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whither sinful delights conduct the sensualist and voluptuary. Miserable old man ! the winter of life is upon him, and he has nothing to cheer his cold and dreary spirit ; nor any spring to look forward to: the night of existence has come on; not a star twinkles from heaven upon his path ; nor will any morning dawn upon the gloom which enwraps him. Such is the old age of those who remember not God in their youth, and carry on their oblivion of religion, as such persons generally do, to the end of life.
But should any one be called at the eleventh hour, such a convert will be subject, at times, to the most painful doubts and apprehensions; he questions the reality of his religion; he fears that it is the result of circumstances, not of a divine change; he is afraid that, like a halfshipwrecked vessel, driven into port by the violence of the storm, rather than by the effort of the crew, he has been forced to religion more by the terrors produced by approaching death than the choice of his own will; he often concludes that he never forsook the world till he could no longer retain it; and that he renounced the enjoyments of earth only because from the decay of his body, from the feebleness of his mind, and the weakness of his fancy, he is unable to indulge in them. These, and other similar fears, generally occasion, in persons converted in old age, a painful hesitancy concerning the security of their state ; prevent them from going on their way rejoicing, and hang like a cloud upon the prospect of immortality.
How much more cheering and consolatory are the reflections of the aged Christian, who remembered his Creator in the days of his
youth. He too has arrived at the wintry days of existence, but like the inhabitant of a wellstored mansion, he has a thousand comforts which enable him to hear the howling of the tempest without a fear, and to look on the dreariness of the scene unconscious of a want ; and then, in addition to this, the days of everlasting spring approach. He, too, is overtaken by the evening; his shadow lengthens on the plain, but the heavens pour upon him the glory of God, while the word in which he trusted is a lamp. unto his feet; and an eternal day is about to dawn upon his soul. In the past he sees the long interval between the season of youth and the furrowed countenance of age, filled
up in some good degree, with works of devotion, righteousness, and benevolence; whereby he has glorified God, benefited his species, and prepared a balm for his memory. No sins of youth fill his bones with pain, or his spirit with remorse. He has little doubt of his sincerity; for his life, though it affords him no ground of dependence for salvation, furnishes him with numerous evidences of the faith which justifies the soul, and purifies the heart. He forsook the world when most capable of enjoying it; he was not driven by violence to religion, but deliberately weighed anchor, and, with every sail set, steered for the haven of piety. He has resisted innumerable attacks upon his principles, and against every foe has held fast his integrity. On the verge of life he can say, “I have kept the faith, I have fought a good fight, I have nearly finished my course; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of life, which God the righteous Judge will bestow upon me.".
Surely, surely my children, an old age thus placid and venerable, is an object worthy of your desires ; surely these peaceful recollections, these sublime prospects, amidst the dreariness of age, are deserving your exertions.
Early piety will have a considerable influence on your eternal felicity.
In dwelling upon the two different and contrary states of heaven and hell, we are not to conceive of them as conditions of being, where all persons in the former will be equally happy, and all in the latter equally miserable. There are different degrees of glory in one, and different degrees of torment in the other. This is proved by scripture, and accords with reason. Grace is glory in the bud; glory is grace in a state of fructification; and as in the natural world, so it is in the spiritual one, where there is little blossom, there cannot be much fruit. Life is the seedtime for eternity; what a man soweth, that shall he also reap, not only in kind, but degree. Late sowings, as well as scanty ones, are generally followed with short crops.
The reward of the righteous is all of grace, but then that grace which rewards the righteous rather than the wicked, may, with equal consistency, reward righteousness according to its degrees, We cannot think that the reward of the dying thief, who was converted in the dark yalley of the shadow of death, will be equal to that of Timothy or of Paul, who spent a long and laborious life in the service of Christ. Nor is it to be imagined, that the crown of the aged convert will be as bright or as heavy, as that of the Christian who is converted in youth, and your attention
continues, till a good old age, in a course of consistent piety.
But there is one consideration which should come home to the bosom of young people with overwhelming force : I mean, that unless they become partakers of piety in early life, the probability is, that they will never partake of it at all. Is it of consequence, that you should become pious at any time? then does all that consequenco attach to the present time? Let me sound this idea again and again in your ears, let me detain
the awful and alarming sentiment. The probability of your salvatiou becomes weaker and weaker as the years of youth roll by. It is less probable this year than the last, and will be less probable next year than this. I do not now argue upon the uncertainty of life, that I have considered before; 1 appeal to Facts, which in reference to the sentiment I have now advanced, are of the most alarming aspect. Consider only two individuals of the six hundred thousand, who left Egypt above the age of twenty years, enter Canaan. Of those who are converted at all, by far the greater part are brought to seek religion in their youth; and of the few who are reclaimed in adult, or old age, how rare a case is it, to find one who has been religiously educated. It is easy to observe, generally speaking, that sinners who have been brought under the means of
grace, or under some new and impressive preaching, which they never enjoyed before, if they do not soon profit by their privileges, rarely profit by them at all. God's time of conversion seems to be, the morning of religious privilege. The churches mentioned in the New
Testament, were chiefly made up of persons converted by the first efforts of the apostles. Hence, when these servants of the cross were unsuccessful in their early labours in a city, or province, they looked upon it as a bad omen, and as a strong indication that it would be useless to continue their ministrations there ;* so that the usual order of divine grace is, for its showers to fall on what might be called morning sowings. The seasons of youthful years, or youthful means, are the usual times of conversion ; and those who misimprove either of these, are in general found to neglect religion for ever after.
I am aware, that instances to the contrary are sometimes found; and therefore none who are inclined to seek God at any age should despair : yet they but rarely occur, and therefore let none presume. True repentance is never too late; but late repentance is seldom produced.
It is very probable, that some who shall read these pages, deliberately and sincerely make up their mind to serve God at some future time, after they have a little longer enjoyed the world. Mistaken youth! Sinful young people! Let them consider what their intentions amount to; “I will go on sinning a little longer, and then I will repent. I will serve Satan, and the world, and sin, as long as I can, and when I am worn out in their service, or weary of it, I will turn to God and try the ways of religion. O Lord! the preserver of my days, spare my life a little longer to disobey thee, to insult thee, and then give me thy grace to assist me to turn
* Sec Acts xiii. 46, 48; xxii, 18; xxviii. R3—28.