« PreviousContinue »
these stones, on which we tread, raise up children to Abraham*, But shew me your warrant from the word of God for expecting it, either in the one case, or in the other. You will possibly answer, "He has promised to be ever with his churcht, and that The gates of hell shall not prevail against it; but that One generation shall arise and declare his mighty works unto anothers, and that the kingdom of his Son shall continue As long as the sun and the moon endure||.” Blessed be his name for these encouraging promises, which shall no doubt be accomplished. But where has he engaged, that this kingdom shall always continue amongst us? Such passages as these will no more prove, that the gospel shall never be removed from Great-Britain, than they would once have proved, that it should never be taken away from Pergamos or Thyatira, or any other of the Asian churches, which have so many ages ago been given up to desolation.
Now let me intreat you, for a few moments, to dwell upon that thought; what if the gospel should be lost from amongst your descendants! what if in the age of these little ones, or the next that shall succeed to theirs, the house of the Lord should be forsaken, and his table abandoned? What if the ministry should be grown into disuse, or the servants of Christ in it should have nothing to do, but to bear a fruitless testimony against an unbelieving generation, till, when their hearts are broken with so sad an office, the gospel here die with them, and religion be buried in their graves? Is it a thought easily to be supported by a true Israelite, that the ark of the Lord should thus be lost, and God should write upon us Icabod, the sad memorials of a departed glory!
It would surely be peculiarly melancholy, that religion should die in the hands of those who were the children of the kingdom. And were not yours so? In this respect, my friends, permit me to say, that I am witness against some of you. When you have offered your children to baptism, you have delivered them into my hands, with an express declaration of your sincere desire, that they might be devoted to God; and have received them again with a solemn charge and promise to bring them up for him, if their lives should be continued. And as for those of you, who do not practise this institution, I doubt not, but many of you are equally faithful in dedicating your infantoffspring to God, is it not then reasonable to expect them both,
Mat. iii. 9.
+ Mat. xxviii.
Psal. Ixxii. 5.
Mat. xvi. 18.
1 Sam. iv. 21.
that they should be brought up as a seed to serve him? And from whom may we hope it, if not from you? If you have experienced the power of divine grace upon your own souls, and have Tasted that the Lord is gracious, methinks it should awaken the holy zeal to spread the sweet savour of his name and word wherever you come: You should labour to the utmost for the advancement of his gospel amongst all your acquaintance, and even amongst strangers; how much more in your own families, amongst those whom you have received from him, amongst those whom you have so solemnly given back
2. The character of your children, and consequently your care in their education, is of the most evident importance to their present and future happiness.
I need not surely employ a great deal of time in proving the truth of the assertion. As christians you must undoubtedly own, that Godliness is profitable to all things, having the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to comet. If your children, through the divine blessing on your holy care, become truly religious, they will not only be preserved from those follies and crimes, which stain the honour, and ruin the substance of families, but they will secure a fair reputation, will take the most probable method to make life truly comfortable; they will be entitled to the paternal care and blessing of God; and, to crown all, will be heirs of eternal glory with him: And what could your most prudent, faithful, tender love wish for them as a greater, or indeed as a comparable good? On the other hand, if they prove vicious and profane, (which in so degenerate an age it is very probable they may, if they have no religious principle to secure them,) what can you expect but their infamy and misery in this world, and their eternal destruction in the next?
One would imagine, that such considerations as these should very deeply impress the heart of a parent; and if they were alone should be sufficient to gain the cause. You, who have so tender a regard to all their temporal concerns; you, that rise early and sit up late, that you may advance their fortunes, that you may furnish them with those dubious and uncertain possessions, which may be blessings or curses, as they are improved or abused; can you bear to think, that they may be for ever poor and miserable? Surely it should cut you to the
heart to look on a child and reflect, "Here is an heir of eternal misery Alas! what am I doing for him? preparing an estate? Contriving for his present convenience or grandeur ?" Vain, wretched, preposterous care! which, to use a very plain simile, is but like employing yourselves in trimming and adorning its cloaths, while the child itself were fallen into the fire, and would be in danger of being destroyed, if not immediately plucked out. Hasten to do it with an earnestness answerable to the extremity of the case, and so much the rather, as the danger is in part owing to you.
I will not now say, how far your personal mistakes in conduct may have been a snare and a temptation to your children; nor can I pretend to determine it. But I am confident of this, that they have derived from you a corrupt and degenerate nature. Through your veins the original infection, which tainted the first authors of our race, has flowed down to them. And is not this an affecting thought? and ought it not to quicken you to attempt their relief?
Dr. Tillotson sets this in a very moving light: "*When a man has by treason tainted his blood and forfeited his estate, with what grief and regret does he look on his children, and think of the injury he has done to them by his fault; and how solicitous is he before he die to petition the king for favour to his children! How earnestly does he charge his friends to be careful of them, and kind to them!" We are those traitors. Our children have derived from us a tainted blood, a forfeited inheritance. How tenderly should we pity them! How solicitously should we exert ourselves to prevent their ruin! Mr. Flavel expresses the thought still more pathetically. "+Should I bring the plague into my family, and live to see all my poor children lie dying by the walls of my house; if I had not the heart of a tyger, such a sight would melt my very soul." And surely, I may add, were there a sovereign antidote at hand, perhaps an antidote I had myself used, should I not direct them to it, and urge them to try it, I should be still more savage and criminal. The application is easy: The Lord deeply impress it upon your souls, that your dear children inay not die eternally of the malignant plague they have taken from you!
This is one consideration, which should certainly add a great deal of weight to the argument I am now upon. I will conclude the head with the mention of another: I mean the
Tillotson, vol. I. sermon LIII. page 544. + Flavel's Husb. spir. page 260.
peculiar advantages which you their parents have for addressing yourselves to them. You, who have known them from their infancy, are best acquainted with their temper, and manner of thinking; you, who are daily with them, may watch their most tender moments, the most favourable opportunities of pleading with them; your melting affection for them, will suggest the most endearing sentiments and words on such occasions: Their obligations to you, and love for you, will probably dispose them to attend with the greater pleasure to what you may say; or your authority over them, your power of correction, and a sense of their dependance upon you in life, may prevent much of that opposition and contempt, which from perverse tempers, others might expect; especially if they were supported by your concurrence, in their attempts to instruct and reform your children.
On the whole then, since your obligations and your encouragements to attempt the work are so peculiar, I may reasonably hope you will allow its due weight to this second consideration, that the character and conduct of your children, and consequently your care in their education, is of the highest importance to their present and future happiness. I add, once
3. It is of great moment to your own comfort, both in life and death.
Solomon often repeats the substance of that remark; A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is a heaviness to his mother*. And the justice of it in both its branches is very apparent. Let me engage you seriously to reflect upon it, as a most awakening inducement, to the discharge of the im portant duty I am recommending.
If you have reason to hope, that your labours are not in vain, but that your children are become truly religious; it must greatly increase your satisfaction in them, that they are dear to you, not only in the bands of the flesh, but in those of the Lord. You will not only be secure of their dutiful and grateful behaviour to you, but you will have the pleasure of seeing them grow up in their different stations, to prospects of usefulness in the church, and in the world. Should providence spare you to the advance of age, they will be a comfort and honour to your declining years. You will, as it were, enjoy a second
youth in their vigour and usefulness; nay, a sense of their piety and goodness will undoubtedly be a reviving cordial to you in your dying moments. A delightful thought will it indeed be! "I am going to take my leave of the world, and my scene of service is over; but I leave those behind me, who will appear for God in my stead, and act, perhaps, with greater fidelity and zeal, for the support of religion in a degenerate age. I leave my dear children, destitute indeed of my counsel and help, perhaps in no abundant affluence of worldly enjoyments; but I leave them under the guardian care of my Father, and their Father, of my God and their God. I must soon be separated from them, and the distance between us must soon be as great, as between earth and heaven: But as I leave them under the best guidance in the wildernes, so I have a joyful persuasion they will soon follow me into the celestial Canaan. Yet a little while, and I, and my dear offspring, shall appear together before the throne of God; and I shall stand forth with transport, and say, Behold, here am I, and the children which my God has graciously given me. Then will the blessedness on which I now enter, be multiplied upon me, by the sight of every child that has a share in it. Now, Lord, sufferest thou thy servant to depart in peace, since thou hast directed, not only mine eyes, but theirs, to thy salvation."
But if you see these dear little ones grow up for the destroyer; if you see those, whose infant days have given you so many tender pleasures, and so many fond hopes, deviating from the paths of duty and happiness, how deeply will it pierce you! You now look upon them with a soft complacency, and say, “These are they, that shall comfort us under our labours and our sorrows:" But alas! my friends, if this be the "These are they, that will increase your labours; and aggravate your sorrows; that will hasten upon you the infirmities of age, or crush you the faster under the weight of them, till they have brought down your hoary hairs with anguish to the grave." Little do they or you think, how much agony and distress you may endure, from what you will see, and what you will fear concerning them. How many slighted admonitions, how many deluded hopes, how many anxious days, how many restless nights, will concur to make the evening of life gloomy! And at length, when God gives you a dismission from a world, which the folly and wickedness of your children has so long imbittered, how painful will the separation be; when you have a prospect of seeing them but once more, and that at the tribunal of God, where the best you can expect, in their present