Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw near, when you shall say…
1. Though we should begin to serve God even from our youth, our earliest service comes long after His favours. Before ever we come to years of discretion we have contracted a vast debt of gratitude to our Creator and Preserver; a debt which might make us very uneasy, because we can never discharge it, if there were not a pleasure in endeavouring to pay it, and if such endeavour were not all that God requires at our hands.
2. We should serve God in our youth, because that is the way to make the practice of our duty easy to us; and because, if we set out wrong, it is very hard afterwards to amend. It is true that persons have repented, though late, and have delivered themselves from the bondage of sin. There are examples of it, that none may despair; and those examples are few, that none may presume.
3. We should serve God in our youth, because, as virtue will have the first possession of us, we shall not be able to change for the worse without an uncommon resolution to do ill. The first love is usually the strongest and the most lasting.
4. Youth is also the time when, on several accounts, we are better able to serve God than we are in a more advanced age, if we have neglected our duty before. There are good qualities and favourable dispositions which often accompany it. Thus, in youth properly educated, there is a sincerity not yet lost by the practice of deceit and dissimulation; there is a modesty which is both a guard to virtue and a check to sinful actions; there is a respect for parents and masters, the natural result of a state of dependence; there is a flexibility and aptness to receive instruction, which lessens as we grow up, if self-love, pride, and conceit increase faster than understanding and judgment, and make us hasty, obstinate, and perverse; there is, lastly, a lively heat of temper, an activity both of body and mind, which, as it is dangerous when it is employed in the service of vice, so it can make a speedy progress in virtue.
5. Yet youth, with all its advantages, hath its disadvantages, and is the time when we are the most tempted to forget God; and therefore ought this precept to be inculcated upon that thoughtless age.
6. If there be joy in heaven over a sinner who repents, and God in the Scripture be represented under the image of the father in the parable, running forth to meet and to embrace his lost son as soon as he returns, yet it is very reasonable to conclude that the son who, from his youth, serves and never leaves his heavenly Father, must be dearer to Him. After we have sought happiness where happiness is not to be found, then to condemn our folly, to consider, to amend, and to bring forth the fruits of repentance is a wise part. But it is a wiser and a more generous behaviour to serve God before we have served other masters, not driven to Him, as to a last refuge, by afflictions, or disappointments, or by an immediate sense of danger, or by a weariness and dislike of the world.
7. Another reason for which youth should be well spent is the uncertainty of life.
8. We should serve God in our earlier days with a view to the ensuing days, which we may expect in the course of our life. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth," says Solomon, "while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." They will certainly come sooner or later, unless sudden death prevent them; and, therefore, if we be wise, we shall in our youth, before they overtake us, prepare to meet them, and provide ourselves all the assistance which we can procure to lessen those evils, and to support and comfort us under them. And what can they be, unless the favour of God, and the sense of a life spent in laudable industry, in acquiring useful knowledge, in discharging our duty to our Creator, in doing kind offices to our neighbour, in amending our faults, and improving in virtue? These are a treasure of which force and fraud cannot deprive us; which lies out of the reach of all enemies and all accidents. The calamities which fall upon us will then lose much of their weight; old age will be unto us only a nearer approach to everlasting youth; and we shall meet death, if not with cheerfulness, at least with decency and resignation.
9. To these convincing reasons for an early piety I shall only add this, that it is in no respect hard and burthensome. Youth is cheerful; and so is religion.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;