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[The following sermon, prepared for a special occasion, is selected for publication in the "Pulpit” at the request of a friend, and not from any partiality of the author.)
ADMONITION TO THE YOUNG:
BY HARRY CROSWELL,
RECTOR OF TRINITY PARISH, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT.
1 John ii. 13. — "I write unto you, young men."
The preacher, whether inspired or uninspired, must always feel a great degree of solicitude for the young. That this was the case in the days of inspiration, the whole volume of God's word abundantly testifies; and we daily witness more than sufficient to convince us, that this solicitude has not diminished in any subsequent period of the world. The spiritual welfare of the young is still an object near to the preacher's heart: and though he may often address them, and again and again renew his theme, he never finds the subject exhausted, nor less deserving of deep and devout consideration. To-day, I again write unto you, young men, of the things which belong to your eternal peace.
But before I proceed in language of my own, let me turn back to the teachings of a preacher, who, in addition to the rich endowments of human wisdom, possessed also the gift of inspiration. This preacher was Solomon: and it is not too much to say, that in endeavoring to impress his solemn admonitions upon the minds of the young, he adverts to some of the most awakening considerations that are to be found in the whole compass of divine revelation. After speaking of the vanity of earthly things, and of the evils attendant upon the decay of the natural powers, and the decrepitude of old age, he treats of the awful realities of death and a future judgment, in terms of great force and striking sublimity. But let us attend to his language: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them: while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened.” And here he adds a variety of impressive images, descriptive of the declension of the bodily strength, and the decay of the organs of sense; and then subjoins the several considerations which are designed to give effect to the admonition already delivered.
- Because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets : or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at the cistern: then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” And, finally, he thus sums up his solemn admonition : “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccles. xii.)
Such is the teaching of Solomon. Such is the manner in which the inspired preacher writes to you, young men, of the weighty concerns of time and eternity. And, surely, a better model cannot be found in the sacred volume for our present lessons of instruction. In writing to you, at this time, what admonition can be more seasonable than that which the wise man enforces by so many momentous considerations? An early devotion to the service of God, is the duty to be enjoined upon you. And the first consideration that presents itself in favor of this early devotion, is, that it secures your immediate and lasting happiness. It is not sufficient to say, that to remember, or, in other language, to obey your Creator in the days of your youth, is one of the sources of happiness; but we are bound to say, that it is the only source of happiness. If you would avoid the evil days, which always follow procrastination and delay, enter at once, on the first call of God, into his service. Take the earliest dawning of gospel light, the very first fruits of the morning, to obey and follow your Lord and Master. Delay not, until you have contracted evil and inveterate habits; until vice has spread contamination over your soul, and the example
of the world has gained a corrupt and baleful influence over your passions. There are evil days to come, when your vices will prove an irksome burden, and when the world will mock your calamities; and the years are drawing nigh in which you can find no pleasure, if this admonition has been disregarded, and the service of your God rejected.
But we have other considerations to set before you. Have you thought of the dangerous tendency of deferring the means of securing the enjoyments of time and the awards of eternity, under the delusive hope that other opportunities will be afforded, when you may find yourselves better prepared for the performance of this duty ? If not, I admonish you at once to chase this traitorous hope from your bosom. Go with me, and read a contradiction of this flattering and false idea, in records which will not deceive you :- I mean, the records of death. Go with me and learn wisdon, where it is taught by mute but unerring monitors : · I mean, among the monuments which parental affection has erected to the memory of departed youth. Go with me, and stand by the side of the new-made grave; for even the silent grave will teach you a lesson of truth on this subject. Go with me to the school of experience : experience is a severe preceptor; but, nevertheless, a preceptor “that never palters with us in a double sense; that keeps the word of promise to the ear, and breaks it to our hope.” Go with me, and inquire of the first fellow-traveller to eternity whom you meet, whether there can be any circumstance in the condition of man, to warrant procrastination and delay. All, all will answer with one voice, and experience will confirm the answer, that now is the time to remember your Creator; that now is the time to serve your divine Master; that now is the time to escape the evil days, and the years of wo that are drawing nigh.
But this consideration is frequently brought home to your bosoms in a manner more especially calculated to teach the danger of delay. In the mysterious dispensations of heaven, a voice speaks to you, young men, which you cannot disregard. Few are the months, or weeks, or days, that pass away without presenting cases to your observation which completely verify
the admonitions of the preacher. You stand around the open graves of the young. You hear the knell of departed youth. You are often called to the painful duty of committing to the earth the mortal remains of those who were young like yourselves, and whose hopes and prospects of long life were as promising as your own. To those who were your companions, the sun and the light are darkened: to them the return of the clouds and the seasons are no more known. They go to their long home, and the mourners go about the streets. The silver cord is loosed; the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is broken at the fountain; the wheel is broken at the cistern. Their dust returns to the earth as it was; their spirits return unto God who
And here, a further consideration in favor of the early devotion of the heart to God, urges itself upon your attention. The return of the body to the ground, after the departure of the spirit, is but giving back earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust : but the return of the immortal spirit to the immediate presence of the eternal God who gave it, is an event of awful interest. The return of the spirit to God! a spirit that came from God pure and undefiled. And in what state shall it return? Contaminated by guilt? stained and polluted by unrepented sins ? unwashed by the atoning blood of the Lamb ? unsanctified by his blessed Spirit ? unfit to remain in his awful presence, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity? These are questions of deep and solemn import; and bring into immediate view the last consideration by which the admonition of the preacher is enforced: the awards of eternity; the great and final question of life or death : for God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
These, then, are the momentous considerations by which the inspired preacher urges upon your attention the necessity of devoting the spring-time of your life to the service of God, and of making an early preparation for the great events of the last day.
But do you ask, young men, why I thus write unto you now? and why the admonition before us may, at this time, be considered as particularly seasonable? I answer, because it has pleased God, in the course of his wise and righteous providence, to bring before you, with more than ordinary frequency, those afflicting cases which tend, beyond all others, to give force and effect to admonitions of this nature.* Of the peculiar severity of these dispensations, it is not my present purpose to speak. Such cases are always deeply afflicting, and must necessarily excite your sympathy; and I should doubtless find myself unable to suggest an idea on the subject, in which your own feelings would not anticipate me. A youthful victim of disease is always an affecting spectacle. An early death-bed opens so many wounds in the bosoms of near and dear relatives, that we are unavoidably moved to weep with those who weep. But still, if we can indulge the consoling hope, that those who are gone have departed in the true faith of the Gospel, and are now resting in the arms of JESUS, we find our feelings soothed and our sinking spirits sustained: and instead of indulging in immoderate grief, we should rather derive comfort from the idea, that the great penalty is paid ; and that those whom we loved have been permitted to enter the Church triumphant above, without enduring the trials and struggles attendant on a long and protracted warfare in the Church militant below. It is proper, however, to advert to cases of this kind, as I have already intimated, for the purpose of giving the more point and effect to our admonitions: and viewed in this light, my young hearers, the recent instances of mortality among you unavoidably force themselves upon your attention, and become peculiarly interesting and instructing. If the exhortation of the inspired preacher - Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth — has hitherto passed by you unheeded; and if it be not now sufficient to persuade you to bring your youthful bearts a willing sacrifice to God; can you equally disregard the admonition furnished in these affecting cases? Shall the lessons conveyed in these dispensations also prove insufficient to persuade you to turn unto God, now, while