INSTRUCTIONS PROPER FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.
IT is the great misfortune of youth, that, wanting experience, judgment, and very often friends capable of giving them good advice, and following the bent of their passions, they love and seek such company and pleasures as serve to strengthen their natural corruptions which, if not prevented by charitable advice, will be their ruin.
And certainly a pastor has much to answer for, who does not lay hold of every occasion of shewing young people their danger and their duty.
The first thing a youth should be made sensible of is this:
That he has in himself the seeds of all manner of sin and wickedness, which will certainly spring up and be his ruin, if he does not watch against it and pray daily for God's grace to preserve him from it:
That the wickedest man he knows was once as capable of salvation as he thinks himself to be; but by provoking God to leave him to himself, sin and hell have got the dominion over him:
And that therefore it is the greatest judgment that can fall upon any man, to be left to himself.
To come to particulars:
First, Young people are apt to be headstrong and fond of their own ways, and should therefore be told what God declares by Solomon; Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction; but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.--That there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Secondly, They love idleness naturally, and therefore should be put in mind,--that slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep, that is, makes men as careless of what will become of them, as if they were fast asleep; and that drowsiness will cover a man with rags. Above all, they should be put in mind of our Lord's sentence, Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.
Thirdly, This being the age of sensuality, libertinism, and vanity; it must be a great grace and very frequent instructions, that must secure young people from ruin.
They should therefore be often told,
That fools (and only fools) make a mock of sin, it being too dreadful a thing to be laughed at:
That whoredom and wine take away the heart; that is, make a man a mere brute:
That lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, and that swearing and cursing are sins easily learned, but hard to be left off, and will be punished most severely:
That evil communications will corrupt good manners:
That therefore young people should not, at their peril, run into unknown company and temptations, depending upon their own strength and good resolutions. They should be told,
That nobody is very wicked at once;--that there are few but had some time good notions, good purposes, and good hopes;--and those that are profligately wicked became so after this manner: they took delight in loose and wicked company; then they neglected to pray for grace; then they cast off the fear of God; then holiness; after that modesty; then care of reputation;--and so contracting evil habits, they became at last abandoned of God and left to themselves.
Fourthly, A good pastor will not forget to exhort young people to flee youthful lusts and all sins of impurity, filthy songs and filthy stories, which leave cursed impressions upon the soul, do grieve God's Holy Spirit which was given them at Baptism and at Confirmation, and provoke Him to forsake them; and then an evil spirit most certainly will take them under his government.
Fifthly, Such as have parents should be exhorted to love, honour and obey them: That, as the Apostle saith, it may be well with them, and that they may live long on the earth.-- That they may escape that curse pronounced, Deut. xxvii. 16, Cursed is he that setteth light by his father and [or his] mother;--and that of the Wise Man, The eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out; that is, such a one shall act in every thing he does as if he were blind.
In short, children, as they hope for God's favour and blessing, should strive to please their parents; be grieved when they have angered them; take their advice kindly and follow it cheerfully; and never marry without their consent, as they hope for happiness in that estate.
Above all things, young people should be obliged to observe the Lord's day; they should be taught to reverence God's house and God's ministers, who pray for them and are to give an account of their souls.
They should be exhorted to pray daily for themselves, and against being led away by the violence of evil customs and the ways of the world, which they have renounced at their baptism.
And when they have run into errors (which they are but too apt to do) they should be made sensible of the ruin they are bringing upon themselves, that they may return to a better mind, and, after the example of the prodigal in the Gospel, beg God's pardon and sin no more; being often forewarned that God will, one time or other, make them to possess the iniquities of their youth.