣press their own inward dispositions. And therefore that decorum, which they suppose may grace them in the eyes of Men, is the thing they most of all affect and aim at. But this is Man's misery, that his Eye is now not single, nor can he rightly discern what be∣cometh him; so that many times he shunneth those things as unseemly, which would be his greatest ornaments, and goeth about to deck himself with such things as do but lay open Page 47 his nakedness, and discover his shame. The Apostle saith, that long hair (which is a Wo∣mans ornament,) is a Man's shame, If a man wear long hair, it is folly and shame to him, 1 Cor. 11. And yet many men account this a special ornament; whereas indeed, it doth as ill become them, as a Distaff doth; al∣most as ill as a womans Garment. Thus it is in many other things, disguised fashions, &c. But besides these, there seemeth to be a conceipt among Men, that a licentious li∣berty, an unlimited looseness of Conversa∣tion, becometh the younger sort in the daies of their youth; and that nothing is more un∣seemly for that age, than an humble, holy subjection and obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But here ye see the wise Man, who was a Man that did much affect decorum, whilst he continued in his integrity, (as ap∣peareth by that which the Queen of Sheba, observed even to an extasy, I Kings 10. 4, 5. And when the Queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's Wisdom, and the House that he had built, and the Meat of his Table, and the sitting of his Servants, and the attendance of his Ministers, and their Apparrel, and his Cup-bearers, and his Assent by which he went up to the House of the Lord, there was no more Spirit in her. And so ye may gather Page 48 by many passages of his story, how exact he was in observing decorum, and shewing forth his Royal Magnificence according to his place.) He I say, that best knew, what was comely, and seemly for young Men: Shew∣eth here, that it is not only good, but seem∣ly for them, even in the daies of youth, to be seriously mindful of their Creatour, and so in all things to shew themselves as Men, that have him, and his fear before their Eyes.
For (to omit this, that whatsoever is good is also comely, being suitable to the holiness and purity of God, who is most glorious and beautiful) it is plain here by the opposition that is made between the daies of youth, and old age; that he commendeth it to them in special, as a thing exceeding fit, and seemly for the younger sort. Remember thy Creatour in the daies of thy youth, whilst the evil daies come not. As if he had said, It is a most ab∣surd and unseemly thing, not to be truly mindful of him that made us in our best daies, but then to begin, when the evil daies come. And (if you mark,) it is plain by those passages that follow, That he still fa∣stens a notorious absurdity, and unseemliness upon this carriage of Men who defer till the last. The years draw nigh, when thou Page 49 shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. How absurd and unseemly then to give up thy self to God, when thou art weary of thy self; and not before? while the Sun, or the Moon, or the Starrs be not Darkned, and the Clouds return after the Rain. A most absurd thing, to give all the cleer Sun-shiny daies of youth to sin, to lose all thy good daies, wasting and wearing them out in vanity; and then in the dull, cloudy, rainy times of old age, which are most unfit for employment, to begin to serve the Lord; and so in the verses follow∣ing. So that it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 an absurd thing, or a thing out of place; an unseemly and uncomely thing for young men to live un∣mindful of their Creatour, and of the end of their Creation, whilst they are young; and to leave him nothing but the Lame and Blind Sacrifices of their decrepit age, which the Psalmist sheweth plainly. Psal. 119. 9. Wherewithal shall a young Man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy Word, That which is cleanly, ye know is comely: Now the Psalmist sheweth, that if they that be young will walk in clean waves, they must take heed to the Word of God, and follow the light of it. Ye know that a fair clean way is more pleasant and comely by farr, than a foul, deep, miry way: 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 48〈1 page duplicate〉Page 49Page 50 and it is more comely for a man to walk in such a way, if he can, than to be mired with dirt in a foul way. So the Psalmist sheweth, That then a young Man walketh in a clean way, and so in a comely manner, when he followeth and obeyeth the Word of God, i• an holy and gracious Conversation. On th• other side, when he casteth the Word be∣hind his back, and walketh in the Lusts of his own heart, followeth his own will, and seek∣eth to please himself in all things, he walk∣eth in a foul dirty way, and is bemired (〈◊〉 it were) with Drunkenness, or Whore do•• or Idleness, or Prophaneness, &c. And h• carriage hath no more true comeliness in i• than his clothes have, when he falleth in the mire.
THis we might see plainly, if we did b• consider the nature and temper•• youth, and then think what corresponde•∣cy and suitableness there is between it, 〈◊〉 true grace and holiness. He that will ma•• a comely garment for another, must not on∣ly make one part of it proportionable to an•∣ther, but must take measure of him that 〈◊〉 to wear it, that it may be comely and fit i• him. A Man's garment, though never 〈◊〉 comely and proportionable in it self, will n•∣ver Page 51 be comely and fit for a Child. Here then let us take measure of youth, and see how well it will become him to put on the new Man, to put on the Lord Jesus.
1. Hath the young man a special quick∣ness of witt and apprehension? what can be∣come him better than to search into the glo∣rious Mysteries of Christ's holy Gospel, and not content himself with a few answers committed to Memory, which he is able to fit to some questions of Chatechism, but se∣riously and with most earnest endeavours to study the Doctrine of Godliness, and care∣fully to learn that wisdom which is from above. There is no knowledge can so well become the best witt and understanding, as the best and most excellent knowledge, and that is the true saving knowledge of God, of Christ Crucified, which St. Paul esteemed incomparably better than all his other learn∣ing. This will beautify the freshest, and most sparkling witt, it will make the very Spirit of a Man shine within him. This was young Timothy's ornament. 2 Tim. 3. 15. From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto Salva∣tion, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. That wisdom must needs beautify a young Mans mind, which maketh him wise unto Page 52 Salvation, wise for Heaven, which putteth such a light into him, as is suitable to Heaven and Everlasting light, which is like the wis∣dom of the Saints and Angels above; of which knowledge St. Paul. saith, 2 Cor. 4. 6. God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The Sun-beams do as it were guild things whereon it shineth, and make them look bright and pleasant, whereas they looked dull before without any such lustre or comeliness. This Heavenly Knowledge is a shining knowledge, it bright• ens and beautifies the Mind and Soul: and the more fresh and nimble the witt and un∣derstanding is, the more it is adorned by it: no skill, no knowledge; no learning is so comly for a young Man, as this true saving knowledge of God in Christ.
II. Hath the young man some strength of memory? what can become this Treasury or Store-house so well as Gold, Silver, Pre∣tious-Stones (as the Apostle calleth holy Truths:) what should hay and stubble, trash and dirt do in so pretious a Cabinet? what is more unseemly, than to have it filled with wanton idle Songs, with scurrilous jests, with airy vain conceits, foolish balla•s, legenda∣ry Page 53 tales, or the like? that which is fit for the Dung-hil is not seemly for a Cabinet.
III. Is youth full of lively and stirring affections? what is more seemly than for the quickest affections, and for the most lively motions of the Heart and Spirit to be exer∣cised about Heavenly, and Spiritual things. The World is said to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because of its comliness which God gave it in the Cre∣ation. Now God hath thus ordered the World in its several parts, that the quickest and nimblest, should be highest in their rank, and the slowest and dullest, should be lowest. So the Heavens which are of a most strange and wonderful swiftness, are highest; and of other things the quickest in motion are nearest Heaven; so the Air, and in the Air the Birds: whereas the Earth being slow, and without Motion, lyeth below all the rest, and is farthest from Heaven. So what is more seemly, than for those winged affecti∣ons of young Men and Women to mount up to Heaven, and the quicker and swifter they are in their Motions, the higher it be∣cometh them to fly; what should they do creeping on the Earth like Snailes, or earth∣ing themselves in the Earth like Moles, or mudding these lively affections in sinful flesh∣ly pleasures? Why rather should they not Page 54 in their daies of youth cast their Souls upon the wing, earnestly desiring God to draw them, that they may run after him. Is it a seemly thing to see a Lark or an Eagle to make her self a burrow or nest under ground, or to plunge her self in the Mud? No, it be∣cometh her to be aloft: so it becometh not the winged affections of the younger sort to bemudd themselves with sinful pleasures, but to be lifted up in the power of Gods Spi∣rit, and to converse with him who is invisible. The dullness of age hath more affinity with Earth, than the vigour of youth: which yet must not perswade old Men to follow the in∣clination of age, and because their backs are bowed with years, to think themselves war∣ranted to debase their Souls to earthly affections, but rather to conceive themselves directed to look themselves out a burying place; entring into a serious Meditation of the Grave, whiles their bodies by the de∣caies of age, are daily preparing for their last dissolution, into those first earthly Prin∣ciples of which they were compound∣ed.
IV. And as the quickness of young Mens affections should thus set them in a course of holiness; so the quickness of their Spirits (which is one cause of the quickness Page 55 of their affections) doth exceeding well suit with true grace and holiness. The Acti∣vity, and (as the Country-word is) the Met∣tle that is in the younger sort is very suita∣ble to an holy Conversation. This is one thing which maketh many men falsely to think, that Religion is not seemly for youth; but these are such as know not the power of godliness, and therefore think it to be a lum∣pish dulling thing. But what blindness is this to imagine, that the blessed Spirit of God is a duller to the Spirit of a Man, when he worketh upon it by his sanctifying power and vertue! No, it is enough indeed to put life into a dead heart, when the blessed Spi∣rit affordeth his gracious Influence unto it. If the Sun doth dull and dead the Earth, the Trees, the Herbs in the Spring-time, then may ye imagine, that the Spirit of God doth dull the Spirits of Men by Sanctifying and Quickening them. It taketh away indeed their wildness and madness, that is to say, their untowardness, unseemliness, and un∣comeliness; but it rather encreaseth and pu∣rifieth their kindly vigour, and giveth them yet a greater and an higher life, and maketh them more lively than before; but with a sweet, spiritual, and heavenly kind of Life. It is true, that in the beginnings of grace Page 56 there is some drooping and dejectedness, but that is but in the turn when they are coming out of their natural estate from under the Curse and Wrath of God. But if once they be indeed set in a course of holiness, and find the comfort of Gods love in Christ, they shall find themselves more enlivened and quickened by the Spirit of God than they can be by nature only. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, saith the Apostle. The Spirit of Christ enlargeth the heart, striketh off the fetters of Corruptions, and maketh it more free and full of Life. There∣fore David often calleth upon God to quick∣en him. He was a man naturally of a quick temper, of a fresh lively Spirit, as appear∣eth by that Description given of him. 1 Sam. 16. 12. He was ruddy, and withal of a beau∣tiful countenance, and goodly to look to. But he knew, that grace would quicken him more, and give him a heavenly activity of Spirit, and therefore desired to be more and more quickened by it. And how can the vigour and quickness of youth be better im∣ployed than in the work and service of God? Is not the Service of God a race? And who are so fit to run, as those who are young, and of nimble Spirits? Let us run with patience the race that is set before us: and else-where; Page 57so run that ye may obtain. Which as it im∣plyeth, a winged swiftness, and quickness of stirring affections in the service of God; so also a ready diligence, and active chearfull∣ness in any work of his, to which the heavi∣ness of old age is a clogging hinderance; and which doth exceeding well become the liveliness of youthful Spirits.
V. Are young Men strong, and of able Bodies? What is more comely for them, than to serve the Lord with all their Strength? The weakness of the Body, doth even make the Spirit fail and faint, and hindereth it many times in the Service of God. Strength is an help in the worship of God; and the Spirit in a strong Body, is like a work-man standing upon firm ground; which is an help and furtherance in the work.
VI. Are they full of courage, and vali∣ant as well as strong? They can never with so much honour follow any other Captain, as they may fight under the Banner of Je∣sus Christ, the Prince and Captain of their Salvation. No Victory so honourable for a young Man as to kill pride, and lust in himself, and to get the old red Dragon un∣der his feet. To shed an enemies blood, is no way so honourable, as to Triumph over Satans malice. One Mastiff can tear Page 58 out another's Throat: one Bull can goar another's side: one desperate person can shed another's Blood: but where is that glorious valour in a young Man, that (like Josuah's followers) setteth his feet on the necks of five Kings of Canaan at once, that subdu∣eth his five Senses, and overcometh all Tem∣ptations that enter in at these? He that can strongly guard these Cinque-ports, and stands out against all approaches in his youth, he is an honourable Souldier of Jesus Christ. And if he go on, and overcome, He shall sit down with him in his Throne, as he over∣came and sate down with his Father in his Throne, Rev. 3. 21. They that fight this good Fight, may assure themselves, that 〈◊〉 Crown of Glory is laid up for them, which they shall wear, when many renowned Cap∣tains of the World, who have been Tri∣umphant over their Enemies, Shall lye down in sorrow and confusion. But as the Apostle saith concerning Marriage, If any man think∣eth that he behaveth himself uncomely toward• his Virgin, if she passe the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will he sinneth not, let them Marry. 1 Cor. 7. 36. So if any man thinketh that he be∣haveth himself unseemly toward the courage, strength, and valour of his Body and Mind; Page 59 if he wear out his youth in Peace, and do not shew himself in the Field, let him know, that Religion doth not disarme him, if the Cause be good, and the Warr necessary; otherwise to fight in Publick Warrs, is no more honourable, than it is to assault men on the high-wayes side. And when a Christi∣an hath a just Call to fight the Lords Battles, Religion doth not daunt, but double his courage. True it is; Religion takes from him the Sword of Revenge, and command∣eth him to put it up into its place: it allow∣eth him not to answer every desperate Ruffians Challenge, which is as uncomely for a wise young man, as it is to fight with every Dog that barketh at him.
VII. Is youth accompanied many times with health? what is more seemly for him that is well, than to do well, and to serve him faithfully who giveth him every hour of health which he enjoyeth? The sickness and craziness of old age is many times a great distraction and discouragement to the Ser∣vice of God: therefore they are much de∣ceived, who make Repentance the work of the Sick-bed, and think that the fittest time for that work.
VIII. Is youth enclined to love? Christ commandeth nothing but love, and that which Page 60 love, supposeth and inferreth: only it requir∣eth a more noble, divine, and excellent kind of love, and turneth it upon a more ex∣cellent object, upon which it is better be∣stowed than upon the common objects of na∣tural love, Viz. upon God the chiefest good, and upon such things as are subordinate to him.
IX. Is youth disposed to Mirth? Grace is so farr from depriving it of this, that he which never felt true Grace, never came where sound joy was. The heart is filled with peace and joy in Believing; and the peace of God passeth understanding. Yea, the Word of God calleth for joy. Rejoyce in the Lord; again I say rejoyce. It bettereth and encreaseth our mirth, it doth not take it from us.
X. Consider the young man in Relation to others, and you shall find nothing so seemly for him as grace and holiness, and a conformity to the Word of God. Nothing more comely for a young man than so to car∣ry himself toward his Superiours as the word of God directeth him. What more seem∣ly for the younger sort, than to give that ho∣nour, reverence, respect to Parents, Masters, Aged People, which the word enjoyneth them? A proud, undutiful, contemptuous carriage Page 61 in the younger sort towards their betters, doth worse become them than any deformity or blemish in the body. A young man is ne∣ver more out of fashion, than when he is careless of his duty in this behalf: and again, never more comely, than when he adorneth his life with that modesty and dutiful respect to which true grace directeth younger years. It is a singular ornament to a young man to be one of those few which find out, and constant∣ly walk in the narrow way in their youthful daies.
Vse. 1. THis may shew, that nothing doth worse become the younger sort than sin; A licentious, ungodly, a loose un∣bridled conversation is a young man's great∣est blemish, weakness of natural parts, shal∣lowness of capacity, blemishes of the body, are not so unseemly in a young Man, as propha∣ness, and want of true holiness. Nothing can worse become such an one, than to forget or disobey him that made him. No blemish in the face is so unseemly, as an unruly tongue, full of vain and idle oathes, full of prophane swearing, full of cursing and bitterness, full of wanton, rotten communication, full of rai•ing, of scoffs against godliness, against old Page 62 Age; or as a loose lustful eye which is rove∣ing and wandring after vanity, or an ear listening after idle tales, and greedily taking in false reports, such as tend to the undeser∣ved disgrace of others. A violent hand, a stragling foot, they are the blemishes and reproaches of the younger sort. And what is Drunkenness, but the shame and stain of that green and flourishing age? when the witt in its prime and best time shall be besotted, and brought to a brutish dotage by the abuse of Gods good Creatures, and excess of drink, what is more unnatural and unseemly? The stupifying of the senses, the faultring of the feet, are they not the symptoms of old age? yes. What then is more unseemly for youth, than to over-burthen it self so with drink, as to lose for the time its witts and leggs? Oh do not count this a matter of credit thus to keep company! this is your shame. The sin of Whoredom, which is the young Man's Zoar, he counts it a little one, and hither he would fly for contentment, when the Word threatneth Fire and Brimstone, against this sin from Heaven. It is his Dalilah, in the lap of which sinful pleasure he thinketh he may sleep securely by the priviledge of youth. But the Scripture saith, It is a deep ditch Prov. 23. 27. And therefore most dangerous. Page 63 And as it is dangerous, so most shameful and unseemly. It is the defilement, the blasting of the flower of youth: it is the very snare of the Devil, whereby many young ones are held Captive by him at his will.
The sin of stubbornness, and contemptu∣ous carriage towards Superiours in years, or otherwise, it is most unseemly for those of the younger sort; it layeth open the shame of their folly; and when they think highly of their own witts, and (perhaps) scorn the advice of their Auncients, they make it known to the World, that through the greatness of their folly, they know not themselves, nor their places aright, nor what becometh them. Idleness, and Vanity are most unseemly for them; the loss of these precious daies of youth; to sleep away these best daies, or to triffle them away, whiles the Sun shineth upon them, it is most unseemly.
Finally, to live in impenitency and securi∣ty, not to seek the love and favour of God in Christ; to put off Repentance till old Age is most unseemly and uncomely. To sleep all the day and put off a man's main business un∣til night, is most foolish and uncomely. Con∣version to God, it is thy main work, and the beginning of all the work and service, which thou doest for him that made thee, and gave Page 64 thee thy life, and continueth it to thee every hour. Thou dost never truly put thy self into his Service, until thou art truly convert∣ed and turned unto him. All that thou dost in the Worship of God before, is no true Service, no work of a faithful Servant, ac∣ceptable unto God: therefore to give him that gave thee all thy daies, no part of these best daies of youth: to give him that gave thee all thy strength, no part of thy strength: to give him that gave thee all thy witt and understanding, nothing but the ruines and decays of witt, memory and understanding in old age, or sickness, is most unseemly; and such as cannot any way become any one that would be called a Christian: especially, if thou considerest, that when thou deniest thy best time to God, he may justly deny thee the rest of thy time which thou hopest to enjoy, and cut thee off in thy sins.
Vse. 2. THis should teach Parents and Masters, that have any of the younger sort under their charge, to be very careful and diligent to teach them what doth most of all become them, even the fear of God, and Faith unfeigned. Instead of teach∣ing them vain fashions which they are too Page 65 apt to learn of them, to teach them that it will best become them not to fashion them∣selves according to this evil world, but to be transformed in the renewing of their mind: to teach them, that the words of heavenly wisdome, the word of God laid up in the heart, and shewed forth in the life, will be their richest ornament. Let them know, how well Humility, Modesty, Temperance, Chastity, Sobriety, Holiness and the know∣ledge of God will become them. Let them not only be taught how good these things are, but how seasonable, how fit they are; how seemly for them at those years, how ne∣cessary. Let them understand how ill it be∣cometh them at this age to want these Jewels, and what deformity the contrary sins do put upon them. As it becometh them of youn∣ger years to be thus qualified, so it beco∣meth you that are elder, by all means, both in word and conversation, to shew them what becometh them.
Use 3. IF Grace and Holiness are comely ornaments of Youth; then how unseemly is it for those that have passed the daies of Youth, to continue yet without it? hast thou out-lived thy Youth, and hast 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 64〈1 page duplicate〉Page 65Page 66 thou not yet done that which thou shouldest have done in thy Youth? Not yet so re∣membred thy Creator as to turn unto him, and to seek him with thy whole heart? Oh blame thy self for this before the Lord! and if thou hast lost the first season, take heed thou doest not foreslow the latter. Art thou now past the Spring of Youth? It is more than time thou hadst sown in Tears! The Harvest draweth on, and then as a man hath sowen, so shall he reap. He that hath sowen to the Flesh, following his lusts and his will, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but He that soweth to the Spirit, being led by the Spirit in the wayes of holy obedience, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Think then with thy self, if it be a shame for young men to be without Grace; it is a double shame for me that am past the daies of Youth! I• God hath shewed thee patience in not cutting thee off in the sins of Youth, oh take hee• of abusing that patience any longer! Wilt thou sin because thou hast escaped hitherto• God forbid! The longer thou hast sinned▪ the more hast thou provoked the eyes of Gods glory, the more dangerous is it to con∣tinue any longer in sin. The longer the Fig-tree had cumbred the ground, the neare•• it was to the cutting down; the more it was Page 67 in danger of the Axe. Therefore repent heartily and speedily of the sins of Youth; and yet whiles thou maist do somewhat for the Lord, hast some strength and abilities for his service, let him have thy heart and hand, thy body, thy soul: sacrifice thy self to him, consecrate thy whole man to his worship and service even in thy middle-age.
Use 4. IF Grace be the ornament of Youth, then doubtless Sin must be the shame of Old Age. What, an old man, an old woman, and yet a graceless sinner? A gray-head found in the ways of unrighteous∣ness, the ways of folly? What is this but to be a spectacle of reproach among men? How many years hast thou lived an enemy to God? Couldest thou find no time for recon∣ciliation in thy Youth, nor in thy middle age, nor yet now thou art thus far gone in years? What is an impenitent old man, but a kind of monster among men? What a shame is it to see a gray-head quaffing by the fire-side in an Ale-house; a man of fifty or sixty years haunting the Ase-house, and wanton dallyance. A profane Oath in an old mans mouth, how odious and shamefull is it? Is it not a double shame for old men Page 68 to be more and more covetous the elder they are, to cleave more and more close to the world? As one that is to be executed, if he hath his hands at liberty when he is turned off the Ladder, will catch hold again, and cling fast unto it, being loth to let go his hold: so such a one being summoned by death to leave the world, catcheth hold again, fasten∣ing his very heart unto it, and cleaving more strongly and more closely thereunto. How much better were it to have loosened the heart from the world by unfeigned repen∣tance, that the world and it may part with ease? For part ye must, though thy heart should be pulled in pieces in parting. How ill doth it become an old man, that all this while he hath not learned to see into the va∣nity of the world, which a wise man in a little time of experience may easily discern? O thou old sinner, learn greatly then to be∣wail the sins of thy Youth, that length of time wherein thou hast gone on in sin, where∣in thou hast hardened thy heart, and resisted the spirit of God: and now be very earnest with the Father of mercies, to pass by the multitudes of thy sins, whch in these many years of thy life, thou hast made thy self and others guilty of.
Use 5. LAstly, yea that are young, let this enter into yovr hearts, and be ye perswaded that nothing doth so well fit you, nothing so well become your years, as to re∣member your Creator, as to know, to love, to fear, to serve and obey him that made you. Now is the Spring, now is the time of sowing in tears, even in your Youth: and if ye sow so, ye shall in Youth reap the first fruits of com∣fort. Now is the day, and therefore work now; the night cometh, darkness cometh; yea the night of spiritual darkness and blind∣ness of mind may come, a dreadfull gloomy night may shade your Souls, the spirit of God withdrawing his light, against which you have so long sinned in the pride of Youth, and Satan drawing a black vail over your Souls: then there is a woful night within; the night of an hardened heart that cannot repent, and of a •eared conscience, and a reprobate sense may come, when none can rightly work the works of God. Oh then! what an extreme folly is it for you now to sleep in Sin whiles it is day, and whiles mercy is offered, and the way of life is shewed, and the works which God hath ordained for his people to walk in, are laid before you? Now Page 70 then it becometh you to flee youthfull lusts, and not to stay till they flee you: Now learn to hate all sin, (and especially the sins to which your age enclineth you) even as Death, as Hell. Do not think that the sins of Youth will become you, because Youth is enclinable to them, but rather think they are so much the more unseemly, because na∣ture corrupted, enclineth Youth unto them. Sin is so contray unto that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and right order of things whch God hath made, that it enclineth men to those things whch are most unseemly for them. And this must needs be so, for Sin is most contrary unto God; now God by his work enclineth eve∣ry Creature to that which becometh it: and so by his work upon man in the Creation, he did frame in him a propension and inclina∣tion to that which did every way become him best. Now Sin being quite contrary unto God, and seizing upon man's nature, did so corrupt it, as to encline it to that which is most unseemly for it. So man in general is enclined to earthly, to bodily, and sensible things, sutable to the body, and to neglect heavenly and spiritual things, which are sutable to his Soul and inner man, which (considering the nature and creation of man) is most absurd and unseemly; as if a man Page 71 should be more carefull of his foot than of his Head. What comparison is there between the Soul and the Body? Is not that of far greater excellency than this? How unseemly a thing is it to seek the satisfying and con∣tenting of the body, rather than of the spiri∣tual and better part of a man's self? So Sin enclineth old men in age to become more earthly and covetous than before; Now this is most unseemly. So the Heathen could observe, counting it as foolish and absurd for an old man to grow more covetous, and eager after the world, as for a Traveller to provide himself so much the more carefully for his Journey, the nearer he cometh to his Inne, or Journey's end. Were it not an unseemly folly, when a man is even at home, and seeth the smoak of his own Chim∣ney, to seek about carefully for a fresh Horse, and other necessaries fit for a Journey of ma∣ny hundred miles? So what more foolish and unseemly than for an old man, travel∣ling to his last home, to be the more carefull of earthly things, the nearer he cometh to his grave, which are useful to him only by the way? And as sin enclineth old age to that whch is most unseemly; so also it doth younger years. Oh do not think these things seemly for thee, to which Nature, corrupted Page 72 by sin enclineth thee; no more than that is wholsome for a sick man, to which his Sto∣mach, vitiated by a disease doth move him. Esteem Grace of all things, to be the richest ornament: put on Christ Jesus, that thou maist partake of the beauty of his Grace and Spirit, who is the fairest of ten thousand, that thou maist be one of those in whom God himself through Christ Jesus is delighted.
Eccles. 12. 1.
IN the next place we may observe, under what terms the daies of Old Age are opposed to the daies of Youth: it is un∣der the notion of evil daies. They are oppo∣sed to the daies of Youth, as evil to good; therefore, hence I observe,
Obs. That the daies of Youth, are good daies. So the opposition teacheth us to in∣ferr; for they are such daies as men enjoy, while the evil daies come nor. The Hebrews call young men by such a name as imploy∣eth choice: and a young man in that Lan∣guage, Page 73 is as much as a chosen or selected man, a man picked out of the multitude for special use: and so the time of Youth is expressed as a chosen selected time. So in this very place; for as he had said before, Eccles. 11. 9. Rejoyce O young man,* Or O thou chosen selected one. So here; Re∣member thy Creator in the daies of thy Youth.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or thy choicest daies. So that ye see the ordinary expression used in primitive significant Tongue, which is (as it were) the fountain of all Languages, no∣teth out of time of Youth unto us, as a good, yea, as a choice selected time. So much (I think) the Psalmist implyeth too. Psal. 71. 17, 18. O God thou hast taught me from my youth; and hitherto have I declared thy▪ wondrous works. Now also when I am old, and gray-headed, O God forsake me not, &c, where he seemeth to set the daies of Old Age against the daies of Youth, as evil a∣gainst good. O thou hast taught me from my Youth: Thou hast vouchsafed me thy presence, thy Spirit to teach and guide me in those good and pleasant daies of Youth; those good daies, when I in confidence of thy presence and assistance encountred the Bear and Lion, and rescued my Lambs; T•ose daies when I assaulted the Philistine,Page 74 & took away the reproach from Israel; Those daies, when with a lively and ravished Spi∣rit, I leaped and daunced before the Ark: But now the evil daies of Old Age, the win∣ter of my life is growing upon me: the times are coming when I shall see no pleasure in them; when Clothes shall scarce suffice to warm me: and therefore now, O my God! forsake me not; withdraw not thy presence: now in special I find need of thee, that thou maist make those daies good unto me through thy love and Spirit, which otherwise sin would make exceeding evil and wofull to me.
WHerefore, that this may be made more clear unto us, let us consider how, and in what respects the daies of Youth are called good daies. They are good daies,
1. Because they are the first daies of a man's life. Childhood is but (as it were) a preparative to the life of man: Children, while they are Children, have but some im∣perfect beginnings of the life of reason, which is the proper and peculiar life of man: there∣fore we may reckon the daies of Youth, as the first daies of man's life, when he first beginneth to live as a man, and to live the Page 75 life of reason in some degree of perfection. Now ye know, that the first in every kind hath the preheminence; the first-born of men, the firstlings of beasts; the first-fruits of the earth; the morning of the day; the first age of the world; the spring of the year. So there is a kind of preheminency in the first daies of man's life, which are the daies of Youth; they are a man's prime and his good daies.
2. The daies of Youth are good daies, because ordinarily they are the daies of best health and strength: daies wherein we are of able bodies for any special service. For al∣though it be true, that in the worship of God, bodily exercise profiteth but little, in com∣parison of the inward power of godliness; yet strength and health, when they are made serviceable to a sanctified upright heart, are of special use, both in the immediate worship of God, and in the performance of many offices of love, which we ought to do towards our Brethren in the Lord. Mens sana in corpore sano (as they say) a sound mind, and an heavenly spirit, furthered in the worship and service of God, by a strong, healthy, well-tempered body, hath a great advantage in it's work; and in that case, the daies of health and strength are good daies. In Prayer; although the strength and force of Page 76 Prayer doth not lie in the strength of the sides, or loudnes of the voice; yet it is no smal advantage to the Spirit, when in it's fervour and strength of affection, it gathereth up and putteth forth all it's powers in earnest sup∣plication before the throne of Grace; if then it hath a sound healthy body, able to bear the intention of a fervent spirit, without fainting or distraction. You know that if the arrow be long, and drawn to the head, it is needfull that the bow and the string should be of sufficient strength to hold draw∣ing. And a Christian, that will not content himself to shoot those fools bolts, mentioned Eccles. 5. 1. but desireth to send forth wing∣ed shafts of fervent Prayer that shall pierce the Clouds, and enter the Heavens, findeth it an help not to be despised, when the strength and health of his body is suitable to the vigour of his spirit. This holdeth (as ye may easily conceive) in those exercises of hearing, reading, meditation, &c.
3. Daies of Youth are times wherein the powers of the Soul are also quick, lively and able by the communion with the body. The Soul by reason of it's near conjunction of the body hath it's Childhood, Youth and decay∣ing time. In younger years it hath those gol∣den daies, wherein the understanding is quick Page 77 in apprehension, teachable, and apt to receive impression; the Memory faithfull, the Judge∣ment good and sound; the Affections strong and stirring: Therefore these are the good daies wherein it is fit to be used in the work and service of God. And as in the Spring, all these concurring together, the Trees in their fresh clothing; the face of the Earth renued, the beauty of Herbs and Flowers, together with the Sun's shining brightly in his strength and glory, make up good daies; whereas in the Winter, the brightness of the Sun maketh but an imperfect good day, whiles the Trees and Fields are stripped, dead and withered; the ground covered with mire and dirt: so the meeting of these together, the birth-right of Youth, the strength and health of the Body, the quickness of the Senses, the activeness and abundance of the Spirits, the perfections of the Soul, &c. make the daies of Youth good daies: whereas, although in the winter of Old Age the Sun may shine; the principles of wisdome stored up in Youth may be preserved; yet there are those defects naturally clogging that dying age, which do ecclipse the brightness, and lessen the good∣ness of those daies.
Use •. THis may serve to reprove those, who do allow some fleshly liberty to the daies of Youth. Many, who themselves are aged, out of a kind of fatherly experien∣ced gravity (as they would have men think) and out of a kind of moderation, to which their years have brought them (as they will have us believe) do give liberty to a kind of latitude in the ways of Youth; and young men must be born with. Who doubteth but that there is a Christian moderation and compassion to be exercised towards such in∣firmities of the flesh, which the Spirit wrest∣leth and laboureth against either in young or old; when the heart being given up to Christ, and brought under the soveraign command of his glorious Gospel and blessed Spirit, cannot yet wholly free it self from the law of Rebellion, nor utterly shake off the body of Death? But out of a pretence of levity to flatter the enormities of Youth, and to ex∣cuse those vitious unbridled courses, which stain the glory of those best daies; what is it but to say, that hard Frosts, deep Snows, In∣undations, thick mire and dirt, are not to be accounted strange in May, nor to be wonder∣ed at in the prime and spring of the year. Is it Page 79 to be endured, when the best daies of a man's life are wasted away in such courses as are contrary to the end for which a man liveth; most contrary to the glory of that great God, who hath given them these choice daies of Youth. To speak plainly; when are you more carefull to fence your Copses, Pastures, Meadows, than in the Spring: and will ye say the spring of our life (which is the time of Youth) may be laid open to the inva∣sion of lusts, to the assaults of Satan, to the pleasures of Sin? Let other men applaud their own gravity, and condemn the rash∣ness of others; I cannot believe that Solomon wanted either years, gravity, wisdome or due moderation, when he checked the folly of Youth in an holy Irony, Eccles. 11. and set∣teth before all vain young men the Judge∣ment of the great day, shewing that for all these things, even these excesses of Youth, they shall be made to give account: nor when he did put down this serious admoni∣tion in the words of this Text, backed with so many pressing motives, Remember now thy Creator in the daies of thy youth, while the evil daies come not, &c. and had there been any defect in the pen-man, yet I am sure the Holy Ghost which held his hand, would not have suffered him to write one syllable amiss. Page 80 Neither doth the Psalmist return an answer sutable to these mens conceits when the question is moved, Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way? but quite contrary, By taking heed thereto according to thy word. Where ye see both the Rule by which, and the manner how they are to frame their Courses, requireth a special strictness. The very Word of God, that pure and holy Rule of Righteousness, and not the customs of the time, nor the ordinary practice, nor lusts of youth must guide them, and this Rule they must heed with much attention and watchfulness, having one eye upon their ways, another upon the word: taking heed thereto according to the word, ever marking the steps they tread, and observing how it suiteth with the precious truth of God. This is the wisdom of the Antient of daies, and whatsoever is contrary to it, gray hairs can∣not exempt from folly.
II. THis should perswade the younger sort, not to make those daies evil which God hath made good: Oh do not a∣buse your choycest daies to the basest em∣ployments. Page 81 Think the spring of your age too good for Satan, too pretious for Lust, for Drunkenness, for Vanity, too good to be so spent, that in old age ye shall not be able to remember it without shame, without a sting. Ye know what the Lord spake long since to Israel, If ye walk contrary unto me, I also will walk contrary unto you. How can ye walk more contrary unto God, than to make those the worst daies which he hath made the best? To have abused any of God's good Creatures under the Law had been sin, to have profaned the first fruits a double sin, to give any of our time to the service of sin, is unworthy of a Christian; but to abase the prime of Youth, and the crown of our years, the choicest of our daies to this sla∣very, what is it but to set our selves to cross the Lord in the wisdom of his wayes, and to make these daies evil because he hath made them good? Regard not those who scoff in their carnal folly at the uniting of these two together, Youth and Holiness, as at an un∣equal match: as if a young man and an old woman were joyned together in marriage. Assure thy self, that nothng can so well be∣come the best daies as the best affections and the best conversation: that nothing is more seemly for a vessel of honour, than to be Page 82 seasoned with true grace and sanctification, even while it is now, in the daies of Youth, 1 Joh. 2. 13, 14. I write unto you young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. 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. Here is the excellency of young men, not that they have so much strength o• body, or daring Spirits to challenge or lay others on the ground; as that they have strength of grace, and power of the Spirit to wrestle with Satan in all his temptation• and tread them under their feet; when the• have the word of God abiding in them, an• powerfully enabling them to wrestle wit• Principalities and Powers, and so to wrestl• as to overcome, These are young men to whom the beloved Apostle of Christ vouch∣safeth to write in a peculiar manner: a• indeed such are young men, whose Youth• man ought to despise.
TAke heed then of making these go•• daies of Youth to be evil daies, whi•• God hath made good daies.
Quest. But some will say perhaps, ho• are they made evil daies?
Page 83Sol. I. I answer in general: The daies of Youth (good in themselves) are made evil, when they are spent in unregeneration, spent in a state of impenitency, without sound conversion to God, without holy communion with him. Every young man, who is not brought home to God by unfeign∣ed repentance in his Youth, maketh the daies of his Youth to be evil daies, Rom. 6. 20, 21. When ye were the servants of Sin, ye were free from righteousness: what fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now a∣shamed; for the end of those things is death. Whiles a man is an unregenerate person, he is a servant of Sin, and all that while he ma∣keth his daies evil daies, his life an evil life; for he is not able to shew any fruit that he hath reaped of all his works and wayes; no true benefit, no sound comfort ariseth out of all his courses. So it is with old men that live in the service of sin without true regeneration. In like manner it is in young men that are unregenerate, let them do what they will, or can, let them fill themselves with all man∣ner of earthly pleasures; let them please themselves every way, and do what they can to enjoy these dayes of Youth, walking in the wayes of their own Heart, and in the sight of their Eyes, please their Senses of all sorts, Page 84 &c. Nay, let them spend their daies of Youth better than so, even in Wars, in Study and Learning, in getting some useful & commen∣dable Trade; yet so long as they are unre∣generate, and do not seriously remember & turn to their Creator now in these daies of their Youth, they have no true fruit (worth the having) of all their endeavours, of all their daies of Youth. Now doth not a man make his daies evil daies, when he spendeth them so, that no true good cometh of them? when they bring forth more evil than good; so much evil, as that the good that might come of them is not good unto them: for the end of these things is death. When a man is still hastening to his destruction, running o• towards his death (as every one unconverte• is) what fruit can there come of any thing he goeth about? All ye that are young, who put off repentance and are not regenerate, nor labour to be so, ye make the daies of your Youth, which ye so rejoyce in, evil daies, cursed daies, ye walk under the wrath and curse of God, and are not freed from the sentence of condemnation. Whiles ye are merry and jocund, whiles your Hearts cheer you, ye do but sport your selves in the midst of your own misery and dangers. Canst thou enjoy one good day whiles thou hast no assu∣rance Page 85 for an hour to be free from the fire that never goeth out; whiles thou standest accur∣sed, and hast the sentence of condemnation written upon thy conscience, and not washed off by the blood of Christ spinkled by faith: oh these are evil bitter daies, if thou couldest discern them rightly, wherein Heaven frown∣eth upon thee, God is angry with thee; and all thy sins remain unpardoned! Therefore repent and make thy peace with God, that so the daies of thy Youth may be good daies; daies wherein thou maist be assured that God is appeased with thee; daies wherein thou maist walk in the bright Sun-shine and light of his countenance; daies wherein thou maist have thy fruit in holiness for the present, and be assured that the end will be everlasting life: then shall the daies of thy Youth be good and blessed daies un o thee.
II. More especially these good daies of Youth are made evil daies, when they are spent in any, or divers of those sins to which on the one side You his commonly accustomed; and which on the o•her side in a right consi∣deration of things, are most unseemly and unfit for Youth.
I. One sin is whoredom: if any thing can Page 86 make the daies of Youth, of good to become evil daies, this will do it; when the body, which is as a Temple of the Holy Ghost, and should be consecrated and dedicated to him from the first building or framing of it as it were, shall be made a cage of unclean lusts, how great is this prophanation? If the Temple at Jerusalem, when it was new built, should have been made a Stews (as one of the Popes is said to have made his Palace) and then have been left to be employed as a Temple for God when it grew old and ruinous; would not the earth have opened her mouth to swallow up those who should have thus prophaned it? O young men! how dangerous is it then, whilst your bodies are young, and should be esteemed and used as new-built Temples, wholly dedicated un∣to God, his glory and service, to defile them with those sins, intending when they are old, decayed, and ruinous buildings (and not till then) to use them as Temples of the Holy Ghost. St. Paul saith, If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy, 1 Cor. 3. 17. Therefore if any one hath not kept his Garments clean in this regard, let him without delay wash and be clean, wash away his guilt by the blood of Christ; wash away these lusts and sinfull inclinations by the Page 87 Spirit of Christ, by unfeigned repentance and amendment of Heart and Life: and for the time to come (according to Davids counsel, Psal. 119. 9.) Let them make clean their wayes from this foul sin, by taking heed unto them, according to such parts of the word as these: Flee youthful lusts, but follow after righ∣teousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart, 2 Tim. 2. 22. And that Whore-mongers and Adulterers, God will judge, Heb. 13. 4. And that of St. Paul, 1 Thess. 4. 3, 4, 5. This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctifi∣cation and honour: not in the lust of concu∣piscence, even as the Gentiles which knew not God.
2. Drunkenness; which, as it is enough to make any part of a man's life evil, so it is a great blemish to a young man, and maketh the daies of his Youth, evil and wretched daies. The wise man sheweth, that the ruines of Old Age do make the Keepers of the House tremble, and the strong ones to bow themselves; the Hands and Leggs to shake. But how shamefull is it for young men of firm and strong bodies, to bring a drunken Palsey upon themselves, whereby Page 88 they are staggering in the streets, their Leggs even failing them? or a brutish Lethargy, whereby they are not able to arise from the place where they sit or lie? ye that are Parents look to it, that your Children come not into such infectious company, as many entice them. Take heed ye that are young, of besotting your Brains and Understandings, which now are naturally fresh and quick (if ever) wi•h this swinish sin: Consider that weighty Charge of our Saviour, Luke 21. 34. Take heed, lest at any time your Hearts be over-charged with Surfeiting and Drun∣kenness.
3. Pride is another sin, that is enough to make the daies of Youth to be evil daies. That which made good Angels wicked Devils, is enough to make the best daies of a man's life evil and miserable: What is more seemly for the younger sort, than true modesty and humility, which God accepteth, blesseth and crowneth with graces here, and glory hereafter? What worse than Pride and a disdainful Carriage? want of farther experience should make them in many things to suspend their Judgements, unless it be in such as are cleer and evident. Contempt, and scornfull behaviour towards the Antien•: Self-conceit; as if Wisdom should die with Page 89 them: Self-will and stubbornness; an un∣moveable Stiffness in their own groundless opinions, and unwarrantable purposes, with other fruits of Pride; they do even deface the good daies of Youth, and make them evil.
4. Idleness is another sin which marreth these good daies, which bringeth not only a rust upon them, but letteth loose the lusts of Youth, and maketh it exceeding sinful. If any should flee this sin (as all should) then especially the younger sort ought to observe it above others. It is not a misery of miseries, that those golden daies should be worn out in sluggishness? that those abilities of body and mind, which are at their best, should want employment? and want they cannot, work they must; they are made of such a temper, that they cannot be without motion. If the Heavens cannot stand still, nor the Air fix it self in one place, and abide without stirring, no more can the minds of young men, nor the thoughts of their hearts abide without inward workings of spirit. O young man! thou canst not keep thine eye-lids from stirring; thy Lungs from moving; thy Heart and Pulse from beating; and canst thou keep thy Soul and the affections of thy Heart from stirring, which are more active than any part of thy body? No, they will have Page 90 their course: and if in any idle, sluggish carelessness, thou lettest them go as a Ship without a Rudder or Pilot, the event is like to be wofull, and thou art running upon the Rocks; Satan filling the Sails of thy affections with contrary winds and hellish suggestions, which drive thee from the Haven of Peace to the gulph of everlasting destru∣ction. What a world of snares hath the Devil ready for thee, whiles he finds thee idle? How many enticing objects, and dan∣gerous temptations? When shouldest thou provide against the winter of thy life, but now in the spring of thy daies? Old Age is almost unteachable; and if thou learnest not in thy Youth, but spendest it in lazy igno∣rance, it will be very hard (if not impossible) to learn in thine old age, when thou art more ready to forget than to learn. It is a most miserable spectacle to see an ignorant old man or woman, which hath lost the best time of Youth in idleness, and not treasured up the principles of heavenly truths: Oh how uncapable are they of the things of God! how likely to perish for want of knowledge, how uncapable of Knowledge it self? Rest and ease is fitter for Old Age, than for Youth: Labour, Diligence, Watchfulness, I•dustry, are things which become those Page 91 good daies. In a word! when any sin a∣boundeth, and any lust prevaileth, it is enough to make the dayes of Youth evil daies. Therefore ye that are young, and yet enjoy the good daies of your life, do not ye make them evil. Remember your Creator in the daies of your Youth, take heed to your ways according to the word of God, so shall these daies indeed be good daies to you, and you shall prepare your selves either for an ho∣nourable Old Age, or for a blessed end, and an happy death; preventing the evils of Old Age, and putting you in possession of everlasting life, which never seeleth the de∣cays of Age.
Finally, let me in a word beseech those who have already out-lived their best daies, to look back seriously and speedily upon the times and courses of their Youth, and see how those daies have been spent, obser∣ving what matter of joy and thanksgiving, or what causes of grief and humiliation they may find, and accordingly to be affected. If you have made them evil daies, how should you mourn for this? How should you seek God now that it draweth towards the ele∣venth hour, before the night cometh when no man can work; which burieth all secure loiterers and unprepared ones in an everlast∣ing Page 92 night of utter darkness, where is weeping and gn•shing of teeth. The night cometh, the darkness is coming; yet before it co∣meth, do ye that great work, that your Soul may live and not die eternally!
Eccles. 12. 1
OF the next point I shall speak very brief∣ly, and that is this.
Observ. That the daies of Old Age are evil daies. So the Spirit of God here calleth them. This the Holy Ghost here, and in o∣ther Verses of this Chapter sheweth in di∣vers circumstances. Here he saith, They are daies wherein there is no pleasure; daies wherein there is much matter of grief and vexation, little contentment: when a man's life is like gloomy daies, such as St. Paul met with in his Sea-voyage, when neither Sun nor Starrs for many daies appeared; to such daies Old Age is here compared; daies of darkness, wherein Sun, Moon and Starrs have their light hidden and darkened; and the Clouds return after the Rain. Though the showres fall, yet it doth not clear up, but the Clouds grow up, and gather together a∣gain: so it is in Old Age, the end of one trouble is but the begnning of another affli∣ction Page 93 like to that. In the words following these evils of Old Age are more particularly expressed and numbred up. The keepers of the house do tremble; the arms which are to guard and defend the body, shake with the Palsey: the strong men, the Leggs which are the pillars to bear up this house of clay, begin to fail with weakness, and to double under their burthen like posts worn and weakened with age. The Grinders, the Teeth cease, because they are few, and the Windows shall be darkned, &c. In a word! we may summe up the evils of these Aged daies in these two heads: Evils of Loss, and Evils of Sense. The loss of Contentments in God's good blessings: the loss of ability for many good Offices: on the other side, the suffering of many inconveniences in body and mind, which maketh a man a burthen to himself, being burthened with such an heap of years.
Use. THe use of this is to renew the for∣mer Exhortation to the younger sort, that they may prevent these evil daies, and remove the evil of them by timely re∣pentance, and sincere obedience in their Youth. Impenitency and ungodliness makes the good daies of Youth to become evil Page 94 daies; repentance and an holy conversation make the evil daies of Old Age to be good. Godliness is profitable to all things, saith the Apostle, and so it is profitable for all times, for times of Youth as well as times of Old Age; for health, for sickness, for life, for death: it shall do thee good, and not evil all thy daies. If Old Age bring so many inconveniences with it, how careful should∣est thou be to remove the guilt of thy sins before the burthen of Old Age cometh upon thee? If these wounds of thy conscience be truly healed by the blood of Christ aforehand, sprinkled on by the hand of faith, then shall thy Spirit be enabled to bear the infirmities of Old Age; yea, thou shalt be able to do all things through the Spirit of Christ, strengthening and supporting thee. Oh how miserably is that poor Soul burthened, that hath an heap of years, and an heap of sins unpardoned, lying upon it? but how bles∣sed, how honourable is the gray hoary head found in the way of righteousness, whose un∣righteousness is forgiven, whose sin is covered? Such shall be Trees planted in the house of the Lord, which in their Old Age shall be more and more far and flourishing; and their last works (as it is said of the Church of Thyatira, Revel. 2, 19.) shall be Page 95 more than the first: their last daies better than the first. Such a good old age they shall have, as divers of the Saints are said to have had. Labour then so to live now, that the evils of your Age may be mitigated and removed.
But on the other side, how evil and wretch∣ed must those daies of Old Age be, which are accompanied with the guilt of many sins? when years encrease, and wickedness encrea∣seth; when a man will not be admonished, but as he hath been rebellious in his Youth, so he will be obstinate in his Old Age? Oh take heed of this! if these evil daies have overtaken thee before thou hast put away thy sins, before thou hast sought the Lord with all thy heart, repent now in the anguish and bitterness of thy soul.
Eccles. 12. 1.
THus ye have heard, how Old Age is said to consist of evil daies: now here we see how the Holy Ghost doth call away the thoughts of young men from the pleasures Page 96 and vanities of Youth, wherein they are usually drowned and over-whelmed, and gi∣veth them a foresight of a change: letteth them know, that it will not alwayes be thus with them; they must look for other times hereafter to pass over them; now they have their good daies, their daies of Youth, but they must perswade themselves there be other daies coming; these good daies will not last alwayes. Hence I observe,
Observ. That it is Christian wisdom to foresee and provide for changes ere they come: it is a brutish and sensual folly to have the Heart so possessed and taken up with pre∣sent prosperity and earthly contentments of any kind, as not to have any serious and ef∣fectual regard of such changes as may be brought upon us. Therefore the Spirit of God having to do with young men in this place, who did please themselves in them∣selves, and in their present youthful wayes, delights and contentments, he setteth be∣fore their eyes a lively image of Old Age; with the many evils, grievances, and blemish∣es of it: yea, he leadeth them along to the death-bed, and hangeth out their winding-sheet before their eyes; and by the way pre∣senteth them with many objects unpleasing to sensuality, and vain youthfull affections. Page 97 First, evils in general, and then the loss of all earthly pleasures; then dimness and dark∣ness, weeping, cloudy weather, Ver. 2. and so he goeth on in the words following. Thus doth St. James deal with secure and carnal rich men, whose hearts did rest with a kind of muddy contentment in their abundance of worldly things, not seriously thinking of sad alterations that might follow, Jam. 5. 1, 2. Go to now ye rich men; weep & howl for the mi∣series that shall come upon you: your riches are corrupted, and your garments moth-eaten, &c. and ver. 5. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts as in the day of slaughter. As the beast that is full fed and fatted, is wanton and frollick, feeding without fear or foresight of the Butchers Axe, even in the same morn∣ing when he is to die before night, even in the day of Slaughter: so do ye please your selves, and satisfie your own lusts without any serious consideration aforehand of the Axe of God's wrath, that lyeth at the root of all such unfruitfull Trees, and is ready to give an irrecoverable stroke: ye do not care∣fully forethink of the evils that shall come upon you, and therefore I present these un∣to your thoughts. We have a notable ex∣ample in this kind, both of wisdom in Page 98Noah, and of folly in the men of that Ge∣neration living together with him, Heb. 11. 7 By faith Noah being warned of God of things 〈◊〉 seen as yet, moved with fear prepared an Ark 〈◊〉 the saving of his House, by the which he c••∣demned the world, and became heir of th• righteousness which is by faith. Here wa• his notable faith and heavenly wisdom. H• was warned of God of things not seen as 〈◊〉 not only of such things as at that time 〈◊〉 not to be seen in present being, when he re∣ceived this warning, but of things, the 〈◊〉 whereof were never seen in the world before of such things as neither he, nor any of 〈◊〉 Fore-fathers from Adam to his own 〈◊〉 ever had any experience of, viz. Th•• things mentioned Genes. 6. 17. Behold 〈◊〉 even I do bring a flood of waters upon 〈◊〉 earth to destroy all flesh, wherein is the br•• of life from under Heaven; and every 〈◊〉 that is in the earth shall die. These 〈◊〉 strange things not seen as yet, no•〈◊〉 heard of since man was created, that 〈◊〉 Lord at one stroke should destroy so 〈◊〉 millions of his creatures, not only men, ••∣men, and children, but all other things 〈◊〉 breathed. It was now a great work of 〈◊〉 to believe this, beyond the experience of the world, and against the mocks and 〈◊〉Page 99 of the whole world; and great wisdom to provide so carefully against it, preparing an Ark for the saving of his House: Herein he condemned the unbelief and folly of the world, whose sensuality, earthly-minded∣ness, and deep security, our Saviour decla∣reth, Matth. 24. 38. in the daies that were before the flood, They were eating and drink∣ing, marrying and giving in marriage, untill the day that Noah entred into the Ark, and knew not untill the flood came, and took them all away. Noah did foresee, and prepare for this notable change before it came; but the world of the ungodly continued in deep and dead security: They would not believe that the flood-gates of Heaven should be opened so wide, as to pour down an universal deluge upon the earth; they knew not, they consi∣dered not of this wofull change, untill the flood came, and took them all away.
NOw the reasons why this is to be ac∣counted a point of wisdom, necessary for every Christian, are,
1. Because a change will certainly come, Eccles. 1. 2. Vanity of vanities (saith the Preacher) all is vanity. All is vanity and uncertainty: There is no pepetuity, nothing Page 100 changeable in man, or in the outward conditi∣on of man here on earth; yea, many changes and strange alterations may befall those that seem to be in a most setled condition; many may come, some must come. Thou that art in prosperity, maist fall into adversity; Thou that art rich, maist become poor: Thou that hast Children, maist become childless: Thou that hast Friends, maist become friendless Thou that hast health, maist have sickness▪ Thou that art young and strong, maist be∣come old and impotent: Thou that art a li∣berty, maist be a prisoner. These things may come; but there is another change that must come, namely, Death. Thou that art living man or woman must be turned into a dead carkase: Thou that art now reckoned among the living, must be accounted among the dead. Thou that now seest, hearest, speak∣est, walkest, &c. must become blind, speech∣less, senseless, not able to move or stir: a corps without life, breath or motion. Thou that now conversest with men, must be for∣gotten, and become a dead man out of mind: yea, thou that now sittest here at this time, must stand before the Lord's Judgement-Seat, Oh then it is wisdom to be aforehand with these changes and alterations, that they may not surprize and overtake thee unprovided.
Page 101 2. It is uncertain how, and when these changes shall come, Jam. 4. 13, 14. Go to now ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a City, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow: for what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away: For that ye ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this and that. Our life is so un∣certain, that in that respect it may rather be said to appear then to be: and it appeareth but for a very little time, the date of it is soon expised. It is even a vapour, and a vapour doth quickly vanish, riseth in the morning, and is dissolved before noon: we may promise our selves years, but are not sure of the next day. So it proved in that rich mans case, Soul, thou hast goods laid up for many years. He had a short answer, Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be taken from thee. It is therefore a •ecessary point of wisdom to foresee and pro∣vide for this change.
3. Great miseries and inconveniences follow upon such alterations, when they are not foreseen and provided for: many oppor∣tunities are lost, which never can be recover∣ed; such changes happen as deprive men of all ability of doing that which they might Page 102 have done at ease, if they had foreseen these things, and taken their time: and men may look back with many sad thoughts, and much bitterness of spirit upon their neglects and losses this way, when it is too late. Some few daies, weeks, months, wilfully lost and wasted before, will seem more worth unto them than all the world; and the treasures and glory of the world, when once these changes have overtaken them, and come upon them unawares, and disabled them for ever.
Much discomfort cometh upon this im∣providence: when changes happen which are grievous in themselves; they become more grievous to us for want of preparation. That which in its own nature is a misery, is made a double misery to us, when we are not prepared for it. What discomfort will sickness bring, when it cometh unlook'd for; and when we have not prepared for it by searching our hearts; casting up our accounts; getting assured pardon of our sins at the hands of God? when a sick body and a guilty con∣science meet together, there is a woful con∣dition: when a man shall lie down in his death bed with the guilt of all his sins lying upon him, and pressing upon his Soul, there is a grievous burthen; and especially when death cometh, and findeth him not regene∣rate; Page 103 findeth in him no other life, but that which floweth from the union between the Soul and Body; no new spiritual life issuing from an inseparable communion between Christ and him. Oh how wi•l death insult over such a one? how will the name, the thought, the visage of death dismay him? when it meeteth him alone, not joyned to Christ, and entreth into a single combat with him; not strengthened by an happy u∣nion with the Lord of life; will it not tear him in pieces as a Lion might do a little Dog? It is a double misery not to be aforehand with death, not to be provided for this change.
4. on the other side, much ease, much good, much comfort followeth upon a time∣ly foresight, and wise preparation for such changes. When a sad and sudden change was brought upon Hezekiah; a sharp fit of sickness (supposed to have been the Plague) and a peremptory message from the Lord by the Prophet; Set thine House in order, for thou shalt die and not live. Did it not won∣derfully ease his burthen, that he was so well prepared for this change, and able to say (his conscience bearing him witness) 2 Kings 20. 3. I beseech thee O Lord, re∣member now how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart; and hav• done Page 104 that which is good in thy sight. What a com∣fort will it be, when thy health is turned into sickness, thy strength into weakness; when thou art fastened to thy bed, and hast received in thy self the sentence of death; if then thou findest thy self provided for this change. A sweet comfort it shall be in old age (when the Grashopper is a burden, even the lightest thing) it shall then ease that burden of years that makes thee stoop; if thou didst in time foresee and provide for it, turning to the Lord aforehand; that so thy gray hairs may be found in the way of righteousness.
Use 1. 1. THis may serve to reprove the great sensuality and security that is naturally among us; that we look at things present, and do not seriously take to heart such changes as may befall us. A Com∣ment upon Psal. 49. would be a fit enlarge∣ment of this use, where the Psalmist discour∣seth excellently of this point; both shewing the folly of men trusting to outward things as to certainties, and declaring his own spiri∣tual wisdom which God had taught him in preparing for any changes that might befall him. First, he calleth for attention for all sorts of men throughout the world. Hear Page 105 this all ye people, give ear all ye Inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together. It concerneth all sorts nearly, and all sorts are faulty therein, and need to be stirred up by way of remembrance. Then he doth very effectually seek to win attention by the excellency of the things which he is about to deliver. My mouth shall speak of wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding; such wisdom as many worldly wise men never learned: yea, he sheweth in the next verse, that it is an hid∣den wisdom; and as a parable to natural men for the most part. Then he entreth upon his discourse, and in the first place be∣ginneth with himself, ver. 5. Wherefore should I fear in the daies of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about? as if he had said; I do foresee changes and afflictions, I look for assaults from Satan; but I am armed against them through the mercy of God, who hath pardoned my sins, and therefore when such evils come, and Sa∣tan shall seek to entangle my Conscience, as in a snare, as if these were sure arguments of God's hatred against me: I will not fear, I am prepared for these things. Then on the other side in the next verse unto the fif∣teenth, he goeth on at large, declaring the Page 106 folly and blindness of worldly-minded men, &c secure sinners in this case. They that trust in their Wealth, and boast themselves in the mul∣titude of their Riches, none of them can by any means redeem his Brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: They trust in outward things, as if they were enduring substance, and their hearts are lifted up with thoughts of their Wealth and Riches; they think not serious∣ly of changes to come; they trust in their strength and healthy tempers in their Youth, they rest their hearts in their present carnal contentments, sinful pleasures, &c. as if these things should alwayes continue; whereas they can neither rescue or ransom themselves or dearest friends from the power of death, that he should live for ever, and not see cor∣ruption: For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the f•ol and the brutish person shall perish, and leave their wealth to others. This sheweth their great sensuality and sottishnes, that though they have daily experience of di∣vorces & separations made by death between men and their wealth, their honours, their pleasures, and that they are forced to leave all, and go naked out of the world; yet they do not apply this, and make it their own case; but they go on even like to the brute beasts, which when they see one of their Page 107 own herd led away to the slaughter-house, regard it not; but delight as much as before in their fat pastures, sitting themselves daily more and more for the same end. So these, though they see those that were framed of the same clay with themselves, drop away, and return to their dust; yet they mind it not, unless it be for a short fit, but set their hearts upon these things, as much as if they had never heard of any that had been taken away by death. For their inward thought is, that their Houses shall continue for ever, &c. The Spirit of God here looketh into the inside, and rippeth open the bosomes of these earth∣ly-minded persons, and sheweth what thoughts and hopes they have even of perpe∣tuities here on earth: and so they love and strive for these things, as if there were eter∣nity in them, as if they were everlasting things. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not, he is like the beasts that perish. Let him enjoy never so much of these things, yet he abideth not; there shall come a change, all shall be turned upside down, and he shall become like the beasts that pe∣rish. As he is sottishly and sensually affected with things present like the beast, so he shall return to the earth like it, and be turned out of all, ver. 13. This their way is their folly, Page 108 yet their posterity approve their sayings. It is a sad thing, that when experience hath taught the world so often the vanity of such thoughts, yet that those that come after should be of the same mind too, think as they thought, do as they did, live as they lived. The Psalmist addeth, Selah!] and it is well worthy even of a note of wonder and asto∣nishment. Children see their Parents sins, and see how they are taken away; and all their pride and covetousness, &c. doth them no good; the pleasure of all is vanished and gone; it is no more: yet will they run blindly on in the same way; so will others that come after them: Neighbours and acquaintance though they see this, yet they will follow them, and tread in their steps; this is their folly, Selah! it is remarkable folly. Ver. 14. Like sheep they are laid in their grave, Death shall feed on them, &c. As sheep dying in the field, are devoured and fed upon by Ra∣vens, and other birds of prey and beasts of the field; so death shall not only slay them, but feed upon them, it shall consume them, and turn them into rottenness and dust. Then saith he, The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning. After this long night wherein death shall feed on them in the grave, the morning light of that great day Page 109 shall arise upon them, when all shall rise again; and then the Righteousness shall have dominion over them, and sit in Judgement upon them. Oh how many changes are here which they do not effectually foresee and provide for! Friends are taken from them; they are taken from their wealth; Death killeth them, Death feedeth on them: and if here were an end, it were nothing: but then cometh that great day after this long night, when they must be awakened by the last Trumpet, and see the Righteous whom despised, sit as Judges over them. But Ver. 15. The Psalmist sheweth, how he had ta∣ken into consideration aforehand all these things, and was prepared for them. But God will redeem my Soul from the power of the grave, for he shall receive me, Selah! David did not settle his heart upon any things of the world, but he looked for death, and prepared for it, made account of being Death's prisoner in the grave; but then with∣all he had overcome death, and the grave be∣fore hand by the power of faith, laying hold of the promise of God, knowing that he should be ransomed and redeemed from it; not as the wicked, whose hearts were set upon the things of the world, to be carried from the prison of the grave to execution: but Page 110 he knew, that the Lord would receive him to glory, and upon this he sets a special note again, Selah! Then he sheweth what little cause any child of God hath to be troubled at the outward prosperity of the wicked, and in the end concludeth all with this speech, Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish. Let him be never so highly advanced and enriched; yet if he doth not understandingly consider of changes likely to come upon him, but glut himself with the things of this present life, he is more like a beast than a man, and maketh no use of that reasonable soul which God hath given him above a beast, whereby he hath an ability to look beyond these things that lie before his eyes for the present, and to make use of his experience in those changes which he hath seen in others; applying to himself, and rea∣soning from one thing to another, and so to provide for the like to come upon himself. You see here the very picture of a caranal secure heart, setled upon its lees, embracing this present world, and doting upon it; not foreseeing nor providing for those many changes and turnings of things that are likely to happen, and especially that great change that shall certainly come, death, the grave, and resurrection unto Judgement. Which Page 111 were they throughly sensible of, they should have a low esteem of these perishing vanities, and uncertainties under the Sun, and not ha∣zard their dear Souls by too much affecting, and too eager seeking after them.
Use 2. WE are all here to be exhorted in a more serious manner to set before our eyes and hearts a more deep consideration of those changes that may be∣fall us, and especially of that which must certainly come, and to provide against them. The Prophet Habakkuk saith, I will stand upon my Watch, and set me upon the Tower, and will watch to see what the Lord will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I 〈◊〉 re∣proved. He was before like one standing upon the lower ground, looking upon things present, things that lay before him, viz. The present prosperity of the wicked prevailing over the Church, and was troubled at it in his thoughts to see the wicked devour the man that was more righteous than he; Chap. 1. 13. Hereupon he is tempted to complain of the Lords wayes of Providence, and his manner of governing the world. But now being sen∣sible of his errour, he would get upon the higher ground, upon a watch-tower, that he Page 112 might see into changes that should come af∣terwards, and discern things afar off; when the wicked should be most severely punished for all their cruelty in oppressing the people of God. So Christians, when they stand upon the lower ground, and consult with flesh and blood, and look upon things with fleshy eyes, their thoughts are bent upon things that are at hand, even present things: but they must get upon the watch-tower, raise up their hearts in holy meditations upon the word, so that they may see afar off what is coming, and what shall be hereafter; what changes of things shall happen in time to come. When Jehu had the Kingdom of Israel bestowed upon him with a charge to execute Justice on the wicked house of Ahab, he rode in his Charet with other Captains & Souldiers to Jezreel,* where Joram the King, and his confederate Aba∣ziah King of Judah were together, in Vers. 17. it is said, There stood a Watch upon the Tower in Jezreel, and he espied the Com∣pany of Jehu as he came; and when a Mes∣senger was sent out and detained, he could see this too, and give the King knowledge of it: yea, and a second time he could see who it was too ere the King saw him at all (as it seemeth) standing upon the lower ground. Page 113 And the driving (saith he) is like the driving of Jehu the Son of Nimshi, for he driveth fu∣riously. Then saith Joram, make ready, when he was even upon his back; But then it was too late, he was now within the reach of Jehu's Bow. So whiles the wicked are secure, and content themselves with present things, they foresee not dangers, miseries, death, destruction marching furiously to∣wards them, untill it be too late, the poi∣soned shafts of death piercing through their hearts, and cleaving the body and soul a∣sunder. But a Christian must be a watch∣man, and still stand upon his watch-tower, that he may descry changes and dangers afar off; that he may see death riding post to∣wards him on his pa•e horse, Revel. 6. 8. and Hell following, that he may betimes pro∣vide against it, and may escape the sting of death, laying hold on Christ, and may e∣scape the damnation of Hell. Death hath many thousands by the throat ere ever they see it coming, and arm themselves against it. They use to say of such, who when they first •ell sick had the symptomes of death upon them, that they were taken with death. Beloved, every one that death surpriseth be∣fore he be provided for it, may well be said to be taken with death. Death hath taken Page 114 hold of all such, and hath them within it's power. But he that is aforehand with death, and is a partaker of life in Christ, cannot be taken with it, but he hath death rather in his power, and is a conquerour over death by the power of Christ. Others are taken un∣provided; they are taken sleeping in their sins, when death driveth it's nail into their heads, as Jael did into the head of Sisera. Oh, then be watchfull to foresee and pro∣vide for changes to come! Sickness may be coming, poverty may be coming, general ca∣lamities may be at hand; Wars may be marching furiously towards a Land; the Angel may be coming with his destroying Sword; The Arrows of Pestilence may 〈◊〉 now laid to the Bow, and drawn to the he•• and ready to fly abroad among us: Darkne• may be coming, the loss of the glorious Go∣spel of Christ may be at hand; Anti-Christ may be coming: Howsoever these things may fall out, it is most certain, that Death is a coming not many daies journey from each of our doors, and perhaps even now ready 〈◊〉 knock at some of our gates. None of 〈◊〉 know, who shall be first visited by it: and they that are not provided for it aforehand may assure themselves, that Hell will follow Death close at the heels. Oh then learn to 〈◊〉Page 115 daily! that death may become familiar to you, and not come as a stranger, or an ene∣my, or an Executioner when it doth come; but rather as a friend, to let your Souls out of this prison of the flesh, that ye may enter in∣to glory and blessedness.
Eccles. •2. 1.
IN this last Clause of the Verse, the daies of Old Age are opposed unto the daies of Youth, in these terms, The years wherein 〈◊〉 shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. Hence I note,
Observ. That this short and mortal life may outlast the pleasures and all the con∣tentments of this life. This life is short, yet as short as it is, it many times is longer than the comforts of this life, longer than the de∣lights and pleasures of this world. There 〈◊〉 be years within the compass of this shor•〈◊〉, wherein a man shall find no pleasure, 〈◊〉 shall be weary of himself. Man is bu•Page 116 of short continuance; the longest liver a∣mong men shall quickly go hence; and ye• many a man and woman may, and do out-live the comforts of their lives; survive al• the pleasure and contentment that ever they had here below. And if something remain, wherein they can take delight, yet it is so little in comparison of those things which they have lost, that they think their good daies be gone and past. They have lived to see the pleasures of life vanish away life smoak, and do often look back with 〈◊〉 hearts upon the times wherein they enjoyed such and such things, wherein it was thus and thus with them. So it was with David; he had been a victorious King, and prosper•• exceedingly in his wayes; but in the lat•• part of his life, his Daughter was deflow••• by his Son, and that Son killed by another Son when he was feasting: the same Son re∣belled against his Father, defiled his Concu∣bines, sought his life, and was slain in rebel∣lion. Then Sheba rebelleth, and not long after David lieth bed-rid, and no clothes could keep him warm, 1 Kings 1. Whe•• were now the pleasures of life? might 〈◊〉 he very well have said of these last years 〈◊〉 his life, I have no pleasure in them. It is true he did comfort himself in God, and in 〈◊〉Page 117 assured expectation of a better life, but the pleasures of this life were gone and past: and if he had been one of those that have hope only in this life, what good had all the for∣mer pleasures of this life done him? That which was verified of this good King, was true also of one of his best Subjects, viz. Barzillai the Gileadite, who had so liberally supplied King David, when he was forced to flee from Absalom. The King would now have him to be his Guest at the Court, and to live with him at Jerusalem: But thus he answereth David, 1 Kings 19. 35. I am this day fourscore years old, and can I discern between good and evil? Can I taste what I eat, or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voyce of singing men and singing women? Wherefore then should thy servant be yet a bur∣then to my Lord the King? The pleasures of this life are gone with me, saith Barzillai, I was wont I could relish my Meat and Drink, now I cannot: Musick now is no Musick to me, I have out-lived the delights of this world.
Now if these men did out live the out∣ward comforts and contentments of this life, how much more do many wicked persons? How was it with Saul? He was preferred beyond his expectation before all the men Page 118 of Israel: He overcame the Ammonites and Philistines, and was in a flourishing estate: But for his sin the Lord blasted all the com∣forts of his life, took away those gifts of his Spirit from him, whereby he had fitted him for the Kingdom; suffered an evil Spirit to vex and torment him; gave him over to tor∣ment himself with envy and bitterness of spirit, to vex himself with Davids success▪ answereth him not in his distress; leaveth him to consult with a Witch, and thereupon to receive a sad answer, and to hear his doo•, which soon after was executed upon him▪ Thus ye see in these examples how this sho• mortal life lasteth beyond the pleasures and comforts of this life. We have also a no∣table example in this kind in King Jehora• a wicked Son of a good Father: He had a flourishing Kingdom left by his Father; but after that he had slain his Brethren, and wrought much wickedness, the Kingdom of Edom revolted from him, Ver. 9. 10. So did the City of Libnah. He was severely threatned from Heaven, Ver. 12, 13, 14, 15. which threatnings took effect accordingly. The Philistines and Arabians brake into his Kingdom, entred his Place, took away his Goods, his Wives, his Sons, all save 〈◊〉 youngest, Ver. 16, 17. Then also the Lord Page 119 smote him with an incurable Disease in his Bowels, and after two years torment (as it seemeth) his Body rotted, and his Bowels fell out, so that he died of sore Diseases, and had not that honour at his Funeral which was usually done unto Kings: See how his life out-lasted the comforts of his life, and yet his life was short; he died when he was about forty years old, and reigned eight years.
Now ye may see by these examples, that there are two wayes in general by which it cometh to pass; that the comforts of this life are shorter than life it self, and that this life out-lasteth them all: and that is, 1. By reason of old age. 2. By reason of crosses & afflictions. 1. In respect of old age: so it was with Da∣vid and Barzillai: So it is expressed at large in this last Chapter of Ecclesiastes; where he sheweth how the daies of old age are such many times that a man hath no pleasure in them; and sheweth at large how the several parts of the body decay, and the powers of nature fail. The Grashopper shall be a burthen] that is, every little thing shall trouble them. And desire shal fail.] They shall have no mind to any thing: There∣fore also it must needs be that delights should fail, they should joy in nothing; all the pleasures of Youth, and the de∣lights Page 120 of Life are gone. Moses saith, Psal. 90. 10. The daies of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore, yet is their strength but la∣bour and sorrow. Yea, and some ere they be threescore, do feel the burthen of Old Age, as much as others do at fourscore. 2. In re∣spect of sufferings and afflictions, some do out-live the comforts and pleasures of this life. So did Job: but that afterwards the Lord restored his prosperity to him in an ex∣traordinary manner. So Saul (it seemeth) in respect of age might have enjoyed many a fair year) but all was blasted, and his King∣dom did him little, good. The Lord declared himself against him. So ye see in the example of Jehoram: the Lord may take away those comforts from a man, that the loss of them may drown all the pleasures of this life, em∣bitter all those sweets that this world can af∣ford to us.
THe Reason in general is the sin of man: that hath shortned life, & made it mor∣tal, which (had it not been for sin) should have been imortal. That hath made the comforts of life shorter than life it self, which should have been everlasting, as life it self should have been immortal, had not sin given a dead∣ly Page 121 wound both to the life of man, and to the comforts of this life. Man should have had no thorns nor thistles to have vexed him in Paradise, if he had not let Sin into the Gar∣den; but Sin being let in cast him out into a thorny world ful of miseries, whereby his short life was made bitter to him, and the pleasures of life not so long-lived as life it self.
Many times the special sins of men are the cause of this, and that both of God's Children and of the wicked. The special sins of the Godly, as in David: his sins into which he fell, made the latter part of his life full of bit∣terness: and had not he been able to comfort himself in God, and to have refreshed his heart with his saving love and mercy, how could he have been able to bear up his Spirit under such grievous burthens?
So the Lord doth many times change the outward condition of his Children, and cau∣seth them in stead of many outward comforts formerly enjoyed, to eat the bread and drink the water of afflictions; and causeth sad times to pass over them; insomuch that all the comforts of this life do no way yield them so much content, as their outward af∣flictions do bring bitterness upon them.
On the other side, the special sins of the wicked, do sometimes move the Lord to turn Page 122 their laughter into mourning, and to bring a a dark Cloud on all the Sun-shine of their outward comforts, so that all things in the world shall look sad upon them, and this he seemeth to do for two causes.
1. To bring them home to himself, that being taken off from carnal contentment in outward delights, and brought to deal se∣riously with their own hearts, and to consi∣der their wayes; and finding nothing in the world for their hearts to rest upon, they may be made to turn to the Lord, and to seek peace with him, and comfort in his love. Thus it was with Manasseh, whiles he flourished in his Kingly dignity, and had what his heart could wish, how did he exceed in wicked∣ness? But when the Lord gave him that blow by the hand of the King of Babylon, which struck him down from his Throne, and •aid him in fetters; then in his affliction he be∣sought the Lord his God, and humbled him∣self greatly before the God of his Fathers, and prayed unto him, and he was entreated of him, &c. 2 Chron. 33, 11, 12, 13.
2. The Lord seemeth to do this many times to manifest his Justice, and to let the wicked know what they are to look for in an∣other world. Thus he seemeth to have dealt with Pharaoh, Saul, and many others. This Page 123 I am perswaded, the Lord doth often aim at even in those changes which are brought with Old Age. Many which have been flou∣rishing in their daies, and abused their pro∣sperity, their bodies decay with old age, and their outward means wither together with them, and they are set before the world for spectacles, wherein men may read the va∣nity of all things under the Sun, together with the fading and uncertain condition of all the comforts of this life. I mean of such, who after Youth and riper years spent in sin and impenitency, do afterwards go creep∣ing under the burden of Old Age, and have no heart to seek the Lord in sincerity; but their hearts die within them, and become like Nabals, having lost the content which they took before in the pleasures of sin, and wanting grace to raise their hearts to the Lord, that they might delight their Souls in him. Many such examples may be observed in the world.
3. Sometimes the Lord doth this to exer∣cise the graces of his Children, and to make them examples unto others of patience and stedfastness in his ways: as it was with Job, who continued in his integrity after that those great changes were brought upon him.
Use. I. HEnce we may be brought to a consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of all the contentments of this present life. How short is life it self? And yet the pleasures of life are shorter than life, Psal. 39. 5. Behold thou hast made my daies as an hand-breadth, saith David. There is the life of man measured by a span: it is but an handfull long; not an Inch long com∣pared to eternity: for so it followeth; Mine age is as nothing before thee. Compare it to eternity, and it is nothing. The daies of a man's life are not worth the reckoning, not worth numbring. Nay, compare it not only to the eternity of God, who is from everlast∣ing to everlasting; but make the comparison between the time of this life, and the im∣mortality and everlasting continuance of the Soul of man in another world either in mise∣ry or blessedness, and it is as nothing. What then are all the pleasures and contentments which this life can afford, which usually are expired before life it self? The year is but short, and quickly turned about in its seve∣ral seasons: how soon is the Spring gone? How soon the Summer? The Autumn is quickly spent, and the Winter is not long Page 125 ere it be ended: but the pleasures of the year last not so long as the year it self. When once Winter appeareth, we may say, where are all the flowers and Rose-buds of the Spring? They are long since dead and wi∣thered, yet the year is not ended: within a few weeks what will become of all the green leaves that have beautified the Trees: they will fall and die. Within a few months what will become of all the green grass that cloatheth the Earth? It will be dead, and lose its beauty and sweetness. Now unto the year ye may compare this present life: to the flowers, blossomes, leaves, grass, you may compare the pleasures, delights and contentments of this life: The year is short, and quickly gone; yet the flowers, blossoms, leaves, &c. are gone before it. So life is short, and soon spent, yet the pleasures and contentments of this life are spent before it. In the eleventh verse of the same Psalm, Da∣vid saith, When thou with rebukes dost cor∣rect man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Thou makest his beauty, and all those delights, and that prosperity wherein he flourished, and took contentment, to con∣sume and wither like corn that is blasted: surely every man is vanity. At the end of Page 126 the fifth verse he saith; Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity. Take him at his best estate, when he hath the most of those things which belong to this life, strength and health, wit and understanding, wealth, worldly honours, credit with the world, and respect from worldly men, yet even then this holy Prophet guided by the spirit of truth, doubteth not to pronounce or proclaim him meer vanity; an empty thing, a bubble, a bladder swoln big, but filled with wind. Take him as he is a meer man, not renued by the Spirit of God, not having Christ dwelling in him: and take him at his best with all those things with which this mortal life is capable of, and wherewith this lower world wherein we live, can furnish him, and he is but vanity; there is nothing sound, nothing solid nor substantial in him: his life and the pleasures of this life are but for a moment, and of the two the pleasures of this life u∣sually are the shorter, and sooner ended than life it self. The Apostle saith, 1 Pet. 1. 24. All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth away. Man and his mor∣tal life are like the grass: the glory and pro∣sperity of man's life is as the flower of the grass. The grass it self is not long-lived, Page 127 but the flower of the grass is dead before the grass it self. Life is not long, but the flower of life, the pleasure and prosperity of life is shorter than life it self, Jam. 4. 14. What is your life? it is even a vapour that appear∣eth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Where the Apostle meeteth with the fond thoughts of our fleshly hearts: for when a man is strong and healthy, and in prosperity, and enjoyeth the pleasures of this life, he thinketh he hath gotten a jewel, and his heart resteth in these things, he thinketh it is well with him: Oh this life, and that which be∣longeth to it, is a thing which he doth highly prize, and setteth a great rate upon it. Now saith St. James, What is your life? Ye think ye have a great treasure of it, I pray what is it? What is that life which ye do so highly esteem? I will tell you saith he, it is even a vapour that appeareth: it hath rather an ap∣pearance than a being. It maketh some shew in the eyes of the world, but it is nothing in a manner; and that shew and appearance which it maketh, is but for a time, & when the time is gone, it is as if it had never been; it is all lost, man is never the better for it; for those things which are limited within the compass of time, and measured by a term of daies or years, both in respect of themselves Page 128 and their fruit, all the good of them weareth out with that time, and he that enjoyed them, is never the better for them, no more than if he had never had them. I speak of those things which in themselves and in their fruit are measured by time; for some things in re∣spect of themselves, and their continuance, are but for a time; but the fruit of them is everla∣sting to those that use them in an holy & san∣ctified manner, to those who receive the truth in love into honest and good hearts, in whom it becometh an immortal seed, enlivened and actuated with the Spirit of life and holiness; yea, there are some principal graces, which end with time in respect of themselves, but in respect of their fruit are everlasting, as Faith and Hope which cease with this life, but in their fruit are perpetua and immor∣tal. Nay, even many outward things in the possession of a Child of God, being sanctified to him, and improved by him to the glory of God, though they are mortal and temporal in themselves, yet they have an everlasting fruit; so that a Child of God that is rich in good works, may be the better for his wealth for ever. The Psalmist speaking of him that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his Commandements, speaketh of his wealth and riches, Psal. 112. 3. and ver. 9. of the Page 129 good use of them. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor: and then of the ever∣lasting fruit of wealth so employed with such an heart; he saith, His righteousness endureth for ever. So Matth. 6. 20 saith our Saviour: Lay up for your selves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break thorow, nor steal. But now to an unregenerate man, both his life it self, and all the good he enjoyeth in this life, and all the fruit of that life, and that good is temporal, and limited by time. All his pleasures, and prosperity, and all the fruit of these end with time; and so when the time is past, and these do him no good, he is never the better for them, no more than if he had •ever possessed them. Take two natural men living and dying in that estate; the one •ich, and the other a stark beggar: the rich man's case is not a jot better, when the time of this life is worn out, than the others; it may be worse because of his unthankfulness, and the abuse of his wealth. So take a na∣tural man that hath enjoyed abundance of pleasures, and another that hath scarce seen any good daies all his life long; if both of them live and die in their natural estate, they are both alike: the pleasures that the one hath had, do him no more good, than if he Page 130 had never had any more than the other: It may be they have encreased his condemna∣tion exceedingly. Now St. James saith, that life is but for a time, or rather it appear∣eth but for a time: so the pleasures of life are but for a time; nay, it followeth there, life appeareth but for a little time; and the pleasures of life are shorter than life; and therefore their time is less than life, and the• saith he, life vanisheth away, and the pleasures of life must needs vanish with it, 〈◊〉 they be gone before it, as many times 〈◊〉 are: for as ye see in the Text, a man may l•ve such years, whereof he may say and think, I have no pleasure in them: wherein he may say, in his heart, Alas! I breath yet, I keep above ground, I yet live, but I have out-lived all the comforts of my life, they are as it were dead and buried; I shall ne∣ver en•oy them any more: so that he can look back upon his former comforts and pro∣sperity with a sad heart, and weeping-eye, comparing it with his present sorrows, as 〈◊〉 did, as ye may read at large in the 29th. and 30th. Chapters of that Book. In the 29th he expresseth his former prosperity, in the 30th his present affliction. In Chap. 29. 2. 〈◊〉 saith▪ Oh that I were as in moneths past, as 〈◊〉 the daies wherein God preserved me; 〈◊〉Page 131 his candle shined upon mine head, and when by his light, I walked through darkness! So he goeth on. Even so man liveth to that day, when he can reckon up a great many com∣forts as so many los•es: things once enjoyed, now gone, and can compare them with ma∣ny crosses now lying upon them: for some∣times the Lord taketh away mens wealth, so that those who have lived plentifully, are brought to a poor and hard condition: some∣times their health, that men are afflicted with languishing or painful diseases, that their wealth doth them little good; they cannot enjoy it. Sometimes he leaveth them health and wealth, but taketh away those friends that are dearer to them than either: the loss of whom embitte•eth all those things that are left them. Sometimes he depriveth them of liberty, and these things come alike to all; sometimes he prolongeth their lives un∣to old age, and burtheneth their old age with so many infirmities and grievances, that their life is but a ling•ing death unto them. Some∣times he taketh away their sight, some∣times their hearing &c. and sometimes he leaveth them to the g•awings and gripings of a guilty conscience, not cleansed and washed by the blood of Christ. Thus many wayes, and in many respects ye see, that the Page 132 pleasures and prosperity of life may be made shorter than this short life it self.
II. IN the second place this should serve to wean us from the love of this world, and the things of this life, whether it be wealth, or pleasure, or wordly credit, or health or strength, or friends or children that we set our hearts upon, or take content in: how soon may all, or any of these be taken from us? or how soon may some such heavy blow from the hand of the Lord fall upon us, as may strike dead all the delight and comfort which we took in these? There∣fore as the Prophet saith, Isai. 2. 22. Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of? Cease to put your trust, or place your content in man, whether men of high degree, or of low de∣gree, for he is a mortal creature, soon gone. When that fading flee•ing breath that issu∣eth in and out at his nostrils, is stopped by death, he is gone: and wherein is he to be ac∣counted of? What reckoning should be made of so frail a creature? So in this case I say, cease ye from the things of this life, for they have their breath in their nostrils (as it were) they are frail, short-lived comforts; and wherein are they to be accounted of? Here Page 133 then is Christian wisdom to have the heart crucified to these things when they are at best, and when a man hath most of them: then to die to the world, and to look upon the best things of the world, and the greatest outward comforts of this life as upon so ma∣ny dead things: to affect them, and make ac∣count of them as so many shadows and empty vanities to use them as dying things. I am crucified to the world (saith the Apostle) and the world is crucified to me. This is Chri∣stian wisdom when a man can so carry his af∣fections towards the greatest comforts of this life, as he would to a thing that is crucified, to a thing already nailed to the cross, and dying. It were a vain thing to take a few flowers and blossoms in the Spring, and to lock them up safe in a Cabinet, like so many precious Stones, or Pearls of great value, meaning to keep them many years: whereas if he look upon them the next week, he shall find them dead and withered, their beauty is gone. And is it not yet a far greater •olly to lock up the fading comforts of this life in that precious Cabinet of thy Heart and Soul, as as if they were everlasting treasures, as if they were some enduring substance? such a heart is poorly furnished. For an immortal Soul that must live for ever, to be stuffed and Page 134 filled with perishing trash, it is as if a rich Cabinet of Gold, beset with Pearls, should be fill'd with dust and dross; yea, it is far worse, such a soul is miserably furnished; when the Soul wherein Christ should dwell, the Sould which should be a Temple of the Holy Ghost, the Soul that should be stored and furnished with heavenly graces, shall be stuffed and filled with such rubbish and •rash as men gather from the dunghill of this world, with the things of this life, that are shorter than life it self. So St. Paul, 1 Cor. 7. 29, 3•, 31. This I say Brethren, the time is short, it remaineth, that both they that have Wives, be as though they had none: and they that weep, as though they wept not: and they that rejoyce, as though they rejoyced not: and they that buy, a• though they possessed not: and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. It is alwayes in fluxu, still in passage, ever flee•∣ing, going, vanishing. Therefore go not a∣bout to keep that in thine immortal Soul, which will not be kept, which will not abide with thee, but will suddenly be gone, and is already going, and sliding from thee: but we shall never be beaten from this, unless we take possession of better things, and lay hold 〈◊〉 the enduring s•bstance.