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integrity, so far as dealings between mau and man were concerned. He was confident that he had done nothing to warrant the suspicion to which he was thus subjected; and he was therefore bold and constant in his assertions of innocence.
But it is beautifni to observe, how, after vindicating himself before mau ue could yet humble himself before God. He knew, that these, his fellow-sinners had nothing wherewith to accuse him, all his dealings with them having been as much marked by benevolence as by justice ; but then he equally knew that in the sight of God he was verily guilty; and that innumerable offences of which he himself had taken no note, stood registered against him in the court of heaven. He therefore turns from man to God, and having maintained to the vlie his uprightness, entreats of the other that he would make him know his faults : “ How many are mine iniquities and sins ? make me to know my transgression and my sin.” He could only charge himself generally with those faults which must have been committed by him as a fallen, and therefore offending creature; that so, having obtained far greater knowledge of the respects in which he had done wrong, for the time to come he might resist evil more vigilantly. Indeed, whatever had been his circumspection and virtue in later days, he felt that in the season of youth, with passions less subjugated, and principles scarcely formed, he had done much to provoke God, and sow the seeds of a disquieted old age. We have no right, indeed, to suppose, that Job had spent what is called a dissolute youth, and had thus, in any peculiar manner, treasured up the materials of remorse. The probability is altogether the other way; and we may rather believe, that, like Samuel, he “ knew the Lord from a child,” and “ remembered his Creator in the days of his youth." Still in reflecting on the past, he could not doubt that there had been much in his conduct, whilst reason was yet weak, and piety in its infancy, to displease that Being who demands the thorough subjugation of every passion, and the thorough control of every power. He concluded, therefore, that possibly much of what he suffered should be traced to early sin as its origin; and this caused him to break into the exclamation of our text, “ Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.”
There is something very striking in the expression of “ possessing the iniquities of his youth.” It is as though the iniquities of youth so adhered and cleaved to a man in riper years, that there was no possibility of shaking them off: and it is
upon the general fact, which seems thus conveyed in the language of the patriarch, that we propose to employ our present discourse. We know of nothing better calculated to fix the attention of the young, and to impress upon them the necessity of immediately seeking after God, than an exhibition of the truth, that the sins committed in the spring-time of life tell fearfully on its maturity and its decline, We know full well, that the common feeling in those who have yet lived a few years, and before whom the world has spread its attractions, rich in that colouring which they have not yet tried-it is, that there will be time enough hereafter to attend to the soul, and that the likelihood of lengthened days being great, they run but little risk in tasting of earth's pleasures before preparing for eternity. It avails very little that we attempt to meet this feeling with earnest and pathetic representations of the uncertainty of life; as this is just the point on which the mind is practically made up; ana that there will be time for repentance is assumed as a kind of axiom by the
young But if we can prove to them that all their sinful indulgences throw themselves forward, as it were, into the years which are assigned to the duties of religion, and that if they ever reach those years they will feel the iniquities fastening themselves upon them as an abiding possession—why we do not say that we shall succeed in prevailing with them to give God their first days, but we shall certainly have set before them a truth which will leave them more inexcusable than ever if they yet defer the turning to the Lord.
Neither is it to the young alone, that the subject thus opened by our text will address itself. If one so eminent for righteousness as the patriarch Job might consider himself chastened for the offences of his youth, is it not possible that much of the suffering which falls on the godly of the earth is the temporal retribution of their evil misdoings ? And if so, we shall be able to explain much which seems otherwise strange in the dealings of our Maker, and to vindicate dispensations which are thought inconsistent with the known principles of his goveroment. So that there are two general points of view under which we shall proceed to survey the truth derived from our text, that men are made in later years to possess the iniquities of their youth. The first is, that of the warning which it furnishes to those who are just at the outset of life. The second is, the explanation which it gives of those proceedings which might otherwise seem at variance with God's moral government.
Now it will be necessarily our business, under the first head of our discourse, to make good the truth and to illustrate the fact, that men possess in after life the iniquities of their youth. The whole power of THE WARNING must depend on the demonstration of the truth, and in its being so exhibited, that you may realize it as possibly made good in your own case. We shall therefore take upon us, so to set forth the possession of the iniquities of youth, that every one may understand how easily, yea, how unavoidably, he will entail his sins on himself, if he give his opening days to worldly pleasures and pursuits.
We begin, for the sake of illustration, by remarking, how difficult, and almost impossible a thing it is, with reference to the things of the present state of being, to make up by after diligence for time lost in youth. It is appointed by God, that one stage in life should be strictly preparatory to another, just as our whole residence on earth is preparatory to our residence in the invisible world. And it is further appointed, that the neglect of the special duties of any one stage, shall have consequences not to be repaired by any attention, however intense, to those of the following: just as (so perfect is the analogy) if we provide not for eternity while sojourning on earth, there will be afforded us no opportunity whatsoever of retrieving our error, and making good our lost ground. The earlier years of life are to be given to the processes of education, to that expansion of the mental powers, and that acquisition of knowledge, which shall qualify the boy for the occupations of the man. And if there hare been a neglected boyhood, so that the mind's powers have not been disciplined and its chambers not stored with information, the consequences will propagate themselves to the extreme line of life; and the man, whatever his regret, and whatever his endeavour to repair the mischief, will never place himself where he might have stood, had he set himself to the duties that belong to its season. It is quite to be expected that such would be the case ; for if, as we must believe, every period of life has its own appropriate occupations, and those occupations leave no room for others; it necessarily follows, that he who is engaged at one period with the business which should have been completed in the former, must be always in arrears, and whilst recovering the past be neglectful of the present: and it is not probable that the duties of one period can be gathered into the duties of another season without omitting its own.
It is also clear that the ability changes with the period; and what we do not do at the right time, we want the strength to perform at any subsequent time. Thus the man who has not been well trained may apply himself to the repairing his defective education : but he still finds it intensely difficult to bring his mind into habits of attention; and there will be a kind of stiffness, if we may use the expression, in every muscle, which will almost forbid his bending it to the processes of study. So that just as there has been negligence in youth, the man must be wanting to the end of his days in acquirements of whose worth he is perpetually reminded, but which are not to be gained at any subsequent period of his life. And if it be true, that an idle and undisciplined boyhood, thus exerts a kind of paralyzing power in manhood, the defect of education refusing to be supplied, whatever the carefulness of later days, it assuredly must be admitted, that the faults of early life tell most injuriously upon the best endeavours of mature; that they do, as it were, so adhere to a man, that with all his striving he cannot quite part from them. In other words, that God causes them so to hamper and to press the individual, when convinced of his error and struggling to repair it, that he may be said to “write bitter things against himself;" and be " made to possess the iniquities of his youth."
We need hardly point out to you how this same truth is exemplified with reference to bodily health. The man who has injured his constitution by the excesses of youth, cannot repair the mischief by after abstinence and selfdenial. The seeds of disease which have been sown while the passions were fresh and ungoverned, are not to be eradicated by the severest moral regimen which may be afterwards prescribed and followed. The man may become a virtuous man, and hold in utter abhorrence the vices of his days of debauchery; but he cannot, with all his sorrow and all his repentance, put froin him the entailments of his dissoluteness. He must carry with him to the grave impaired energies and trembling limbs, and feel and exhibit the painful tokens of premature old age. And, indeed, whenever this occurs, our text finds an accurate illustration. Of the man, who, through years of strict and conscientious morality and temperance, is continually reminded by the sufferings which spring from a shattered constitution, that his youth was spent in voluptuousness -may it not be said that bitter things are written against him, and that, too, by God, who has appointed that punishment shall follow in the way of natural consequence upon sin; and may it not be said of such a man, that forasmuch as all his forsaken debauchery is yet cleaving to him in enfeebled powers and inveterate disease, may it not be said of him, that he is “ made to possess the iniquities of his youth ?"
But we only introduce these instances for the sake of making you understand the truth of our text. We think, indeed, that very much would be done if we could gain entrance for this truth as already exhibited, even if there were no more important respects in which it held good. It were a great thing if the boy could be stimulated to diligence and attention, by the view of the fruitless endeavours which he will probably make to repair idleness and neglect. It were a great thing if the young man could be stopped in the career of dissipation by the view of the feebleness and maladies which he is storing up for after years. We speak of these as great things ; not merely because mightily advantageous in themselves, as securing conscientiousness in the boy and abstinence in the youth, but because, in prevailing on an individual to look forward at all, we prevail on him in a degree to act on the principle of his immortality. The evil is, that present ease and present gratification are alone ordinarily consulted; and men live as though there were nothing in the future to be either dreaded or secured. If, therefore, we can bring them, at any stage of life, to act with reference to consequences, and to regulate their conduct, not by what may be agreeable at the moment, but by what will be beneficial in the long run, we feel that they are partially brought out from that moral degradation in which they are naturally sunk—the degradation of forgetfulness that they are not to perish with the brute: but having induced them to provide for a few years on earth, they are more accessible to remonstrances on the duty of providing for eternity.
But the possession of the iniquities of the youth which we wish most to exhibit, is that which affects men when stirred with anxiety for the soul, and desirous to seek and obtain the pardon of sin. We shall come best to a true view of this case by tracing the course of an individual who spends the best years of his life in neglect of God and the things of another world. It is not necessary that we suppose him one of the openly profligate. It is quite enough that he belong to that large mass of human kind, who, whilst moral and upright in conduct, make it not the great business of life to be ready for death. Such a man for many years may go on in his indifference and carelessness; and he may enjoy many pleasures, and he may amass much wealth, and gain much reputation. But as an immortal creature, appointed to survive the dissolution of matter, he is altogether an outcast and a beggar, and has no portion but with the heirs of everlasting shame. But things may occur which shall persuade this man of the necessity that he remember his Creator ; and he may reach a point in life, often spoken of, when there have been stirrings of conscience, but as often deferred to a more convenient season, at which he pauses, and resolves that there must be repentance and turning to God. It is at this point we take him—a point at which, we are well aware, you all hope to arrive : for there are moments in the life of the most thoughtless amongst you when the oppressed immortality struggles so powerfully, and pleads so passionately, that the only mode in which it can be silenced is, that of promising that it shall be heard on some not distant day. And we now make the most favourable supposition for the procrastinating man. The likelihood is vastly on the side of his continuing to defer until overtaken by death : so that the iniquities of his youth will be possessed by him to the last ; possessed in that apathy to spiritual impressions which is the produce of neglected means, of indulged passions, of resisted suggestions ; possessed in that determination that to-morrow will be soon enough for preparation for eternity, and that to-day may yet be given to the enjoyments of time ; which, first formed in the opening years of life, will ordinarily grow stronger as death comes nearer.
Now we make, as we have said, the most favourable supposition: there is yet time for repentance, and for seeking the Lord; the man has been roused to a sense of his danger, and he is applying himself in good earnest to the discovery how it may be escaped. He will soon learn that, if sin is to be pardoned, it must be forsaken, and that a thorough change of conduct, the renouncing of what he most cherishes, and the following what is least congenial with his nature, are imperatively demanded of him if he would flee wrath to come. We would not imagine him deterred from the endeavour by its manifest difficulties; we will suppose that he goes boldly to the grappling of these difficulties : but then we say of the difficulties, formidable as they unquestionably are—too formidable to be overcome by unaided human strength —that they are mainly the result of the possession of the iniquities of his youth. The great battle which a man has to fight, when endeavouring to conform himself to the revealed will of God, is a battle with his own habits. Habits are the vehement opposers of the desired reformation : and the simple fact, that he has brought himself to sin as a matter of course, without deliberation, without difficulty, without repugnance—this is especially the millstone around his neck when he would rise from mortal things, and walk in newness of life. And what are habits but the possessed iniquities of his youth? It was in the spring-time of his days that he laid the foundation of those habits, which now, like iron ramparts, threaten to withstand effectually his escape from the bondage of corruption. It was at the very outset of his life that, by allowing full swing to his passions, putting little or no restraint on his desires, and deciding for the world in preference to God, he prepared the way for other enslavements from which it seems almost impossible to break loose. It would have been comparatively easy had he resisted at the first: but he yielded at the first; and every new compliance did but increase the facility of compliance, and therefore augmented the difficulty of resistance; until at last he settled into the man with the stupified conscience, in whom there was ordinarily no remonstrance against the doing wrong, in whom sin had no struggle for the mastery, and left no remorse for indulgence. And thus has the habit become a kind of nature ; and the desperate resistance by which he feels himself met in his strivings to obey God-it is mainly the misdoings of his youth fallen on him in the being compelled to do evil.
We are not describing a case of extraordinary occurrence, but the case of every man who remembers not his Creator in the days of his youth. It is inevitable in regard to all such, that the indifference to religion which marked the commencement of their course, will adhere to them in later life as a powerful and inveterate habit. And we tell the young amongst you who may be calculating on its being as easy at one period as another to give attention to the things of eternity, that they leave out of question the singular but undeniable fact, that the carelessness of to-day adds itself to the carelessness of to-morrow; and that, beginning with attachment to this world, they bind themselves with a cord to which every hour will weave a new thread. It were comparatively little, so far as the probabilities of repentance are concerned, that a temptation should be yielded to in youth, if, after the yielding, the same moral position were occupied as before. The formidable thing is, that the yielding once is to clear the way for a succession of compliances, each made with greater readiness than the preceding; so that the single sin has a fatal power of propagating itself, and will re-appear ten, or twenty, or forty years after, in that shape which we have assigned it, with a confirmed, and scarcely