Page images

depends upon their reception or rejection of these truths; every Christian parent should therefore possess a deep death-like seriousness, while instructing his rising charge on subjects so deeply momentous. How far David blessed his household by the communication of instruction, we have no certain means of knowing. But it never can be supposed, that he who understood more than the ancients, and who had his eyes upon the faithful of the land, that they might dwell with him, would neglect to teach them. Would he who preached righteousness in the great congregation, refrain from preaching it in his family? Would he who rose at midnight to give thanks unto God because of his righteous judgments, never talk of those judgments among his domestics?

3. A man may instrumentally bless his household by his government. All government originated in patriarchal or parental authority; and families contain the rudiments of empires: and as the happiness of a nation may be promoted by the wisdom, benevolence, and justice of the legislature, so the welfare of a family depends most essentially on its government. He who is at the head of a family is bound to govern it. God has invested him with authority for this special purpose. "There is no power in nature that is frustraneous, and never to be reduced into act." But of all human acts, that of government is the most seriously responsible. How difficult is it to shun the opposite extremes of remissness and severity! What wisdom, and patience, and firmness, are required to govern a family in the fear of the Lord! Children love dominion; this is their earliest and most predominant propensity: their will is their only law; and long before they can speak, they grow peevish, fretful, sullen, and out of humour, if their wills happen to be crossed. What perversity is displayed in all their conduct: "I will have this," or "I won't have that," or "I will, because I will, are sentences reiterated in every nursery, and found in every child's vocabulary. But children must be governed. Subordination, and not sovereignty, is their province. Their wills must be subdued: what they cry for must be denied them; and they must be made to do, what in a thousand instances they dislike. Where children can be governed by love alone, chastisement must be forborne: but this can rarely be done. A parent must be reverenced; feared, as well as loved; and there are children so intolerably insolent, and obstinately perverse, that nothing short of correction will conquer them. They must be punished to be governed. But punishment should be judiciously inflicted; moral delinquencies, and not accidental errors, should be the grounds of punishment. To chastise a child indiscriminately for every mistake, savours more of savage barbarity, than salutary discipline; and it totally defeats the design for which chastisement should be inflicted. The statements of Revelation upon this subject cannot fail to remind us, that there are great practical and moral purposes to be accomplished by the judicious correction of children.


[ocr errors]

that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Prov. xiii. 24.) "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Prov. xix. 18.) "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." (Prov. xxiii. 13, 14.) "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Prov. xxix. 15.) "We have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence." (Heb. xii. 9.) "A prudent and kind mother," says Locke, in his "Thoughts on Education," "of my acquaintance, was forced to whip her little daughter, at her first coming home from nurse, eight times successively the same morning, before she could master her stubbornness, and obtain a compliance in a very easy and indifferent matter. If she had left off sooner, and stopped at the seventh whipping, she had spoiled the child for ever, and, by her unprevailing blows, only confirmed her refractoriness, very hardly afterwards to be cured; but wisely persisting till she had bent her mind, and suppled ker will, the only end of correction and chastisement, she established her authority thoroughly in the very first occasion, and had ever after a very ready compliance and obedience in all things from her daughter; for as this was the first time, so I think it was the last she ever struck her." The government of a householder over his domestics should be exercised for moral and saving purposes. By virtue of his authority, he should restrain them from all public acts of vice. To accomplish this, he must as much as possible inspect all their conduct, and watch over all their movements with sacred jealousy. Young people who are suffered to deck themselves out, in all the flimsy finery of fashion, to have a wide range of acquaintance, to receive and pay indiscriminate visits, to mingle with promiscuous society, and frequent places of public amusement, can scarcely fail to become proficients in the school of iniquity. And it should be recollected, that what is technically termed innocent amusement, is often pregnant with moral results of tremendous import. Dinah "went out to see the daughters of the land." (Gen. xxxiv. 1.) Her personal attractions won the heart of Shechem; this led to an illicit connexion; thence came a deep, designing, and dissembled act of villany; and, lastly, a general and horrid massacre of all the male inhabitants of the city. The wicked and scandalous conduct of Eli's sons, was imputed to their father's criminal indulgence: "His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." Restraint was practicable; and he who possesses the power of preventing crimes, and yet withholds its exercise, becomes a partaker of other men's sins, and will be dealt with accordingly. Nor does the government which a householder is called to exercise in his family end with restraint; duty binds him to make his domestics sanctify the Sabbath, frequent the

public ordinances of religion, and practise the virtues of justice, temperance, and sobriety. That David blessed his household by the exercise of all that authority which his exalted sphere in society gave him, we dare not affirm. His children cost him many a bitter sigh, which might have been spared, had he held the reins of government in his family with a tighter hand. Over his servants, indeed, he watched with godly jealousy. "Mine eyes," saith he, "shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me; he that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house; he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight." (Ps. ci. 6, 7.)

4. A man may instrumentally bless his household by his prayers. Prayer, above every other thing, contributes to the establishment and furtherance of family religion; and no man can bless his household so effectually as by praying with and for the members of which that household is composed. There are few persons such novices in religion as not to know that prayer is personally beneficial to us. It averts from us many evils; it procures for us many blessings. By it we draw nigh unto God, pour out our hearts before him, and secure his approbation; for "the prayer of the upright is his delight." Where prayer is restrained, duties remain unfulfilled, privileges unenjoyed, happiness unfelt, and heaven, with all its glories, is eternally forfeited. But is it for ourselves alone, that God heareth prayer? Has he made it imperative upon us, to offer up prayers, supplications, and intercessions for all men, and has he no disposition to answer us? Must our sympathies for the immortal interests of our fellow-creatures be awakened in vain? And shall our prayers on their behalf, return into our bosom? No: on a subject in which our dearest interests are so deeply involved, we are not left to the dubiousness of conjecture. The Bible abounds with facts and promises of a most encouraging character. "Confess your faults," saith St. James, one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." And to satisfy us that prayer is no less available for the salvation of the soul, than the health of the body, St. John saith, "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for him that sinneth not unto death." How powerful were the pleadings of the father of the faithful, on behalf of the impious sons of Sodom and Gomorrah! And how inexpressibly gracious and condescending were the answers of God to him, in reference to those awfully depraved, and deeply devoted cities. When a son was promised to Abraham in his old age, he, fearing that his former son would be overlooked amidst the profusion of benefits prepared for the latter, said unto God, "O that Ishmael might live before thee!" And the divine answer was, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him.” (Gen. xvii. 20.) When the reiterated murmurings of Israel had so far provoked God, as to lead him to threaten to exterminate their whole race,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Moses interposed, and interceded, and said, "Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people;" and the Lord said, "I have pardoned, according unto thy word." (Num. xiv. 19, 20.) When, in aftertimes, they had "added unto all their sins, this evil" of asking "a king," and God sent thunder and rain, as monitions of his terrible displeasure for their great wickedness; and they, full of appalling apprehensions, said to Samuel, "Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not; he said, "Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." (1 Sam. xii. 23.) And with such examples before our eyes, examples drawn from the records of infallible truth, can we doubt of the practicability of blessing our households by our prayers? That any Christian parent could be found who did not pray for his children and domestics, would be a paradox too preposterous for credibility; but it is to be lamented that many may be found who totally neglect to pray with them. How many human habitations are there, where Christian householders are supposed to dwell, who never call their domestics together for the purpose of prayer; where no family altar is erected; no morning sacrifice offered; no evening oblation presented; no throne of grace approached; and no God worshipped or acknowledged!" But David returned to bless his household." "And therefore," saith Howe, "amidst all the great and pompous triumph wherein he was more publicly engaged, upon this account he bethinks himself, Well, now my hour of prayer is come at home; and so the matter was prudently ordered, that, that solemnity being over, he might return home to perform the ordinary duty that was to be done there; that is, to bless his household, and call upon the name of the Lord there."

(To be concluded in our next.)


THE life of Christ is a globe of precepts, a model of perfection, set before us for our imitation. This, in some respect, is more proportionable than the example of the Father; for in Christ were united all the perfections of God, with the infirmities of a man. "He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." His purity was absolute, and every grace, in the most divine degree, was expressed by his actions. His life and death were a compounded miracle of obedience to God and love to men. Whatever the Father ordered him to undertake, or undergo, he entirely consented to: he willingly "took on him the form of a servant:" it was not put upon him by compulsion. In his life, humility towards men who were infinite descents below him, self-denial, zeal for the honour of God, ardent desires for the salvation of men, were distinctly visible; as the flame discovers fire. In his sufferings, obedience and sacrifice were united. The willingness of his spirit was victorious over the repugnance of the natural will in the garden : "Not my will,

but thine be done," was his unalterable choice. His patience was insuperable to all injuries. He was betrayed by a disciple for a vile price, and a murderer was preferred before him. He was scorned as a false Prophet, as a feigned King, and deceitful Saviour. He was spit upon, crowned with thorns, and crucified; and in the height of his sufferings, never expressed a spark of anger against his enemies, nor the least degree of impatience. It was one principal reason of his obedience, to instruct and oblige us to conform to his pattern. We cannot securely follow the best of saints, who sometimes through ignorance and infirmity deviate from the narrow way; but our Saviour is "the way, the truth, and the life." What he said after washing his disciples' feet, (an action in which there was such an admirable mixture of humility and love, that it is not possible to conceive which excelled; for they were both in the highest perfection,) "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you," is applicable to all the virtues and graces that were exhibited in his practice. He instructs us to act according to his doings, and to suffer according to his sufferings. He levels the way, and makes it like a carpet, by going before us. Those duties which are harsh to nature, he instructs us in by his preaching and by his passion. How can we decline them, when they were performed by Him, in whom the glorious Deity was personally united to the humanity? His life was a continual lecture of mortification. It is the observation of the natural historian, that "the tender providence of nature is admirable, in preparing medicines for us in beautiful fragrant flowers; that we might not refuse the remedy, as being more distasteful than our diseases." But how astonishing is the love of God, who sent his Son for our redemption from eternal death, and in His example has sweetened those remedies which are requisite for the cure of our distempered passions! Taking up the cross, submitting to poverty and persecution, are made tolerable by the consideration, that, in enduring them, we follow our Redeemer. Can any motive more engage and encourage our obedience, than the persuasive pattern of our Sovereign and Saviour? Can we be averse from our duty, when our Lawgiver teaches us obedience by his own practice? Can any invitation be more attractive, than to do that for love to him, which he did for love to us? The Apostle tells the Galatians, "If ye are circumcised, ye are debtors to keep the whole law." By the same reason, if we are baptized, we are obliged to obey the law of faith to order our lives according to the doctrine and example of Christ. We must adorn the Gospel by the sacred splendour of our actions. A life free from gross sins merely, is a poor perfection: we must show forth the virtues of him who "hath called us to his kingdom and glory." The excellent goodness of Christians recommends the goodness of the Gospel, and convinces Infidels that it came from the Fountain of Goodness.-Dr. Bates.

VOL. V. Third Series, JANUARY, 1826.


« PreviousContinue »