EARLY PIETY recommended and exemplify'd. A SERMON Occasioned by the Death OF Elisabeth Price, An eminently pious Young Woman, Who departed this Life, February 22. 1731/2. In the Seventeenth Year of her Age.

By CHARLES CHAUNCY, M. A. One of the Pastors of the First Church in BOSTON

1 Chron 28. 9.
And thou Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind.—If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
2 Chron. 34. 3.
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father.

BOSTON: Printed by S. KNEELAND & T. GREEN, for B. GRAY, at the Head of the Town Dock. 1732.



BY Virtue of that stimulating Passion or Prin­ciple of Imitation, so deeply radicated in hu­man Nature, Example has usually a very attractive Force and Government over Man­kind, and a distinguishing Efficacy on young People in particular. Whatever is the latent Cause, we find by con­stant Experience, it strikes very powerfully on their ten­der & ductile Minds; is more engaging than the strong­est and most persuasive Reasonings, or the most solemn Precepts of Superiors; and has the earliest Influence, to bias their Thoughts and Inclinations, and to form their Deportment. Thus 'tis in Morality & Civils; and thus in Christianity & Spirituals.

It's of great Importance therefore, what Precedents young People have set before them, in the Family and Place of their Education: and of happy Tendency, when good Examples present themselves betimes, to pre­possess them in Favour of pure Religion and the best Interest.

It is the Wisdom and Goodness of GOD, that He has in the sacred Scriptures preserv'd brief Memorials of many primitive Saints; some of whom were shining Patterns of early Piety: the Review of which, while young ones have been reading their Bible, has often led them by a sweet and powerful Constraint into the Consideration, Love and Practice of the Things that please GOD, and Things that accompany Salvation.

In Conformity to Scripture Sample, many biographi­cal Pieces, of human Composure, have been publish'd by Christian Writers from Age to Age. Among others, large Accounts have been exhibited to the World of the [Page ii] Lives of some young & eminent Christians▪ and shorter Memoirs have been given of many others, particularly in Funeral-Sermons: which by the Blessing of GOD have often been of singular Use, to promote the early Practice of Piety, by provoking Survivors of the same Age to an holy Emulation.

I look upon it the primary Business of Funeral-Dis­courses, not so much to praise the Dead, as instruct the Living; to give GOD the Glory of his Grace bestow'd on the Deceased, and to enforce a Care of Religion, by the Advantage of their Example, on the Surviving. Instances of early Piety, especially where it has been signal too for the Degree, seem to claim a pecu­liar Notice: And publick Characters in this Case are wont to be entertain'd with a peculiar Candour and Attention; while on other Occasions many times ground­less Prejudices are unhappy Impediments to a candid Reception of them, altho' drawn up with the wisest Caution, and the exactest Regard to Truth of Fact, as well as Sobriety of Language.

I was very much pleas'd in hearing the Funeral-Character, in the following Sermon, from the Pulpit, on so just an Occasion: and am glad now to see it in the publick Light. As it seem'd very acceptable, to an attentive Audience; I wish it may be no less pro­fitable, to every Reader, and particularly to young People, by stirring up their Resolutions and En­deavours of conforming to the bright Pattern here bro't to their View: concerning which, Much in a little is said with Words of Truth & Soberness.

'Twas the Hope of doing some Service to the great Ends of the Gospel, among the rising Generation in special, by proposing a remarkable Example of early Religion, that at length prevail'd on my Rev. Bro­ther to give way to the Importunity, with which this Publication was called for. May the pious Desires of the Author and the Publishers be abundantly answer'd, in the quickning of many to be "Followers of them, who thro' Faith and Patience inherit the Promises!

[Page iii] May the bereaved Parents, while mourning the Death of their lovely Child (saying, "Alas my Daughter) often refresh their sorrowful Minds by reflecting on her holy Walk with GOD, & peaceful End, & taking a Pros­pect of that blissful World, they have such Reason to hope, she is translated to! May they secure and enjoy 'the good Part, that shall never be taken away from them; "a Name better than of Sons & Daughters, an everlasting Name, that shall not be cut off! And may their surviving Children be also a Joy and Crown to them!

May we all that are Parents, be excited & encourag'd to pray & hope & labour for the early Conversion of our Children! So we may comfortably part with them, if Death take them from us (knowing "the Day of their Death is better than the Day of their Birth) or else chearfully leave them to the Covenant-Care of a graci­ous God, if we are remov'd from them.

Let young People lay to Heart such Instances of early Mortality: and pray to GOD, that by his Grace they may become like Examples of real & vital Piety; that if they also should die in Youth, they may have Hope in their Death, and willingly bid Adieu to Earth and Time, desirous to be with CHRIST.

Let the Daughters of Zion in particular set this fair Copy before them, and be solicitous to get it tran­scrib'd in their Hearts & Lives. "Many Daughters have done virtuously: and she excell'd, who is gone be­fore you, in a spiritual Mind, and heavenly Conversa­tion; fleeing youthful Lusts, & remembring her Crea­tor betimes. Now hearken, O our Daughters▪ "Go and do likewise. Resolve with virtuous Ruth, "Thy God shall be my God, and thy People my People. "For­sake the foolish, and live. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and ye shall be my Daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Be con­cern'd to "cleanse your way in Youth, by taking Heed thereto according to his Word. "Look to [Page iv] JESUS (who only can "work in you to will and to do) that he would enable you to "cleanse your Hands, and purify your Hearts. Get "cloathed with the Robe of Righteousness and the Beauties of Holiness: that, as the King's Daughter, you may be "all glo­rious within. "Your Adorning, let it not be that outward Adorning of plaiting the Hair, and of wear­ing of Gold, or of putting on of Apparel: but let it be the hidden man of the Heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the Ornament of a meek and quiet Spirit, a humble and devout Soul, which is in the sight of God of great Price. "For after this manner, in old Time, the holy Women who trusted in GOD, adorned themselves: "Whose Daughters ye are, as long as ye do well. Their Example is left on Record for your Imitation. Keep it in your Eye, and study a Resem­blance to them in the Temper of your Mind, and Tenor of your Life. So will you shine as "Corner-Stones polished after the Similitude of a Palace. God will have Glory from you: "The King shall greatly de­sire your Beauty; and Christ will "rejoyce over you, as the Bridegroom rejoyceth over his Bride. All that see you, will bless you: and your anxious Parents will have unspeakable Joy, "while they behold your chaste Conversation coupled with Fear; and see you betimes "Heirs of the Grace of Life, "espoused to Christ, as the Husband of your Youth; fitted for Use­fulness in this World, and intitled to Happiness in the next.

I pray GOD to bless to the female Reader in particu­lar, the following Discourse, wherein you have early Piety so well recommended, & exemplify'd: and to continue the worthy Author, my dear Colleague, long a burning and shining Light, for the Glory of CHRIST, & the Good of Souls. And may we both "rejoyce in the Day of CHRIST, that we have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain! AMEN.

[Page 1]

EARLY PIETY Recommended and Exemplify'd.

Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed thereto according to thy word.

MY text is not the only passage of Scripture, that mentions the young man by name, and calls upon him to keep himself pure from the defilements of this evil World. Per­haps the design of the holy Spirit herein might be, to place an emphasis upon this age of life, and recommend Religion as a business peculiarly seasonable for persons in their young and tender years. 'Tis cer­tain, religion never appears more lovely, than as ex­emplify'd in the well order'd conversation of those, who are in the bloom of life. Nor can such employ their time and pains, more to the divine honor and accep­tance, or their own truest advantage, than by an early care in governing their appetites, purifying their hearts, and forming within themselves the seeds and principles of virtue and a holy life.

AND to engage our young people in a zealous appli­cation of themselves, in the use of all proper means, to such noble purposes, is the design I have in view from the words which have been red to you.

[Page 2] THEY are found in that inspired Psalm which is the longest, and (as some think) the most artfully composed of any in the whole book of Psalms. The general scope of it is, to shew forth the excellency of the written word and laws of God: and 'tis justly admir'd for that variety of tho't, in which it recom­mends them to our practice.

IT has been disputed who was the penman of the Psalm; but so much of the royal Prophet is apparent in every part, that 'tis generally ascrib'd to David.

THE verse I have chosen for my text▪ is made up of two parts; a question, and an answer to it.

I. THE first part of my text contains a question; wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? By a young man we are here to understand all in their youthful days; both men and women. And from the express men­tion of persons of this age and character, we are natu­rally led to look upon those, who are in the prime and vigor of life, as under peculiar obligations to become seriously pious and sober: for this is the great thing meant by cleansing their way; which they would not, with such particularity, have had urg'd upon them, if there had not been some special reasons binding them hereto, as their inviolable duty.

I am sensible there are several things of considerable importance, obviously implied in the phrase of my text, under which the duty of early Piety is recommended to us. And I might accordingly to good purpose em­ploy your meditations, both on the natural and contract­ed filth, young persons are too commonly defiled with: As also, the particulars of that purity of heart and life, wherein consists the sum of true Religion. But as I'm oblig'd to confine my self to a single discourse, and it may be presumed we are fully instructed in these things, I shall pass them over, and make it my only business from this part of my text,

To represent to you, in as clear and strong a light as I am able, the special Considerations that oblige young persons to be religious in their early days.

And here I would offer as follows,

[Page 3] I. THIS age of life is the best and most conve­nient, in which to enter upon a religious course. I would charitably hope, there are few if any, but look upon a religious life to be a matter of necessity: which they have accordingly determined to betake themselves to, some time or other; as they would not give up all hope of future and eternal blessedness. And if religion be at all a matter of necessity, 'tis certainly wisdom to take that season to engage in it, which is the fairest and best; the least entangled with difficulty, and attended with the most hopeful prospect of success. Now such a season is the age of youth. We may, at this time of life, begin and go on in a religious course, with grea­ter advantage than we shall be ever able to do after­wards.

THERE are indeed, it must be acknowledged, some difficulties, that seem almost peculiar to this age of life: As a high relish of the pleasures of sense; the ungo­vernableness of carnal appetites and evil passions; an exceeding aptness to be seduced by bad example; an over airiness and gaiety of temper; want of judgment and experience; rashness, sickleness, inconsideration, and the like. But these inconveniences are vastly more than ballanc'd, by distinguishing advantages common to the days of youth.

WE are now most free from a wrong biass; and lie most open to the impressions of religious principles, and the power of those Gospel motives, by which the practice of true piety is recommended and enforced. For this age of life is easily wrought upon, and moulded almost in­to any form. "A young and tender plant readily takes the ply, which he who tends it thinks proper to give; and if by accident it becomes warp'd, and has receiv­ed a wrong bent, by due and early care 'tis easily reduced: but if it be suffered to continue so a conside­rable time without suitable attendance, and grow old; it becomes stubborn and inflexible."

ALSO, we are now most under the influence of cons­cience, and a natural sense of shame and modesty; than which there are scarce any stronger restraints to keep [Page 4] us from doing evil. As corrupt as humane nature is, persons can't at first commit sin without trouble and uneasiness from conscience; and they have naturally such a sense of the indecency and irregularity of most wicked actions, as that they ordinarily start back from their first approaches towards them. I doubt not but most men have had their innocence preserved in many instances, by the sole help of innate modesty & shame; which powerful principles can't at once be stifled and suppressed.

BESIDES, sin has not yet got so full possession of us; nor have we contracted so many vicious Habits; nor are they so deeply rooted, as in those who have for a considerable length of time accustomed themselves to do evil. For by repeating the acts of sin, the habit is strangely encouraged; and by degrees will become so obstinate, as to make it almost an impossibility to get recovered from it. The prophet therefore describes this matter in such strong language as that, Can the Ethiopian change his skin? or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

MOREOVER, fewer clogs and incumbrances now lie in the way of religion, than there will, when we come to settle in the world, and are entangled with business; the cares, temptations, difficulties, hurries and disappoint­ments of which, are so many and great, as will en­danger our not so much as thinking of our Souls; if a sense of religion has not before been impressed upon our minds. And under these circumstances we shall be far more likely to put off the business of Salvation, than ever before. Our unexperience of the world may keep us from feeling the force of this argument; but the further we get into the world, and become acquaint­ed with the cares and distractions of it, the more weight shall we find to be in it.

FURTHER, we shall certainly have more time for the work of religion, if we engage in it now. For every [Page 5] moment we defer this work, the space allotted to us for the accomplishment of it, is just in the same pro­portion lessened. This perhaps we may not be much concerned about: imagining religion to be a matter of ease; a business we may begin and finish at our lei­sure. But we are herein greatly mistaken. 'Tis truly a hard and difficult matter to be sincerely pious, and will require a great deal of time and labour. And if ever we are made seriously concerned about our Souls, we shall certainly find it to be so. 'Tis therefore an advantage, the longer time we have for the work of getting our selves prepared for heavenly happiness: And if we are wise for eternity, we can't but esteem it to be so. To be sure, the longer time we have, the greater progress we shall be able to make in holiness, and the more strengthned will the habits of vertue be likely to be in us; the more mature and perfect the graces of God's holy Spirit. Nor is it possible we should ever be eminent in piety; exemplary proficients in grace and goodness, if we cut short the time to improve here­in, by not entring upon a life of religion till we have pass'd the prime of our days.

IN FINE, we have in this age of life the most hope­ful prospect, of being effectually assisted by the holy Spi­rit of God, in the great work of serving our maker. For young persons may, at least ordinarily, be suppos'd to have least resisted the Holy Ghost, quench'd his motions, stiffled convictions and oppos'd the methods of divine grace. And having given least provocation to the holy Spirit, there is the least danger of his withdraw, and giving over to strive with us. And of all persons, We have the highest encouragement, upon suitable applica­tions herefor, to expect those supernatural operations and assistances that are needful for us. 'Tis in experience found true, the holy Spirit usually strives more with young persons than others: They are oftner bro't un­der convictions; filled with concern about their Souls; and made seriously inquisitive, what they must do that they may inherit eternal life? In this age, we are most likely to be wro't upon and prevailed with: and there­fore the holy Spirit does not lose this best opportunity; but improves it by more abundant strivings and motions in us.

[Page 6] AND O how great is our advantage, in being actu­ally under the influences of God's Spirit! and the most hopeful prospect of all supernatural aids, as we may need them! There cannot be a stronger encouragement to us, to enter upon a religious course in these our first days. For of our selves we can never turn to God, or serve him to his acceptance. The assistances of divine grace are absolutely necessary hereto: and in this time of life these we do in some measure enjoy: and have the highest reason further to except them, in degrees proportionable to our wants. And is it pru­dence to make no use of such an inestimable priviledge? And shall we not by slighting and despising it, pro­voke God to resolve, that his Spirit shall not afterwards strive with us? And to say concerning one and another of us, "I have done with him, and he shall hear no more of my despised offers, nor any more reject the motions of my Spirit: Let him now take his own course, he shall for a while hear no more from me, till I speak in quite another man­ner; and rend the caul of his heart, and take away his rebellious Soul."

II. RELIGION in this age of life is most pleasing and acceptable to God. It is indeed of so recommending a nature, that the glorious God is pleased with and will graciously accept it, whenever and in whomsoever he be­holds it. Tho' we should have spent the first of our time and strength in the service of sin and Satan; yet if we afterwards heartily devote our selves to God, and faithfully employ our powers to the purposes of a holy life, he will not upbraid us with our former folly, or deny us his favour. The repentance of a sinner is al­ways matter of joy to the blessed God: He conceives a pleasure at this, in whatsoever age of life, we come to our selves, and return to our duty; and will readi­ly receive us to mercy. But early Piety is peculiarly pleasing and acceptable to God. He has the most en­deared affection for young Converts: None so welcome to him, or that meet with such distinguishing regards from him. Says God, I love them that love me: and those that seek me EARLY shall find me. * Of all the Apostles [Page 7] of our Lord, John was the youngest; who is frequently spoken of in that stile, THE DISCIPLE WHOM JE­SUS LOVED. Yea, the blessed JESUS is represented, as having an uncommon love to the young man in the Gospel, who was only in a tho'tful serious frame of spirit; expressing it self in respectful desires of knowing, what he must do to inherit eternal life. So pleas'd is he with every thing that looks like a tendency towards early Piety! And when we read of the first-born and first-fruits, * as appointed to be separated for the service of God; may it not symbolically represent it our du­ty, to devote the first of our time and strength to the honour of our Creator, as what he would most kindly accept at our hands?

AND 'tis intirely consonant to reason, to suppose the blessed God will be most pleased with the service of our youthful days. For we are now most active and vi­gorous; our spirits brisk and lively; our resolutions ani­mated; our strength firm; our health unbroken; and in a word, the several powers both of our souls and bodies, in their prime and glory: Upon which accounts, we are in our best capacity for the services of religion, And to exercise our selves to godliness NOW; in this most valuable part of life; when we are best able, in the best manner, to do the duties and go through the diffi­culties of religion, is most valuable in it self, most condu­cive to the divine honor; and will never fail of the most distinguishing acceptance. If we should be so unhappy as to neglect God till afterwards, we might, 'tis true, of his abundant mercy, upon our thorow humiliation and sincere repentance, notwithstanding this most unworthy treatment of his divine majesty, be admitted to his fa­vour: But 'tis not reasonable to think, we should meet with so easy and free a reception under these circum­stances, as if we had returned to him in the flower of life. "Our youthful capacities are as the male in our flock;" with which God can't but be most of all pleas'd and readily accept.

[Page 8] III. RELIGION in this age of life is peculiarly seasona­ble, and will make those who practice it, signally amia­ble and lovely. The wise man observes, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. * And when is the proper season in which to enter upon a religious course? unless upon our first coming to the free exercise of our rational powers; while the blessing of life is new, and the sense of it fresh upon our minds; and we are newly arriv'd at a capacity of knowing the Author of our Beings, and rendring back to him our most grateful acknowlegements. If there be at all a fit opportunity, to begin to be seriously Godly, 'tis now; upon the buddings of reason and understanding; the first appearances of a capacity to distinguish between moral good and evil: that so the principles of vertue may, with our intellectual powers, gradually grow up to a state of maturity; and when our life comes to be in its highest perfection, we shall be in the most vigorous, lively and perfect religious capacity, to serve and honor our creator and father.

AND what more lovely sight than that of a young person, in his most early days enquiring after the God that made him, in the language of holy Job, Where is God my maker? who teacheth me more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh me wiser than the fowls of heaven. It adds a beauteous lustre to religion, to be practised by those, who have but lately come out of the hands of God, and are in the pride and vigor of life. And none among the sons of men shine more bright and glorious than such instances of early piety. Their name is better than precious ointment; they are esteemed as the excellent in the earth; are universally well tho't and spo­ken of; and the grace of God appearing in them, is admir'd and acknowleg'd to their own, as well as the honor of God. They are beloved, and treated with uncommon respect by all that have a regard to virtue and goodness: and even the wicked and prophane, who are hardy enough openly to ridicule religion, will yet inwardly feel reverence and veneration for them.

[Page 9] IV. THERE is great hazard we shall never be religious, if we ben't so in this age of life. For who of us knows, whether our youthful days are not the only ones, we have to live in the world? Whether God has not designed us to be in the number of those millions, who die in youth? in their full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet; having their breasts full of milk, and bones moistned with marrow. Or if we were secure of our lives, is there not danger, when we have vext and griev'd and quench'd the Spirit, of his departing from us? Would it be any wonder, if He should so resent our contempt of him, in resisting his motions and stiffling convictions, as to retire and withdraw forever? And would not this be a fatal bar to our ever turning to God? since of our selves we can do nothing, and must have our chief dependance upon the assistances of divine grace. But besides, what likelihood is there of our being re­covered to God and duty, after we are grown old in sin, when we could not be prevailed with in our young and tender years? While young our hearts are soft; our wills pliable and yielding; our consciences easily awaken'd, affections mov'd, and minds impressed with a sense of religion: And if when under these advanta­gious circumstances, we are not restrained by the word, nor providence, nor Spirit of God, from walking in the way of the ungodly; what probable prospect is there of our being call'd back afterwards, and converted to God? And the hope of this will be still less, after we have long continued in our evil courses: for by this means we shall contract and render obstinate and inveterate, innumerable vicious habits; shall very much weaken, if not quite destroy, the influence and authority of consci­ence; shall make our hearts like an adamant stone, hard and unrelenting; and in a word, shall become stupid and intirely lost to all sense of virtue and religion. And under these circumstances, what hope is there of our repentance and conversion to God? 'Tis indeed a possible thing; but there is little more than a naked possibility of it. Nicodemus's question is in this case very pertinent, How can a man be born when he is old? 'Tis a most unlikely thing! one of the greatest rarities! And whenever it happens, it may be justly look'd upon as even a miracle of super-abundant grace in God!

[Page 10] In the last place,

V. TWILL be much to our advantage to be seriously godly betimes. This is the best method we can take to secure the divine blessing in outward regards. For our Saviour has encourag'd us to hope, upon our seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, that all these things shall be added unto us. * Agreable to which is that of the Apostle, But godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now it, and of that which is to come. And in virtue of this promise, those that serve God; especially those that do so in the first of their days, may with the greatest confidence depend upon the divine power and goodness for the supply of their wants; and are of all persons, the most likely to be smil'd upon in providence, and so come to the enjoyment of temporal good things; at least so far as God shall see it to be best for them. But besides this advantage, there are vastly greater ones of a spiritual and eternal nature. Thus,

BY our being pious betimes, we shall early obtain the pardon of our sins; the favor and friendship of our maker; an adoption into the family of heaven, and with it an investiture in all the rights and privileges of the sons of God.—We shall hereby escape innu­merable sins and follies, which would wound our cons­ciences: defile our souls; dishonor and provoke God, and make work for a most bitter after-repentance.—We shall hereby have a longer opportunity for the work of serving God, and our generation according to the will of God; and so shall be able to do more good, and be greater blessings in our day.—We shall hereby take the most certain and easie way to live and die good men. For when once the seeds of virtue have taken root in our young and tender minds, they will grow up into nature and fit us to live in the world: setting us in a good measure free from the power of lust, preserving us from the infection of evil example, & guarding us against the force of those number­less temptations we shall meet with—We shall hereby be [Page 11] likely to enjoy, in the most uninterrupted course, that inward ease, peace and religious satisfaction, wherein con­sists the greatest happiness on this side heaven. This, those who have given way to youthful lusts, and were not seriously inclined 'till in their latter years, are often strangers to. Or if their consciences are sometimes at ease, it is often interrupted with perplexing fears and doubts, whereby their lives are rendred very uncomfor­table. Whereas those who have by the grace of God, been enabled to enter upon, and walk in a religious course, from their early days, do ordinarily for the most part enjoy a holy calm in their breasts; that peace of God which passes all understanding. Persons even in old age, have received more solid comfort from a reflection on their early piety, than from all other considerations whatever. And when nothing else has been effectual, in their melancholy hours, to bring ease to their minds, it has at once scattered their fears and doubts, to look back upon that grace of God, whereby in the pride and flower of youth, they were assisted to prefer a course of religion to the pleasures of sin; and to hold on in this course, amidst all the temptations of this evil world.—And O the blessed peace and serenity of mind! the holy joy and triumph of soul! such will be likely to be filled with at the hour of death: when conscience shall testify, that they began to seek after God, while they were yet young; and that they have all along had their conversation in the world, in simplicity and godly sincerity; not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God. The reflection hereon will excite the lively actings of faith and hope, in the mercy of God thro' Christ; yield an unfailing spring of consolation to their hearts, and enable them in the midst of the throws and agonies of death, to sing in that triumphant language, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, thro' our Lord Jesus Christ. But the greatest advantage of all is,

[Page 12] THAT our future and eternal crown of glory will hereby be the greater. There will, no doubt, be degrees of glo­ry in the coming world. The Scriptures plainly teach this, by distinguishing between the reward of a prophet, and an ordinary righteous man; * as also, by assuring us of both a sparing and bountiful future harvest, according as we have at present, sowed either sparingly or bounti­fully. But the most full declaration of this doctrine is in the parable of the ten Servants; who received of their Lord, being about to go into a far country, one pound each to trade with, till he should return: at which time calling them to an account, he is represented as reward­ing every man, that had made a good use of the pound delivered to him; and the reward bears an exact propor­tion to the several improvements made by the servants. He that had gained ten pounds, is made ruler over ten cities; and he that had gained five pounds, is made ruler over five cities: which obviously and unavoidably leads us to conceive, that the future glory will be proportioned to men diffe­rently, according to the different improvements, they have made in grace and goodness. Nor does this inequality, in the least argue their happiness to be imperfect, who are admitted to the lowest degrees of future glory. For "a Star is as perfect in its order as the Sun, yet they shine in a different lustre": agreeable whereto is that of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 15. 41, 42. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another in glory: SO also is the resurrection of the dead. Where he not only argues that the resurrection-bodies of the saints will differ from each o­ther in glory; but insinuates the perfection of these bo­dies in their several glories; as the moon and stars are perfect in their degree and order, tho' they shine with far less glory than the sun.

Now since we have reason to believe God will re­ward men in the coming world, with different degrees of glory according to the different improvements, they have made in holiness; who among men will shine with such distinguishing lustre, as early converts? As they have had the longest opportunity and best advantages for it, [Page 13] we may well suppose them to be most confirmed in good­ness; to be most grown in grace; to have done most service in the world, and to have bro't forth most of that fruit whereby our father in heaven is glorified. They are therefore most meet for future glory; and will not only be admitted to it, but to the highest degrees of that glory. And O how great will be their blessed­ness! when they shall be made the most distinguish'd sub­jects of that happiness, the lowest degree whereof is so surpassing, that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it ever enter'd into the heart of man to conceive of it!

AND having thus laid before you some of those many considerations, which can't be deny'd to come with pecu­liar force upon young persons; obliging them in the strongest manner, to be religious betimes: I think I may with propriety now turn my discourse, into an earnest ex­hortation to the duty of early piety.

AND O that those of us who are in our youthful days, would be prevailed with, to engage in the great affair of religion and our souls salvation! This is what the blessed God most heartily desires, and would be pe­culiarly well pleased with. He therefore often with the greatest particularity, bespeaks the service of our young and tender years. Holy David puts the question in my text, Wherewith shall a YOUNG MAN cleanse his way? intimating the great stress that is laid upon the age of youth; and that now to cleanse our selves from sin, is emphatically our duty. Hence young persons are by name solemnly called upon, Eccl. 12. 1. Remember NOW thy creator, in the days of thy YOUTH. So in 1 Chron. 28. 9. And thou, Solomon my SON, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind. And because young people are generally inclined to rejoyce in their youth, and to let their hearts chear them in the days of their youth, and to walk in the way of their own hearts, and in the sight of their own eyes; great care is taken to check and restrain this irregular inclination: Particularly in Eccl. 11. 9. BUT KNOW THOU, THAT FOR ALL THESE THINGS GOD WILL BRING THEE INTO JUDGMENT. And why should God thus single out and particularly advise, caution and [Page 14] direct young persons? but that 'tis their distinguishing du­ty, and eminently his expectation from them, to yield up themselves to him; cleansing their way from sin, and em­ploying their powers in his service.

OUR obligations hereto are very solemn and particu­lar: and I would fain hope, we are so far convinc'd of the reasonableness and necessity of complying with them, as that we are resolved upon loving and serving our most merciful God and father.

BUT it may be we flatter our selves with the tho't, of having a more convenient season for the work of religion, in the after-part of life: and so are for putting it off till then. This I believe is the vain imagination of most young persons; and an effectual bar in the way of their becoming seriously godly. To which I would say, What if death should be betwixt us, and our hereafter-opportu­nity for the business of our souls salvation? This is no improbable supposition. Multitudes of the same age and character with our selves, die within the reach of our observation: And who can say, it won't be our own lot to die young? And if this should be our case, "how strange and unreasonable will our conduct appear to be? Reasonable creatures sent into the world to seek and serve God, and made capable of it, and that had time for it; but went out of the world, and spent all their time in an utter disregard and neglect of God, and for­getfulness, of the principal end and business of life!" Besides, we shall certainly be as unfit and indisposed for religion afterwards as at present; and look upon any after-season when we come to it, as inconvenient as that we now enjoy, and be under the same temptations to adjourn this business. For let us pitch on what part of life we please, it will be incumber'd with difficulties of one sort or another; and innumerable pretences for delay will offer themselves, and be apt without the greatest resolu­tion, to prevail with us. We shall be ready to say with our selves, "to morrow will we amend our ways; and when that to morrow comes, we shall still say to morrow: and so our to-morrow will prove endless." In short, the greatest objection we have against the present season is, that 'tis present: and whenever our imaginary hereafter-season [Page 15] comes to be present, we shall have the same objection against that, and find it as hard to leave our sins, and re­turn to God and our duty.

OR if any should be discouraged from early piety, apprehending it to be a matter of such difficulty, as that it can't be accomplish'd without the greatest labour and pains: I would say upon it, if it should be allow'd to be a difficult thing to be truly religious, this ought not to be improved as an objection against our endeavouring to be so. For 'tis an affair of absolute necessity; what must be engaged in, as ever we would hope for admission into the eternal Kingdom of God. And therefore the proper use to be made of the difficulties of religion, is not to discourage our selves from setting about it; but to put on so much the more resolution, to labour in it with the utmost speed and all possible diligence. And in so doing, we may upon good grounds expect, aids of divine grace proportionable to the need we stand in of them, and the difficulties and temptations we may meet with.

BUT, what is peculiarly matter of encouragement in this case is, that notwithstanding all the difficulties of a reli­gious course, many young persons have been enabled to go thro' them, and to become illustrious patterns of an early close walk with God. The Scripture instances of this sort we are all acquainted with. Nor have there been wanting, even from among our selves, remarkable exam­ples of the same kind. And this leads me to make men­tion of a young woman of this Congregation, ELISABETH PRICE, who was the last week followed to her grave; of whom it may with good reason be said, she was an un­common instance of that early piety, of which we have been speaking. And as this is a case, wherein I flatter my self I shan't be suspected of sinister views, I have been the rather inclined to take publick notice of it to the ho­nor of free grace, and to recommend religion to our choice and practice in our youthful days.

FROM a child she was deeply impress'd with an awe and reverence of God; which remarkably manifested it self, upon the first deliberate exercises of her reason and understanding, in a careful endeavour to abstain from [Page 16] those things, she apprehended to be evil: being to a scru­ple fearful least in any thing she should offend God. Particularly, she discovered a great abhorrence of the sin of lying; and guarded against that vain, tho'tless tem­per and conduct, which are so incident to childhood & youth: and often expressed her displeasure thereat, to those of her acquaintance, in whom she perceived these faults to reign.

SHE was observed to be constant, even from her most early days, in retirements evening and morning, to pour out her soul before God: except only when she now and then intermitted this duty; which she never did from a negligent careless frame of spirit, as is too commonly the case: but whenever she was blameable in this kind, it proceeded from perplexing fears and temptations, un­common to one of her age; for which omissions she was heartily sorry, and would bitterly complain of her self.

HER carriage towards her parents was full of love, tenderness, honor and reverence. She chearfully obey'd their commands; attended their instructions; hearkned to their advice, and follow'd their counsels. And as she did not allow of the least unseemly disobedient behaviour towards them in her self; so neither could she bear to see it in her brethren and sisters. And whenever she observ­ed any discoveries of disrespect, irreverence or undutiful­ness, either in their words, looks or actions; it would sensibly affect and grieve her: especially when they were grosly guilty. And she would not now fail of taking an opportunity, to represent to them the sin of undutifulness to parents; how offensive it was to God and provoking in his sight.

SHE was favoured with a peculiarly soft and tender conscience, which made her watchful against sin, careful to avoid even the appearances of it, and to maintain a close walk with God. And this, when many times she was under great spiritual fears and darkness. So far as I could observe, she was of a tho'tful pensive temper; and by her constitution subject sometimes to the power of melancholy: to which I attribute her not enjoying, at [Page 17] least for a constancy, the comforts of religion, in so great a measure as might be expected: Tho' I doubt not the hand of Satan, was evidently to be seen in many of the temptations, discouragements & perplexing fears, she passed thro'; which were greater and of a more extraordinary nature, than is usual for persons of so few years.

I don't remember she was able to six upon the particular time, in which she tho't she might pass under a work of sanctifying grace. Nor is it at all to be wondred at: When it was never observed, that the principles of corruption were habitually predominant in her, in any part of her life. From the first appearances of reason, and all along till the time of her death, her general temper and behaviour were such as gave grounds to hope, that from a child she was savingly converted to God. A most distinguishing priviledge!—Thrice happy they that are the subjects of it!—The grace herein discovered, can never be enough magnify'd and admir'd!

SHE was a great reader of her bible; not suffering it to lie by a neglected book: but as her delight was in the law of God, so did she make it the man of her counsel; repairing to it upon all emergent occasions, besides her more stated times for studying of it.

SHE was a strict observer of the Sabbath; behaving her self as one that had an awakened sense of the solemnity of the day: constantly went up to the place of publick Wor­ship; where she appeared with a visible awe and reverence, and attended with such care and diligence, as that she was able to bring home, and from her memory repeat, more of the preached word, than is common for persons grown to years; who yet are persons of good understanding. And tho' thro a mistaken apprehension of the Lord's Supper, as if it was an Ordinance designed only for Christians of more than ordinary attainments in holiness, and satisfaction about their good estate; she dare not venture to approach to it: yet she would not willingly neglect being present at the administration of it; at which times she was often most sensibly affected, and her Soul refreshed and comforted.

IN her sickness, by which she was for a considerable time detained from the house of God, 'twas admirable to behold [Page 18] her breathings after God in his Sanctuary. With holy Da­vid, her soul thirsted for God, the living God: and that was her complaint, O when shall I come and appear before God!

HER bodily pains were great and of long continuance; which gave opportunity for the illustration of divine grace, in that uncommon degree of patience, meekness, contented­ness and subjection to the father of spirits, she was an emi­nent pattern of: never complaining; never murmuring; but always acknowledging her own deserts, and justifying God in all that he laid upon her.

'TIS to be hoped her brethren and sister will never for­get her calling them to her bed-side; when with a holy freedom of soul she gave her dying testimony in behalf of religion, and took her farewell of them: with great ear­nestness beseeching and exhorting them,to seek and serve God in their youthful days; to improve the present season of grace, and time of their youth to the purposes of a holy life. And O! with what fervor of Soul did she repeat the words, O THAT WE MAY DIE IN PEACE! AND MEET TOGETHER IN GLORY AT THE DAY OF CHRIST! Nor did her concern for religion end here; but she advis'd, caution'd and exhorted all that came to see her, as she had opportunity, and apprehended it might be proper and decent.

BUT what is still more wonderful, tho' but in her 17th year, she was enabled in the midst of tormenting pains, and the near views of approaching death, to cor­rect the excessive sorrow of her distressed parents: mind­ing them of the sovereignty of God; and from the con­sideration that all things are ordered by him, recommending to them the duty of submission. And in various ways, she more than once endeavoured to calm their grief, compose their spirits and bring them to a willingness to resign her up to the God who had given her to them.

SHE was in the beginning of her sickness, and for some time, under darkness and fear; and expressed a desire, if it might be God's will, of living still longer in the world. But for many days before her death, she had a comfortable sense of her Interest in CHRIST; a good hope thro' [Page 19] his merits of future glory and immortality; and was freely willing to depart hence to be here no more. And this she declared upon several occasions. Once, upon her Mother's discovering her grief under the view of parting with her, and asking her whether she was willing to die and leave her; Her answer was, Yes, yes: and added, tho' you have been a loving tender mother to me, I can at God's call readily forsake all to go to CHRIST. At another time, recovering from a fainting-fit, and over-hearing some body say they tho't she was gone; she presently cried out, O that I had gone then! It would have been happy with me now. Some time after being ask'd, whether her faith and hope held out; she reply'd, Yes, yes: doubling the word. And a lit­tle before her death, being desired to suffer her mouth to be moistned, which was almost scorched up with a can­ker; she said no; for I am going where I shall no more want drink. And not long after, in a holy calm and blessed se­renity of soul, she fell asleep in Jesus.

HAPPY the parents of such a child!—You have infinite reason to magnifie and adore this distinguishing rich grace of God:—Nor should you think hardly of God for taking from you, one so dearly beloved; when he first did so much for her, in making her meet for heaven­ly happiness: In the enjoyment whereof, we trust she is now solacing her self. Comfort your selves herewith.—And O! be excited to the greatest diligence in working out your own salvation; that you may hereafter come to be where she is to behold her face in glory, and never be again parted from each other.

IN FINE, my hearts desire and prayer to God now is; that there may be, in this Church, many such instances of an early conversion to God! We trust there are some such: Alas! that they are so rare!—The good Lord increase their number!—O our young people! We are the hope of this Church of our Lord Jesus. It's increase; it's glory; it's very continuance in being is in a measure dependant on us. If we should rise up in our father's stead, a generation that know not God; what is like to become of the gospel worship and ordinances in this place?—I would wil­lingly believe, the breasts of many of us are warmed with a generous concern for the honor of God and perpetuating re­ligion, [Page 20] when our father are dead and gone. Let us then give our hearts to God;—seek FIRST his kingdom and righteousness;—repent of our sins;—believe in Christ;—and yield up our selves absolutely and intirely to him, in an everlasting covenant. And O! let us this day chuse our fathers God for our God, and know and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind: So shall we re­joyce the heart of God's people; yea, we shall cause joy all over heaven: making glad not only the holy An­gels, but God himself and the Lord Jesus Christ. But thus much for the question in my text.

II. THE other thing observable is, the answer to this question; By taking heed thereto according to thy word. And here are two things, which the time will allow me to give you only a few broken hints upon.

I. IF we would become truly religious, we must take heed to our way. i. e. We must not live at random; without care or caution: but must advise with our reason & cons­cience; make a pause before we act, and not enter upon any course heedlesly; without tho't or consideration.

THIS is a fault too common, especially among young persons: who are therefore particularly here directed to guard against it. And this, not only because 'tis in it self a gross inconsistency; for what sounds more incongruous? a rational and intelligent, yet tho'tless and inconsiderate crea­ture.—But because 'tis a means necessary to our being preserved from the pollutions of sin. 'Tis very much ow­ing to that giddy tho'tlessness which is so exceeding apt to prevail among young people, that they are so often led a­stray in the path of wickedness, that terminates in destructi­on And unless we take care to rectify this temper, and recover a seriously tho'tful, cautious and considerate dis­position, there will be great hazard of our never becoming truly religious.—Consideration is the first step mention'd in David's return to God and his duty.—And if with him we would turn our feet unto God's testimonies, we must as he did, first think of our ways.

LET us realise the necessity of becoming seriously con­siderate.—Let us not allow our selves to live without tho't; [Page 21] as tho' we were not endowed with the noble powers of reason and understanding:—But let us use our selves to deliberate before we act.—And let us review our past actions: and often bring them under strict examination▪ So will there be a hopeful prospect of our being kept within the line of duty; or otherwise, we shall soon see our mistake, be likely to repent of it, and alter our course, before we get into a habit of doing evil.

II. WE must take heed to our way, according to God's word.—And this also is a proper & wise direction in order to our becoming truly religious. For,

1. THE word of God is the best and most sutable rule, by which to govern our selves in the business of religion. One great reason that young persons especially, are so often found walk­ing in a wrong way is, their not having settled in their minds a rule, by which to govern their conduct; and not using themselves to bring their actions to some standard, to judge of them whether they are good or bad.—'Tis therefore a good direction, the proposing to us a rule of life, and to go­vern our selves by this rule. And the direction is still more wise & sutable, as the rule it recommends is the word of God; which is the best that can be. We have the excelling pro­perties of this rule elegantly described, in Psal. 19. 7, 8, 9. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoycing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes: the fear of the Lord is clean, en­during for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righte­ous altogether. Nor was the world ever favour'd with so clear and perfect a rule of life, as that we have in the word of God.—We are here taught the whole of our duty both towards God, our selves and one another; and this, as it ought to be practised in every relation, and under all the varying conditions and circumstances of life: insomuch that if we follow this direction; making the word of God the rule of our actions, doing whatever that prescribes, and nothing that it disapproves of; we shan't fail of keeping our selves free from sin, and exercising our selves in all religious services to the honor of God, and our own establishment in grace and goodness.—To take heed to God's word as a rule of life, is therefore good advice;—a better direction could scarce have been given us.—

[Page 22] 2. THE word of God offers the most powerful arguments to prevail with us to engage in a religious course. For they are in short, nothing less than the rewards and punishments of the eternal world. These sanctions of the law of God, were not I am sensible, at the time when David gave the advice in my text, so fully and clearly expressed as they have been since: Yet had good men in those days sufficient reason, from divine revelation, to expect a future state of eternal blessed­ness; and the impenitently wicked, to dwell with devouring fire, and to inhabit everlasting burnings. But however it was then, the coming of Jesus Christ has brought life and im­mortality to light; and immortality both of happiness and misery. "It has scattered all those clouds that hid the other world from our sight; and removed all doubt concerning the future existence both of good & bad men. The kingdom of heaven is now laid open to our view with all the glories of it: Hell also is represented naked, and de­struction without a covering." And what powerful argu­ments are these? And what are all other motives in com­pare with them?—They are certainly, in the wisest manner adapted to work upon our hope and fear; the two strong­est and most leading passions of humane nature: And their operation is so powerful, that if the fear of eternal misery will not affrighten us from sin; nor the hope of eternal hap­piness encourage us to enter upon a life of serious godliness, we are sunk into the depth of stupidity.—More powerful arguments can't be us'd with us; and if we won't be wro't upon by these, our case is truly lamentable.

Now this also obviously justifies the wisdom of the direction in my text. For we stand in absolute need of very strong and forcible arguments to prevail with us, to engage in the business of religion: and these which the word of God offers, are the most so of any that can be us'd with us.

3. IN the last place, the word of God is a most powerful means to purify the heart, and beget and increase in the soul, the principles of holiness. It has a strong natural tendency to these ends; as it contains that in it, which is most suted to en­lighten the mind; inform the understanding; convince the judgment; perswade the will; move the affections, & stir up the executive powers.—But its chief efficacy to pro­mote [Page 23] more real piety, lies in its being an instituted means of God's dispensing those divine assistances, that are necessary to our being truly religious. Upon this account especially, the Gospel is called the power of God to salvation; * And our Saviour makes that prayer, Sanctifie them thro' thy truth: thy WORD is truth: And we are said to be sancti­fy'd and cleans'd with the washing of water, by the WORD. All which texts do abundantly point out the word to be one special means, that is ordinarily made use of in the work of recovering sinners to God and duty. I deny not but the holy Spirit may convert persons without means: but instan­ces of this kind are very uncommon, if there be any such at all. And as the Spirit generally makes use of means; so the word, both red and preach'd, is a special means to this end. And perhaps there are few persons, who have passed under a work of regenerating grace, but from their own experience are able to say, the word has been in­strumental herein; and can tell what parts of it in parti­cular, were impressed upon their minds by the good Spi­rit of God.

AND now, when they holy psalmist was about directing young men in the way to religion and happiness; what more sutable and effectual method could he advise to, than this of paying a due regard to God's word? since this is naturally adapted to promote this design; and is the very method in which it pleases God ordinarily to bestow renew­ing, saving grace. What more likely way can be taken, to become sincerely pious, than by attending to that word, which God has instituted as a means, which he has given us the greatest encouragement to hope, he will bless to this end?—None sure, may be tho't to be under a more hopeful prospect of a real thorow conversion, than those who put themselves in the prescribed way of meeting with divine grace, by heedfully regarding God's word.

AND now from what has been said,

1. How great is our indebtedness to God for his Word! Having always been favoured with it, we scarce know our [Page 24] advantage herein, or how justly to prize it.—'Tis truly a rich gift, that to us are committed the oracles of God.—O let us value this privilege!—We can never too much esteem it, or be too thankful for it.—

2. SUCH deserve a severe reproof, who treat the word with neglect; seldom or never looking into it, & making little or no more use of it than if they had no concern with it.—This is the character of multitudes, as is too evident from the gross ignorance of some in the great points of christianity; and the wretched carelessness of others, about eternal concerns.—O be admonished of your sin and folly! You are greatly guil­ty before God; cast horrid contempt on his grace;—and not only so, but hurt your own souls, and lose one of the best advantages in order to your being happy for ever.—

3. WE should be much in reading the word; having our stated times herefor, and not allowing our selves ordinarily to pass a day, without repairing to it.—And while we are studying the word, we should guard against a light, vain and trifling frame of spirit, as no ways becoming the importance of the duty; but should endeavour to compose our selves to seriousness, getting our minds into a tho'tful considerate temper.—This doubtless is a likely method of reading the word to saving advantage.—

4. WE should especially attend on the preached word; ma­king it our care to be always at the place of publick worship, at the stated times herefor on Lord's days; and on other days also, as our occasions will permit.—Nor should we content our selves meerly with an attendance on the word: but should take heed how we hear; and attend with reverence, and an awaken'd sense of the awful weight of future & eter­nal concerns: with desires of and aims at being spiritually profited; that we may be quickned in duty and strength­ned to the performance of it; that we may get possess'd of sanctifying grace, and have it increased in our souls; and in a word, that the life of God may be begun, maintained and carried on in us as much as may be to perfection.—

5. IN FINE, let us make use of the word to the purpo­ses of religion, for which it is here prescribed. I will sup­pose we are, at least some of us, convinced of the reason­ableness [Page 25] and necessity of an early course of piety, and are accordingly resolved to enter upon such a course: And for our direction, let us as the psalmist has advised, take heed to our way according to God's word.—We have here the great rule of all religion: Let us compare our pretences to ver­tue and goodness herewith, and not satisfy our selves with any thing short, of that which the Gospel allows to be pure and undefiled religion.—We have here the most powerful motives, and are laid under the strongest obliga­tions to a pious holy life: Let us herefrom learn our duty, and fetch our encouragements; quickning our selves in the way of godliness, from those considerations which are here proposed to us.—We have here one special means the holy Spirit makes use of, in converting sinners to God: Let us attend to it as such, humbly waiting and hoping for the manifestations of that power to our salvation, whereby Je­sus Christ was raised from the dead.—In a word, as the Scriptures are profitable to all saving purposes, and every way sufficient to make the man of God perfect, and throughly furnished unto all good works; let us use them accordingly. Let all our views, all our hopes, all our encouragements and dependances in and from religion, be regulated by the word.—And let us from the beginning of our lives, and thro' the whole course of them, under all the changes of time and various distributions of providence, govern our hearts, and order our walk according to the Gospel di­rections; and we shan't fail, thro' the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, of being built up in faith and holiness, till we become possess'd of an inheritance among them that are sanctified.

THE good Lord now touch our hearts with a sense of these things! and cause that that grace of his which hath appeared to all men, bringing salvation; may effectually teach us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world: So may we with comfort look for the blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father and the holy Spirit, be eternal praises. AMEN.


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