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It follows that the ways of their heart, and the sight of their eyes are sinful. This is the way of all while in their natural state. The courses, and indeed · all the doings of the unregenerate are wholly sinful.
The scriptures teach, that the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil-that madness is in their hearts while they live—that they are all gone out of the way, and are together become unprofitable—that there is none that doeth good, no, not oneimagination of their hearts is only evil, and that continually. In respect to children and youth that they are born in sin and shapen in iniquity—that folly is bound up in their hearts in childhood-and in opposition to the being born of the spirit, our Saviour asserted that which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
Those therefore who walk in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes, will walk in the ways of this world ; will yield a conformity. to its views and its vanities, following and helping on a multitude to do evil. They will treat the vanities of this world as the one thing needful, to the neglect of their souls and eternal concerns, They will inake provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof; will riot on the bounties of providence by spending them in sin ; will cast off fear and restrain prayer, and spend their time, not excepting even their sabbaths, and other seasons which ought to be especially devoted to the service and worship of God, in slavish servitude to sin and Satan. That they will do this is evident from the consideration, that the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and wholly inclined to it.
That the construction now given to the words of the text is just, will appear by considering what is intended by similar expressions found in the word of God. Two or three will here be introduced for illustration. Psalm lxxxi. 12. “ So I gave them up unto their own heart's lusts, and they walked in their own counsels. Oh, that any people had hearkened
unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways.” In Jeremiah xviii. God is represented as calling upon the people to walk in his ways ; but they said, verse 12, “We will walk after our own devices, and we wi I every one do the i..lagination of his evil heart.” 1 John ii. 15, 16. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If
man love the world the love of the Father is not in him ; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." From the evident meaning of these and similar passages, and from their strong resemblance to the words of the text, it is clear that the construction which has been given to it, is agreeable to the intention of the inspired writer.
This then is the direction that is literally given to youth in the text. Indulge in carnal joys and mirth, cast off all seriousness, all attention to religion and care of the soul, follow the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and every suggestion and corrupt inclination of your will and depraved hearts.
This leads us to enquire,
II. How Solomon is to be understood, when calling upon youth to walk in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes.
To this it may be replied ; that the wise man did, without any doubt, wholly and very strongly disapprove of the practice to which the words literally direct. The text is evidently expressed ironically, and to be understood in a sense, directly opposite to the literal construction. Solomon is not here describing the way in which youth ought to walk ; but the way in which they are disposed to walk, and points out the dreadful consequences.
The text begins, indeed, in the form of a positive command, “ Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth," &c. And it is not unfrequent in common speech,
that a reproof or prohibition is given in a like form ; nor is the text the only solitary instance of this mode of expression in the word of God. A solemn warning is given in the form of a command. Isaiah 1. I'l. Addressing those who kindle a fire and compass themselves about with sparks, or those who reject the light which God hath given, and seek comfort, safety and the divine favor by their own inventions, God says, “ Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled." Notwithstanding this expression is in the form of a command, the threatening annexed teaches us, that the expression is intended as a serious admonition : “ This shall
have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.”
In this way the text is to be understood. It is a threatening of judgment, even of final and endless condemnation to those who shall continue to walk in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes. I will here subjoin the words of one who paraphrases upon the words under consideration : “ Poor thoughtless creatures, who, in the giddy intoxication of youth, are madly bent upon sensual gratifications and sinful pleasures, take your fill and withhold not your hearts from any joy. Follow every vicious, inclination, break through every restraint of reason and of piety, trample on the admonitions of parents and teachers, shake off the fetters of a strict educa tion, and borst the bonds of religion, like threads of flax when they are touched by the flames. But consider well the consequences ! Think not that you shall always thus go cn insulting the God of heaven with impunity ; but know and be assured, that as you have your day, God also will have his; a day of strict account, and solemn retribution.
“ Know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment; and unless you can find out an expedient to conceal you from an all-sceing eye, or defend you from an omnipotent hand, a deluge of
wrath will surely bear you away to everlasting destruction.”
This appears to be the true import of the text. Yet there have been, and perhaps now are some, who are unwilling to admit this construction. They may pretend that the text was designed to give permission and even encouragement to youth, to indulge their taste for pleasures, and spend the morning of life in gaiety and mirth. In support of this they adduce the words immediately following the text : « Therefore, remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.” But because childhood and youth are vanity, is it reasonable to suppose that this detroys the obligation of the young to serve God, and lead a sober and religious life ? Besides, doth not the same wise man exhort youth, in the very next words, to remember their Creator in the days of their youth ? He does not exhort them to spend the bloom of life in the service of sin and in vain amusements ; nor to employ their most active days in the pursuit. of sensual gratifications ; but to spend the morning of life in the service of God. The apostle Paul, in his charge to Titus, enjoined it upon him to exhort youth to be sober minded, to lead a life of sobriety and religion. Must we therefore set the wise Solomon against himself, and against the apostle Paul? As a different construction may easily be given, so a different construction in this place evidently must be given.
Therefore, remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh, by removing and putting away the procuring cause of them. Suppress every sensual and disorderly lust. Walk not in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; for should these things at present gratify the senses and vain minds of youth, yet they will shortly and certainly bring them to inconceivable and eternal sorYouth are exhorted to put away sorrow and
evil from themselves, by refraining from those prac tices which would inevitably bring those evils upon. them.
It is added, for childhood and youth are vanity. Which words may refer to their disposition, for such is the vanity of their disposition, their hearts are fixed upon vain objects and pursuits. The things. which they eagerly seek are light and trivial. Such is the temper of their minds, their hearts are inconstant, false, and deceitful; they are full of lightiess. and inconsideration, and hence they become exposed to many and great evils.
Or the words. may intend, that childhood and youth are vanity in respect to their condition. If the life of man is a vapor, much more is the season of youth;. they may be cut off in the midst of youth by death, and if not, their advantages are transitory and uncertain. Evil days are constantly threatening, and old age or death will soon come. Therefore it is ad. ded in the very next words, “ Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, in which thou: shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” To remember our Creator, with that fear and reverence reqni-. red, is directly opposed to the idea that youth niay safely walk in the ways of their heart, and sight of
From these considerations it appears, that the words of the text were not designed as a description. of the way in which youth ought to walk, but of that in which they are prone to walk. That the text desa cribes the way in which they are disposed to go, is evident from experience and common observation, as, well as from scripture. It is evident to all, that youth in general are disposed to rejoice in vein amusements, and sinful pleasures. They choose to walk in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes, and to be their own judges what courses to pursue. They are very prone to neglect, and often despise