William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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Young Men Exhorted to Come to Christ


by Thomas Brooks


I shall now hasten to the main use that I intend to stand upon, and that is an
use of exhortation to all young persons.

Ah, sirs! As you tender the glory of God, the good of your bodies, the joy of
your Christian friends, and the salvation of your own souls, be exhorted and
persuaded to be really good betimes. It was the praise and honour of Abijah,
that 'there was found in him some good thing towards the Lord' in the primrose
of his childhood.

Oh! That it might be your honour and happiness to be really good betimes, that
it might be to you a praise and a name, that in the morning of your youth you
have begun to seek the Lord, and to know and love the Lord, and to get an
interest and propriety in the Lord. Now that this exhortation may stick and
take, I beseech you seriously to weigh and ponder these following motives or
considerations:

Motive (1). First consider, It is an honour to be good betimes. A young saint is
like the morning star; he is like a pearl in a gold ring. It is mentioned as a
singular honour to the believing Jews, that they first trusted in Christ; 'that
we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ,' Eph. i.

12. This was their praise, their crown, that they were first converted and
turned to Christ and Christianity. So Paul, mentioning Andronicus and Junia,
doth not omit this circumstance of praise and honour, that they were in Christ
'before him,' Rom. xvi. 7. 'Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my
fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ
before me.'

And so it was the honour of the house of Stephanas, that they were the
first-fruits of Achaia, l Cor. xvi. 15. It was their glory that they were the
first that received and welcomed the gospel in Achaia. It is a greater honour
for a young man to outwrestle sin, Satan, temptation the world, and lust, than
ever Alexander the Great could attain unto. It was Judah his praise and honour,
that they were first in fetching home David their king, 2 Sam. xix. 15.

Ah, sirs! It is no small honour to you, who are in the spring and morning of
your days, that the Lord hath left upon record several instances of his love and
delight in young men. He chose David, a younger brother, and passes by his elder
brothers, 1 Sam. xvi. 11-13; he frowns upon Esau, and passes by his door, and
sets his love and delight upon Jacob the younger brother, Rom. ix. 12, 13; he
kindly and lovingly accepts of Abel's person and sacrifice, and rejects both
Cain's person and sacrifice, though he was the elder brother, Gen. iv. 3-6.

Among all the disciples, John was the youngest and the most and best beloved,
John xiii. 23. There was but one 'young man' that came to Christ, and he came
not aright, Mark x. 19-21; and all the good that was in him was but some moral
good, and yet Christ loved him with a love of pity and compassion. The Greek
word (agapan) signifies, to speak friendly and deal gently with one; and so did
Christ with him, all which should exceedingly encourage young men to be good
betimes, to be gracious in the morning of their youth. No way to true honour
like this, but,

Motive (2). Secondly, consider, Christ loved poor sinners and gave himself for
them, when he was in the prime of his age (being supposed to be about thirty and
three), and will you put him of with the worst of your time?

Ah! Young men, young men, Christ gave himself up to death, he made himself an
offering for your sins, for your sakes, when he was in the prime and flower of
his age: and why then should you put off Christ to an old age? Did he die for
sin in the prime of his age? And will not you die to sin in the prime of your
age? Did he offer himself for you in the spring and morning of his years? and
will not you offer up yourselves to him in the spring and morning of your years?

Oh give not Christ cause to say, I died for you betimes, but you have not lived
to me betimes; I was early in my suffering for you, but you have not been early
in your returning to me; I made haste to complete your redemption, but you have
made no haste to make sure your vocation and election, 2 Pet. i. 1O; I stayed
not, I lingered not, but soon suffered what I was to suffer, and quickly did
what was to be done for your eternal welfare; but you have stayed and lingered,
like Lot in Sodom, Gen. xix. 16, and have not done what you might have done in
order to your everlasting good. In the primrose of my days, I sweat for you, I
wept for you, I bled for you, I hung on the cross for you, I bore the wrath of
my Father for you; but you have not in the primrose of your days sweat under the
sense of divine displeasure, nor wept over your sins, nor mourned over me, whom
you have so often grieved and pierced, Zech. xii. 10. I could not be quiet nor
satisfied till I had put you into a capacity, into a possibility of salvation,
and yet you are well enough quieted and satisfied, though you do not know
whether ever you shall be saved.

Ah, sirs! How sad would it be with you, if Jesus Christ should secretly thus
expostulate with your consciences in this your day.

Oh! How terrible would it be with you, if Christ should thus visibly plead
against you in his great day. Ah! young men, young men and women, who but souls
much left of God, blinded by Satan, and hardened in sin, 2 Cor. 3, 4, can hear
Jesus Christ speaking thus to them: I suffered for sinners betimes, I laid down
a ransom for souls betimes, I pacified my Father's wrath betimes, I satisfied my
Father's justice betimes, I merited grace and mercy for sinners betimes, I
brought in an everlasting righteousness upon the world betimes, &c.; I say, who
can hear Jesus Christ speaking thus, and his heart not fall in love and league
with Christ, and his soul not unite to Christ and resign to Christ, and cleave
to Christ, and for ever be one with Christ, except it be such that are for ever
left by Christ? Well, remember this, the more vile Christ made himself for us,
the more dear he ought to be unto us.

Ah! young men, remember this, when Christ was young, he was tempted and tried;
when he was in the morning of his days, his wounds were deep, his burden
weighty, his cup bitter, his sweat painful, his agony and torment above
conception, beyond expression; when he was young, that blessed head of his was
crowned with thorns; and those eyes of his, that were purer than the sun, were
put out by the darkness of death; and those ears of his which now hear nothing
but hallelujahs of saints and angels, were filled with the blasphemies of the
multitude; and that blessed beautiful face of his, which was fairer than the
sons of men, was spit on by beastly filthy wretches; and that gracious mouth and
tongue, that spake as never man spake, was slandered and accused of blasphemy;
and those hands of his, which healed the sick, which gave out pardons, which
swayed a sceptre in heaven and another on earth, were nailed to the cross; and
those feet, that were beautiful upon the mountains, that brought the glad
tidings of peace and salvation into the world, and that were dike unto fine
brass, were also nailed to the cross: all these great and sad things did Jesus
Christ suffer for you in the prime and flower of his days. and oh! what an
unspeakable provocation should this be to all young ones, to give up themselves
betimes to Christ, to serve, love, honour, and obey him betimes, even in the
spring and morning of their youth.

Motive (3). The third motive or consideration to provoke you to begin to be good
betimes, is this, viz., That it is the best and choicest way in the world, to be
rich in gracious experiences betimes, which are the best riches in all the
world. As he that sets up for himself betimes is in the most hopeful way to be
rich betimes, so he that is good in good earnest betimes, he is in the ready
way, the highway of being rich in grace and rich in goodness. They usually prove
men of great observation and great experience. God loves to shew these his
'beauty and his glory in his sanctuary.' He delights to cause 'his glory and his
goodness to pass before' such. These shall find all his 'paths drop marrow and
fatness.' For these 'the Lord of hosts will make a feast of fat things, a feast
of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well
refined.' These shall have all manner of 'pleasant fruits' laid up 'at their
gates for their well-beloved,' None have so many choice pledges of Christ's
love, nor so many sweet kisses of Christ's mouth, nor so many embraces in
Christ's arms, as those souls that are good betimes. Oh the grace, the goodness,
the sweetness, the fatness that Christ is still a-dropping into their hearts!
Christ will make their hearts his largest treasury, he will lay up most of his
heavenly treasure in their souls. There he will store up mercies new and old;
there he will treasure up all plenty, rarity, and variety; there he will lay up
all that heart can wish or need require. Oh the many drops of myrrh that falls
from Christ's fingers upon their hearts! Oh the many secrets that Christ reveals
in their ears! Oh the many love-letters that Christ sends to these! Oh the many
visits that he gives to these! Oh the turns, the walks, that he hath in paradise
with these! There are none in the world for experience and intelligence to
these. Ah! young men, young men, as you would be rich in the best riches, begin
to be good betimes; as there is no riches to spiritual riches so there is no way
to be rich in these riches, but by beginning to be good, in good earnest,
betimes.

As for worldly riches, philosophers have condemned them, and preferred a
contemplative life above them, and shall not Christians much more? The prophet
calls them 'thick clay,' which will sooner break the back than lighten the
heart; they cannot better the soul, they cannot enrich the soul, Hab. ii. 6. Ah!
how many threadbare souls are to be found under silken cloaks and gowns! How
often are worldly riches like hangmen, they hide men's faces with a covering,
that they may not see their own end, and then they hang them. And if they do not
hang you, they will shortly leave you, they 'make themselves wings and fly
away,' Prov. xxiii. 5. When one was a-commending the riches and wealth of
merchants, I do not love that wealth, said a heathen, that hangs upon ropes; if
they break, the ship miscarrieth, and all is lost. He is rich enough, saith
Jerome, that lacketh not bread, and high enough in dignity that is not forced to
serve.

This world's wealth, that men so much desire May well be likened to a burning
fire, Whereof a little can do little harm But profit much our bodies well to
warm; But take too much, and surely thou shalt burn; So 'too much wealth to too
much woe does turn.'

Motive (4). The fourth motive to provoke young ones to be really good betimes
is, to consider that The present time, the present day, is the only season that
you are sure of.

Time past cannot be recalled, and time to come cannot be ascertained: 'To-day,
if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,' Heb. iii. 15; 'Behold, now is
the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation,' 2 Cor. vi. 2. Some there be
that trifle away their time, and fool away their souls and their salvation.! To
prevent this, the apostle beats upon the to nun, the present opportunity,
because if that be once past, there is no recovering of it. Therefore, as the
mariner takes the first fair wind to sail, and as the merchant takes his first
opportunity of buying and selling, and as the husbandman takes the first
opportunity of sowing and reaping, so should young men take the present season,
the present day, which is their day, to be good towards the Lord, to seek him
and serve him, and not to post off the present season, for they know not what
another day, another hour, another moment, may bring forth. That door of grace
that is open to-day may be shut to-morrow; that golden sceptre of mercy that is
held forth in the gospel this day may be taken in the next day: hat love that
this hour is upon the bare knee entreating and beseeching young men to break off
their sins by repentance, 'to return to the Lord, to lay hold on his strength,
and be at peace with him,' may the next hour be turned into wrath, Isa. xxvii.
4, 5.

Ah! Young men, young men, do not put off the present season, do not neglect the
present day. There is no time yours but the present time, no day yours but the
present day; and therefore do not please yourselves and feed yourselves with
hopes of time to come, and that you will repent, but not yet, and lay hold on
mercy, but not yet, and give up yourselves to the Lord next week, next month; or
next year, for that God that hath promised you mercy and favour upon the day of
your return, he hath not promised to prolong your lives till that day comes.
Motive (6). Sixthly, consider, That the sooner you are good on earth, the
greater will be your reward in heaven.

The sooner you are gracious, the more at last you will be glorious. You read in
the Scripture of a reward, of a great reward, and of a full reward. Now those
that are good betimes, that know, seek, serve, and love the Lord in the spring
and morning of their youth, they are in the fairest way of gaining the greatest
and the fullest reward.'

No man can commend good works magnificently enough, saith Luther, for one work
of a Christian is more precious than heaven and earth; and therefore all the
world cannot sufficiently reward one good work. And in another place, saith the
same author, 'If I might have my desire, I would rather choose the meanest work
of a country Christian or poor maid, than all the victories and triumphs of
Alexander the Great, and of Julius Caesar.'

And, again, whatsoever the saints do, though never so small and mean, it is
great and glorious; because they do all in faith and by the word, saith the same
author. To prevent mistakes, you must remember, that the works that Jesus Christ
will reward at last are supernatural works: they are, 1, works of God; 2,
wrought from God; 3, for God; 4, in God; 5, according to God. They are works
that flow from supernatural principles, and they are directed to supernatural
ends, and performed in a supernatural way. Now the sooner a man begins to be
good, the more he will abound in these good works; and the more doubtless any
man abounds in such good works on earth, the greater reward he shall have in
heaven.

Yet it must not be forgotten that the best actions, the best works of
hypocrites, and all men out of Christ, are but splendida peccata, fair and
shining sins, beautiful abominations.

Motive (7). The seventh motive or consideration to provoke and incite you to be
good betimes, is to consider, That the Lord is very much affected, and taken
with your seeking of him, and following after him, in the spring and morning of
your youth.

As many young women and sickly children cannot stay till the fruit be ripe, but
must have it while it is green; even so, saith God, my heart, my desires, are so
vehemently set upon the first-fruits, the first things that I cannot stay, I
cannot satisfy myself without them; and what would God teach us by all this, but
to serve him with the first-fruits of our age, the primrose of our childhood,
the morning of your youth. God hath given you of the best, do not put him off
with the worst, with the worst of your time, the worst of your days, the worst
of your strength, lest he swear in his wrath that 'you shall never enter into
his rest,' Heb. iii. 18.

Motive (8). The eighth motive or consideration to provoke you to be good
betimes, to seek and serve the Lord in the morning of your youth, is to
consider, that this may be a special means to prevent many black temptations,
and an encouragement to withstand all temptations that you may meet with from a
tempting devil and a tempting world.

An early turning to the Lord will prevent many temptations to despair, many
temptations to neglect the means openly, to despise the means secretly; many
temptations about the being of God, the goodness, faithfulness, truth and
justice of God; temptations to despair, temptations to lay violent hands on a
man's self. Temptations to question all that God hath said, and that Christ hath
suffered, arises many times from men's delaying and putting off of God to the
last; all which, with many others, are prevented by a man's seeking and serving
of the Lord in the spring and morning of his youth.

It is reported of the harts of Scythia, that they teach their young ones to leap
from bank to bank, from rock to rock, from one turf to another, by leaping
before them, by which means, when they are hunted, no beast of prey can ever
take them; so when persons exercise themselves in godliness when they are young,
when they leap from one measure of holiness to another, when they are in the
morning of their days, Satan, that mighty hunter after souls, may pursue them
with his temptations, but he shall not overtake them, he shall not prevail over
them. As you see in Moses, Joseph, Daniel, and the three children, these knew
the Lord, and gave up themselves to the Lord in the prime and primrose of their
youth, and these were all temptation-proof, Heb. xi., Gen. xxxix., Dan. iii.
Satan and the world pursued them, but could not overtake them. When the devil
and the world had done their worst, the young men's bows abode in strength, and
their hands to resist were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob,
Gen. xlix. 23, 24. Ego non sum ego, said that young convert when tempted, I am
not the man that I was.

Motive (9). The ninth motive or consideration to stir up young men to be good
betimes, to seek and serve the Lord in the spring and morning of their youth,
is, To consider the worth and excellency of souls.

A soul is a spiritual, immortal substance, it is capable of the knowledge of
God, it is capable of union with God, of communion with God and of a blessed and
happy fruition of God, Mat. xix. 28; Acts vii. 59 60; Phil. i. 23.

Christ left his Father's bosom for the good of souls; he assumed man's nature
for the salvation of man's soul. Christ prayed for souls, he sweat for souls, he
wept for souls, he bled for souls, he hung on the cross for souls, he bode the
wine-press of his Father's wrath for souls he died for souls, he rose again from
death for souls, he ascended for souls, he intercedes for souls, and all the
glorious preparations that he hath been a-making in heaven these sixteen hundred
years is for souls, Heb. ii. 13-16; Isa. lxiii. 3; John xiv. 1-3.

Ah! Young men, young men, do not play the courtier with your precious souls. The
courtier doth all things late; he rises late, dines late, sups late, goes to bed
late, repents late.

Ah! Sirs, the good of your souls is before all, and above all other things in
the world; to be first regarded and provided for, and that partly because it is
the best and more noble part of man, and partly because therein mostly and
properly is the image of God stamped, and partly because it is the first
converted, and partly because it shall be the first and most glorified.

Ah! Young men, young men, if they be worse than infidels, that make no provision
for their families, 1 Tim. v. 8; what monsters are they that make not provision
for their own souls! This will be bitterness in the end.

Ah! Young men, young men, do not pawn your souls, do not sell your souls, do not
exchange away your souls, do not trifle and fool away your precious souls; they
are jewels, more worth than a thousand worlds, yea, than heaven and earth. If
they are safe, all is safe; but if they are lost, all is lost: God lost, and
Christ lost, and the society of glorious angels and blessed saints lost, and
heaven lost, and that for ever.

Ah! that all young persons were so affected with the worth and excellency of
their souls, and so alarmed with the hazard and danger of losing their souls, as
that they may in the spring and morning of their days inquire after the Lord,
and seek him, and serve him with all their might, that so their precious and
immortal souls may be safe and happy for ever. But if all this will not do, then
in the last place,

Motive (10). Consider, young men, That God will at last bring you to a
reckoning. He will at last bring you to judgment. 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy
youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the
ways of shine heart, and in the sight of shine eyes; but know thou, that for all
these things, God will bring thee unto judgment,' Eccles. xi. 9. In these words
you have two things: (1.) An ironical concession; he bids him rejoice, &c.; he
yields him what he would have, by an irony, by way of mockage and bitter scoff.
Now thou art young and strong, lively and lusty, and thy bones are full of
marrow; thou art resolved to be proud and scornful to indulge the flesh, and to
follow thy delights and pleasures. Well! take thy course if thou darest, or if
thou hast a mind to it, if thy heart be so set upon it. 'Rejoice in thy youth,'
&c. (2.) The second is a commination, or a sad and severe premonition: 'But know
thou, that for all these things, God will bring thee into judgment. 'Will bring
thee;' these words import two things: first, the unwillingness of youth to come
to judgment; secondly, the unavoidableness that youth must come to judgment; but
how soon you shall be brought to judgment, is only known to God. (...) Augustine
confesses in one of his books, that as long as his conscience was gnawed with
the guilt of some youthful lust he was once ensnared with, the very hearing of a
day of judgment, was even a hell to him.

Ah! young men, young men, that the serious thoughts of this great day, may put
you upon breaking off the sins of your youth; and the dedicating of yourselves
to the knowledge, love, and service of the Lord, in the spring and flower of
your days. Ah! Young men, consider the errors of your lives, the wickedness of
your hearts, the sinfulness of your ways, and that strict account that ere long
you must be brought to before the judge of all the world.
Now if, for all that hath been said, you are resolved to spend the flower of
your days, and the prime of your strength, in the service of sin and the world,
then know that no tongue can express, no heart can conceive that trouble of
mind, that terror of soul, that horror of conscience, that fear and amazement,
that weeping and wailing, that crying and roaring, that sighing and groaning,
that cursing and banning, that stamping and tearing, that wringing of hands and
gnashing of teeth, that shall certainly attend you, when God shall bring you
into judgment for all your looseness and lightness, for all your wickedness and
wantonness, for all your profaneness and baseness, for all your neglect of God,
your grieving the Comforter, your trampling under foot the blood of a Saviour,
for your despising of the means, for your prizing earth above heaven, and the
pleasures of this world above the pleasures that be at God's right hand--
Oh! How will you wish in that day when your sins shall be charged on you, when
justice shall be armed against you, when conscience shall be gnawing within you,
when the world shall be a flaming fire about you, when the gates of heaven shall
be shut against you, and the flame of hell ready to take hold of you, when
angels and saints shall sit in judgment upon you, and for ever turn their faces
from you, when evil spirits shall be terrifying of you, and Jesus Christ for
ever disowning of you; how will you, I say, wish in that day that you had never
been born, or that you might now be unborn, or that your mothers' wombs had
proved your tombs! Oh, how will you then wish to be turned into a bird, a beast,
a stock, a stone, a toad, a tree! Oh that our immortal souls were mortal! Oh
that we were nothing! Oh that we were anything but what we are!

But now to those young men and women who begin to seek, serve, and love the Lord
in the primrose of their days, the day of judgment will be to them melodia in
aure, jubilum in corde, like music in the ear, and a jubilee in the heart. This
day will be to them 'a day of refreshing,' a 'day of redemption,' a day of
vindication, a day of coronation, a day of consolation, a day of salvation; it
will be to them a marriage-day, a harvest-day, a pay-day. Now the Lord will pay
them for all the prayers they have made, for all the sermons they have heard,
for all the tears they have shed. In this great day Christ will remember all the
individual offices of love and friendship shewed to any of his. Now he will
mention many things for their honour and comfort that they never minded, now the
least and lowest acts of love and pity towards his shall be interpreted as a
special kindness shewed to himself Now the crown shall be set upon their heads,
and the royal robes put upon their backs; now all the world shall see that they
have not served the Lord for nought! Now Christ will pass over all their
weaknesses, and make honourable mention of all the services they have performed,
of all the mercies they have improved, and of all the great things that for his
name and glory they have suffered.

 

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