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are enabled to be faithful to their children (which is a possible case) God is under obligation, by his own gracious promise, to bless the children, and keep them from departing from the good way, in which they are trained up. I know him, said the God of Abraham, that he will command his children and household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord. Is this making parents the saviours of their children, in any way, which derogates from the ho. nor of the divine Saviour? It is only making them the instrumental, and not the meritorious or efficient cause of good to their children. It also supposes that, as instruments, they derive all their sufficiency from Christ. In this sense, the scripture represents min. isters as saving their hearers. Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine, said an aged apostle to a young minister, that thou mayest save thyself and them who hear thee. But, said the same apostle, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. What is here spoken of the perfect dependence of ministers is wholly applicable to the case of parents ; the excellency of the power is of God and not of them. I beg that I may not be misunderstood, or misrepresented in this important point. I repeat the sentiment, parents do not merit any thing for their children. parents may do that for their childen, to which God has promised the gift of a new heart and eternal life. A poor man, who lives wholly upon charity, may have a promise, that if he will daily come, as a beggar, to the door of a certain rich and benevolent man, he shall always receive sufficient supplies for himself and his needy children. This man has a promise of a support for himself and his children ; upon the easy condition of being a daily beggar at the door of one, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not; yet who would infer, that the beggar supports himself and family, by his own earnings ? Let this be applied to the case before us.
Some have thought that the matter has been carried too far, when it has been said, that if parents were to be faithful in keeping covenant, as it respects themselves, and their children; all their children would be saved. It is supposed by those, who make this objection, that the faithfulness of parents would issue in the salvation of some of their children. But if our text stands in opposition to the one sentiment, it does to the other. If the salvation of a whole family, through the covenant established with the head of it, be inconsistent with God's treating every man accord ing to his own and not his father's character, then the salvation of one child, in a covenant way, would be equally inconsistent. If there is any promise to parents, that any of their children shall be saved, on any condition; if that condition is fulfilled on their part, I do not see why the promise does not extend to all their children. The covenant runs thus, I will be a God to thee and thy seed after thee.' The promise is to you and to your children, the seed of the blessed of the Lord and their offspring with them. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body. Here observe, the blessing is to the seed, the children, the offspring and the fruit of their body. Does not this include all the children of covenant keeping parents? There is nothing said in the covenant about dividing them. But it is thought by some, that Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, and in his epistle to the Galatians, explains the matter, so as to mean only a part of the seed. We acknowledge, that the apostle explains it in such a manner as to make it evident, that none of the natural seed of believers will be saved, unless they become believers themselves; and that just so many of of the children of believers will be saved, as become united to Christ by a living faith, and no more. This was said in order to cut off all dependence on external privileges, as sufficient to introduce à soul into the kingdom of heaven. Nothing short of per
sonal holiness will prepare any one to dwell in the presence of God. But did the apostle say, that God had made no promises to those parents, who commanded their children and households after them, that their children should keep the way of the Lord?
But again it will be urged, that fact proves the blessing of the covenant to be confined to a part of the seed of believers. Isaac, Eli, David and a great many other dear servants of God, had very wicked children. It is granted, that fact proves, that there are no covenant blessings for children, or that pious men may fail to obtain those blessings, by their failing to keep that part of the covenant, which respects the education of their children. A number of scriptures have been brought into view, which seem to promise blessings for the children of those, who keep covenant. These promises must not be trifled with, and treated as if they meant nothing. Let God be true, if every man is made a covenant breaker. We do not suppose, that the mere existence of piety in a parent, insures the piety of his seed. It is said in the 112th Psalm, Blessed is the man who feareth the Lord, who delighteth greatly in his commandments; bis seed shall be mighty upon the earth.' But it will be said, that David was one, who delighted greatly in God's commandments; yet he had an Adonijah and an Absolom. It is required in the covenant, that in order to obtain the blessing of God upon our children, we should be very faithful to them, and do all in our power, to keep out those obstructions, which tend to hinder their religious education. Some good men are extremely inattentive to this important branch of practical religion. This was a very notorious fault in good Eli. And it is pretty evident, that David was quite deficient in the government of his house. Concerning Adonijah, it is said, his father had not displeased him at any time, in saying, why hast thou done so This is about as much as to say, that
David had no authority, at least, over this child.The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. The Most High, by proposing to godly parents, to bless their children, provided they most industriously and prayerfully train them up in wisdom's ways, no doubt, designs to excite their most earnest attention to this duty. If then, godly parents are quite remiss in this thing, it would give too much countenance to their sloth and neglect, if the blessing should still come on all their children. We could here remark, that probably one reason why the pious patriarchs and kings, with all their eminency in religion, saw no more piety in their families, was, because they did not confine themselves to one wife, which we are taught, Mal. 2. 15, is the way to seek a godly seed.
Infinite Wisdom has seen fit so to order it, that this gracious and infinitely rich covenant, should hitherto be but imperfectly understood, and that through unbelief and unfaithfulness, the blessings of it should be drawn out in but a small degree; but this does not alter the nature of the covenant, nor does it prove but that it is charged with a shower of blessings, which is about to be poured out upon the world. The children which are yet to be born, shall arise and praise God for such a covenant.
We shall now, at the close of this discourse, present in one point of view, the leading ideas, which have already been exhibited. Now, of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum.'
FIRST. It is acknowledged, that the text, with the context, clearly holds forth, that it would be inconsistent for God to punish the innocent, or clear the guilty, let them be related to whom they may. In distributing rewards and punishments, God always regards the personal character of those, whom he rewards and punishes. Even those who are saved through the merit of Jesus Christ, will be treated ac
cording to their own personal character; yet not ac Bording to their own personal desert. All the righteous will be rewarded, and all the wicked will be driven into hell; yet these righteous do not deserve any reward; for they have sinned.
SECONDLY. From the view which we have taken of this subject, it is also clear, that though it be inconsistent for God to punish the innocent, or clear the guilty; yet it is consistent with his character, as a Holy Governor, to suffer one creature to be the means of ruining another, by enticing and leading him into sin, as in the case of Satan tempting our first parents, and Jeroboam making Israel to sin. It is also as consistent, that one man should be an instrument of doing another, great good, and of drawing him to God. Paul was sent to open blind eyes, and turn men from satan to God. Though the apostle could not raise unconverted men to the kingdom of heavey; yet he was the instrument, which the mighty God, used to convert many from the error of their ways; by which they were prepared unto glory. Man was the instrument; but the power was of God.
THIRDLY. We have shown, that God might, consistently with his infinite regard to justice, make great use of parents, to stamp the character of their children; and yet the children be treated according to their own character. It has, I trust, been made to appear, that this was the tenor of the covenant of works, which ivas made witlr the first parents of mankind. By one man's disobedience, many were made sinners.' In consequence of the fall of our federal head, we are not imputed sinners, but real personal sinners; and be cause we are real sinners, we deserve to be punished for our evil nature, and our own transgressions.
FOURTHLY. In this view of matters, it is thought hot to be inconsistent with the truth contained in the text, to suppose that God has promised those parents, who give their children to him in faith, sealing them