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frequently interrupted. What then could you expect, if you had those, not only in your houses, but in your arms too, from whom you would hardly ever hear a serious word; and who would perhaps be unwilling to give you the hearing, if you should attempt any such discourse : Nay, might possibly revile or banter you for it, and, by their impious language and wicked example, might greatly deaden religious sentiments in your own heart, and either prevent or frustrate your endeavours for communicating them to those under your care? When christians, of one sex or other, chuse such a companion for life, they seem to lie under great difficulties, and will be in imminent danger, either on the one hand, of failing in a due affection and regard, or on the other, of being perverted and ensnared by that very affection, which both the duties of the relation, and the comfort of life so evidently require. If any of you have taken this hazardous step, I have nothing to do but to advise you, to be daily looking up to God for that extraordinary prudence which your circumstances require. But this is such a sitnation, that I cannot forbear praying, that, as for those of you who are yet single, no considerations of beauty, wit, temper, or fortune, may ever prevail upon you to bow your necks to so unequal a yoke. 3. How much reason have you to be thankful, if God has de
livered you from the snares of wicked company, and given you a relish for such as is good.
Think how easily you might have been entangled and undone. Think how many, in other respects at least your equals in wisdom and capacity, are in this instance making a foolish choice; and Bless the Lord, who has given you counsel*. It is his mercy, that gives you serious and useful friends, and gives you a heart to value them. By their converse you may gain many advantages directly opposite to the evils I have been describing. Be humbled, that you have improved these advantages no better; and pray for the aids of divine grace, that for the future they may be more diligently regarded : And if Providence ever lead you into the company of carnal sinners, which the most pious and resolute cannot wholly avoid, labour that they may be something the better for you, and you not the worse for them; and consider all the irregularities you observe in them, as farther motives of thankfulness to God, for making a difference betwixt them and you, and giving you company so much more amiable than theirs. Once more, 4. Let young persons of a regular character take great heed,
* Psal. xvi. 7.
that they do not by insensible degrees, become dangerous companions to each other.
That social turn of mind which is natural to men, and especially to young persons, may perhaps lead you to form yourselves into little societies, particularly at this season of the year, to spend your evenings together. But let me intreat you to be cautious how you spend them. If your games and your cups take up your hours till you intrench on the night, and, perhaps, the morning too, you will, to be sure, quickly corrupt each other, and soon degenerate into a club of rakes and debauchees. Farewel then to prayer, and every other religious exercise in secret. Farewel to all my pleasing hopes of you, and to those hopes which your pious parents have entertained. You will then become examples and instances of all the evils 1 have so largely been describing. Plead not, that these things are lawful in themselves; so are most of those in a certain degree, which by their abuse prove the destruction of men's souls and bodies. If you meet, let it be for rational and christian conversation ; and let prayer and other devotions have their frequent place amongst you. And if you say, or think, that a mixture of these will spoil the company, it is high time for you to stop your career, and call yourselves to an account ; for it seems, by such a thought, that you are Lovers of pleasure, much more than lovers of God*. Some of these things may appear to have a tincture of severity ; but consider, whether, in present circumstancest, I could have proved myself faithful to you, and to him in whose name I speak, if I had omitted the caution I have now been giving you. I shall only add, that, had I loved you less tenderly, I had perhaps warned you more coldly of this dangerous and deadly snare. May God render the admonition as successful as I am sure it is seasonable and necessary!
* 2 Tim. iii. 4. + N. B. The substance of this Sermon was first preached at Harborough, Dec. 25, 1725; and afterwards at Northampton, on that day eight years.
TO YOUNG PERSONS.
The young Christian invited to Communion.
Isaiah xliv. 3—5.-For I will pour Water upon him that is thirsty, and Floods
upon the dry Ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy Seed, and my Blessing upon thine Offspring; and they shall spring up as among the Grass, as Willows by the Watercourses : One skall say, I am the Lord's ; and another shall call himself by the Name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his Hand unto the Lord, und surname himself by the Name
of Israel. On the first hearing of these words, you will easily appre. hend, that they afford abundance of very proper matter for a discourse to young people ; but you may perhaps be surprised when I tell you, that I shall take occasion from them to address religious youth, with a large invitation to an early attendance on the table of the Lord.
This is a surprise which I do not at all affect to give : For to press in a scripture to serve a purpose foreign to its original design, and to turn a mere allusion into an argument, is, in its degree, to Handle the Word of God deceitfully*, and is indeed an injury to it, rather than an honour. So that I much fear, that by thus attempting to make every thing of the scripture, we shall at length come to make nothing of it: For those see
seemingly distant extremes approach nearer to each other, than some seem to be aware.
But I hope, my friends, you have learned to judge of the pertinency of scripture to any purpose in hand, not merely by the first sound of the words, but by an attentive view of its sense and connection; and when the words I have been reading are diligently examined, they may appear more suitable to my design, than you at first apprehended.
Though God had before been reproving Israel with great severity, and Setting their sins in order before themt, he intimates purposes
mercy, which he yet entertained
towards them, unworthy as they were*: And, in order to prepare them for farther favours, he promises in the words of the text, to pour out upon them an abundant effusion of the blessed Spirit. Now we well know, by a multitude of scriptures, which I must not particularly enumerate, that it was to be in the latter day, i. e. the gospel-times, that this glorious promise was most eminently to be fulfilledt.
The blessed effects, which were to attend its accomplishment, are described in great variety and elegance of language. They are represented by the refreshment which water gives to him that is thirsty, and which plentiful floods of it afford to the dry ground, when scorched with the summer's heat. Accordingly it is said, that they, and their offspring too, should flourish in religion, like the grass when thus abundantly refreshed, or like willows by the water-courses, the verdure of which is so delightful, and the growth so speedy, that no more proper emblem could have been chosen. Thus should the souls of the children flourish, through the divine blessing, on the instructions of pious parents, and other methods appointed by God for their religious improvement : And in the next words the prophet uses still greater plainness of speech, to let us know that their number should be considerable, and their resolutions for God firm and determinate. One and another, this man and that, should come and own his relation to God, should publicly enter himself into the engagements of his covenant, and put in an humble claim to the important blessing it was intended to convey: One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
Some very celebrated translators and critics understand the words which we render, Subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, in a sense a little different from that which our English version has given them. They would rather render them, Another shall write upon his hand, I am the Lord'sf; and they suppose it refers to a custom which formerly prevailed in the east, of stamping the name of the general on the sol.
* Isa. xliii. 22–28. + Compare Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26. Zech. xii. 10. Joel ii. 28. Acts i. 17. John vij. 38, 39.
| The hebrew is. Mins 19 any, nipi; which the LXX translate, ετερος επιγραψει χειρι αυτε, Το Θια ειμι,
dier*, or that of the master on the slavet: As this name was sometimes borne on the forehead, so at other times on the hand; and it is certain that several scriptures, which may easily be recollected, are to be explained as alluding to thist. Now from hence it seems to have grown into a custom amongst some idolatrous nations, when solemnly devoting themselves to the service of any deity to be initiated into it by receiving some marks in their flesh, which might never wear outg. This interpretation the original will certainly bear; and it here makes a very strong sense, since every true christian has a sacred and an indelible character upon him, which shall never be erased. But if we retain our own version, it will come to nearly the same, and evidently refers to a practice which was sometimes used among the jewsli, and which is indeed exceeding natural, of obliging themselves to the service of God, by setting their hand to some written articles emphatically expressing such a resolution. So that you see it must imply, that they who were, by the influences of divine grace, brought to a serious sense of religion, should, in a public and solemn manner, express their subjection to God, and their readiness to enter into covenant with him ; and whatever rites should by him be appointed as the tokens of such a resolution, the text must intimate a cheerful compliance with them : For it would be most unreasonable to imagine that any,
* Sicut Milites Imperatoris Nomen in Manu scriptum habebant, Grot. Manuá snæ inscribent Sacramentum Jehovæ, sicut Milites, &c. Bren. Vid. Ætius, lib. viii. cap. 12. Sigon. lib. i. cap. 8. lib. ii. cap. 5. Augustin. Epist. xx.
† Servi etiain oliin Stigma Manui inustum ferebant, ex quo agnoscerentur, Mercator. See Hammond, on Rev, xiii. 15.
I Thus it is said, Rev, xiii. 16, 17. That all meng-bond and free, received the merk of the beast in their right-hand, or in their foreheads ; and that without it none might buy or sell : And in another place we read of An angel that had the seal of the laring God,- to seal his servants in their foreheads, Rev. vii, 2, 3. In allusion to this also our Lord promises, Rev. iii. 12. I twill write upon him that overcomelh, the name of my God, and my new name. On this account christians are said to be sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption ; Eph. iv. 30. as by his operations God owns them as his, and secures them to himself: And to this God seems to refer, in those condescending words, Isa, xlix. 16. I have graven Zion on the palms of my hands. See also Ezek. ix. 4. To this custom some think St. Paul alludes, when he speaks of The marks of Christ, which he bare on his body. Gal. vi, 17. Potter's Gr. Antiq. Vol. ii. p. 7.
Quos Deo alicui consecrabant Sc initiabant, hos Stigmatibus inurebant. Pitisc. Lexic, in Inscrip. And Lucian de Deâ Syr. says, Certis Notis compunguntur omnes; alii quidem in Vola Manus, alli in Cervice, &c. The manner of doing it is described by Prudentius, megt separ, Hymn x. ver. 1076, &c. And many commentators suppose this rite to be referred to, Lev. xix. 28. Ye shall not print any marks upon you. See Pool's Synops, in loc, & Spencer de Leg. Hebr. lib. ii. cap. 14.
Il Neh. ix. 38, X. 29.