Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Consists in a firm belief, and in right conceptions of the being, perfections, and providence of God; with suitable affections to him, resemblance of his moral perfections, and a constant obedience to his will. the different articles included in this definition, such as knowledge, veneration, love, resignation, &c. are explained in their proper places in this work. We shall, however, present the reader with a few ideas on the subject of early piety; a subject of infinite importance, and which we beg our young readers especially to regard. "Youth, " says Mr. Jay, "is a period which presents the fewest obstacles to the practice of godliness, whether we consider out external circumstances, our nature, powers, or our moral habits. In that season we are most free from those troubles which imbitter, those schemes which engross, those engagements which hinder us in more advanced in connected life. Then the body possessed health and strength; the memory is receptive and tenacious; the fancy glows; the mind is lively and vigorous; the understanding is more docile; the affections are more easily touched and moved: we are more accessible to the influence of joy and sorrow, hope and fear: we engage in an enterprise with more expectation, and ardour, and zeal. Under the legal oeconomy, the first was to be chosen for God; the first-born of man, the first-born of beasts, the first-fruits of the field.
It was an honour becoming the God they worshipped, to serve him first. This duty the young alone can spiritualized the fulfil, by giving Him who deserves all their lives the first-born of their days, and the first-fruits of their reason and their affection: and never have they such an opportunity to prove the goodness of their motives as they then possess.
See an old man: what does he offer? His riches? but he can use them no longer. His pleasures? but he can enjoy them no longer. His honour? but it is withered on his brow. His authority? but it has dropped from his feeble hand. He leaves his sins; but it is because they will no longer bear him company. He flies from the world; but it is because he is burnt out. He enters the temple; but it is as a sanctuary; it is only to take hold of the horns of the altar; it is a refuge, not a place of devotion he seeks. But they who consecrate to him their youth, they do not profanely tell him to suspend his claims till the rest are served, till they have satisfied the world and the flesh, his degrading rivals. They do not send him forth to gather among the stubble the gleanings of life, after the enemy has secured the harvest. They are not like those, who, if they reach Immanuel's land, are forced thither by shipwreck: they sail thither by intention. "Consider the beneficial influence of early piety over the remainder of our days. Youth is the spring of life, and by this will be determined the glory of summer, the abundance of autumn, the provision of winter.
It is the morning of life, and if the sun of righteousness does not dispel the moral mists and fogs before noon, the whole day generally remains overspread and gloomy. Piety in youth will have a god influence over out bodies; it will preserve them from disease and deformity. Sin variously tends to the injury of health; and often by intemperance the constitution is so impaired, that late religion is unable to restore what early religion would have prevented. Early piety from all those dangers to which we are exposed n a season of life the most perilous. Conceive of a youth entering a world like this, destitute of the presiding governing care of religion, his passions high, his prudence weak, impatient, rash, confident, without experience; a thousand a venues of seduction opening around him, and a serene voice singing at the entrance of each; pleased with appearances, and embracing them for realities, joined by evil company, and ensnared by erroneous publications: these hazards exceed all the alarm I can give. How necessary, therefore, that we should trust in the Lord with all out hearts, and lean not to our own understanding; but in all our ways acknowledge him, that he may direct our paths! "Early piety will have a beneficial influence in forming our connexions, and establishing our plans for life. It will teach us to ask counsel of the Lord, and arrange all under the superintendency of scripture. Those changes which a person who becomes religious in manhood is obliged to make, are always very embarrassing. With what difficulty do some good men establish family worship, after living in the view of children and servants, so long in the neglect of it!
but this would have been avoided, had they early followed the example of Joshua: 'As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.' How hard is it to disentangle ourselves from associates with whom we have been long familiar, and who have proved a snare to our souls! Some evils, indeed, are remediless; persons have formed alliances which they cannot dissolve: but they did not walk by the rule, 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers:' they are now wedded to miscry all their days; and repentance, instead of visiting them like a faithful friend, to chide them when they do wrong, and withdraw, is quartered upon them for life. An early dedication to God, therefore, renders a religious life more easy, pleasant, and safe. It is of unspeakable advantage also under the calamities of life. It turns the curse into a blessing; it enters the house of mourning, and soothes the troubled mind; it prepares us for all, sustains us in all, sanctifies us by all, and delivers us from all. Finally, it will bless old age: we shall look back with pleasure on some instances of usefulness; to some poor traveller, to whom we have been a refreshing stream; some deluded wanderer we guided into the path of peace. We shall look forward, and see the God who has guided us with his counsel, and be enabled to say, 'Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.'" Jay's Ser. vol. 1: ser. 5; Jennings's Evans's, Doddridge's Jerment's and Thornton's Sermons to Young People; Bryson's Address to Youth.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Piety'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/p/piety.html. 1802.