And you mourn at the last, when your flesh and your body are consumed,
If all men believed at the beginning of their courses of life what they find at the end, there would be far less power in temptation, and many would turn aside from those paths which bring them to ruin; but it is one of the peculiarities of youth that, while it has unbounded faith in certain directions, it seldom has faith in regard to mischiefs which befall disobedience. There are many reasons which conspire to make men either over-confident in the beginnings of life, or even audacious.
1. The inexperience and thoughtlessness which belong to the young. Thousands there are who have taken no pains in the formation of their consciences.
2. There is a most defiant spirit in the young.
3. There is a hopefulness which frequently goes beyond all bounds.
4. There are reactions from an infelicitous way of teaching which tend to produce presumption in the young. Especially the exaggeration and indiscriminate way in which sin is often held forth. Conventional sins are held up before men as representing sinning, until there comes up a scepticism of the whole doctrine and the whole sad and melancholy experience of sinning.
5. Men are made presumptuous in sinning because they see wicked men prospering. They regard that as the refutation of half the preaching, and of almost all the advice they hear. There is a law of everlasting rectitude. There are conditions on which men's bodies will serve them happily, and there are conditions on which men's souls will serve them happily. But if a man violate these conditions, no matter how secretly, no matter how little, just as sure as there is a God in heaven, he must suffer the penalty. Every one of the wrongs which a man commits against his own soul will find him out, and administer its own penalty. There comes a time when men who are not actually worn out by excess of transgression do regain, to some extent, their moral sense. After the period of infatuation there comes, very frequently, a period of retrospection. It is alluded to in the passage now before us. The resurrection of moral sensibility comes through a variety of agencies — failure, shame, affliction, etc. Sometimes it comes too late. I beseech you, young men, believe in virtue; believe in truth; believe in honesty and fidelity; believe in honour; believe in God; believe in God's law and in God's providence. Put your trust in God, and in the faith of God, and not in the seeming of deceitful and apparently prosperous men. Whatever else you get, have peace, day by day, with your own conscience. Whoever else you offend, do not offend your God. Do what is right, and then fear no man.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed,