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O Blessed and Gracious God, I see and acknowledge that real excellence and true happiness belong to those only who are taught by Thy word, sanctified by Thy Spirit, and engaged in Thy service. We may be accounted virtuous and amiable, good and excellent : but he only is truly good in Thy sight, who cleanses his way by taking heed thereto according to Thy word; who chooses the good part-Christ for his Saviour, Thyself for his portion, and holy and obedient living for his employment. Ohappy he, who remembers Thee, his Creator, in the days of his youth—who through divine grace begins in early life that course of conduct which cannot fail to give him an ever-increasing satisfaction at all times, and amidst all the events of a trying and changing world! Such are my thoughts and convictions at present, when I consider what the true Christian character is. But, O merciful Father, give me grace and strength, that I may not only entertain just thoughts and persuasions for a season, but may retain them, cherish them, and bring them to good effect. No longer suffer me to proceed in a thoughtless and vain course, seeking my happiness in the pleasures of the world, and satisfied with myself because I see many around me such as I am. O let me seriously consider what I ought to be, and earnestly pray for Thy Holy Spirit to teach and renew and govern me, that I may be truly Thine in my youthful years. Bless me, as Thou hast blessed others : plant me in Thy vineyard; and there cause me to flourish, being watered with the dew of Thy blessing, and protected by Thy mighty power. Have compassion on my ignorance and weakness: begin, of Thy great goodness, and carry on within me the work of saving piety, that I may henceforth live to Thee, and enjoy Thy favour both here and for
Thus look upon me, I beseech Thee, and bless me, through the merits and for the sake of Jesus Christ our only Saviour. Amen.
* Happy, if full of days--but happier far,
Cowper. “ The work of Christianity is a difficult work : there are many enemies, many temptations : Satan and the world resist us without; corruption wrestles and rebels within. But here is the comfort -God's servants work for a Master that remembers all, who looks to their profit, as well as to His own honour ; who keeps a book for our prayers, a bottle for our tears, a register for them that fear Him."—Bp. Reynolds.
You are fully convinced of the importance and excellence of true piety. You clearly see that man can be happy only in God; and that to be happy in Him, he must enjoy His favour and do His will. You see that the sinfulness of man, both as to heart and practice is indisputable, and that pardon and holiness can be only obtained by faith in Christ and by the operations of the Holy Spirit. You acknowledge that this world is only viewed properly, when it is viewed as a preparation for an eternal state. Lastly, you allow without hesitation, that the true Christian,
however derided or despised by the world, is the only safe, happy, and excellent character.
When you reflect on these things, you feel in your own consciences that you ought to devote yourselves to God and to His service in your early days. But though your conviction be such, you may feel a painful conflict within; there may be in your breasts a halting between two opinions; you may be reluctant to quit a familiar path, and to enter upon a new one. In this state of things, you may begin to explore reasons for being satisfied with your present condition and proceedings, and to postpone religion to a more convenient season. Perhaps you speak thus to yourselves—“Religion is true, good, important, and deserving of all the attention of man. It ought to be his teacher and ruler. The favour of God and eternal happiness can only be gained by walking in the ways of true wisdom. I am fully persuaded of this. But I cannot think of becoming pious yet: it is time enough to be serious. Many obstacles now lie in my way. I am not my own master: when I have more liberty, I can attend to the subject.”Supposing that you speak to this effect, I ask, Is not this the real fact-You are more disposed to extinguish than to cherish your convictions—you are not yet inclined to become a follower of Christ?
But I will admit that you may have hindrances to piety ; and let me here briefly examine them.
The subject is far too large and intricate, (and possibly connected with casuistry,) for me to do any thing more than to advance a few slight remarks.
1. Perhaps you may say, that there is a prevailing inattention to religion in your family. If your parents are pious, they will rejoice to see you become so: but if they are not, the case is much otherwise. If they be indifferent about religion, they will not oppose you : but if they have a strong aversion to serious piety, accounting it cant, hypocrisy, fanaticism, and so forth, you may experience much unpleasantness. But do not make the case worse than it is. It furnishes no reason for your trifling with your conscience and disregarding religion ; but it furnishes you with the strongest reason for your being prudent, modest, discreet, patient, and forbearing. If they forget their character as Christians, and abuse their authority as parents, and put you under restraints, and cause you to associate with characters whom you cannot approve, and urge you to join in amusements that pain you, and make religion a subject of ridicule or invective, it will be a severe trial to you; but it will be one which, like other trials, should call into exercise the most invaluable virtues of the Christian character. You will have great cause to be circumspect; to watch over your spirit, language, and conduct ;-and this will do you no harm. If you show self-will, vehemence, and misconduct, you will deserve dis