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S we cannot but with grief of foul lament thofe multitudes of errors, blafphemies, and all kinds of faneness, which have in this laft age like a mighty deluge overflown this nation; fo, among feveral other fins which have helped to open the flood gates of all these im pieties, we cannot but esteem the disuse of family-instruction one of the greateft. The two great pillars upon which the kingdom of Satan is erected, and by which it is upheld, are ignorance and error: the firft ftep of our manumiffion from this spiritual thraldom confifts, in having our
eyes opened, and being turned from darkness to A&s. 26. 18. light; how much the ferious endeavours of
godly parents and masters might contribute to an early feafoning the tender years of fuch as are under their infpection, is abundantly evident, not only from their fpecial influence upon them, in refpect of their authority over them, intereft in them, continual prefence with them, and frequent opportunities of being helpful to them; but also from the fad effects which by woful experience we find to be the fruit of the omiffion of this duty. "Twere eafy to fet before you a cloud of witnesses, the language of whofe practice hath been not only an eminent commendation of this duty, but also a seri
ous exhortation to it. As Abel though dead, yet Heb. 11. 1. Speaks by his example to us for imitation of his
faith, &c. So do the examples of Abraham, of Joshua, of the parents of Solomon, of the grandmother and mother of Timothy, the mother of Auguftine, whofe care was as well to nurfe up the fouls as the bodies of their little ones; and
as their pains herein was great, fo was their fuccefs no way unanswerable.
We should scarce imagine it any better than an impertinency, in this noon-day of the gofpel, either to inform or perfwade in a duty fo exprefly commanded, fo frequently urged, fo highly encouraged,and fo eminently owned by the Lord in all ages with his bleffing, but that our fad experience tells us this duty is not more needful than 'tis of late neglected. For the restoring of this duty to its due obfervance, gives us leave to fuggeft this double advice.
The firft concerns heads of famílies in refpect of themselves, That as the Lord hath fet them in place above the rest of their family, they would labour in all wisdom and fpiritual understanding to be above them alfo. 'Tis an uncomely fight to behold men in years babes in knowledge; and how unmeet are they to inftruct others, who need themselves to be
taught which be the first principles of the oracles Heb 5. 12. of God? Knowledge is an accomplishment fo defirable, that the devils themselves new not a more taking bait by which to tempt our first parents, than by the fruit of the Tree of knowledge: So fhall ye be as gods knowing good and evil. When Solomon had 1 Kings. 3.5, 9. that favour fhewed him of the Lord, that he was made his own chufer what to afk, he knew no greater mercy to beg than Wisdom. The underftanding is the guide and pilot of the whole man,that faculty which fits at the ftern of the foul: But as the most expert guide may mistake in the dark, fo may the understanding when it wants the light of knowledge; Without knowProv. 19.2. ledge the mind cannot be good, nor the life good Eph. 4. 18. nor the eternal condition fafe. My people are Hofea 4. 6. destroyed for lack of knowledge. 'Tis ordinary in Scriptureto fet profanene's and all kind of mifcarriages upon the fcore of ignorance. Difeafes in the body have many times their rife from diftempers in the head, and exorbitancies in practice from errors in judgment: And indeed in every fin there is fomething both of ignorance and error at the bottom; for, did finners truly know what they do in finning, we might fay of every fin, what the a poftle fpeaks concerning that great fin. Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; did they
truly know that every fin is a provoking the Lord to jealoufy, a proclaiming war against heaven, a crucifying the Lord Jefus afreh, a treafuring up wrathunto themselves against the day of wrath, and that, if ever they be pardoned, it must be at no lower a rate than the price of his blood, it were scarce pof sible but fin, inftead of alluring, should affright, and, inftead of tempting, fcare. 'Tis one of the arch devices and principal methods of Satan, to deceive men into fin; thus he prevailed against our firft parents, not as a lion, but as a ferpent, acting his enmity under a pretence of friendship, and tempting them to evil under an appearance of good; and thus hath he all along carried on his defigns of darknets, by transforming himself into an angel of light, making poor deceived men in love with their miferies, and hug their own deftruction. A most fovereign antidote against all kind of errors, is to be grounded and fettled in the faith: persons, unfixed in the true religion, are very receptive of a falfe; and they who are nothing in fpiritual knowledge, are easily made any thing. Clouds without water are driven to and fro with every wind, and fhips without ballaft liable to the violence of every tempeft. But yet the knowledge we especially com- . mend, is not a brain-knowledge, a mere fpeculation; this may be in the worst of men, nay, in the worst of creatures, the devils themselves, and that in fuch an eminency, as the beft of faints cannot attain to in this life of imperfection: but an inward, a favory, an heart-knowledge, fuch as was in that Martyr, who, tho' fhe could not difpute for Christ, could die for him, This is that spiritual fenfe and feeling of divine truths, the apostle fpeaks of, Heb. v. 14. Having your fenfes exercised, &c.
But, alas, we may say of most men's religion, what learn. ed Rivet fpeaks concerning the errors of the
Fathers, they were not fo much their own errors, Rivet. Crit. as the errors of the times wherein they lived, Sacr. Thus do most men take up their religion u
pon no better account than Turks and Papists take up theirs, because 'tis the religion of the times and places wherein they live; and what they take up thus flightly, they lay down as eafily whereas an inward tafte and relish of the things of God, is an excellent prefervative to keep us fettled in the most unfettled times. Corrupt and unfavory principles have great
advantage upon us, above those that are spiritual and found; the former being fuitable to corrupt nature, the latter contrary; the former fpringing up of themfelves, the latter brought forth not without a painful industry. The ground needs no other midwifery in bringing forth weeds,than only the neglect of the husbandman's hand to pluck them up; the air needs no other caufe of darkness, than the abfence of the fun; nor water of coldness, than its distance from the fire, be-> cause these are the genuine products of nature; Were it fo with the foul (as fome of the philofophers have vainly imagined) to come into the world as an ab rafa tabula, a mere blank or piece of white paper,on which neither any thing writ -ten,nor any blots; it would then be equally receptive of good and evil, and no more averse to the one than to the other; But how much worfe its condition indeed is, were Scripture filent, every man's experience does evidently manifeft, For who is there that knows any thing of his own heart,and knows not thus much, that the fuggeftions of Satan have fo eafy and free admittance into our hearts,that our utmost watchfulness is too little to guard us from them? whereas the motions of God's fpirit are fo unacceptable to us, that our utmost dili. gence is too little to get,our hearts open to entertain them, Let therefore the excellency, Neceffity, difficulty of true wif dom, ftir up endeavours in you, fomewhat proportionable to fuch an accomplishment; Above all getting get understanding,and search for wifdom as for hidden treafures. It much concerns you in respect of yourselves.
Prov. 4. 7.
Our fecond advice concerns heads of families, in respect of their families. Whatever hath been faid already, tho' it concerns every private Christian that hath a foul to look af ter; yet upon a double account, it concerns parents and maf ters, as, having themselves and others to look after, fome there' are.who,becaufe of their ignornance cannot; others, because of their fluggishness, will not mind this duty. To the former we propounded the method of Joshua, who first began with himself,and then is careful of his family. To the latter we shall only hint, what a dreadful meeting those parents and maf ters must have at that great day, with their children and fer vants, when all that were under their inspection shall not on. ly accufe them but charge their eternal mifcarrying upon their