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and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But it was not so with all of us. * Foolishness"-says the Scripture (and experience confirms the words of Scripture)—“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child :" “ Childhood and youth are vanity.” With too many amongst us, any folly was in those days, preferred to God: prayer too often was looked on as a task; the Bible as a dull book; and sin was thought something manly: and those energies which, if sanctified by grace, might have honoured the Gospel and profited men, were spent and wasted in sinful rebellion against God. Many often think lightly, indeed, of youthful sins, and treat them as mere acts of indiscretion. But sin in the sight of God is always sinful. “ The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.” There is God's recorded testimony of the sinfulness of the vain and foolish imaginations in which youth is so apt to indulge. And it is to be remarked, how very deeply some of the most eminent characters of Scripture appear to have lamented their youthful sins. Thus David: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O Lord." Thus Job : “ Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth." Thus in that beautiful example of penitence, given in the prophet Jeremiah : “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke : turn thou me, and I shall be turned ; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented ; and after that I was instructed; I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” Then, again, in the same prophet, how affecting the penitential review of youth : “Welie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us ; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth, even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God." One, also, of the most affecting of our Lord's parables, is that of the prodigal son; the rash and thoughtless youth, who, according to the language still too common in the world, was only rather too gay and indiscreet; but when his conscience was touched, and his eyes were opened, and he came to himself, what was his confession? “ Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son."
But here let not the young misunderstand. I am not confounding with sin, the natural cheerfulness, and the amiable vivacity of youth: neither am I condemning the ardour of character, and the flow of spirits, which usually mark that season of life. Nay, I would say to them, Be cheerful; be active; be ardent; be happy; be joyful: but still remember God, thy Creator, in the days of thy youth: remember the Saviour, who invited the young to come to him: remember to pray for the Holy Spirit, to create anew the sin-loving heart; to sanctify all natural gifts ; to turn the full current of thy youthful affections towards God and goodness; to incline thee to attend to his affectionate exhor. tation, “My son, give me thy heart.”
But here very many of us have failed; some more, and others less. But whoever has least failed in love and obedience towards God, and has the least giver way to sin, vanity, and folly, has cause for deep humiliation, and penitential confession before God. Every ingenuous young person remembers, with peculiar self-reproach, an offence committed against kind parents ; the
having trifled with their feelings, they disregarded their warnings; the omission of what would have pleased them; the word, the look, the temper, that evidently distressed them, and gave them pain. And if now they are far off, or if death has removed them into eternity, so that we never can again gladden their hearts, the thought is peculiarly affecting. But now I call in God's name, for all this, and far more than this, for God. Every offence committed against the just and proper commands of earthly parents, was, in fact, an offence against Him who commanded them to be honoured and if they, who themselves were imperfect and sinful, yet were grieved and displeased by the rebellious temper, the obstinate spirit, or unkind behaviour, what must God be, who is perfectly holy; and who, being an omniscient Spirit, knows infinitely more than they ever knew of us; who saw us when they could not; who heard our words when we should have been ashamed to utter them, before them; who was witness to deeds which their presence would have altogether restrained? Our offences, alas, against them are much aggravated by the recollection of their kindness. How did they protect and watch over our infancy? What labour and self-denial did they endure for us! What sympathy did they express in our little sorrows! What patience, forgiveness, and unwearied love did they evince! Then think of God your heavenly Father. Consider his forbearance, his goodness, his protecting care, his ever-watchful providence, his offers of mercy, his invitations of grace, his entreaties for reconciliation and salvation! And yet against Him, our heavenly Father, our unwearied friend, our best and truest benefactor, we have dared to sin again and again. Shame on our hardness of heart, we feel not more deeply the unspeakable ingratitude of sin! Every one of the perfections of God makes sin against him appear more sinful. Is God perfect in holiness? How must he abhor sin in his creatures! Is he perfect in justice? How must he vindicate the honour of his broken law! Is he so powerful that he can create or annihilate the world with a single word? What wonderful forbearance that he did not crush us when we sinned against him! Is he full of love, and infinite in compassion ? Therefore is sin the more vile; rebellion against a gracious monarch being far more heinous than against a cruel tyrant.
But still, my brethren, though the recollection of the solemn engagements of baptism, coupled with the review of our past lives, must surely convince us all of the humbling truth, that we have not yielded ourselves as we ought to God; what a comfort to remember, that one of the great fundamental truths of Christianity-into the belief of which we were baptized, in which we have been instructed, and in which we are now, if not before, invited, yea entreated, to exercise a personal faith, is this-that sin, however much, however great, may be pardoned; ingratitude may yet be forgiven; and that our God, though holy and just, may freely pardon us, rebels as we have been before him! The gracious way provided is in and through Jesus Christ, who though the eternal Son of God, and equal with the Father in happiness and glory, yet deigned to take our nature into union with his Godhead: and here, on this earth, the spot which mau's sin must have rendered vile in his sight; here, in the depth of humiliation, and scorn, and infamy; here, by obedience and suffering, even unto death, (as we have to commemorate this week,) here he worked out a full and complete righteousness to be put on all who believe on him, comprehending
prayer : and
che pardon of their sins, the acceptance of their persons, perfect reconciliation with God, and an interest in the great New Testament promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, to work in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.
If some among you just now feel the recollection of youthful sins thrill you with compunction, now let the full and gracious offer of redemption thrill you with joy. Accept heartily and truly of Jesus Christ as your Saviour : come to him, that is, as sinners : rely simply on his merits : plead his promises in prayer : confess his name before men : seek to know him more, and to be yet more and more closely and vitally connected with him by faith, love, and
you shall have pardon; yea, thus coming you have pardon already. God is no longer angry with you; his anger is turned away : the clouds which sin and unbelief had raised are dispersed; the smile of God's favour breaks on you; you are his, and he is yours. Henceforth how different a thing is life! Not a mere season to be trifled and frittered away in the round of amusement; not merely a time for amassing gold, and silver, and perishable goods : no, nor yet the theatre for the display of vanity and ambition, in their thousand varied forms. Love, in the Christian, united by a living faith to Christ, and filled with love to him, assumes a nobler object : it is to be alive to his praise; to be devoted to his service; to be spent in fulfilling his will, and in glorifying his name. If you truly believe on him you must and will love him: and if you love him you must and will obey the exhortation of our text, and “ Yield ourselves unto God.” For this was his object, the love of Christ concerning us : “ He died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God :" He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works."
Now here, I trust, you will allow, I have shewn AN ADEQUATE MOTIVE to induce you, through the grace of God, to yield yourselves unto him. I have not rested my argument on natural religion—that God is your Creator and Preserver, and therefore has a right to your obedience, though there is some force in that appeal. I rest not the argument on mere moral grounds--the beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice : though there is some meaning also in that. And I urge not mere topies of temporal expediency—that in serving God you will consult for your health, comfort, and usefulness to society. But, if it were possible, I would lead every one of you to the foot of the Redeemer's cross.
Behold, there,” I would say to the most hesitating; “ behold the mighty motive: : see in that suffering, bleeding, dying Saviour, a motive which ought to be sufficient to induce you to renounce all sin, to love God, and to yield yourselves unto him,' from a principle of gratitude. Let his patient silence in suffering plead : let his wounds and bruises have a voice : let his bowing his head and dying move your affections and hearts : and to what but this— Yield yourselves unto God.'"
But he is also risen, and ascended, and sits on the right hand of God. These are all great and noble articles of our faith; and each of them forms an additional motive to us to yield ourselves unto God. Rise with him from the sleep and death of sin ; ascend with him in heart and spirit. Begin, in prayer for that grace of the Holy Spirit, which he delights to send down-begin now a life of devotedness, holiness, and love. Enter, dear brethren, into the noble realities
of yɔur religion. Let the great motives of Christianity not slumber unheeded
but bring them (nay, rather pray God to bring them; for it is His work to do it aright)—bring them so to bear on your consciences, so to be mixed up with your first principles of action, that they may animate you to all gratitude, obedience, patience, and perseverance.
Will you then (for this is the question) will you be the decided Christian? You see what is meant-Will you “ yield yourselves unto God ?" It does not mean, Will you be gloomy and melancholy? It does not mean, Will you retire from social life, into the solitude of the desert, or the dreariness of the monastery? but, will you be the Christian indeed? Will you, wherever you are thrown by the providence of God, endeavour faithfully to love and serve Jesus Christ? Will you at his bidding, cheerfully renounce the sins and vanities which cannot make you truly happy, or he who is your friend, your best friend, will not ask you to renounce them. Will you believe on him; which is not merely a duty, but a
1 great and blessed privilege? Will you be taught by his Spirit; be made humble, renewed, contented, consistent, and rejoicing Christians ? carry a Christian spirit of love and gentleness into all your duties? Will you (for again we come to that point) will you, “ yield yourselves unto God ?" Now that question is proposed to every one of you individually. Whose will Whom will you serve? Two masters are offered
whichever you look : God and the world; God and the flesh ; God and Satan. Deliberate, choose, decide. But, O, if entreaties, if advice, if prayers of ours can avail, you will all, if you have not made the good choice before, now choose for God, and decide to be, through his grace, the faithful and decided Christian.
We do not wish to conceal, that there are difficulties in carrying out this choice. Our Saviour himself advises his disciples well to count the cost. We know that it is not a fashionable thing to give up ourselves to God. We know that in being truly pious there is a struggle to be maintained; a fight to be fought ; self-denial to be exercised. We know all this; and it would be dishonest to wish to conceal it from you. But still, brethren, the motives, the grand and mighty motives, of the love of God, of the death of Christ, of his intercession with the Father, of the energetic grace of his Spirit; the heaven which he is gone to prepare-a place full of greatness, blessedness, and glory, stretching beyond the narrow vale of mortal life, into the boundless regions of eternity ; here are motives which ought to outweigh all difficulties, and to decide every one of your hearts for God.
Where, then, are the youths who will give in their names in secret to God this very night? Do it with deliberation; for it is a matter of vast importance: do it with much prayer; for God by bis Holy Spirit alone can effectually enable you to " yield yourselves unto him :" do it with great humility ; for our own sinfulness, and the freeness of God's love in Christ Jesus, alike concur to humble us : do it with real faith ; do it with grateful love ; yea, do it with joyful praise.
You, my brethren, who have made this good profession of giving yourselves up to God publicly years ago, allow me now to ask, Are you confirmed, decided, and real Christians ? Review at this season your own covenant engagements with God. Consider your Christian privileges ; examine and compare whether your life and spirit at all correspond therewith. Let none of us forget, it is
not baptism, it is not confirmation, it is not human ordinances, however excellent, that will serve. There must be personal penitence for sin ; personal faith in the Redeemer : personal earnest prayer; and personal devotedness to God. Have we any thing of this? Then let all be deepened and confirmed. Come not, we say to you—Come not, again, afresh to the rite of confirmation. Your public profession of faith and devotedness to God has been made before many witnesses : but act up to that profession ; carry out that devotedness ; renounce your sins ; give up the world's vanities ; mortify the lusts of the flesh, as you have promised to do : obey God's commands in their full spiritual sense : and in order to walk truly, believe from the heart the noble articles of our Christian faith.
May I ask of those present who were confirmed in this parish three years ago, some of them-six years others of them—and eight years others (of whom we would not now lose sight) may I ask of them how they are going on in the Christian life? Of the numbers who were then confirined, some have since gone into eternity; some are removed to distant parts ; some, I have cause to know, and many I would hope, have been going on in a consistent Christian spirit, growing in knowledge, in love to God, and in devotedness to his service. Go on and prosper, I would say to all such : forget the things behind ; reach forward to the things before. You cannot be too decided for God; you cannot love your Saviour too much ; you cannot renounce sin too entirely. Let your faith become more simple, and it will be yet more influential. Be more in prayer : pray for spiritual affections, and holiness of heart. Show to those around you, that religion is not a mere järgon of words ; not a mere profession of the lips : but by meekness, lowliness, kindness, gentleness, and practical holiness, adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things.
Some among that number, I fear, by continuing in carelessness and sin, are disgracing the public profession they then made. Then were our labours, our instructions, our sermons, our examinations, all thrown away? We cannot, and we must not, thus give you up. Again we entreat you to “'yield yourselves unto God.” For are your consciences easy while you are continuing in sins and vanities, which you have solemnly promised to renounce? Are you satisfied to go on thus ? Shall the present fresh band of candidates for Christian profession outstrip you in the Christian race? Are you just where you were years ago? Nay, that you cannot be ; for if you have been throughout that period, continuing in a careless, sin-loving state, then your habits of sin are become more confirmed; your hearts more hardened ; and your case, I had almost said, more desperate ; but I must retract that word : God forbid that I should consider any sinner's case as desperate on this side the grave. The grace of our Lord is still omnipotent: the Saviour is still able to save to the uttermost; his blood yet can cleanse from all sin. But I have to entreat you, in his strength, and in prayer for his Spirit, to make now another and a vigorous effort. Remember your peace, your happiness, your comfort, yea, your soul's life, are deeply concerned in this request. Only believe aright, and “all things become possible to him that believeth." We will not, and we must not, give you up.
In regard to our approaching confirmation, should there still be any young persons, who, after much hesitation or diffidence, are at length persuaded and resolved to be confirmed; let them still come to us for preparation. Should