Taken from, “Compassionate warning and advice to all, especially to young persons.”
Written by Richard Baxter, first published in 1708.
Edited for thought and sence.
[There are very few times that I have had to labor so diligently to bring out a post, and so very few times I felt to myself, how worthwhile the labor! In the following thoughts, we find the Puritan, Richard Baxter, at his finest. Here he makes an impassioned plea for youth to look at what they are doing, as well as getting it right with God. While theologians feel that Baxter’s doctrine of justification is rather shaky, his capacity to reach out with understanding and compassion and talk to the soul of the person makes him my favorite Puritan for counseling. The following thoughts are frank and direct, they pull no punches and they compromise not one wit… they are the closest words that I have found to my mother’s numerous lectures.-MWP]
All your time and life is given you by God for one end and life, and all is little enough, and will you alienate the very beginning, and be a rebel so soon?
Young person you have not assurance of life for a day, or an hour. Thousands go out of the world in youth. Alas, the flesh of young men is corruptible, liable to hundreds of diseases, as well as the old. How quickly may a vein break, and Cold seize on your Head and Lungs, and turn to an incurable tuberculosis? How quickly may a fever, an inflammation, an abscess, or one of a thousand accidents, turn your bodies to corruption ? And O that I knew how to make you sensible how dreadful a thing it is to die in an unholy State, and in the guilt of any unpardoned Sin! An unsancified soul, that hath lived here but to the flesh and the World, will be but fuel for the Fire of Hell, and the wrathful justice of the most Holy God.
And though in the course of undisturbed Nature, young men may live longer than the old, yet nature hath so many disturbances and crosses, that our Lives are still like a candle in a broken lantern, which a blast of wind may soon blow out. To tell you that you are not certain in an unsanctified state, to be one day or hour more out of hell, I expect will not move you so much as the weight of the case deserves, because mere possibility of the greatest hurt does not affect men when they think there is no probability of it. You have long been well, and long you hope to be so: But did you think how many hundred veins, arteries, nerves, must be kept constantly in order, and all the blood and chemistry in due balance, and how the problems of one vein, or imbalance of the blood, may quickly end you, it would rather teach you to admire the merciful Providence of God that such a body should be kept alive one year.
But were you sure to live to maturity of age, alas, how quickly will it come? What haste makes time? How fast do days and years roll on? Had I done no service for God, that I could now look back upon, I should seem as if I had not lived. A thousand years, and one hour, are all one (that is, nothing); when they are past, and every year, day and hour of your lives hath its proper work: and how will you answer for it? Every day offers you more and more Mercies,and will you despise and lose them? If you were heirs to land, or had an annuity which amounted but to a hundred pounds a year, and you were every day to receive a proportion of it, or lose it; would you lose it through neglect, and say, I will begin to receive it when I am old? Poor labourers will work hard all the day, that at night they may have their wages : And will you contemptuously lose your every day’s mercies, your safety, your communion with God, your daily blessings and his grace, which you should daily beg, and may daily receive?
Either you will repent and live to God, or not, if not, you are undone forever. Oh how much less miserable is a dog, or a toad, than such a sinner! But if God will shew you so great mercy, oh how will it grieve you to think of the precious Time of youth which you madly cast away in sin! Then you will think, O what knowledge, what Holiness might I then have got! What a comfortable Life might I have lived! O what days and years of mercy did I cast away for nothing! Yea, when God has given you the pardon of your sin, the taste of his Love, and the hopes of Heaven, it will wound your hearts to think that you should so long, so unthankfuly, so heinously offend so Good a God, and neglect so merciful a saviour, and trample upon Infinite Divine Love, for the Love of so base and fleshly a pleasure, That ever you should be so bad, as to find more pleasure in sinning, than in living unto God.
be it known to you, if God in mercy convert and save you, yet the bitter fruit of your youthful folly may follow you in this world to the grave.
If you waste your estate in youth, you may be poor at age: If by drinking gluttony, idleness, or filthy lust, you contract any incurable diseases in youth, repentance may not cure them till Death. All this might easily have been prevented, if you had but had foreseeing Wisdom. And if ever you think to be men of any great Wisdom and usefulness in the world, to your selves or others, your preparations must be made in youth. Great Wisdom is not obtained in a little time.
And O what a dreadful danger is it that your youthful sin becomes incurable, and custom hardens you, and deceivers blind you, and God forsakes you, for your willful resistance of his grace! God may convert old hardened Sinners: But how ordinarily do we find that age doth but answer the preparations of youth, and the vessel ever after favors the liquor which first thoroughly tainted it: And men are but such as they learned to be and do at first. If you will be perfidious breakers of your Baptismal Vows, it is a just God to leave you to yourselves, to a deluded understanding, to think evil good, and good evil, to a seared conscience, and a hardened heart, and past feeling, to work uncleanness with greediness, Eph.3:18, and to fight against grace and your own salvation, till death and hell convince you of your madness. O sport not with the justice of a sin-hating God! Play not with sin, and with the unquenchable Fire! Forsaking God is the way to be forsaken of him. And what is a forsaken soul but a miserable slave of Satan?
Yea, did you but know of what moment it is to prevent all the heinous sins that else you will commit, you would make haste to repent, though you were sure to be forgiven. Forgiveness makes not Sin to be no Sin, or to be no evil, no shame, no grief, to the soul that hath committed it. You will cry out, O that I had never known it!
To look back on such an ill-spent Life, will be no pleasant thought. Repentance, though a healing work, is bitter: Make not work for it, if you love your Peace.
And is it a small thing to you that you are all this while doing hurt to others?
And drawing them to sin, and plunging them into that dangerous Guilt, which can no way be pardoned but by the blood of Christ upon true conversion? And when they have joined with you in lust and fleshly pleasure, it is not in your power to turn them, that they may join with you in found repentance; “and if not, they must lie in Hell forever: And can you make a sport of your own and other men’s damnation? But this leads me to the Second Point. I hope I have shewed you what vast concern it is to yourself to begin a holy Life.
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymn-writer, theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley called him “the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen”. After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist Presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the nonconformists, spending time in prison.